Debut author Stacey Lee‘s Under a Painted Sky lyrically intertwines aspects of America’s Western expansion that are rarely, if ever, explored.  Into the very real world of the California Gold Rush, the pioneers’ homesteading journeys  along the Oregon Trail, and the lawlessness of the “Wild West“, Lee creates a powerfully moving story of friendship, race and gender politics, and above all, courage and faith.  It’s a treat to spend time with a writer who takes pains to research and then accurately represent, with beautiful, vivid prose, a world gone by and in so doing, make it vibrant, interesting, and resonant. 15 year old Chinese AmericanRead More →

Because she’s “a shadow, a footstep in the woods that disappears, a twig no one notices” (19) and because she spends so much time climbing apple trees, Teresa Jane Fowler is better known in Sidwell, Massachusetts, as Twig.  Twelve-year-old Twig, the protagonist in Alice Hoffman‘s newest book, Nightbird, is good at running and at keeping the Fowler family secrets—among them the recipes for specialty pink apple desserts, the effects of the Agnes Early curse, and the reasons for the family’s reclusive manners and unusual nature.  These secrets lead to hurt and loneliness for Twig, but she wears her loneliness like armor. Although life without aRead More →

A hidden past and an uncertain future.  There are mysteries around every shady corner in Atlantia, a crumbling underwater world, once hailed as the last outpost of humanity on earth.  But now, the formerly glorious city is barely breathing, hanging on by the annual exchange of minerals (and people) for food and resources from their long-estranged sister city Above.  The people are restless, afraid, engaged in black market trading in their Deepmarket, and looking to the corrupt priesthood for answers and hope. At the center of this dying world is Rio, daughter of the recently deceased woman who was the beloved leader of their people, and whose mysteriousRead More →

Legendary comic book writer Stan Lee‘s first prose novel, Convergence, is going to fly off your shelves.   A mismatched group of regular teens has suddenly been imbued with mystical ancient powers, linked to the animals of the Chinese zodiac.   At the center is 14 year old Chinese American Steven Lee, who has never really felt like he fits in anywhere and more than anything, wishes he could be a hero.  On a school trip to Hong Kong, Steven stumbles into an underground cavern where he’s unwittingly caught up in an energy convergence that gives him the deadly powers of the Tiger.  Steven’s power comesRead More →

Summertime, St. Kilda, Australia.  The long, languid days of  Christmas holiday break stretch before 15 year old Sky Martin.  She and her family, she says, are “like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects.  Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully [her younger brother] had ‘social difficulties’ … I was surface clean, but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering. My defects weren’t the kind you see just from looking.” (2)  Into lives of the Martin family that summer come 19 year old enigmatic Nancy, who challenges, thrills, taunts, and awakes something in Sky she didn’t know was there and tragic, broken, and oh-so-hot Luke, who isRead More →

Earlier this Autumn, Newbery Medal winner Christopher Paul Curtis returned to Buxton, Canada, with The Madman of Piney Woods.  It’s forty years later than his last visit and the children we met have grown and the town has flourished.  11 year old “Benji” Alston loves roaming the Piney Woods that surround Buxton, whether he’s playing American Civil War with his friends, or visiting the secret swimming hole, or just passing time outside.  Benji’s set his sights on being a newspaper man and is thrilled when he gets an apprenticeship at the newspaper in neighboring Chatham.  “Red” Stockard is a scientist, observing the world around himRead More →

All Jack wants is to live up to his namesake: “maybe I was born to be great, but great at what?” (2)  And that’s really hard, considering that “we lived on a little farm in a small village, where nothing big or great has ever happened in all my twelve years.” (3).  Young Jack was named after a distant grandfather who purportedly conquered nine giants and married the daughter of a duke.  Ever since Jack can remember, his humble farmer father has told him stories of this grandfather, and Jack has longed for any chance at adventure to prove his right to such a greatRead More →

Some adolescents attempt to break out of the traps they perceive in their current life conditions by acting out; others use creative outlets like music to escape.  Breakout by Kevin Emerson follows the story of fourteen-year-old Anthony Castillo and his best friend Keenan on a twelve day journey to Fall Arts Night in Seattle, Washington. Prone to hyperbole, Anthony plays lead guitar in a band called the Rusty Soles, and Keenan plays bass.  Both boys attend Catharine Daly, a K-8 school in which the eighth graders are expected to lead by example.  Anthony takes exception to that nearly impossible expectation by suggesting that eighth gradersRead More →