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Updated: 2018-03-18T06:13:51.601-05:00


Monsters Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado


Monsters Beware! is the third book of the Chronicles of Claudette, written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafael Rosado, with John Novak. This is a great graphic novel series for elementary and middle grade kids that will delight all young adventurers, and this third installment keeps the fun and excitement going very nicely indeed.

Claudette's home town is playing host to the Warrior Games, in which three children from each participating kingdom compete to slay monsters.  Claudette, being Claudette, wants desperately for the chance to slay, and manipulates the other kids so that's she's chosen, along with her little brother, Gaston, and best friend, Marie. But Marie's father, the lord of the town, doesn't want anything bad to happen to her, so instead of monsters, the competitions feature domestic and agrarian tasks!  When the trio of kids start to win competition after competition, with other kids mysteriously disappearing during each event, Claudette throws off her disappointment viz lack of monsters to through herself fiercely into the fray of truffle hunting, plowing, etc.

But there actually are monsters--the Sea Kingdom kids are not what they seem to be, and they want more than just victory in the Games.  When their monstrous true nature is finally revealed for all to see (though the reader, Maria and Gaston realized this much earlier in the story), Claudette finally gets to attack.  But though her sword work is fierce, it's Gaston's magical cooking skills and Marie's ability to stall through polite small talk that really save the day!

And the ending is happier than readers could have guessed.

It is tremendously fun, and funny, and this third volume only reaffirms my opinion that the series is one that belongs on the shelves of every young fantasy fan.  The pictures are bright and vibrant and easy to understand, helping moving the story along in beautiful synchronicity with the words (I'm not the best graphic novel reader because I tend to focus on words, and so I appreciate books like this where I can absorb the picture information at the same time).

Here are my reviews of the first book--Giants Beware!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, by Jeramey Kraatz


Though I do my darndest to read All the Books (specifically, all the middle grade science and fantasy books), sometimes I miss them when they come out, and then the sequel appears and I must play catch-up.  That's the case with Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, by Jeramey Kraatz, that came out in May 2017 (HarperCollins) whose sequel, Dark Side of the Moon, came out last month...and since I enjoyed Kraatz's earlier Cloak Society series, and since there's so little exoplanetary mg sci fi that each new series is exciting, I pushed Moon Platoon up on my reading list....and had a nice afternoon of excitement on the moon as my reward!Benny Love has spent his twelve years in the drylands that cover most of western North America fifty years or so in the future, years he's spent help his dad find food and water for their caravan, helping look after his little brothers, and always dreaming of a way out.  Now the way out has come--Benny has been chosen to go to the moon.  Elijah West, genius inventor and eccentric, has chosen him to be one of 100 scholarship kids who will go spend two weeks at the Lunar Taj, his  luxury resort playground on the moon.  Benny and the other kids, who come from all around the globe, are thrilled at the chance to pilot Space Runners, tinker with cool technology, and compete to earn West's favor (and maybe get to stay on the moon and work for him).But almost immediately there are signs (not very subtle ones; mechanical exploding asteroids are not subtle) that something is very wrong on the moon.  Benny and the kids in his new cohort soon find themselves breaking rule after rule to find out what's really happening. And then, once they do, it's up to them to do something about it, because there's no-one on earth who can save the day. If you are a reader who thinks drag-racing in space sounds awesome, you are the perfect reader for this book.  If you are a reader who enjoys cool technology and a mystery plot, with kids saving the day in the end, you are an excellent reader for it.  If you enjoy sci fi mysteries with a lot of page time spent on kids in a boarding school-like situation, where friendship formation is as important as the technology to both saving the world and moving the plot along, you are a very good reader for it.  This would be me.Except....Though I enjoyed it as light entertainment, and very much wanted to see what was going to happen, it wasn't as emotionally powerful as I like my fraught adventures to be.  Benny is just too darn good to be true.  In fairness, his nobility is what got him the scholarship, but still.  He is an angel teen, very likeable and sympathetic, but a bit much, and so the reader is being more told to feel certain emotions in response to him rather than be overcome from behind by them (as it were).  The supporting kids were less angelic, but not desperately nuanced either. So if you demand fully-three dimensional characters who are more than their primary attribute (coder girl, jock girl, bratty rich boy sort of thing), you won't love this one.  The author adds some character depth with backstory, but backstory can only take you so far.   So it is best to simply power up your space runner and go along for the ride....and since I still want to know what happens next (and since the second book has gotten more favorable reviews ) the best part of having taken a while to get to this one is that I can add the sequel to my library holds list right away![...]

this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/11/18)


