Race The Night, by Kirsten Hubbard "Eider lives with four other children in the safety of a compound in a remote stretch of desert, far away from the devastation wrought by the end of the world, according to their teacher. In their small classroom, they’re encouraged to focus their attention on the future and their own special skills, not the past or what’s beyond the camp’s high fences. But Eider can’t help her curiosity, especially when she remembers her sister, Robin. She’s been told her sister never existed, but Eider knows differently, and when she and her classmates begin to see holes in Teacher’s lessons, Eider becomes determined to escape for good. Hubbard leaves lots of elements out of her story—why is Teacher training the children and where did they come from?—but those hints and glimmers at a backstory only heighten the mystery and build a gentle sense of dread" (Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4)).
Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper "It’s 1932 in segregated Bumblebee, North Carolina, and times are tough for the tiny town. The residents of Stella’s African American neighborhood scrape together what they can to get by, and that spirit of cooperation only grows stronger when Stella and her brother, Jojo, spot a Klan rally close by. Tensions are high, and nearly everyone is frightened, but Stella’s community bands together to lift each other’s spirits and applaud one another’s courage, especially when Stella’s father and a few other men register to vote, undaunted by the cruel and threatening remarks of some white townspeople. Brave Stella, meanwhile, dreams of becoming a journalist and writes down her feelings about the Klan. Inspired by her own grandmother’s childhood, Draper weaves folksy tall tales, traditional storytelling, and hymns throughout Stella’s story, which is punctuated by her ever-more-confident journal entries" (Booklist (December 1, 2014 (Vol. 111, No. 7)).
The City of Death, by Sarwatt Chadda "In this sequel to The Savage Fortress (Scholastic, 2012), Ash is back at school in England, his days as a killing machine channeling the goddess Kali's spirit fading from memory. But he is still not safe from insatiably power-hungry Lord Savage. When Ash's friend Parvati shows up in London, the carnage recommences, as Ash is forced yet again into the role of superhero, doomed to save the world. Savage is after the Koh-I-Noor diamond, the aastra that will allow him to conquer the fourth dimension. Forced into a hasty battle on Guy Fawkes Night, Ash's friend and crush, Gemma, tragically becomes collateral damage. In his anguish at her murder, Ash makes a deadly error, teaming up with Savage in the hope that he can turn back time and restore Gemma to life. Gruesome battles ensue, fought with monsters of stone, with rakshasas, and with magical architectural traps that will flay skin and melt bone; battles fought on cliffs, on the streets of London, in the Indian countryside, and finally in the ancient underwater kingdom of Ravana" (School Library Journal (January 1, 2014)).
The Smell of Other People's Houses, by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock "A 1970s Alaskan fishing town is the setting for this tale of four teenagers struggling with hardship over the course of a year, during which their stories occasionally collide and intertwine. Ruth, who lives with her tough grandmother after her father’s death and mother’s breakdown, thought she was in love; now, she’s pregnant at 16 and sent to live in a convent until the baby comes. Everyone knows Dora’s father is abusive, and even though she gets him sent to jail and comes into some luck, she feels like she’ll never be free from him. Alyce, whose parents are divorced, is a talented dancer, and a dance scholarship is her ticket out—if only she didn’t feel like she was abandoning her fisher father. And Hank and his two brothers have run away from their mother and her horrible boyfriend, stowing away on a boat, where it quickly becomes apparent that Hank can’t keep his brothers as safe as he would like. Less a narrative and more a series of portraits, this is an exquisitely drawn, deeply heartfelt look at a time and place not often addressed. Hitchcock’s measured prose casts a gorgeous, almost otherworldly feel over the text, resulting in a quietly lovely look at the various sides of human nature and growing up in a difficult world" (Booklist starred (December 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 8)).
The Wild Ones, by Moonlight Brigade The follow-up to The Wild Ones (2015) sees life in Ankle Snap Alley returning to its own hardscrabble version of normal as Kit and Eeni begin school, and the community prepares for First Frost Festival. Calamity strikes when Coyote and his band of river otters attack the festival, stealing all the animals’ winter stores. Kit, hero of the last book, feels responsible for single-handedly saving his community. He slowly realizes the importance of friends and the meaning of the school’s motto, “All of One Paw” (Booklist (August 2016 (Online)).
Grayling's Song, by Karen Cushman "Grayling lives with her mother, a wise woman whose spells help the locals with their ailments and troubles. The girl does the drudge work until the day her mother starts turning into a tree, rooted in the ground. Her grimoire, a book of spells, has disappeared, and she directs Grayling to go out into the world, find the book, and save her. But how is an unskilled girl supposed to do that? So begins the heroine’s journey, facing danger at every turn and armed with nothing but the ability to hear the book’s song, which she dutifully follows. Along the way she meets an old woman and her petulant charge, a silky enchantress, and a teacher of sorcery who is as much trouble as he is help" (Booklist (May 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 17)).
Moo, by Sharon Creech "When 12-year-old Reena, her younger brother, and their parents move from New York City to a small town in Maine, the differences are apparent: a slower pace and a quieter place where the kids are free to bike around town on their own. Almost immediately, their mother volunteers their services to Mrs. Falala, an elderly Italian woman who needs help with her cow. From their first job, shoveling manure, they progress to putting a halter on moody Zora, the Belted Galloway cow they gradually befriend. Reena learns to show her at the upcoming fair. The first-person narrative, written partly in prose and partly in free verse, features a city girl facing challenges that strengthen her body and broaden her thinking" (Booklist (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21)).
The Inn Between, by Marina Cohen "Long-time friends Quinn and Kara find their friendship sorely tested when Kara’s family moves to California and Quinn accompanies them on a road trip to their new home. An unexpected stop at a strange desert inn full of increasingly spooky disappearances reminds Quinn too vividly of how her younger sister, Emma, went missing earlier that year. When Kara’s parents and brother appear to vanish, Quinn is determined to solve the inn’s mystery. The employees have names that might tip off astute readers to the inn’s real nature—Sharon and Persephone, for instance. Eerie flashbacks to Emma’s plight haunt Quinn, who catches glimpses of the little girl at the inn, but always in places she can’t reach. In an attempt to escape, the girls face increasing terror—a subbasement of horror and a flight across a scorching landscape that further tests the way Quinn and Kara are linked" Booklist (March 1, 2016 (Online)).