2/27/17

Realm Breaker (Last Dragon Charmer 3), by Laurie McKay

Realm Breaker is the third book in Laurie McKay's Last Dragon Charmer series (Harper Collins, March 7, 2017).  The books tell of a young prince and a young girl who's a magic user, inadvertently exiled from their magical homeland to Asheville, North Carolina. There Caden and Brynne found that Ms. Primrose, the principal of the middle school they were forced to attend by their new foster mother is actually a powerful dragon, of uncertain temper, presiding over a staff consisting of banished villains. 

At the end of the second book, the leader of the villains, a  truly sinister fellow, has overthrown the dragon principal and is setting up a dark magical spell  that will allow him to access the magical realm and take control there too.  Caden is naturally determined to stop this evil plan.  But though he has allies in Asheville, and though he has magical gift of his own for persuasively charming speech, it's not at all clear whether he'll be able to do so.  Especially since the dragon ex-principal is being pushed toward her own dark side....

This series is tremendously fun in general, in its lighthearted use of High Fantasy conventions mixed with the real world of Asheville, where Caden is in foster care.  And this third book, not having to set the stage, spends less time playing with Caden's confusion about life in the real world (though he's still confounded at times), giving McKay room to up the ante of the plot.  There's lots of  suspense and danger, making for truly gripping reading! 

The world building of the fantasy realm and its inhabitants is strengthened here, adding interest, and the relationship between Caden and his older brother (banished to Asheville under a cloud of suspicion) is also given more depth. Though there are lots of great character interactions, it's especially fun to see Caden gingerly negotiating with Ms. Primrose, who is one of the most diverting dragon characters of the current middle grade fantasy scene!

Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and younger middle grader aficionados of magical mayhem (the 9 to 11 year olds not ready for YA) should seek the books out post haste!  Here's my review of the first book, Villain Keeper, and the second book, Quest Maker.  Realm Breaker builds on the strengths of these two, making for very good reading indeed!  This installment ends at a good ending point, but there are lots of questions and unresolved issues left, so hopefully there will be more to come!

final note--  I want to share the link to the Goodreads page for the book, because Ms. Yingling's review there gives a lovely detailed summary, and because she loved it, though she is not naturally drawn to middle grade fantasy, so I think her admiration for the series is about as shining a testimonial as one can get....

disclaimer: review copy received (with great happiness) from the author

2/26/17

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (2/26/17)

Here's this week's roundup--please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

100 Cupboards (series review) by N.D. Wilson, at Redeemed Reader

Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson, at Charlotte's Library

Ben the Dragonborn, by Dianne Astle, at Middle Grade Munch

The Burning Bridge, by Roy Carter, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood and Co. book 4), by Jonathan Stroud, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, at My Brain on Books

The Doll's Eye, by Marina Cohen, at Mom Read It

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, by Steaphanie Burgis, at The Book Smugglers

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, at GeoLibrarian

The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler, at Sharon the Librarian

The Goblin's Puzzle, by Andrew Chilton, at GeoLibrarian

The  Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, at Imaginary Reads

If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses #1) by Susan Maupin Schmid, at Redeemed Reader

The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Book Nut (audiobook review)

A Little Taste of Poison, by R.J. Anderson, at Redeemed Reader

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi, at Redeemed Reader

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel, at Nerdy Book Club

Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, at Leaf's Reviews

A Pocket Full of Murder, by R.J. Anderson, at Redeemed Reader

Saturdays at Sea, by Jessica Day George, at Reading Violet

Time Travelling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Authors and Interviews

Carter Roy (The Blood Guard Series) at Always in the Middle and the Children's Book Review

Other Good  Stuff

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center 2017 best of the year book  list

The Alsc 2017 Notable Children's book list

The Nebula Awards List has been announced, and I'm pleased to see that Evil Wizard Smallbone is in contention for the Norton Award (for "YA" books) .  Here's the whole Norton list:

      The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)

  • And finally, after twenty years, the world of Megan Whalen Turner's books has a map, created by artist Maxime Plasse

    2/23/17

    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson

    I have not read the first book about Audacity Jones, denizen of Miss Maisie's School For Wayward Girls (Audacity Jones to the Rescue) but that did not stop me from enjoying her second outing! 

    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson (Scholastic, January 31, 2017), Audie is once again taken on as a detecitve's sidekick.  "Cypher", the mysterious gentleman responsible for Audie's first outing, now has been hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and needs a set of young eyes and some quick wits to help him on another case.   Accompanied by her best friends, a fellow Wayward girl and a most unusual cat, they set off for New York.

    There Harry Houdini is about to pull off his biggest magic trick yet-he plans to make an elephant disappear!  But someone is trying to sabotage him, and its up to Audie and her friends to make sure that the absent-minded genius who's the brains of this trick isn't "taken care off" by a jealous rival before she can complete her work for Houdini.  And in the meantime, there's the elephant himself--a young and mistreated animal, who must be saved!

    It's  fun visit to turn of last century New York.  There's enough historical detail to make it convincing, without weighing the story down.  The highly intelligent and highly unusual cat brings a touch of fantasy to the mix, which makes it all the more intriguing; that being said, it's subtle enough so that those who are looking for more realistic fiction won't be bother, but those who are looking for full blown cat fantasy will be pleased but might perhaps want more!

    Animal lovers, magical cat lovers, and fans of upper elementary level detective stories with strong girl leads will love it.  It's not a long or dense book, so it's good for the third to fifth grade set.

    disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.

    2/21/17

    The Invisible Hand, by James Hartley, for Timeslip Tuesday (British boarding school meets Mcbeth!)

    In The Invisible Hand, by James Hartley (Lodestone Books, Feb. 22, 2017), Sam is stuck at a gray and dismal British boarding school finds himself caught in the story of Macbeth, time-traveling back to medieval Scotland for brief intervals (that usually end up in him being badly damaged or killed, Macbeth not being the most peaceful story to visit. Back in the past, he meets a girl, Leana, and she too is caught in the the time-travel magic, only she moves forward in time to the boarding school.

