THE SHADOW BEHIND THE STARS
By Rebecca Hahn. (Atheneum, 256 pages, $17.99, grades seven and up.)
Chloe spins the wool and shapes the thread that is a life; her older sisters measure the thread and cut it where it ends. Together, they are the three fates: Their handiwork is your destiny. They cannot interfere with mortal lives; their job is only to know. But when a beautiful young girl appears at their doorstep, her village ravaged, her family gone, the sisters cannot help but become invested in her future — a dangerous attachment that threatens to overturn the whole world. More than a fairy tale, Rebecca Hahn’s otherworldly novel is a haunting meditation on what makes us human.
By William Alexander. (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, 272 pages, $16.99, middle grade.)
With the sequel to last year’s “Ambassador,” National Book Award winner William Alexander brings readers back to outer space — where Gabe Fuentes, ambassador of Earth, is trying to navigate a galactic diplomatic crisis: The ruthless Outlast are threatening to take over the entire galaxy. But Gabe, a hero to root for and the anchor of the novel’s complicated plot, has more on his mind than saving the civilization — back on Earth, his dad has been deported from the United States to Mexico, and all Gabe really wants to do is find him.
THE BAMBOO SWORD
By Margi Preus. (Amulet Books/Abrams, 335 pages, $16.95, middle grade.)
It’s 1853, and 13-year-old Yoshi dreams of someday becoming a samurai — an impossibility, given that he’s just a servant. But when Commodore Perry’s British ships arrive at Edo Bay, asking for the long isolated country to open its ports, Japan is thrown into upheaval, and Yoshi embarks on an epic adventure that will lead him to places (and people) he never could have imagined. A sure-footed tale of friendship and intrigue, the companion book to the Newbery Honor-winning “Heart of a Samurai” brings history to life.
Margi Preus will read at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at Addendum Books, 478 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul.
THE VERY PERSISTENT GAPPERS OF FRIP
By George Saunders; illustrated by Lane Smith. (Random House, 84 pages, $22, all ages.)
Kindhearted, bizarre and delightful, Saunders’ profound — and profoundly witty — fable tells the story of a girl named Capable who lives in the goat-herding town of Frip. Hordes of bright-orange creatures called gappers attach themselves to the goats, and every day Capable and her neighbors must remove them. But one day, the gappers switch their strategy, and Capable finds herself alone — and surrounded by neighbors who can’t be bothered to help. Fifteen years after its release, this new edition has never been more relevant.
Saunders will read at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Macalester College. Presented by Rain Taxi Review and Common Good Books. Tickets are $5.
THE FIREBUG OF BALROG COUNTY
By David Oppegaard. (Flux, 312 pages, $11.99, grades nine and up.)
Mack Druneswald, 18-year-old slacker and possibly the most affable arsonist in literary history, has a firebug in his chest: Since his mother’s recent death, roving through the night setting fires has become less a hobby than a compulsion — which, Mack would be the first to admit, is less than ideal. More ideal: his unexpected relationship with an impossibly cool college girl who has her own set of issues to deal with. This darkly comic coming-of-age story with tremendously likable characters also packs a serious emotional punch.
Oppegaard will read at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Bad Weather Brewing, 414 W. 7th St., St. Paul.
Rachel Sugar is a writer in New York.