There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith; Roaring Book Press, $18.99.
Lane Smith, winner of the Caldecott Medal for “Grandpa Green,” offers a gorgeous, whimsical exploration of the natural world through a child’s eyes in this cleverly structured, beautiful celebration of childhood. The story plays off the amusing and unlikely names for collections of creatures (An unkindness of ravens, a pod of whales, a smack of jellyfish) and the parallel collections of inanimate objects in a landscape (a formation of rocks, an ocean of blue). Our child explorer, clad in leaves a la Peter Pan, goes on a solo journey, scaling mountains, swimming in the ocean, perching on a whale, flying with a raven in Smith’s lovely exercise of the imagination with a most satisfactory conclusion, winding up in the welcome company of a tribe of kids.
– Jean Westmoore
We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore; HarperCollins, 320 pages, $17.99. Ages 14 and up.
Lizzie Stoller, 16, is an athlete, a good student, “normal” in every way when she collapses on the archery field at summer camp, so sick she has to be flown to a hospital. She is eventually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disorder, a diagnosis that alters her life and outlook in fundamental ways. While in the hospital, she falls in love with a handsome teenage volunteer who makes regular visits to the ward with his therapy dog, Verlaine. But Connor is hiding big secrets of his own. This fine coming-of-age novel offers a poignant exploration of the lessons painfully learned through serious illness. The author’s own experience being diagnosed in her early 20s with ulcerative colitis adds a grittily realistic backdrop for Lizzie’s suffering.
– Jean Westmoore
End of Watch by Stephen King; Scribner, 448 pages ($30)
You would think that being rendered brain-dead would put a stop to a serial killer’s career. If said serial killer is a denizen of Stephen King’s novels, not necessarily.
Brady Hartsfield was the title character of King’s “Mr. Mercedes,” so called because he killed eight people by running them over with one. In “Finders Keepers,” his plan to blow up an auditorium full of tween girls at a boy band concert was foiled when he was beaned with a sock full of ball bearings.
Brady was left in a persistent vegetative state, thanks to stalwart retired cop Bill Hodges, odd but brilliant Holly Gibney and brave young Jerome Robinson.
As “End of Watch,” begins, Brady is still living in a hospital room, five years later. Hodges and Holly are running a private investigation firm, and Jerome is now a Harvard student.
The Hartsfield case should be long behind them, but Hodges is haunted by it. For years, he visited Brady’s hospital room, telling the unresponsive patient that he knew he was faking, and paying off nurses to feed him information.
Hodges pretty much stopped visiting, but the bribes have yielded disturbing bits of news. A doctor, Felix Babineau, who seems almost as obsessed with Brady as Hodges is, has been treating him with some unorthodox methods. Not only is Brady beginning to show some limited response and speak a little, but there are rumors that he has unusual powers as well – the blinds and blankets in his room sometimes dance around as if they’re alive, and the lights come on by themselves.
– Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times