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Other worlds

Fantasy and sci-fi for teens


Brandon Sanderson

Reminiscent of Star Wars and Ender’s Game, Skyward is a rollicking tale that will keep teens turning pages. The plot follows Spensa, a brash, aspiring fighter pilot, as she seeks to redeem her father’s legacy and save her planet from an evil alien race. But to succeed, she’ll have to overcome her own fears and the prejudice of others in her community. Sanderson’s Mormon background guides his clean storytelling, and both boys and girls can enjoy the skillful world-building, the authentic camaraderie of Spensa’s classmates, and several characters’ snarky quips. Overall, a strong beginning to a new sci-fi series. (Ages 12 & up)

A Touch of Gold

Annie Sullivan

In this updated tale of King Midas, Princess Kora must embrace her hidden magical powers to save her father and secure their kingdom against foreign pirates and domestic saboteurs. Sullivan’s plot offers well-paced storytelling, likable characters, and several entertaining plot twists. Parents will appreciate the clean language and lack of explicit sexual content but should note that sensual language (related to mild kissing and touching) is used to describe several romances throughout the book. A Touch of Gold is an improvement on most modern fairy tales written for this age group, but Christian families should still proceed with caution. (Ages 13 & up)

The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaësia

Christopher Paolini

Fans of Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series will likely devour his most recent release featuring the return of main character Eragon. The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm includes two short stories and a novella set within Paolini’s entertaining (if unoriginal) world of elves, dwarves, humans, and dragons. Although the author’s evolutionary worldview plays a role in the plot, Christian teens can appreciate the book’s imaginative storytelling, clean language, and action without graphic violence. These shorter tales don’t reach the dramatic power of Paolini’s earlier work, but they merit further installments in this Tales from Alagaësia series. (Ages 12 & up)

Snow & Rose

Emily Winfield Martin

Artist and author Emily Winfield Martin, best known for the picture book The Wonderful Things You Will Be, shifts gears in Snow & Rose to offer tweens and teens a satisfying retelling of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale “Snow-White and Rose-Red.” When their father disappears, Rose and Snow must unlock the secrets of the enchanted forest to restore their family and friends. This whimsical tale explores natural, everyday delights (keeping a nature journal, cuddling kittens, helping their mother make gooseberry jam) all while unfolding a fantastic tale of magic and redemption. Delicate paintings throughout add to the cozy, artistic feel. (Ages 10-14)


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Children's Books

Reading menagerie

Four picture books about animals

A Father’s Love

Hannah Holt

In this rhyming book for young children, Holt focuses on animals where the father plays a role in raising the young. She includes penguins, foxes, marmosets, lions, toads, sea horses, falcons, wolves, and emus. In each case she highlights the breadth and quality of a father’s love. The father fox “keeps them safe by digging chutes. This father’s love runs deep as roots.” The lion cub “charges Dad with baby claws. This father’s love has velvet paws.” The book ends with images of human dads holding their babies: “Kids fall asleep with fingers curled. A father’s love could hold the world.” (Ages 3-7)

Beware of the Crocodile

Martin Jenkins

This nonfiction book about crocodiles reads like a storybook. Illustrations often stretch across two pages, leaving plenty of room to emphasize teeth. On one spread, we see the shadow of a huge croc waiting in the water for a creature to come close. “And then? Then there’ll be a sudden lunge and a tremendous SPLASH. And then? Oh, dear. What happens next is rather gruesome. In fact it’s so gruesome that we should skip the details.” That kind of humor and page-turning suspense coupled with lots of interesting information about crocodiles makes this a great book for the young nature lover or reluctant reader. (Ages 5-8)

Noah Builds an Ark

Kate Banks

A big storm is coming, and a boy named Noah builds an ark in the backyard for small critters. First he removes the wheels from his red wagon and adds slatted sides, a roof, and a ramp. When he’s done, he calls in the animals: field mice, beetles, spiders, snakes, toads, and hummingbirds. When the rain falls, Noah is safe inside his house, and the critters are safe in the ark. Finally, the rain stops. A rainbow arcs across the sky. Noah and his dad say hallelujah. Pencil-and-watercolor illustrations give life to this reenactment of the Biblical story. (Ages 3-7)


Nicola Davies

This lovely book tells of the heroic journey of tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds, which migrate 2,000 miles each spring. Davies includes factual information in story form. A granny and her granddaughter feed the hummingbirds that flutter around them. The little girl is moving north, and so are the birds. The book traces the birds’ flight from Central America to New York, showing what they eat and where they nest. By late summer it’s time for them to make the long flight back. An index at the end helps young readers locate information. Lush watercolor illustrations decorate each page. (Ages 5-8)

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Children's Books

Roaming hearts

Tween and teen fiction books

Beast Rider 

Tony Johnston & María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads

Twelve-year-old Manuel Flores leaves his family’s small farm in Mexico and jumps aboard La Bestia, The Beast, a freight train running from southern Mexico to the U.S. border. Fraught with danger, The Beast carries many people escaping Central America to their deaths and others to American soil, including Toño, Manuel’s brother. While attempting to join Toño, Manuel faces robbery, harassment, and beatings, but he also finds caring people along the way. When he finally reaches Toño in Los Angeles, his world expands, yet he finds himself longing for home. Johnston’s gripping story gives a compelling street-level look at immigration realities. (Ages 12-15)

Pay Attention, Carter Jones 

Gary D. Schmidt

On the first day of sixth grade, Carter Jones is surprised to meet a portly Englishman at his front door. His name is Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, or the Butler, as the family comes to know him. Carter’s late paternal grandfather sent him to help the struggling family, which is still grieving the death of Carter’s younger brother, while Carter’s dad is away on deployment. The Butler begins to provide the family grounding, even teaching Carter and his friends to play cricket. Schmidt delicately weaves together humorous scenes of adolescence, school, and family life with deeper themes of betrayal and grief. (Ages 10-12)

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise 

Dan Gemeinhart

Ever since Coyote Sunrise’s mother and two sisters died in a car accident, she and her dad, Rodeo, have aimlessly driven around the country in a converted yellow school bus. But Coyote decides they must return home when a memory box she buried with her mother and sisters will soon be destroyed. On the journey, Coyote and Rodeo pick up a series of travelers with their own baggage, including a struggling musician, a mother and son escaping an abusive man, and a teenage girl whose parents banished her for being gay. Gemeinhart’s tale is raw and compelling, though sometimes forced, and occasional profanities don’t help. (Ages 12-15)

The Collectors

Jacqueline West

Van Markson differs from most 11-year-old boys because he is hard of hearing and relies on hearing aids. He also travels the world with his opera singer mother. But his world turns upside down when he meets a girl and a squirrel collecting coins—which are actually wishes—out of a fountain. This encounter leads to many more, revealing a hidden world where wishes, and cuddly-but-dangerous Wish Eaters, must be contained to prevent havoc. West’s fast-paced series opener is full of plot twists that gently compel young readers to think about whether getting what one wishes for is always beneficial. (Ages 8-12)

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