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Agatha Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks

Kirkus After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father, whom she's never met, 12-year-old Zoe sets out to prove his innocence.It's the summer before seventh grade, and aspiring pastry chef Zoe sets her sights on perfecting her baking skills to audition as a contestant on Food Network's Kids Bake Challenge. One day, she receives a letter from her father, Marcus, who was sent to prison for murder right before Zoe was born. She's never met Marcus, and her mother wants her to have nothing to do with him. So Zoe keeps the letter a secret and begins corresponding with Marcus on a regular basis. He shares his favorite songs and encourages Zoe's baking-competition dreams. When Marcus proclaims his innocence, Zoe is shocked: How could someone innocent end up in prison? With the help of her grandmother and her friend Trevor, Zoe begins to learn about systemic racism and how black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people. Zoe's relationship with Marcus is at the center of the novel, but her relationships with her mother, stepfather, grandmother, and Trevor are also richly conveyed. This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way.An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a letter from Marcus, the biological father she’s never met, who has been serving time for murder since just before Zoe’s birth. Zoe’s mother and stepfather don’t want her in touch with Marcus, but Zoe, curious, strikes up a correspondence with the help of her maternal grandmother, who believes Marcus to be “a good person at heart.” Aspiring pastry chef Zoe grows busy as she makes up with her best friend Trevor, writes to Marcus, and interns at a family friend’s bakery, where she hopes to prove to her parents that she could compete on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she and Trevor set out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence. Debut author Marks seamlessly weaves timely discussions about institutionalized racism into this uplifting and engaging story that packs an emotional punch. Zoe is a relatable tween, with friendship and familial frustrations that will resonate with readers. Ages 8–12. Agent: Alexander Slater, Trident Media Group. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list This exceptionally sweet debut from Marks illustrates profound cracks in the American criminal justice system while telling an affecting story grounded in the middle-grade experience. Zoe Washington, a soon-to-be seventh-grader growing up outside Boston, is celebrating a birthday bereft of friends due to distance and betrayal, when a surprise letter from her incarcerated father arrives and throws her life into emotional disarray. The clandestine correspondence they strike up, letters and a few phone calls facilitated by her maternal grandmother, has to be kept a secret from her mother, especially once Zoe decides to investigate whether her father is truly guilty of the dreadful crime that sent him to prison before she was born. Marks tells this story of forgiveness and redemption in a way that will make sense to tween readers without being patronizing or overly complicated. The troubling ways race affects the characters Zoe, who is Black, is subjected to microaggressions when out in public with her white stepfather and Black mother, and she questions whether her father would have been treated differently if he looked less like a typical suspect will facilitate important conversations about racial profiling and incarceration rates for people of color. Fortunately, Marks' capable storytelling and engaging characters also combine into a wondrous confection of a book, full of heart and hope and promise.--Shaunterria Owens Copyright 2019 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog More Happy Than Not
by Adam Silvera

Publishers Weekly Aaron Soto, 16, lives in the projects in a Bronx similar to the real one except for the existence of the Leteo Institute, a neighborhood facility where patients can have painful memories erased (the most fantastical element of this procedure perhaps being that it is covered by Aaron's insurance). If anyone deserves to have his past wiped clean, it's Aaron, who has experienced poverty, his father's suicide, and the violent death of friends in his short life. But what Aaron wants most to forget is that he's gay, especially because the boy he loves is no longer able to be with him, and because his own inability to fly under the radar has made him a target. Silvera's debut is vividly written and intricately plotted: a well-executed twist will cause readers to reassess what they thought they knew about Aaron's life. It's also beyond gritty-parts of it are actually hard to read. Silvera pulls no punches in this portrait of a boy struggling with who he is in the face of immense cultural and societal pressure to be somebody else. Ages 14-up. