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Curriculum Spotlight

Sixth-Graders' Museum Covers Four Centuries of Struggle for Civil Rights

Date Posted: 
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sixth Grade Civil Rights Museum

On Thursday, April 20, the sixth-graders presented a Civil Rights Museum to showcase their months-long study of the Long Freedom Struggle and civil rights. Since November, students have been learning the complicated and sometimes difficult history of the fight for civil rights in America. In addition to the MLK Play that sixth- graders produce in January, the Civil Rights Museum is an opportunity for students to more deeply investigate stories and episodes in the curriculum.

Students elected to focus on one of five time periods: Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1600s-1865); Reconstruction and Jim Crow (1865-1940s); Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968); Nationalism and Cousin Movements (1965-1980); and Modern Activism (1980-Today). Within each period, students developed artifacts and prepared historical information to educate visitors about their exhibits.

Artifacts included photographs and video charting the Black Lives Matter movement; data about how attitudes toward racism have changed over time: speeches and letters by prominent leaders like Frederick Douglass; models of lunch counters, railcars, and even a slave ship; objects such as a papier-mâché bus to represent the Montgomery Bus Boycott; and a recreation of the gay pride flag. Rather than tell all of history in each exhibit, students aimed to zoom in on a particular concept or event to help viewers understand small moments in what amounts to more than 400 years of history.

Earth Day at MCS: Students Speak Out for the Environment

Date Posted: 
Friday, April 21, 2017

Caring for the environment and living sustainably are inherent in life and learning at Manhattan Country School. However, in the days leading up to Earth Day (April 22), several classes engaged in additional activities in recognition of the annual observance.

Lower School Letter Writing

Lower School Letter Writing Campaign


The 6-7s' Wings Postal Service organized a postcard and letter writing campaign for the children in the school. The 4-5s, 5-6s, 6-7s, 8-9s and 9-10s wrote cards and letters to the president explaining how much they care about the environment and asking him to take care of the Earth. With the help of the advancement and admissions teams, pre-addressed postcards were created on which a message could be written on one side and artwork drawn on the other. Some of the messages included “Don’t pick flowers while they are still growing,” “Keep beaches clean” and “Don’t kill too many animals because then nobody will be able to discover them.” The effort was part of a larger campaign by an organization called Kids 4 Planet Earth, which set a goal of having a million letters sent to the White House on or before Earth Day.

Lower School Letter Writing Campaign

Lower School Letter Writing Campaign

Upper School Activism

Upper School Assembly

At Friday’s Upper School assembly, students in the activism elective led a workshop on fossil fuel divestment. It is a topic that is being addressed as part of the seventh- and eighth-grade activism project, "Divest from Corporate Greed, Invest in the Future We Need." The students discussed the meaning of terms such as climate change, fossil fuels, renewable energy and divestment, and showed a video about the importance of fossil fuel divestment.

Nassim Zerriffi, MCS’ activism coordinator, explained that the fossil fuel divestment movement began with college students and that, to date, $5.45 trillion has been divested. Upper School Director Maiya Jackson shared that the company that manages MCS’ funds makes sure that the companies in which it invests are socially responsible.

Students then broke into four groups to discuss the connection between fossil fuels and one of the following four topics: government influence, the conflict over natural resources, health and climate change. They were then tasked with creating signs that expressed why they want New York City to divest from fossil fuels and invest in a different future.

Divestment Poster Project


Climate Activism Poster Project

At the end of the assembly, students were given a list of 10 things they could do to help the environment:

  • Call Mayor de Blasio to ask him to divest New York City funds from the Dakota Access Pipeline and all fossil fuels and to thank him for supporting the environmental justice bills that just passed City Council.
  • Go vegetarian for one day or have a vegetarian meal once a day for five days.
  • Bring a water bottle and don't buy plastic bottles.
  • Join the thrift shop movement.
  • Walk, ride a bike or board, or use public transportation.
  • Participate in a protest or action around climate change.
  • Call your state senator and ask him or her to support bill A6279, related to the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment.
  • Ask your congressperson to fight the defunding of the EPA and State Department, stand up against the oil industry and support investments in renewable energy and the Paris Agreement.
  • Use social media to share facts and articles about climate change or to tweet at your elected officials to ask them to support a rapid transition to renewable energy.

The students were asked to commit to doing at least one of the 10 activities. They wrote their chosen activity on a piece of paper that would become part of a collage of everyone's responses that would be turned into a sign for next week's NYC March for Climate, Jobs and Justice.

The seventh- and eighth-graders invite the MCS community to join them for the Saturday, April 29 march. They will be gathering at 11:30 a.m at Father Demo Square at the intersection of Sixth Avenue, Carmine Street and Bleecker Street. The group will walk to the Washington Square Arch together to join the march, which starts at noon.

