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Under the Blood-Red Sun

Tomi liked to play baseball at diamond grass. The field shone like diamonds when the dewdrops sparkled in the morning sun. Tomi found refuge there, away from the chaos of life in Honolulu.

Mama knew all about chaos. She’d fled the poverty of Japan by becoming a picture bride, sailing to Honolulu to marry a sugarcane worker she’d never met. Her future husband was killed in a gambling fight, leaving Mama stranded in a fisherman’s hut. Papa heard her story and claimed her for his own.

Grampa loved Japan. He took great pride in his enormous Japanese flag, washing it with care and leaving it hanging to dry in the open air. When Tomi came home and saw it waving in the breeze, he was rattled. “Grampa! Take that thing down!” In 1941, Japanese were not always welcome on the streets of Hawaii.

One Sunday morning, Tomi and his friend Billy were playing ball when clouds of smoke spiraled into the sky. Explosions rocked Pearl Harbor. Tomi was shocked to see amber planes emblazoned with a blood-red sun. Japanese planes were bombing his home!

As the Japanese warplanes bombarded the coast, Papa was out fishing in his sampan. American forces opened fire on every ship without an American flag. Papa took a bullet to his leg, and was hauled away to Sand Island. Within days, a black car arrived at Tomi’s home. Two huge men had come for Grampa. They covered Grampa’s mouth as he screamed, and shoved Tomi into the weeds.

Hatred for Japan surged across the island. Japanese fathers were arrested or killed, leaving their children to fend for themselves. Mama was fired. Tomi’s family was watched with open suspicion. Tomi knew the day had come to lead his family, long before he was ready, with enemies on every side.

Under the Blood-Red Sun provides a riveting view of what Japanese Americans endured at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Loyalties were tested to the extreme as military and volunteer brigades strung barbed wire around the schools and excavated bomb shelters in public parks. As he strived to free his innocent father, Tomi was incredibly brave, facing angry guards and cruel soldiers who would not hesitate to shoot him. In the midst of all the hostilities, bold friends brought Tomi gifts of love and hope that brightened his days of fear.

Graham Salisbury has received numerous awards for his work, including the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Library of Congress Notable Children’s Book of the Year, and the Best Books for Young Adults (American Library Association).

Visit Graham Salisbury at: grahamsalisbury.com

–Kate Calina

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When the Sea Turned to Silver

“Come quickly!” Grandmother Amah shook Pinmei from sleep. The rocky ground rumbled beneath her feet. Freezing currents nipped at the girl’s toes. She followed Amah to the storage room of their mountain hut. Hidden inside an empty vat, Pinmei stared through a crack into the darkened room. Her grandmother piled baskets and boxes around the vat and left.

Thundering hooves pounded the mountainside. The front door crashed to the ground. The Tiger Emperor’s soldiers roared when they saw Amah standing in the open doorway. “She’s the one we want! Take her!” Torchlight flared across Amah as they dragged her from the hut.

With his head raised high, a young boy fought his way through the soldiers to their commander. The watchful Yishan, who lived alone high up the craggy slopes, barreled into the hut like a fierce mountain dog. “Do not take her!”

The commander threw Yishan against the wall like a bag of rice. Torches hurtled into the room. Orange flames licked the thatch as Pinemei’s home caught fire. Yishan flew to the back wall and ripped down shelves, kicking a shuttered window. Pinmei scrambled from hiding and out the smoking window. Her blazing hut lit up the night sky.

The Tiger Emperor’s armies swept throughout the land, attacking villages in the deep of the night. Thousands of men were captured and conscripted to build the Vast Wall. Any appeals to the Emperor were met with the same reply: Bring a Luminous Stone that Lights Up the Night if you seek freedom for the one you love.

But why take Amah? The old woman was the Storyteller, not capable of forced labor. Pinmei and Yishan decided their best chance of saving Amah was to find a Luminous Stone for the Tiger Emperor. They knew a dragon’s pearl was in the City of Bright Moonlight. Could that save Amah?

They set out in the deep snow. A mysterious rider in gleaming blue silk galloped past through the mist, only to be thrown from her horse. The children rushed to her crumpled body and were amazed by her beauty. Her voice rang like water chimes when she spoke, but her eyes were marred by sorrow. She too was bound for the City of Bright Moonlight. The three walked together down the icy road.

