YA – Wings of Shadow

Preto, Nicki Pau. Wings of Shadow. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. 978-1-665-90762-0. 617 p. $21.99. Grades 9-12.

Wings of Shadow picks up right where Crown of Feathers left off, with Veronyka having to face her sister Val, along with all the new responsibilities that come with being the last queen of the Golden Empire, and none of it is as easy as it looks. Everyone is treating her differently, except for Tristan, but he is still a hostage of Lord Rolan, which means Veronyka feels very alone when the book starts. Veronkya is determined to bring back Tristan, even if that means putting herself onto a throne that she never wanted. However, she is also faced with the revelation that her sister has bonded with a strix, a creature that was made from darkness and evil. Val is willing to do whatever she needs to in order to get her revenge on Veronyka and anyone else that Val thinks did her wrong. Will Veronyka be able to face her sister and bring peace to the world?

THOUGHTS: This was an amazing conclusion to one of the most fast paced young adult fantasy trilogies that I have picked up. Nicki Pau Preto does an amazing job with world building and character development. Honestly there could have been more books in this series, and I would happily read them and recommend them!

Fantasy          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Larson, Hope. Salt Magic. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2021. 978-0-823-44620-9. 240 p. $21.99. Grades 4-6.

Salt Magic follows our main character Vonceil whose older brother Elber is just home from World War I, and life is not going the way Vonceil pictured it. Elber comes home and marries the girl next door, which seems normal to the rest of his family but not Vonceil. Things get even odder when a woman shows up and claims Elber left her in France. When he denies her, and tells her that he is already married she reveals herself to be a witch who curses his family’s water supply and turns it into salt water. Vonceil then decides to take things into her own hands and solve everything. The illustrations of this graphic novel are wonderful and add to the overall feeling of the book. The story is beautifully woven using the illustrations as well as the language that Hope Larson uses.

THOUGHTS: This is a must own for any middle school library collection.

Graphic Novel    Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – Witches Steeped in Gold

Smart, Ciannon. Witches Steeped in Gold. HarperTeen, 2021. 978-0-06-309245-7. $18.99. 533p. Grades 9 and up.

Witches Steeped in Gold follows main characters Iraya Adair and Jazmyne Cariot, who are both witches. However, they are on opposite sides of a conflict, and their upbringings could not have been more different. Iraya grew up the heir to a dynasty that is no longer in power and an exile of her home on top of that. Jazmyne has grown up the daughter of the doyenne with whatever she wanted; however, she knows that she is a threat to her mother. These two witches end up in a shaky alliance to help take down a common enemy, the Doyenne Cariot.

THOUGHTS: The setting of this book is unlike anything I have read before, and the touches of Jamacian folklore make this YA Fantasy stand out. The plot of this novel is extremely fast paced, and readers will need to pay attention otherwise they might get lost. Overall, highly recommended and a must have for any high school collection.

Fantasy          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

MG – Starfish

Fipps, Lisa. Starfish. Nancy Paulson Books, 2021. 978-1-9848-1450-0. 256 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

Starfish follows the story of Ellie, who has been bullied her whole life for her weight. In order to deal with these issues, she creates “Fat Girl Rules” to live by; however, the reader can tell that these “rules” aren’t working for her. Ellie’s favorite thing is to swim and she can forget about her weight issues and take up all the space that she wants. This novel is told in verse, which really adds to the overall plot, and I feel makes this a more impactful book versus if it were told in regular novel form.

THOUGHTS: I loved Ellie and her journey throughout this book, and it felt so authentic to me. The only part that frustrated me was her mom; however, I can also imagine there are parents out there who are like that with their children who struggle with weight issues so I kept that in mind while reading.

Realistic Fiction          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Ellie’s nickname Splash has been with her since she was five years old. She did a cannonball into the pool in her whale-print bathing suit, and Splash was born. Now she is in middle school, and her classmates constantly tease her about her weight. Even worse, so does her family: her brother is downright mean, her sister never sticks up for her, and her mother is constantly putting her on crazy diets and weighing her at the start of every week. Her only allies are her father and her new best friend Catalina, whose family only see how wonderful Ellie really is. Ellie doesn’t understand why no one else can see what they see, especially her own family. She tries to take up less space living by the Fat Girl Rules she creates, especially one that states you don’t deserve to be seen or heard or noticed. She lives by these rules everywhere except the pool; the pool is one place where she can be weightless in a world that is obsessed with body image. With help from Catalina, her dad, and her new therapist, Ellie embarks on the difficult journey of learning to love herself despite what others think.

THOUGHTS: This middle grade novel is equal parts heart-wrenching and heart-warming. Written in verse, Lisa Fipps’ beautiful writing will resonate with anyone who has ever had body image issues or struggled to love themselves. Starfish is a must-have for middle grade libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

MG – The Sea in Winter

Day, Christine. The Sea in Winter. Heartdrum, 2021. 978-0-062-87204-3. $16.99. Grades 3-7.

Seventh grader Maisie isn’t having a great day just before her school’s midwinter break. She’s tardy to homeroom, and she earned a 70 on her most recent math test. A break from school and a family trip back home will be good “heart medicine.” Maisie could use a distraction from eating lunch alone and getting text updates from her ballet friends who she no sees. Maisie isn’t sure how to respond, so she usually doesn’t. Things start to look up when her physical therapist suggests that Maisie’s recovery from a torn ACL and surgery might be moving faster than initially anticipated. This news gives Maisie hope; she’s missed ballet and her friends so much, and she might even be able to make a few spring auditions if she keeps progressing. With this news (and a green light for hiking) Maisie’s family heads to the Olympic Peninsula to explore some areas that are important to their Native family. Maisie’s stormy emotions seem to get the best of her at times, and she’s not sure why she says some of the things she does. When Maisie’s frustration reaches a peak, she’ll have to decide who she wants to be, even if that doesn’t include ballet.

THOUGHTS: Upper elementary and middle school students will adore Maisie and recognize the roller coaster of emotions she experiences. Maisie’s little brother provides comic relief to some of her emotional “funks,” and her parents are extremely supportive. #OwnVoices author Day addresses negative self talk and depression in an age appropriate way that will resonate with students. Highly recommended.

Realistic Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Maise Cannon is many things: a middle schooler, a sister, a daughter, a Native American descended from the Makah and Piscataway tribes, and a ballet dancer. Her favorite of all her identities is of a ballet dancer, but her knee injury that she is recovering from may prevent her from ever dancing again. Her physical therapy is going well, and she hopes that she will be able to audition for a summer program like her friends. When her family goes on a hiking trip, Maisie re-injures her knee dashing any hopes of dancing any time soon. Maisie’s anxiety and depression take hold of her, and she shuts out everyone and everything in her life. Her family encourages Maisie to go to therapy. After a few months, Maisie finds a life for herself without dancing, and finds that she can be happy with what she CAN do.

THOUGHTS: This is a story where the characters just happen to be Native Americans. This would be a great addition for readers who are struggling with an injury.

Realistic Fiction         Krista Fitzpatrick, PSLA Member