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Debut author Silvera pulls readers into the gritty, (near-future) Bronx world of 16-year-old Puerto Rican, Aaron Soto, with a milieu of tight-knit, sometimes dysfunctional relationships. Aaron struggles to find happiness despite the presence of his mother, older brother, and girlfriend, as well as a set of childhood buddies and a new, intriguing friend, Thomas. He is haunted by painful physical and emotional scars: the memory of his father's suicide in their home, his own similar failed attempt with its resulting smiley face scar, not to mention his family's poverty and his personal angst at an increasingly strong attraction for Thomas. This first-person narrative raises ethical, societal, and personal questions about happiness, the ability to choose to eradicate difficult memories (through a scientific procedure), and gender identity. The protagonist is as honest with readers as he is able to be, and it is only after Aaron is brutally beaten by friends attempting to set him "straight," that he remembers the entirety of his life story through shocking, snapshotlike revelations. More surprising is the knowledge that his family and girlfriend have known his backstory all along. VERDICT A gripping read-Silvera skillfully weaves together many divergent young adult themes within an engrossing, intense narrative.-Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *Starred Review* A smiling scar marks the inside of 16-year-old Aaron Soto's wrist, both a souvenir of the time he tried to follow in his father's footsteps by checking out of life early and a reminder not to be such a dumbass again. Though his mom has become overprotective and the suicide attempt shambles beside him like an elephant into every room, Aaron is making a comeback, in no small part due to his group of friends and awesome girlfriend, Genevieve. When Gen takes a three-week summer trip, however, Aaron meets Thomas, from the neighboring housing project, and things start to unravel. Sensitive, attractive, and looking for direction, Thomas is unlike any of Aaron's tough-as-nails friends, and the two connect on a deep level. Aaron grapples with burgeoning feelings of homosexuality, which, heartbreakingly, are not reciprocated by the straight Thomas and are bone-shatteringly rejected by his friends, who try to beat being gay out of him. Emotionally and physically broken, Aaron turns to the nearby Leteo Institute, which offers a procedure to erase painful memories. If he can just forget he's gay, everything will be OK, right? First-novelist Silvera puts a fresh spin on what begins as a fairly standard, if well executed, story of a teen experiencing firsts first love, first sex, first loss and struggling with his identity and sexuality. Aaron's first-person narration is charmingly candid as he navigates these milestones and insecurities, making him both relatable and endearing. The book is flush with personal details, and the reader inhabits Aaron's world with ease. A fantasy and comic-book geek to the core, he often filters his own life through a comic lens threatening to Hulk out if someone spoils the end of a movie and wondering what Batman would do in certain situations. Game of Thrones references mingle with veiled Harry Potter allusions (Scorpius Hawthorne and the Convict of Abbadon, anyone?), which many teens will relish. Though some scenes verge on twee and dialogue occasionally strays into precociously-witty-teen territory, it never stays there long, nor does it become self-indulgent. These tender and philosophical moments stand in counterpoint to life in the tough Bronx neighborhood Aaron calls home. There is a borderline gang mentality at work here, where fierce neighborhood loyalty mingles with groupthink to create friends who are as likely to defend as pummel each other, if the code of conduct is challenged. And being a dude-liker is an offense punishable by extreme violence. This prejudice is illustrated with gut-wrenching brutality, and its effects are scarring, but Silvera tempers it with the genuine love and acceptance Aaron receives from a few important friends and family members. Dividing his book into parts by degree of happiness (Happiness, A Different Happiness, Unhappiness, Less Happy Than Before, More Happy Than Not), Silvera examines this state of being from multiple angles to reveal its complexity and dependency on outside forces and internal motive. Is being happy for the wrong reasons real happiness? Can forgetting problems or trauma actually fix your life? The ingenious use of the Leteo procedure allows Silvera to write two versions of Aaron (gay and straight), which proves a fascinating means of drawing attention to the flaw in taking shortcuts past life's major roadblocks. The process of reinvention hinges on memory, on surviving and understanding the sometimes unbearable why of being and that's what Aaron initially misses. Timing is everything in this story, and Silvera structures his novel beautifully, utilizing careful revelations from Aaron's past and consciousness to create plot tension and twists that turn the narrative on its ear. It is not a story of happy endings, but this complexity allows it to move in new, brave directions that are immeasurably more satisfying. Resting somewhere between Ned Vizzini's A Kind of Funny Story (2006) and John Corey Whaley's Noggin (2014), More Happy Than Not will resonate with teens tackling life's big questions. Thought-provoking and imaginative, Silvera's voice is a welcome addition to the YA scene.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog Going Down Home with Daddy
