School is stifling. The woods are freedom. Friends make everything better.
Dan really wonders why kids have to go to school – square tables in square rooms, the same information for everyone. He and best pal Maxie would rather be in Cogan’s Wood, free to climb trees and imagine.
In the middle of their UK spring term, 11-year-old George arrives at Dan’s primary school, accompanied by a lady who’s always taking notes.
Very solemn face, knows lots of facts, has really great handwriting – George seems very, very different from the other kids.
Whether George is an alien or a robot or whatever, Dan’s whole class quickly grows fond of him, and he becomes a great favorite of the littlest kids on the playground.
When George doesn’t come back to school soon after he and Miss Crystal visit Daniel’s house, the whole school is sad and a bit worried.
Oh, he will be back on Friday? Hooray! Oh, what have Miss Crystal and those men done to their friend George? Oh, Dan and his classmates have to free him (with help from Dan’s mum)!
Enjoy Marta Altes’ illustrations as this brand new boy finds his way into Dan’s real world, changing them all along the way.
Which newcomer has brightened your life? **kmm
Book info: Brand New Boy / David Almond; illustrated by Marta Altes. Candlewick Press, 2022. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Resisting South Africa’s colonial government, everyday working-class people stood up for basic rights, often risking their lives during the first half of the 20th century.
Six key court cases involving these “rebels and revolutionaries” set the stage for South Africa’s notorious apartheid policy:
“Until the Ship Sails” – For decades, Asian men brought to work in Transvaal faced tight restrictions of “the Black Act” – in 1908, Gandhi urged them to resist non-violently. How long would the hundreds arrested be detained aboard old ships?
“In the Shadow of a High Stone Wall” – Striking against unjust working conditions in 1911 put Irish emigrants in a wretched prison. Without bail money, they were denied access to their lawyers. Would their 1912 lawsuit for unfair treatment keep other poor South Africans from the same fate?
“Come Gallows Grim” – Companies and gold mines began hiring low-paid Black workers after World War I, leading to riots by displaced white workers who saw the government as allied with mine owners. Death and destruction during martial law in 1922, many captured, including Taffy Long. Two trials, calls for clemency, fears of more riots. When would the shadow of the hangman’s noose leave South Africa?
“The Widow of Marsbastad” – In a 1956 township without running water, they tell stories about 1925 when an old law was suddenly applied to Black women, requiring them to carry a Night Pass while delivering laundry to white customers or be arrested on the spot! Brave women volunteered go out at night to challenge this new restriction. Would the outcome of their cases affect Pass Laws proposed later under apartheid?
“A House Divided” – A land-use dispute in the 1920s pits two factions of the Bafokeng people against one another – the hereditary chief with inconsistent decisions and his councillors who see their tribe’s bankruptcy ahead. Both sides appeal to different departments of the colonial South African government. Will unwritten tribal laws prevail and send dissenters into exile from their homelands?
“Here I Cross to the Other Side” – Tuma leaves Besotho to work in the gold mines during World War II, toiling far underground, with an angry white bossman, too little food, not enough safety precautions. Enduring the same brutal conditions for 20 years led to his father’s early death during Tuma’s first contract time. Why are white mineworkers protected by a union, while Black workers are paid less and forbidden to talk about organizing? Strike!
This stunning graphic novel combines deep research with the visual works of South African artists Liz Clarke, Dada Khanyisa, Mark Modimola, Saaid Rahbeeni, The Trantraal Brothers, and Tumi Mamabola. Each chapter is followed by intriguing historical documents from legal archives and photos of key participants in each case.
Where do you resist injustice today? **kmm
Book info: All Rise: Resistance and Rebellion in South Africa 1910-1948 – a Graphic History / Richard Conyngham; illustrated by Liz Clarke, Dada Khanyisa, Mark Modimola, Saaid Rahbeeni, The Trantraal Brothers, Tumi Mamabola. Published by Catalyst Press, 2021. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Rennart Castle is swirling with preparations for Sir Garrick’s wedding to Lady Cassandra – and rumors that its Airl will oppose the new King who is using the kingdom’s wealth for himself alone.
Reeve’s training in court etiquette and observing people should help Sir Garrick through this new situation – and is the 16 year old’s final chance to become a knight himself.
Maven now waits upon a young noblewoman displeased to be marrying a lowly knight. Not long ago, Maven also wore fine clothes, but the teen’s family has fallen upon desperately hard times.
The priceless Fire Star gem always goes to the family’s youngest daughter upon her betrothal – never to a son – and that is what Lady Cassandra brings into this marriage. The Airl will soon demand that she gives it to his headstrong daughter.
