Here are some of my favorite titles that will be out in July.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – PICTURE BOOKS
8 : An Animal Alphabet by Elisha Cooper. 9780545470834. 2015. Gr PK-2.
In this oversize alphabet/counting book, each page contains illustrations of several animals that start with a single letter, one of which is shown eight times. Why eight? “Because 8 is round and adorable,” Cooper explains. “Because 8 is my favorite number.” A Did You Know? section at the end provides a brief fact about each of the animals pictured.
Beastly Babies by Ellen Jackson (ill. by Brendan Wenzel). 9781442408340. 2015. Gr PK-1.
Human babies and mothers are not so different from animal babies and their moms. Babies of all sorts cause grief for their mothers; for example, “Mamas gather, weave, and shred /grass and leaves to make a bed. / Whether kit or chick or pup, / wriggling babies mess it up.” Youngsters get their final comeuppance, though, as they grow up and get “Beastly babies of their own!” Rhyming text and illustrations meld perfectly in this lively picture book.
Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman (ill. by Chris Sheban). 9780823433919. 2015. Gr K-2.
An old dog asks a farmer for a job, but the farmer refuses, saying that dogs just eat and don’t give anything back. This dog comes up with very creative ways in which he can be helpful, but the farmer just isn’t buying it. What will it take for the dog to convince the farmer?
Lillian’s Right to Vote : A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter (ill. by Shane W. Evans). 9780385390293. 2015. Gr 1-4.
The history of the African Americans’ struggle to vote is told by Lillian, an old woman whose ancestors, ever since they were freed from slavery, had tried to vote and been turned away by poll taxes, literacy tests, and just plain hate and racism. Jonah Winter likens her story to a climb up a very steep hill. As Lillian reaches the top of the hill, she is grateful for the many people who fought and died to gain this right for her.
Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert (ill. by Lisa Brown). 9780544340824. 2015. Gr K-3.
Many books and movies about mummies depict them as terrifying and evil monsters, but Ewert’s mummy is a cat, a loving and much-loved companion of the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut. As the mummy cat wanders through a pyramid, he passes walls filled with hieroglyphics that depict the life and death of the queen. The cat remembers sadness and joy, but the hieroglyphs show that the death of the queen was not an accident. An excellent introduction to real mummies and to an ancient form of writing.
Out of the Woods : A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond. 9780374380779. 2015. Gr 1-3.
Young Antonio’s mother ran a logging hotel by a lake in the Ontario woods. Antonio knew that the woods were full of animals, but he seldom saw the shy creatures. The hotel was busy, and the travelers, outdoorsmen, loggers, and miners didn’t mix with each other. One night a wildfire started in the woods. Everyone fled into the lake for safety, including the shy forest creatures, and Antonio was amazed to see rich people, loggers, and employees, as well as predator and prey, standing together in the lake. This event happened to the author’s grandfather when he was four years old.
Over in the Wetlands : A Hurricane on the Bayou Story by Caroline Rose (ill. by Rob Dunlavey). 9780449810163. 2015. Gr K-4.
During a hurricane, the news tells us how people prepare and shows ocean waves beating against piers and houses. In this picture book, the animals in a Louisiana wetlands hide and flee as the whisper of the wind grows—stirs, crawls, writhes, twists, drenches, drowns—and finally yawns and rests. Excellent imagery and art show the savagery and destruction of the hurricane as well as the peaceful aftermath in the “wetlands where the stillness sighs.”
Tiptoe Tapirs by Hanmin Kim. 9780823433957. 2015. Gr PK-2.
Long ago, all the jungle animals were noisy, except for one. Tapir and Little Tapir tiptoed so as not to disturb anyone. One day, they were quietly eating mud cakes by the Great Puddle, when “THUD, THUD, THUD…GROWL! Leopard attacked! As Leopard THUDDED closer, a hunter’s shotgun BANGed. Leopard was too scared to move. Tapir, kind as well as quiet, showed Leopard how to tiptoe, and they escaped. They warned the rest of the animals, and the jungle became a quieter place.
