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The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club. By Phillip Hoose. Illus. Farrar, $19.99 (9780374300227). Gr. 7–10.
It’s a story more unbelievable than fiction: during the WWII occupation of Denmark by the Nazis, a group of teens dubbed the Churchill Club staged acts of resistance by cutting German phone wires, stealing weapons, and destroying assets. A staggering account of courageous dissent in the face of the worst possible enemy.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. By Don Brown. Illus. by the author. HMH, $18.99 (9780544157774). Gr. 6–9.
This graphic-novel account of Hurricane Katrina is bruisingly straightforward, with blunt facts and fearless illustrations staring straight at the worst of what the storm wrought: the swamp of dead bodies, the stench of the Superdome, and the failures of local and federal governments. A necessary, unflinching reminder of an American tragedy.
Ebola: Fears and Facts. By Patricia Newman. Illus. Millbrook, $31.99 (9781467792400). Gr. 6–9.
This well-researched, clearly written title covers many aspects of this disease without sensationalizing its dangers and is particularly up-to-date when discussing the recent epidemic, the economic circumstances that may have led to the outbreak, and the overblown response of worldwide media.
Human Body Theater. By Maris Wicks. Illus. by the author. First Second, $14.99 (9781626722774) Gr. 5–8.
Using an appealing, approachable, and downright jaunty cartoon style, Wicks playfully yet informatively leads readers through the various systems of the body, clearly explaining basic concepts with both words and helpful diagrams in a perfect balance of engaging silliness and rigorous science.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. By Steve Sheinkin. Illus. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (9781596439528). Gr. 6–9.
Nonfiction superstar Sheinkin examines the tangled narrative of the Vietnam War via Daniel Ellsberg, the government insider who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg is a fascinating protagonist, and Sheinkin turns his tale into a page-turning political thriller that foreshadows today’s high-tech whistle-blowers.
My Seneca Village. By Marilyn Nelson. Namelos, $21.95 (9781608981960). Gr. 6–9.
The multiethnic nineteenth-century society of Seneca Village is resuscitated by poet Nelson, who tenderly introduces a cast of characters in the manner ofSpoon River Anthology. Using the name of actual residents, Nelson brings to vivid life a passionate community through events, laws, movements, and struggles.
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. By M. T. Anderson. Illus. Candlewick, $25.99 (9780763668181). Gr. 9–12.
Anderson skillfully interweaves amazing details from Shostakovich’s life with pivotal historical events, particularly Russia’s role in WWII, while evocative descriptions of the composer’s music illuminate the tight link between art and history. A captivating look at a turbulent period and brilliant artist. (Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction.)
Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America. By Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illus. HMH, $17.99 (9780544313675). Gr. 6–9.
Bartoletti chronicles the case of cook Mary Mallon (aka Typhoid Mary), an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever who infected dozens. Mallon was quarantined against her will for much of her life, which raises questions about her treatment, prejudices that may have existed against her, and medical ethics.
This Book Is Gay. By James Dawson. Illus. by Spike Gerrell. Sourcebooks/Fire, $15.99 (9781492617822). Gr. 8–12.
Breezy, witty, and ever informative, Dawson’s compendium of facts and stories about “the full and infinite spectrum of sexual and gender identities” tackles everything from afraid-to-ask questions to straight talk about what to expect if you’re outside the cisgender category—or if you’re inside it, looking outward. An invaluable, welcoming resource.
This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon. By Nancy Plain. Univ. of Nebraska, paper, $19.95 (9780803248847). Gr. 7–10.
In this handsome biography, Audubon emerges as a complex figure who struggled, with little success, to balance his love of nature, adventure, and family. Plain chronicles Audubon’s adventurous life in a succinct, absorbing narrative that is well researched, meticulously documented, and beautifully written.
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America. By Karen Blumenthal. Illus. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (9781626720848). Gr. 8–11.
Blumenthal presents a gripping study of America in the 1920s and 1930s by looking at how the tommy gun impacted life during the Prohibition era. Peppered with action-filled scenes, infamous gangsters, and period photographs, this account traces the history of the early automatic weapon and the continuing controversies surrounding gun violence.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March. By Lynda Blackmon Lowery and others. Illus. by PJ Loughran. Dial, $19.99 (9780803741232). Gr. 7–12.
Growing up black in Selma, Alabama, during the troubled 1960s, Lowery and her friends were arrested multiple times before they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. Plainspoken and full of detail-rich memories, her inspiring personal story illuminates pivotal events in America’s history.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. By Duncan Tonatiuh. Illus. by the author. Abrams, $18.95 (9781419716478). Gr. 3–5.
