Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert

Lightfall cover image

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian by Tim Probert (9780062990471)

Bea lives with her adopted grandfather, the Pig Wizard. Their life is quiet and simple with Bea entering the forest each day to gather ingredients for the potions they sell. Then one day, when Bea falls from a tall tree, she meets Cad. Cad is a Galdurian, a member of the ancient race who created the lights in the sky and rescued everyone from constant darkness. When they return to the shop, the Pig Wizard is gone, headed out on a quest that may or may not be real thanks to his faulty memory. Bea and Cad head after him, journeying across the land and encountering many strange and dangerous things. There are huge crabs that try to kill them, lizard men who try to eat them, and a pack rat who keeps stealing Bea’s Jar of Endless Flame. Meanwhile, in darkness, more creatures are stirring, creatures who are after what Bea has and who will follow her anywhere to get it.

In this debut graphic novel, Probert shows himself to be a graphic novelist of superb skill. The art and story flow together seamlessly, creating a world that shines with golden light. He creates vistas in his world so that readers can view the expanse of the continent. Then he populates this glowing world with amazing elements straight out of fantasies like the Last Airbender, Star Wars or Indiana Jones. With a sly sense of humor, he brings this world fully to life.

Cad is a marvelous hero, mowing down villains with his sword, and devoting himself to saving others. He is part frog, part giant, and full of myth and wonder. Bea is a great contrast with him. She worries a lot, the darkness spreading around her limbs and head, almost carrying her away at times. But she is also a hero, jumping in when she is needed, bravely fighting off foes and having cold feet (literally) along the way.

The first in a new graphic novel series that is sure to delight young fantasy fans. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperAlley.

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai

Cover image of Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai (9781250314116)

The author of Pie in the Sky returns with the story of a twelve-year-old who wants to prove his maturity to his helicopter family. Henry’s family monitors what he is doing all the time, packing his backpack for him, making sure he has eaten, and hovering all the time. But Henry knows he can do a lot more than they think. That’s how he came up with a very exact plan to prove his independence: he will fly from where he lives in Australia to Singapore where his father lives. He’s also running from being exposed as the author of a nasty gossip comic at his school, something he is both proud of and terrified by. He just needs his ex-best friend to follow through on the plan, or he will definitely get caught!

The entire adventure that Henry experiences is a delight to experience by his side. His sense of humor both in his gossip comics and on the page is broad and very funny. Throughout the book, he is a disciple hoping to find a shifu to teach him what to do next in his quest. When he meets a girl on the plane, he soon discovers that she might just be the shifu he is looking for, if he can keep from making her so mad that she stops talking to him.

With the text broken up with illustrations done in neon green washes and black ink, this book will appeal to readers of Wimpy Kid. The illustrations range from single illustrations to panels in series to examples from Henry’s own blog done in a completely different style.

Funny, insightful and proof that everyone worth knowing is a little strange. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Henry Holt and Co.

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ty's Travels All Aboard by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata (9780062951120)

Ty loves adventures and most of all he wishes his family would play with him. But his father is busy making dinner, his mother is folding the laundry, and his big brother is doing his homework. Ty spots an empty box and knows just what to do with it. Soon he has built a train engine and begins a journey down the tracks. At the first stop, someone is waiting! It’s Daddy, who climbs aboard. At the next stop, it’s Momma who comes aboard in time to see the city go by. The next stop has his big brother join in. The last stop comes eventually and they are back home just in time for dinner.

There is real challenge in writing a good easy reader and Lyons meets that challenge head on here. With her story of a supportive and playful family, she has a story that can be told simply. It has plenty of action and motion to keep the story moving forward in a way that is paced perfectly for new readers.

The illustrations by Mata are friendly and use the white space on the page nicely. They support the text on the page, offering new readers just the right amount of support visually. She also shows the imaginary journey clearly using crayon and simpler graphics that are done in a childlike style.

This series is a great pick for new readers. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins. 

 

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Julie Morstad (9780593116296)

It is 1973 in Paris, and the girl decides that she wants to wander and travel. One day she gets on a motorcycle and starts out, carrying everything she needs with her. Listening to the road before her, she sets out to ride around the world. From Paris, she flies to Montreal in Canada, riding across the country. She camps at night, swims under the Northern Lights, and heads to Alaska. From there, she flies to Tokyo then to Bombay. Sometimes her bike breaks down, but the road keeps calling. She goes through Afghanistan, Turkey, then Europe. Then she returns home to Paris, different from when she left.

