Andrea Cremer reimagines history in ‘The Inventor’s Secret’

Inventor's SecretTHE INVENTOR’S SECRET,” by Andrea Cremer, Philomel, April 22, 2014, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 12 and up)

What would the world look like if the Declaration of Independence had fallen flat — the Revolutionary War never took place, and the British Empire continued to rule in the Americas? Such a world is the setting for Andrea Cremer’s “The Inventor’s Secret,” which set in the 19th century.

In this world, sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth, they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape  or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.*

“The Inventor’s Secret” is a nice departure for Cremer, who is known for her Nightshade novels, featuring magic and werewolves. And truth be told, I enjoyed her latest novel a lot more than its predecessors.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: YA review, young adult

Wife, husband join forces to create ‘You Are (Not) Small’

July 28, 2014 1 comment

You Are Not Small CoverPicture book authors and illustrators don’t often work together. In most cases, they don’t meet or even talk during the process. Not so with Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant, a husband and wife team whose first book, “You Are (Not) Small,” publishes Aug. 5.

“I was extremely lucky that the illustrator of my first picture book happened to be my lovely and extremely talented husband with whom I could bounce off ideas and collaborate so that we were both happy with the vision of the book,” Anna told Cracking the Cover.

“I knew that most authors didn’t have such a luxury (and my husband gently reminded me of this fact several times). But at a certain point, I had to learn to let go and allow Chris to take over and do his job. I joke that Chris and I now have three kids: two are human and one is a book.”

Despite those initial hiccups, Chris says he couldn’t ask for a better writer to work with. “We quickly found our rhythm, though, and it was surprisingly fun to work on it together,” he said. “Plus, Anna was very supportive when she saw the finished spreads coming together each day. Since she created these characters and knew them so well, being able to get her opinion was invaluable. Also, because we discussed the story and the characters throughout the entire process, the final product is truly a joint effort.”

“You Are (Not) Small” follows features two fuzzy, bear-like creatures who can’t agree on who is small and who is big. It isn’t until some surprise guests show up that the argument is settled once an for all.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Nikki McClure’s ‘Cat’ & ‘Stars Drip Down’ sure to resonate with little ones

How_to_be_a_Cat Nikki McClureTwo recent releases by illustrator Nikki McClure are sure to resonate with your little ones.

In the first, “May the Stars Drip Down,” McClure’s illustrations accompany musician Jeremy Chatelain’s lyrics. McClure is known for her cut-paper work, and this book is no exception. Her work is both simple and intricate, making you question how she accomplishes the final product. Chatelain’s narrative is calming and lyrical. Together, the two have crafted what has become a favorite bedtime book.

McClure’s “How to Be a Cat” is simpler both conceptually and graphically. Bold illustrations depict the day and the life of a cat — stretching, pouncing, hunting, dreaming.

While both of these books are intended for children ages 3-7 and 2-5 respectively, they’ve already joined the rotation for my 5-month-old. The images here are simple enough to catch her attention and interesting enough to hold it. And she enjoys the rhythm of the lyrics in “May the Stars Drip Down” as we nod off to sleep.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Catch a good read with Kim Culbertson’s ‘Catch a Falling Star’

Catch a Falling StarCATCH A FALLING STAR,” by Kim Culbertson, Point, April 29, 2014, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 12 and up)

Full disclosure: I’m not obsessed with Hollywood. Surprised? No, I didn’t think so. “Catch a Falling Star,” by Kim Culbertson, features a main character who feels pretty much the same way about Hollywood as I do. For this reason, I approached “Catch a Falling Star” with curiosity and trepidation.

Nothing ever happens in Little, CA. Which is just the way Carter Moon likes it. But when Hollywood arrives to film a movie starring former child star turned PR mess Adam Jakes, everything changes. Carter’s town becomes a giant glittery set and, much to her annoyance, everyone is starry-eyed for Adam. Carter seems to be the only girl not falling all over herself to get a glimpse of him. Which apparently makes her perfect for the secret offer of a lifetime: playing the role of Adam’s girlfriend while he’s in town, to improve his public image, in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Her family really needs the money and so Carters agrees. But it turns out Adam isn’t at all who she thought he was. As they grow closer, their relationship walks a blurry line between what’s real and what’s fake, and Carter must open her eyes to the scariest of unexplored worlds – her future. Can Carter figure out what she wants out of life AND get the guy? Or are there no Hollywood endings in real life?*

It turns out that my trepidation was unfounded in this case. “Catch a Falling Star” is actually a quick, easy and fun read. It’s easy to imagine yourself as Carter, or any of the surrounding characters for that matter, and get swept away in the not so glamorous life of a star.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: YA review, young adult

Laura Fitzgerald’s ‘Under the Egg’ is a perfect summer read

Under_the_Egg-copyUNDER THE EGG,” by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, Dial, March 18, 2014, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

In high school, my favorite class was AP art history. I loved it so much; I went on an art history tour my teacher offered a year after I graduated. In college, my minor was history. So when you mix art, art history, history and books together, well you might just say I’m in heaven. So you can understand my excitement when I came across “Under the Egg,” by Laura Fitzgerald — it fits into all of those categories and more.

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.*

“Under the Egg” has a lot of things going for it — great pacing, an interesting storyline and characters you actually care about.

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© 2014, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

Categories: ages 8-12, middle reader