YA – White Smoke

Jackson, Tiffany D. White Smoke. Katherine Tegen Books, 2021. 978-0-063-02909-5. 373 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Marigold’s blended family has just relocated from the sunny California coast to the run-down midwestern town of Cedarville. Their historic house, still under renovation, is part of her mother’s Grow Where You’re Planted residency with the Sterling Foundation. As the artist-in-residence, Raquel and her family will live in the home for free. Free housing means less debt, which is important after Mari’s recent stay at Strawberry Pines Rehabilitation Center. From the first page, it’s clear that she is facing real mental health challenges: programming medication reminders on her phone, repeating calming mantras, and obsessing about bedbugs. Meanwhile, Mari observes unexplained noises and disturbances in the house, including strange smells and items disappearing. The desolate neighborhood adds to the spooky ambiance. Jackson, a prolific and versatile author, is known for her real-life inspiration and plot twists. Indeed, many episodes in this haunted house story are based on real reported ghostly incidents. She also brings elements of a psychological thriller to her first horror novel. 

THOUGHTS: Spooky book season is here, and Jackson’s latest novel is almost too much fun to booktalk with students who enjoy suspenseful, scary stories.

Horror          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Everything Naomi Loved

Yamasaki, Katie, and Ian Lendler. Everything Naomi Loved. Norton Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-324-00491-2. Unpaged. $18.95. Grades K-2.

Naomi loves 11th Street, the place where she calls home. It has everything she and her family needs, including Mister Ray’s Automotive, pizza by the slice, a laundromat, her best friend (Ada), and more. One by one, however, 11th Street begins to change. They build a fancy building where her favorite tree once stood, and Ada moves away when they tear her family’s building down. Mister Ray explains to Naomi that things change, but they can keep the things they love with them by painting them into a mural. Mister Ray paints a beautiful tree, and he helps Naomi paint Ada underneath it. Eventually, Naomi’s family also moves out of their 11th Street home, but thanks to Mister Ray, she is able to take her memories with her. This is a beautifully written story about carrying memories we hold dear with us throughout the changing seasons of life.

THOUGHTS: This would be an excellent book to hand to a young reader whose family plans to move away in the near future. Perhaps readers, after finishing the story, could paint a portrait of all the things they hold dear, which they could take with them wherever they go. The book would pair well with other titles set in the city, such as Sydney Smith’s Small in the City (2019) or Marcie Colleen’s The Bear’s Garden (2020). Together, these titles would provide a comprehensive portrait of life in a constantly moving, ever changing city. Overall, this is a touching story with an important message about embracing positive memories when things change.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member