Bergstrom, Scott. The Cruelty. Feiwel and Friends, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-250-10818-0. 384 pages. Ages 17 – 18 years. Q7P7
Gwen’s father, a diplomat who mysteriously disappears and, for an unknown reason, the same government he works for does not appear enthusiastic to get him back (the reasons behind this are their own sub-plot). Because of this Gwen takes it upon herself to find him. Thankfully, Gwen’s father has left behind some clues indicating not only that this might happen, but where to start looking. This all sounds like it could be a pretty good story and it could be, unfortunately, it’s a little far-fetched as written. Gwen’s father was taken by one of the most feared crime families in Prague, one dealing in arms smuggling and human trafficking. In order to make the rescue achievable by a teenager, the author has to compromise the believability of some (most) of the scenarios Gwen finds herself in. For instance, she is able to break into the warehouse of a crime boss in Munich by breaking the padlock. A padlock is all that is needed to protect millions of dollars of stolen merchandise? No security camera, guard, or even a guard dog? This lack of believability is throughout the book. Where the author is believable is the brutality, which makes me question if this started out as an adult novel, not young adult.
Verdict: I like the idea of the story, and I like the characters, but it seems like this was a story designed for Liam Neeson to be the lead character, not a 17 year old girl, and the adaptation to make that happen did not go well.
June 2017 review by Terri Lippert.
Morpurgo, Michael. An Eagle in the Snow. Feiwel and Friends, 2017. 133p. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-250-10515-8. Ages 8-12. P8Q10
In this simple story within a story set in 1940, Barney and his mother are fleeing war-torn Coventry where German bombs have taken out their home when German fighter planes force their train to stay in a tunnel for a long time. Barney’s father is fighting in Africa, and the boy tries to get his toy train from the house’s rubble before an air raid warden stops him. Terrified by the dark, Barney is soothed by a stranger sitting with them who tells his tale of his friend, Billy Byron, and how they both grew up on Mulberry Street where Barney had lived. Then the man tells them about Billy’s adventures during the first world war that led him to almost kill Adolf Hitler while he was a mere soldier. The man’s story is based on Henry Tandey, a British soldier who may have had Hitler in his sights, decided not to kill him, and later regretted the decision.
Verdict: The adventure of the man’s story blends with the loving nature of the family relationships, and the reality of war’s terror and devastation is brought home to the reader, for example when Barney’s father finds his beloved horse dead after the bombings. The book would be an excellent read-aloud as a basis for a discussion about the ethics of killing someone before they could go on to kill millions of people. The pencil drawings found in many of Morpurgo’s novels add to this outstanding book from an award-winning author.
March 2017 review by Nel Ward.
Pauls, Chris and Solomon, Matt. The Giant Smugglers. Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 275 pgs. 16.99. ISBN: 978-1-250-06652-7. Gr, 5+. P8 Q8
Through a series of hideouts a giant is making his way to a place where all the giants of the world are hiding. This is being done by the smugglers who have a network across the country to hide the giants so the world will not find out about the giants. When Charlie comes across a giant, whom he names Bruce, he eventually becomes responsible for smuggling him to his home. There is a race to get Bruce to safety before Accelerton, a company who wants to catch the giant to experiment on.
Verdict: This is a book is a fast paced adventure that younger students will enjoy.
November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.
Tweet, Jonathan. Grandmother Fish: a Child’s First Book of Evolution. Illustrated by Karen Lewis. Fiewel and Friends, 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781250113238. Ages 3-5. P6Q6
Written for an early preschool audience , this book on selective evolution strives to make Darwin’s theory of common descent understandable. Appealing illustrations link the steps from fish to reptile to mammal to human in an extremely simplified chain. Questions such as “Can you wriggle?” or, “Can you breathe?” and pages asking readers to “find grandmother” make this a good storytime presentation. End matter includes an author’s note to parents and teachers, a page explaining concepts of evolution, a two-page guide to the grandmothers, and a page correcting common errors concerning evolution. Unfortunately, I found the book’s presentation too simple to explain the concept and the text to be somewhat didactic. Entirely missing was any attempt to present the concept of small changes leading to larger changes. I really value science books that explain basic concepts for younger children and wish that this one had included a bit more of the scientific content or was appropriate for a slightly older audience.
Verdict: Optional purchase for elementary and public libraries.
February 2017 review by Jane Cothron.
Coy, John. For Extreme Sports- Crazy Boys Only. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. $15.99. ISBN 9781250049445. 155 pgs. Ages 7-12. P8Q7
I opened this book expecting not to like it- purely because of the title. Why for crazy BOYS only? Many women are involved in unusual or extreme sports, and some girls won’t pick this book up because of the off-putting title. Nevertheless, I found it fairly interesting by the end. The author took a long time to define extreme sports, to clarify how different they are from traditional sports, and to talk about the kinds of people who like extreme sports. Coy brings up the idea that many athletes are turned off by the focus on competition and winning, and the huge investment in time and money required traditional sports, and prefer to engage in sports that can be tailored to individual preferences. He also mentions the danger factor- many of these sports are very dangerous (though traditional sports can be too)- but athletes can learn to minimize the risks. The main part of the book looks at different kinds of extreme sports (everything from wingsuit flying to cave diving to snowmobiling to whitewater kayaking), X-games stars, and competitions. There is a table of contents and a bibliography; I think an index would be helpful in a book of this type.
January 2017 review by Carol Schramm.
Preller, James. Swamp Monster. (Scary Tales series.) Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. $15.99. ISBN 9781250045232. 83 pgs. Ages 8-12. P8Q7.
Part of the Scary Tales series, this story is about twin brothers who find a swamp monster and decide to try and keep him as a pet. The swamp monster’s mother has other ideas though and the twins and the swamp monsters have fun, though scary, adventures before returning to their own lives. The onomatopoeia throughout the book makes the language fun and interesting and could be a great introduction to onomatopoeia during the Fall season. The drawings are eerie and remind me of a Tim Burton movie (Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.). Although this book is part of the Scary Tales series, the books can be read in any order.
December 2015 review by Cody Rosenthal.
Valente, Catherynne M. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland. Il. by Ana Juan. (Fairyland series, #4) Feiwel and Friends, 2015. $16.99. 235p. 978-1-250-02349-0. Ages 10-14. P7Q10
New characters cross back and forth between reality and Fairyland in the fourth book of the series, titles of the first three beginning with The Girl Who. As Hawthorne, a troll, is whisked out of Fairyland by the Golden Wind to become a changeling for a human baby in Chicago, Valente puts off the resolution for 14-year-old September’s life in Fairyland. Instead, the plot follows Hawthorne’s escape back to Fairyland, at the age of 12, and joins a band of other changelings, one of them even a girl made from wood. Their goal is to save the place from the Endless Summer and the powerful Fairies who want to take over the world. The magic of the book includes even Chicago which seems like an exotic place. The writing, as glorious as the complex plot and the bizarre characterizations, is a richness of language providing wisdom and whimsy, and the coal pencil drawings are an extension of Alice in Wonderland. The author plans one book to finish the series—perfect for read-alouds.
September 2015 review by Nel Ward.