    The episodes of danger in medieval Scotland are vivid and convincing. This is sort of time travel where the traveler fits neatly into a slot, and knows the right thing to say, but though Sam passes as a native just fine, he keeps his own internal point of view. We don't get to see medieval native Leana's point of view as she finds herself at boarding school far in her future, but it's still an interesting narrative, and we do get her perspective back in the past as Macbeth's story plays out.

    The time slipping isn't, though, the actual point of the story, merely a symptom of supernatural forces at work. The magic of Macbeth's three witches spills into ordinary life at boarding school. The ordinary lessons and discomfort that Sam has been learning to put up with become mixed with danger. The school is the repository of an ancient book that can change reality, and Sam needs to find it in order to chart a course that will steer him clear of the darkness of Macbeth's story, giving him and Leana a more hopeful future.

    If you are looking for a YA fantasy that is a change from the standard "young magical savior of the realm, possibly in an attractive dress on the cover" sort of thing, and of course if you enjoy Shakespearean riffs, and British boarding school stories, you might well enjoy this one lots. It's not necessarily for every reader--the bouncing between past and present is somewhat abrupt, and Explanations aren't as forthcoming as some of us might like. For instance, if there was a reason why Sam started time-slipping, I didn't pick up on it. But it is a vivid and memorable story, that sticks very nicely in the mind.

    It's possible that more answers will be forthcoming. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeare´s Moon, in which book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

    Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

    2/19/17

    This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (2/19/17)

    Welcome to this week's collection of blog posts of interested to fans of middle grade fantasy and science fiction.  It's a little light this week, which makes me feel I might have missed things, so let me know if I missed your post!

    The Reviews

    A Crack in the Sea, by H.M. Bouwman, at books4yourkids

    The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, at Great Imaginations

    The Dog Ray, by Linda Coggin, at Charlotte's Library

    Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, at alibrarymama

    The Forbidden Fortress (Omega City #2), by Diana Peterfreund, at Ms. Yingling Reads

    The Inquistor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Pages Unbound Reviews

    The Marvellous Magic of Miss Mabel, by Natasha Lowe, at The Write Path

    The Nethergrim, by Matthew Jobin, at Say What?

    The Secret Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart, at Pages Unbound Reviews

    Shadow Magic, by Joshua Kahn, at Geo Librarian

    The Skeleth (Nethergrim, #2), by Matthew Jobin, at Say What?

    The Sorcerer of the North, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

    Talons of Power, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Hidden in Pages

    The Unfinished Angel, by Sharon Creech, at Completely Full Shelf

    Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers, at Geo Librarian

    When the Sea Turns to Silver, by Grace Lin, at Geo Librarian

    Authors and Interviews

    Kent Davis (A Riddle in Ruby) at The Reading Nook Reviews

    2/18/17

    The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin

    The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin is the story of a girl who is reincarnated as a dog.  Which sounds rather bald, and kind of odd.  But it is a story that works; a gripping, emotional read.

    When Daisy is killed in a car accident, she's slotted for reincarnation.  In the normal run of things, she would have been born again as a person, but lack of availability in her area lands her rebirth as a puppy.  And in a slip-up, she's been left with her memories of her human life, and she wants to get back to her parents.  Instead, she finds a friend in a homeless boy named Pip, who also is looking for family, and as they travel together, Daisy gradually looses her human memories and becomes more and more completely Pip's dog, Ray.

    Daisy's metamorphosis into true dog sounded to me, when I first read about this book, like something horrifying and grotesque--a loss of humanity and a loss of self.  But the actual progression of her change was, instead, gentle and natural; she wasn't, after all, Daisy the human girl any more, so sinking more and more into dogness seemed like a gentle, natural  thing to happen to her.  And it was made more palatable by the bond between her and Pip, a loving relationship formed purely by the dog, Ray, with very little of Daisy to do with it.

    This book offers a moving portrayal of homelessness; one of Daisy's first and best friends in her dog life is a very sympathetic older homeless man, who is also kind to Pip, himself a runaway from foster care. 

    Give this one to kids who love dogs who like their fantasy real-world oriented and their reading on the sad side: it didn't make me exactly cry, but almost.....Kirkus and I are on exactly the same page with this one; they say (full review here):  "A powerful story brought to heart-beating life by its cogent craftsmanship."

    2/15/17

    Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt, by George O'Connor

    In his afterword to Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt (First Second, January 31, 2017) , the latest in his graphic novel series about the Olympian gods and goddesses, George O'Connor shares that this was one of his favorites to create.  That enthusiasm shows clearly, and this was by far my favorite of the series to read.

    The story of Artemis, strong-minded protector of wild things, is told from multiple points of view, beginning with her mother, Leto's persecution by Hera, and including the sad tale of Niobe whose pride in her children came to a dreadful end, the story of  fierce hunter Atlanta, and that of Orion, her would be lover, as well as others. It's a rich and varied tapestry, with one constant factor--Artemis herself, steadfast in her choice to be free and fierce all her life.  She is not kind, but she is not unsympathetic either; though she's a killer, she's also admirable.  The book is given depth by the emotional heft of Artemis' choices and their consequences.

    Although I haven't read the other books in the series recently, the images here seem brighter, which is appropriate for moon-loving Artemis, and they are full of vivid detail and expressiveness.  They
     help make Artemis a more complex character than some of the other Olympians featured in earlier books..

    In short, it's a very vivid collection of vignettes that combine into a gripping portrait of one of my own favorite Olympians, and fans of the series will not be disappointed!

    disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

    2/12/17

    This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (2/12/17)

    A shortish round-up this week, which is fine because now I can go play more Stardew Valley (although my new cat is not letting me in my house, and my children are asleep so I can't ask them what to do...)

    As always, please let me know if I missed your post!

