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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Out of the Easy
by Ruta Sepetys

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Against a vivid 1950s New Orleans backdrop, 17-year-old Josie Moraine is caught between the harsh reality of her negligent, prostitute mother's lifestyle and her desire to escape to a new life. Josie is smart, resourceful, and determined. Her support group includes Willie, the shrewd brothel madam who recognizes Josie's potential; Cokie, Willie's kind and devoted driver; Patrick, who runs the bookshop where Josie works; Charlotte, an upscale acquaintance who encourages Josie to join her at Smith College; and Jesse, the handsome motorcyclist neighbor who has eyes only for Josie. When a mysterious death leads police to Josie's mother and abusive boyfriend, the teen is drawn into the investigation and into an underworld of threats, violence, and retribution. After her mother skips town, Josie is targeted to repay her debt to a powerful criminal boss. As she tries to handle mounting adversity on her own, she struggles with fear, desperation, and her conscience. Stealing from Willie or hooking up with a wealthy john seem her only choices for survival. Overwhelmed, she reveals her predicament to Willie, who saves her in a final act of generosity. Josie's narrative features a Dickensian array of characters; the mystique, ambience, and language of the French Quarter; a suspenseful, action-packed story; and a coming-of-age realization that personal decisions ultimately shape one's future. With dramatic and contextual flair, Sepetys introduces teens to another memorable heroine.-Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Sepetys follows her debut, Between Shades of Gray, with another taut and charged historical novel, though the setting-the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950-is a world apart from that of her previous book. Living and working in a bookshop, 17-year-old Josie Moraine dreams of attending college-anything to get away from her mother, a prostitute with Hollywood dreams and a knack for getting involved with the worst men. When Josie becomes involved in a high-profile murder investigation, she becomes even more entrenched in her circumstances. The sensual yet rigidly class-based setting is a real standout, and Sepetys has also built a stellar cast, which includes Willie, a strident but generous madam; Charlie Marlowe, the bookshop's owner; and a pair of potential love interests for Josie. Readers will find Josie irresistible from the get-go ("The only reason I'd lift my skirt is to pull out my pistol and plug you," she tells a guy early on) and will devour the sultry mix of mystery, historical detail, and romance. Ages 14-up. Agent: Writers House. (Feb.)? (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list In a radical departure from her first novel, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys' second is partially set in a 1950s New Orleans brothel where Josie's mother works as a prostitute. Humiliated, the 18-year-old fears she is destined for nothing more than a crummy life skirting the New Orleans underworld. That underworld looms larger when a murder occurs and it appears Josie's mother may be complicit. Josie's dream is to go to Smith College, but even if she is admitted, how will she pay for it? Meanwhile, she finds herself attracted to two very different young men: her best friend, clean-cut Patrick, with whom she works at his father's bookstore, and quietly mysterious biker Jesse. Complicated? You bet! Sepetys' latest strongly evokes 1950s radio soap operas, but despite over-the-top emotional pitch and stereotypical characters, this is nevertheless a page-turner that noir romance fans will gobble up like popcorn shrimp. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The legions of fans that Sepetys earned with her best-selling debut novel will all be lining up for this.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog Big Cat, Little Cat
by Elisha Cooper

Book list It's all about simple text and clean lines in this picture book about feline camaraderie. Cooper certainly loves and understands cat behavior, as exemplified in his various poses of cats at rest and in action. A big cat (white) welcomes a new little cat (black) to the household, and shows it when to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be, and when to rest. The white cat is outlined in black lines on generous white space as the two partake in these activities; the black cat is profiled in silhouette, with only one tiny white dot for an eye. As the years go by, the black cat grows bigger, and eventually the white cat has to go. A silhouetted family mourn along with the black cat. But soon a little white cat arrives, and the now-big black cat teaches it all the same lessons. In a final double-page spread the two dream happily, completing the concept of the circle of life in loving contentment.