by Kelly Starling Lyons

Book list *Starred Review* Publishers say that historical fiction is a hard sell, and books with religion at their core are few and far between. Kudos, then, to Berry (All the Truth That's in Me, 2013) for creating a sweeping saga that not only deeply entwines both but also dissects its characters' humanity as it looks at the often troubling beliefs that underlay their actions. The story-within-a-story begins in 1290. A friar is gathering papers and testimonies that will show how the inquisitions here on the border of France and Spain were God's holy work. But one tale troubles him, so much so that he begins to stitch the strands together, and that is where the main story begins. Botille is a sassy teenager who makes money in her seaside village of Bajas by matchmaking. A disruptive childhood and a drunken father has bound Botille and her sisters closely together, but their lives are good: Plazensa runs the tavern, Botille makes her matches, and Sazia tells fortunes with uncanny accuracy. To the north, in Tolosos, there is another girl, Dolssa. Aristocratic by birth and a mystic by the grace of God, she spends her days with her beloved, Jesus, who wraps her in his murmurs and consumes her with his love. That much love cannot be contained, and Dolssa begins telling others how much her beloved cherishes all people. The simplicity of her message is seen by the inquisitors as a threat to the church, a devil's deception, and there is only one place it can end: in a public burning. Miraculously, Dolssa escapes the pyre. She wanders until she meets Botille, who saves and shelters her. This beautifully crafted plot would be enough on its own, but Berry does so much more. First, she establishes a convincing setting, in part by peppering the dialogue with Old Provençal language. Using many voices, some of which, including Botille and Dolssa, relate their own stories, she picks beneath words and actions to expose the motives of the heart, revealing how lofty ideas can turn into terrorizing actions, and how fear and self-preservation can make friends and neighbors turn on one another. Yet despite the book's gravity, Berry also manages to infuse her story with laughter and light welcome surprises. The final surprise awaiting readers at the book's conclusion adds yet another layer to the storytelling. Also at the book's end, Berry has included a wealth of back matter, a glossary, a list of characters (possibly of more help if placed at the book's beginning), and an author's note explaining the roots of the religious discord, inquisitions, and wars, and touching on such female mystics as Hildegard of Bingen, who is referenced in the novel. The beauty of historical fiction is that it brings to life long-ago times and places even as it shows how hopes, fears, and dreams remain constant across the ages. The strength of religious-centric novels is their revelation of the myriad ways people grapple with their faith and spirituality. The Passion of Dolssa's rich brew will leave readers thinking about all of these things, even as it profoundly influences their own struggles and questions.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Horn Book A (fictional) Catholic mystic, Dolssa de Stigata, escapes being burned as a heretic in 1241 France; mostly, this is the story of Botille, an enterprising young matchmaker from a tiny fishing village who rescues Dolssa. Botille's spirited character, the heart-rending suspense of events, and the terrifying context of the Inquisition in medieval Europe all render the novel irresistibly compelling. Historical note appended. Bib., glos. (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-This magnificent tale is set in post-Crusades 13th-century France. A pious young noblewoman blessed with the gift of healing, Dolssa de Stigata is judged a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church and sentenced to burn at the stake. Forced to watch her beloved mother burn first, Dolssa is surprised when someone cuts the ropes binding her hands and feet and implores her to run. Driven into hiding from the churchmen dispatched to track her down, Dolssa is found nearly dead from starvation and exhaustion by a young tavern keeper and matchmaker, Botille, who vows to protect the young heretic despite the danger posed to herself and her family. Unlikely allies, the girls unwittingly put an entire village at risk in their effort to stand up for their beliefs. The account is told in alternating voices by Dolssa, Botille, and Arnaut d'Avinhonet, a Dominican friar. This lush and compelling book is enhanced by brilliant narration by Jayne Entwistle, Allen Corduner, and Fiona Hardingham. Lucky listeners will be haunted by their voices long after the book concludes. VERDICT Highly recommended for all junior high and high school audio collections. ["An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries": SLJ 3/16 starred review of the Viking book.]-Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Botille is a matchmaker in the small seaside town of Bajas in medieval France. She struggles to run the family's tavern and keep her sisters and herself afloat. Dolssa is a young woman with a secret that she can't help but share-her lover is God, and she speaks to him regularly. When the two young women cross paths, both deep friendship and mortal peril await them. A beautifully rendered portrait of a little-known portion of history, this work is a meticulously researched piece of fiction. Yet it is not just in the accurate details that the novel shines. The strength and humanity of the almost entirely female set of characters are inspiring and well drawn. The panic and suspicion of post-Inquisition France is omnipresent, giving the story of a supposed heretic a constant edge of danger. As the novel slips in and out of magical realism, readers will be transported into Dolssa and Botille's world. VERDICT An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries.-Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter's Prep, Jersey City, NJ © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A girl matchmaker in 13th-century southern France meets a mystic on the run from the Inquisition. A generation after the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade, the elders are still broken by memories of entire towns put to the sword, but the younger folk, such as Botille and her sisters, focus on the present. After a childhood on the run, the sisters seek stability in poverty-stricken Bajas: brewing ale, telling fortunes, and helping their neighbors. Bajas is depicted through a scattering of third- and first-person viewpoints (but primarily Botille's) as a town where all look out for one other as a matter of course, where goodness is found in prostitutes, fishermen, hustlers, and drunks. Bajas' generosity is challenged when Botille discovers Dolssa, an injured, spirit-shattered girl on the run. Dolssa's a convicted heretic for speaking publicly of her intimate relationship with "her beloved...Senhor Jhesus." She trails miracles like bread crumbs, from a never-emptying ale jug to repeated uncanny cures. The villagers venerate her, but the arrival of the Inquisitionin a world where branding and burnings are mild punishments compared to recent historyputs their goodness to the test. The slow build reveals Botille as a compelling, admirable young woman in a gorgeously built world that accepts miracles without question. The medieval Languedoc countryside is so believably drawn there's no need for the too-frequent italicized interjections in Old Provenal that pepper the narrative. Immersive and mesmerizing. (character list, historical note, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fantasy. 14-17) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Two young women-Botille, a tavern wench, and Dolssa, a noblewoman possibly in communion with God-form a deep bond in a world that seeks to destroy them. Berry has reimagined 13th-century France with vigor, from the small intricacies of daily village life to the brutal ruthlessness of the Inquisition. Readers looking for a work steeped in female friendship, mysticism, and blood, with extensive back matter to boot, will be well rewarded. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly When Botille Flasucra finds Dolssa de Stigata lying on a riverside close to death, she takes the stranger to her family's tavern. Botille, a young matchmaker, and her sisters nurse Dolssa back to health in secret-a Dominican friar obsessively hunts Dolssa, whom he condemned as a heretic to be burned at the stake. The year is 1241 in Provensa (now Provence), where the aftereffects of the Albigensian Crusade have led to an inquisition meant to rid the Christian world of heretics. Dolssa, however, feels called to heal the sick in the name of her beloved Jhesus, and her miracles eventually bring danger to the small town of Bajas. Berry (All the Truth That's in Me) again delivers an utterly original and instantly engrossing story. Drawing from meticulous historical research (highlighted in extensive back matter), she weaves a tense, moving portrait of these two teenage girls and their struggle to survive against insurmountable odds. Love, faith, violence, and power intertwine in Berry's lyrical writing, but Botille's and Dolssa's indomitable spirits are the heart of her story. Ages 12-up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Mr. Wuffles!
