Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A 40-year old whodunnit! Soccer Trophy Mystery

Soccer Trophy Mystery, by Fred Bowen (Sports Story #24), (Sept. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 9781682630792

Ages 7-12

Sports mystery author Fred Bowen’s latest Sports Story looks at a decades-old mystery and examines the impact of Title IX on generations of female athletes. Soccer playing twin siblings Aiden and Ava and their friend Daniel are working hard to get their teams into the championships and get their teams’ names inscribed on the league’s soccer trophy when they learn that this isn’t the first and only soccer trophy for their league: the original one went missing 40 years ago and the mystery has never been solved. While practicing for championships and keeping up with their schoolwork, Aiden and Ava are intrigued by the history of the trophy and start investigating what could have happened to it. Fast-paced action sequences and an intriguing mystery and how it ties into sports history will appeal to readers who love sports, especially soccer. Back matter tells “The Real Story” about the mystery of the original FIFA Word Cup trophy and women’s sports. Give this to your Baseball Mysteries readers, your Ron Roy mystery fans, and your Mike Lupica and Tim Green readers.

Fred Bowen is an award-winning author and Washington Post KidsPost sports columnist. Visit his author website for more information about his books.

 

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

Another good middle grade mystery! Coop Knows the Scoop!

Coop Knows the Scoop, by Taryn Souders, (July 2020, Sourcebooks Young Readers), $7.99, ISBN: 9781492640189

Ages 8-12

I pulled Coop Knows the Scoop off my TBR yesterday morning, and I finished it this morning. That’s how good this middle grade mystery is. Cooper Goodman – call him Coop, please! – lives with his mom and grandfather in Georgia, where he helps out in his mom’s bookstore/coffee shop when he’s not in school. His dad, a Marine, died in action, and his Gramps is the retired town doctor. It’s small town life, where everyone knows one another, and it’s pretty idyllic, until the morning a skeleton is discovered buried at the playground. After some DNA testing, the skeleton is revealed to be Coop’s grandmother, Tabby, whom everyone thought left Gramps years ago, when Coop’s dad was little more than a baby. When Gramps falls under suspicion – they always suspect the spouse, right? – Coop enlists his best friends, twin siblings Liberty and Justice, to help him search for clues and exonerate Gramps.

Written in the first person from Coop’s point of view, I could not put this book down. It’s got all the elements of a good whodunnit: a scandal, a quirky cast of local characters, smart dialogue, fleshed out characters with good backstories that make just about everyone a suspect, and an impending sense of danger that you just know is going to explode when you get these elements mixed together. You and your readers are going to want to know what the real scoop is, and that’s going to keep all of you reading this book until you get to the end, and its very satisfying conclusion. Put this on your mystery lists, for sure.

Read more about Taryn Souders and her books at her author website. Coop Knows the Scoop is a 2021 Edgar Award nominee for Best Juvenile mystery novel. Download a great activity kit, including a recipe for sweet tea, through publisher Sourcebooks, Download a discussion guide from Sourcebooks here, too!

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

The Animal Whisperer: Rescue at Lake Wild

Rescue at Lake Wild, by Terry Lynn Johnson, (Apr. 2021, HMH Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780358334859

Ages 8-12

Twelve-year-old Madi wants to be an “animal whisperer” like her wildlife rehabber grandmother was; her town doesn’t have a wildlife rehabber since her grandmother died, and her mother has forbidden her to bring home any more animals. If she does, her upcoming trip to meet Jane Goodall will be canceled. But what is Madi supposed to do when she and her best friends, Aaron and Jack, discover two orphaned beaver kits? She saves the kits and cares for them in secret when the friends discover another murdered beaver in the process. There’s a secret to be uncovered here, and Madi, Jack, and Aaron mean to be the ones to do it: as long as Madi can stay out of trouble with her mom, that is. A fast-paced adventure story about friendship, found families, and wildlife rehab, Rescue at Lake Wild has elements adventure readers will love: action, a mystery to solve, and a determined, smart protagonist with a love for animals and nature. Author Terry Lynn Johnson writes action-adventure nature stories, including 2019’s Dog Driven and The Survivor Diaries, and readers who love the I Survived series will dive right in. She has knowledge to share, and she does it in a way that respects and nudges the reader into wanting more: more storytelling and more learning. Have readers who loved Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot and Celia C. Pérez’s Strange Birds? This is the next book for them.