When the Fire Star is stolen before the wedding, Reeve and Maven find themselves searching for clues in the castle and countryside new to them both.
Is the secret Birch Circle of women involved? Why is the Airl’s daughter taking so many risks? Can Maven’s forbidden ability to read and write stay hidden?
Told in alternating chapters by the two teens, The Fire Star takes us to a medieval land where their detecting skills can save the castle household and perhaps the entire kingdom! Followed by The Wolf’s Howl (info here).
What part of courtly life would you like to experience for yourself? **kmm
Book info: The Fire Star (Maven & Reeve Mystery, book 1) / A. L. Tait. Kane-Miller Books, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Studying mythic creatures, learning how to heal them, all she’s ever dreamed of!
Late to her first cryptozoology class because her guide was eaten en route, Sorceline is thrilled to be on the Isle of Voon, but the Professor’s assistant (a vampire who can endure sunlight…) calls the teens outside where a gorgon lies unconscious!
Brooding, quiet Merope knows the correct first response, so he will care for the gorgon who needs unicorn blood to survive.
When Tara goes missing during their night field trip to find a unicorn, everyone is worried; when a pile of shattered glass is found in her place, they’re worried and puzzled – what creature can do this?
Zombie pixies? Everyone knows pixies never come out at night, but one bites Sorceline who yells insults, then watches in horror as it turns into glass!
The Professor said that only one of these six students would become his apprentice – who or what is trying to eliminate some of the competition?
Sorceline’s gift is identifying magical creatures with just one look – can she help the Professor find what he needs to cure those turned into glass? Or is she the cause?
Alcide is smitten with Sorceline, utterly obsessed – is he a real teenager or a mythic creature himself?
Originally published in France as a three-part bande dessinee, Sorceline was just released in the US last month – stunning art with so many mystical creatures on the eerie island!
How do you maintain friendships while competing for the same goal? **kmm
Book info: Sorceline / Sylvia Douye; illustrated by Paola Antista. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2022. [illustrator site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
He longs to get his father and grandmother out of this tiny two-room house in their dusty South African village where they have many friends, but no jobs.
Boi and his best friend Potso decide he can start trading with the clay cow they make, so Mrs. Viljoen gives them permission to place their poster outside her Cedarville Shop.
Once folks understand that Boi is trading for something “of greater value” everyone is talking about his swapping dream. For each new trade, Potso draws another clever poster.
As the swapping continues, their classmates prepare for the Talent Show, and little breezes of hope stir through the village, along with a newspaper reporter who wants Boi’s story!
Why are his village’s problems as big as Cedarvale Mountain? Will lovely, kind Sesi in his grade ever notice Boi? Can Boi truly swap his way to a house big enough for three?
Come over to Cedarville and meet all of Boi’s neighbors as this young man works to make his dream come true.
What would you trade Boi for his clay cow? **kmm
Book info: The Cedarville Shop and the Wheelbarrow Swap / Bridget Krone; art by Karen Vermeulen. Catalyst Press, 2022. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Diane never returns to work, and Regina finds a hand-drawn map in her bag – a map of her hometown in detail, with notes in Diane’s writing, showing buildings that aren’t there and a big X and two persons’ names.
Regina makes a quick trip back to Heridos to ask her parents about it – they say a doctor at the hospital has a similar name, and aren’t there just trees on that part of Ka Edgar’s old farm? A phone call to her much older brother Luciano isn’t any help either. Hmmmm….
Trekking through the summer humidity to the abandoned farm, Regina finds hidden buildings (Center for Heredity and Genetics!?) – and a woman who says that Diane is late in returning. No, Florina can’t leave her little house to help Regina look for her…
Well, the young doctor says he doesn’t know anything about that Center, but a lady in the waiting room sees that map and exclaims that she was detained there as a child! Clara retells nightmarish stories of small bodies under white sheets, but now there are only woods where Regina found the Center recently….
As Luciano hurriedly drives to Heridos, two gods appear in his car, asking about his sister and offering their help – oh, he remembers how that went the last time…
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” said American writer William Faulkner – how very, very true for everyone connected to that Center for Heredity and Genetics!
With its storyline based on too-real human experimentation centers, this Finalist for the National Book Awards in the Philippines is available for the first time in the US now.
Where do you see the older ways amid the busyness of today? **kmm
Book info: Wounded Little Gods / Eliza Victoria. Tuttle Publishing, 2022 (US), 2015 (Philippines). [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
His baba has been promoted by the Railway, so now 10-year-old Lumush and little sister Awino can attend the Hill School, a big step up from their neighborhood school in 1970s Kenya.