This exceptional picture-book biography profiles Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913) while celebrating his printmaking and his portrayal ofcalaveras, the droll skeletons prominent in Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. The witty, informative text and brilliantly conceived digital-collage artwork make this a bold winner.
Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends. By David Stabler. Illus. by Doogie Horner. Quirk, $13.95 (9781594748028). Gr. 3–6.
This outstanding collection of sports stories examines the childhoods of 16 athletes who grew up to leave indelible marks on their fields. Positivity and humor abound in the diverse profiles, which receive a further assist from Horner’s color illustrations.
The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk. By Sy Montgomery. Illus. by Keith Ellenbogen. HMH, $18.99 (9780544232709). Gr. 5–8.
The octopus’ high intelligence and prowess at camouflage have made it difficult to study, but this entry in the Scientists in the Field series follows scientists in French Polynesia as they unlock some of the mystery surrounding this elusive mollusk. Great underwater photography and intriguing facts make this a spectacular read.
The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield. By Larry Dane Brimne. Illus. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (9781590789902). Gr. 5–7.
Using a top-secret mix of chemicals, Hatfield traveled the country at the turn of the last century, drawing rain from the skies with remarkable success. His fascinating—and little-known—story gets standout treatment with an eye-catching design and loads of historical photographs.
Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip through the Motown Sound. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illus. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (9781596439733). Gr. 5–8.
Pinkney takes readers on a road trip to Motown in a book that catches the groove of Hitsville, U.S.A, juxtaposing musical highlights against the literally fiery events that were taking place across the country: war, rioting, and a cultural revolution.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763665319). Gr. 4–7.
This poetry biography of voting rights activist Hamer is paired with beautiful, boldly realized multimedia collages. The poems examine Hamer’s early life under Jim Crow laws as well as her staunch activism despite facing many difficulties in life, including arrest, physical abuse, and forced sterilization.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine. By Laurie Wallmark. Illus. by April Chu. Creston, $17.99 (9781939547200). Gr. 1–3.
Lord Byron’s daughter grew up a mathematician instead of a wordsmith, spending a sickly childhood coming up with inventions and eventually creating an algorithm that made her history’s first computer programmer. Soft, delicate, detailed illustrations evoke both her accomplishments and her wonder and highlight her legacy.
Beastly Verse. By JooHee Yoon. Illus. by the author. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 (9781592701667). K–Gr. 2.
Using a vintage spot-color printing technique, which employs three primary-color inks that overlap to create a broad spectrum of hues, Yoon brings a series of classic animal poems to life with wild, vibrant illustrations ranging from uproarious to serene.
Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs. By Meghan McCarthy. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $17.99 (9781481406376). K–Gr. 3.
Chester Greenwood Day is celebrated annually in Maine to honor a man credited with inventing earmuffs. But did he? With a clearly written text and appealing acrylic paintings, this unusual picture book shows how the muddling of fact, memory, and legend can result in popular history.
Bone Gap. By Laura Ruby. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062317605). Gr. 9–12.
Finn is haunted by Roza’s disappearance, and since he can’t seem to describe her abductor to anyone, he takes it upon himself to find her. Ruby captivatingly explores a dizzying breadth of themes—including beauty, violence, love, and family—seamlessly lacing together magic and reality in a bewitching blend.
The Bunker Diary. By Kevin Brooks. Carolrhoda/Lab, $17.99 (9781467754200). Gr. 9–12.
Brooks’ relentless existential horror story centers on six people trapped in an underground bunker being tortured by “He”—an unseen figure who demands his prisoners play a series of “games” that slowly break their wills. It’s inscrutable and terrifying but also possessed of a singular dedication to its premise. Powerful and unforgettable. (Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction.)
Carry On. By Rainbow Rowell. St. Martin’s/Griffin, $19.99 (9781250049551). Gr. 10–12.
Superstar Rowell smartly turns classic fantasy tropes upside-down. “Chosen One” Simon Snow and his archrival/love interest Baz Pitch go to magic school, fight monsters, get messages from ghosts, and figure out their destinies. Sound familiar? Spot-on characterizations and an epic romance make this hard to put down.
Challenger Deep. By Neal Shusterman. Illus. by Brendan Shusterman. HarperTeen, $17.99 (9780061134111). Gr. 9–12.