 

Terry Lynn Johnson writes about the wild with the wisdom and passion of someone who has spent her life working to preserve and protect it – both as a backcountry canoe ranger in Quetico Provincial Park and in her current job as a conservation officer with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She lives at the edge of a lake in northern Ontario, Canada, where she loves watching all wildlife, including beavers. Visit her online at terrylynnjohnson.com

Twitter: @TerryLynnJ

Instagram: terry_lynn_johnson

Video extra! Terry Lynn Johnson talks about the inspiration behind Rescue at Lake Wild here

Posted in Uncategorized

#HomesCool: New ABCs!

I love concept books that take the idea to the next level. These are two new abcedaries that make the ABCs a heck of a lot more exciting!

Eek! A Noisy Journey from A to Z, by Julie Larios and Julie Paschikis, (Sept. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-169-0

Ages 2-5

ACHOO! A mouse picks a flower, sneezes, and the adventure begins! This book of ABCs tells a story from A to Z, all using sound effects to illustrate the letters of the alphabet. There’s a startled Eeek! when the mouse sees a cat, a Fwump when a growling dog playfully knocks the cat off its feet, and a Kabonk when a bicycle-riding raccoon strikes a tortoise’s hard shell. The mouse and its flower are at the heart of the story, witnessing sweet acts of kindness, fun, and excitement, with Mouse ultimately completing its mission and delivering the gift of a flower to a friend. India Ink and gouache artwork in bright colors and patterns stand out out against colorful backgrounds; the sound words are playful and the letters of he alphabet are bold, standing out against the backgrounds, letting readers easily identify them. Bright yellow backgrounds decorate the endpapers, with letters of the alphabet standing out, in orange, across the pages.

What a fun addition to ABC books and concept collections! Publisher Peachtree has an activity kit with coloring sheets and a storytime activities.

Eek! has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Not An Alphabet Book: The Case of the Missing Cake, by Eoin McLaughlin/lllustrated by Marc Boutavant, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212679

Ages 3-5

Oh no! As soon as you open the book, Bear is there waiting for you: there’s been a horrible crime and he needs your help! “The world’s most completely delicious, tongue-jinglingly chocolaty cake has been STOLEN” and we have to help find the thief! The ABCs lead readers through the clues and suspects they need to solve the mystery… but that bear looks like he’s hiding something, don’t you think? Readers will love this whodunit, and sharp-eyed observers will notice little details like a rather dark smudge across Bear’s face… and are those crumbs scattered across his table? The digital artwork makes for fun, expressive characters, and Bear is hilariously evasive as our unreliable narrator. The endpapers start off with Bear tracking crumbs, and end with… well ,the story’s conclusion. Absolute fun for storytime, this is an abcedary with a plot and a wicked sense of humor. Pair this with Audrey and Bruce Wood’s Alphabet Mystery for a whodunit storytime!

Not An Alphabet Book: The Case of the Missing Cake has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Got a mystery? Julieta’s on the case!

Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, by Luisana Duarte Armendáriz, (June 2020, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790466

Ages 8-12

Winner of the 2018 Lee & Low/Tu Books New Visions Award, Julieta and the Diamond Enigma is a fun whodunit with a smart heroine who has a penchant for finding trouble. Julieta is the nine-year-old daughter whose parents both work at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (BFA). Her mom is due to give birth to her baby brother soon, and her dad, an art handler, needs to fly to Paris to collect pieces for a new BFA exhibit. After some great Paris sightseeing, Julieta and her dad are ready to pack up and head home – until she and her dad walk in on a burglar stealing the prized Regent Diamond! The diamond was going to be a key piece in the BFA exhibit, and all eyes are on Julieta’s father. Julieta starts putting together some clues, desperate to save her father’s job and reputation, all the while hoping they can get home in time to be there when her baby brother is born. With nods to to Greek mythology (especially the goddess Athena) and smartly placed clues that will lead readers to the answers alongside Julieta, this is a fun cozy mystery for burgeoning whodunit fans. Museum fans will love seeing what goes on behind closed museum doors – a realistic Night at the Museum, so to speak. I loved reading about Julieta’s goofing around with her parents in the museum and Back matter has the true story of the Regent Diamond, the goddess Athena, the art mentioned in Julieta and the Diamond Enigma, and a handy glossary of terms. A note at the beginning of the book has a helpful glossary of Spanish and French words, as words and phrases come up during the course of the story. A great book to introduce to readers that are moving from intermediate chapter books to more detailed middle grade fiction.

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Big Graphic Novels Roundup!