Welcome to this week's sprung forward edition of what I found in my weekly blog reading of interest to us middle grade sci fi/fantasy fans!The ReviewsAru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Hopeful ReadsBeast and Crown, by Joel Ross, at alibrarymamaDominion, by Shane Arbuthnott, at alibrarymamaDragon's Future by Kandi Wyatt, at Cover2CoverBlog (audiobook review)Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island, by Liz Kessler, at Read Till DawnFrederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be, by Kevin John Scott, at The Write PathGranted, by John David Anderson, at Maria's Melange and  Log Cabin LibraryThe Ice Sea Pirates, by Frida Nilsson, at SemicolonIntergalactic P.S. 3, by Madeleine L'Engle, at Charlotte's LibraryThe List, by Patricia Forde, at SemicolonThe Lost Frost Girl, by Amy Wilson, at This Kid Reviews BooksLove Sugar Magic-a Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, at Mom Read ItNightfall, by Shannon Messenger, at Pages Unbound ReviewsThe Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson, at Charlotte's LibraryThe Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd, at Puss RebootsRebel Genius, by Michael DiMartino, at alibrarymamaThe Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta, at Rajiv's ReviewsSisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus, at This Kid Reviews Books The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars), by Matt Laney, at Books for KidsTerra Nova, by Shane Arbuthnott, at Sci Fi and ScaryThe Twistrose Key, by Tone Almhjell, at Hidden in PagesThe Zanna Functin, by Daniel Wheatley, at A Dance With BooksThree at Ms. Yingling Reads--The World Below, by Wesley King, The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta, and Leia, Princess of Alderan, by Claudia GrayAuthors and InterviewsVashti Hardy (Brightstorm), at Minerva ReadsDiane Magras (The Mad Wolf's Daughter) at B. and N. Kids BlogAmy Wilson (A Far Away Magic) at Stephanie BurgisOther Good StuffThis year's winner of the Blue Peter Award, given by the UK's Book Trust, is The Wizards of Once, by Cressida CowellLots of Wrinkle in Time stuff out there; here's one I liked at Tor--How Could I Forget the Liberating Weirdness of Madeleine L’Engle? and here's a list of books for Wrinkle in Time fans to read next that I made for B and N Kids BlogAnd though not quite seasonally appropriate here in the north-east, the homemade ice-cream books at Playing by the Book are utterly charming!and finally, Kidlitcon 2019 will be next March, in Providence RI, hosted by me and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom! I hope you can come talk children's books and make new friends with us![...]

Intergalactic P.S. 3, by Madeleine L'Engle


When I heard there was a new book published in the Wrinkle In Time series, I was thrilled.  But then I discovered that Intergalactic P.S. 3 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb. 2018, 112 pages) was just the starter point for what would become the second book in the series, A Wind in the Door.  L'Engle published it for Children's Book Week in 1970, and it's more a long short story than a full book.  L'Engle tells, in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, that she struggled with the plot of A Wind in the Door, with the characters coming clear to her mind but the story being more troublesome.  Intergalactic P.S. 3 was an early stab at the story, and so it doesn't fill in an actual gap in the series, but simply is an alternate version of what "really" happened.Charles Wallace is about to start school, and he and his family are convinced it is going to be a disaster, because the stereotypical small town mentality where they live is going to make it impossible for a little genius like C.W. to survive without getting beaten up.  The conversation is a lot more direct than it is in a Wind in the Door, and I couldn't help but feel that his parents were setting C.W. up for failure without actually doing anything useful, like trying to talk to his teachers, or possibly moving so he could have a fresh start without negative preconceptions shadowing him.  Meg is determined to save her brother from the hell of public school kindergarten, and so with the power of will and wishing she summons the three Mrs. W, who whisk C.W., Meg, and Calvin off to school on another planet.  There they are each paired with an alien child, and although Calvin's dolphin-headed partner didn't make it into the final version (no great loss), Progo the cherubim and Sporos, not yet a mitochondrian, are paired with the others, and Meg has to undergo her "which is the real Mr. Jenkins" test. When I read a Wind in the Door at the age of nine, the Mr. Jenkins test blew my mind.  The story of Calvin's shoes, especially the pathos of Mr. Jenkins trying to make the new ones look a bit used, so as to spare Calvin's feelings, had a huge impact on me (and maybe even made me a better any rate I spent considerable waiting to fall asleep time trying to love the principal of my own school, with little success but perhaps it was good for me).  So reading a much-less developed version of the story did nothing for me.Basically this book isn't a thrilling expansion of the known universe of A Wrinkle In Time, but simply a look at how the final story of A Wind in the Door developed.  Not without interest to fans, but not exactly a treat.  If, on the other hand, there are young kids today who want to read "the next book" but are not ready to independently read A Wind in the Door, this would be just fine--it's a lot shorter and easier to read, and has friendly illustrations by Hope Larson (who did the graphic novel version of Wrinkle).What I'm really left with is the desire to re-read Wind in the Door, and a horrible feeling that I don't know where I shelved it...and the old feeling of "those eyes are really scary." (this isn't my copy, but mine is the same edition in about the same state...I re-read it a lot.)[...]

Kidlitcon 2019-Providence!


Kidlitcon is coming to Providence RI March 22 and 23 2019!  We'll be the Hotel Providence, right in beautiful, quirky downtown, and we hope you can join us!  Here's our website, with all the information to date. Kidlitcon is an annual (more or less) gathering of children's and YA book folk (authors, illustrators, reviewers, librarians, gatekeepers, parents, publishers and more), and we can promise two days full of great discussions and great friendships, with two keynote speakers and concurrent panels on a wide variety of book topics!  There will also be food and drink and swag.  The Kidlitcon organizers for 2019 are Mia Wenjen and me, and we are determined to make this the best Kidlitcon ever (which is a high bar).Since we're still a bit more than a year out, registration isn't open yet, but you can start planning to come now!  We welcome ideas for panels and expressions of interest (there's a poll at the website, to give us a sense of what people are most interested in talking about), and we've also started looking for sponsorships so that we can keep registration costs down and still break even.Here are some sponsorship opportunities:As soon as we have ticketing set up, you can select Sponsorship from the list of options. Any amount over $50 will get you a side bar listing on our website, a post on our facebook page, inclusion in the program and on signage at the conference, recognition from the podium, and will be part of a coordinated social media blast to the c. 300,000 folks reached by our team! The following special options are also available. Food and beverage sponsorships:    These sponsorships will give you the listing and outreach above, plus an easel in the food and beverage room displaying an advertisement/promotional image of your choice (that fits on a standard conference easel) on display both days of the conference.                           ·            Breakfast $250 (two available)·           Morning coffee and tea. ​$200 (two available)·           Afternoon snack: $250 (two available)      ·           Lunch: $500 (two available)·           Friday Evening reception sponsorship $150 (four available)        ·                Snack:$300 (two available)Audio Visual sponsorshipSponsor the AV needs of one of our meeting rooms!  As well as the listing and outreach above, you can send us an image to use as the screen saver/default page of one of the projectors, and each session in that room will begin with a thank you image and acknowledgement from the podium.AV sponsorship: $225 (three available)AdvertisingYour ad placed in the program given out to attendees. Attendees actually look at and keep our program.Quarter Page                       $50Half Page                            $100Full Page                             $200Easel DisplayYour promotional image/advertisement displayed on an easel in the registration/food and beverage area! Kidlitcon attendees love to look at book pictures and book news, so this is a great way for publishers to showcase forthcoming titles, or if you're an author, it's a great way to spotlight your newest book (you can share your spot [...]

