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Four orphan boys are chosen by nobleman Bevin Conner to compete for the chance to impersonate Prince Jaron, missing and presumed dead for four years. It quickly becomes clear that whichever boy is chosen, the other three will not survive to give away the secret of the false prince. Sage, an unusually clever orphan boy with quite a talent for thievery, takes issue with this plan and decides that he will not allow Conner to get away with murdering three boys. He soon learns that Conner is responsible for far worse deeds than his plot to install the false prince on the throne of Carthya. Luckily, Sage has plenty of secrets of his own, and it will take all his ingenuity and the help of his competitors to thwart Conner's plan and expose his treachery.--Reviewed by Adrien, Compass Books

Harbinger "Harry" Robert Francis Jones was tied up to a tree, which was then hit by lightning. And he bears the scars of that horrific event into his teen years, which forces him into solitude. But when he gets older, he meets Johnny, his becomes best friend. Soon, they start a punk rock band called The Scar Boys and craziness ensues. This book revolves around their dysfunctional, and at times toxic, relationship. Johnny is a persuasive, self-important, narcissistic jerk but Harry literally doesn't have any better options. He just goes along with whatever Johnny wants, even after Johnny pursues a relationship with the girl Harry falls in love with. Full of great rock music and complicated characters, this book is a quick read for anyone who loves music and it's power.

--Reviewed by Ren, Compass Books in SFO

I was drawn to this book the day it arrived because I am a huge fan of Renata Liwska’s (Quiet Book, Loud book) illustrations. The text of this book weaves in nicely with the familiar characters and charming details of the illustrations. This is definitely a picture book that I recommend to adults as well as their children. It’s also one that works well with older kids despite the simplicity of the words themselves, the concepts mentioned in the text, of memory and transformation, can lead to wonderful conversations. As with all of Liwska’s illustrations, you will notice new and poignant details every time you read the book. A great book to linger over.

--Reviewed by Chantal, Books Inc. Mountain View

Katherine Applegate (Newbery winner for The One and Only Ivan) assumed the voice and thoughts of a lonely, wise, and heartbreakingly unforgettable gorilla in The One and Only Ivan. In Home of the Brave, she brings us into the mind, memory, and language of Kek, a young refugee boy from an African village, who has just set foot in Minnesota. We have the occasion to experience details, curiosities, and language of our own country, as deconstructed through the eyes of Kek. The book is written in verse; Applegate’s writing is thoughtful, subtle, and often humorous.

The reader has an intimate view of the world as Kek sees it, and navigates with him through this new environment, and the unfamiliar, meaningless words that he must use to describe it. It is an experience to read and a heartbreaking and endearing voice that remains with you long after. It is similar to The One and Only Ivan in this respect, and also recalls another one of my favorites, Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, in its ability to draw the reader into the perspective of an outsider.

An easy read, yet worthy of attention from older readers as well. Ages 8+

--reviewed by Chantal, Books Inc. Mountain View

Told in a series of letters (really one long letter divided into chapters), and objects, in a box to Ed. Min tells the story of her first real love and heartbreak. There are many firsts woven throughout- including the ultimate “first time.” As Min and Ed grow closer, the differences between them start to tear them apart. Overall an enjoyable novel with a unique style of storytelling! This is something I can appreciate as a writer. Ages 15 and up. --Reviewed by Renee from Books Inc. Market Street

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