Juvenile Fiction

"The Newspaper Club," by Beth Vrabel; illustrated by Paula Franco

Nellie Murrow spent the first 11 years of her life surrounded by the bustling world of journalism and newsrooms. But when the newspaper both her parents worked for folds, Nellie finds herself in the last place she ever imagined — the tiny town of Bear Creek, where nothing interesting ever happens. To make matters worse, her mom has ensconced herself in the attic to write a romance novel and her dad has gone to Asia, leaving Nellie to her own devices. All she really wants to do is talk to her dad, but instead she is saddled with an assigned and quite babyish "best friend" who follows her everywhere. When strange reports of vandalism and mischief are linked to the only place Nellie can talk to her dad, it is up to the kids in town to cover the story. But will they be able to figure out what is going on? And will socially awkward Nellie be able to make friends with people her own age? This refreshingly poignant story deftly weaves topics such as grieving, making friends, and moving with highly relevant discussions about bias and opinion in journalism. It is inspiring and informative for young people who are interested in the craft of news reporting, without being overly technical. Readers will be as eager as Nellie to unearth the truth and will discover a deeper understanding of humanity along the way. Ages 8-12

— School Library Journal

"The Girl Who Speaks Bear," by Sophie Anderson

Called Yanka the Bear due to her strength and height, 12-year-old Yanka feels othered by denizens of her forest-side village, more spectacle than girl. She lives with her foster mother, herbalist Mamochka, who found her outside a bear cave as a rosy-cheeked two-year-old and took her in, and she finds comfort in the magical tales shared by Anatoly, a kind recluse with burn scars who visits when his travels in the Snow Forest allow. One day, Yanka awakens to find that she can speak to animals and that her legs have transformed into bear legs; she begins to wonder if Anatoly’s fantastical stories of transformations, bear royalty, and ursine souls might be true, and whether they might offer real answers to her own peculiar past. A gem of a fairy tale, Anderson’s sophomore effort offers a dynamic, memorable cast with rich personalities amid lasting messages about belonging, graceful acceptance of aid, and the power of stories. Ages 8-12

— Publishers Weekly

"Birdie and Me," by J.M.M. Nuanez

 

When their mama died in a car accident, Jack and her younger brother, Birdie, moved in with their kind, if irresponsible, Uncle Carl. But after 10 months of convenience store food and sporadic school attendance, Carl's estranged brother, Patrick, must take them in. Emotionally distant Patrick, whom Birdie calls "a clam," may cook them proper meals, but he does not understand Birdie's gender creative identity and interest in fashion, or the children's complicated feelings about their erratic mother, her mental illness, and her death. In short notebook entries scattered throughout the novel, Jack observes the adults governing her life and the grief that animates them. Nuanez excels in depicting a complex family dynamic filtered through a child's perception. More than anything else, this novel captures the children's feelings of powerlessness when decisions about where they live, what they wear, and who they can even visit are made by imperfect adult guardians. Also addressed are gender nonconformity, bullying, and adults' misguided solutions to both, in a refreshingly frank and thoughtful way that always centers the children's perspectives and understanding of themselves. As Jack, Birdie, and their uncles stumble toward mutual understanding, they build a community of supportive people — imperfect, unsure, but trying their best. Ages 10-12

— School Library Journal

"High and Dry," by Eric Walters; illustrated by Sabrina Gendron

Dylan, who is living on a remote island with his parents, has an opportunity to explore the wildlife of his temporary home. Although lonely, he is learning so much about nature and the consequences of his actions. During a storm, a small orca whale is separated from his pod and is beached during low tide. When Dylan becomes aware of the young orca's situation, he is determined to help. He knows that the whale needs moisture and protection from the hot sun until the tide comes back in. He endeavors to keep the whale wet and covered with blankets so that it doesn't dehydrate or burn. For 10 hours, Dylan works tirelessly to protect the displaced mammal. Over the course of their time together, a bond forms between the boy and the orca. Walters draws readers in by expertly describing the storm, the whale's struggle, and Dylan's determination to save the stranded animal. Using simple terms and uncomplicated dialogue, the story will engage even the most reluctant reader. With educational information about orcas interspersed throughout, this is a well-written tale that deftly incorporates a lesson about marine life and nature. Ages 6-8

— School Library Journal