Vamonos! Let’s Go! by Rene Colato Lainez (ill. by Joe Cepeda). 9780823434428. 2015. Gr PK-1. (Bilingual)
In this bilingual adaptation of The Wheels on the Bus, two children on a bus cross paths with many city vehicles and learn their distinctive sounds in both English and Spanish. Some noises are quite similar; trains go choo choo choo in English and chucu chucu chu in Spanish. While some are less alike (the fire truck alarm in English goes woo-ooo-ooo compared to the Spanish uuuah uuuah uuuah), some are very different, including the truck’s horn (English honk honk honk and Spanish tut tuu tuu). This fun and lively book would make a great read-aloud for both English and Spanish speakers.
Welcome Home, Bear : A Book of Animal Habitats by Il Sung Na. 9780385753753. 2015. Gr PK-1.
Bored in his old home with the same blue sky and the same green forest, Bear decides to find a new home. He visits other animals but finds something dissatisfying about each of their homes. Bird’s home is too high, Polar Bear’s is too cold, and Camel’s is too hot. Goat’s steep home makes him dizzy, and in Orangutan’s home, it rains all the time. Finally Bear realizes that his old home is just where he wants to be.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – CHAPTER BOOKS
The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley. 9781250050878. 2015. Gr 4-6.
Val and Lenora are BFFs, until they start middle school. Lenora, whose home life is unhappy, decides to be a new person and tries to get involved with the popular—and snobbish—crowd. Val’s little brother insists that Lenora is under a spell and needs to be rescued. When a stray cat causes Val to meet a strange boy living in a strange bookshop, they all decide to go on a quest to save Val’s lost friend.
The Doublecross : And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy by Jackson Pearce. 9781619634145. 2015. Gr 4-6.
Hale goes to school at SRS, a secret agency where agents are trained in spy skills from a young age. But though he excels in his classes, his athletic ability is lacking. (Other students call him Hale the Whale.) When his parents, a highly esteemed team within SRS, disappear, the agency is reluctant to help them, so Hale decides to infiltrate their rival agency called the League. Neither the League nor the SRS are what they seem, and with help from two young League agents, Hale becomes a double agent to uncover the SRS’s plans and find his parents. This spy novel has lots of action, lots of gadgets, and lots of laughs.
Escape from Baxter’s Barn by Rebecca Bond. 9780544332171. 2015. Gr 2-5.
The animals in Baxter’s barn are a happy and close family—that is, until they find out that the unlucky farmer plans to burn down the barn for the insurance money. The animals know they must get out, but how? The door is locked. And where will they go if they do get out? Each animal has a special gift (not necessarily what you would expect), and only by working together can they escape. Gentle excitement, quite a bit of humor, and lots of charm make this a great read for chapter book readers
Louise Trapeze Is Totally 100% Fearless (Louise Trapeze, Book 1) by Micol Ostow. 9780553497403. 2015. Gr 1-3.
Louise’s parents are trapeze artists for the Sweet Potato Traveling Circus Troupe, and now that Louise is almost seven, she will be able to join them in the show. But as she practices the night before her first performance, she doesn’t want to climb too high or fall into the net. Not wanting to admit that she isn’t 100% fearless, she hides her tutu so she can’t perform. Louise is just right for new chapter book readers, especially those who are struggling with their own secret fears.
Mad Scientist Academy : The Dinosaur Disaster (Mad Scientist Academy, Book 1) by Matthew McElligott. 9780553523751. 2015. Gr 1-4.
Learn about dinosaurs with the new students at the Mad Scientist Academy, where the school, the teacher, and the students (including a werewolf and a robot) are all a bit odd. As the class tours an interactive and very realistic prehistoric exhibit, the mechanical dinosaurs accidentally become activated, and the students must use their particular strengths and the scientific method to save themselves in this fun graphic novel.
