Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

The Disaster Days is fantastic!

The Disaster Days, by Rebecca Behrens, (Oct. 2019, Sourcebooks), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4926-7331-6

Readers 9-13

Thirteen-year-old Hannah Steele lives in the Pelling Island community of Elliott Bay, right off the coast of Seattle. On the day she sets out on her first big babysitting assignment – the first one was just while her neighbor, Andrea, ran local errands – a major earthquake hits the Pacific Northwest. Hannah is stranded with her two younger charges, siblings Zoe and Oscar Matlock. And their pet guinea pig, Jupiter. Both kids are injured in the aftermath, and Hannah, who’s asthmatic, left her rescue inhaler at home. With the power out, cell phones down, and rescue uncertain, Hannah has to use all of her mental and physical resources to keep the kids, Jupiter, and herself alive and safe, especially when the Matlock’s house becomes an unsafe shelter.

Narrated by Hannah, The Disaster Days is a tense, consuming page-turner. By taking everything away from Hannah at the outset – adults, internet, cell phones, TV – Rebecca Behrens creates a survival story fraught with peril. The Zoe and Oscar’s home is not safe; food and medical supplies are almost nil; there’s a gas leak in the Matlock home, so Hannah moves the kids to a tent outside, where they narrowly miss an encounter with a bear. Aftershocks can hit at any moment. Hannah doesn’t know the fates of her parents; Zoe and Oscar’s mother, Andrea; or her best friend, Neha, with whom she had an argument minutes before the earthquake. Within the scope of the big disaster, Hannah copes with her world being upended, and the stress of keeping Zoe and Oscar as comfortable – which includes keeping a lot of their situation from them – as possible. She relies on a crank radio and the voice of a newscaster, Beth Kajawa, to get periodic updates that will help guide her decisions. An author’s note at the end touches on earthquakes, post-quake threats like sand volcanoes and liquefaction, and emergency preparedness. Rebecca Behrens’ author website includes free, downloadable resources for parents and educators and links to websites and online resources about earthquake science, and emergency preparedness.

The Disaster Days is reading you, and your readers, will not want to put down. Have readers who like Hatchet or Rodman Philbrick’s The Big Dark? Give them The Disaster Days. This one is a definite must-read, must-have.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Goodnight, Boy is beautiful and raw

Goodnight, Boy, by Nikki Sheehan, (July 2017, One World), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-78607-210-8

Recommended for readers 12+

The novel of a boy and his dog is brutal and beautiful, all at once. JC is a Haitian child who’s already experienced a brutal life on the streets and orphanages of Haiti when the earthquake strikes. He’s adopted by a rescue worker and her husband and brought to America, but when his new mother is back in Haiti, his stepfather locks JC and his dog, Boy, in a kennel. The story, told in the form of conversations JC has with Boy, unfolds and we learn about JC’s life, and the terrible moment where he and Boy were banished to the kennel.

Goodnight, Boy goes to dark places, but JC’s voice is strong, clear, and stands as a beacon for Boy and for readers. He always holds out hope that things will get better, taking comfort in the smallest moments of light, like hearing children play or seeing balloons from the kennel. As he tells Boy – and us – his story, we learn about grief and loss, but we learn about perseverance and hope, all the same. An intense read, Goodnight Boy is a strong addition to YA bookshelves and can easily cross over to adult reading. It’s a great book for discussion.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Science Comics explores Volcanoes

volcanoesScience Comics: Volcanoes-Fire and Life, by Jon Chad, (Oct. 2016, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723603

Recommended for ages 8-12

Earlier this year, we got a look at First Second’s two Science Comics, Coral Reefs and Dinosaurs. There’s great science and fun art wrapped up in each of these comics, so I was super-psyched when I met a First Second rep at the PLA Conference this year, and she told me that there were more Science Comics coming. True to her word, we’re getting Volcanoes in just a couple of weeks.

Similar to Coral Reefs, Volcanoes wraps information about volcanic activity into a story: there’s been some sort of environmental cataclysm, and Earth is freezing. A tribe is scanning books when Aurora, one of the kids, discovers a book about volcanoes; she is HOOKED. She’s saved her tribe! The power to warm the planet is right underneath their feet!

From there, Aurora becomes the reader’s guide through a look into the activity bubbling under the earth’s crust: there are magma vents, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes create just as much as they destroy: there are entire land masses that owe their existence to a volcanic eruption, just as there are entire cities that have been wiped out by them.