Every Hidden Thing: A Review

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth OppelThe Badlands are rich fossil country. At a time when history is being rewritten and archaeology is largely unregulated, it’s easy for anyone to get into fossil hunting and make their name.

Samuel Bolt’s father has no degree and no position, but he has countless fossil discoveries and publications of his findings. While Professor Bolt is reckless and heedless of consequences, he is a well-known and popular personality among the fossil collection community. Samuel learned his love of fossil hunting from his father but he is eager for a time when he can strike out on his own and make his own name in the field.

Rachel Cartland’s father is a respected Ivy League professor and the head of a university archaeology department. He tolerates Rachel as an able assistant but he is slow to accept her ambitions for a university education and her own work as an archaeologist.

Cartland and Bolt are bitter rivals but when they meet, Samuel quickly finds himself drawn to Rachel in a way he hasn’t felt for other girls before. Rachel, meanwhile, is immediately thrilled by the way Samuel sees her both as an attractive young woman and as an equal.

Both the Bolts and the Cartlands arrive at the Badlands in search of an elusive rex–a king dinosaur that promises to be the largest fossil ever discovered. As rivalries flare and romance blossoms, both Rachel and Samuel will have to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice in pursuit of this once-in-a-lifetime discovery in Every Hidden Thing (2016) by Kenneth Oppel.

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Every Hidden Thing is a fascinating standalone historical fiction novel.

While the time period is never stated explicitly, Oppel does an admirable job of setting the scene of the early 1900s when fossil hunting and archaeology gained momentum (and respectability) in the US.

Inspired a real rivalry (which Oppel explains in his author’s note), Every Hidden Thing has been pitched as Romeo & Juliet meets Indiana Jones. While not as tragic as the former or as high action as the latter, this description is surprisingly accurate and will appeal to fans of both stories.

Written in alternating first person narration, this novel carefully builds both Samuel and Rachel’s characters. By overlapping the narration at key moments, the motivations behind some of Rachel’s calculating choices and Samuel’s heedless actions are also carefully detailed.

Every Hidden Thing is a well-researched piece of historical fiction. Rachel and Samuel are immediately sympathetic but also remain convincingly grounded in their time as both characters grapple with limitations (Rachel’s gender and for Samuel his lower class status) and the rigors of an archaeological dig. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, star-crossed lovers, and readers interested in dinosaurs and fossil hunting.

Possible Pairings: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, Indiana Jones (movie)

The Museum of Heartbreak: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg LederPenelope Marx has never been kissed. She loves her family and her friends. She dreams of dinosaurs fleeing New York City. She longs for the day she will fall in love. She has no idea how many forms heartbreak can take for one girl.

Penelope’s best friend Audrey is more interested in hanging out with Cherisse–a girl whose sole purpose in life seems to be making Penelope miserable. Keats, the beautiful new boy in school, is absolutely perfect and painfully unattainable–at least at first. Then there’s Eph, Penelope’s other best friend, a boy who is either frustratingly endearing or endearingly frustrating. Pen is never quite sure.

In a year filled with changes and heartbreaks both small and large, Penelope will have to figure out how to move forward–especially when she knows exactly how fragile a heart can be in The Museum of Heartbreak (2016) by Meg Leder.

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The Museum of Heartbreak is a charming debut with a sincere and authentic heroine at its core. Nothing goes quite as expected for Penelope during her junior year of high school, forcing her to admit that sometimes change can be not only healthy but necessary.

Although she and her friends are privileged children of wealthy parents (Penelope’s family lives in a brownstone near her father’s job at the Museum of Natural History–a status mirrored by Audrey, Eph, and most of the students at their private school), Pen’s New York is still a glaringly authentic one from grimy thrift shop experiences to being yelled at on the subway platform.

Despite these moments of reality, The Museum of Heartbreak still maintains a strong sense of wonder and appreciation for the unique opportunities and experiences to be found in New York City.

Penelope is an introspective and authentic heroine who will appeal to fans of Jenny Han’s Lara Jean series. Like Lara Jean, Penelope wants to grow up and fall in love, but she also likes hanging out at home with her friends and chatting with her parents. While straddling the awkward space between childhood and adulthood–a transition that leaves her feeling unsettled and ill-prepared for whatever is supposed to come next–Penelope tries to make sense of her changing perceptions of her parents and closest her friends.

The Museum of Heartbreak is a story of first loves and second chances filled with characters who sometimes stumble even as they learn to try again. The Museum of Heartbreak is a story about stepping away from what’s comfortable and finding something even better. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira; Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake; Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum; So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti; Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg; To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han; The Truth Commission by Susan Juby; Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June; It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood; Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella; The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen; The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart; The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord; Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta; Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills; The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood; This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales; Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt; Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith; P. S. I Like You by Kasie West; The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration*

Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad: A Picture Book Review

Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad by Liz ClimoRory is an energetic dinosaur who lives on an island with his father in Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad (2015) by Liz Climo.

When Rory’s dad needs quiet time, Rory sets out to find some adventures all by himself. Little does he know, Dad is there every step of the way to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

Bright, bold colors and clean lines help bring these whimsical characters (previously seen in Climo’s comic Tumblr and her book The Little World of Liz Climo) to life.

Climo’s hand lettering lends a folksy quality to the otherwise sleek style of her digital artwork. Ample white space on each page and small pieces of text make this a read-aloud option with broad appeal. An excellent addition for most collections.

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen on various sites online*