Parry, Roseanne. The Turn of the Tide
January 12th 2016 by Random House Books for Young Readers
When Kai's community in Japan is hit by a tsunami, he runs from his school to try to rescue his grandparents, but is unable to get them to safety. He survives, but his parents, who work at a nuclear power plant, are very busy in the wake of the devastation, and send him to stay with his aunt and uncle who live along the coast of Oregon. His cousin, Jet, loves the sea and hopes to follow in her father's footsteps as a bar pilot. She's fine with Jet coming to stay, and knows that he is still dealing with the trauma of living through the tsunami, and is also not quite used to Jet's busy, Swedish-American household. Since it's summer break, the two spend a lot of time hanging around with Jet's younger brother Oliver. Jet's interest are firmly rooted in all things nautical, and she manages to talk Kai into overcoming his fear and homesickness to sail with her in a big community race.
Strengths: The diversity in this is handled nicely-- Kai is predominately Japanese because he has lived in that country, but is comfortable with his Swedish roots as well, and those are addressed by Jet's families traditions. It's fun that Jet's mother is a cartoonist, and there is a ton of descriptive details about sailing, traveling, the Pacific coast and the dangers of shipping in the area. I also appreciated that this book is one that will be picked up by both genders-- neutral cover, lots of action, and a nice ensemble cast.
Weaknesses: There's a LOT of information about sailing. I love that about middle grade books-- it's great to read about kids who are passionate about certain activities, but sailing isn't something that interests me, so I got a bit bored after a while.
What I really think: The cover is a bit weak. I'll probably buy it, but it wasn't something that I immediately wanted to put on my order list.
Lasky, Kathryn. Wild Blood. (Horses of the Dawn #3)
January 5th 2016 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
Estrella is trying very hard to find food for her hungry herd, but is not having very much luck. Even Tijo is looking very thin. She thinks that if she can get the herd across the Mighties, they will be able to excape the evil El Miedo and live in peace. Haru is still helping the group, but the spirit lodge she is inhabiting (in an owl) is becoming weak. Haru tells Estrella that the herd should be split in order to get across the mountains, but Estrella is loathe to do this. Little Coyote, now called Hope, befriends a bee and gets some insight into the antics of El Miedo, and later becomes the new spirit lodge for Haru. When Estrella and many of her herd are caught by the Ibers and enslaved, they are very worried that their adventures in the new land have come to a horrible end, but after the mules have a riot and El Miedo is tricked with some gold nuggets, the group escapes. They make their way across the Mighties, but things do not go smoothly. Angela, who hoof is lame, gets washed away in the river and killed by a bear. The horses grieve, but once they make it through the mountain passes, they come into a sacred land. Abelinda has a foal, and a girl appears to be a companion to Tijo.
This is the third book in this series after The Escape and Star Rise, and wraps up the story of Estrella's journey to the New World during the time of the Spanish Conquistadors nicely. I can't think of any other books that include Ibers and Chitzens! Since there is not much written about this time period, so the inclusion of a map is helpful. I would have liked to see some notes in the back about El Camino Real and what El Miedo is trying to accomplish, since it's clear that the author did her research.
Horse books are a middle grade staple, and it's hard to find enough books for children who go on a genre spree. Both Marguerite Henry's books and Jane Smiley's Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series offer lots of horse details from a human perspective, but Lasky gives us some early US history from a unique equine perspective.
Readers who are fans of Hunter's The Warriors series or Lasky's own Guardians of Ga'Hoole series and like to read books about animal interactions within the hierarchy of groups, or who like the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, will find this adventure in the ancient North American west to be both exciting and informative.
Like The Warrior books, I didn't care for this very much. Too many characters, too many weird magical things happening, and, you know, the whole talking animals thing. I had to take notes to keep everything straight. The covers are great, though!