The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson, for Timeslip Tuesday


The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson (Walden, middle grade, Feb 2017), is the sequel to Last Day on Mars, an action-packed story of the sun going supernova as two kids, Liam and Phoebe, find themselves scrambling against sabotage and disaster to get themselves and their parents off Mars before it is toast.  This is what happens to them out in space, as they try to rendezvous with the rest of humanity, hoping their little space yacht and the robot piloting it will get them to safety.  Both sets of parents are badly injured, and must stay in stasis, so there's no help from them.  Space is cold and vast and lonely when you aren't sure if you'll ever have a home, and there's the looming fear that whoever the aliens are who are setting suns on supernova fire are going to keep up their nasty work, and no where will be safe.There's enough plot in just that part of the story for a whole book.  But wait, there's more. This is not a spoiler because it's how the book starts.It turns out that the planet chosen for humanity's new home already had sentient beings on it, and all but a few were killed when humanity sent a cleansing inferno down to wipe all life from its surface so that humanity could have a clean slate.  They might not have known for sure what they were doing, but quite possibly suspected....and the 238 survivors want their planet back, and have no pity to spare for humanity's need for a new home.That's a lot of plot too.  But there's still more.Phoebe has been keeping a secret.  A terrible one.  She's been secretly leaving stasis to alter the course of their little spacecraft so that it won't reach the rendezvous point when it's supposed to.  Is she still Liam's friend? Her parents' daughter?  Readers of the first book know that she is one of the survivors of the blasted planet, but Liam doesn't, and when he finds out there is great emotional tension and powerful considerations of friendship and loyalty. And on top of that, you also get time slipping with alien technology!  [apologies for the next paragraph.  I didn't really understand what was happening with regard to the time travel, and had a choice--I could slow down, and carefully try to make sense of things, or simply keep turning the pages to see what happened next.  I chose the later.  I always choose the later.]Back on Mars, Liam found an alien corpse, and took from it a device that messes with time, showing him the future or the past, and himself and others doing things in both that have a huge impact on the choices he makes.  He doesn't actually travel through time in a standard boy going to another time way; it's more like time is traveling weirdly around him, or he's traveling within time, or something.  When he encounters the alien whose device it was in a past pocket of time, they try to explain...and neither Liam or I really understood.  But both of us continued on with the story, trusting that events would unravel into some sort of temporal coherence.  Which they did, to a point, although that point involved an increase in the travelling part of the time slipping....and no answers to anything......So we must wait for the third book....which will involve reading books 1 and 2 again just before it comes out, so that everything makes more sense in my mind.  Good thing the books are worth it!Kirkus nails it on this one-- "Thrills, violence, time/space questions, and some contemplation about colonization make for action on the thoughtful side"  (To which I will add that this is the sort of book that makes me realize again how much easier it is for me to enjoy middle grade books, with kids as the central protagonists, than it is for me to enjoy YA books these days...there's a clarity of focus to middle grade (or something) that just holds my interest more). [...]

This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and sci from from around the blogs (3/4/18)


Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post!The ReviewsAru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Abby the LibrarianBrightstorm by Vashti Hardy, at Minerva Reads and  Playing by the BookChildren of Exile, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Geo LibrarianA Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic) by Anna Meriano, at Puss RebootsElementals: Ice Wolves (Book 1) by Amie Kaufman, at ReadingsFlower Moon, by Gina Linko, at She's Going Book CrazyGhosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at LocusHandbook for Dragon Slayers, and The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at Small ReviewHarper and the Night Forest by Cerrie Burnell, at Say What?Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, at Book NutOddity, by Sarah Cannon, at Always in the MiddleThe Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd, at Children's Books HealThe Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin, at Middle Grade MafiosoThe Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta, at SLJShadow Magic, by Joshua Kahn, at Susan UhligSkeleton Tree, by Kim Ventrella, at SemicolonTin, by Padraig Kenny, at The Great British BookwormThe Unicorn Quest, by Kamilla Benko, at Kidsreads When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, at Leaf's ReviewsWizardmatch, by Lauren Magaziner, at Pages Unbound ReviewsTwo at Time Travel Times Two: The Painting, by Charis Cotter, and Within a Painted Past, by Hazel HutchinsTwo set in Poland, at Semicolon:  The  Wolf Hour, by Sara Lewis Holmes, and The Dollmaker of Krakow, by R.M. RomeroTwo at Ms. Yingling Reads:  The Wishmakers, by Tyler Whitesides, and The Boggart Fights Back, by Susan CooperAnother two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray, by E. Latimer, and Legends of the Lost Causes, by Brad McLelland, Brad and Louis SylvesterAuthors and InterviewsSayantani DasGupta (The Serpent's Secret) at B and N Kids BlogLinday Currie (The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street) at Melissa RoskeOther Good StuffAn enticing list of new books coming out in the US in March at From the Mixed Up Files, and new books in the UK, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books[...]

