Kids Books: What’s New

By Lani Harac — October 09, 2004 2 min read

Based on the advertising aimed at young teens, you could assume that only toothless, insipid products are available—or wanted. Luckily, a number of writers are willing to accommodate the depth of the 12-and-older crowd. The 10 experiences shared in the anthology First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants (Candlewick) range from a Kazakh girl’s attempts to balance the fun of her American school with the demands of her parents’ traditionalism to a Mexican boy’s first illegal trip to California to find work. Arthur Dorros’ Under the Sun (Amulet) recounts the travels of 13-year-old Ehmet, a refugee of the Bosnian fighting in the early 1990s. He wants to locate a village he’s heard about, where adults and orphaned children of all backgrounds are rebuilding their lives cooperatively. The book is inspired by a similar community, Nadomak Sunca, in western Croatia.

Eleanor Roosevelt Dingman makes a different kind of journey in Ann Martin’s Here Today (Scholastic). Her fame-seeking mother leaves the family for New York City, then Hollywood. After her own pilgrimage to Manhattan, Ellie learns to let her mom go and move on, reconnecting with her father, brother, and sister. North of Everything (Candlewick) is a slim volume by Craig Crist-Evans. It tells, in gentle verse, the story of a family’s move from Miami to a farm in Vermont in search of a simpler life. What they find is a new set of unexpected experiences.

Drawing on ancient mythology—in particular, Ovid’s Metamorphoses—Michael Cadnum recounts the story of Apollo’s mortal offspring in Starfall: Phaeton and the Chariot of the Sun (Orchard). The legend tells of Phaeton’s desire to perform his father’s job, dragging the sun from east to west each day, and his ultimately tragic end. Peni Griffin’s 11,000 Years Lost (Amulet) drags a girl from modern-day Texas to an ice age more than 100 centuries ago. After Esther finds a spearhead near her school’s playground, she also discovers that she has a knack for time travel, with sometimes dangerous results. A Crack in the Line (Greenwillow), by Michael Lawrence, also employs the supernatural in the story of Alaric and Naia, London teens who realize that they’re actually the same person, separately living out the two outcomes of a decision made before they were born.

Across the pond, in California, 15-year-old Jasmine Gardner runs a business selling mementos with a friend. But when Jazz is told she has to join her family for a trip to India, she balks at the risks involved. Eventually Mitali Perkins’ Monsoon Summer (Delacorte) finds Jazz nurturing the commercial endeavors of others. And in alternating chapters of A Winter Night’s Dream (Delacorte), Casey complains that she doesn’t get Shakespeare because she’s never been in love, while the hopelessly romantic Stuart can’t seem to avoid it. The British high schoolers are ultimately thrown together by their English teacher, who liberally dishes out wacky advice. Author Andrew Matthews probably knows something about both Shakespeare and advice—he’s a former high school English teacher himself.