The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Vol 106 / Issue 29

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books for global readers By Augusta Scattergood Appealing protagonists, colorfully drawn settings, and just plain-old well- told stories – that's what these three wonderful new books for middle-grade readers have in common. The poetry is exquisite in Silver Peo- ple, award-winning Cuban-American author Margarita Engle's novel in verse aimed at readers ages 10 and up. And her storytelling is equally beautiful. Even those leery of poetry will be drawn to the story of Mateo, a 14-year- old Cuban recruited to help build the Panama Canal in 1906. Readers learn about the creation of the Panama Canal through multiple characters, includ- ing voices from history and the animal world, all working together to create a vivid sense of time and place. The shared struggles of Mateo and his fellow workers – the "Silver People" – are truly compelling. There are, of course, other accounts of the planning and building of the Panama Canal, but this novel offers much more: Mateo's moving journey from his homeland to his gradual understand- ing and acceptance of a new life in Panama, distinctive stories from different workers, and glorious poetry. O p h e l i a J a n e Worthington-Whittard may not think she's brave. But by the time the last page is turned in Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy – Australian au- thor Karen Foxlee's magical reimagin- ing of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" – readers will discover that our heroine is both daring and true. It's Christmas week and Ophelia; her gloomy sister, Alice; and their fa- ther have decamped to an unnamed foreign city where it always snows. An international expert on swords, Mr. Whittard has been invited to curate an exhibition in a most unusual museum. Ophelia, wandering alone through the gloomy museum galleries, discovers the Boy, who has been held prisoner by the Snow Queen for a very long time. Illustrator Yoko Tanaka's guide to the museum and dark, atmospheric double spreads add much to the ap- peal of "Ophelia." No familiarity with the original "Snow Queen" is required. Readers ages 8 to 12 who've grown up on fairy tales, graduated to "Harry Pot- ter," and appreciate gorgeous writing and complex storytelling will find that Foxlee's story stands tall on its own. People with real magic in their veins once lived in Midnight Gulch, Tenn. They could catch stars, "dance up sun- flowers," even glow in the dark. It's the kind of town where Felicity Pickle – protagonist of Natalie Lloyd's delightful debut novel, A Snicker of Magic – hopes her wandering family will settle down. And now that Felicity has made a very special new best friend – Jonah, who has a plan to help the tongue-tied Felicity share her love of words with the rest of the world – just maybe Felicity's mom will give up her sadness and her nomadic ways and let the family make Midnight Gulch their forever home. Lloyd's novel for readers ages 8 to 12 has much more than a snicker of magic. It offers a vast and varied cast of char- acters, a multilayered plot, and a bit of mystery along with the fantasy. But best of all is Lloyd's ability to make this story feel so real that it could be taking place next door. r Augusta Scattergood regularly re- views children's books for the Monitor. Three delighTful new books offer middle-grade readers sTories To savor. These books work magic books From 'Sparky!,' illuStrated by ChriS appelhanS From 'three bearS in a boat,' by david Soman 40 The ChrisTian sCienCe moniTor weekly | June 9, 2014

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