by David Wiesner

Publishers Weekly Mr. Wuffles, a handsome black cat with white paws and an arrogant air, couldn't care less about the many toys purchased for his amusement. But he homes in on a metal object (imagine two doll-size colanders soldered shut), imperiling the tiny green aliens inside. Mr. Wuffles bats their spaceship about playfully, damaging it, and in a daring move, the aliens break for safety under the radiator. Wiesner constructs his story in a mix of full spreads and comics-style panels. Though the artwork, done in watercolor and India ink, is superbly colored and composed, the most inventive aspect of the story may be the hieroglyphic language the three-time Caldecott Medalist has invented for his aliens: this is a nearly wordless book full of dialogue no one (excepting maybe Wiesner) will know how to speak aloud. The aliens succeed in befriending the insects that live within the walls of the house, and together they concoct a plan to outwit Mr. Wuffles-yes, humans aren't even a factor in this story of extraterrestrial first contact. Wiesner once again produces a fantasy adventure that isn't like anything else around. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal K-Gr 4-Mr. Wuffles ignores all his fancy cat toys. Still sporting price tags, they line the hallway as he strolls by. But resting quietly among the feathers, balls, and mice is a tiny metal spaceship, and this catches his attention. His playful batting knocks around the alien explorers inside, causing bumps but no injuries. The ship's flying disks do not survive, however, and the aliens set out to explore the house and repair their craft. Barely escaping Mr. Wuffles's claws, they dash behind the radiator and discover primitive art of the cat's previous battles and make friends with the house's insects. The bugs help the aliens repair the spaceship, avoid capture, and fly away. Nearly wordless, the story is told through pictures and the languages of the ants and aliens, depicted by dashes and symbols. The book is fairly complex, best suited for elementary students, who will enjoy decoding the aliens' cryptographic alphabet. Wiesner humorously captures the curiosity and confusion of Mr. Wuffles and his human, who remains oblivious to the drama underfoot. The idea of a separate, tiny world next to ours makes a great premise, and Wiesner's engaging art and lively pacing carry the day. Visual storytelling at its best.-Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *Starred Review* Once again Wiesner dips into his irrepressible imagination to deliver a mostly wordless conceptual picture book where the mundane and the magical collide. Mr. Wuffles, an aloof, perspicacious black cat, takes no interest in his playthings, save one peculiar toy that looks something like a hobnail tea strainer. Closer inspection, like only Wiesner can provide, reveals that it is a miniature alien spacecraft experiencing mechanical trouble. Its little green passengers evade Mr. Wuffles and retreat to a hole beneath the radiator, where they discover a series of cave paintings immortalizing battles between the cat and troops of ants and ladybugs. The aliens and the bugs join forces and, speaking in rectangular pictographic word balloons (that some readers will thrill to decipher), hatch a plan to repair the spaceship, foil the feline, and return home. The drama plays out across long, low panels full of kinetic energy and comic detail, all captured in the artist's careful watercolor renderings. In the end, the mission is successful and the aliens escape, but not without leaving behind a few reminders of their visit and an updated record of the epic conflict on the inner wall. Wiesner's many fans will delight at poring over the detailed account of this master plan, again and again, discovering something new with each successive reading. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Wiesner is a three-time Caldecott winner. Three. Fans will be ready to pounce.--Barthelmess, Thom Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Call Us What We Carry
by Amanda Gorman

Kirkus Poems for teenagers and adults that cast a scrutinizing eye on United States history and current events while being hopeful about the future.Gormans opening poem, Ships Manifest, lays out her intentions: This book is a message in a bottle. / This book is a letter. / This book does not let up. / This book is awake. / This book is a wake. / For what is a record but a reckoning? Gorman delivers subtle turns of phrase alongside playful yet purposeful punning. The book tackles grief without succumbing to melancholy. It earnestly charts the challenges its collective we must navigate, including mask mandates and Covid-19 restrictions; social isolation; the environmental negligence of past generations; and the civil unrest following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. A dark girl dreams and skillfully steers the collective we point of view in these poems, which marks a sea change in the United States and, subsequently, in contemporary American poetry. Mostly, the collective we point of view adheres. Occasionally it reads as monotonous or prosaic. But variation exists in the diversity of concrete or visual poemsshaped on the page to look like flags, whales, buildings, and text bubblesand the intricate range of people, generational insights, and historical footnotes populating the pages. The collection overflows with teachable moments you can imagine quoted at graduation ceremonies and special events for years to come. Its not a book to be read in one sitting but to be savored and revisited. By the time readers are finished, theyll have discovered Lucille Clifton, Don Mee Choi, M. NourbeSe Philip, and a dizzying host of poets and thinkers that inspired these verses. The poems dont preen to prove their intelligence; rather, theyre illuminated by it. Gormans impulse to enlighten readers rather than exclude them is the books guiding force. With generosity and care, Gorman takes the role of the poet seriously: The poet transcends 'telling' or 'performing' a story / instead remembers it, touches, tastes, traps its vastness.An inspired anthem for the next generationa remarkable poetry debut. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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