Middle grade and teen fiction
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Brave Ollie Possum
Ollie Mackerelli is almost 10 and still afraid of the dark. This is a strain on his parents, who are already struggling to keep their Italian restaurant open in a small town. Ollie’s troubles worsen, however, when his therapist turns into a monster who wields her magical powers to transform him into a possum, with plans to eat him. But with help from some animal friends, he begins to face his worst fears, and a wise owl tells him, “All brave acts are done in the midst of fear.” A wild, imaginative tale with lively illustrations that readers will find humorous yet encouraging. (Ages 8-12)
The First Fowler
In the latest Green Ember series installment, war is far from over for a band of clever, sword-wielding rabbits fighting against Morbin’s wolves, raptors, and other evil servants. Jo Shanks eagerly joins a team of rabbits tasked with diverting the enemy so Prince “Smalls” can make it to safety. Even when wolves vastly outnumber them and a cunning raptor stalks them, Jo and his counterparts make up for their smallness with bravery, wit, and allegiance. The First Fowler, a sequel to The Last Archer, offers fast-moving, action-packed chapters, but includes many references to previous books. (Ages 8-12)
The Winter King
Cora and her family have lived in poverty—and under a perceived curse—ever since her father died in a freak ice fishing accident. Overwhelmed with bitterness and desperate to help her mother and siblings, Cora breaks rules and challenges preconceptions in order to cope and obtain food, money, and warmth during the harsh winter months. But she also begins to uncover forbidden secrets, and her quest for the truth takes her down dangerous paths, pushing her own limits and those of her loved ones. Author Christine Cohen fills her debut novel with courage, suspense, unexpected twists, and deep Biblical truths. (Ages 10-15)
Look Both Ways
This book tells 10 separate narratives of urban teens reentering a neighborhood after their school day, each one highlighting unique obstacles and unexpected detours. Parents should know that one narrative features two boys who share a love for gaming, but who experience same-sex attraction initiated by a kiss on the cheek and ending with one of them bringing the other roses. With this book, Reynolds, an award-winning author whose book Ghost was a runner-up for WORLD’s 2017 Children’s Novel of the Year list, veers from his previously wholesome content. His characters find camaraderie, but not the gospel. (Ages 12-15)
In J. Ryan Lister’s Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God (Crossway, 2019), readers embark on a journey to turn ancient “keys.” Each one symbolizes various theological truths about God, humanity, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, the church, and last things.
Lister, a professor of theology at Western Seminary, breaks down Christian doctrine with simplicity and creative storytelling—a “Key Keeper” invites readers to see their roles in the greatest narrative, one involving an Infinite King, a poisonous serpent, and a Death Killer.
The book, geared for ages 10 and up, ends with a list of Scripture references for further study of each doctrine. It is not intended to replace Scripture but to set the stage for young people to open the Bible, “the King’s speech,” with a framework of “the beautiful story of God’s work in God’s world for the worship of God.” Gold-gilded pages and captivating artwork by Anthony M. Benedetto add magical intrigue. —M.J.
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