The first 400 pages of “The Marvels” are told through illustration, chronicling the exploits of sailing-turned-acting family the Marvels in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the last 200 pages told in prose, following the story of 13-year-old Joseph Jervis after he runs away from boarding school to stay with his eccentric uncle, Albert Nightingale. Selznick unfurls the relationship between these two stories gradually, in a way that both manages to build suspense in a maddening way and be totally satisfying once all is revealed.
When Kate Hood’s grandmother disappears, leaving behind several grotesque tapestries depicting children being tortured in horrible ways, no one in her village will help Kate look for her. In desperation, she turns to Jack, another village outcast after he had a nasty run-in with a giant a few years back. Before they can get far in their search, however, they’re taken to the king; it seems a princess has gone missing, and they’re the prime suspects.
It’s a day like any other before Cassie’s father, panicked, drags her into the car and tells her they’re leaving the country because a group known as the Hastati is after them. Before he has time to explain, he’s shot, and as he’s whisked away to the hospital, he tells Cassie to go to a mysterious monastery. Can she figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?
When a strange girl comes to sit beside Francis at lunch one day, he’s more surprised that anyone at his school wants to talk to him than he is that the girl, Jessica, turns out to be a ghost. With a shared interest in fashion design and the common problem of loneliness—Francis is the only one who’s been able to see Jessica in the year since she’s died—the two soon become inseparable.
“George,” by Alex Gino, is a middle-grade novel that tells the story of Melissa, a girl who desperately wants to play Charlotte in her classroom’s theatrical production of “Charlotte’s Web”. It sounds like it could be the plot of any charming school days book, with one noticeable difference—Melissa was born a boy. Her classmates, family, and teacher know her as George, and she wants to play Charlotte not only out of admiration for the book she loves but also as a way to tell the world who she really is: a girl.
“Unstoppable Octobia May” is a book I wish was out when I was a kid. It’s a rare example of a middle-grade novel that grate on adult sensibilities, and packs a powerful punch to boot.
Colette Iselin has had a rough year, but a class trip to France offers an escape from all her troubles. Once she arrives, Colette begins to see the ghost of Marie Antoinette, who appears to be murdering members of old aristocratic families all around Paris. And, of course, Colette soon realizes that she might be next!