Cucumber Quest: the Ripple Kingdom, by Gigi D.G.


I have a soft spot for the graphic novel series Cucumber Quest because my little one (now not so little) was very fond of it when it was still a webcomic....Now it is a book series from FirstSecond, and the second book, The Ripple Kingdom, has just been released (the first book, The Doughnut Kingdom, came out last fall).  Those wise grownups who realize that reading kid-friendly graphic novels is a great way to get kids reading, especially when it's a series that's fun and bright and both a bit silly and quite a bit exciting, should be happy to have it to offer any young readers (7-10 year olds) who they might have kicking around the place.

Cucumber is a young rabbit boy whose plans to study magic got derailed by a quest to save the world.  His little sister, Almond, goes with him, and she's thrilled to have her fighting skills put to the test on their quest to find the fabled Dream Sword and defeat the Nightmare Knight.  Cucumber is much less thrilled, and his thrill level goes down even more when misfortune at sea strands him on a lonely beach.  Almond and their companion, the rather hapless Sir Carrot, are no where to be seen.   But on the beach, Princess Nautilus is being menaced by a gang of crab bullies, and Cucumber is able, to his own astonishment, to use his magic to save her.  The two join forces to rescue Almond, Carrot, and Queen Conch from the giant tentacled Splashmaster, and manage, improbably, to succeed.

It's lots of fun, with colorful illustrations that have touches of silliness, and little bits of random story (like a pop-in visit from the superhero Captain Caboodle, Champion of Justice).  And though the perspective hops around from Cucumber to Almond, the adventure is easy to follow, and quite gripping!  A more serious thread runs through it too--can the Nightmare Knight, who makes an appearance at the end of the book, ever really be defeated when there are always evil, power-hungry folk who will call him back to life????

Cucumber and Almond, and the hapless Carrot, must do their best, and so it's onward to their next adventure in the Melody Kingdom, coming this May!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantsy from around the blogs (2/25/18)


Here's what I found in my blog reading this week; let me know if I missed your post!The ReviewsArthur Quinn and the Fenris Wolf (The Father of Lies #2), by Alan Early, at Say What?The Book of Dragons, by E. Nesbit, at Fantasy LituratureBrave Red, Smart Frog, by Emily Jenkins, at alibrarymamaClod Makes a Friend by David J. Pedersen, at Sharon the LibrarianDormia, by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski, at Hidden in PagesDragon's Green, by Scarlett Thomas, at Pages Unbound Granted, by John David Anderson, at Charlotte's LibraryHow to Sell Your Family to Aliens, by Paul North, at Jen Robinson's Book PageLegends of the Lost Causes, by Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester, at Cuddle and ChaosThe Nest by Kenneth Oppel, at Puss RebootsThe Painting, by Charis Cotter, at alibrarymamaThe School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, at What Shall We Read Next?The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1), by Sayantani Dasgupta, at Mom Read ItSisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus, at The Book SmugglersThe Zanna Function, by Daniel Wheatley, at Sci Fi and ScaryTwo at Ms. Yingling Reads--11:11 Wish, by Kim Tomsic, and The Beginning Woods, by Malcolm McNeill  Three more from Ms. Yingling Reads-- The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson, Dark Side of the Moon, by Jeremey Kraatz, and Off Armegedon Reef, by David WeberAuthors and InterviewsAnna Meriano (Love Sugar Magic) at Writers' RumpusSean Easley (The Hotel Between) at MG Book VillageOther Good Stuff"Nothing About Us Without Us: Writing #OwnVoices Fantasy in The Age of Black Panther" at MG Book VillageLeVar Burton reads a Joan Aiken story!Warriors Read alikes at Jean Little Library[...]

Granted, by John David Anderson


John David Anderson's latest middle grade book, continues a pattern--a pattern of not writing the same book twice; he's written sword and sorcery fantasy, superhero stories (with twists) realistic middle grade,  and realistic middle grade mixed with fantasy.  Granted isn't like any of those other books, though it is fantasy.  It is a book about fairies making wishes come true (the little magical type fairies with wings), and the problems (more like near disasters) that one fairy, Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, encounters when she sets off into the human world to grant what seemed like a simple wish.

Sadly, it didn't work for me personally, although this is absolutely a matter of taste (Kirkus gave it a starred review), and I am absolutely certain that other grown-up readers of middle grade fantasy will love it, and that lots, though not all, kids will too.

The book begins by setting up the world of the fairies--they live separate from the human world, busily training themselves to go forth and grant wishes, or go into other fields such as making and healing and technology....It didn't break any particularly new ground for fairy enclaves, but it was fine.  And the problem facing the fairies--that there were fewer wishes every day for them to go forth and grant, and a worrying, interconnected decline in magic in general, was interesting.

The heroine fairy, Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, did not appeal to me--she's a bossy pants perfectionist type, and although the edges of her sometimes abrasive personality soften during the course of the adventure to come, she's still not my favorite strong fictional girl character.

But the main reason the book wasn't one for me is that I do not like too much to go wrong.  When Ophelia is of on her mission to grant a wish, which should have been straightforward, and she should have had not trouble, it becomes a series of disasters one after another.  Too many times she got close to doing what she had to do, only for yet another thing to go wrong.  Not my personal cup of tea.

