A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Cover image for A Lesson in Vengeance.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (9780593305829)

Felicity is returning to Dalloway School after the tragic death of her girlfriend ended her previous senior year early. But it’s not easy to return to the ivy-covered school that is filled with dark legends that Felicity finds herself drawn to. The early days of the school date to the witch trials and five Dalloway students died early in the schools history, their deaths filled with connections to witchcraft. As Felicity starts her senior year again, she meets a compelling new student, a young novelist who is working on her second book. When Ellis reveals her book is going to be about the Dalloway Five, Felicity agrees to help her with her research. As the two research documents, they also form their own coven and begin to explore the occult. There is so much history filled with questions, and that includes the death of Felicity’s girlfriend a year ago too.

This book is beautiful and delicious. I love that it has its own distinct vintage style too, combining elbow patches and fifties sweaters with cell phones. The witch elements of the story are an invigorating mix of real history with existing covens but also may be covering up more realistic reasons for the deaths of the five girls. The setting itself is marvelously isolated and allows the characters a lot of freedom. These are wealthy girls, who flaunt their privilege at times and deny it at others.

The book is layered and complex. It turns from being a gothic, vintage witchcraft tale to something even darker. As Felicity’s mental health destabilizes, the truth emerges in fits and starts. The book becomes far more about the power of young women, the way society has frowned upon them gaining agency in the world, and what that means today. Beautifully, that doesn’t mean that the bloody nature of the book goes away. Far from it.

Dark, dangerous and delightful. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Delacorte Press.

The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver by Dean Robbins

Cover image for The Fastest Girl on Earth.

The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (9780593125717)

As a child, Kitty O’Neil loved to go fast. She loved running, riding on the lawn mower with her father, and swimming and diving. Though she lost her hearing due to a childhood fever, it never slowed Kitty down. Kitty grew up to be a stuntwoman in movies. She also set records as the fastest water skier and boat racer. Then Kitty set her sights on being the fastest driver. Her car was called the Motivator and it was rocket powered, capable of going over 300 mph, if Kitty could steer it at that speed. The woman’s land speed record at the time was 308 mph. Kitty went 618 mph! She became an American hero in the 1970’s even having an action figure made in her likeness. Kitty continued to be a champion of children with disabilities and held records in an incredible range of sports.

Robbins’ book about Kitty O’Neil is just as fast paced as her records. His writing is brisk, opening the book with Kitty in her rocket car and closing the book with her record drive. This frames the story very successfully, as young readers will want to know what happens on that historic drive. Robbins also captures the breathlessness of the countdowns, the danger of the drive, and Kitty’s own fearlessness. It’s a marvelous rocket read of a book just right for the subject.

The art, done in pencil, watercolor, acrylic and digital, get readers right into the cockpit with O’Neil. They capture her joy at going fast and breaking records. With bright colors, they also show the dynamic moments of the countdowns, the acceleration, the determination and the eventual win.

A wild ride of book about a deaf woman driver who became a hero. Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Child of the Flower-Song People by Gloria Amescua

Cover image for Child of the Flower-Song People.

Child of the Flower-Song People by Gloria Amescua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (9781419740206)

Luz Jiménez was a child of the flower-song people, the Aztecs. She had listened intently to the stories told by the elders about their sacred mountains and streams and also about how the Spaniards had taken their lands away. Luz learned how to do the traditional work of her people, grinding corn on a metate, twisting yarn with her toes, weaving on a loom. She learned about the plants around her and what herbs were medicine. Luz longed to go to school, but it was forbidden for native children. Then the law changed and required schooling in the ways of the Spanish. Luz was a good student and learned much, still keeping the traditional tales alive as she shared them with the other students. At age 13, Luz was forced to flee the Mexican Revolution and live in Mexico City. There Luz became a model for artists, sharing her traditions in paintings and photographs. She longed to be a teacher, but was denied that opportunity. Instead she taught in a different way, through modeling, sharing her tales, and being a living link to the Aztecs.

