The first one is a sequel to one I really liked last year. It's a combination of dystopian future and a Robin Hood story. The first one, by Kekla Magoon was called "The Shadows of Sherwood". The second one is called "The Rebellion of Thieves" and it was just as terrific as the first one. In the first one, Robyn is kind of a loner, she likes to build things out of recycled junk she steals from junk yards. One night when she's out looking for new parts, her parents disappear. Not like aliens took them, but this looks like there was a big struggle and Robyn fears for their safety. Robyn runs away and finds a group of friends who help take care of each other. It turns out there has been a change in leadership in her community and not really for the better. In this second book, Robyn has established herself and a leader and a rallying point-when she goes out and steals things, she leaves notes to let everyone know who is doing the stealing. Most often, she's stealing food and supplies, which she gives to the less fortunate people of her community, so she's quite a hero to them and less so to the powers that be. There is a contest and Robyn thinks she might be able to use entering the contest as a way to rescue her mom. This book is really exciting and it's a lot of fun to make the connections to the traditional Robin Hood story. Robyn is a terrific character-strong and resilient. I like her a lot.
The second one is a super fun combination of graphic novel and regular text. It's called "Isabella for Real" and it's by Margie Palatini. It's about Isabella, who has a big, loud, multigenerational Italian family that lives close by her and are very involved in her life. Isabella has an aunt, Kiki, who was an actress in a successful soap opera, but has been cancelled. However, the character was so beloved, that she still has thousands of fans who know her as her character, The Contessa. Isabella gets accepted to a prestigious local private school and the students somehow believe that the Contessa is Isabella's mother. She tries to correct them, but they are so excited, eventually she just starts agreeing with them. About the same time, her cousin Vincent, starts taking video of the family and posting them on Youtube, where they become an internet sensation. Isabella realizes that eventually her friends are going to figure out that she's been lying to them and goes to great lengths to try to stop her friends from figuring it out. What's great about this are the panels of graphic illustrations. It adds a really fun element to the story. The characters are also terrific-so funny and it's easy to hear their strong New Jersey Italian accents. The only thing that might slow kids down on this one is the way it bounces around in time. I thought it was terrific and I think the kids are going to like it a lot too.
The last one is a picture book biography of Malala Yousafazi called "Malala: Activist for Girls' Education" by Raphaele Frier. In case you don't know the story of Malala, she grew up in Pakistan, where her parents encouraged her to get a good education, in spite of the Taliban and their desire to keep women ignorant. Malala spoke out often and loudly until a Taliban member shot her three times and she was taken to England for medical treatment. She was the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and continues to speak out about the need for education of girls and women. It's a great story and this one has some amazing art work. I also really liked the notes in the back of the book that had information about people that Malala admired and modeled her own work after as well as some of the projects that Malala continues to work on. This one would be great paired up with another picture book biography that came out last year called "The Right to Learn" by Rebecca Langston-George and it will make a great addition to any library.