And finally,  I am not a dog person, and a large licky smelly dog plays an important roll in the story. Admitedly, the relationship between the fairy and the dog is the most powerful part of the story, so I was glad the dog was there, but still.

On the other hand, the ending is heartwarming, the story is memorable and even thought provoking, and Anderson's writing can be counted on to make clear pictures in the mind.  So basically, if it sounds at all interesting to you, and you love dogs--go for it.

The Girl with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke, for Timeslip Tuesday


The Girl with the Red Balloon, by Katherine Locke (Albert Whitman 2017), is top notch YA time travel goodness! It's the story of a modern American girl, Ellie Baum, granddaughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, is visiting Berlin on a school trip.  When a red balloon drifts by, she grabs it....and finds herself in 1988, still in Berlin, but such a different place (there's still a year to go before the wall comes down). The red balloon was not supposed to have found Ellie.  It was supposed to magically carry an East Berliner in particular danger to the west.  But instead of a successful mission accomplished, the runners for the magical balloon operation that night now have Ellie on their hands.Kai and Mitzi, the runners, don't know what to make of Ellie, but shelter her in their hideaway house.  Her bad German and lack of identity papers and working knowledge of "how not to get arrested by the Stazi" make her a danger to herself and to them, and they are not safe even at the best of times (as well as actively working against the state, Kai is Romani, and dark-skinned, and Mitzi is gay).  The balloon makers, part of a world-wide organization of magical rescuers who bespell each balloon for its intended passenger, don't know what to make of her either.  All are in agreement that Ellie needs to go home.  But how? And why did this happen to her? Kai and Ellie don't wait passively for the Balloon Makers to provide answers, but instead start investigate the problem for themselves.  Appallingly, the dead bodies of other time travelers start appearing on the streets of East Berlin--clearly there is some larger wrongness happening than just Ellie's trip from the future.  Why, though, did she live and the others not? The answer lies further in the past.  Chapters of Ellie's story are interspersed throughout with that of her grandfather, who escaped as a teenager from Chelmno, a concentration camp in Poland, in 1942, with the help of his own red balloon.  (this isn't a spoiler; we know about his balloon almost immediately because he's told Ellie about it many times).And so the mystery unravels, or more accurately tightens and becomes more dangerous, and as Ellie and Kai spend more time together, attraction, impossible, forbidden, and powerful, builds between them.So not a comfort read, but a gripping one that I highly recommend.  Ellie couldn't Do much to solve her problems in her position as illegal foreigner in East Berlin, but that didn't make her a passive heroine needing rescue.  She was able, for instance, to stay sane which is saying a lot in her cirumstances!  And she was also able to learn to make little flying paper birds, which weren't much use, but which were intriguing and charming....Basically, she provided a very good perspective to share while visiting 1988 East Berlin, and that's one of the things that makes a time travel story work for me. Although the particular plot threads are for the most part resolved, there's plenty of room for more, and indeed it is the first of a planned series.  So I recommend it lots (the only down side is that you might have the song 99 Luftballons going through your head over and over and over for the next week....)   Kirkus agrees with me (good job, Kirkus!)-- "An absorbing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism."[...]

The Tombs, by Deborah Schaumberg


The Tombs, by Deborah Schaumberg (Harper Teen, Feb 20 2018), is a tense and atmospheric story set in an alternate 19th-century New York, where zepplins are common-place, but conditions for workers in the factories are much as they were in real life (which is to say, bad).  Avery is one of those workers; she's a welder, a skill picked up from her mechanical genius father, and despite the fact that she's a girl, her skill has gotten her a job (with miserable hours and working conditions, but still desperately needed).  Her father came back from the Civil War pretty broken, and though he found love, set up a shop selling clocks and mechanicals, and things went while for a bit, he was broken once more when his wife was taken from him.  The crow-masked goons working for the insane asylum in the basement of the Tombs, the city's notorious prison, came for her a few years before the story begins, and Avery hasn't seen her since.But now the Crows seem to have set their sights on Avery, just as she is beginning to manifest the same psychic gifts that drew their attention to her mother.  Questioning her own sanity, she finds reassurance from the Gypsy community living outside the city.  (NB:  yes, Gypsy is the word used.  The author explains this by saying that this is the word 19th-century New Yorkers would have used.  But since they call themselves Romany, it doesn't seem like it would have taken much effort to have them explain to Avery that Gypsy is offensive, so that she and the author could have quit using it).  With the help of the Romany, Avery begins to understand her gifts, and begins to think that she can rescue her mother from the Tombs.But the task in front of her gets more monumental when she finds out what the whole sinister purpose of the "mental asylum" actually is.  Horrible experiments are being carried out there, that could jeopardize the hopes of the working classes for a better life.... And when Avery herself is captured, and turned into a lab rat herself, her hope that she can be a rescuer dims even more.Fortunately, even in dark prisons, there are friends...So if you enjoy dark urban YA with a generous dollup of romance (two very worthy and helpful young men are present as love interests), a sprinkle of steampunk (incidental mechanicals as well as zeppelins), in which there's lots of atmospheric buildup before thing really get going in the last 200 pages, and if you appreciate a book where the female protagonist is a brilliant welder, has a hawk, and can do cool things with auras and life forces, and most importantly, if you can over look the grating, incessant use of an offensive descriptor, you will enjoy this.  I personally found it very readable, though not exactly my preferred cup of tea (dark and urban isn't my preferred thing), and though it was slow at times, a tad too New Age during the exploration of psychic gifts when Avery is first with the Romeny, and I was grated to the limits of my endurance by the use of "gypsy".  Seriosuly, it wouldn't have been hard to just switch to Romany, or better still, Romani.disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher[...]

