This fall, three of today’s brightest names in writing for children and young adults have new titles out. Even if you haven’t read their previous award-winning works, and whatever your age, these are all worth a look.
Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me; Liar and Spy)
With its mature themes of social media abuse and sexual teasing, along with fluctuating viewpoints and jumps in time, Stead’s latest may be a challenging read for the middle-school age group it’s aimed at. But it’s a challenge that could be well worth taking, as at the heart of this story are genuine, relatable, questioning young characters who in their varying ways are searching for the meaning of selfhood. They make mistakes, sometimes serious ones, but find the courage to try again and re-forge broken relationships. Some of the solutions seemed a bit pat to me, but the quietly eloquent writing carried me along and the hopeful, sweet ending made me smile.
• August 4, 2015 from Wendy Lamb
The Marvels by Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret; Wonderstruck)
Author-illustrator Selznick starts his story with (mostly) wordless pictures — nearly 400 pages of them, creating a historical-theatrical extravaganza that intrigued me greatly. I wasn’t as enamored of the second, narrative part of the book, which seems to go initially in a completely different direction before returning to the image-story with a twist of perspective. Ironically enough, the “real story” rang less true to me than the fantasy, too heavy with Meaningful Issues and forced connections that didn’t feel genuine. An interesting experiment that fell somewhat flat.
• September 15, 2015 from Scholastic
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, Splendors and Glooms)
This was far and away my favorite of the three, a historical novel in diary form written by a fourteen-year-old Joan, a farm girl in 1911 Pennsylvania who hopes for a better life. As articulated by Schlitz, Joan’s voice is alternately funny, fierce, and vulnerable, as she bravely — but very naively — makes her way from an oppressive family to employment that has its own risks and challenges. The unusual exploration of clashing minority religions (Joan is Catholic; her employers are Jewish) is sensitively done, and the historical setting is fully and convincingly realized. Many facets of history and culture are seamlessly integrated, from the chapter titles taken from real works of art that Joan might have seen, to the origins of the Baltimore school founded by progressive Jews where Schlitz works today as a librarian. A pleasure from beginning to end.
• September 8, 2015 from Candlewick
Advance reading copies were received from the publishers for review consideration. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.
10 thoughts on “In Brief: New Releases for Young Readers”
The Hired Girl sounds like the best of the three to me, but then I really like books set in that time period…and with that kind of girl-makes-good premise. Here’s hoping my library has a copy. 🙂
I should hope so, I think it’s going to get a lot of praise (well deserved).
I checked … and my library has many copies On Order … which is good, but it’s going to take forever before there’s a copy I can check out … which is bad. Oh well, at least I’ll have something to look forward to. 🙂
That’s too bad! Hopefully you can get an early place on the hold list.
I remember being not fully impressed with The Invention of Hugo Cabret either. Selznick’s illustrations are preposterously beautiful, but I’m not sure he has a good grip on how to tell a story. (she said meanly)
I haven’t read that one, though I quite liked the movie. It’s interesting to think about the difference between visual and verbal storytelling.
I do enjoy these brief reviews (not as brief as some I’ve seen!) as, trusting your judgement, I find them really helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff when there are so many new titles screaming to have their voice heard. Apart from that your thumbnail sketches about content and author gave very strong hints of what one might expect without giving too much of the game away. As always, thanks!
There are many books I enjoy and recommend without feeling any need to go into detailed analysis…but I do hope that readers will feel inspired to look into them. I’m glad my brief notes are helpful to you!