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MCS Eighth Graders Gain First-Hand Career Experience During Annual Mentoring Day

Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 23, 2017

On Friday, March 17, Manhattan Country School eighth-graders visited professionals from a wide range of careers for our annual Eighth Grade Mentoring Day. Each year, these trips allow students from the graduating class to learn about careers of interest by visiting people in the MCS community working in those fields. The mentors spend several hours showing their guests around, explaining what a typical day entails, describing how they got where they are professionally, answering questions and more. 

These mentors are alumni, parents, parents of alumni and friends of the MCS community. When students observe a work environment in person and oftentimes get hands-on experience, it can spark a fascination and help shape their careers goals.

The following mentors participated in this year's event:

  • Animal Medicine: Dr. Erika Gibson '86
  • Anthropology: Dr. Pamela Calla
  • Art: Andrew Page
  • Computer Science: Marcin Sawicki
  • Education: Sasha Wilson '84
  • Film: Damon Gambuto '87
  • Food: Aaron Kirtz
  • Law: Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass '00 and Andrew Weinstein
  • Music: Ezra Gale '85

Following their visits, the students offered a recap of their experiences. Here are a few of their responses:

Aaron, Carolina and Layla visited Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass ('00), a law clerk to a United States District Court Judge, and former alumni representative to the MCS Board of Trustees. Carolina said: “We were guests at a naturalization and watched an arraignment…. My favorite part was when the judge shouted us out before they handed out the certificates.”

Adam, Malik, Myles and Sherman traveled to Ezra Gale’s (’85) studio in Brooklyn. Ezra is a professional musician, writer and composer. Myles said: “We went and recorded two songs and learned a lot about the equipment and how it works…. The match was perfect and the experience was great.”

Ama, Brandon and Jessica (pictured above) visited MCS parent Andrew Page at Urban Glass, his glassblowing studio in Brooklyn. Jessica said: “We observed artists create beautiful glass pieces. We saw how glass beads and neon signs are made and learned how expensive but awesome glassblowing is.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Jenna, Malia and Tai took a train all the way to New Jersey to get a tour of Forever Cheese with Aaron Kirtz, cheese monger and long-time favorite of Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day. Tai said: “I learned how cheese is stored, how it is transported, how to know if its good or bad cheese, compliance and FDA[-related matters].”

Jan headed uptown to spend time with Sasha Wilson '84, founding director of Bronx Community Charter School (BxC). As a school founded on MCS' principles, BxC's mission statement declares, "All members of our school community will be committed to making thoughtful choices, advancing democratic values, and effecting change in the broader community." Jan said: “I learned that schools all have different operations and different styles of learning….  I hoped that I would learn more about how a charter school operates, and that’s exactly what I got.”

Pearl and Sophie met with Andrew Weinstein, an MCS parent and trustee who is a criminal justice attorney and founder of The Weinstein Law Firm. Sophie said: “[We] went to [Andrew’s] office as well as the Manhattan Court… We went to two different court cases, and learned about criminal defense law, and how it’s related to social justice, race and class… Before this I never really thought about going into law, but I’m now considering it.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Anais and Izzy got to see Garden State Veterinary Specialists with veterinary neurosurgeon and MCS trustee Dr. Erika Gibson '86. Anais said: “We went into consultations and saw the beginning of a surgery. We learned different types of treatments for dogs with neuro issues.”

Damon Gambuto '87, co-executive producer at Leopard Films, invited Jonah and Monte to Leopard Studios. Monte said: “[We] learned about all of the pre- and post-production process…. I really enjoyed seeing a side of film I would not regularly see. I thought it was a perfect fit.”

Jack, who expressed interest in software design, animation and other technology-related careers, went downtown to visit MCS parent Marcin Sawicki. Marcin is a programmer/developer at Jane Street Holding. Jack said: “When I arrived at the office, Marcin gave me a tour of the trading/developing floor and the common areas. Then, he and I sat in a private office and he showed me some of the things he has coded or is coding.”

Osiris was seeking a mentor in anthropology and was connected with Dr. Pamela Calla, a cultural anthropologist and professor at New York University’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies. Osiris said: “I talked with Dr. Calla about her studies in cultural anthropology. I learned a lot about ‘engaged’ anthropology and how Dr. Calla links this study to activism. I also talked with her about the biological/physical side of anthropology.” His advice to future eighth-graders: “Don’t be nervous about meeting new people.”