My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons. 9780451474773. 2015. Gr 4-6.
Luke is furious! A super superhero fan, he just happened to be in the wrong place when the alien ship stopped by the tree house and turned his clueless big brother Zack into a superhero! Zack is brilliant at math, but knows nothing about being a superhero. So it’s up to Luke to discover Zack’s superpowers while keeping his identity a secret from their nosy neighbor and saving the Earth from Nemesis—whoever that may be! This book is a great choice for reluctant readers and for class read-alouds.
Voyagers : Project Alpha (Voyager, Book 1) by D.J. MacHale. 9780385386609. 2015. Gr 4-6.
Only four spots are available for Project Alpha, a space mission to find a new power source for the Earth—and eight 12-year-olds are competing to be chosen. This first book of a series focuses on the fierce competition (holographic dinosaur battles and flight simulator video games) and the first tests of the new team as they head to the edge of the galaxy and try to save the world. This multi-platform, multi-author series is full of plot twists, typical pre-teen wisecracks, and adventure.
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne. 9781442498822. 2015. Gr 4-7.
In 19th-century London, Thomas and his father make a living by robbing graves. One night, he finds an unmarked grave with no coffin, only the body of a boy that looks exactly like Thomas himself. This discovery leads him to the house of a spiritualist. This evil man uses magic to imprison faeries that can speak for the dead, and he has grown rich through their abilities. The faeries are desperate to escape to their home, and they need Thomas to do it. But what can ordinary Thomas do to help them?
Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith. 9780553511949. 2015. Gr 4-7.
Two boys, both experiencing loss, find a connection over a lost treasure. Hurricane Katrina has destroyed Zavion’s home. Before they are rescued, he and his father took food from a store, and Zavion believes that he needs to pay it back, though they have now been relocated to Baton Rouge. In Vermont, Henry’s best friend Wayne has died suddenly. He and Wayne shared a special good-luck marble for years, and when Henry’s mother donates some of his clothes to the hurricane victims, the marble is in one of the pockets. Both boys secretly plan to go to New Orleans—Henry to find his marble and Zavion to pay his debt—where their lives literally collide.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova. 9780316381321. 2015. Gr 5-8.
The top rule for surviving at a new middle school is not to let the mean kids notice you, but on Peppi’s first day, she trips into Jaime in the hall and, instead of apologizing, she pushes him and runs away. Now she has joined the art club and has new friends, but still feels guilty for treating Jaime so badly. But Jaime is a member of the science club, and the two clubs are at war! Will she ever be able to say she’s sorry? This graphic novel is a realistic portrayal of the awkward feelings of middle school.
Battlesaurus : Rampage at Waterloo (Battlesaurus, Book 1) by Brian Falkner. 9780374300753. 2015. Gr 5-8.
This historical fiction posits that Napoleon won the battle of Waterloo, and that he used a secret weapon to defeat the English and Prussian armies. After winning the battle, Napoleon is on track to conquer the world, and only one person, a magician’s young song, can stop him. Only this boy knows how to defeat the Emperor’s secret weapons—dinosaurs! Falkner adds plenty of detail to the battle scenes in this entertaining alternate historical fantasy (fantastical history?); enjoy it before the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo.
The Maloneys’ Magical Weatherbox by Nigel Quinlan. 9781626720336. 2015. Gr 4-7.
Neil and Liz’s father is the secret keeper of the Weatherbox, a magical phone booth that rings four times a year, at the beginning of each new season. But when this summer ends, there is no ring—and autumn never starts. Weird things happen and strange visitors show up unexpectedly. At least, unexpected by everyone except their mysterious neighbor, who has some control over the weather. Where does her power come from? It is up to Neil and Liz to restore the normal climate to the world.
My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith. 9780545771559. 2015. Gr 6-8.
