Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

Best new books for children and young adults

"Ocean Meets Sky" by the Fan Brothers (S&S)

"Ocean Meets Sky" by the Fan Brothers (S&S) Credit: Simon & Schuster

Eric and Terry Fan's "Ocean Meets Sky" (Simon & Schuster, ages 4 to 8) is about sailors, dreamers and the gifts of grandfathers. At its center is Finn, a small boy who "lived by the sea" and has some treasured gifts from his grandfather whose 90th birthday would have been today: a love of sailing, and stories about the place where the sea and sky come together. Finn assembles materials — a piece of wooden fence, a window frame or two and other odds and ends — to build his boat. When Finn peeks out from below decks and finds himself on a blue sea, the sky is full of amazing shapes, and a pale blue mist, as if the sky and the sea were merging, is all around him. A long-whiskered fish, exactly the right kind for magic with its golden scales and wise eyes (and looking much like Finn's grandfather), guides Finn on his journey to the horizon with all its promise of wishes, dreams and hope. Finn sails to where the blue air merges with the watery depths and a huge blue whale, sailing ships and luminous jellyfish accompany him. Weightless, flying, floating, diving, swimming creatures and vessels surround him. Young readers will be captivated by the exuberantly detailed artwork and warmed by the promise of dumplings, as Finn's mother wakes him to come home for dinner. — KATHIE MEIZNER

Two new picture books immerse young readers in the ocean. In "Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere" (Little, Brown; ages 5 to 9), Barb Rosenstock tells a little-known true story about Otis Barton and Will Beebe, who dared to explore the ocean depths inside a hollow metal ball that Barton had designed. When they teamed up, in the late 1920s, no person had survived a depth beyond a few hundred feet. Katherine Roy's engaging watercolor illustrations capture both the cramped quarters of the Bathysphere (its interior diameter was four-and-a-half feet) and the revelatory views of creatures 800 feet below the surface. With "Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin" (Charlesbridge, ages 5 to 9), Michelle Cusolito takes readers on a "you are there" mission to examine the site of once-active underwater volcanoes: "Animals here thrive in toxic chemicals, blistering temperatures, and intense pressure. But you're safe inside Alvin." The machine called Alvin can fit only one additional person than the Bathysphere did, but it goes much deeper (more than 14,000 feet, or almost three miles). Nicole Wong's detailed digital illustrations add an exciting immediacy to the descent and to the glowing wonders of the deep. — ABBY MCGANNEY NOLAN

Twelve-year-old Claudia Dalton's passion for puzzles becomes a high-stakes pursuit when her usually dependable father goes into hiding in "The Jigsaw Jungle" (Putnam, ages 10 and up), an ingeniously plotted middle-grade novel by Kristin Levine. Soon after he disappears with no explanation, Dad mails a clue — a single puzzle piece — to Claudia at the home of her paternal grandfather, Papa, in Alexandria, Virginia, where she is staying for part of the summer. This clue is the key to the next in a series carefully constructed by Dad; Claudia and Papa follow each to learn more about Dad when he was her age. Claudia also collects recent emails, receipts, fliers and transcripts of phone conversations and old home movies into a thick scrapbook. Like the protagonist, the reader must piece together clues and insights hidden in these materials. At the heart of this mystery is a secret Dad has kept for years: He is a deeply closeted gay man. Levine handles this revelation with sensitivity and skill. Though times may have changed by 2015, when this novel is set, Claudia becomes more aware of the discrimination suffered by gay people a generation ago, which informed some of Dad's choices. Levine's previous three books have been lauded for their nuanced exploration of complex subjects, including racial tensions ("The Lions of Little Rock") and mental illness and bullying ("The Paper Cowboy"). With this one, she also develops tween and adult characters with compassion and depth, as they evolve a better understanding of a family that can be "both great and broken, all at the same time." — MARY QUATTLEBAUM

More Entertainment