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Every Drop Counts – Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman
(Simon & Schuster; $18.99, Ages 13-17)



Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman book cover



Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews
NYPL Best Books for Teens


New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman’s YA novel Dry follows the perilous adventure of 16-year-old Alyssa in Southern California during a major drought that turns deadly. The drought or “The Tap-Out” has resulted in a cutoff of water from reaching any homes, sending Alyssa’s parents in search of other water sources. Unfortunately, her parents do not return. This turn of events results in an unexpected and dangerous journey for Alyssa, her younger brother, Garrett and their survivalist neighbor Kelton. Companions they meet along the way include rebellious Jacqui and barterer, Henry.

This suspenseful story is told through the eyes of each teen, switching between them and snapshots of outside characters whom the teens encounter in their harrowing journey through California in a desperate search for water. Dry is a fantastic dystopian novel yet its closeness to reality, due to California’s already barren lands, makes the story even more gripping as we could easily be Alyssa or Garrett and so look to see how all the characters deal with crisis. The writing appealed to me because the authors were able to create compelling and distinct individual personalities for the characters, allowing me to identify with certain actions or people within the story. I was fascinated by how the characters reacted in each situation the authors’ depicted because it made me question if I would react in the same way.

This novel is guaranteed to keep readers on their toes. If you’re unsure as to whether to read Dry, I’d say definitely give it the benefit of the drought!

  • Review by Rachel Kaufman


Rachel Kaufman is a current sophomore studying communications at the University of Southern California. She’s passionate about books and hiking with her dog, Scout. Rachel enjoys how books reshape her imagination of the world around her. Rachel knows firsthand how important books are in aiding children’s futures, working with a reading program, Reach Out and Read, by reading, organizing, and donating over 200 children’s books. In her free time you can find her either reading or thinking about what she might read next.


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Aesop in California


I had forgotten that the Tortoise and the Hare was a centuries-old Aesop’s fable despite using the moral “Slow but steady wins the race,” on a regular basis. In his new book, Aesop in California (Heyday Books, $16.95, ages 4-8) author/illustrator Doug Hansen,  a California State University, Fresno illustration professor, revisits 15 of the fables including The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Lion and the Mouse and The City Mouse and the Country Mouse and ties them into the flora, fauna and fantastic locations around the Golden State.

AESOcover_web800px-200x161Combining extensive research, photographic field trips and some poetic license, Hansen has delivered a superbly satisfying storybook. Parents will want to read different fables with their children at different points in their childhood because of the valuable morals imparted. One of my favorite fables is The Fox and the Grapes about a hungry fox unable to reach delicious looking grapes growing on a vineyard trellis. Naturally when the fox, whose efforts are observed by a little bluebird, prove unsuccessful he calls over his shoulder in hearing range of the bird, “Don’t waste your time on those grapes. I’m sure they’re all sour anyway,” hence the popular expression, “sour grapes.” If you don’t remember the moral of this tale, it’s a good one worth teaching children, “It’s easy to find fault with what you cannot have.” When the fables are finished, there’s a Fabulous Facts section in which Hansen describes the plants, animals and locales beautifully illustrated in each fable. For example The Fox and the Grapes takes place in Napa Valley and the bluebird, a western one, helps keep the grape growers’ insect population at bay.

Of interest to L.A. readers would be The Jay and the Peacock set in Rancho Palos Verdes and The City Mouse and the Country Mouse featuring the Santa Monica Mountains and a Hollywood bungalow. With its abundant timeless fables and amazingly detailed artwork, Aesop in California is a picture book parents will not want to rush through, but rather share one fable at a time because after all, slow and steady wins the race!

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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You Better Watch Out!


I’m excited to share my review of  Santa is Coming to California, one title in a clever new series from Scotland based illustrator Robert Dunn and UK based author Steve Smallman published by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky ($9.99, ages 4 and up).

Old Saint Nick is getting his Santa-nav ready by entering the correct coordinates for California and then off he will go! Imagine how much fun you’ll have reading this story to your children as you follow Santa’s sleigh and reindeer as they make tracks from the North Pole all the way to the Golden State! Not only will you love the spirited illustrations, but you’ll also love how the story subtly teaches a geography lesson.

9781402277757Santa and company get lost in fog, but when they get reoriented they are zooming over the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco’s notable sites. Eventually they make it to Hollywood plus other delightful points here and yonder despite some weary and hungry first-rate sleigh pullers.

If you’re not a California resident, you can take advantage of Santa is Coming To My House, virtually the same picture book with a different cover and without the specific city names and landmarks (hence some different illustrations) so any child anywhere can enjoy it!

So which list are you on?

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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