Karl loves to play war games with the other German boys and can’t wait until he is old enough to join the Hitler Youth. When his father is killed, Karl begins to question his loyalty to the Fuehrer, especially when his nonconformist older brother and a new friend describe the evil done by the Nazis. Karl joins his brother in a secret and dangerous rebellion against the Nazi threat.
River Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury. 9781442468245. 2015. Gr 4-7.
Suffering from consumption, Elias is sent to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky for a cure. Before the Civil War, medical treatments were primitive; people thought that the cave’s air would help the healing process. Bored, Elias follows a slave deeper into the cave where he finds a secret community of runaway slaves. When another patient grows suspicious, the runaway slaves must find a new way to conceal themselves. The author explains her personal connection to this story that sheds light on the real characters involved and the health care of the time.
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George. 9781619634312. 2015. Gr 6-9.
Cousins Dacia and Lou were never really interested in their heritage, until their mothers sent them back to meet their Romanian relatives and learn the family secrets. Why did their mothers leave Romania and marry American men? Why do their relatives protect the Dracula family? And what are The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke? Give this romantic historical thriller to fans of historical fiction, paranormal fiction, and debutantes!
HIGH SCHOOL NONFICTION
How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek. 9781476784762. 2015. Gr 10-Adult.
Journalist Stephen Petranek believes that people will be living on Mars within the next twenty years. Interviews with major business and technology people as well as extensive research have led him to the belief that it is essential to our species’ survival for humans to settle the Red Planet. In this 96-page book, he introduces the players—including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, NASA, and the Chinese government—who are competing to be the first to set foot on Mars and explains in fascinating detail just how it might come to pass.
The Pine Tar Game : The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball’s Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy by Filip Bondy. 9781476777177. 2015. Gr 10-Adult.
On July 24, 1983, a brouhaha erupted during the fourth game of a series between the mighty New York Yankees and the much smaller Kansas City Royals. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Royals’ George Brett hit a two-run homer that should have won the game, until umpires ruled that the runs didn’t count. Why? The Yankees manager complained that there was too much pine tar on the bat. (Four days later the ruling was overturned, the rest of the game was played, and the Royals won.) The author, a sportswriter who covered the actual game, provides more than just a recount of the game itself; this is a chronicle of a time when baseball’s issues were more down-to earth than today’s mega-salaries, performance enhancing drugs, and labor disputes.
Steve Jobs : Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland. 9780307982964. 2015. Gr 8-12.
There are several excellent biographies of Steve Jobs appropriate for this age level, but this graphic novel rendition is an excellent addition. Hartland follows Jobs from birth to his untimely death in 2011, showcasing his amazing successes as well as his difficult personality, including his geekiness and his perfectionism. Though the amount of information is a bit shy for research, this biography is entertaining and especially appropriate for reluctant readers.
HIGH SCHOOL FICTION
Armada by Ernest Cline. 9780804137256. 2015. Gr 10-Adult.
Zack loves science fiction—books, movies, and especially video games. He daydreams about being a real hero fighting off alien invaders, but he can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. And besides, angry teens like him (and nerds like all the other gamers he plays with) don’t get to save the galaxy. Or do they? When Zack spots a flying saucer, he refuses to believe it at first—but it’s real, and all those video gamers with all their skills are the only things protecting Earth from an alien invasion.
The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. 9781619635944. 2015. Gr 9-12.
Tess’s older sister Ivy is a “fixer;” in fact, no one is better than she at getting rid of scandals in Washington, D.C., though Tess doesn’t know this when she moves in with Ivy. Tess has some “fixing” abilities herself, and she soon becomes the number one fixer at her new high school, helping solve problems for the elite students. Things are going fine until Tess learns some secrets from one of her clients, secrets that drag her into the dirty politics of one of Ivy’s Washington clients.
Illuminae (Illuminae Files, Book 1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. 9780553499124. 2015. Gr 7-12.