A very special thanks to Flannery, Maiya, Akemi, Matilde, all the mentors and everyone who helped make Eighth Grade Mentoring Day a success. Those in the MCS community interested in hosting students for the 2018 Eighth Grade Mentoring Day should contact Matilde Gonzalez at

5-6s Celebrate 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Thursday, March 16, 2017

100th Day of School

On Thursday, March 9, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance highlighted the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a tree made of 100 dental floss sticks, a student's name spelled with 100 guitar picks, a display of 100 balloons, a picture of a shark complete with 100 shark teeth and a display of 100 velcroed batteries.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Thursday morning to join the students in a 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 of each of the following ingredients: Cheerios, chocolate chips, raisins and marshmallows. There were numerous books about the 100th Day of School available for reading and students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Assistant teacher Lesly led the kids in doing 10 different exercises 10 times. Visitors were challenged to guess which of four jars contained 100 beans. In the afternoon, 5-6s Norte hosted 4-5s Este, the 8-9s and many MCS faculty and staff members.

100th Day of School


5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed their families and MCS students, faculty and staff to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. Exhibits included artwork made with 100 dots, structures made with 100 Legos and designs made with 100 blocks of different shapes. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 10 Mobilos, 25 Flexiblocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

100th Day of School Reader

Continuing a tradition from MCS’ time on 96th Street, 5-6s Sur hosted 10 (actually 11) special guest readers, who each read for ten minutes (one pair read together). The read-a-thon began with Karen, our sixth-grade teacher and co-director of City Camp, who read A Giraffe and a Half. Amanda and Joe, who work in the MCS kitchen, read The Unbeatable Bread. Maiya, our Upper School director, read Who’s A Pest?, a childhood favorite of hers (and Laleña’s!). Anisah, who worked with the 5-6s last year and is currently with the 6-7s, read The Dark. Angela, our communications director, came to read A Pocket for Corduroy, before returning to the 100s Museum with her camera that afternoon. Nicole, who is teaching the 8-9s, got to meet the class and read The Whisperer. Mary, our Lower School director, read No Roses for Harry and Nancy H., our parent fundraising and special events coordinator, came to introduce herself and read Ada Twist, Scientist. Alaina, the Upper School science teacher, read And Tango Makes Three, an exciting book for all the children who are familiar with the Central Park Zoo, and their day was rounded out by a fairly new face to MCS, Matilde, our database associate, who read a Madeline book. The children were thrilled to get to meet so many new faces and see some folks they recognize, and it was so lovely to have so many members of the MCS community join us in our celebration.

Are Your Hands Really Clean? This Lower School Science Experiment Has the Answer

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 3, 2017

Handwashing Experiment

In the first couple months of this year, a significant number of Manhattan Country School students and staff members were out sick. A nasty bug was going around. With so many in the community affected, School Nurse Katie Patterson and Lower School Science Teacher Olivia Kurz decided to team up to educate students about effective handwashing to prevent the spread of illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

Handwashing Experiment

Handwashing Experiment

During her science classes with the 7-8s, 8-9s and 9-10s, Olivia asked students to put lotion on their hands and then wash them as they normally would. She didn’t tell them that the lotion was a special ultraviolet light reactive lotion designed to simulate germs. When the students finished washing, she shined a ultraviolet light on their hands. Many of the students saw white spots, which represented germs they had missed when washing. Olivia also shined the light on the soap dispenser and faucet, which illustrated how easily germs and bacteria can be transferred.

Handwashing Experiment

Olivia and Nurse Katie worked with the students to identify the most effective ways to wash one’s hands. Helpful habits include scrubbing one’s hands with soap for at least 20 seconds; making sure to scrub one’s wrists, the back of one’s hands and between one’s fingers; and using a paper towel or elbow to turn off the water to prevent picking up germs.

Handwashing Experiment

The 9-10s students have created illustrated handwashing guides and PSAs that are on display in bathrooms throughout MCS. The students hope that sharing this knowledge will help reduce the spread of germs throughout the school community.

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Students Examine the Role of Broken Systems in the Refugee Crisis

Date Posted: 
Friday, February 17, 2017

Upper School Assembly guest speakerThis year, students in Manhattan Country School’s Upper School are exploring various types of systems, such as government and immigration, as part of the Upper School theme. At an Upper School Assembly on Thursday, the students had a guest speaker named Joe who spoke about the system in place in Greece to address refugees.

Joe began by establishing a shared understanding of what a system is. At its most basic level, he said a system is a set of things working together. He offered the mind-body system as an example of a well-working system because it is “organized, flexible, calm and strong.” These are characteristics that are important for any system to be effective. He shared this video to illustrate his point.

Joe contends that the fact that there are refugees indicates that there is a system that is broken. He added that when people feel unsafe it is very natural for people to want to leave that situation. Thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have left their homeland, traveling across land to Turkey and then boarding rafts to cross the Aegean Sea in search of safety on the island of Lesbos. There these refugees are living in a refugee camp, which is one example of a system.

