Ying, Victoria. City of Secrets. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11448-3. 252 p. $22.99. Grades 5-8.
In the city of Oskar there is a switchboard that connects more than just phone calls. Ever Barnes, an orphan, hides in the switchboard building and protects a secret that not even he knows. When the owner of the switchboard brings his daughter Hannah to see how it works, she discovers Ever and is instantly intrigued. When a secret society threatens to kill Ever and take the secret for themselves, Hannah, Ever and a switchboard worker must go to great lengths to protect the secret and the city.
THOUGHTS: This graphic novel delivers a beautiful storyline and will captivate readers who love adventure and spy stories! Both of the children in the story play a vital role, and it is a breath of fresh air to see a girl protagonist. This graphic novel does not disappoint!
Graphic Novel Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD
Horvath, Polly. Pine Island Home. Holiday House, 2020. 978-0-823-44785-5. 228 p. $16.99. Grades 4-6.
Having lost their parents in a tsunami in Thailand, the four McCready sisters are in search of a new home. However, no one in their extended families is willing to take them and Fiona, the oldest, is worried that the girls will be split up and sent to different foster homes. Finally, an unknown relative named Aunt Martha, who lives on Pine Island in British Columbia, happily agrees to have them move in with her. When the girls arrive, they learn from a cantankerous neighbor named Al that their aunt died a few days before. Fourteen year old Fiona decides that they will keep this a secret from the authorities and take care of themselves in their aunt’s house with the help of the school principal. Al, a rejected suitor of Aunt Martha, reluctantly agrees to pretend to be their guardian and fends off requests from the authorities for official paperwork. The girls enjoy their life on Pine Island. Marlin develops her cooking skills, Natasha has an adventure while bird watching, young Charlie encounters the neighborhood bear, and Fiona meets a boy. Then, one day a social worker comes to their front door. Will the girls have to leave their home? Will they be sent away from each other?
THOUGHTS: This story is classic Horvath with its eccentric characters and culinary references. She has created characters who show strength and resilience as they experience both happy and heartbreaking moments. Fans will enjoy this one, but may feel that there are some loose ends in the plot and hope for a sequel. Suitable for middle grade collections.
Realistic Fiction Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Stoddard, Lindsey. Brave Like That. HarperCollins Publisher , 2020. 978-0-062-87811-3. 272 p. $16.99. Grades 4-7.
Cyrus’ dad has always been a hero. As a kid he was a star football player, and as an adult he is a firefighter who is not afraid of running into burning buildings. Everyone thinks Cyrus is following in his father’s footsteps, but deep inside Cyrus loves music instead of football and longs to sneak away to the rescue to walk a dog that showed up at the fire station out of the blue, just like Cyrus did eleven years ago. Maybe worse than that, Cyrus wants to ditch his football star friends and befriend the new boy, Eduardo, who is bullied but doesn’t waiver from who he truly is inside. Can Cyrus be brave and find the courage to be his true self? With the help of a stray dog, new friends, and his family, join Cyrus on his journey to be brave and become his authentic self.
THOUGHTS: This story is a must purchase for your middle grade collection. It deals with the topic of bullying in a gentle but firm way. Brave Like That also addresses the issue of ailing grandparents (Cyrus’ grandmother had a stroke and cannot speak as she used to) and acceptance.
Realistic Fiction Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy
Tags: bullying, friendship, family, aging grandparents