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Books in Brief: The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth; How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

YOUNG ADULT

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth; HarperTeen, 368 pages ($17.99) Ages 13 and up.

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There are lovely echoes of C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales in this bewitching, beautifully crafted tale – by a local author – of darkness, hope and finding your way home again.

Two sisters and their brother, huddled in a backyard shelter outside their London home during an airstrike, are swept from the grim realities of World War II to another realm, a Woodland realm, ruled by the noble stag Cervus. But all is not peaceful there either, and after six years in the Woodland, where the siblings have been tested and have seen terrible things, they find themselves back home again, forever changed, although not a moment in time has passed and they share their story with no one.

As the novel begins, it is 1949 and Philippa has left for the States for college, Jamie is at Oxford, Evelyn is back at boarding school at St. Agatha's. Of the three, it is Evelyn who is in a state of profound misery, longing for her true home in the Woodland. Her behavior mystifies and alarms her parents, and despite her siblings' best efforts – Jamie even introduces her to a kindly schoolmate, a farm lad named Tom Harper who could be more than a friend – nothing can shake Evelyn's conviction that she will never be at home in this world and that she can only be her true self in the Woodland.

Weymouth effectively shifts the narrative back and forth in time, from the Woodland years (described in italic font) to 1949 Britain, and the narrative voice between  Evelyn in the first half of the novel and Philippa in the second. While the general populace grapples with the realities of post-war Britain – empty spaces at the family table, family photos framed in black of dead soldier boys, ,  the scars and lost limbs, the three siblings deal alone with their traumas, the secret of their lost years and their other selves in this different world. The fraught bond between the two sisters is especially compelling, as we slowly learn what Philippa has done to try to save Evelyn and what Evelyn did to save Philippa. Weymouth offers a compelling contrast between the noise and chatter of Evelyn's boarding school with life in the Woodland with its Great Wood, its growing things, the rhythm of the seasons. The Tarsin forces threatening the Woodland are every bit as sinister as Lewis's White Witch.

According to her publisher, Weymouth, who lives in Akron, is a "Canadian living in exile in America."

NONFICTION

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson; Viking, 139 pages ($19.99) Ages 10 and up.

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The New York Times bestseller has been adapted into a fascinating book for young readers, focusing on six innovations: Glass, Cold, Sound, Clean, Time, Light. Johnson writes: "Our lives are surrounded and supported by a whole class of objects and systems that are powered by the creativity of thousands of people who came before us: inventors and lobbyists and reformers who steadily hacked away at a problem or refused to let go of what I like to call a 'slow hunch,' an idea that comes into focus over decades, not seconds." The chapter on glass explores the Roman craftsmen who used melted silica to make drinking and storage vessels to Turkish glassmakers in 13th century Venice to Charles Vernon Boys, the physicist in the 1880s who used a crossbow in the lab to stretch a thread of molten glass almost 90 feet. In the chapter on "Cold," we learn of entrepreneur Frederic Tudor who made millions figuring out how to transport and store ice in the Caribbean. In "Clean," we meet a New Jersey doctor named John Leal who secretly, without permission or notice to the public, first chlorinated a public water supply, in Jersey City, N.J.

PICTURE BOOK

The Dam by David Almond illustrated by Levi Pinfold; Candlewick Studio, $17.99.

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Before the dam is finished and the valley flooded, a father and daughter visit once last time to fill the doomed homes with music in this haunting book featuring David Almond's trademark narrative magic and dramatic sepia illustrations by Levi Pinfold, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for "Black Dog." This haunting book is a true story: after construction of the Kielder Dam in Northumberland, England, in 1981, father and daughter Mike and Kathryn Tickell visited the abandoned homes to play music one last time before they were flooded.

 

 

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