This breathtaking exploration of one teen’s experience with schizophrenia may be Shusterman’s masterwork. As Caden is admitted to a mental hospital, his real-life narrative becomes intertwined with an imagined counterpart tale where he is sailing the pirate seas. Based on Shusterman’s son’s own struggles with mental illness, this is, in fact, both challenging and deep.
Dumplin’. By Julia Murphy. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062327185). Gr. 8–12.
Willowdean, a self-proclaimed fat girl, decides to enter a beauty contest, ready to take the ridicule for her right to be in the spotlight. Will’s singular voice compels readers to think about all that goes into building—and destroying—self-esteem.
The Emperor of Any Place. By Tim Wynne-Jones. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763669737). Gr. 9–12.
Two weeks after finding his father dead, Evan is dealing with a grandfather he’s never met while unraveling secrets recorded by two soldiers, one Japanese, the other American, stranded on a small Pacific island during WWII. This complex narrative is original, absorbing, and rewarding.
The Game of Love and Death. By Martha Brockenbrough. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545668347). Gr. 9–12.
For millennia, Love and Death have played an intricate, deadly game, using humans as pawns—and always, Death wins. This time, their chessboard is Depression-era Seattle, and the players are African American aviatrix Flora, and white musician Henry, whose lives—and tenuous romance—are threatened.
The Ghosts of Heaven. By Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (9781626721258). Gr. 9–12.
Four different narratives span centuries in Sedgwick’s characteristically sophisticated latest work. Readable in any order, each is linked by spirals, a shape that occurs in everything from astronomy to our DNA. Gorgeously written and lush with big moments and bigger questions.
The Hired Girl. By Laura Amy Schlitz. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763678180). Gr. 7–10.
In 1911, 14-year-old Joan clashes with her father and flees to Baltimore, where she becomes a hired girl in the household of a wealthy Jewish family. With its vividly portrayed characters, this is a memorable novel by a captivating storyteller.
I Crawl through It. By A. S. King. Little, Brown, $18 (9780316334099). Gr. 9–12.
King’s newest novel crawls through the psyches of four seniors trying to escape personal traumas in the face of daily bomb threats at their high school. Beautiful prose, poetry, and surreal imagery combine for an utterly original story that urges readers to question, love, and believe—or risk explosion.
More Happy Than Not. By Adam Silvera. Soho Teen, $18.99 (9781616955601). Gr. 9–12.
Teen Aaron Soto struggles with his sexuality in his macho Bronx neighborhood and considers undergoing a memory-altering procedure at the Leteo Institute to help him forget he’s gay. A thought-provoking and supremely structured narrative.
Mosquitoland. By David Arnold. Viking, $17.99 (9780451470775). Gr. 8–12.
Sixteen-year-old Mary Iris Malone (“Mim”) embarks on an unforgettable road trip to visit her ailing mother. Honest insights into mental illness, inventive characters, and Mim’s quirky worldview make this bighearted debut one to remember.
The Porcupine of Truth. By Bill Konigsberg. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545648936). Gr. 9–12.
Carson meets Aisha and falls in love, but just his luck, she’s a lesbian. Anyway, they hit it off and embark upon a mission to find Carson’s long-lost grandfather. Their quixotic search for truth—thorny as a porcupine—tests their friendship. But what a fascinating, rarely-depicted friendship it is.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. By Stephanie Oakes. Dial, $17.99 (9780803740709). Gr. 9–12.
In a bone-chillingly beautiful first-person narrative, Minnow recounts her childhood in a religious cult and the act of disobedience that led her father to chop off her hands. Oakes’ harrowing retelling of “The Handless Maiden” plumbs the depths both of Minnow’s righteous rage and her empowering recovery.
Shadowshaper. By Daniel José Older. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545591614). Gr. 8–11.
Sierra is a “shadowshaper,” able to animate art with the spirit of a departed soul. Shadowshapers are a disappearing community in which Sierra has a powerful role, and Older’s depiction of it weaves in commentary on gentrification, cultural appropriation, the shifting social mores of immigrants, and more. A cinematically paced fantasy of bright originality.
The Tightrope Walker. By David Almond. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763673109). Gr. 8–12.
Set on the banks of the River Tyne, this follows Dominic and Holly as they grow from children to adults, their lives periodically disrupted whenever Vincent, a magnetic punk, slithers in. Almond delves into important issues: how good stacks up against evil, the question of choice versus chance, and whether God is watching us, helping us, or baiting us.