    The Reviews

    The Castle in the Mist, by Amy Ephron, at Great Imaginations

    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, at Charlotte's Library

    The Doll's House, by Rumer Godden, at Semicolon

    The Eternity Code, by Eoin Colfer, at Lunar Rainbow Reviews

    Foxheart, by Claire Legrand, at A Reader of Fictions

    Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane, at Sonderbooks

    The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Becky's Book Reviews

    The Jamie Drake Equation, by Christopher Edge, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

    Journey Through Ash and Smoker (Ranger in Time 5) by Kate Messner, at Time Travel Times Two

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at Charlotte's Library and Word Spelunking (with giveaway)

    The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith, at Cracking the Cover and Ms. Yingling Reads

    The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones, at The Book Smugglers

    When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, at Sonderbooks and Falling Letters

    A Wizard Abroad, by Diane Duane, at Fantasy Faction

    Word of Mouse, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, at Log Cabin Library and A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    Two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2). by Michael Galvin and Peter Speakman. and The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith

    Authors and Interviews

    Amy Ephron (The Castle in the Mist) at Nerdy Book Club

    Fred Holmes (The Ugly Teapot) on adapting his screenplay to a book, at Middle Grade Ninja

    Dana Langer (Siren Sisters) at Literary Rambles (with giveaway)

    Other Good Stuff

    The Waterstone Children's Book Prize (a UK Award) shortlist has been released, with Middle Grade Spec Fic well represented.

    2/8/17

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson

    https://www.amazon.com/Last-Mars-Chronicle-Dark-Star/dp/0062306715/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486599459&sr=8-1&keywords=last+day+on+mars
    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press, February 14, 2017), is the most gripping middle grade science fiction book I've read in ages.  A hundred and fiftyish years in the future, our sun is going supernova, long before it should be.  Humanity has been forced to leave Earth, settling on Mars, but with Mars about to be engulfed by the sun, colony ships have set off for a new solar system.  Liam and his friend Phoebe are supposed to be on the last ship leaving Mars.  Their parents are desperately working to finish the terraforming project that will make their new planet habitable, but they have only a few hours left before the colony ship must leave.  And things are going wrong.

    The first half of the book covers these last few hours, and it is basically my own personal travel anxiety dream taken to a whole new level of anxious, because the clock is ticking...and  if the kids and their parents don't make it onto the colony ship, they die.

    And like I said, things are going wrong.

    It's not just your basic level of last minute panic wrong, but a much larger, more threatening wrongness.  We learn right at the beginning of the book that the supernova is not a random happenstance, but deliberate sabotage not just of our sun but of other stars.  An alien scientist had come to Mars before humanity left earth, and was killed there, leaving behind a strange device that allows its user to see future possibilities.  Liam and Phoebe find it, and Liam sees disasters ahead.

    Can he and Phoebe save their parents (the terraforming project headquarters is sabotaged), and get off Mars safely?  And in future books, will humanity be able to foil the evil star destroying masterminds? 

    So tense. Very, very tense.  I must confess I enjoyed the first half of the book, with just the generic tenseness of escaping a doomed planet, more than the second, in which enemies (the star destroyers aren't the only ones) start playing a more active role.  Liam and Phoebe are sad to be leaving Mars, their home, and the poignancy of their situation is made vividly real, along with the physical details of the Mars colony itself.   I liked Liam and Phoebe lots; they are not so plucky and lucky as to be unbelievable, but simply ordinary kids doing the best they can.

    Sabotage, robots, space travel and time-slippiness combine for a nail-biting adventure, that will leave readers anxious for the next book.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    Kevin Emerson is the author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection as well as the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos is Gonna Get It. He is also an acclaimed musician who has recorded songs for both children and adults. A former K-8 science teacher, Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. Visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net

    Disclaimer: review copy received from the publishers, as part of the blog tour for the book.  The other stops are:

    Other Blog Tour Participants: 
    Jan. 27th  Unleashing Readers 
    Jan. 30th  SciFi Chick
    Feb. 1st  This Kid Reviews Books
    Feb. 3rd  Walden Media Tumblr
    Feb. 6th  Word Spelunking
    Feb. 7th  Novel Novice
    Feb. 9th  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
    Feb. 10th  Librarian's Quest

    There's a fascinating educator's guide, which you can find at the publisher's website (under "learn.")

    2/7/17

    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders, for Timeslip Tuesday

    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders (Delacorte, Dec. 2016), brings back twins Oz and Lily, and their friend Caydon, for another adventure involving magical chocolate (Oz and Lily's family have a  somewhat dubious heritage of mixing of magic with chocolate, as explained in The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop).  Although this is a sequel, it stands alone just fine, and it's a fun "magical romp" (meaning mostly lighthearted adventure with magic) with some evil antagonists, a talking cat, a young vampire (though she's been 11 for several centuries) and time travel. 

    It starts when the talking cat finds some crumbs from the chocolate phoenix imbued by the twins' Uncle Isadore with time travel magic.  Her visit with Queen Elizabeth has no great implications for the stability of the time stream, but the magical enforcement agency of London is worried.  With good reason--sinister forces are at work, determined to use the time travel chocolate to change the course of history (for the worse).   Silver, who was made a vampire when she was 11, several centuries ago, is assigned to the kids to be their bodyguard, because they have the right magical heritage that enables the chocolate to work its magic.

    And because of this, they are sent on two missions to make sure the past happens as it should--the first, to make sure the Great Fire of London happens, and the second, to make sure that St. Paul's isn't burned in WW II.  Both are exciting time travel adventures, although the actual experience of being in the past is not the point; thwarting the villains, with good reason, absorbs the energies of all concerned. 

    Even though there are plenty of tense moments, when Lily in particular is not as brave as one would like ones young fantasy heroines to be (though goodness knows I two would be a mess if I was thrown into the prison of child-eating giants to be their next snack), the whole ensemble is good magical adventure fun.  The magical world is broadened somewhat in this second book in the series, and there's lots of potential for more character growth and world building to come!

    The true hero is the immortal talking rat, Spike;  the kids themselves are mostly pawns in the battle of grown-ups.  But it's plenty diverting to just go along with them for the ride!

    Caydon's family is from Jamaica, providing some diversity (and I think it's cool that he got to be front and center on the phoenix); I hope we see more of his grandma in future books!