This is the true story of Ann-France Dautheville, who was the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world alone. For ten years, she traveled the world, including the four months that she made this journey told in the book. Novesky was inspired by a single photograph she saw, creating a picture book that celebrates the bravery and spirit of this woman. Using a unique approach of calling her “the girl,” the book invites readers to see themselves in Dautheville’s place, exploring on her own. Throughout the book, there is a merry sense of adventure, acknowledgement of the dangers, and a deep appreciation for life on the road.

Morstad’s art captures that same delight in the journey. From the items packed in her bags to the amazing landscapes she journeyed through, the art follows her travels. There are dark nights under Canadian’s trees, red flower days in India, sapphire rivers, and calming Buddhas. Told in vibrant yet simple illustrations, readers get a true sense of the scope of her ride.

A great book that exemplifies girl power, jump on this ride! Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Viking Books for Young Readers.

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (9780062991317)

Once again join the three friends Ivan, Ruby and Bob from The One and Only Ivan. Bob now lives with humans rather than in the gorilla enclosure in the mall with Ivan. He’s a dog who doesn’t want to be owned, though he does appreciate the soft blanket, regular food and even an occasional cuddle. He resents the clicker used to train him and still refuses to get into any vehicle after being thrown from a moving truck with his littermates as a tiny puppy. As a large hurricane approaches, Bob is visiting the zoo where Ivan and Ruby now live, separated by a wall. The storm hits the zoo directly, generating a tornado that has Bob airborne. As he deals with the aftermath and next wave of the storm, Bob discovers new wells of courage, his continued connection to his lifelong friends, and relocates a family he thought he’d never see again.

Told in Bob’s voice, this book is like snuggling with your favorite dog. The chapters are brief and inviting, sometimes only a few sentences long. They show the mind and life of a dog who may not easily trust people but loves so deeply when he trusts another creature. Applegate clearly adores dogs and really captures the way they might think in this story filled with scents, sounds and Bob’s own unique perspective on life.

While this book does follow the first book about Ivan, it would be possible to also read this one first. I can’t imagine that anyone reading it won’t insist immediately on knowing more about Ruby, Ivan and Bob.

Warm and funny with a remarkable canine hero. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet (9781536206197)

Darleen has grown up in the movie industry, first appearing as a baby and now at age twelve as “Daring Darleen” in a series of silent films. It is 1914 and the trend is to have the worlds of film and real life converge, so Darleen’s uncles make a plan for her to be kidnapped from outside a movie theater while being filmed by them. Everything seems to be going to plan until Darleen is snatched by the wrong kidnappers and discovers that she has been taken along with Victorine, a girl just her age who is an heiress. The two must figure out how to escape, using Darleen’s natural penchant for heights and daring moves that her dead mother also had. Still, she had promised her father to keep her feet on the ground, but that’s hard to do as her adventures continue almost like being in a real screenplay.

There is so much to love here! Nesbet creates the daring and inventions of early film-making in this middle-grade novel. The chapters are meant to be episodes, some offering a great cliffhanger until the next installment. The series of adventures makes for a page-turner of a book with two girls at its center who form a grand friendship along the way and adore one another for being just who they are.

Darleen is a heroine through and through from her day job in front of the camera but even more so in real life as she skillfully figures out puzzles, finds ways to escape, and does it all with real courage. In many ways, Victorine is her opposite. She wants to tell the truth at all costs, knows all sorts of facts and loves books and travel. The two together form an unstoppable force. It is also great to see Nesbet pay homage to Alice Guy Blache by having her as a secondary character in the novel.

A grand adventure of a novel that will have readers enthralled. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Enchanter’s Child: Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage

Enchanter's Child Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage

Enchanter’s Child: Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage (9780062875143)

The author of the Septimus Heap series returns with a new fantasy world. Alex lives in Luma, where all magic is forbidden. She has a deck of Hex cards that come to life in her hands and show her images of the future. She’s always had them, given to her as a small child by the family that gave her away. But one jealous foster sister decides to name Alex as an enchanter and everything changes. Alex flees with her youngest foster brother into a world designed to hunt her down with magical hauntings. Her step mother is placed in jail for harboring her. As Alex escapes, she still doesn’t believe that she’s an enchanter’s child, though the Hauntings do target her. Meanwhile, her father who used to be an important enchanter, is searching for her. But it’s a large world, full of Hauntings that will kill them both, even though he designed them all.