Joe shared an example of how flexibility allowed volunteers to resolve an issue within the camp. Water collecting around buildings in the camp attracted hordes of mosquitoes. The buildings’ windows weren’t properly sealed, which allowed the insects to take over a space that was supposed to be a refuge. Because the volunteers and residents had a willingness to change, compromise and adapt, they were able to find a solution to the problem. Netting was installed over all of the windows and living conditions quickly improved.

Joe further stressed the importance of flexibility in effective systems by sharing a quote from professional ballet dancer Misty Copeland: “The path to your success is not as fixed and inflexible as you think.”

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6-7s Oeste Learns the Maya Art of Weaving

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Michele Sola meets with 6-7s class

The students in 6-7s Oeste had a special visitor on Tuesday—MCS Director Michèle Solá. She didn’t come to talk about the school. Instead she shared one of her experiences from her time as the school’s Spanish teacher—a summer trip to the Chiapas mountains of southern Mexico to learn about the Maya tradition of weaving.

Michèle explained the weaving process—from carding (stretching out) the wool and spinning the wool into thread to dyeing the thread and then using the thread to create a woven piece using a handmade backstrap loom. The process is so detailed that it can take a week to complete just one inch of weaving. The work results in an intricate design that is not only beautiful, but also tells a story.

Michele Sola

The creation of the world is a common story told in Maya weaving and is expressed through a set of sacred designs passed from one generation to the next. While the colors of the designs and the combinations can vary, the designs remain the same. Examples of these designs include elements representing ancestors, flowering corn, snakes and the universe.

Michèle shared with the students a story about a young girl she met on her trip named Andrea. Andrea couldn’t speak, but she communicated through weaving, a skill she learned from her grandmother. This encounter inspired Michèle to write a book about a young Maya girl titled Angela Weaves a Dream. Writing the book was a process she says included 37 rewrites.

Michele Sola with student

The students had a chance to see examples of woven clothing and textiles Michèle brought back from Mexico. One student even had the opportunity to try on some clothing that a young Maya girl would wear.

Michele Sola teaches students to how to weave

After her presentation, a small group of students joined Michèle to learn how to weave their own pieces. It’s an activity Assistant Teacher Anisah Moonsammy will continue with the class in the weeks to come.

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Math Team Tests Skills at Mathcounts Competition

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Math Team

This past Saturday, eight seventh- and eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School's math team attended the Manhattan-wide Mathcounts competition at Stuyvesant High School. Some highlights of the day included rooms abuzz with the sounds of collaborative problem solving and a math talk in which we learned that tearing a sheet of newsprint in half, stacking the two sheets together and repeating the process 52 times would result in a stack so tall that it would stretch past the sun!  

Each winter, the MCS math team convenes on Thursday afternoons to engage in fun activities that build our mathematical thinking. Meetings are open to all students in sixth through eighth grade and alternate between hands-on activities, riveting games of SET and Ricochet Robots, and non-routine problem sets from past Mathcounts and Momathlon competitions. Our season ends just in time for Model Congress meetings to take over our Thursday time slot. Interested students have the option of attending the Manhattan-wide MathCounts competition in February and the Manhattan Momathlon competition later in the spring.

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8-9s Host Indigenous Day Celebration

Date Posted: 
Thursday, December 15, 2016

8-9s Indigenous Day

In October, the 8-9s learned about the growing movement in the United States to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Most 8-9s ended up feeling so strongly about the issue that they wrote letters to Mayor DiBlasio to request that he change the holiday in New York City. The 8-9s also decided to have their own Indigenous Day celebration to honor the first people that ever lived here.

On Thursday, December 15, the 8-9s celebrated Indigenous Day. They cooked food mostly using ingredients that Native people in this area had long ago. The kids tried to be as authentic as possible, using shells instead of knives to remove corn from the cobs to make succotash and mashing berries to make a juice. The 8-9s also made fry bread, which has come to be associated with Native American culture because it was made from the rations many tribes received on reservations. The 8-9s also made shields with native symbolism, masks and dream catchers to decorate the classroom. They enjoyed cooking, decorating, and particularly feasting!


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Jay's 2016 Holiday Shopping List for Upper School Readers

Date Posted: 
Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hello from the library! First, if you haven’t been by the library yet, please feel free to come visit us. Next, for our newest members of the Manhattan Country School community, these are the annual Holiday Shopping Lists. Several years ago, some parents asked me for recommendations for books for holiday gifts. The lists have grown and expanded to include one for grownups as well. I hope you enjoy them! Of course, if you have any questions about other books and anything else related to literature, please let me know.

“When I think about how I understand my role as a citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”                 
—President Barack Obama

This quote came from a conversation between President Barack Obama and Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping and Gilead (and one of my favorite writers ever.) The president wanted to meet her and talk to her after reading several of her books. It seems to me that this is the very essence of why reading books is critical to us as humans. It is through literature that we can find such valuable connections to the outside world and ultimately, ourselves.
Reading a book at a young age is essentially a social undertaking. Before a child can read, this act is usually done with a grownup. As they get a little older, children are usually reading what their peers are reading, unless of course, they have a pushy librarian! It is only when we reach our teens and then adulthood that reading a book becomes a much more solitary operation. Yet, embedded in this act is the hope of making the kinds of connections that the president was talking about—to the past, to other cultures, to information and to some possible answers and questions.