    2/6/17

    She had run out of books to read. What she did next will amaze you! (especially #6) (a 10th anniversary of blogging post)

    (I have been wanting to use this clickbait-inspired post title for ages, and now that it is the ten year anniversary of my blog, I think it is time....nb.  #6 is not actually any more exciting than anything else.)

    So in my twenties, I didn't have anything to read.  Sure there were books for grad school, and a couple of hundred favorites from my youth, but I would go to bookstores and libraries, and not find much of anything that appealed, and it was sad and I whined a lot. 

    Here's how I changed my life, so that now my Book Needs are met.

    1.  In the late 1990s, I joined an online group called Girls Own, thanks to my sister who found it first.  It is a group of fans of primarily British school girl stories, with lots of recommendations of older girls fiction thrown in.  This was wonderful; it gave me lots of authors to look for, and lots of books to buy, especially when small publishers sprang up (like Girls Gone By) who were reprinting some of the scarcer titles.  It also gave my sister lots of books to lend me whenever she visited.

    2.  I married a fellow bibliophile.  This resulted in me reading, in the early days of our relationship, books he had lying around that he recommended to me even though he hadn't read them himself yet (I didn't know that until I had read Angle of Repose and River of Traps, with no enjoyment whatsoever, sparing him the pain of having to do so himself).  On a more positive note, it also resulted in him building lots of bookshelves in our new home (the bedroom shelves are shown below; couldn't get them to fit in one frame, so the splice is awkward, with half the chimney cut off), and lots of visits to used bookstores in England when we went to see his family there.



    3. Amazon was founded in 1994, and Ebay started in 1995.  Ebay was especially exciting, because rare books could be bought rather cheaply....(does anyone else remember making rash purchases of random old books just because one could?)

    4.  The Library card catalogue became available on line.  Placing library holds became a source of much comfort in the first decade of the 21st century, especially when I realized, admittedly rather late in the game, that authors I liked might have written other books.

    5.  I started running booksales for the local library around 2000. Not only did this give me first crack at donations, but the library was also just starting to weed the children's books, which had been stagnant since the 1950s, which I also got first crack at.

    6.  And then the thing that made my book piles explode--I started this blog back in February of 2007.  I started reading blogs the fall of 2006, after successfully selling a first edition of  Newbery award winner Kira-Kira on Ebay for $300, and realized that Newbery Award book speculation was a sure fire way to untold wealth.  The first blog post I ever read was one by Linda Sue Park on what would win the Newbery that year, and that led me to other book blogs, which meant recommendations galore.

    7.  And when I saw that publishers would send you books to review if you had your own blog, I knew I had to do it...And it worked (except for the untold Newbery speculation wealth part).   Hundreds, possibly thousands, of review copies have come my way, and I (and my local library, where many of the finished books have ended up) am very grateful.  I have written almost 3,000 reviews.  I now review for the B. and N. Kids Book blog too, which has added to my review copy piles.

    (Here is my first post to get over 1000 views, on Women's Sufferage Fiction.  You will notice there are no hyperlinks.  It took me almost a year or so to learn how to do those, because I lacked Confidence, but I can now, and that's all that matters.  I am a much better blogger now).  Incidentally, the book by Geraldine Symons I mention was discarded by the library the next year, and is now safely on my own shelves (proving that my cunning plan to get all the books is working).


    So now, twenty years after my horrible time of book drought, I will never be hungry again (imagine a book in Scarlet's hand instead of a potato which is what I would have done if I had decent photo editing capabilities.  Although I also have lots of potatoes that come up year after year because of my poor harvesting skills, which is also fine).




    2/5/17

    this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from aroudn the blogs (2/5/2017)

    Welcome to this week's round-up; please let me know if I missed anything!

    The Reviews

    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson, at On Starships and Dragon Wings

    The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Court of the Stone Children, by Eleanor Cameron, at Time Travel Times Two

    The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim, at Manga Maniac Café

    The Emerald Tablet, by Dan Jolley, at Say What?

    The Firefly Code, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, at alibrarymama

    Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, edited by Jon Scieszka, at Good Books and Good Wine

    The Hero's Guide to.... series by Christopher Healy, at Boys Rule Boys Read

    If the Magic Fits, by Susan Maupin Schmid, at A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Sonderbooks

    Key Hunters: The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper, at Jean Little Library

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at This Kid Reviews Books

    The Lost Property Office, by James R. Hannibal, at Log Cabin Library

    The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Good Books and Good Wine (audiobook review)

    Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King, at Ms. Yingling Reads and Charlotte's Library

    The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith, at Me On Books

    The Scourge, by Jennifer Nielsen, at Semicolon

    Story Thieves: Secret Origins, by James Riley, at Carstairs Considers

    Time Traveling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford, at Charlotte's Library

    The Wishing World, by Todd Fahnestock, at Imaginary Reads

    The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories, by Terry Pratchett, at Back to Books

    The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale, at Always in the Middle, Charlotte's Library, and Falling Letters

    Two at alibrarymama--Me and Marvin Gardens, and Ninja Librarians--the Sword in the Stacks


    Authors and Interviews

    Greg Leitch Smith (Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time) at scbwi

    Zeta Elliott (The Ghosts in the Castle) at Cynsations

    Eric Kahn Gale (The Wizard's Dog) at The Write Path

    Dianne K. Salerni (The Eighth Day series) talks about character names at Project Mayhem

    Janet Fogg and Dave  Jackson (Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper) at Carpinello's Writing Pages


    Other Good Stuff

    Visit The Brown Bookshelf every day this month for 28 Days Later, featuring a different black YA or Childrens author/illustrator every day!

