Gewirtz, Adina Rishe. Zebra Forest
April 9th 2013 by Candlewick Press
Nominated for the Cybils by Danyelle.
Annie and Rew are being raised by their slightly dysfunctional grandmother in the early 1980s because their father has been killed and their mother has left. Life is boring during the summer, and the only exciting thing occurring is the Iran Hostage Crisis, which Annie is following on television. When there is a jail break near her house and several inmates escape, she follows that news carefully. When one of the inmates ends up in her house holding her family hostage, she learns many secrets about her family. (Don't want to spoil the plot by saying too much!)
Strengths: Decent suspense and mystery, and students do occasionally ask for books about people held hostage. Cool cover, although the forest doesn't play that much of a role in the book.
Weaknesses: There was no particular reason, other than the parallel hostage experience, to set this in the early 1980s, and there are few historical details. I figured out the mysteries fairly early on in the book.
Marino, Nan. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace.
April 16th 2013, Roaring Brook Press
Nominated for the Cybils by DaNae
Elvis Ruby is a shoe-in to win the Tween Star singing competition, but freezes at the last minute and is completely embarrassed. Since his father is touring with his sister Cher, Elvis changes his name to Aaron and hides out with family friends who run a restaurant near the pine forests in New Jersey. There, he tries hard not to stand out in any way, and makes friends with Cecilia, a girl who has poor social skills and no appreciation for music. She figures out early on who Aaron is, but doesn't tell anyone, hoping that Aaron will help her find the music her parents claimed played in the Pinelands the night that she was unexpectedly born there, but which they are now saying perhaps they imagined. Aaron knows that he can't stay hidden forever, and must come to terms with his relationship to music as well as to himself.
Strengths: Interesting details on the Pinelands and the Jersey Devil, as well as a well portrayed, quirky cast of characters. Students interested in musical celebrities might be intrigued by this one.
Weaknesses: Cecilia was rather unlikeable, and her insistence about finding the music of the pines seemed a bit forced.