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Editors' Picks: Week of July 29–August 4
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Editors' Picks: Week of July 29–August 4

By kileyturner
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Five middle-grade books to keep kids deep in books till the end of summer.
Girl of the Southern Sea

Girl of the Southern Sea

edition:Hardcover

From Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman, an empowering novel about a girl from the slums of Jakarta who dreams of an education and the chance at a better life

From the time she was a little girl, Nia has dreamed up adventures about the Javanese mythical princess, Dewi Kadita. Now fourteen, Nia would love nothing more than to continue her education and become a writer. But high school costs too much. Her father sells banana fritters at the train station, but too much …

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The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat

The Mostly True Story of Pudding Tat, Adventuring Cat

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

Pudding Tat is born on the Willoughby Farm in 1901 — just another one of Mother Tat’s kittens. But it turns out that Pudding is anything but ordinary. He is pure white with pink eyes that, though beautiful, do not see well, and hearing that is unusually acute. He finds himself drawn to the sweet sounds of the world around him — the pattering heartbeat of a nearby mouse, the musical tinkling of a distant stream.

Soon the sounds of adventure call to Pudding, too. But before he can strike out …

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Excerpt

The wide world drew Pudding on from the moment he stepped outside. The farm, the woods, the fields. He smelled it all.

And something else. His sensitive whiskers tingled with it.

Change.

The wide world was changing. Like Pudding, people were on the move, leaving farms for the cities, the old world for the new. Some wanted a better life, others adventure. All of them were dreaming. Dreaming big — of automobiles and airplanes, subways and electric lights. Dreaming of the things we take for granted now, but which were new amazements then.

The voice urged him on, too. “Giddy up.”

“Who are you?” Pudding asked....

“A flea,” the voice answered. “What did you think?”

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A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Monster hunting isn't for the faint of heart -- the first in a brand-new middle-grade series by NYT bestselling author, Kelley Armstrong.

Twelve-year-old Rowan is destined to be Queen; her twin brother, Rhydd, to be Royal Monster Hunter. Rowan would give anything to switch places, but the oldest child is always next in line, even if she is only older by two minutes. She resigns herself to admiring her monster hunting aunt's glorious sword and joining her queen mother for boring diplomatic teas. …

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Excerpt

“I know you love unicorns, Rowan, but please stop staring at mine. You’re making him nervous.
”I do not love unicorns, as my aunt Jannah knows. Jerks. All of them. I’m not staring at Courtois. I’m staring him down. Unfortunately, she’s wrong about the third part, too. I can’t make him nervous, no matter how hard I try.
We’re in the castle courtyard, the high stone walls stealing the morning sun. Around us, the royal hunters prepare for their mission. A mission I should be joining. My twin brother, Rhydd, is and I belong at his side, keeping him safe.
As I scowl at Courtois, Rhydd’s hand thumps on my shoulder. “Give it up, Ro.”
“That beast stepped on my foot,” I say. “On purpose.”
“Yep, I’m sure he did. He is a unicorn.”
I move away from Courtois only to stumble over my aunt’s warg, Malric. The giant wolf lifts his head, upper lip curling to reveal canines as long as my hand. The last person who tried to pet him lost two fingers. Even I know better. I quickstep out of his reach.
“Making friends with all the monsters this morning, aren’t you?” Rhydd teases.
As I grumble, he leans in to whisper, “I know you’re upset. You’re worried about me going on the gryphon hunt.”
“I’m not wor—”
“You’re worried, and this is how you show it. By grumbling and scowling and staring down unicorns.”
“It’s not fair.”
“I know,” he says.
My scowl deepens, and I want to kick the dirt and growl and stomp. That would be childish, though, and I am not a child. I’m twelve. I’m a princess. One day, I’ll be queen.
I don’t want to be queen. I’ll be horrible at it. Rhydd should get the throne. Even now, as scared as he is, he’s trying to calm me. That’s what a real leader does.
“Rhydd?” Jannah calls. “Saddle up.”
As Jannah climbs onto Courtois, her sheathed sword swings by her side. I look at that sword, a gleaming ebony-wood center with a razor-sharp obsidian edge. I imagine it in my hands, and a lump rises in my throat.
This is who I want to be. This is who I should be. Not the queen, but the royal monster hunter. Everyone knows it. I hear the whispers, how my thoughtful brother should sit on the ivory throne, how his headstrong twin sister should wield the ebony sword.

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Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag

by Zetta Elliott
illustrated by Geneva B
edition:Paperback

The dragon's out of the bag in this diverse, young urban fantasy from an award-winning author--with two starred reviews!