    At Semicolon, a look at trends and themes in middle grade spec fic from 2016





    2/2/17

    Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King

    Things I have in common with the Obe, the 11-year old boy who's the protagonist of Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King (Arthur A. Levine Books, January 31, 2017)

    --plastic trash is vile, and picking up other people's trash is a normal and proper thing to do, and when you live near a creek you go down there lots and come home with your pockets full of trash.
    --houses being built on beloved open space is vile.
    --growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be, and being 11 when your friends are trying to grow up faster than you is miserable. (Especially for Obe, whose former best friend ended up punching him in the face in a territorial war that Obe didn't want any part of).
    --science is cool, and "environmental scientist" seems like a fine career choice and learning science in school is better than doing math worksheets.
    --families are complicated, but when it counts they have your back.

    And both of us, me and Obe both, think that a new species of animal that's a kind of dog sized mishmash of animal-ness that eats plastic would be better if its scat wasn't corrosive enough to melt the soles of one's sneakers and create little circles of dead vegetation.

    Obe finds this animal, who he names Marvin Gardens, down by the creek that's the last wild remnant of his mother's family farm (most of which got sold off, bit by bit, thanks to his Mom's grandfather's drinking problem).  Now a subdivision is being built on the beloved open space.  But down by the creek there's Marvin Gardens, a whole new type of animal.  One who eats plastic. 

    Obe wins his trust, and studies him, while making friends with an over-protected neighbor girl who becomes his ally, and while hurting pretty badly from his ex-best-friend's betrayal.   The gang of boys Tommy hangs out with now are the sort that might hurt Marvin, and Marvin's corrosive poop and his plastic eating is drawing the attention of the builders and the neighbors...To save Marvin, Obe has to let the secret of his existence out into the world, the sort of decision that is its own sort of growing up in its recognition of responsibility and the inevitability of change.

    So this is more than just a tree-hugging sort of story; it's mostly a story about coping with the fact of being an 11 year old in a tense and difficult world, and getting through it in such a way as to still have hope.  Which isn't to say its a depressing story, because there's lots about Marvin Gardens that's charming, and Obe's sister and Mom and science teacher come through for him very nicely, and his new friend is also a good addition to his life, and finally his mother realizes how bad his chronic nosebleeds are and gets him medical attention, and it was not leukemia which is what I was worried about....And Marvin Gardens finds a mate and makes more little baby plastic eaters (yay!).

    But I think that, although there are universal themes here,  the audience that will most appreciate this book are the animal-loving kids who would never, never let a piece of plastic fall from their hands onto the ground, because sea turtles.

    disclaimer: review copy received courtesy of the publisher and author at Kidlitcon 2016.

    1/31/17

    Time Travelling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford

    Yay!  I have a Timeslip Tuesday post!  Time Travelling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford (Schwartz & Wade, October 4, 2016) is more than just a cute hamster adventure, but is also a rather moving story of time travel used in its most personally powerful way--to save the life a beloved parent.  It begins thus:

    My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve.

    Al Chaudhury's dad died, and his mom remarried, so Al now has a stepfather and stepsister, and a hole in his heart where his father was.  But then on his 12th birthday, a letter from his father arrives, and gives him hope that his loss might be undone.  The letter sends Al on a mission back in time.  Back in the bunker at their old house, his father had built a time machine, that actually works.  If Al can go back to 1984, and prevent the go-kart accident that will ultimately lead to his father's death, that death won't happen after all.  So Al, accompanied by his pet hamster, sets out to the past.

    Time travel, though, is tricky and complicated, and though it seems easy to change one specific event it's harder than Al thought (hence the second death of his father when only twelve, that ends up with Al in a very sad present.  And it's hard for Al to get to the bunker, which is quite far from his new house.  Misadventures and mishaps (stealing his grand-dad's moped, setting his school on fire, dealing with a bully back in his dad's childhood, endangering his hamster) make his job difficult, but he is determined....

    So it's a story of desperation, with funny bits and tense bits (that other people might find more amusing then me, for whom tension is never funny), and there's extra depth from familial connections, such as that between Al and his Indian grand-dad, and extra interest for us US readers, from the English setting.

    In short, it's a good read, one that keeps complicating things until its not clear that things will work out for Al, his dad, or the hamster, but happily, it does end well!

    1/30/17

    The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale

    I feel that although there have been some fantasy dogs in the past few years, cats and squirrels have been the clear front-runner animal protagonists.  So even though I myself am a cat person, it was a nice change to sit down with a good magical dog! 

    Nosewise, the titular hero of The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale (Crown Books for Young Readers, middle grade, January 2017), is a very magical dog indeed, although he doesn't at first recognize his own gifts.  His master, Merlin, and Merlin's apprentice, Morgana, have kept him shut out of the study where they do their own magics, but Nosewise is determined to be just as good at tricks as Morgana.  He has no clue what their words mean, but he is sure he can learn to do the amazing magical things Morgana can.  And when Morgana hangs a magical stone around his neck, Nosewise finds that he can talk and understand human speech.  Now there's no holding him back!

    And this is a good thing, because when Merlin and Morgana are kidnapped by the fae, who have taken power of a good bit of the mortal world, it's up to Nosewise to find them, and rescue them from the dark magic that has surrounded them.  Along the way, Nosewise befriends a good hearted boy named Arthur, and together they follow the trail to the place where the sword in the stone is waiting...

    The story is told from Nosewise's doggish point of view, which makes it a fun twist on the Arthur legend.  Nosewise's own magic is likewise of a  doggish bent, with the nose being crucial, as one would expect.  And the conclusion, in which Nosewise shows just what a Good Dog he is, is a lovely twist on the legend!

    Give this one to lovers of dogs and medieval magic stories--they will love it.

    disclairmer: review copy received from the publisher

    1/29/17

    This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (1/29/17)

    Here's what I found in my blog reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!


    The Reviews

    100 Dresses, by Susan Maupin Schmid, at Pages Unbound

    The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, by Wade Albert White, at On Starships and Dragonwings

    Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, by Gabrielle Kent, at On Starships and Dragonwings

    Batgirl at Super Hero High (DC Super Hero Girls #3, by Lisa Yee, at Word Spelunking

    The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1), by Jennifer Bell, at Mom Read It

    The Crystal Ribbon, by Celeste Lim, at Ms. Yingling Reads

    A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge, at Fantasy Literature

    Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2), by Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman, at Winterhaven Books

    The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at A Backwards Story

    A Hat Full of Sky, by Terry Pratchett, at The Book Nut

    How I Became a Ghost, by Tim Tingle, at My Brain On Books

    Island of Dragons, by Lisa McMann, at Say What?

