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Originally published June 22, 2014 at 6:05 AM | Page modified June 23, 2014 at 11:54 AM

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A summer bouquet of books for younger readers

Young readers can choose from a bouquet of new books by local authors, including new work by Jennifer K. Mann, Django Wexler, Mary Cronk Farrell, Rosamund Hodge, Karen Finneyfrock, Katherine Kirkpatrick and Conrad Wesselhoeft.

Special to The Seattle Times


Young readers can pick up books by Washington-state authors to enjoy at the beach or park this summer, with choices ranging from fantasy to historical fiction.

Ginger doesn’t want weird Lyla (who once brought a tarantula to school for show-and-tell) to come to her birthday party in “Two Speckled Eggs,” a picture book by author-illustrator Jennifer K. Mann(Candlewick, 32 pp., $14.99, ages 5-8). Her mom insists she include all the girls — or none. When Ginger’s other friends ruin her games and reject her favorite type of cake, Ginger discovers she has something in common with Lyla after all. Mann’s bright illustrations of cheerful, round-headed girls capture the mayhem of parties and the joy of a new friendship. She lives on Bainbridge Island.

Loyalties shift nearly as often as the enchanted shelves rearrange themselves in “The Forbidden Library” by Django Wexler(Kathy Dawson, 373 pp., $16.99, ages 11-14). In his debut children’s novel, the Seattle author finds a new twist on the “falling into a book” theme, giving his magical Readers in his book the ability to summon any creature they defeat within a given story. Alice, a sorcerer’s apprentice, can bring forth swarmers, rubber-balllike creatures with sharp beaks who amusingly bounce down stairs and form pyramids to reach high shelves. But her swarmers may not be enough help to defeat a dragon, find her lost, presumed-dead father or deal with Isaac, another sorcerer with secrets of his own.

Even summer reading can be educational if it’s as compelling (and harrowing) as

“Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific” by Mary Cronk Farrell(Abrams, 160 pp., $24.95, ages 13-15). The author, who lives in Spokane, uses interviews, letters and black-and-white photographs to relate the stories of nurses who cared for their patients in the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula and then dealt with near-starvation and hardship as Japanese prisoners of war. The last chapters are also appalling for a different reason, as Farrell details how the U.S. government denied the nurses formal recognition and disability benefits.

Seventeen-year-old Nyx has known her fate since childhood: Marry and then kill the demon ruler of her kingdom. “I’m already hoping there could be a dinner where you don’t try to stab me with your fork,” her new husband, an immortal, tells her on their wedding day in “Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge (Balzer + Bray, 346 pp., $17.99, ages 13-17). Headstrong Nyx has her own weaknesses — even as she searches for her husband’s downfall — and Ignifex is perhaps not as evil as Nyx was taught to believe in this romantic tale, based loosely on Beauty and the Beast. Hodge lives in Seattle.

Starbird, the titular character in Karen Finneyfrock’s “Starbird Murphy and the World Outside” (Viking, 384 pp., $17.99, ages 13-17), grows up in a commune, tending to chickens, receiving sporadic school lessons and crushing on an older boy. Her insular world — she’s never touched money or used a cellphone — is thrown into disarray when she starts working as a waitress at the commune’s Seattle restaurant and attends a public school. While Starbird’s experiences are unique, her authentic voice and search for truth (is the “Free Family” a cult?) will appeal to teen readers. Finneyfrock lives in Seattle.

Another story about fitting in takes place in Greenland at the turn of the 20th century (1900). Eqariusaq, an Inuit girl, finds a year living with Robert E. Peary’s family in America leaves her “Between Two Worlds,” in this historical fiction novel by Katherine Kirkpatrick (Wendy Lamb, $16.99, ages 14-17). Now 16, Eqariusaq, dubbed “Billy Bah” by young Marie Peary, is married and dealing with the repercussions of her close ties with the white explorers who use Greenland as a base for North Pole expeditions. Just surviving the harsh environment makes nearly any activity an adventure, but most fascinating is the contrast and clash of the two cultures. Kirkpatrick lives in Seattle.

New Mexico serves as almost a main character in Seattle author Conrad Wesselhoeft’s“Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly” (Houghton Mifflin, 342 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17). In verse-like prose, Wesselhoeft follows 17-year-old Arlo Santiago as he zooms around the state’s roads, performs crazy stunts on his bike and flies drones for the military. Though the plot seems to verge on tall tale, the author grounds Arlo with connections to his family (a very ill sister and drunken father, all grieving the murder of Arlo’s mother), his girlfriend and that New Mexico “desert grit.”

Stephanie Dunnewind, a former Seattle Times reporter, is an elementary-school librarian in Bothell.

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