Book Review: Tunnel of Bones

39352771._SY475_Kids who are looking for a haunting read this week should check out Tunnel of Bones, the second book in Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts series.

Twelve-year-old Cassidy almost drowned last year. Ever since then, she’s been able to pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead and help restless spirits move on. And Jacob, the ghost who saved her life, has become her best friend.

Now Cassidy and Jacob are in Paris. Her parents are filming a new episode of their TV show about haunted cities. When Cassidy goes into the Catacombs under the city, she accidentally awakens a poltergeist. She and her family are in danger, and in order to stop him, she must figure out who he was and how he died.

This book is one that you’ll keep reading long after you should have turned out the lights and gone to sleep. It’s a spooky page-turner!

Book Review: We’re Not From Here

35615208We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey is a quick, funny read, and at the same time, it makes you think. It’s the story of a kid named Lan, who has to convince the aliens of Planet Choom to accept a spaceship full of human refugees.

At the beginning of the story, Lan and his family are living on Mars. Life on Earth is no longer an option. Life on Mars isn’t so great either. Lan and his friends try to keep their sense of humor by making funny videos, but the truth is that the station is running low on food and oxygen.

Then, they’re invited to immigrate to Choom, a planet that will support human life. It’s inhabited by several alien species, including the Zhuri, who look like giant mosquitos, the Ororo, who look like giant marshmallows, and the Krik, who look like little, green werewolves. About a thousand people opt to make the journey. When they come out of their bio-suspension pods twenty years later, though, they find that they are no longer welcome.

In the end, the Zhuri government allows one “human reproductive unit,” Lan, his sister, and his parents, to come to Choom as a test case. They’re being set up to fail, of course, but if Lan can make friends and make some of his new classmates laugh, they may have a chance. Luckily, the Zhuri can’t resist a good pratfall.

Everyone agrees it makes for an entertaining story. (And you’ll have to read the book to get this joke.)

On a more serious note, it would be interesting to read this book in a classroom along with a book of realistic fiction about refugees, such as Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson, or The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth.

Book Review: Small Spaces

36959639._SY475_When Halloween approaches, the kids at the library always start looking for spooky books. This year, I have a new recommendation for them: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. It’s a quick read that combines chilling action sequences and a satisfying supernatural mystery.

One day, Sixth grader Ollie Adler sees a woman preparing to throw a book in the creek. She can’t bear to see a book destroyed, so she grabs it, takes it home, and starts to read it. It’s a very old book called Small Spaces about a farmer from Smoky Hollow who makes a deal with the Smiling Man.

The next day is Farm Day at Ollie’s school, and the whole sixth grade class takes a field trip to a local farm. As Ollie explores, she discovers hints that Small Spaces is a true story set on this very farm. Then, on the way back to school, the bus breaks down. With darkness falling and the mist rising, Ollie flees with two of her classmates, Brian and Coco, and the real adventure begins.

I promise you, after reading this book, you will never look at scarecrows the same way again!

And if you want more chills, check out the sequel, Dead Voices.

ARC Review: Race to the Sun

36353103Listen up, Percy Jackson fans. You’re going to want to put Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun on your wish list. It’s an action-packed quest adventure that draws on the Navajo legend of the Hero Twins.

Seventh grader Nizhoni Begay dreams of being a middle school superstar. But her one special talent is that she can recognize monsters. Unfortunately, no one believes her when she tells them that her dad’s new boss is up to no good.

Then, her dad is kidnapped, and only Nizhoni, her younger brother, and her best friend Davery can rescue him. They’ll have to pass a series of trials to reach the House of the Sun and obtain the weapons they’ll need to defeat the monsters.

Some of my favorite things about this book were:

  • Mr. Yazzie, the wise horned toad, who mentors Nizhoni.
  • The prophetic poem that Nizhoni receives from the mysterious snack lady in the train station.
  • The Navajo mythological figures that appear in the story.
  • The fact that Nizhoni, her brother, and Davery have complementary skills.
  • The satisfying final battle.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is January 14, 2020.

Book Review: Dragon Pearl

34966859Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee combines Korean mythology, science fiction, and mystery in a terrific adventure story. Larrabee and I both loved it.

Min is a 13-year-old fox spirit living on a poor planet with her mother, aunts, and cousins. When her older brother, a cadet in the Thousand Worlds Space Forces, is accused of deserting his post to search for the fabled Dragon Pearl, Min runs away from home to find him. Her quest takes her across the galaxy toward the Ghost Sector.

Some of the things I liked best about this book are:

  1.  Min’s fox magic. In addition to acute senses of smell and hearing, Min has the ability to shape shift and to use Charm to influence other people’s behavior. Although she’s grown up assuming a human form and hiding her magic at her mother’s insistence, all of her special abilities prove useful in her search for her brother.
  2. The Thousand Worlds. From Min’s dome house on dusty Jinju to the sleek corridors of the battle cruiser Pale Lightning, the book’s settings drew me into the story.
  3. Min’s allies. Throughout the story, Min finds friends and allies in unexpected places. I particularly liked the goblin Sujin and the dragon Haneul.

Dragon Pearl is a fast-paced, suspenseful, and immersive read. I recommend it.

Book Review: The Reckless Club

38526585In The Reckless Club by Beth Vrabel, five students arrive at an assisted living home on the last day of summer. They’ve all been invited by the principal to do a day of service instead of serving a suspension for their bad behavior on the last day of school.

At the beginning of the day, they know each other only by reputation. Lilith is the Drama Queen. Wes is the Flirt. Ally is the Athlete, Rex is the Rebel, and Jason is the Nobody.

The story is told over the course of a single day from alternating viewpoints. As the five kids interact with the residents and with each other, they unravel the mystery of the Teddy Bear Nurse and reveal what they did to earn this punishment. In the process, they develop a surprising bond and figure out both who they’ve been in middle school and who they want to be going forward. 

The book’s title is a nod to The Breakfast Club, of course, a movie I loved when I was younger. I expect that most middle grade readers (Larrabee included) haven’t seen it, but that won’t impact their enjoyment of the book.

Book Review: The Lost Girl

40221339._SY475_The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu has a terrific beginning: “The two sisters were alike in every way except for all the ways that they were different.”

Iris and Lark, we learn, are identical twins. They look alike, but they complement each other in personality. Iris is rational and organized. Lark is creative and intuitive. Iris speaks for Lark when she feels anxious, and Lark calms Iris down when she gets angry.

Since birth, they’ve been told that they have better outcomes together. Until this year. For the first time in fifth grade, they’ve been assigned to different classrooms. Their parents have even enrolled them in different after school programs. How are two girls who are better together meant to navigate life apart?

Meanwhile, a new antiques store has opened in Minneapolis. And things going missing all over town–from Iris’s favorite pin to Lark’s beloved stuffed animal to a famous modern art sculpture.

Are these events connected? And who is the mysterious first person narrator who sees so much?

As the narrator tells us in the very first chapter:

“This is a story of a sign and a store. Of a key. Of crows and shiny things. Of magic. Of bad decisions made from good intentions. Of bad guys with bad intentions. Of collective nouns, fairy tales, and backstories.

But most of all this is a story of the two sisters, and what they did when the monsters really came.”

And it’s a really good story. I highly recommend it.