    The Mad Scientists of New Jersey, by Chris Sorensen, at Time Travel Times Two

    The Magician’s Tower by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Memory Thief, by Bryce Moore, at Say What?

    Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghoustbusting Agency, by Kitty French, at Sharon the Librarian

    Talons of Power, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Charlotte's Library

    Theadosia and the Serpents of Chaos, by R.L. LaFevers, at The Literary Phoenix

    Time Traveling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford, at Redeemed Reader

    The Wizard's Dog by Eric Kahn Gale, at Proseandkahn


    Other Good Stuff'

    Here's the text of a talk Katherine Langrish gave recently on Folklore and Memory.

    A review of the movie version of Wait Till Helen Comes at The O.W.L.

    A crab species has been named after Harry Potter and Professor Snape (via Tor)




    1/27/17

    Rooster Joe and the Bully/El Galo Joe Y El Abusõn,l , by Xavier Garz

    I'm proud to be part of the fourth (!) Multicultural Book Day, and to offer a middle grade book provided by Arte Público Press--Rooster Joe and the Bully/El Galo Joe Y El Abusõn, by Xavier Garz.  The story reads in English from one side of the book, and in Spanish from the other.

    Joe loves to draw roosters, and he's gotten pretty good at them!  When his art teacher at school sees his work, she encourages him to paint as well as draw, opening up new possibilities and dreams for him.  His grandpa Jessie's a famous painter, and happy to help teach him too.  And then he crosses paths with Kiki, a classmate from fourth grade, who's now really cute and friendly, and who seems to like him..... But things aren't all good.  When Joe sticks up for Luis, who's being bullied by the biggest, meanest kid of the middle school and his henchmen, Joe becomes a target himself.

    Turns out that Grandpa Jessie can help Joe with more than painting, and his advice is pretty spot on.

    "All it take is one person, Joe," says Grandpa Jessie.
    "One person?" I ask him.  "But what could one person possibly do?"
    "You would think not much, but you would be wrong.  Just one person can inspire.  Just one person can motivate.  Just one person can give others the strength to take a stand, and be the voice that will inspire them to join in his or her cause. Then together these people can move mountains." (page 39)

    So Joe draws on all the strength and fierceness of the roosters he loves to draw and paint, and stands up to the bullies.  And other kids come to stand with him, becoming something bigger and stronger than the bullies could cope with.  Joe's feelings are shown in a way that will resonate with the target audience, and kids will cheer for him as he takes his stand.

    It's a quick read, only 64 pages, and the story is pretty straightforward, so Upper Elementary school kids (4th graders) would have no problem reading it.  Garzo's bold black and white illustration add pizzazz to the somewhat formulaic story.

    Head over to the Multicultural Children's Book Day links page, for a whole slew of reviews!

    And by way of information and thanks:

    About Multicultural Children’s Book DayMulticultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
    Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

    Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

    Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra RichardsElsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang


    1/26/17

    Talons of Power, by Tui T. Sutherland

    So I have been a fan of Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire books since the first book in the series was just a newly hatched ARC....and it's always a happy day when a new addition to these dragon adventures is released.  Talons of Power is the latest book in the second subseries about the young dragons from all the different dragon kings who attend a draconic boarding school under Jade Mountain.  The previous book in this series ended with the release of legendary evil dragon Darkstalker from his magical imprisonment, and then Tui T. Sutherland took us back in time for Darkstalker's origin story.  If you have read Darkstalker, you will not be at all surprised that Talons of Power is full of scary, dark magic because Darkstalker is an evil, mind-controlling genius who craves absolute power.

    The hero of this installment is the young Seawing, Turtle, who has up till now been something of a secondary character.  This was fine with him--he does not see himself as a hero, he does not want to be a hero, and he has no confidence that he might ever be able to think and do the right things at the right time the way a hero might.  He's actually very powerful--he's an animus dragon, like Darkstalker, and can do magic of his own.  But Turtle isn't interested in power. 

    When Darkstalker shows up, using his magic right and left on all the other young dragons, Turtle uses his magic almost instinctively in such a way that he becomes basically the only hope of foiling him.  But his path is not clear to him, and he spends much of the book sort of in a lonely fumble of figuring out what to do, trailing along as Darkstalker sets out to rebuild the Kingdom of the Nightwings.  It's lonely for Turtle because his friends aren't protected against Darkstalker; only bright, vivid, impulsive Kinkajou, who doesn't join the story till around the middle of it, still has an unclouded mind (and though there are reasons why Turtle just can be using his magic right and left, I wish he'd been able to keep a few more friends from being brainwashed.. I kept getting distracted by thoughts of what magic I would do in Turtle's place....). 

    So it's a somewhat uncheerful book, without the group camaraderie that made the previous books such a joy to read.  And the "holdout against tyrannical oppression and mental manipulation" story is kind of close to home for some of us right now, so not cheerful reading, though timely.  As the story reaches its end (which does not equal conclusion....), things get a bit more lively, and throughout, Turtle is certainly a sympathetic character. 

    And now we wait for the next book--will Turtle's sister Anemone, who has magic of her own, step up to the plate?  Will Kinkajou become a hero in her own right? and will Quibli (one of my favorite young dragons) whose keen, super-smart mind seems to be resistant to magic and who stayed at Jade Mountain, save the day? 

    1/22/17

    This week's round-up of science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (1/22/17)


    Welcome to this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs! Please let me know if I missed your post.

    It's Newbery Eve; will a fantasy or sci fi book come home with a sticker?  I think When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, has a good shot, also The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill.  Though it wasn't my personal favorite, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown seems to me like one the committee might like.  My wild-card pick is The Left-handed Fate, by Kate Milford. My own favorite MG sci fi/fantasy book this year was The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, but it doesn't scream "Newbery" to me.  What do you all think?