11 years of blogging--looking back with 11 posts


So I have a post due for the Barnes and Noble Kids blog on books for fans of a Wrinkle in Time, so I just spent a good chunk of time scrolling through eleven years worth of posts (though I gave up in 2013).  In doing so I realized that not only is it almost impossible to find good read-alikes for W in T, it is February, which means my blog is now eleven years old.So I've pulled 11 posts from the 3500 plus I've written, to air them here again today.   Only one is a book review.  I haven't written much in the way of thoughtful posts for the past two years, and I feel vaugly inspired to do so more though since I didn't write any because of being busy with other things, and those things are still needing to be done, this inspiration is more or less a moot point.--my ten year anniversary post, which I enjoyed writing very much--a post on when small annoyances turn you against the whole book--a environmentally inspired post exploring how "green" books are or aren't--a recap of my Kidlitcon 2014 talk on finding passion in blogging--a look at a book I'd never have heard about without blogging that I still think is utterly marvelous-the ABC of Fabulous Princesses (nb--they are birds)--consternated thoughts about gender and middle grade books--my Kidlitcon 2013 recap post--"2 cute pictures of my cat, or what I learned at Kidlitcon"--Middle Grade Bloggers as Fans, Gatekeepers, Partners of the Industry, and Members of a Gender-Imbalanced Community, Part 1, and Part 2 Something I didn't explicitly talk about which I've been thinking more about these past few weeks is the extent to which women in Kidlit do the bulk of the unpaid gatekeeping things that bloggers do (posting, comment, running Kidlitcon, volunteering for the Cybils).  So there's more food for thought here.....--a post titled "why indexing is hard" which is really not so much about indexing as about what constitutes a "review"--A post titled "why I wish I could be a guest in my own home" which I found amusing partly because of a comment i left on it--“My dear boy ended up throwing up, so it was all worthwhile....”In any event, thank you all for a great eleven years, and if you have any recommendation for books with all of the following things, send them my way!-brilliant girl unhappy in middle school-the importance of sibling relationships-making friends with other odd-ball kids-travelling through time and space-meeting helpful angelic like beings-good vs evil, with inspiring message that we can choose love and fight darkness not just with love but with the arts and sciences-overthrow of dystopia where utter conformity is required-visiting strange planets, and learning to love aliens by looking past their monstrous appearancethanks![...]

This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (2/18/18)


Welcome to another round-up!  Let me know if I missed your post.The ReviewsArthur Quinn and the World Serpent, by Alan Early, at Say What?Beanstalker and other hilariously scary tales by Kiersten White, at Jean Little Library The Countdown Conspiracy, by Katie Slivensky, at Say What?A Dash of Dragon by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartowski, at Pages Unbound A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic), by Anna Meriano, at Log Cabin LibraryThe Dragon With a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at Say What?The Eternity Elixer, by Frank L. Cole, at Geo LibrarianThe Eye of the North, by Sinead O'Hart, at Minerva ReadsFace Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge, at Say What?Fairy Mom and Me, by Sophie Kinsella, at Middle Grade MafiosoGears of Revolution, by J. Scott Savage, at Hidden in PagesHitty, by Rachel Field, at Tales of the MarvelousLast Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at Say What?Lords of Trillium (The Nightshade Chronicles) by Hilary Wagner, at Say What?Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood, at Say What?A Problematic Paradox, by Eliot Sappingfield, at Charlotte's LibraryA Properly Unhaunted Place, by William Alexander, at Say What?Switched (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita, at Sharon the LibrarianThe Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, at Completely Full BookshelfTwo at Ms. Yingling Reads--Granted, by John David Anderson, and Redworld: Year One, by A.L. CollinsThree at Minerva Reads--The Nothing To See Here Hotel by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton, Bee Boy: Clash of the Killer Queens by Tony De Saulles, and Night Zoo Keeper: The Giraffes of Whispering Wood by Joshua Davidson, Giles Clare and Buzz Burman Authors and InterviewsCeline Kiernan (Begone the Raggedy Witches) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted BooksOther Good StuffThe Cybils Award Winners were announced on Valentine's Day! Congratulations to all the finalists, in particular The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis!  The round 2 judges had a hard time picking just one book, and a hard time waiting till after the announcement to share their thoughts!  Mark Buxton, of Say What, got all his reviews up this week (in the review list above), and at Log Cabin Library, Brenda shares her thoughts on the finalists.The shortlists for the Waterstones Children's book prize have been announced, and include a number of middle grade spec fic books.The Amelia Bloomer list has been announced, with Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood, representing MG Spec Fic.Great Books for Young Star Wars Fans, at the B and N Kids Blog"Re-reading Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles[...]