I’ve been reading a LOT of graphic novels during this quarantine. They relax me, and I know my graphic novels sections (both kids and teens) see a l lot of action, so I always want to make sure I’ve got the best stuff on my shelves for them – and that I know what I’m talking about when I hand books to readers. Let’s see what’s up:

Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood, by Lucy Knisley, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250211491

Ages 12+

These are adorable meditations on new parenthood by Lucy Knisley, whose graphic novel Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos let us peek into the world of her pregnancy with her baby, known as Pal. Go to Sleep is a book of sketches Lucy Knisley created during Pal’s first year, and they are moments that every parent and caregiver will recognize, from diaper “blowouts” (oh, so many diaper blowouts) and breastfeeding through teething to tummy time and those moments where we can’t wait to get some alone time… only to spend that time gazing at our sleepy little one, and waiting for them to wake up and do it all again. Black and white, filled with love and humor, Go to Sleep (I Miss You) is perfect for your parenting bookshelves (and for older siblings, as my eldest reminds me).

In this sci-fi alternate history, we visit 1943 Los Angeles, home of the Zoot Suit Riots. Siblings Flaca and Cuata meet a five-foot tall lizard when he saves them from some unsavory sailors one night, when they got out dancing. They hide him in their home and discover he’s part of a race of underground lizard people. He wants to get back to his family, but there are soldiers and mysterious government men wandering the sisters’ neighborhood, on the lookout. To sneak him back to his home, the Flaca and Cuata dress the lizard up in one of Flaca’s zoot suits and head off on an adventure. Yellow, black and white artwork give a stark, noir feel to the story, which is both sensitive and funny. Marco Finnegan provides smart commentary on racism, gender roles and the counterculture of the period. Teens will enjoy this sci-fi take on a moment in U.S. history that isn’t discussed enough.

School for Extraterrestrial Girls Girl on Fire (Volume 1), by Jeremy Whitley/Illustrated by Jamie Noguchi, (Aug. 2020, Papercutz), $12.99, ISBN: 9781545804933

Ages 10-14

Tara Smith is a girl who live with a lot of rules: her parents demand it. Two of their biggest rules? No friends her own age, and always keep her bracelet on. One day, though, Tara’s routine gets thrown into a tizzy, and she loses her bracelet; that’s when the trouble begins. Things get even crazier when she seemingly bursts into flame in the middle of school! Tara learns that she’s not human at all: she’s an alien, and captured by the government, sent off to a school where she can’t put her human classmates in danger, and that’s where she learns the truth about herself. She’s an alien, and her parents – also aliens – likely kidnapped her at a young age. Now, she’s surrounded by other alien students, not all of whom are exactly friendly toward her race. An exciting start to a new middle grade-middle school graphic novel series, School for Extraterrestrial Girls is written by Eisner award nominee Jeremy Whitley, who you may know from his Princeless series and Marvel’s The Unstoppable Wasp. Don’t miss this first volume, which has some nice social commentary set within a very cool sci-fi story.

 

A Map to the Sun, by Sloane Leong, (Aug. 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250146687

Ages 12-18

A strong story about sports and teen relationships, A Map to the Sun starts with Ren and Luna, two girls who meet on the beach during their middle school summer break. Luna disappears without saying goodbye when she suddenly moves, but returns two years later, expecting to pick up where she and Ren left off. But Ren is hurt, angry, and full off mistrust, especially since her older sister’s issues have made life nearly unbearable for her. A new teacher decides to form a women’s basketball team at the high school, bringing Luna, Ren, and a group of other girls who are tagged as the misfits in school. As they practice and improve, we get glimpses into each of their lives and see how succeeding in one arena changes how they react and are perceived in other spaces in their lives. The color palette is bright and beachy; lots of oranges, yellows, and purples, but some of the coloring made it difficult for me to tell characters apart (I read an ARC; this will likely be tightened up in the finished book). The story is strong, and highly recommended for teens and a solid choice for realistic fiction readers. A Map to the Sun has a starred review from Shelf Awareness.

Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge, by Grace Ellis/Illustrated by Brittney Williams, (Aug. 2020, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1401296377
Ages 7-11
DC’s latest middle grade original graphic novel stars our favorite journalist-in-training, Lois Lane. Here, Lumberjanes co-creator Grace Ellis and Goldie Vance artist Brittney Williams create a tween Lois Lane who’s all about creating a viral video for a #friendshipchallenge. The only thing is, she’s kind of driving her best friend, Kristen, crazy with the challenge. Kristen is going to be going to sleepaway camp after the big neighborhood barbecue and bike race, and Lois is desperate to get her video make before Kristen leaves. But words gets out that the new bike store in town may be planning something shady for the bike race, and the fireworks planned for the barbecue go missing. Sounds like a mystery that the two best friends will have to solve – if they don’t drive each other crazy first. Lois’s intensity comes off as almost abrasive at first, but she’s relatable as a kid who’s single-mindedly focused on her task and upset at having to share her best friend – a best friend who is going away for the summer – with a new girl in town. Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge is a fun summer story.
Displacement, by Kiku Hughes, (Aug. 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250193537Ages 12+

Teenager Kiku travels to San Francisco with her mother to look for the place her grandmother, Ernestina, lived before she and her parents were sent to an internment camp during World War II. Kiku’s mother wants to learn more about her mother’s life pre-camp; Ernestine wasn’t given to talking about it often. As Kiku traipses alongside her, she finds herself being transported back in time, living alongside her grandmother as she, too, becomes a displaced person living in two Japanese internment camps. Powerfully written and beautifully illustrated, Displacement tells the story of the Japanese-Americans who were forced out of their homes and their established lives and stripped of their civil liberties. Kiku – and we – learn things from observing the day-to-day life in camp like human rights abuses that are quickly hushed up and the acts of resistance some engaged in, like the “No-Nos”, who answered “No” to two controversial questions on a loyalty questionnaire the Army had all incarcerated citizens answer. A tribute to the power of memory and, sadly, the power of intergenerational trauma, Displacement belongs with George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy and Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the canon of great graphic novels that belong on every reading list and every shelf.

Ages 14+
This is a weird, wild noir story that I’d hold for my readers who are always looking for something different. It’s Barcelona, 1942, and Laia is a pregnant woman working as a scriptwriter for a radio advice program. Her husband goes missing, a serial killer is on the loose, and Laia retains the services of a private detective to track down her husband… but she’s got secrets of her own. Read this one a couple of times; the story reveals itself with more than one reading. The drastic black and white artwork places you in the middle of this macabre detective story with a wry sense of humor. Got hard-boiled detective novel readers? Give this one to them, too.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Batter Up with the newest Ballpark Mysteries Super Special: The World Series Kids

The World Series Kids (Ballpark Mysteries Super Special #4), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, ($5.99, Random House), ISBN: 9780525578956

Ages 7-10

The Ballpark Mysteries is a fun mystery series for intermediate readers that fits right in with Ron Roy’s mystery series (Capital Mysteries; Calendar Mysteries; A to Z Mysteries). The hook here is baseball; each mystery takes place at a ballpark and stars Mike and Kate, cousins who love baseball and solving mysteries. The World Series Kids is the latest Super Special – a little longer in length and structured around a big happening in baseball; in this case, the Little League World Series. Mike and Kate’s friend, Colin, is on the Cooperstown team, and Kate and Mike travel to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to support the hometown team. They quickly discover that someone’s trying to sabotage the team: the coach’s son saw someone slash one of the team bus’s tires; the team’s equipment goes missing right before their first game, and there’s a warning that more shenanigans are coming! Thank goodness Mike and Kate are on the case to help out, but can they find out who’s behind the incidents in time to keep the team in the game?

This is such a fun whodunit! Mike and Kate work together well as a team, and David A. Kelly’s writing has action, humor, and a wealth of baseball knowledge. He creates whodunits that will leave kids (and adults, to be honest) guessing until the end of the story, with a surprise reveal, a lesson to be learned, and a happy ending, leaving kids ready to read the next book… right after they play a few innings. Dugout Notes at the end of the book are all about the Little League World Series, with cool facts to read and share.

There are loads of great resources on David A. Kelly’s author site, including educator guides, fan art and videos, even missing chapters. The Ballpark Mysteries are popular reading at my library, among baseball fans and mystery readers alike. David A. Kelly’s MVP series is also a big hit here, because I have a lot of soccer fans in this community. (A LOT.)  Display and booktalk this series with Matt Christopher’s sports fiction, and Dan Gutman’s Baseball Card Adventures series.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Got a mystery? Fabio the World’s Great Flamingo Detective is on the case

Fabio: The Case of the Missing Hippo (Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective), by Laura James/Illustrated by Emily Fox, (Aug. 2019, Bloomsbury USA) $16.99, ISBN: 9781547602179

Ages 7-10

Originally published in the UK in 2018, Fabio – a pink flamingo who bills himself as the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective – and his sidekick a giraffe named Gilbert, are a mystery-solving duo whose first mystery involves a lavish hotel, a talent show, and a missing hippo. Fabio and Gilbert drop by the Hotel Royale to get a relaxing glass of pink lemonade, but end up stumbling into a mystery when Julia, a singing hippo, disappears right as she and her band start their jazz set at the hotel’s talent show tryouts. Fabio has a list of suspects, and using some old-fashioned detective work, he intends to save the day.