X. By Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763669676). Gr. 9–12.
Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X, and award-winner Magoon bring energy, immediacy and emotional power to this fictionalized biography told in Malcolm’s first-person, present-tense voice. Satisfyingly complete and never simplistic.
Detective Gordon: The First Case. By Ulf Nilsson. Illus. by Gitte Spee. Tr. by Julia Marshall. Gecko, $16.99 (9781927271490). Gr. 2–4.
First published in Sweden, this illustrated chapter book introduces Detective Gordon, a toad, as he works on a case with his new assistant. Endearing characters and a childlike sensibility are highlights of this quiet but supremely amusing story.
The Detective’s Assistant. By Kate Hannigan. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316403511). Gr. 4–7.
Eleven-year-old Nell, an orphan, turns up on the doorstep of her aunt, Kate Warne, the first female detective at the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Kate has no time for her niece, but Nell, who proves herself talented at detecting, has other ideas. A strong story with a tough-yet-needy heroine.
Full Cicada Moon. By Marilyn Hilton. Dial, $17.99 (9780525428756). Gr. 4–7.
In elegant free verse, Hilton catalogs the journey of half-black, half-Japanese Mimi, who has moved from California to Vermont with her family in 1969. In addition to navigating a new, primarily white society, Mimi dreams of being an astronaut and faces obstacles as a girl interested in science.
Goodbye Stranger. By Rebecca Stead. Random/Wendy Lamb, $16.99 (9780385743174). Gr. 5–8.
Bridge, Em, and Tabitha are best friends heading into seventh grade, an age ripe for transformation. In spite of their myriad changes, though, their friendship survives. With exceptional nuance, Stead gracefully captures the shifting sands of adolescence and offers a warm, winsome story about all kinds of love.
The Hollow Boy. By Jonathan Stroud. Disney/Hyperion, $16.99 (9781484709689). Gr. 4–7.
When a major paranormal disturbance threatens London, the four young people of Lockwood & Co. take up the challenge, despite friction within their firm. Stroud brings his considerable narrative skills to bear in this sometimes terrifying, sometimes amusing, but always riveting novel.
The Nest. By Kenneth Oppel. Illus. by Jon Klassen. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781481432320). Gr. 5–8.
When an angelic wasp offers to fix his sick baby brother, Steven accepts. That is, until the wasp’s dreadful plan emerges. Brilliantly merging Steven’s anxieties about his own brokenness with the wasp’s malignant assertions, Oppel tells an outstanding, spine-chilling tale about monsters both outside and in.
The Thing about Jellyfish. By Ali Benjamin. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316380867). Gr. 5–8.
Suzy lost her longtime best friend twice: first when she shifted away into the “pretty girls” clique and irrevocably when she drowned. In a novel notable for its clean, fluid writing, Suzy’s highly individual first-person narrative makes for a compelling experience.
The Wolf Wilder. By Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781481419420). Gr. 4–7.
In the snowy wilderness of Russia, Feo and her mother work as wolf wilders, retraining domesticated wolves to survive in nature. But when her mother is arrested, Feo determines to save her, with the help of her wolf pack and a new friend. A deftly told and inspiring adventure.
The Day The Crayons Came Home. By Drew Daywalt. Illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Philomel, $18.99 (9780399172755). PreS–Gr. 2.
The Crayons are back! Well, not exactly. Some have left home, though all have access to postcards, which they send to their owner, Duncan—and they’re not too happy. Wonderfully inventive and lots of fun.
The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have. By Edward Van de Vendel. Illus. by Anton Van Hertbruggen. Eerdmans, $17 (9780802854513). K–Gr. 3.
Sumptuous, stunning paintings combine with spare, off-kilter words to tell the story of Nino, who finds comfort in an imaginary dog that innately understands Nino’s needs. After getting a real dog, Nino has the powerful realization that his imagination doesn’t have to stop there.
Fire Engine No. 9. By Mike Austin. Illus. by the author. Random, $16.99 (9780553510959). PreS–K.
With siren blaring and horn honking, Fire Engine No. 9 speeds through the streets to reach the scene and douse the fire. The vivid digital artwork shapes the main narrative, using color, texture, and form to amplify the drama. Kids will want to chime in on the sound effects and staccato words of this total dynamo. (Top of the List winner—Picture Book.)
Home. By Carson Ellis. Illus. by the author. Candlewick, $14.99. (9780763665296). PreS–Gr. 2.
In this arrestingly illustrated book, Ellis presents many types of home, some as contemporary and concrete as a brick apartment building slashed with graffiti, others as fanciful as a shoe covered with cavorting children. Ellis draws with precision and simplicity, with an eye for detail, making each picture a piece of framable art.