When I first took the job as librarian, I could never have imagined how being a witness to daily connections of these kinds would affect me in such positive ways. This holiday season, I truly hope that you connect with a fantastic book. Happy reading, citizens and please come visit us in the new library space!

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Lower School Readers

2016 Holiday Shopping List for Grown-Up Readers

Zahrah the WindseekerZahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor - In the Ooni Kingdom, children born dada—with vines growing in their hair—are rumored to have special powers. Zahrah Tsami doesn’t know anything about that. She feels normal. Others think she’s different—they fear her. Only Dari, her best friend, isn’t afraid of her. But then something begins to happen—something that definitely marks Zahrah as different—and the only person she can tell is Dari. He pushes her to investigate, edging them both closer and closer to danger. Until Dari’s life is on the line. Only Zahrah can save him, but to do so she’ll have to face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different. (9 and up)

Josh Baxter Levels Up by Gavin Brown - Josh Baxter is sick and tired of hitting the reset button. It's not easy being the new kid for the third time in two years. One mistake and now the middle school football star is out to get him. And Josh's sister keeps offering him lame advice about how to make friends, as if he needs her help finding allies! Josh knows that his best bet is to keep his head down and stay under the radar. If no one notices him, nothing can touch him, right? But when Josh's mom sees his terrible grades and takes away his video games, it's clear his strategy has failed. Josh needs a new plan, or he'll never make it to the next level, let alone the next grade. He's been playing not to lose. It's time to play to win. (9 and up)

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart - Parkour practitioner Reuben Pedley has been having a hard time since his mom lost her job and they had to move to a different (and poorer) part of the city. Friendless, he spends his days avoiding the Directions, the enforcement officers of the mysterious Smoke, who runs the city. On one of these afternoons, he finds a very interesting object after getting himself stuck on a ledge while he was supposed to be at home. What he discovers crammed in the masonry of a wall is an extremely old pocket watch that he is certain is worth a large sum and might just help him and his mother leave the poor part of town. Instead, he realizes that the watch has a little bit of magic in it, which gives him a special ability. Regrettably, the Directions learn of the presence of the watch, and they will stop at nothing to bring it to the Smoke. Only Reuben and his newfound friends have what it takes to solve the mystery of the watch and save their city. (9 and up)

Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young - The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. In this novel, equal parts funny and crushing, utterly honest and perfect for boys and girls alike, Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn't fit anymore. Readers will relate to this strong female protagonist whose voice rings with profound authenticity and absolute novelty, and her year's cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are. This book marks beloved author Karen Romano Young's masterful return to children's literature: a heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to be between girl and woman, elementary and middle school, inside and out—and just what you name that in-between self. (9 and up)

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill - When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the 57 musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph. (9 and up)

Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein - Eleven-year-old P. T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever. They need to think BIG. They need to think BOLD. They need an OUTRAGEOUS plan. Luckily for them, Gloria is a business GENIUS, and OUTRAGEOUS is practically P.T.’s middle name. With Gloria’s smarts and P.T.’s world-famous stories and schemes, there’s got to be a way to save the Wonderland! (10 and up)

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane - Front door locked, kitchen door locked, living room windows closed. Nobody in the closet, nobody under the beds. Still, Maggie is worried. Ever since she started middle school, she sees injustice and danger everywhere—on the news, in her textbooks, in her own neighborhood. Even her best friend seems to be changing. Maggie believes it is up to her, and only her, to make everything all right. Can she come up with a plan to keep everyone safe? The Best Worst Thing is a perceptive novel about learning the limits of what you can control, and the good—sometimes even best—things that can come of finally letting go. (10 and up)

The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow - When a sweet nerd, an artsy cartoonist, a social outcast, and the most popular girl in school are involved in a mysterious bus accident, this seemingly random group of kids starts to notice some very strange abilities they did not have before. Artsy Martina can change her eye color. Nerdy Nick can teleport . . . four inches to the left. Outcast Farshad develops super strength, but only in his thumbs. And Cookie, the It Girl of school’s most popular clique, has suddenly developed the ability to read minds . . . when those minds are thinking about directions. They are oddly mighty—especially together. This group—who would never hang out under normal circumstances—must now combine all of their strengths to figure out what happened during the bus accident. With alternating narratives from each of the heroes, including illustrated pieces from Martina, and featuring bold female superheroes and a multicultural cast, The Mighty Odds is The Breakfast Club for a new generation. (9 and up)