Their journey takes them through places where harsh realities and legend intermingle. The greed and cruelty of the Tiger Emperor invade every village in the land, even disturbing the watery realms of the Sea King. Crimson butterflies, stone fish, scarred women—even Spring itself—fall under the iron rod of his wrath. With every new tale from the Storyteller’s trove, this world expands, rising to the Starry River and plunging into the silver sea.

Grace Lin’s masterful storytelling entwines three timeless themes: good fortune, peace, and the quest for immortality. She is a Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award Finalist.

–Kate Calina

The Truth About Twinkie Pie

When your life begins in a trailer park in South Carolina, relocation to the lively city of Long Island seems a bit daunting. When no one’s there for you but your big sister and her dreams, that move may become downright terrifying. But GiGi’s sister is no ordinary woman. DiDi—short for Delta Dawn the Second—had been known to camp in a tent during a thunderstorm to get her little sister into “the best” school. Even crashing telephone poles couldn’t drive DiDi away.

In the South, GiGi had followed her sister’s advice. Lunchtime meant study time in the library in ratty old clothes. In upscale Long Island, GiGi’s ready for a change. She has a Recipe for Success: a bright new personality, a keen hope for new friends, and a willingness to do everything she’d never had a chance to do before.

When a sweet, handsome boy named Trip becomes her closest friend, GiGi knows she’s become part of something wonderful. Trip’s friends are not so welcoming. Mace glares at her with dagger eyes and seizes her first opportunity to make GiGi look stupid. While all the other moms play tennis or go shopping, GiGi’s mom is dead.

There’s an ache deep inside, an intense longing for her mother. Though her hopes stay locked away, GiGi’s searching for her. In beauty stores. In strangers. Even—especially–in the stars. GiGi stands for Galileo Galilei, and there’s a part of her that always gazes at the stars.

One phone call destroys GiGi’s new world. Permanently.

This book steals your heart. It’s about love, and fragile beauty. It’s about losing something you never had and gaining something you never wanted. It’s friendship and cruelty and misunderstanding, swirling together in amazing chaos that drives right through you.  The Truth about Twinkie Pie is for anyone who knows when it’s time to take a stand.

Visit author Kat Yeh and her awesome recipes at http://www.katyeh.com.

–Kate Calina

 

The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! The Wish List #1

Isabel did not want to go to the Fairy Godmother Home For Normal Girls. Who would want to be in a place with no princesses? No wands? No sparkles!

Failure in Fairy Godmother Training meant a life of non-magical jobs. Unfortunately for Isabel, scholarly effort was not her strong suit. She’d far rather build cloud castles than study The Official Rule Book for Fairy Godmothers. It was hard to compete with her sister, Clotilda. Highly skilled at the fine art of fairy godmother gift-giving, Clotilda knew which magical blessings to give new babies, how to turn raisins into black convertibles, and how to put a princess into a long sleep when all else failed.

Isabel was not one to play by the rules. At her first opportunity, she snuck into Grandmomma’s forbidden office. Though she didn’t know how sparkles worked, she picked up two fistfuls. At first, the room seemed lighter and brighter, almost like it was alive. Then something completely unexpected happened. Isabel knew she had to get away, before she caused more damage.

Off to class went young Isabel. While her friends were busy turning mice into unicorns, Isabel lost track of her mouse entirely. When the time came to find out who her first Princess would be, Isabel was shocked to learn she’d be paired with a young lady named Nora who didn’t care about charming princes. Nora was far more concerned about the world of nature, and helping other people. Isabel was at a loss. What’s a Fairy Godmother to do for a serious princess?

Sarah Aronson turns the world of Sparkly Princesses upside down. What starts out as a funny story takes a serious turn when Nora’s stepmother confides in Isabel that she’d made a wish on a shooting star. Such wishes call on very old, very powerful magic. Suddenly Isabel finds herself confronting unsettling problems and deep-rooted fears. One broken rule might mean banishment from the School—or far deeper consequences.

Sarah Aronson earned her MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Discover more Sparkle Power at: http://www.saraharonson.com

–Kate Calina

Skyborn

The penalty for treason was being chained to marble columns. For many years, vicious captors tortured the rebellious dragon, burning it with fire lances and shredding its wings. Yet its words only grew bolder as it faced Sirena, keeper of the Horn that controlled its mind. Though one of the most fearless fighters in all the empire, Sirena had yet to unlock the key to the precious Horn of Osius. She had less than five days to learn the secrets of wielding its power—to enslave an entire generation of dragons.

