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Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan

Islandport Press, 200 pages, 2018

Fifth-grader Atticus Finch Martin, who goes by Finch, has trouble paying attention in school. He spends his time daydreaming about uncovering a dinosaur fossil and hopes to name a new dinosaur species after himself. One day he digs up a note with only one word on it: “Help.” Finch is determined to help whoever wrote the note, but as he “digs” deeper into the mystery he is in danger of losing out on a field trip to the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. Born and raised in Connecticut, Gail Donovan now lives in Maine and is the author of the middle-grade novels The Waffler, What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker?, and In Memory of Gorfman T. Frog, which was named a New York Public Library Best Book for Children. Her latest work is perfect for young readers, especially those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in the spirit of adventure. — Erik Ofgang

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What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 pages, 2018

There are parallels between Connecticut author Vesper Stamper and her main character, Gerta, who says, “Until I was captured, I had no idea I was even Jewish.” Stamper’s life was upended when a car crash resulted in the partial paralysis of her arm, which she came to learn would be permanent. So, a musician would find a new path as an illustrator, and a writer. As she explains in her author’s note, “A fire rose up in me to tell this story.” It’s the story of 17-year-old Gerta, a Holocaust survivor who finds new hope, purpose and love in the lifescape of a displaced persons camp. For ages 12 and older, Stamper’s debut novel brings warmth and emotion to a difficult topic, bolstered by her starkly elegant ink-wash illustrations. The work was one of 10 books selected for the longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  — Albie Yuravich

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September 1918: War, Plague, and the World Series by Skip Desjardin

Regnery History, 252 pages, 2018

West Hartford resident Skip Desjardin takes us back a century to 1918, a year which, at least to most Red Sox fans, used to mean just one thing: the last time Boston won the World Series. The 86-year drought ended in 2004, lessening the association of “1918” with the misery of Sox fans. But Desjardin reminds us that during this time there was a lot more going on than Babe Ruth making his transition from dominant pitcher to iconic slugger. The U.S. was in the latter stages of World War I. The War Department had established the “work or fight” order, from which ballplayers were exempt until the conclusion of the World Series. (Rosters had already been decimated due to response to the war effort.) The Spanish flu pandemic began to sweep through New England, with the close quarters and frequent movement of troops contributing to its spread. Desjardin digs deep for his first book, weaving sports and history with exhaustive research of one month, 100 years ago. — Mike Wollschlager


This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.You can can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.