Vol 2, Issue 4 April 2022

Put the phone down and pick up the perfect companion for an afternoon in the sun- a book, of course! This month we're highlighting 2022 books that, while carrying heavy themes, will take you beyond your own worries without leaving your hammock. Themes like death, depression, a deadly virus, internal struggle, and grief may be a juxtaposition for a sunny afternoon outside. But setting aside time in a relaxing atmosphere to read about tough topics may bring clarity. Clarity can be pondered and found in each story specifically selected in this issue, from our reviews to our award spotlight. Books featured are chapter books geared towards ages 8 through 12 or 12 through 18.

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ChildrensLit Notable Reviews

Lemon Drop Falls
By: Heather Clark
Publisher: North Star Editions
ISBN: 9781631635793
Reviewer: Molly Callender

The truth about lemon drops is that they start out sour and become sweeter over time. Morgan's mom started the tradition of lemon drop talks in their family because sometimes challenging conversations are sweetened by a lemon drop. But Morgan can't ask for a lemon drop from her mom anymore because her mom isn't here. She's gone in the blink of an eye, and her sudden death has plunged Morgan into panic attacks and basic survival mode. Morgan tries to fulfill her mom's last words to her: keep their family together and happy. When Morgan feels like she isn't protecting her father and younger siblings, her struggles deepen. Trying to bring the family together, her dad decides to take them on their yearly camping trip. What could be better than hiking, reading hammocks, and homemade ice cream? Having their mom with them. Morgan's anxiety worsens on the trip as she is constantly reminded of her mom, her voice echoing in her mind. Finally, in a desperate attempt to prove herself, Morgan makes a dangerous and possibly deadly decision: She takes off alone to hike a flooded canyon trail. Young readers will connect with the expertly told story, written in dual time periods, before and after Morgan's mother's death. The author's portrayal of the family's pain is heart-wrenching and authentic. She creates characters who experience raw emotions as they process their grief, which greatly enriches the story. Kids will relate to Morgan and the pressure she feels trying to keep her family together. Reminiscent of The Bridge to Terabithia, the loss of a loved one may be triggering to some individuals. However, as Morgan says, "You can't wish away things that are hard." Perhaps this story can be used to help others in grief, finding some sweetness beneath the sour.

Trusting True North
By: Gina Linko
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
ISBN: 9781629729916
Reviewer: Joyce Rice

This is a story about a virus, about risk, about quarantine, and about families. True's mother, a mapmaker who works for the government, travels for her work. Now that fifth-grader True must be homeschooled because of the virus, True is beginning to teach her younger brother, Georgie, the basics of mapmaking, just like Mom taught her. True is anxious for life to be normal again, but with Georgie's asthma and Grandma Jo in treatment for cancer, it is important to avoid places or people that might cause them to catch Covid. So, when Grandma Jo says they can go outside for a little while, True grabs Georgie and runs before she can change her mind. The only place True wants to go is to the barn. That is her secret place, even though it is dirty and dusty and smells of horses. True is skirting the edge of safety by going there, but the barn draws her in, and she there she meets a schoolmate, a grumpy old man, and a new litter of kittens. Over the next weeks, her life will become entwined with theirs, and she will learn lessons that she cannot learn in books. Along the way, readers will follow True as she fulfills a school assignment to write a tutorial on making a map. Author Gina Linko teaches readers that some broken things cannot be fixed, and some problems have no answer.

The End
By: Mats Strandberg
Publisher: Arctis
ISBN: 9781646908004
Reviewer: Rebecca Luxmore

If you knew you only had weeks to live, how would you spend that time? People come to know the exact date and time of its extinction when scientists project that an enormous comet will strike Earth and kill all life. Simon wants to spend the rest of his time with his family and his girlfriend, Tilda. Tilda, however, has different plans. Wanting to experience everything she can while she can, Tilda dumps Simon and loses all inhibitions. Meanwhile, Tilda’s best friend, Lucinda, stops chemotherapy and attempts to reconnect with those she lost touch with when she was first diagnosed with cancer. But when Tilda is found murdered, Simon is accused of being her killer. Desperate for the truth, as the time they have left ticks down, Simon and Lucinda join forces to find out who murdered Tilda. This slowly-paced story alternates between Simon's first-person perspective and Lucinda's perspective via online posts. Chapters are delineated by how many days and weeks are left before the comet hits. The pre-apocalyptic dystopian setting tackles numerous social issues, often making this a tough read. Recurring themes of violence, sex, and drug use suggest this book is best suited for mature audiences.

Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes Transformed
By: Guy Brown
Edited by: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: : Feiwel & Friends
ISBN: 9781250780843
Reviewer: Heather Christensen

Meyer has gathered a luscious collection of romantic short stories featuring some of the most popular romantic tropes, from friends-to-lovers to fake relationships. Some authors embrace their focal trope, as Johnson does in her take on the stranded together trope, in which Perry gets locked in a party supply store with her senior class co-president, Jada, and discovers she's misunderstood her for years. Others turn their trope on its head, as Eulberg does with the trapped in a confined space trope. Morgan can't stand her best friend Dani's boyfriend, Tyler, but when they get stuck together in a car on the famous London Eye, they don't fall in love— just realize they can be friends and enjoy one another's company. There are plenty of grand romantic gestures (and a few that go terribly wrong), romantic confessions, and romantic epiphanies. Most are written in first person, though Wen's take on class warfare features a third person limited view of an upper middle class Chinese American boy in love with an uber wealthy Chinese exchange student. Searle's comic Keagan's Heaven on Earth, features a queer girl who's newly out and feels like she doesn't have room in her head for romance, while trying to navigate her new space, but a secret admirer opens up other possibilities. The stories include a wide range of character perspectives, skin tones, cultural backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Romance readers of all types will fall in love with this sweet collection of stories that show the breadth of possibility for high school romance.

