Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure.

FREEDOM FIRE

From the Dactyl Hill Squad series , Vol. 2

Magdalys and company return in this sequel to Dactyl Hill Squad (2018).

On their way with their pteranodon to New Orleans to rescue Magdalys’ injured Union soldier brother, the squad falls in with the all-black Louisiana Native Guard (that they’re not Native American is commented on), led by Gen. Sheridan. Secrets soon start to spill: The sole adult in their crew, thespian Cymbeline, is actually a Union spy, and when Sheridan discovers Magdalys is a dino-wrangler, he tries to inveigle her into Union service. Magdalys feels betrayed by Cymbeline, wants to prioritize her brother, and understandably doesn’t trust Sheridan—but that doesn’t save the squad from getting pulled into battle. The rapid pace is akin to the first installment’s but smoother, and as the squad navigates peril after peril, the supporting characters come into their own. As Afro-Cuban Magdalys recognizes how putting her power in Union hands could help enslaved black people, she vacillates. Showing great respect for his readers, Older doesn’t pull any punches. Amaya, who is Apache, points out the irony of fighting for people who stole Native land. Later, Magdalys grapples with the unpleasant truth that (most?) Northerners would happily keep black people enslaved in exchange for an end to the war—even Gen. Grant himself. Readers will be relieved that in a cruelly unjust world she gets a happy ending, though it’s clear her story is far from over.

Blisteringly paced, thought-provoking adventure. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26884-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON

An elderly witch, a magical girl, a brave carpenter, a wise monster, a tiny dragon, paper birds, and a madwoman converge to thwart a magician who feeds on sorrow.

Every year Elders of the Protectorate leave a baby in the forest, warning everyone an evil Witch demands this sacrifice. In reality, every year, a kind witch named Xan rescues the babies and find families for them. One year Xan saves a baby girl with a crescent birthmark who accidentally feeds on moonlight and becomes “enmagicked.” Magic babies can be tricky, so Xan adopts little Luna herself and lovingly raises her, with help from an ancient swamp monster and a chatty, wee dragon. Luna’s magical powers emerge as her 13th birthday approaches. Meanwhile, Luna’s deranged real mother enters the forest to find her daughter. Simultaneously, a young carpenter from the Protectorate enters the forest to kill the Witch and end the sacrifices. Xan also enters the forest to rescue the next sacrificed child, and Luna, the monster, and the dragon enter the forest to protect Xan. In the dramatic denouement, a volcano erupts, the real villain attempts to destroy all, and love prevails. Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces. Luna has black eyes, curly, black hair, and “amber” skin.

Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-567-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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