7 new books for kids and teens by Seattle-area authors
Reading time for kids over school break will be enlivened by these books by Seattle-area authors, including Kirby Larson and Deb Caletti. They range from beautiful illustrated books for young readers to adventure and angst-infused novels for teens.
Special to The Seattle Times
Children and teens will find all sorts of creatures — from dogs to gorillas to giraffes to paranormal firebugs — in books by Seattle-area authors this holiday season.
Homey holiday traditions are highlighted in “And Then Comes Christmas” by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jana Christy (Candlewick, 32pp., $15.99, ages 4-8). The narrative follows a simple pattern: when “raindrops shift to feathery flakes ... then romp in snow as smooth as bedcovers.” From sitting on Santa’s lap to choosing a tree, the activities lead to the big night, when “the whole world seems to be waiting.” Bright digital illustrations, which evoke the softness of watercolors, add to the cozy warmth. Brenner lives on Vashon Island.
A chatty pachyderm makes friends in “When Elephant Met Giraffe” by Paul Gude(Disney Hyperion, 56 pp., $16.99, ages 4-8). With three short chapters, this amusing picture book (with simple yet effective digital illustrations) finds two animals sharing a watering hole, making pretzels and playing pretend — even though Elephant does all the talking. After Elephant tries to boss Giraffe into dressing up as a pirate, Elephant compromises: “Arrr! It be more fun when both friends can be what they want.” Readers won’t be able to resist a chuckle as “Giraffe the Ninja agreed. Silently.” The author/illustrator lives in Seattle.
Animal fans may find a bit of outrage tucked in their stocking if it includes “Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla” by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas(Clarion Books, 40 pp., $17.99, ages 5-9). Though Applegate is not a local author, the book’s real-life subject lived in Tacoma for 27 years before moving to Zoo Atlanta. Applegate, who won the 2013 Newbery Medal for her fictional chapter book about the primate, “The One and Only Ivan,” manages to convey the unfairness of Ivan’s kidnapping and lonely years in a cage, while emphasizing the happy ending of his transition to the zoo for his final years.
Another sad piece of Washington’s history focuses on the Japanese internment camps, as a young girl misses her dog, “Dash” (Scholastic, 256 pp., $16.99, ages 9-11). Kenmore author Kirby Larson, who wrote about the same time period in “The Fences Between Us,” follows Mitsi as she deals with ostracism, a forced move and separation from her beloved dog, kept by a neighbor in her absence. Letters written “by” Dash help her make new friends and regain old ones in this compelling novel.
Many teen jobs are lame — but 15-year-old Leigh’s is the worst: Selling plots in the cemetery her dad bought on a whim. In “Six Feet Over It” by Jennifer Longo (Random House, 342 pp., $17.99, ages 13-17), Leigh’s co-worker Dario dubs her La Caterina, patron saint of death; her best friend was killed; and her sister is battling cancer, leading Leigh to wonder if she’s a jinx to friends and loved ones. Though it sounds like a downer, the book’s delightful characters and Leigh’s wry observations will keep readers pushing for her to struggle out of grief and guilt. Longo lives in Seattle.
Seattle author Lish McBride (“Hold Me Closer, Necromancer”) returns with another fast-paced, funny, and violent paranormal tale: “Firebug”(Henry Holt, 328 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17). Ava can start fires with her mind, and that skill is likely to get her killed, just like it did her mom. While she managed to stay alive as a hit man for the Coterie, a magical mafia, Ava starts a war when she refuses an order to kill a family friend and goes on the run instead. “Most girls my age worry about prom dresses and SATs,” Ava notes. “I have to weigh the ethical nature of being an assassin against the value of human life and basic freedoms. Makes detention seem like cake.”
After Tessa’s mom dies, her dad decides to take Tessa on an impromptu road trip to the Grand Canyon and, finally, the San Juan Islands in Seattle author Deb Caletti’s “The Last Forever”(Simon Pulse, 321 pp., $17.99, ages 14-17). Her dad then proceeds to dump her with her estranged grandmother, leaving her without a goodbye. Tessa finds a place to belong on the island when the small-town library’s staff — including a cute boy named Henry Lark — helps her save a rare plant, a living memento to her mom. Caletti’s beautiful prose often belies her humor, so the laughs pop up unexpectedly, as Tessa explores her new home and new love.
Stephanie Dunnewind, a former Seattle Times reporter, is an elementary school librarian in Bothell.