The Midnight War of Mateo MartinezThe Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi - A middle grade story with a smidgen of fantasy, in which the intrepid protagonist tackles new and old friendships, his sense of belonging and letting go, and the unbelievable disappearance of his beloved trike. Mateo Martinez is a fourth grader who swears that his trike was stolen by two talking skunks. His family, younger sister Mila, and new best friend Ashwin bear with Mateo's claim and believe they are dreams, because Mateo constantly dreams of being a medieval knight. From confronting bullies at school and coping with Johnny not being his best friend anymore to strengthening his friendship with Ashwin, Mateo must embark on a quest to figure out who he is, while tracking down the stinky creatures that stole his trike. In this debut novel, Yardi draws parallels between the fantasy world of talking animals and Mateo's reality of growing up and finding himself. Throughout the book, the protagonist confronts internal battles about being Mexican American but not being able to speak Spanish as well as his views of race and ethnicity and who belongs in his neighborhood and in the occupied city of Santa Barbara. (10 and up)

Compass South (Four Points) by Hope Larson - It's 1860 in New York City. When 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra's father disappears, they join the Black Hook Gang and are caught by the police pulling off a heist. They agree to reveal the identity of the gang in exchange for tickets to New Orleans. But once there, Alex is shanghaied to work on a ship that is heading for San Francisco via Cape Horn. Cleo stows away on a steamer to New Granada where she hopes to catch a train to San Francisco to find her brother. Neither Alexander nor Cleo realizes the real danger they are in—they are being followed by pirates who think they hold the key to treasure. How they outwit the pirates and find each other makes for a fast-paced, breathtaking adventure. (9 and up)

The Best Man by Richard Peck - Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer, and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth—Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school. But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story. In pages that ripple with laughter, there's a teardrop here and there. And more than a few insights about the bewildering world of adults, made by a boy on his way to being the best man he can be. (10 and up)

Allie, First at Last by Angela Cervantes - In this realistic middle grade novel, Cervantes introduces a Latina fifth grader, Alyssa, otherwise known as Allie, who is struggling to find her place and identity as the third of four siblings in a family full of successful, award-winning individuals. She considers herself a failure when compared to Harvard-bound Adriana; his soccer whiz older brother, Aiden; and his younger sister Ava, a TV commercial star. Yet this is only half of the family: Allie's mom is a news anchor, and her dad is a fireman. It seems that everyone has won trophies and completed "firsts"—even her great grandfather is famous as the only World War II recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor alive in the state. Fifth grade can be rough, filled with changing relationships and an intense self-centered focus. Allie tries, but often fails, to be understanding when a new friend's help on her science fair project is a disaster and former best friend Sarah chooses the same topic for the Kansas Trailblazer Contest. The first-person narrative captures the disquieting feelings that often accompany the preteen years, including the protagonist's insights on her language proficiency and efforts to make the right decisions. (9 and up)

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin - Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother—before it's too late. A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. (9 and up)

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan - Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away. Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern. You, an object. An object to sell. In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers,” Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen. (10 and up)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - Once a year in the Protectorate there is a Day of Sacrifice. The youngest baby is taken by the Elders and left in the forest to die, thus appeasing the witch who threatens to destroy the village if not obeyed. Unbeknownst to the people, Xan, the witch of the forest, is kind and compassionate. When she discovers the first baby left as a sacrifice, she has no idea why it has been abandoned. She rescues the infants, feeds each one starlight, and delivers the shining infants to parents in the Outside Cities who love and care for them. On one occasion, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight along with starlight, filling her with glowing magic. Xan is smitten with the beautiful baby girl, who has a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead, and chooses to raise her as her own child. Twists and turns emerge as the identity of the true evil witch becomes apparent. The swiftly paced, highly imaginative plot draws a myriad of threads together to form a web of characters, magic, and integrated lives. Spiritual overtones encompass much of the storytelling with love as the glue that holds it all together. (9 and up)

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition) by Misty Copeland - Determination meets dance in this middle grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling memoir by the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, Misty Copeland. As the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has been breaking down all kinds of barriers in the world of dance. But when she first started dancing—at the late age of thirteen—no one would have guessed the shy, underprivileged girl would one day make history in her field. Her road to excellence was not easy—a chaotic home life, with several siblings and a single mother, was a stark contrast to the control and comfort she found on stage. And when her home life and incredible dance promise begin to clash, Misty had to learn to stand up for herself and navigate a complex relationship with her mother, while pursuing her ballet dreams. (10 and up)

