The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Dutton Children’s Books, 2016) by Adam Gidwitz and illuminated* by Hatem Aly is a differently told medieval tale that was very fun.
“The king is ready for war.” Against three children and their dog. The setting is a French Inn where travelers gather to discuss the strange events. Each person knows a part of the tale. Along the way, we meet the peasant girl named Jeanne, the young monk named William, and the Jewish boy named Jacob. Each has a special gift: visions of the future, supernatural strength, and healing. And, of course, there’s Gwenforte the dog, who has come back to life.
*this term is explained in the book.
This book is a Newbery Honor Book and Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
Adam has also written the Grimm series (Tall Dark and Grimm is on Netflix), the Unicorn Rescue Series, and some Star Wars books. Check them out here. Read about Adam here.
Read about illustrator Hatem here. See all the books he’s illustrated here and I enjoyed looking at his sketchbooks.
The Girl Who Could Not Dream (Clarion Books, 2015) by Sarah Beth Durst was very enjoyable. It has such a fun concept: dreams can be bought and sold. I love the opening line, “Sophie had only ever stolen one dream.”
Sophie’s best friend is a sweet monster, with iridescent fur, tentacles, sharp teeth, who talks. She brought him out of a dream when she was six. Now Monster and her new friend Ethan help Sophie when her parents go missing and their shop’s dreams are all stolen.
You’ll meet funny and scary characters in this adventure, plus be introduced to interesting machinery that processes dreams. Get a sneak preview here.
Sarah Beth Durst writes for kids, teens, and adults. She’s one prolific author! On her website you can choose a category of her books to see what they are. Read about Sarah here.
Previously I recommended a later book of Sarah’s, Spark. It was good, but I like this one even better.
Journey Beyond the Burrow (Harper, 2021) by Rina Heisel is a fun adventure story and a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.
Tobin (a mouse) knows the rules by heart, but he must break rule #8 “Never purse a predator. Never.” when his baby brother is stolen by a huge arachnid. Tobin, his sister Talia, and best friend Wiley meet all kinds of creatures on their journey, plus Tobin ends up breaking other rules so that everyone survives.
I love the weather scout procedures, the sensory details from the mouse viewpoint, and the Official Rules of Rodentia. #13: “Heed the whispered warnings of weather; ignoring it’s clues will spell your doom.”
Learn about the author here and more about her debut novel here.
As a kid I was horrified to learn about Nazi Germany and the holocaust. How could people think like that?! My naive self thought antisemitism would disappear. And, of course, so would Nazis. Unfortunately not. Here are two books to help middle grade and young adult readers with these topics. Both are told in multiple points of view.
Linked (Scholastic Press, 2021) by Gordon Korman deals with what happens when a student paints a swastika on the school walls. Meet Michael, Lincoln, and Dana all struggling with the aftermath in their quiet town. Who did it and why? (mg novel)
The Assignment (Ember, 2020) by Liza Wiemer starts out with the good intentions of a teacher wanting his students to understand how horrific the genocide of the Jews was, but his approach is wrong and two students–best friends Logan and Cade–take on the battle to get the assignment canceled. (YA novel)
Both stories have surprising twists and are thought provoking.
Gordon Korman is a many-times-published author. On his website this time, I learned his first book was published when he was fourteen!
The Assignment is Liza Wiermer’s second novel and has won numerous honors. Check it out here. Read about Lisa here.
A Wish in the Dark (Candlewick Press, 2020) by Christina Soontornvat is my favorite read so far this year!
Pong was born in Nomwan Prison. He and his best friend and Somkit stare at the lights of Chattana–the city that one man, the Governor, brought light to after the great fire. If only they could escape there.
Nok is the daughter of the prison warder. She and her family are at Nomwan because the Governor is coming to visit. To her shock the young Pong approaches the Governor.
Pong thinks that such a good man as the Governor will see how unfair it is for children born to prisoners to be imprisoned. But when the Governor doesn’t agree, all that’s left to Pong is to escape, which he does.
Nok’s father is blamed for Pong’s escape and she wants to capture him to restore her family’s name. But secrets she discovers in her quest make her question everything she’s ever known.
Who will win in this unfair world?
The story has many surprising twists and turns. This Thai-inspired fantasy is a 2021 Newbery Honor book–I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. Plus, it has won other awards and been put on many lists. See those here.
Christina has written a number of award winning books in a variety of categories–read more about her here and see all her books here.