This beautiful picture book pays homage to Luz Jiménez, a humble woman who became the face of her people. Amescua’s lovely Author’s Note shows the detailed research that went into this biographical picture book. That research is evident in the lovely prose she uses to share Luz’s story with a new generation. Her writing uses metaphors and evocative phrases to really show the impact that Luz’s presence has had as well as her strong connection to her heritage.

Tonatiuh’s art is always exquisite. Done in his own unique style, his illustrations mix modern materials with a folkloric feel. They work particularly well for this subject.

A stellar biographical picture book of a true teacher and heroine. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

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

Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Sister Corita Kent by Matthew Burgess

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Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Sister Corita Kent by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kara Kramer (9781592703166)

Corita Kent was a remarkable pop-artist who was also a nun, a teacher and an activist. From a small child, Corita showed kindness and empathy for others and also a love of art and creativity. Her father wanted her to do something original, and Corita certainly did. She surprised her family by becoming a nun, discovering a love of teaching and training new teachers. She joined the art faculty at Immaculate Heart College, where she discovered a love of silkscreen printing. Soon her art was winning competitions. Corita continued to teach classes and make her own art, which spoke to social justice and against poverty and war. She transformed a rather formal celebration into one of bright colors and activity. Not everyone approved of what Corita was doing, and she surprised the people around her once again, asking to be released from her religious vows. She found places for her largest work, painted on a gigantic tank, and her smallest, a rainbow postage stamp.

While Kent may not be a household name, many of us have seen her work on the iconic postage stamp. This picture book embraces her unusual life, celebrating the decisions she made, the art she created and her voice for social change. The book cleverly pulls out elements of how Kent taught and created her art, offering unique perspectives gained by seeing the world in a fresh way. The writing here is engaging and offers a tone of delight as Kent continues to surprise and amaze.

The bright and vibrant art in the book shares elements of Kent’s own work. Her play with lettering and words appear throughout the illustrations of the book, filling tree trunks, coloring margins, and as posters on the walls. The entire book is a delight of collage, typography and riotous color.

A positive and affirming look at an artist who should be better known. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion.

One Great Lie by Deb Caletti

One Great Lie by Deb Caletti (9781534463172)

When Charlotte wins a scholarship to an elite writing workshop given by her favorite author, Luca Bruni, she is thrilled. The workshop takes her to Venice, Italy and a summer spent on a private island with a small group of other college students and Bruni himself. The trip also gives Charlotte a chance to investigate a family legend that one of her female ancestors actually wrote a very famous poem. As Charlotte explore her heritage, looking for clues to a woman who has disappeared into history, she meets Dante, a college student working at the library who works to save flood-ravaged pages. As Charlotte falls for both Venice and Dante, the attentions of Bruni begin to become more problematic. After one girl leaves the program and another has clearly been hurt, Charlotte gains his unwanted attentions and finds herself alone with him. Charlotte must now face her own powerful mentor and decide whether to keep his secrets or not, just as her ancestor and so many women have done before her.

Award-winning author Caletti has created a book that shows exactly why we see music, poetry, painting and more as male dominated throughout history. She highlights real female poets and artists from the 1400s-1600s at the beginning of each chapter, showing how they were quickly either muted, disparaged or killed. She uses these women and the warning signs of Bruni’s behavior throughout the book to foreshadow what is about to happen to Charlotte. It’s terrible to wait for the predator to turn his attentions to her and then strike.

The darkness throughout the book is broken by the accomplishments of some of the historical female figures and also with Charlotte finding her own voice and demanding change. Nothing though is done without cost and loss, there is nothing simple in this novel, no easy way out. The writing is exquisite, dark and rich, with room for a good man like Dante to emerge as a worthy partner for Charlotte.