    The Reviews

    Children of Exile, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at The Write Path

    Star of Deltora (books 1 and 2), by Kate Forsyth, at Charlotte's Library

    The Flame in the Mist, by Kit Grindstaff, at Good Books and Good Wine (audiobook)

    Forest of Wonders, by Linda Sue Park, at Geo Librarian

    The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Redeemed Reader and Randomly Reading

    The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at The Book Wars

    Horizon, by Scott Westerfeld, at Ms. Yingling Reads

    Lodestar, by Shannon Messenger, at the Shannon Messenger Fan Club

    Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King, at Waking Brain Cells

    Mixed Magics, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Fantasy Literature

    Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, by Jonathan Auxier, at Redeemed Reader

    Rebellion of Thieves, by Kekla Magoon, at alibrarymama

    Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier, at Redeemed Reader

    When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, at Say What?

    "Why is This Night Different From All Other Nights?" by Lemony Snicket, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale, at Geo Librarian and Cracking the Cover

    Authors and Interviews

    Zetta Elliott (The Ghosts in the Castle) at ShannaMiles.net

    Eric Kahn Gale (The Wizard's Dog) at Middle Grade Ninja

    Other Good Stuff

    A look at the Broadway musical Finding Wonderland at Always in the Middle

    Ten great books with great heroines at Waking Brain Cells

    Don't forget to check to see if the 90 Second Newbery Film Festival is coming to a venue near you!

    The School Library Journal 2017 Battle of the Books contenders have been announced.








    1/20/17

    Spindle, by E.K. Johnston

    It was generations ago that a demon was defeated by the Storyteller Queen (as told in A Thousand Nights).  The demons were supposed to be safely locked away....but over the years, one has carefully chipped away at the magic keeping them from regaining any power.  And now this demon is ready to seize control of two kingdoms....and her first move is to curse a princess. Spindle, by E.K. Johnston (Disney-Hyperion, Dec. 2016), is the story of that curse, and how five kids fought against it.  If you love fairy-tale retellings, this is a Sleeping Beauty you should not miss!

    Yashaa and his three best friends (two other boys and a girl) live in makeshift camp in the hills forming the boarder between two countries.  On the other side is a country that would like to swallow its neighbor.   On the other side is the homeland, a place blighted by when a curse was placed on the Little Rose, once the cherished princess, now a princess who is doomed and blamed for her people's suffering.  On her fifth birthday, she received gifts from friendly spirit beings, but then things went horrible wrong when she was chosen by a demon to serve as a vessel once she grew up.  All that one last spirit could do was to give Rose a way out--if she were to spin, she would fall into a magical sleep.

    Yashaa's homeland was once a place where spinning wool brought prosperity, but now no one can spin there without falling ill.   And the princess cannot spin (because falling asleep will leave the demon's curse in place), nor can she do anything else creative, because that is the food the demon craves from her.  Yashaa is tired of his hopeless life as a refugee, watching his mother dying from after-effects of the curse, so he musters his friends to go back to their homeland, to try to do something, anything, about the curse.  The first step is to find the Little Rose, and get information.

    The princess is surprised to find Yashaa climbing into the tower room where she's kept a virtual prisoner (an effort to keep her from making or doing anything creative).  But she seizes the chance to be part of her own salvation, and compels him to free her.  Though Yashaa learns to care for her, despite his initially hostile assumptions, she makes a dangerous travelling companion, and not just because of the demon's curse.  The nasty prince of the neighboring kingdom intends to marry her, and spurred on by demonic encouragement, he's determined to hunt her down.   Yashaa is equally determined to save her, and she is even more determined to try to find some way to save herself.

    On the surface it might sound like a magical adventure-quest book, but it isn't, quite.  It is about people more than it is about adventures, and the struggles faced are mostly internal--persevering, wanting to make things, and never giving up hope, being the agent of your own salvation.  While I was reading it I thought I was finding it a bit too slow, and wished for more magical occurrences (I loved the gardening gnomes!), but when I finished I realized it had gone by quickly after all, and was vivid in my mind.  I like it more now in retrospect than I did during the reading, and I find I still care for all the characters, and find my heart still a little sore from this particular bittersweet take on the concept of "happy ending."

    Like the first book in this world,  A Thousand Nights, this is a story where belief and strength of  will and the making of path that you want events to take is what defeats the demons in the end. 

    (aside--if anyone is keep tabs of fantasy books where menstruation happens, as one would expect in a story about girls, here's one for you!)

    (second aside--this is one for my diverse fantasy read.  It's a Near Eastern type world, with brown skinned characters).

    1/16/17

    Star of Deltora, books 1 and 2, by Emily Rodda

    I  have just recently read and enjoyed the first two books of the Star of Deltora series, the latest from prolific Australian author Emily Rodda (author of the Deltora Quest series and the more recent Three Doors series) and I encourage anyone who wants to go adventuring with a brave clever heroine to try the books for themselves!  Long ago, a Deltora trader named Roslyn found such fame that her name became a title, and a line of women known as Trader Roslyn have followed in her path, sailing the nine seas. Now the current Trader Roslyn is no longer young, and is looking for an apprentice....


    In the first book, Shadows of the Master, we are introduced to Britta, who is determined to win the competition to be that person.  She passes the initial round of tests, and after a bit of misadventure, becomes one of the four finalists.  In the second book, Two Moons, the finalists all sail on a trading voyage aboard the Trader Roslyn's famous ship, the Star of Delotra.  The ship will visit three islands, and each candidate will have a chance to make a trade.  The one who ends up having made the best trades at the end of the third visit will be the victor.

    Bretta is determined to win.  Trading is in her blood; her father was famous for it.  But her father is also infamous.  He found and took control (or was controlled by) an ancient relic that brought death to his last crew and the Hungry Island back to life.  And now his shadows are seeking out Britta....She must keep her identity a secret, or risk being thrown out of contention before the competition ends.  She knows she's not like her father....but secrets and magic seem to be building all around her whether she wants them to or not.  And someone seems determined to get her out of the way; not quite killing her, but coming close. 