Unidentified Surburban Object by Mike Jung - Chloe Cho is curious about her cultural heritage. Her parents were born in Korea but never speak of their time or families there, no matter how often Chloe asks. The only Asian American in her school, Chloe is excited when her new history teacher is also Korean, but alarmed to learn of an assignment where she needs to interview her parents to share a family story. She is finally able to convince her father to tell her one but receives an F on the assignment and is accused of plagiarism. When Chloe confronts her father, showing him a website that retells the account he claimed happened to his uncle, he must finally tell her the truth. A game-changing family secret is revealed that alters Chloe's perception of herself and the genre of the novel. Jung spends a lot of time hammering home how unwilling Chloe's parents are to speak of their past, making their secret a very welcome and original surprise and giving the novel some needed energy. Chloe's response to her parents' news ripples into every corner of her life. Furious she's been lied to, she rebels against not only her parents but her friends and teachers as well. While Chloe herself is a gifted student, the book has enough twists and humor to broaden the audience to include reluctant readers. (10 and up)

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds - Reynolds' engaging middle grade debut stars 11-year-old African-American Genie Harris, an inveterate worrywart who considers Google his best friend, and his older brother Ernie, who is well on his way to being a cool dude (sunglasses and all). The born and bred Brooklynites are to spend a month with their grandparents in rural Virginia while their parents take a long overdue vacation and work out their marital problems. It is only after the boys are left in their grandfather's care that they realize that he is blind. They are also surprised to learn that they are expected to do chores and follow their grandmother's strict rules—and that it is possible to exist (sort of) without the Internet. While Ernie crushes on the girl who lives at the base of the hill, Genie writes down his many burning questions so he doesn't forget them and gets to know his proud and fiercely independent grandfather. Genie barrages Grandpop with questions about his past and present abilities and about the quirky aspects of the household, especially his "nunya bidness" room, his harmonica playing, and how Grandpop might not be able to see but still packs a pistol. As the languid days unfold, the boys learn about country life and the devastating loss of the elder Harris' son during Desert Storm and their estrangement from their living son, the boys' father. Grandpop Harris is a complicated, irascible character, full of contradictions and vulnerabilities, the least of which is his lack of vision. Reynolds captures the bond that Grandpop and Genie form in a tender, believable, and entertaining way, delivered through smart and funny prose and sparkling dialogue. (10 and up)

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson - Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard, the ones who stopped trying long ago. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like school is somehow worthwhile. Who recognizes something in you that sometimes you don’t even see in yourself. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind. Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a risky plan—more of a quest, really—to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them—and what the three of them mean to each other. (12 and up)

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures (Young Readers Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly - New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country. (10 and up)

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill - When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They’ll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what “happily ever after” really means—and how they can find it with each other. (10 and up)

A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy - Evelyn is both aghast and fascinated when a new boy comes to grade five and tells everyone his name is Queen. Queen wears shiny gym shorts and wants to organize a chess/environment club. His father plays weird loud music and has tattoos. How will the class react? How will Evelyn? Evelyn is an only child with a strict routine and an even stricter mother. And yet in her quiet way she notices things. She takes particular notice of this boy named Queen. The way the bullies don’t seem to faze him. The way he seems to live by his own rules. When it turns out that they take the same route home from school, Evelyn and Queen become friends, almost against Evelyn’s better judgment. She even finds Queen irritating at times. Why doesn’t he just shut up and stop attracting so much attention to himself? Yet he is the most interesting person she has ever met. So when she receives a last-minute invitation to his birthday party, she knows she must somehow persuade her mother to let her go, even if it means ignoring the No Gifts request and shopping for what her mother considers to be an appropriate gift, appropriately wrapped with “boy” wrapping paper. Her visit to Queen’s house opens Evelyn’s eyes to a whole new world, including an unconventional goody bag (leftover potato latkes wrapped in waxed paper and a pair of barely used red sneakers). And when it comes time for her to take something to school for Hype and Share, Evelyn suddenly looks at her chosen offering—her mother’s antique cream jug—and sees new and marvelous possibilities. (12 and up)

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith - Twelve-year-old Neen has heard the stories the people of Carrick tell: "Her Pa was a drinker who'd killed Mam by mistake." "Pa married a merrow—a mermaid—and Mam went after him and drowned." "Mam lost her mind after Pa died and walked the island until she was nothing but a skeleton." But Neen believes none of these. The only tales she'll listen to are those of Skully Slevin, the island's blind fiddler, and his ma. Skully tells Neen that she has merrow blood running through her veins—the proof is in the itchy red scales that appear on her each year. The only one who doesn't tell stories is bitter Auntie Ushag—she's more concerned with day-to-day tasks that need to be done, and all she'll say is that Neen's mam left because of a broken heart. But as the girl stands on the border between childhood and womanhood, she is restless and desperate for answers, and her search for them will take her to unexpected places. The author has done detailed research on the customs and language of Carrick, and this novel perfectly captures the harshness and beauty of that culture. This exquisitely told work examines the power of stories and how a well-told tale can transcend truth and history. (12 and up)