A Problematic Paradox, by Eliot Sappingfield


A Problematic Paradox, by Eliot Sappingfield  (Putnam, middle grade, Jan. 2018), is a great pick for kids who enjoy wild and whacky sci fi school stories, and for those who love stories of smart, misfit girls finally finding their people.Nikola Kross is that sort of girl.  Her intellect and knowledge has antagonized just about everyone in her boring, normal school in North Dakota.  Her father, a mad-scientist inventor type, has rigged up a comfortable enough home of the two of them in an abandoned warehouse store, but although he's taught Nikola a lot, and provided her with a state of the art security system and incredible escape plan just in case things go wrong, he hasn't given her much affection.Fortunately, when a nasty, non-human monster going by the name of Tabbabitha shows up after school to kidnap Nikola, after already taking her father, the security system and escape plan kick in.  Nikola finds her self a student at the most unusual school on earth, a place for genius kids who are both human (the minority) and not so human kids with extraordinary abilities.  She has a lot of catch up (quantum mechanics and the manipulation of reality not being on the curriculum of her old school), and she has even more figuring out to do.Questions like "who the heck are these people?" and "can I finally make friends?" keep Nikola busy.  And happily, she does make friends; her new room-mate, though she has little in common with Nikola, turns out to be just who she needs, and vice versa (the way the two of them sort out how they are going to co-habitate is lovely reading!).  And of course the larger, more explosive sort of questions keep her and her companions busy as well, as they try to foil Tabbabitha's evil plottings and schemings for world domination. It's a fun read, slowed at tad by the amount of explanations readers (and Nikola) need to make sense of things, but not so much so as to be bothersome.  The friendship thread of the story was my favorite part; I found the school slightly less appealing, probably because I am older than the target audience and rather more jaded (does every school have to come with a beautiful mean girl?), but also because the headmistress got on my nerves lots (she's intended to be unhelpful, and succeeds....).  Also perhaps because I'm not personally interested in devices that need batteries and equations.  (Pushing further into introspection-maybe I didn't like the school because I would fail if I went there....).  On a more positive note, I thought the larger conflict part was interesting (I was afraid after meeting the over-the-top Tabbabitha and her henchmonsters that it would be farcical, but it wasn't).So short answer--I enjoyed reading it, parts very much indeed, but it's not a personal most loved favorite though it is one I'd strongly recommend to readers who do like devices and devisings, and smart girls who are good at both!Kirkus gave it a star, referencing "an endless parade of jokes (both sly and knee-slapping)." I am now wondering if I need to read the book again, because when I read it yesterday I was amused by many things but cannot recall a single "joke" (unless you count Tabbabitha's name).  Perhaps they are jokes only people who like batteries and equations will notice.  If you have read it and slapped your knee, let me know so that I can appreciate with more precision my failure as a reader![...]

The Uncanny Express (Bland Sisters book 2) by Kara LaReau


So last week I got lovely book mail--I was a Winner of a prize package to celebrate the release of The Uncanny Express, by Kara LaReau (Abrams, middle grade, Jan. 2018), the second book about the Bland sisters Kale and Jaundice.  Here's a photograph of my treats, using the blandest upholstery in my home as background.  I especially like the little fake moustache, which I have posed ala an Edward Gorey bat between the books....And today, while home with a sick kid, I treated myself to the Reading.  And such was my reading experience that I'm going to do something I don't usually do.Usually when I write a review of a children's book (not that I ever write reviews much of grown-up books) I try to cast my mind back to the halcyon days of my own youth, asking myself if little Charlotte would have liked the book, and wondering if "kids today" would like it.To heck with that.  I read The Uncanny Express as a grown-up, and loved it as a grown-up, and that's a valid experience too!  I enjoyed it so much for two reasons.1. It was full of very fun Agatha Christie allusions, that tickled me greatly.  A crime (?) is committed on a train full of passengers with secrets.  Kale and Jaundice, the Bland sisters, are passengers on the train, swept up by the self-styled Magique, Queen of Magic (who might or might not be their Aunt Shallot), a magician who's determined to make a comeback in the world of magic (the stage kind, not the fantasy kind, although that one trick at the end.....).  When on the course of the train journey she disappears (murdered?) a  detective manifests on board the train, and Kale and Jaundice are now swept along in the path of his detecting as he questions all the other passengers.  Very much Murder on the Orient express!  Lots of fun!This is clearly an adult reaction, and I have no clue how kids who don't know Agatha Christie will react.  Probably many will thing its funny in its own right, and than come to A.C and find it a knock off of something they already love.2.  Kale and Jaundice were not immediately appealing to me in their first outing.  They are, indeed, bland.  But the shells of their blandness are cracking in earnest here, and emotional depths and physiological realizations are bringing them to life and making them loveable.  I truly care about them now. This is the reaction of me, a mother, an identity so strong in me now that I can't undo it.  Quite possibly young readers will be able to take the girls at face value and appreciate their utterly over the top neuroticness, and empathize with them on the shared experience both real and fiction kids are currently living of growing up and questioning the childhood ways once taken for granted.  That would be fine too.But in any event, I really enjoyed the book, which is very nice for me!Thanks, Kara, for the prize package!  I'll be looking forward to book three eagerly.[...]

