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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, are always on the move.  It’s just the two of them and their retro-fitted school bus, Yager, rolling down highways and back country roads, heading wherever the mood strikes them.  Never looking back, only forward to the next truck stop, gas station, campground, or sandwich shop.  Sometimes they stop long enough for Coyote to take swimming lessons or make a new sort-of friend, but they never stay anywhere for long.  It’s open road, all kinds of sunshine, and freedom – but it’s also kinda lonely.

So when Coyote sees the box of free kittens in the gas station parking lot, and the smallest one, the quietest one, looks at her just so, she just knows he’s coming with her, no matter what Rodeo has to say about the matter.  She names her new kitten Ivan, after her favorite book, and after a rough start, even Rodeo’s in love.  But the thing is, Ivan is only the beginning of the story.

A few days later, when Coyote learns that the park in her home town is being torn down – the same park where she, her mom, and her two sisters, Ava and Rose, buried a memory box five years ago – she knows she has to figure out a way to get Rodeo, Yager, and Ivan from Florida to Washington State before the park, and the box, disappear forever.  Even if there is no way, no how Rodeo is going to agree to hit the trail home on his own.  But sometimes, fate has its own way of bringing you home.  With the help of a whole host of new folks, including an unlucky-in-love blues musician, a rescuer-from-overly-well-intentioned-people and maybe-best friend and his mom, and one very loyal goat, Coyote and Rodeo are on the road to Washington – because sometimes, going back is the only way to move forward.

This book broke my heart and stitched it back together again in all the best ways.  Reading this is like settling in with a big box of fortune cookies, where each one holds a small but profound truth – and just the right amount of sweetness.  With big and small adventures, kindnesses, misunderstandings, stories, and plenty of love, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is a middle grade must-read this summer.  Author Dan Gemeinhart has a number of other books, and you better believe I’ll be adding them to my reading list too!

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Cyd shares one of her summer reading picks!

This debut novel is so compelling, I had a hard time putting it down! It pulled me in from chapter one and stole my heart by chapter three. Fig, the young protagonist, is irresistible – and her story is filled with love, art, confusion and courage.

Most of us can recall some of the angst of being a 6th grader like Fig Arnold. It is a time of easy embarrassment and tender feelings. You are trying to figure out who you are, where your passions and talents lie, and what love actually means.

Set in coastal New Jersey, 11-year-old Fig wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist is a mystery to Fig. She is science and math nerd, but bravely steps outside her box and signs up for an art class – to hopefully see life more like her father does. As she starts a project about Vincent van Gogh, Fig sees similarities between her family and his. But then Fig’s dad shows up at her school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is an earnest portrait of a young girl yearning for acceptance and stability, while struggling to understand her father’s illness and searching for someone she can trust.  It is also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. I highly recommend it!

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange

Petra and her big sister Mags have grown up in their lighthouse by the sea with their Pa and their Mutti.  On the chalky cliffs near Dover, their lighthouse is also home to the Daughters of Stone, four standing stones who, legends say, were turned to stone singing their fathers safely home from the sea.  Petra loves their lighthouse life, and all the quiet and wild things about the wide expanse of sea and sky – all except the Wyrm.  Although the lighthouse is there to warn sailors against the Wyrm, the sandbar in Dragon Bay below Petra’s beloved cliffs has swallowed hundreds of ships and kept them prisoner in the shifting sands of its maw, their masts only visible at the lowest tides.

But the year is 1939, and more dangerous things than sandbars lurk beneath the waves of the English Channel.  With the German army advancing toward the coast of France, a coast Petra can see on the clearest days from the lantern room in her lighthouse, fear is rising in the people of the village.  Barbed wire on the beach and bunkers on the clifftops make it clear that the war is coming to Kent, and soon.  When mysterious things begin happening in the village – cut wires and fires – it is clear that there is a traitor in their midst.  Neither Petra nor Mags believe it could possibly be their German-born mother, no matter what the villagers think, but when Mutti is summoned to a tribunal for enemy aliens, Petra feels her world start to slide out of control.  What can one girl do when it seems the whole world is at war not only with itself, but with her family?

Oh, this book!  Wow, wow, wow.  I have been waiting for the heir to the historical fiction throne that Kimberley Brubaker Bradley’s Newbery Award-winning The War That Saved My Life has been occupying in my heart for several years, and Our Castle by the Sea is a most worthy successor.  With old legends permeating the story (and maybe, just maybe, coming to life), Petra’s coming of age is rich with family, history, mystery, danger, high stakes, and one of the loveliest settings I’ve encountered in awhile.  There is nothing I would love more than to lean back against one of the sun-warmed Daughters of Stone and watch the clouds and the sea and the Wyrm twisting beneath the waves with its captive prey of shipwrecks – minus the Nazi submarines, of course.  Or explore the chalky Tunnel beneath the cliffs with a good jam sandwich in hand.  If you love historical fiction, or just a family story that will make you feel All the Things, be sure to pick up Lucy Strange’s sophomore novel at the library this summer!