Reviews by PizzaPuppy
One of my favorite books published this year is George by Alex Gino. In their debut novel, Gino expertly crafts the story of George, a transgender girl coming to terms with her identity.

In this moving and heartwarming novel, we follow George as she attempts to land the lead role of Charlotte in her school play of Charlotte's Web. There's only one problem: the lead role is a "girl's role". George is not a boy who "wants to be a girl", but a girl in a world where no one can see her. George feels that if she were to play the role of Charlotte, the world would see her as she truly is and not as she appears outwardly. The book brilliantly weaves together George's intensely private and public struggles, and the reactions of her family, friends, classmates and the world at large.

Intended for a middle grade audience (fourth to sixth grade), this simple but important story never comes across as a lesson. Instead, George speaks to the difficulties that transgender members of our community face on a regular basis. Gino approaches the subject with a clear and positive outlook on a sometimes tricky topic, and ultimately delivers a profound story of an individual trying to find their place in the world.

Interested in similar stories? Give Gracefully Grayson a try. This book tells the story of Grayson Sender, a sixth-grader coming into her own as a transgender girl. This novel is intended for a slightly older crowd (for sixth grade and older), but is another wonderful story about discovering your identity and staying true to oneself.

Also check out our Gender Variant Books for Children and Teens public list for more picture book, middle grade and teen book recommendations.
Survive the Night
Now that fall is here, Halloween is already on my mind and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to dive into Danielle Vega's newest teen horror book Survive the Night!

Don't let the cover fool you: this is a seriously creepy novel. In it, Casey and her friends go to an all-night rave called Survive the Night. The secret party is located underground in the subways of New York, and there are crazy rumors about what goes on in the tunnels below. When Casey wanders off down the subway line, she finds one of her friends has been violently, viciously murdered. When she gets back to the party, everyone but the rest of her friends have cleared out and the manhole exit is sealed. Casey realizes that the killer is still in the subway system, and the group is trapped down there with them. What was once a party quickly turns into a frantic fight for survival, as Casey and her group realize they are being hunted by whoever (or whatever) is down in the subways with them.

This book is not for everyone (especially not tweens or those with a weak stomach). Survive the Night requires a little suspension of disbelief and takes a while to get going, but once it does it's a non-stop thrill ride right up until the end. My heart was pounding as I raced through the last few chapters as things kept building and building.

This is Danielle Vega's second book. The first, The Merciless, is another great teen horror novel and the film rights were just acquired by Lionsgate Films. The Merciless isn't available through AADL yet, but can be found through our MeLCat lending system.
Ninja Red Riding Hood
In Ninja Red Riding Hood, the fearsome wolf of the forest can no longer catch any prey for his dinner. Frustrated, he sneaks into ninja school to train hard in the ancient art, so that he is once again able to catch a good meal. After his training, the wolf runs into Little Red Riding Hood in the woods, and he begins to plot against her. He sneaks into the house of Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother and impersonates her in order to catch the girl unaware. However, Little Red Riding Hood not only sees through his disguise, but was also trained as a ninja herself! These evenly matched opponents face off in a battle of wits and stealthy skills in this hilarious take on the classic Little Red Riding Hood story.

Author Corey Rosen Schwartz has hit gold once again in this funny and action-packed fractured fairy tale. The illustrations are bold and colorful, and the book is written with a lively rhyme scheme. This book is a companion to his earlier work, The Three Ninja Pigs, with Schwartz's Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears nicely rounding out the collection.

Interested in more fractured fairy tales? Take a look at this excellent list for a plethora of great books: Fairy Tales Retold - Youth Fiction/Picture Books.
The Martian
“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are people who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

After a freak accident during a vicious sand storm at the Ares 3 mission base, Mark Watney wakes up to discover that his crew mates, believing he did not survive the storm, have abandoned him on Mars. With only enough supplies to last the original 35 days of the mission (and no chance of a return mission to rescue him for another 4 years), Mark must rely on his training, quick wit, and intellect to help him stretch his supplies to the limit and to find a way to survive in the harsh Martian landscape.

Throughout the novel, Mark's optimism blended with his witty (and sometimes crude) remarks humanize his character and bring a more light-hearted aspect to the novel. This fast-paced and thrilling novel intertwines the story of Mark with the respective stories of his devastated crew members on their way back to Earth, NASA's frenzied attempts to save Mark, and the media's fascination with the Mark Watney story. First-time novelist Andy Weir includes quite a bit of technical detail (most of which is backed by real science), adding to the intensity of this great story. The Martian is a classic story of hope and survival in a foreign wilderness that is sure to delight adult readers. Watch out for the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon, which hits theaters in October!
Atlas of Adventures
Atlas of Adventures is an exciting new book that invites children to learn a little more about the world around us. The book consists of a collection of intricately illustrated maps (including world, continental and regional varieties). There are labeled map pages for each of the continents, as well as several unique landmark pages within each continent. Each of these specialized regional pages showcase different notable activities and landmarks-- for example, the Europe pages take a look at the Louvre, the Moscow Metro, and a Venetian gondola ride (among many others). With Atlas of Adventures, you can explore the Amazon rainforest, dog sled with huskies in Alaka, go on a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, or set the world aglow at Hong Kong's Lantern Festival. Additionally, there is also a "Where's Waldo" inspired game throughout the book's pages, adding an extra level of fun and whimsy to this amazing collection. This highly recommended book is a great way to inspire a love of geography and travel in children of all ages.