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Books in Brief: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart; Missing! by Brenda Z. Guiberson

CHILDREN'S

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart; Henry Holt, 341 pages ($16.99)

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This heartwarming road trip tale, of a girl and her father finding their way back after a tragedy, comes from Dan Gemeinhart, Washington State-based author of "Some Kind of Courage," "Good Dog" and "The Honest Truth."

Since her mother and two sisters were killed in a car accident five years before, 12-year-old Coyote Sunrise and the dad she calls Rodeo have traveled the country, making their home on a retrofitted school bus they call Yager. They're in Florida when Coyote learns from her grandmother that the small park in their old neighborhood in Washington State is about to be bulldozed, endangering the memory box she buried in the park with her mom and her sisters not long before the accident. Somehow Coyote has to fool Rodeo into driving there, a place he has sworn never to return to.

Coyote tricks her father into heading in the right direction by claiming she had a "D.E.A.D. (that is Drop Everything and Drive) Dream" that will only be satisfied by a pork chop sandwich, available at a certain sandwich place in Butte, Montana.  But another driver will be required to keep up the pace required to travel 3,600 miles in four days. So along the way they accumulate a diverse group of travelers: Lester, an African-American musician having trouble with his girlfriend; a Latin American boy and his mom fleeing domestic abuse; Val, a gay teen disowned by her parents; a kitten and a goat.

Gemeinhart has created a  memorable voice in Coyote, a girl wise beyond her years,  in this poignant tale of strangers becoming family and helping a grieving girl and her father come to terms with a terrible loss.

NONFICTION

Missing! Mysterious Cases of People Gone Missing Through the Centuries written and illustrated by Brenda Z. Guiberson; Henry Holt, 220 pages ($19.99)  Ages 8 to 12.

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Brenda Guiberson, author of many nonfiction books for children including "Cactus Hotel" and "Disasters: Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes Through the Centuries," offers an interesting assortment of six historical mysteries, working back in time from the disappearance of labor organizer Jimmy Hoffa in 1975 to the 15th century disappearance of 12-year-old King Edward V of England and his 9-year-old brother Richard from the Tower of London.

Guiberson is a colorful but clear writer and she carefully lays out out what facts are known, theories about what might have happened and what may never be known, in the well-publicized disappearances of Hoffa, of plane hijacker D.B. Cooper in 1971 and legendary pilot Amelia Earhart in 1937. The other intriguing disappearances involve less familiar personalities: child author Barbara Follett, who published a well-reviewed book at the tender age of 12 and disappeared in 1939 at the age of 25, and Batavia stonecutter and writer William Morgan, who disappeared in 1826 as he was about to publish a tell-all book revealing secrets of the Freemasons.

The chapters about Hoffa and Earhart are particularly fascinating. Hoffa's first involvement in the union cause came at 16 working 12-hour night shifts unloading produce from rail cars onto trucks for Kroger. We learn that Amelia Earhart built her own roller coaster as a girl, once considered medical school and launched a clothing line of sportswear using fabrics like parachute silk and cotton in hopes it would pay for her flying career. The Morgan chapter may be of special interest due to the local connection; much of it details the history of the Masonic Order. The book is liberally illustrated with historic photos, maps and portraits drawn by Guiberson.

 

PICTURE BOOK

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas; by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Don Tate; Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 30 pages ($17.99) Ages 4 to 8.

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Tonya Bolden, author of many acclaimed books of African-American history, joins forces with illustrator Don Tate in this entertaining and informative picture book biography of Junius G. Groves, who was born into slavery, won his freedom as a young man and moved to Kansas where he became a hugely successful potato farmer, crowned "Potato King of the World" in 1902 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bolden is a gifted writer and her text is lively, smart and often wryly funny: Of Junius Groves' humble beginnings, she writes: "No crown. No kingdom. Not an inch of ground. When baby Junius G. first laid eyes on the world, he had nothing to call his own. Legally, not even himself." Tate's expressive illustrations are marvelous. The book offers lessons in history, agriculture, even math. (At least, "potato math" as in a bushel equals 60 pounds, 1 pound equals about three potatoes)

 

 

 

 

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