Kady’s planet has just been attacked by some unknown entities, and fortunately she has been able to get a place on one of three ships that are leaving the planet. Her mother is on another ship, and her ex-boyfriend Ezra on the last. But their problems are far from over; a virus strikes the passengers on one of the ships, the artificial intelligence on another has turned against its human cargo, and the enemy ships are closing in. As Kady searches through the data for the truth, she realizes that only one person can help her—her ex, Ezra. This story is told through various types of documents hacked by Kady.
Ink and Bone (Great Library, Book 1) by Rachel Caine. 9780451472397. 2015. Gr 9-12.
In this alternate history, the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, and it now controls what knowledge is allowed to be accessed. People are forbidden to own books, but Jess’s family is involved in the book black market, so he has access to the illegal volumes. Since he isn’t good at the business, his father makes him try out for a position in the Library, where he can spy for the family. But his training is dangerous, and what he finds out could change the world—and lead to war.
Paperweight by Meg Haston. 9780062335746 2015. Gr 9-12.
Devastated by guilt over the death of her brother Josh, Stevie begins to starve herself, planning to be dead within a year. When her father has her admitted to a 60-day treatment facility, she is determined to follow through on her plan, despite the therapy and the nurses that watch her eat and escort her to the bathroom. She wears her red bracelet for non-compliance with pride. But slowly her walls begin to crack as she starts to understand the truth of Josh’s death.
Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson. 9780374300098. 2015. Gr 7-10.
After losing the American Revolution, the American colonies have been governed by the Magisters, members of the British elite who use magic to maintain their rule. Now it’s 1888, the rebellion is still an underground force, and its mechanics and engineers are trying to develop machines that use non-magical power. Verity has just become a governess for a rich New York Magister, and she agrees to spy for her rebel friends. But Verity has secrets of her own, secrets that will come to light if she is caught. Give this book to fans of alternate history and steampunk.
The Six by Mark Alpert. 9781492615293. 2015. Gr 8-12.
Adam, crippled by muscular dystrophy, can leave his wheelchair only in his virtual reality game, until an artificial intelligence program goes rogue and hacks into his game. The AI program, called Sigma, had been developed by Adam’s father, who has also created a program to digitally preserve Adam’s brain when he dies. Now, with Sigma bent on destroying humanity, Adam and five other teens must give up their bodies so their brains can be uploaded into superhero robots. Only by working as a team do the Six have a hope of saving the world.
Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr. 9780553524796. 2015. Gr 9-12.
Adam lives in a toxic, arid, and dusty world, where his only hope for escape is to win the Blackwater Race. He owns a byke, a biomechanical machine passed down from his grandfather to his father and to himself. The Blackwater Race is a savage circuit of treacherous terrain, deadly booby-traps, and murderous competitors vying to win a place in the Sky Base, a space station with plenty of food and fresh water. Unlike his rivals, Adam plans to ride the race alone. This exciting dystopian survival novel is perfect for reluctant readers and those fans of The Hunger Games and Mad Max.
Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton. 9780545816656. 2015. Gr 7-12.
In an abandoned house Jack finds a dark room containing a table and thirteen chairs. Twelve of the chairs are already filled by odd-looking people, each with a lit candle on the table in front of them. After he takes the only empty chair, each person takes a turn telling a story—and each story is creepier and spookier than the last. It is only when it is almost his turn that Jack realizes who his companions are and why they are here. I’m not normally a fan of short stories, but the over-arching framework of the book makes it seem more like a novel—to be enjoyed especially by horror fans.
Trollhunters (Book 1) by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus. 9781423125983. 2015. Gr 9-12.
Jim lives in a quiet little suburb with an overprotective dad, a best friend, and a crush on a girl who doesn’t know he exists. Then an old mystery resurfaces, and he realizes that his town isn’t really very sleepy at all. Something inhuman and hungry has followed people to the American shores, and it is up to Jim and a bunch of unlikely defenders to defeat these monsters. Lovers of horror will line up to read this illustrated novel by two excellent horror writers.