    The Star of Delotra is sailing on a big ocean, filled with lots of magic, not all of it nice, and some of it downright evil.   Will Britta's intelligence and sharp trading instincts be enough to see her through her adventures safely?  One can assume they will, but I don't have books 3 and 4 on hand.  If I did, I'd already have read them at this point.  Probably back to back immediately after book 2.  

    The story reminded me somewhat of Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale (girls being tested and trained), especially the first book, which is mostly about the testing process.  The second book takes Britta off to sea, and there the main interest for me was Britta's research in the ship's library, and the thought she put into figuring out her trading strategy.  I like to read about people thinking.  But if you prefer action, do not be deterred my preference--there are near-death adventures and strange magics and mysteries swirling around, and then there's Britta's rather terrifyingly transformed father on his Hungry Island (one that moves around looking for snacks....)

    If you have already read Emily Rodda, you won't be disappointed.  And if  you haven't, this series is a fine place to start.  Give the books to any nine or ten year old who pretended the bed was a boat back when they were littler.  They are good ones for the older elementary school kid wanting to read books of more substance; the covers don't look like "kids" books, yet the content is still kid friendly (the one horrible death so far happened way back when). 

    disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher

    1/15/17

    This week's round-up of mg fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (1/15/17)

    Welcome to this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs.  Please let me know if I missed your post!

    The Reviews

    Baker's Magic, by Diane Zahler, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Candy Shop War, by Brandon Mull, at Shannon Messenger Fan Club

    Conrad's Fate, by Diana Wynne Jones, at the Book Smugglers

    Furthermore, by Tahereh Mafi, at The Children's Book Review

    The Goblin's Puzzle, by Andrew S. Chilton, at Imaginary Reads

    The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott, at Charlotte's Library

    Harriet the Invincible, by Ursula Vernon, at Becky's Book Reviews

    The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin, at the A.P. Book Club

    The Icebound Land, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Inquisitor's Mark, by Dianne Salerni, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

    The Left Behinds: Abe Lincoln and the Selfie that Saved the Union, by David Potter, at Time Travel Times Two

    Magic Below Stairs, by Caroline Stevermer, at Tales From the Raven

    MiNRS2, by Kevin Sylvester, at Ms. Yingling Reads

    Of Mice and Magic, by Ursula Vernon, at Becky's Book Reviews

    The Pirate King, by Huw Powell, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

    Ratpunzel, by Ursula Vernon, at Becky's Book Reviews

    "Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester, at books4yourkids.com

    Storm Walker, by Mike Revell, at Charlotte's Library

    Thorn Ogres of Hagwood, by Robin Jarvis, at Say What?

    The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin, at Strange and Random Happenstance

    The Voyage to Magical North, by  Claire Fayers, at Say What?

    Warren the 13 and the All-Seeing Eye, by Tania Del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle, at Geo Librarian, Proseandkahn, and Pages Unbound Reviews

    Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, by Tania Del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle, at A Fantastical Librarian

    The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett, at The Book Nut

    The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale, at Read Till Dawn

    Authors and Interviews

    Cathryn Constable (The White Tower) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books (possibly YA, but still sounds like a great book!)

    Other Good Stuff

    An activity book to go with the Warren the 13 (it's probably other places as well, but I found it at The Reading Nook Reviews)

    Get Those Kids Out of the Room:  Books to Get Your Students Outside and Immersed in Nature (a list that includes two fantasy books--The Wild Robot and Maybe a Fox) at Nerdy Book Club.  The relationship between fantasy and nature is an interesting topic; I guess a lot of outside pretend games really are fantasy based, so it makes sense to offer kids books that will inspire them to shoot their siblings in the face with homemade bows and arrows (sorry Emily).

    The Sydney Taylor Book Awards have been announced, and The Inquisitor's Tale is a gold medalist

    1/14/17

    The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott

    The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott (2017), is the author's latest book giving black city kids a place in both fantasy and history.  It's the story of a Brooklyn girl, Zaria, who goes to London with her mother when her grandpa suffers a stroke.  Zaria is thrilled to be in England, and she's pleased that Winston, a cousin she's never met before, shares her love of fantasy.  When she and Winston visit Windsor Castle together, they find a fantasy adventure of their own when they meet two 19th century African ghosts (who were real people).

    One of the ghosts is Prince Alemayehu of Abyssina (Ethiopia), and the other is a young woman named Sally (aka Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies) daughter of a chief in Nigeria.  Both were taken from Africa when they were children, and ended up living in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (I'd assumed they lived at Windsor Castle, but the author has clarified that this wasn't the case).  In a series of encounters with the ghosts, Zaria learns bits of their stories--both were taken to England as colonial possessions.  Alemayehu died when he was 18, and was buried at Windsor Castle.  Sally had a longer happier life, and can come and go between Windsor Castle and other places from her life, but Alemayehu is stuck, and cannot visit the one place he wants most to see again--his home in Africa.  With a bit of help from Sally, Zaria and Winston find a way to free Alemayehu's ghost.

    It's good story for any young (nine or tenish, I'd say) fantasy reader who loves ghosts and mysteries and castles.  What makes it special is that Zetta Elliott is unapologetic about directly positioning both modern and historic characters of the African diaspora in a fantasy novel.  She raises issues of colonialism, both its past and its present reverberations (including Zaria's own family history), while keeping Zaria's particular story going at a nice pace, so that the message doesn't overwhelm the reading experience (in large part because Zaria is utterly relatable to any young Anglophile fantasy reader, and also in large part because it's a neat ghost story).

    The result is a fascinating, moving story that not only adds diversity to the genre but makes for good reading.  It's just the right length for older elementary grade readers; if you are older than that, you might be left wanting more (which isn't a bad thing....)

    There are discussion questions at the end; it would have been icing on the cake to have had more historical information about the two ghosts included in the backmatter as well, but if you go to the links above, you can see pictures of both Alemayhu and Sally and learn more about them.

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