Thianna Frostborn and Karn Korlundsson awoke in an elegant cage, flying south under the wings of angry dragons. Vast forests and ancient ruins spun away beneath them as they approached their destination, the Court of Land and Sky. Raised in the frozen lands of the frost giants, the half-giant Thianna knew little about her mother’s native country. Using one of her unique gifts—a hoarfrost chant—Thianna froze her way to freedom. Recapturing the powerful Horn from an elite force of furious women would require more than brute strength and quick wit. It would demand every gift her allies possessed. Brash minotaurs and leafy dryads soon found themselves fighting for something far greater than their own kingdoms and narrow ideals.

Skyborn is the third of Lou Anders’ Thrones and Bones series. New characters charge through his colorful landscapes, ice blocking down watercourses and gliding over molten lava. Mysterious doors open up, allowing passage to ethereal corridors. As Thianna realizes the decisions she makes have far-reaching consequences, the frost giantess who’s always struck the fastest blows suddenly finds herself unsure of her path forward. Tenuous friendships develop between hardened enemies; impossible alliances become reality. The momentum drives the story at a quick pace towards an arresting climax. Skyborn pulls you into a space you weren’t expecting to be in—a place of wonder and higher dreams.

–Kate Calina

 

Thrones and Bones: Frostborn

Like all good frost giants, young Thianna loved a good game of Knattleikr.  Gunnlod’s Plateau rang with shouts as the quick teen dodged her massive opponents. The frozen realm had been her home since the day of her birth. Yet all the frost giants, even the most foolish, could tell that she didn’t entirely belong. She had the dark eyes of the southern people, and she was short. Throughout her life she longed to be a full-blooded giant and avoided everything that reminded her of her human mother, long dead. Shortly before the feast of Winternights, her giant father knew the time had come to give his daughter a gift. Thianna took the horn in her hands, knowing only that her mother had guarded it until her final breath.

As winter drew close, the frost giants trekked south to mingle with humans at the market at Dragon’s Dance. Not many humans dared to trade openly with frost giants. Korlund had come, as his people had for generations, bringing his son Karn. Both knew to stay close to the fires on the wild evening of Winternights. When Karn’s uncle drew Karn out into the woods, the simple youth never dreamed his uncle was planning his death. The treacherous man led Karn amidst the barrows, right to the corpse door, with its shining green runes binding the dead to their barrows. In the eerie light Karn awoke the dead, who vowed to hunt him down as he took flight through the dark woods.

In the grand adventure that unfolds, Karn and Thianna come together in the freezing mountains. They fight for their lives as they flee brutish creatures bent on their capture. Enemies fly above churning river gorges and stalk them in ancient ruined cities. The magical excitement of Norse legend charges through the novel, accented by moments of humor. Higher themes drive through the book, making it at once a powerful and enduring tale.

–Kate Calina

On A Clear Day

Sturmers hate everybody. In the year 2035, they prowl the street, selling death to those with the most cash. In the Bronx, they’re the visible enemy, shooting at the gates of protected communities. But who commands real power? What hidden forces slaughter thousands in India, or raze an entire African village?

In Dahlia Grillo’s world, strands of barbed wire replace the places of fragile joy where kids used to play.  Those with money bar themselves behind gates. Fifty kids can shoot a thousand, armed with automatic weapons. People in the streets are terrified of every other human being. All the schools are shut down. Permanently.

Enter Michael Gullickson, former band leader. He sees everyone living on the edge of despair. He’s all about bringing people together and creating something. He dreams of forming a group smart enough to take on the global corporations that really rule the planet in this urban dystopia.

On the thin hope that she might make a difference in a violent world, Dahlia joins Michael’s dysfunctional team.  In the streets of Miami, bullets blast through the barricades, leaving her reeling on the edge of her idealism. What words give any meaning to the raw brutality on every side?

Walter Dean Myers has earned every award in children’s literature. Taking responsibility is a central theme for him. On A Clear Day casts light into gritty streets and broken neighborhoods, squarely confronting tomorrow’s problems—today.

–Kate Calina