--Gepson, Lolly Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Like a Japanese brush painter, Cooper (8: An Animal Alphabet) uses bold, black lines to trace the outlines of a white cat; it roams through an apartment, playing with yarn and gazing at the bird feeder. Then a black kitten arrives, and the white cat shows it "when to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be." "Big cat, little cat," Cooper writes as the two sleep embraced, their curves a rhythmic composition of black and white. The two grow ever closer until, with little warning, the white cat "got older, and one day he had to go... and didn't come back. And that was hard. For everyone." The black cat is pictured alone on the page; the next spread pulls back to reveal its human family, all bereft. Even younger readers will understand their grief. But when a white kitten arrives, the story begins again: "The cat showed the new cat what to do. When to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be." With quiet grace, Cooper delivers the message that love persists through loss. Ages 3-6. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal PreS-Gr 1-Bold and simple illustrations perfectly depict life with cats. Elegant, expressive black line drawings on white backgrounds capture the essence of all things feline and call to mind the work of Clare Turlay Newberry and Nikki McClure. The book follows a lone white cat who gains a small black companion, their life together, and the eventual loss of the elder cat ("Years went by-and more years, too-") and ends with the addition of a new kitten. The spare text does an excellent job of conveying the story from the animals' point of view. Readers are told that "the older cat got older and one day he had to go...and didn't come back. And that was hard. For everyone." VERDICT A gentle, loving look at the life cycle of pets; young readers will be able to gain confidence in retelling the story using the text and the pictures. A must-have for all collections.-Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Freedom in Congo Square
by Carole Boston

Book list *Starred Review* Coretta Scott King Honorees Weatherford and Christie have created a gorgeously artistic and poetic homage to the birthplace of jazz and a people whose legacy is too often ignored. For one day a week, the slaves of New Orleans were allowed by law to gather on one public space: Congo Square. Through sparse, deliberate language, Weatherford tangibly captures the anticipation of those Sundays, listing the physical and emotional work that slaves endured without respite. They tend to animals and crops, cater to their masters, endure losses and lashings, all the while counting the hours until they can revel in the freedom of Congo Square. Holding on to that joyful experience feels like a form of silent resistance as the slaves bear the harshness of the week. The blunt words are richly supplemented by illustrations reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence's work. Christie elegantly renders people's gestures in chalk, capturing their energy or lack of, depending on the context. Blocks of color stamped with texture bring to life the landscape and movement in a place where they rejoiced as if they had no cares; / half day, half free in Congo Square. Subtle and layered, this is an important story, beautifully told.--Chaudhri, Amina Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 1-3-This vibrant picture book examines Congo Square in New Orleans. A foreword and author's note explain how, historically, slaves in Louisiana were allowed Sunday afternoons off. This custom continued after the territory joined the United States, although in time, New Orleans established one location for all slaves to gather: an area that became known as Congo Square. This unique practice helped enslaved and free Africans maintain cultural traditions. The impact was felt far beyond New Orleans as musicians, dancers, and singers developed, explored, and shared rhythms that eventually grew into jazz music. The text is realistic but child appropriate. Couplets count down the days to Sunday in a conversational tone ("Slavery was no ways fair./Six more days to Congo Square."). The writing is accompanied by folk art-style illustrations, with paint applied in thick layers. Some images, such as faces, are more detailed, while others are presented as silhouettes. Collage with painted elements is incorporated on occasion. The architecture portrayed evokes the New Orleans setting. Bright colors suggest the exuberance displayed at Congo Square. Spreads where the slaves are finally able to sing, dance, and express emotion contrast effectively with the forced restraint of those depicting the work week. VERDICT Unique in its subject and artistic expression, this beautiful book belongs in most collections.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 1-3-Couplets count down the days of the week and detail the daily labor duties of those who were enslaved in New Orleans-all leading up to Sunday, the day of rest and an afternoon in Congo Square. Acknowledging and contrasting the brutal toll of slavery with the exuberance and collective power of their one half-afternoon of free expression, Weatherford has created a masterly and multifaceted work. Christie's illustrations, so loaded with color and movement, are the perfect accompaniment to this must-have book. