Sugar Changed the World, Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos. The history of sugar, from its discovery to its spread through its role in colonization and slavery, as well as its indirect effects on industrialization, science and republic-building. The authors do a good job in balancing personal details (both of their families were directly affected by the sugar business) and the facts, which helps in comprehending the sometimes horrific events chronicled.
How They Croaked (reviewed)
Geektastic, ed. by Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci. I loved the explanation for this anthology, that Black and Castellucci wanted to collaborate on a Klingon/Jedi short story and the only way to sell it was to make the anthology it belonged in, and I enjoyed most of the other short stories describing different teenagers with varying passions. Lyca's story left a terrible taste in my mouth, though, involving the protagonist getting away with a horrible and illegal example of cyberbullying. Being a geek doesn't make it OK to violate other people, even if they are more popular than you.
Chain Reaction, Simone Elkeles. I'm too old to really appreciate this YA novel, with its short, alternating boy/girl chapters and the universal assumption that sex should start as soon as you TRULY love someone. Probably several years before you've heard of birth control. I found the poor choices of both protagonists depressing, even though the author protected them so they'd grow up to have children like themselves.
My Boyfriend Is a Monster #1, Evonne Tsang: Very fun graphic novel about a sport jock and a geek who find romance over their egg-baby. Just as they admit their mutual liking, a zombie apocalypse strikes the city and they must run for their lives (as one does). The words and graphics both respect the characters but never take themselves too seriously. My older son and I are eagerly awaiting more from these writers. I actually tried this on my NOOK, but I couldn't read the text and felt I couldn't really appreciate the pictures. My device is not really made for pictures.
Where Things Come Back, John Waley. Two brothers in a family unique in its own happiness and unhappiness know without speaking that they are united together as they face the world. This story tells of the summer when one disappeared, leaving the other always one step off, not knowing how to react or how to trust anything. It was almost unbearable to read, even when the second story about the college boys crazed with religion caught up and revealed the answer to the disappearance. The ending left me miserable, because I don't think it was real. But I hope my sons are as close as those brothers were.
Daybreak, Brian Ralph. I read this twice, because my library system had the first volume but I felt the ending couldn't be right, so I ordered it from Seattle Public Library and found out the ending. My favorite part is how the book speaks directly to the reader, although you are relegated to a following role so that you don't make many decisions, except at the very end. I'm impressed that now I've enjoyed two zombie stories, including this definite horror version.
Pavement Chalk Artist, Julian Beever. I read this while my fifth graders browsed the pictures, admiring the technique and special effects as well as the visuals. It's a fun description of fascinating ephemeral pictures.
Infinite Kung Fu, Kagan McLeod. This martial-arts graphic novel enthralled my seventh grader but only barely kept my interest. I suspect it lost me on some of the fight scenes, which he loved but which left me cold, especially since I could never tell who was winning so they didn't actually advance the plot at all. I kept forgetting who was who, mainly because I couldn't remember what the main characters looked like.
The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone. A very interesting meditation on what reporting is and isn't, and its inherent weaknesses -- since reporters are people, news can never be without bias, and pretending or attempting to be balanced brings in its own biases. The cartoon format enhanced and underlined its points, keeping the book interesting, although not enough to get my seventh grader to read it.