When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she's not his grandmother--but she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they'll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don't let them out of the bag and don't feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends V …

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Excerpt

Mama strokes my cheek with her finger before pressing the doorbell. I feel tears pooling behind my eyes, but I will them not to fall. Mama has enough to worry about right now.

 

“It’s only for a little while, Jaxon. I’ll be back before you know it.”

 

I nod and look up at the peephole in the door. If I look down at my feet, the tears will fall and my nose will start to run and Mama will know I don’t want her to leave me here.

 

Mama’s biting her lip and tapping her toe nervously. She presses the doorbell again, letting it ring longer this time. We both hear someone stirring--and cursing--inside the apartment. Mama laughs nervously and says, “Ma curses like a sailor sometimes, but she’s a harmless old lady. She’s fun, too--you’ll like her, Jax.”

 

I never even knew I had a grandmother living in Brooklyn. Mama never mentioned her before. Sometimes Mama hides things from me--or that’s what I let her believe. Mama thinks I don’t know our landlord’s trying to get rid of us. She takes down the eviction notices he pins to our front door, but I still know what’s going on. Today Mama has to go to court. I want to go with her, but Mama wants to leave me here instead.

 

A heavy body shuffles toward the door. Mama and I wait patiently as at least three locks are turned. The chain stays on and lets the door open just a crack. I cringe as a raspy voice asks, “What you want?”

 

Mama smiles sweetly and places her palm against the door. She speaks slowly and politely. “It’s just us, Ma. I called this morning and told you we were coming. Remember?”

 

The woman behind the door barks at Mama, “Course I remember. You called and asked if you could leave the boy with me and I said NO!”

 

The sweet smile on Mama’s face doesn’t budge. If anything, it hardens. Mama tries to push the door open, but the chain’s still on and my mysterious grandmother doesn’t seem ready to move out of the way.

 

Mama puts her other hand on the doorframe and leans in so that the woman on the other side of the door can see and hear just how desperate she is. “It’s only for a few hours. Please, Ma. You’re all he has.”

 

I step back and wonder if that’s really true. I’m sure Vikram would let me stay at his house for a while. His parents like me and don’t mind having me around. Mrs. Patel calls me a good influence. That’s what the grown-ups who know me always say. But this mean lady won’t even open the door and give me a chance. If she doesn’t want me around, that’s fine by me.

 

But it’s not okay with Mama. She’s whispering to the woman behind the door, but her smile is gone now, and there are tears shining on her cheeks. I want to hold Mama’s hand, but instead I take another step back and hold on to the straps of my book bag. Mama’s saying one word over and over again: please.

 

I have never seen my mother beg anyone for anything. But it doesn’t work, because the door finally closes. Mama rests her forehead against it before wiping her eyes and turning to me. “Let’s go, Jax,” she says wearily.

 

I sigh with relief and take Mama’s hand. Just as we start to walk down the stairs, I hear the chain slide, and the door opens once more.

 

“One day. Give me your word, Alicia. One day.”

 

Mama says, “I promise, Ma.” Then she pulls me back over to my grandmother’s apartment. The door is open, but the lights are off and I can’t see anyone inside. Mama gives me a quick hug and pushes me through the doorway. Before I can ask her when she’ll be back, Mama rushes down the stairs and is gone.

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Quinn and the Quiet, Quiet

Quinn and the Quiet, Quiet

Weird Stories Gone Wrong
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Quinn might get used to the food, Work Bots, and creating the Blue Brick™ … but why are children all around him turning blue?

Quinn Fleet, twelve, Packager (QF12P) has only been at the Work Centre for three days, but he’s already seen a Caver run away, faced interrogation, and been made to stand in front of a crowd of children in the Grand Hall to apologize for breaking a Blue Brick™.

 

That's when he notices that all the children at the Work Centre look so thin, ragged, and blue.

Why are th …

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Excerpt

Chapter One: Citizen Child QF12P

Tromp. Trod. Tromp.

Quinn trudged, last in the line of Citizen Child workers from BunkHouse-47A. The snow lashed his face. The wind blew from the mountain and chilled him through his thin blue overalls.

In the distance he heard the thud-thud-thud of machines at the Work Centre.

Smoke from the Work Centre filled the air and mixed with the snow that whirled past. In the distance, the huge, shimmering blue glacier hung between the mountaintops and crept down to the edge of the valley.

Quinn stared at the back of the boy ahead of him. He didn’t know his name — Quinn hadn’t really met anyone yet — but the boy had a long, thin face.