More homework, less time to hang out by that old rusted car with his buddies, playing pata potea or dreaming up stunts to do – Mama is so happy this opportunity has finally come.
But everyone at Hill School except Lillian treats him with suspicion, his friends think he’ll become stuck up, and cute Nijah frets that he’ll get distracted by the Hill girls.
Ripe zambarau fruits tempt the boys to climb the tree at the ghost house; a dare sends them back at night to spy on the ghosts of the white woman and her daughter who died there!
The friends hear all the gossip as they ramble the neighborhood – medicine stolen from the dispensary, bags of coffee beans disappearing from railway cars, a delivery lorry stolen.
What will the thieves target next? Do ghosts always smell like cigarette smoke? What’s hiding in the junkyard?
Wander the Railway Estates with Lumush and his friends as they try to solve the ghost house mystery without becoming ghosts themselves!
Lumush tries to be a good Hill School student and also a good friend to his buddies as their manhood ceremonies approach, holding onto good times in the neighborhood even as his parents and teachers insist that his school success now will determine his entire future.
What landmark in your town has ghosts? **kmm
Book info: Playing a Dangerous Game / Patrick Ochieng. Accord Books /Norton Young Readers, 2021. [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Ah, the Bard! His classic plays. retold and retold – now with a twist!
A brooding bad boy becomes obsessed with a young ballerina from a rival high school – Romeo and Juliet, told completely in text messages.
Finally! Among the everlasting whiteness of the Fairy Court, the brown girl stolen from the mundane world as a baby sees another indigenous person in a gender-queer Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Not madness but anger drives Anne to unmask the vampire who killed her father, allowing her uncle to marry Mother for control of Elsinore in 1892 – the journals and letters of an educated young woman rewind the Hamlet narrative.
This anthology includes reimaginings by YA writers (famous and rising)
Dahlia Adler (The Merchant of Venice), Kayla Ancrum (The Taming of the Shrew), Lily Anderson (As You Like It), Patrice Caldwell (Hamlet), Melissa Bashardoust (A Winter’s Tale), A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy (Much Ado About Nothing), Brittany Cavallaro (Sonnet 147), Joy McCullough (King Lear), Anna-Marie McLemore (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Samantha Mabry (Macbeth), Tochi Onyebuchi (Coriolanus), Mark Oshiro (Twelfth Night), Lindsay Smith (Julius Caesar), Kiersten White (Romeo and Juliet), Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (The Tempest)
Each story is introduced by a quote from Shakespeare’s work, and often followed by author’s notes.
Shakespeare wrote in the everyday words of his time; these reimagined works bring his works into our time with clever twists and setting changes (outer space, a school dance, a rooftop greenhouse).
What’s your favorite quotation from the Bard? **kmm
Book info: That Way Madness Lies: 15 of Shakespeare’s Most Notable Works Reimagined / Dahlia Adler, ed. Flatiron Books, hardcover 2021, paperback 2022. [editor site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the author.
Have you registered for your free Sora shelf here yet? That’s where the free AudioSYNC audiobooks will reside when you download them during their Thursday-Wednesday access weeks so you can listen anytime.
Did you know that these professionally produced audiobooks are checked out to your Sora shelf online for 99 years?!
Never insult fairy godmothers, kindness makes the path easier, curses can flip to blessings…
The fairy tales that we’ve heard over and over can be retold, modernized, role-switched, or set in other lands, yet we recognize their core stories every time.
This collection of “Fairy Tales Re-Spun” charmingly presents a double-handful of familiar tales using non-classic viewpoints, like the new teacher whose writing assignment at a backwoods school results in “What I Did in the Holidays and Why Hansel’s Jacket is So Tight (by Gretel, age 10)” – truth or fiction?
Cinderella finds a friend in Buttons and helps him shine boots for the prince who’s turned away from royal society to tend “The Roses Around the Palace.”
A stuffy bureaucrat is more concerned about keeping his town tidy (and his coffers full) than paying the agreed price to that motley-looking Piper for luring away all those horrid rats… so very quiet now at “The Fountain in the Market Square.”
Enjoy these ten fairy tale retellings, including lesser-known stories “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “The Swan Brothers” (also the basis for A Rush of Wings, by Laura E. Weymouth that I recently recommended here).
Which fairy tale is your favorite? **kmm
Book info: Straw Into Gold: Fairy Tales Re-Spun / Hilary McKay, illustrated by Sarah Gibb. Margaret K. McElderry Books, hardcover 2019, paperback 2020. [author site] [illustrator bio] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.
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