Fabio’s first adventure is an easy, fun read with humorous moments aplenty. The book is illustrated and 2- and 3-color artwork, with day-glo pink and green pages, and pink and green accents to the grey and white artwork. There are a host of animal characters with larger-than-life personalities, including a cranky vulture hotelier and his idealistic niece, a shifty snake, and a bossy rhino. Hot pink endpapers feature Fabio in a variety of poses. Fabio’s second adventure is publishing in the U.S. next year; this is a cute animal series and a fun change for your mystery buffs that have gone through your Boxcar Children, A to Z Mysteries, Cam Jansen, and more. Display this with Alex T. Smith’s Mr. Penguin series (Book 2 just came out; Book 3 is due next month) for your animal adventure readers.

There’s a free, downloadable activity pack available from the publisher, and author Laura James has loads of fun stuff to download from both Fabio books and her Pug series. Illustrator Emily Fox’s website also has fun downloadables, including Fabio goodies and her Monkey’s Sandwich and Elephant’s Pajamas books.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A whodunit with a twist: The Color of Lies by CJ Lyons

The Color of Lies, by CJ Lyons, (Nov. 2018, Blink YA Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-310-765356

Ages 14+

This is one heck of a mystery. High school senior Ella lives with her grandmother and Uncle Joe after an accident orphaned her as a toddler. Her father’s best friend and business partner, Darrin, treats her like a favorite niece and has cultivated her father’s business into a solid foundation to keep Ella safe and comfortable. That all changes when Max shows up: Max, the journalism student consumed with Ella’s story, because what Ella’s been told isn’t how it happened. Max knows, because Max was there that night, too.

This is a wild ride. You think you know what’s going on, and CJ Lyons politely smirks and shakes a finger in your literary face, crafting a plot that left me dumbfounded. Adding a main character with synesthesia – a condition that wreaks havoc on the senses, and, in Ella’s case, allows her “read” people through their colorful auras – adds nice depth to the characters. There is a lot of storytelling here – at times, to the detriment of pacing – but overall, this is a good mystery, with a touch of romance, that teens will like.

CJ Lyons’s author webpage includes medical and forensic links and the opportunity to download some of her work for free.

Posted in Uncategorized

White Rabbit: A YA Whodunit

White Rabbit, by Caleb Roehrig, (Apr. 2018, Feiwel & Friends), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250085658

Recommended for readers 13+

Rufus Holt started out having a great evening at his best friend’s birthday party, but things have gone downhill pretty quickly. His ex-boyfriend, Sebastian – who ghosted him after Rufus told him he loved him – showed up at the party, looking for him, and his younger half-sister, April, called him and begged for his help. When Rufus and Sebastian head over to Fox Whitney’s place, where his sister was partying with the other rich, in-crowd teens, they find April holding a bloody knife, and Fox, laying dead in a pool of blood. Thus starts White Rabbit, a first-person narrated whodunit.

Rufus is the bastard son of a wealthy lawyer who refuses to acknowledge him. Unfortunately for Rufus, his half-siblings notice him just fine. He’s the school outcast, bullied and harassed by his borderline sociopath half-brother and his friends, and their rich kid crowd. When he came out, the abuse ratcheted up several notches, but Rufus refuses to break. He starts seeing Sebastian – one of the rich kid in-crowd – on the down-low, but Sebastian broke things off in a panic, afraid of how his parents would react. But Sebastian is back, and wants to try to patch things up with Rufus, so he rides along  as Rufus spends the night frantically trying to clear April’s name so he can get a payoff from her mother. The killer is still lurking, and systematically killing off anyone who can tie him – or her – to the night’s events, and Rufus is asking way too many questions.

White Rabbit is similar to Natasha Preston’s The Cabin: a group of awful teens with too much money get into trouble and the outcast has to save the day. The pace is fast, and the subplot surrounding Rufus and Sebastian’s relationship will pull readers in and keep them turning pages. Rufus can be a frustrating hero at points; his motivation to help April before the money came into play still makes me scratch my head, but Sebastian emerges as the deeper, more interesting character to follow here. Give this book to your thriller fans.