Feminist, ferocious and full of fight. Appropriate for ages 16-19.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez by Anna Harber Freeman

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Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales, illustrated by Aphelandra (9780807575994)

Maria played in the fields while her parents worked, making clay bowls. When all of them cracked in the sun, she sought help from her Aunt Nicolasa who showed her the ancient Tewa way of making pots using clay mixed with volcanic ash and thanking Mother Earth for sharing clay with them. Maria practiced making pots for months before she was ready to have one fired with her aunt’s. Some pots don’t survive firing, so Maria was pleased when hers came out perfectly from the blaze. Maria grew up, married and had children, never stopping working with clay and pots. In 1908 an archaeologist asked if she could create a pot based on an ancient shard of pottery. Though Maria had never seen such a polished and black pot, she decided to try. After many attempts, her pot came out shiny and black. Maria was able to sell her pottery for the first time and soon they were selling as many as they could create, employing her entire family.

This picture book biography tells the story of an important Native American artist who served as a vital ambassador for the Tewa people and the ancient ways of making pottery. The book is written by one of Maria’s great grandchildren and an art teacher author. Their deep knowledge of Maria and art are evident on the pages with the details shared and the homage to Maria’s dedication for learning and teaching.

The illustrations glow with the sun of New Mexico, combined with deep blue skies and green plants. The illustrations are a stirring combination of the characters and beautiful landscapes full of sunset pinks, purples and oranges.

A lovely tribute to an important Native woman artist. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Albert Whitman & Company.

Walking Toward Peace: The True Story of a Brave Woman Called Peace Pilgrim by Kathleen Krull

Cover image for Walking Toward Peace.

Walking Toward Peace: The True Story of a Brave Woman Called Peace Pilgrim by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Annie Bowler (9781947888265)

In a world of war, Peace Pilgrim changed her name and decided to walk 25,000 in the name of peace. She gave up her possessions, her fancy dresses and shoes. She prepared for years, learning about foraging in the wild, practicing good deeds for neighbors, and volunteering for peace groups. She began her walk on New Year’s Day leaving Pasadena, California in simple sneakers and a blue shirt that said Peace Pilgrim. She carried only possessions that fit in her pockets. On her journey, she stopped and talked with everyone. Soon she was asked to speak with school groups and then with other organizations. She relied on strangers for food and would accept a place to sleep too, though she loved to sleep outside under the stars. She crossed from California to New York, but that was just her first pilgrimage. She kept on walking, heading for her 25,000 mile total. Even after she reached that milestone, she kept on walking for peace.

I am so pleased to have a picture book written about Peace Pilgrim. I was one of the lucky people who got to hear her speak at a tiny gathering in central Wisconsin. My family hosted her, driving her to our rural home and sharing time with her. It’s an experience I hold in my heart and continue to be inspired by. This picture book captures her spirit beautifully and shows how one person can make a difference simply by speaking out and walking forth.

The art is compelling, showing the long routes that Peace Pilgrim took, the signature blue apron she wore, and the connections she formed wherever she went. She is truly a national treasure, someone we can all look towards for inspiration on a life well spent in service to peace.

A book that shows that heroes come in all forms. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Flyaway Books.

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff

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Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter (9781534460072)

When Frieda Caplan started working at the Seventh Street produce market in Los Angeles, there were only potatoes, bananas, tomatoes and apples for sale. Caplan thought it might be work giving something new a try. So she started selling mushrooms. Soon she was known as the Mushroom Queen and had her own stall at the market. She became known as a person who would taste anything and started selling kiwis, jicama, blood oranges, Asian pears and much more. Over the years she introduced consumers to many new things, including seedless watermelons in 1962, horned melon in 1984, and fresh lychee in 2015. Caplan’s daughters now work with her in her produce stall, introducing finds of their own and offering their unique and informed view of what the next big thing might be.

Rockliff offers a dynamic look at the woman who changed how America eats fruits and vegetables. Her fearless approach to trying new things combined with a deep instinct about what will work for the market. Beautifully, the book focuses on Caplan herself but also richly shows the things that she introduced to American stores. Readers are sure to find new fruits and vegetables on the pages here, and perhaps be brave enough to try then when they make their way to supermarkets across the country.

Potter’s illustrations are richly colored and warm. They show Caplan in the 1950s when she started and then steadily move forward in time, nicely showing the time period through the clothing of the people. The fruits and vegetables are rainbow bright and nicely labeled with their name and the year that Caplan discovered them for the U.S. market.

Bright, intelligent and full of juicy details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

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.