“Mutt’s Promise” by Julie Salamon, illustrated by Jill Weber. (Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99.)
Promises save the day in this engaging tale. Here, a stray called Mutt vows that she’ll protect a farmer’s animals from a hungry fisher cat and promises her pups that they will find their “talents.” After a joyful summer with a boy called Gilbert, pups Chief and Luna find and use those talents to face down real adversity as Gilbert’s migrant-worker family leaves the farm and the pups are held captive in a grim puppy mill.
“Summerlost” by Ally Condie. (Dutton, $17.99.)
In this emotionally rich standout novel, Cedar Lee begins her summer at a loss after the car-crash deaths of her dad and older brother. With her mom and younger brother, she’s settling into a house in her mom’s hometown when Cedar sees a strangely attired boy riding a bicycle. Soon, she joins him to work at the Summerlost theater festival, and they collaborate on a secret moneymaking enterprise, sleuth out more about the mysterious death of the theater’s famed former star, reveal who’s been leaving little gifts on Cedar’s windowsill and experience the profoundly healing power of true friendship.
“The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse” by Brian Farrey. (Algonquin Young Readers, $16.95.)
Facing her mother’s impending death, Princess Jeniah fights sadness with determination to learn to be an effective queen. But her tutor seems reluctant to teach, and Jeniah is consumed by curiosity about why monarchs are warned that The Monarchy will fall if they enter a marsh called Dreadwillow Carse. When the peasant girl who helps her goes missing in the marsh, Jeniah risks all in this princess story with a difference.
Farrey will take part in the Red Wing Book Festival from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Anderson Center, Red Wing. And he will read (with Kelly Barnhill) at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 at Wild Rumpus, 2720 W. 43rd St., Mpls.
“The Executioner’s Daughter” by Jane Hardstaff. (Carolrhoda Books, $16.99.)
Life is grim for Moss, the daughter of King Henry VIII’s executioner. She’s had enough of holding the basket that severed heads are tossed into during beheadings. Author Jane Hardstaff is strong on description, which can be awfully chilling and — when it comes to describing London riverside life — vivid and fascinating. She’s also a dab hand at adding eerie elements and at portraying a friendship that saves Moss physically and emotionally.
“The Search for the Homestead Treasure” by Ann Treacy. (University of Minnesota Press, $16.95.)
The treasure here is not just an ancestor’s dowry mentioned in an old diary that 14-year-old Martin Gunnarsson secretly reads, but the riches that friendship brings in adversity. While grieving the death of his brother, and with his father seriously injured in an accident, Martin must figure out how to farm his family’s Stillwater land. Fortunately, Martin’s impulse to save a boy from apparent drowning leads to fast friendship, vital help with the farming, some breakdown of prejudice and a treasure hunt.
Rosemary Herbert is a veteran literary critic, former librarian for children and teens and editor in chief of “The Oxford Companion to Crime & Mystery Writing.”