Tromp. Trod. Tromp.

The Work Van cleared snow from the road ahead. The engine roared, gears shrieked, treads squealed on the ice.

It will never be quiet again, Quinn thought.

On the side of the Work Van, a picture of a child smiled down. Below the smiling child were the words Citizen Child Blue Brick™ is BEST!

In fact, there were pictures of Citizen Child everywhere. Painted on the side of buildings. Staring from billboards high above. Even stitched as a patch onto the shirt of every child from BunkHouse-47A.

Quinn still hadn’t been there long enough to get used to the weird, smiling face of Citizen Child. He tried not to look at it.

Stunted trees tossed in the sharp wind; snow whirled past. The children trudged along.

BLEEEEEET!

BLEEEEEET!

An alarm whistle.

Everyone stopped. Quinn tried not to bump into the long-faced boy ahead of him.

What now? Oh, Cavers.

A group of teenagers walked single file through the driving snow toward Quinn and the others in line. The teenagers wore orange overalls that were covered in blue dust from the caves in the mine. Blue dust lined the creases in their eyelids and their ears, clung to their lips. Blue dust fell from them into their footprints in the snow.

The last of the Cavers walked past. The alarm whistle stopped. The line moved forward.

Quinn took a step. Then, suddenly … a Caver slipped into line behind him!

A girl.

“Shhhh,” she whispered.

Quinn gasped. She was a Caver. She wore orange overalls, not blue ones!

“What are you doing? ” he whispered over his shoulder. “They’ll see you! ”

The Caver kept her head down. Thick braids swept over her blue-dusted cheeks.

“Don’t worry! ” Her Citizen Child patch showed her identity number: CU15C. “I’m Clem Usher, 15, Caver. They won’t see me!”

“Clem who? ”

But she didn’t answer. Instead, she did an odd thing: she snatched off her glove, then snapped her fingers. For a second, a tiny blue spark flickered in the air above her hand, then went out.

Quinn gasped again. How’d she do that?

Clem Usher whispered in his ear. “Tell the NewBlues I’m gone! Wish me luck!”

NewBlues?

She crouched low, looked around … then dashed behind the Work Van.

A moment later, Quinn watched her run into the snowstorm. For a second, a strange blue shimmer shook the snowy air around her.

What was THAT?

Quinn shook his head and blinked a few times. I could NOT have just seen a BLUE CLOUD swallow her up! I must be going crazy!

Quinn was the only one who had seen Clem Usher run away.

Or so he thought.

BLEEEET! BLEEEET!

The alarm whistles again! The Citizen Child workers halted and stood silently, heads down against the blowing snow. The Work Van stopped and two Officers jumped out. They strapped on short skis and chased after Clem Usher.

Skush, skush, skush.

Then Quinn’s heart almost stopped.

A huge metallic leg unfolded from the Van. A second leg followed. A third.

CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.

A Work Bot stepped onto the snow.

CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.

Taller than the Van, the Work Bot had a huge, square body. From its metal head shone a bright orange beam of light. The Work Bot tested the snowy surface with its three legs.

CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.

Each leg ended in a metal claw for gripping ice and snow.

Run, Clem Usher! Quinn thought.

The Work Bot turned and ran after the Officers.

CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.

Then … an Officer stepped slowly out of the Work Van. He had the letter “C” on his chest: the Commander.

Quinn stared at his feet. The Commander walked along the line of children and stopped in front of Quinn.

“Identity!” the Commander barked. All Officers wore masks to block the blue dust, so the Commander’s voice was strangely muffled.

“Q-Quinn Fleet, 12, Packager. ”

“PROPER identity! ”

“QF12P, ” Quinn said.

The other children from BunkHouse-47A shivered in their thin clothes. No one wanted to look at Quinn.

“Well, QF12P, who was that Citizen Child? The Caver you just helped run away? ” The Commander pointed after Clem Usher.

Quinn swallowed.

“I–I don’t know who that was. And … and I didn’t help them run away! ”

“No? Then why did she hide behind you? ”

“Because I was last in line? ”

The Commander shook his head. “Come with me, QF12P. ”

The Commander yanked Quinn out of line. The last thing he saw was the long face of the boy ahead of him.

The boy stared at Quinn for a moment.

Then, in the next second, he ripped off a glove.

The boy snapped his fingers.

A tiny blue spark lifted into the air!

That blue spark again! How do they do that? The Commander shoved Quinn into the dark Work Van. The door slammed shut.

And Quinn Fleet, 12, Packager, was all alone in the dark.

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