Sage has a skill for developing entire worlds that click together beautifully as the story continues. Readers will wonder about why people don’t just flee the gloomy streets of Luma out to the countryside, and Sage has built dark and deadly reasons for them to stay behind the walls of the city. The entire world though is also piercingly beautiful with its citrus groves, deep woods, large meadows and turreted cities. Sage takes the time to fully build her world and its logic, allowing young readers to explore it alongside Alex.

Alex herself is a grand protagonist, figuring out that she actually is an enchanter’s child on her journeys. She is brave, forthright and clever. Happily, she is also joined by a large group of secondary characters who are all interesting as well. That includes her father, who was been hiding for years in the woods, eating snakes and spider eggs. He is joined by a person tasked with killing enchanters who just can’t bring himself to do it. Then you also have a family happy to help Alex, who have lost enchanters themselves.

Brilliantly structured, beautifully described settings, and great characters bring this new series fully alive. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver 

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver 

The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver (9780062345073)

There are monsters in the world, though few people believe they are actually real. Cordelia and her father help monsters that get hurt, moving them into their house on Cedar Street. The house is bedraggled and unkempt, but the monsters love it, each one finding their own special space inside. The only place that no one is allowed to enter is Cordelia’s mother’s study which has been forbidden since her disappearance nine years ago. Cordelia is used to a house filled with weird noises, so when she awakens to silence one morning she knows that something has happened. Her father and all of the monsters have disappeared. The only ones left are hiding in the oven: a baby dragon and an old filch. As Cordelia sets off to find them, she is joined by Gregory, a boy who lives on the streets and has a monster of his own, a zombie puppy that Cordelia helped save. They must find the monsters and her father, rescue them and perhaps even expose a sinister organization that is targeting monsters of all kinds. It’s a harrowing journey for a girl, a handful of monsters and a new friend. 

The book begins with passages from Cordelia’s mother’s book about monsters which explain the monster themselves and then also link them to how they evolved. This clever use of a book mentioned regularly in the story also allows Oliver to keep the story streamlined and not filled with monster exposition when each new one arrives. The story itself is animated and great fun with wild dashes of action, near catastrophes, kindred spirits and harrowing danger. It’s a story that could feel out of control, but Oliver keeps it pointed in the right direction even when the reader isn’t quite sure which way is up. She also asks larger questions about who the monsters really are and how humans become a true evil monster on the inside. 

The characters are marvelous, each one unique and interesting. Cordelia is brave and creative, nicely solving some of their most dire situations. Gregory is a natural with the monsters and is always willing to lend a hand even if he might get nipped. The monsters are fascinating and varied with just enough similarity to other animals and creatures to be able to be pictured clearly in one’s mind. After all, who wouldn’t want a zombie puppy!

Fast paced fantasy with lots of monsters both wild and human. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

Review: Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti 

Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti 

Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti (9780525518181)

Old Rock has sat in the same spot on the edge of a clearing in a pine forest for a very long time. Tall Pine, who stands next to Old Rock, thinks that being a rock must be very boring. Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird agree. Hummingbird talks about flying to different parts of the world. Old Rock then mentions that he flew once when he was erupted from a volcano. Spotted Beetle talks about what he can see from different vantage points. Old Rock then tells about watching dinosaurs walk past and riding a glacier. He even had a vantage point when the glacier left him high on the top of a ridge. Old Rock may never have danced, but he talks about somersaulting down from the ridge and meeting mastodons. And that’s when a very small pine tree started to grow next to him, and he met a beetle and a hummingbird too.

Pilutti pushes back against assumptions that could be made about rocks or others that are content right where they are. As the tree, bird and beetle brag about their own experiences, Old Rock can match them and share his own tales that are far more interesting. Old Rock’s clear contentment and stillness add a wonderful grounding to the book, even as he sometimes teeters on a ridge.

The illustrations are marvelous, filled with the emotions that go across the face of Old Rock. They contrast modern day with the past nicely using different color palettes for different times. Old Rock though stays solid and gray throughout.

A clever book that includes evolution, dinosaurs and a little rock and roll. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.