By Colin Meloy
Ages 8 to 12
Prue McKeel seems right at home in Portland, Oregon. The 12-year-old rides her bike to a neighborhood coffee shop, a taqueria and a music store selling vinyl records. She’s a vegetarian who practices yoga. But her hip town has a feature that visitors to the real city in the Pacific Northwest will never see: a large, mysterious wooded area.
Parents warn their children not to visit this place, called the Impassable Wilderness. There are stories of people getting lost in there for years.
Prue never ventured nearby until the kidnapping. She had been looking after her baby brother, Mac, when a group of crows snatched him out of a local park and carried him toward the woods. She had no choice but to follow.
Before she can ride her bike into this unknown territory, she is followed by oddball classmate Curtis. He wants to help her find Mac. Prue reluctantly agrees, but the duo doesn’t stick together for long.
In the woods, they spy a group of coyotes dressed in military uniforms. The coyotes soon smell humans, and the kids try to flee. The coyotes capture Curtis; now Prue has two people to save.
She has no idea what a complicated place this wood is. There are the city dwellers in the South Wood, farmers in the North Wood and, in between, an area called Wildwood includes bandits and a witchlike woman who has organized an army of coyotes.
Nobody appears to be interested in helping Prue, an Outsider. She has to figure out whom she can trust in what is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. As Prue is drawn into the conflicts, she wonders whether she will ever find Mac and Curtis and return to the comforts of home.
By Django Wexler
Ages 8 to 12
The day after Alice spies a fairy arguing with her father, the girl’s life changes forever. Dad hastily leaves on a long business trip. Soon after, his ship disappears in a storm, making Alice an orphan. She is sent to live with a mysterious uncle in a house with an enormous library. The books in the library are off-limits to Alice. But when a boy dares her to open one, she gets a closer look than expected.
J’miah and Bingo are raccoon brothers who have been recruited to the elite scout group that guards their Texas swamp in “The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp” by Kathi Appelt. Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn lives on the edge of the swamp with his mom, who runs a cafe. When developers threaten to turn the swamp and the cafe into an amusement park, the scouts and Chap are determined to stop it. The Sugar Man, who guards the swamp, could help, but finding him and waking him up seems like an impossible task.