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi - There are only three things that matter to 12-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other. But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. It will take all of Alice's wits (and every limb she's got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss. (12 and up)

Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin - The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin's latest historical nonfiction for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark time in U.S. history: "Our government failed in its duty to protect the rights of everyone living in the United States." Marrin demonstrates great attention to detail in conveying the experiences of Japanese Americans who were removed from their homes and forced to live in "relocation" centers, relying on interviews, speeches, newspaper articles, and official and personal correspondence from the time period. Of particular interest is the chapter on the Yankee Samurai, Japanese American war heroes who fought bravely for the United States while their families were denied freedom at home. (12 and up)

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino - In 12-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. A few artists possess Geniuses, birdlike creatures that are the living embodiment of an artist's creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punishment akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he's in serious trouble. Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools—objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path―Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him. (12 and up)

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz - What is a miracle? Is a miracle what happens when, faced with murderous bandits, a teenage monk rips a leg off his donkey, beats them to death with it, then restores the donkey's leg? Or is it a miracle when a cranky innkeeper is so moved by a little girl's friendliness that he risks his life to help her and her companions flee a posse of armed knights? Maybe the real miracle happens when readers attracted to the action and violence a particular author is known for find themselves strongly invested in the moral questions that plague bandit-killing monk and friendly peasant girl alike—along with every other character they encounter, from a young minstrel/pickpocket to Louis IX. Gidwitz's tale of medieval France successfully combines the epic with the personal, aiming for that heart-stopping moment when characters readers have come to care about find themselves on a collision course with one of the great wood chippers of history—the Inquisition, agents of which are in hot pursuit of three underdog characters (and one actual dog) from the very start. It is left to the titular Inquisitor to discover the truth behind the legends that quickly rise to surround these kids. He nudges it from each of the travelers at a roadside inn, the narrative tension rising as each facet is revealed. (12 and up)

The Lost Property Office (Section 13) by James R. Hannibal - Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace. But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance. Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short? (12 and up)

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier - Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake—and her own. (10 and up)

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner - This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history. When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his surviving half-brother banished. Yoshitsune was sent away to live in a monastery. Skinny, small, and unskilled in the warrior arts, he nevertheless escaped and learned the ways of the samurai. When the time came for the Minamoto clan to rise up against their enemies, Yoshitsune answered the call. His daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality. (12 and up)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge - In a time when a young woman's exterior life can be stifling and dull, Faith Sunderly's interior life is cavernous. She has a sharp mind; a keen interest in the scientific research that has made her father, the formidable Reverend Sunderly, famous; and an irresistible impulse for sneaking, spying, and skulking around. Faith's curiosity about the world around her, which she must keep hidden, is a source of personal shame and the one thing about herself she longs for people, especially her father, to notice. When the Reverend is invited to take part in an archaeological dig on the insular island community of Vane, the whole family packs up and moves with him. It doesn't take long for Faith to suspect there are darker reasons the family left London in such a hurry, and just as she's starting to put things together, her father is found dead. Setting out to prove her father's death was a murder, Faith uncovers a web of secrets the Reverend has been keeping, all centered on one of his specimens—a small tree that thrives on lies and bears a fruit that tells the truth. Faith believes she can use the tree to find her father's killer and begins feeding it lies. As the tree grows, so do Faith's lies and her fevered obsession with finding out the truth. Hardinge, who can turn a phrase like no other, melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge, and leaves readers to wonder where science ends and fantasy begins. (13 and up)

Hero by Perry Moore - Thom Creed tries not to disappoint his dad, a disgraced caped crusader who now toils as a factory drudge, so he keeps his gay identity and his developing superpowers under wraps. Then he secretly tries out for the prestigious League, joining aspiring heroes in villain-busting adventures that escalate alongside more private discoveries. Written in a wry, first-person voice realistically peppered with occasional slang and slurs, this ambitious first novel from a Hollywood producer doesn't entirely cohere. The alternate-reality framework is too cursory, and the more realistic strands feel overstuffed with problems, even as they incorporate many well-chosen scenes (including Thom's awkward, anonymous first pickup, which goes only as far as a kiss). Still, Moore's casting of a gay teen hero in a high-concept fantasy marks an significant expansion of GLBTQ literature into genres that reflect teens' diverse reading interests; given the mainstream popularity of comics-inspired tales, the average, ordinary, gay teen superhero who comes out and saves the world will raise cheers from within the GLBTQ community and beyond. (13 and up)

March Book 3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell - In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis's willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis' statement that he and his cohorts "were in the middle of a war." These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. (13 and up)

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold) by Traci Chee - Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible. With overlapping stories of swashbuckling pirates and merciless assassins, The Reader is a brilliantly told adventure from an extraordinary new talent. (13 and up)