Good Reads For Growing Minds

4 local authors release new books for children and young adults.

The magic of a great children’s book, whether it is a bedtime story or an action-packed chapter book series, hinges on the writer’s ability to engage the imagination of the reader. From beautifully illustrated picture books to sci-fi adventures about space travel, these four books by South Shore authors are the perfect reason to put down your digital devices and pick up a book.


Gator Dad


“My initial sketch was an alligator sitting with his arm around a little gator. Part of my goal with this book was to portray a competent stay-at-home-dad.”

A prolific children’s book author and illustrator from Duxbury, Brian Lies was a stay-at-home-dad back in the ‘90s and his experience helping to raise his daughter helped inspire his latest picture book for young children, “Gator Dad” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2016).

“When I did it there weren’t as many stay-at-home-dads out there as there are now,” says Lies. “I didn’t see myself reflected in the media’s representation of fathers and part of my goal with this book was to portray a competent stay-at-home-dad.”

The father figure in “Gator Dad” is both confident and carefree, with a propensity for childlike fun and a determination to “squeeze” the most enjoyment out of each day. The book celebrates the entertaining and sometimes unorthodox steps that a dad will take to amuse his children, from cooking up yummy breakfasts and making blanket forts to going on adventures into the “wild.”

“My initial sketch was an alligator sitting with his arm around a little gator,” says Lies.

“Just like some parents who might be better at showing how much they love their family members rather than saying how they feel, this alligator clearly loves his kids,” says Lies.

With some 28 titles now under his belt, Lies has become well known for producing books with clever storylines and vibrant depictions of animal characters embarking on amusing adventures. “I primarily work in acrylics,” says Lies. “I go through phases where I’m focused on the words in the story and then I will bounce back to work on the illustrations.” Some of his previous picture books include “Bats at the Library” and “Bats at the Beach.”

When he’s not working on upcoming projects, Lies enjoys visiting elementary schools and libraries across the country.

Gator Dad
By Brian Lies
Published by
Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt, May 2016


Identity Crisis


Author Melissa Schorr’s story tackles romance, betrayal and timeless friendship in the age of modern technology.

Cohasset author Melissa Schorr’s newly released novel for young adults, “Identity Crisis,” (Merit Press, January 2016)  is centered around the topic of cyberbullying, an issue that hits close to home for many parents and teens. Her main character, Annalise Bradley, ia curvaceous high school student whose attentions to a particular boy in school spark the anger of her female classmates and inspire three of them to get back at her by “catfishing” her, creating a fake online profile for the perfect boy who doesn’t really exist.

One thing that makes Schorr’s novel particularly unique is that it is told from alternating perspectives, both from Annalise and her classmate, Noelle, who is the girl that created the online profile to distract Annalise from a boy she has a crush on. When Annalise falls for the rouse, Noelle is left feeling guilty for her actions. “I wrote this book basically out of the fear of the online/social media world that my own two young daughters will soon be experiencing, as they become tweens,” says Schorr, who avoids simply characterizing her characters as victims or bullies and manages to shed light on this complicated social issue. “It’s easy to imagine the feelings of anger and betrayal of someone who discovers they have been catfished, but I also wanted to understand the motivation of what makes someone become a catfisher.”

While bullying is an age-old problem, the advent of cell phones, computers and social media programs like Facebook have made it possible for even more devious actions to take place. “Identity Crisis” covers romance, betrayal, and timeless friendship in the age of modern technology.

Identity Crisis
By Melissa Schorr
Published by Merit Press,
January 2016,


Fenway and Hattie


“Fenway is really a reflection of myself and the feelings that I was dealing with about our move.”

Told from the perspective of an energetic Jack Russell Terrier named Fenway, Victoria Coe’s debut novel “Fenway and Hattie” (GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin, February 2016) sets itself apart from other middle grade books right out of the gate. The book describes Fenway’s life in the city (with a name like Fenway, it’s hard not to think of Boston)  with a humorous cast of characters that includes Food Lady, Fetch Man, and his “short-human” best-friend, a little girl named Hattie. Fenway’s life is turned upside down when the family moves to the suburbs where everything is different and both he and Hattie encounter new obstacles.

Coe, who grew up in Duxbury and spends summer weekends there, didn’t set out to become an author, but found herself inspired to write the book from a dog’s point of view after watching her own dog struggle with the transition of her family’s move. “We were moving and our dog was not happy about it,” says Coe. “It was during that process that I started zeroing in on him.” Coe quickly caught the writing bug and began learning as much as she could about the craft.

The character of Fenway is smart, frisky and funny. The youthful innocence of his doggie voice sounds very much like a child, though the things he thinks and “says” are the topics you might imagine would be running through a dog’s head, such as treats, evil squirrels and a super slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room. “He’s really a reflection of myself and the feelings that I was dealing with about our move,” says Coe. Fenway gets confused when he sees his friend Hattie playing without him and both characters learn a lot about friendship and growing up.

The target audience for the book is children ages 8-12, and it aims to challenge readers to think about the world in new ways. “I have found that elementary school 3rd, 4th and 5th graders seem to be the audience that is most excited about the book,” she says.  Coe is currently working on a second book in the series called “Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang”, due to be released in the spring of 2017.

Fenway and Hattie
By Victoria Coe
Published by GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Young Readers,  February 9, 2016, 


Bounders


“I love sci-fi because it’s escapist,” says Tesler. “There’s not a lot of middle grade science fiction out there.”

Hingham resident Monica Tesler wrote most of her debut science fiction novel “Bounders” (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, January 2016) while riding the commuter boat to Boston. A practicing lawyer for the past 15 years with two young children, Tesler felt a creative spark and in 2011 made a commitment to find time to write. The result is a fantastic space adventure story for middle-grade youngsters.

“I love sci-fi because it’s escapist,” says Tesler, who says she her favorite book growing up was another science fiction classic for young readers, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. She admits to being a huge Star Wars and Dr. Who fan and wanted to write a story that her children would get excited to read.

Bounders is about a class of young cadets who come to Earth Bound Academy to train to be elite aeronauts. The story follows five cadets who enjoy hanging out at the space station, flying jetpacks and learning a new highly classified transport technology called “bounding,” which allows people to travel within the galaxy in a split second without a spaceship. As with all good adventure stories, all is not as it seems. The cadets soon realize the real reason Earth Force needs the Bounders. With an alien threat on the horizon, the cadets are forced to decide between rebelling against the academy that brought them together or fulfilling their duties, no matter the cost.

“There’s not a lot of middle grade science fiction out there,” says Tesler. “I enjoy hearing from young readers who enjoy the book.” Tesler’s second novel in her three-book series is set to be released in January 2017.

Bounders
By Monica Tesler
Published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, January 5, 2016, 

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