I Don’t Like Koala. By Sean Ferrell. Illus. by Charles Santoso. Atheneum, $17.99 (9781481400688). PreS–Gr. 1.
Adam hates his stuffed koala. Its terrible eyes follow him wherever he goes, and despite the boy’s attempts to lose the toy, Koala always reappears. However, Koala’s unshakable vigilance becomes a thing of comfort when Adam needs reassurance in the night. Quirky pencil drawings lend humor to this offbeat tale.
It’s Only Stanley. By Jon Agee. Illus. by the author. Dial, $17.99 (9780803739079). PreS–Gr. 2.
A family’s slumber keeps being interrupted by strange noises, but don’t worry. It’s only Stanley, their nondescript beagle, howling at the moon, then modifying their oil tank, then experimenting with test tubes. What he’s up to is at first a little ominous and then, unexpectedly, touching. A droll little heartbreaker.
Moletown. By Torben Kuhlmann. Illus. by the author. North-South, $17.95 (9780735842083). PreS–Gr. 2.
In meticulous, mesmerizing, wordless illustrations, Kuhlmann traces the history of Moletown. Beginning with one mole in a verdant field, it gradually grows, mimicking the history of industrialization, into a buzzing mole-tropolis. But what happened to the grassy field? Kuhlmann’s moving art asks thoughtful questions about sustainability.
My Dog, Bob. By Richard Torrey. Illus. by the author. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823433865). PreS–Gr. 2.
A little boy introduces his dog, Bob, an original whose idea of having fun with a ball is playing golf. The easy-to-read words and cartoon-like illustrations combine to create this lovable picture book’s understated but hugely accessible humor.
The Night World. By Mordicai Gerstein. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown, $18 (9780316188227). PreS–Gr. 1.
A sleeping boy and his cat go out to explore the night in this evocative story by a Caldecott Medalist. Stunning spreads executed in shades of black and charcoal grow lighter with the coming of dawn. The message: look around, there are so many wonderful things to see.
The Princess and the Pony. By Kate Beaton. Illus. by the author. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545637084). K–Gr. 2.
Princess Pinecone is a warrior, thank you very much, and she’d appreciate it if everyone stopped giving her fuzzy sweaters. She also really wants a warhorse but, instead, gets a fat, farting pony. She’ll still fight in the big battle, though. Beaton’s offbeat cartoons and comedic timing make this a must.
Rude Cakes. By Rowboat Watkins. Illus. by the author. Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452138510). PreS–Gr. 1.
A very rude cake terrorizes her fellow pastries until her comeuppance is delivered in an unexpected (and hilarious) fashion, teaching the cake the value of being polite and considerate. Watkins’ muted watercolors bounce along with vintage whimsy as he demonstrates the importance of good manners.
Some Things I’ve Lost. By Cybele Young. Illus. by the author. Groundwood, $19.95 (9781554983391). PreS–Gr. 2.
Young’s intricate paper sculptures form the backbone of this stunning picture book, which imaginatively explores what happens to lost objects. Each page showcases one such object, and the facing page opens in a gatefold revealing that object expanding into wild, jaw-dropping creations. Superbly executed and delightfully arresting.
The Story of Diva and Flea. By Mo Willems. Illus. by Tony DiTerlizzi. Disney/Hyperion, $14.99 (9781484722848). Gr. 1–3.
In this charming tale, a tiny white dog named Diva becomes friends with Flea, a large cat who is a great flâneur wandering the streets of Paris. Beautifully illustrated, this simple chapter book captures the essence of Paris as the duo explores and discovers the meaning of bravery and home.
Supertruck. By Stephen Savage. Illus. by the author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, $12.99 (9781596438217). PreS–K.
No one notices a lowly, bespectacled garbage truck. But when a blizzard immobilizes the city, he adds a plow and becomes SUPERTRUCK to secretly clear the streets. If Superman was a truck, he would look like this. Unrelatedly, if Clark Kent was a truck, he would also look like this. Weird, right?
We Forgot Brock! By Carter Goodrich. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (9781442480902). PreS–Gr. 1.
When Phillip loses his imaginary best friend, Brock—a barrel-chested tough guy rendered in childlike crayon—they’re both distraught, but Anne and her best friend, Princess Sparkledust, save the day. Goodrich’s masterful, hilarious illustrations, in gorgeous watercolors and artful scribbles, are an object lesson in the humor of contrast.
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