Breathing Underwater
By: Sarah Allen
Publisher: Square Fish
ISBN: 9781250821034
Reviewer: Joyce Rice

Olivia and Ruth are sisters who share a love of adventure, pirate ships, and really anything at all to do with pirates! Three years ago, when Ruth was thirteen, the family moved from San Diego to Tennessee. Now that Olivia is thirteen, they are traveling back to San Diego for a visit, sharing an RV with friends of their parents. Ruth is the oldest, but Olivia feels driven to take care of her as Ruth is suffering from depression, although her parents haven't given it a name yet. Olivia is making plans to use the memories from their first trip to remind Ruth of what fun they had in the past, such as filling their treasure box and burying it by the shore. Author Sarah Allen has incorporated her love for adventure and David Attenborough documentaries into a story of two sisters, one lost in her own sadness and the other trying to help her sister remember when life was fun. Although the prevailing themes are mental illness and family relationships, there is also the geographical element of a road trip across country and learning the art of photography. This story will appeal to upper middle school readers because the majority of the story is told from a thirteen-year old's perspective. The characters are well developed, enabling readers to form an emotional bond with this family and others who have children dealing with depression.

The Red Palace
By: June Hur
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
ISBN: 9781250800558
Reviewer: Mary Lanni

Seventeen-year-old Hyeon has devoted much of her life to the study of medicine, working tirelessly to achieve the coveted position of palace nurse. Upon achieving her goal, though, Hyeon quickly discovers that not everything is as she once presumed. Secrets are hidden beneath layers of deception that exist at every level of society, weaving complicated trajectories from one person to the next. When a series of brutal murders occur and the Crown Prince himself is a suspect, Hyeon finds herself immersed in an investigation that may put her own life at risk. As Hyeon steps into her unexpected new role, she discovers more about herself and her past that help guide her toward both justice and a successful future. Korean language and beliefs appear throughout the narrative, immersing readers in Hyeon's world in memorable ways. This gripping young adult novel is loosely based on what is known of the life of Crown Prince Jangheon. While the plot surrounds this story, however, it focuses on Hyeon, a seventeen-year-old daughter of Lord Shin's concubine and effectively a fatherless child. A lifetime of feeling inadequate in the eyes of both her parents and society has given Hyeon the drive she needs to be successful, but it also makes her wary of others and unsure if she will ever be worthy of affection. This internal struggle guides Hyeon's actions throughout the novel, leading to complicated interactions that challenge her understanding of her world. Beautiful descriptions and a driving plot make this narrative highly engaging and incorporates light romance and some violence along the way. These scenes are tasteful, and they serve to accent moments of the mystery-centered story. The Red Palace is a gripping historical fiction novel that will enhance libraries for young adult readers.

Book An Author

Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan

Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan is a California-based children's author, professional voice talent, poet, and translator who came to this second career from the world of non-profit, where she spent two decades using her words to bring funds to disability initiatives. Her voice can be heard in documentaries, educational and journalistic initiatives, and audio books, both in India and the United States, and her essays and stories have appeared in publications including India Currents, Skipping Stones, and Scroll.in. She has published five children's books in India with DC/Mango Books and Tulika, and her work was anthologized in A Hug for the World (Clear Fork Publishing). All proceeds from that volume were for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Indi-Alphabet was published in 2018 by Mango & Marigold Press (formerly Bharat Babies) and was recognized with a Purple Dragonfly Award for Diverse Literature. How Many Lines in a Limerick? (Clear Fork) was published on September 15, 2020. A children's book on the artist Raja Ravi Varma is forthcoming from Westland Publishing.

Shobha provides presentations for all ages, including adults. Shobha is available for both in-person and virtual visits.

Laura Renauld

Laura Renauld is a picture book author, former third grade teacher, and creator of the Debut Review Challenge, which supports children's authors and illustrators who are promoting their first book. Her picture book biography, FRED'S BIG FEELINGS: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF MISTER ROGERS, earned a starred review from Kirkus and is a 2020 Parents' Choice Recommended Book. When she is not writing, Laura can be found at the library, in the woods, or sharing her love of reading and writing with children. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and their two story-telling sons.

Laura uses a road trip analogy and her background as an elementary teacher to highlight the writing process in her engaging and interactive presentations. Laura is available for both in-person and virtual visits.

Want to book Shobha or Laura for your library's summer or fall programs? Directly connect with them through Children's Literature's Booking Service.

Children's Literature's Booking Service provides direct contact with each listed author and takes no commission fees from authors or event coordinators. Want to use this valuable resource to plan your next author event?


Book Awards You Need to Know

Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature

The Peggy Miller Award for Young Adult Literature was created by the Literature Council of Southern California in 2007 to honor the memory of Peggy Miller, a high school librarian and member of the Board of Directors of the Children's Literature Council. The award is given periodically in recognition of an outstanding book written by a Southern California author whose target audience is young adults. Learn more about this award and other awards presented by the Children's Literature Council of Southern California at https://www.childrensliteraturecouncil.org/awards-info.

2021 Winner

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you've sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy? Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince's Council of 11. If she's picked, she'll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won't stand by and become someone's pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?


2020 Winner

The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey

From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother's hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance. While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother's compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can't seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter. Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily ever after will mean she'll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it's messy.


2019 Winner

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana Davis

"I've got seven days to tell the truth." For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn't been normal for a while. She lost her mom to cancer, and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the father she's never known. Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany doesn't fit into her new luxurious but super-strict home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he's Tiffany's real dad—and she has only seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother, and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

ChildrensLit Highlights

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