‘Your Pal Fred’ by Michael Rex is a thrilling graphic novel with a powerful message for young readers

I first became acquainted with Michael Rex’s work when I read and reviewed his clever picture book, “Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots.” I loved using that book with my students, teaching them about the difference between facts and opinions. So when I read his latest endeavor, “Your Pal Fred,” I had high expectations. This graphic novel did not disappoint, and to be honest, that surprised me. You see, many graphic novels confuse me. I get bewildered by those with many characters who all seem—at least to my senior eyes—to look somewhat alike. I did not have that problem with “Your Pal Fred” as each character is clearly and cleverly delineated. It’s very clear who each of the characters are and what they represent. The dialogue and the illustrations make this story about friendship and kindness accessible and enjoyable to read.

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‘Starsight’ the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s new series is brilliant


“Starsight” is the sequel to “Skyward!” by Brandon Sanderson, an author who really understands not only about creating complex characters but also about writing a plot that boasts gripping nonstop action. At the start of this series, Spensa, the main character, is not a very likable person. She’s a teenager who has grown up determined to be a pilot like her father, and after he died in combat, allegedly running away from battle, a coward, she has had to defend his name.

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‘We’re Not From Here’ by Geoff Rodkey is a thrilling, action-filled, middle grade scifi novel

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“We’re Not From Here” by Geoff Rodkey is a fantastic story that could be dystopian, except for the humor-filled pages that seem to be anything but dystopia-like, in spite of the novel’s destruction of Earth and the possible extermination of the human race thing going on. Lan, the narrator, and Lan’s sister and parents are living on Mars after Earth is destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse. But things are not great on Mars. Food and water are running out, clothes are turning to rags, and the air processors are failing so everyone is always tired.

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‘Outwalkers’ by Fiona Shaw is a powerful book about the love of a boy for his dog in a bleak dystopian future


“The Outwalkers” by Fiona Shaw is a tough read, but not because it’s not a fabulous story. In fact, the book is intriguing from the first page and emotionally heartrending to the last. It’s dark and depressing, but at the same time it’s filled with hope and the promise of a better world. My heart beat a bit faster from the beginning to the end of the book — I was that worried about the main character, Jake, and his incredibly loyal and wonderful dog Jet.

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‘The Final Six’ by Alexandra Monir Is a Too-Possibly-True to Miss Reading Dystopian Novel


The world Alexandra Monir creates in “The Final Six” is one that is all too believable. Climate change has caused the sea levels to rise, and tsunamis have devastated coastal cities. Rome is underwater and people live on the top floors of tall buildings. Whole populations in large cities have drowned when tsunamis rushed in to engulf everything.

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‘Unearthed’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Is a Thrilling Young Adult SciFi Ride


It’s being billed as a cross between Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner comes close. It’s the story of a future Earth when climate change has destroyed much of our planet. Scientists on Earth find a message from an extinct alien race that explains how to build a portal to Gaia, another planet, where the astronauts find a piece of technology that powers a clean water supply for all of Los Angeles. Then the astronauts are killed while exploring one of the temples there.

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‘Fate of Flames’ is fabulous fantasy for young adults


“Fate of Flames” by Sarah Raughley is the first book in the series “The Effigies.” It’s a story about an alternate world much like ours, but one in which evil creatures, Phantoms, have appeared to plague humankind. At the same time, four girls have suddenly gained powers that help them fight the Phantoms.

When one of the girls with the power dies, another is created — seemingly at random.The girls are called Effigies, and for obvious reasons, they become famous.

The story begins with high school student Maia, the most recent girl to receive the power. She hasn’t told anyone, even the uncle with whom she lives. Since her parents and twin sister died in a fire, Maia has had trouble making friends. She feels guilty that she lived while everyone else died. Ironically, the power she gets from the Effigy who died is the power of fire.

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