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Located in what is now the Treme neighborhood, Congo Square was the one place where the slaves and free blacks of New Orleans were allowed to gather on Sundays, a legally mandated day of rest. There they could reconnect with the dance and music of their West and Central African heritages and feel, at least for a few hours, that they were in "a world apart," where "freedom's heart" prevailed. Weatherford hits a few flat notes with her rhyming ("Slaves had off one afternoon,/ when the law allowed them to commune"), but she succeeds in evoking a world where prospect of Sunday becomes a way to withstand relentless toil and oppression: "Wednesday, there were beds to make/ silver to shine, and bread to bake./ The dreaded lash, too much to bear./ Four more days to Congo Square." Christie, who worked with Weatherford to illuminate another historic neighborhood in Sugar Hill (2014), takes readers on a visual journey, moving from searing naïf scenes of plantation life to exuberantly expressionistic and abstract images filled with joyous, soaring curvilinear figures. An introduction and afterword provide further historic detail. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Echo
by Pam Munoz Ryan

Publishers Weekly The fairy tale that opens this elegant trio of interconnected stories from Ryan (The Dreamer) sets the tone for the rest of the book, in which a mystical harmonica brings together three children growing up before and during WWII. Friedrich, an aspiring conductor whose birthmark makes him an undesirable in Nazi Germany, must try to rescue his father after his Jewish sympathies land him in a prison camp. In Pennsylvania, piano prodigy Mike and his brother, Frankie, get a chance to escape the orphanage for good, but only if they can connect with the eccentric woman who has adopted them. In California, Ivy Maria struggles with her school's segregation as well as the accusations leveled against Japanese landowners who might finally offer her family a home of their own. Each individual story is engaging, but together they harmonize to create a thrilling whole. The book's thematic underpinnings poignantly reveal what Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy truly have in common: not just a love of music, but resourcefulness in the face of change, and a refusal to accept injustice. Ages 10-14. Agent: Kendra Marcus, BookStop Literary Agency. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 5-8-"Long before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt," a young boy named Otto lost in the woods is rescued by three sisters imprisoned there by a witch's curse. In return, he promises to help break the curse by carrying their spirits out of the forest in a mouth harp and passing the instrument along when the time is right. The narrative shifts to the 20th century, when the same mouth harp (aka harmonica) becomes the tangible thread that connects the stories of three children: Friedrich, a disfigured outcast; Mike, an impoverished orphan; and Ivy, an itinerant farmer's child. Their personal struggles are set against some of the darkest eras in human history: Friedrich, the rise of Nazi Germany; Mike, the Great Depression; Ivy, World War II. The children are linked by musical talent and the hand of fate that brings Otto's harmonica into their lives. Each recognizes something unusual about the instrument, not only its sound but its power to fill them with courage and hope. Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy are brought together by music and destiny in an emotionally triumphant conclusion at New York's Carnegie Hall. Meticulous historical detail and masterful storytelling frame the larger history, while the story of Otto and the cursed sisters honor timeless and traditional folktales. Ryan has created three contemporary characters who, through faith and perseverance, write their own happy endings, inspiring readers to believe they can do the same.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list When Otto meets three ethereal sisters, he has no idea that the harmonica they enchant will one day save a life. Decades later, the very same harmonica makes its way to America, and in three sections, Ryan tells the stories of kids whose lives are changed by its music: Friedrich Schmidt, in 1933 Germany, whose father is a Jewish sympathizer; Mike Finnegan, an orphan in Philadelphia in 1935; and Ivy Lopez, living with her parents in California in 1942 while they take care of the farm of a Japanese family who has been sent to an internment camp. The magical harmonica not only helps each of the three discover their inborn musical talents but also gives them the courage to face down adversity and injustice. Though the fairy tale-like prologue and conclusion seem a bit tacked on, Ryan nonetheless builds a heartening constellation of stories around the harmonica, and the ultimate message that small things can have a powerful destiny is resoundingly hopeful. Harmonica tabs are included for readers who want to try their hands at the instrument.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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