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs, 2/11/18


Here's what I found in my blog reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!  It was a good week of blog hunting for me, because I found two books to add to my own tbr list that I hadn't heard of before! (in case anyone is curious, I've put asterixes next to them....)The ReviewsChristmas Carol and the Defenders of Claus by Robert L. Fouch, at Read Till DawnThe Beginning Woods, by Malcolm McNeill, at Say What?*The Boy From Tomorrow, by Camille DeAnelis, at Rajiv's ReviewsD Day: Battle on the Beach (Ranger in Time book 7), by Kate Messner, at Time Travel Times TwoDoll Bones, by Holly Black, at Weezie's Whimsical WritingThe Eye of the North, by Sinead O'Hart, at Minerva Reads The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Tales of the MarvelousThe Hubble's Treasure Hunt, by Elaine Horesman, at Charlotte's LibraryLove Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, at Pages Unbound Reviews Marabel and the Book of Fate, by Tracy Barrett, at The Neverending TBRNevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, at Pages Unbound ReviewsThe Nocturnals: the Hidden Kingdom, by Tracey Hecht and Sarah Fieber, at Always in the MiddleThe Nothing to See Here Hotel, by Steven Butler, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted BooksOrphan Island, by Laurel Snyder, at Hope is the WordPrisoner of Ice and Snow, by Ruth Lauren at Tales from the RavenThe Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd, at Geo Librarian and Ms. Yingling Reads (scroll down)The Royal Rabbits of London, by Santa Montefiore and Simoon Sebag, at Lemuria BlogShadow Weaver, by MarcyKate Connolly, at Rajiv's ReviewsSnow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin, at Charlotte's LibraryThe Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome, and the Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution, by Jonathan W. Stokes at B and N Kids Blog*Tin, by Padraig Kenny, at Minerva ReadsThe Unicorn Quest, by Kamilla Benko, at Pop Goes the Reader, Ms. Yingling Reads, The Story Sanctuary, Mundie Kids, and Geo LibrarianAuthors and Interviews"Why We Need Portal Stories" by Kamilla Benko, at Nerdy Book ClubSinead O'Hart (The Eye of the North) at Minerva ReadsLena Roy and Charlotte Jones Voiklis (Becoming Madeleine) at B and N Kids BlogOther Good Stuff"Celebrating Wrinkle in Time With Writing" by Lena Roy, at Nerdy Book Club,and also "Some Things You Might Not Know about Madeline L'Engle" at 100 Scope Notes[...]

Snow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin


Most middle grade fairy tale retellings use the "original" story as a springboard for wild leaps of imagination, which is just fine and results in some darn good books.  Snow and Rose, by Emily Winfield Martin  (Random House Oct 2017), on the other hand, is a lovely and rare example of a retelling for middle grade readers that fills in the blanks of a story so organically that you can hardly see the joins.Snow White and Rose Red was a favorite of mine--it's about two girls who live with their mother and periodically meet and rescue a grumpy dwarf and a bear who's really a transformed prince becomes their friend...and really there's so much wild imaging going on here that it doesn't need much more!  So Emily Martin doesn't leap with it; instead she gives the girls a backstory of wealth, and then sends them out to live a meager life in the forest, with a father who is missing, and a community of others doing the best they can in the forest to befriend, and warn, and share...And she gives the strange little man a power and point that drives the plot of the story instead of dropping into it and then poofing away.  And adding to the Realness of the story, Snow and Rose are fine characters and good sisters, with distinct personalities and strengths.As is the case with the original, at first the happenings seem random, but as you read along, you, and the sisters, find that things are more interconnected than they seem.  There is a mystery the girls must unravel...before they, like the bear, are enchanted...Adding to the enchantment of the story are beautiful illustrations, mostly grey with just touches of read, both double page spreads and chapter decorations.  They are illustrations that make you feel like you are reading a book that matters and has the weight of magic, without being so rich in their own right that they distract.It's been a while since I read this (I got a review copy from the publisher for the Cybils Awards last fall), so I looked to see if I said anything on Goodreads, and I (usefully, for a wonder) did: a very nice retelling of the fairy tale; stuck close to the original, but added characterization and details about the world of forest and cottage that made it pleasing reading.Which reminds me that if you like stories of moving into cottages, a genre that I myself  like lots, this is a good one![...]

The Hubbles' Treasure Hunt, by Elaine Horseman, for Timeslip Tuesday


One of the fun bonuses of getting your hands on a new to you vintage children's book is at the end of the book where, if you are lucky, you get a list of other books you've never heard of, sometimes with blurbs.  This luck happened to me last month, and as a result I treated myself to a few book purchases, including The Hubbles' Treasure Hunt, by Elaine Horseman (1965).  This is the second of a series about a group of English kids living in an old house in a cathedral town who have found a spell book, that includes a spell for travelling in time, which is the focus of the plot. It begins when the kids (two sets of siblings, 3 boys, 2 girls; one set living with grandfather, the others the children the housekeeper) discover a clue to a treasure hunt hidden in a doll carved during the English Civil War.  With the encouragement, even collusion, of the grandfather, the magical recipe given in the spell book acquired in book 1 (Hubbles' Bubble) is concocted and an expedition is sent into the past, hoping that it will be the past of the English Civil War so they can find the treasure.  Instead, the grandfather and one of the older boys ends up in far off prehistory, and when they return home, they inadvertently bring with them a baby prehistoric hippo.A trip to take the hippo home ends up landing the kids in the middle of a Civil War scrimmage, where by happy coincidence they do make contact with the author of the treasure hunt clue, but they come home nott much wiser about where it's hidden.  They do gain interesting backstory for people involved, though, which I liked.  The young man who hid the treasure went down in history as a traitor to both sides, but his story is not at all black and white....But then it's more hippo wrangling.  The hippo, back in the present, escapes and must be found...another spell is used, so the kids can breath underwater and travel down the river looking for the hippo. At which point, I'm, like, enough already with the hippo!  I want English Civil War time travel and treasure hunt with tragic people of the past in distress! But no.  More hippo chasing ensues.  Sigh. Then finally two of the kids figure out the clue, and find the treasure (with help from the hippo. sigh again), and it is lovely treasure from the cathedral, hidden from the Round-heads, in a beautiful carved chest (one of the most lovely fictional chests I've ever read).  So that is nice.I almost really liked this one, but too much hippo, not enough good time travel, though  I realize that for many readers, the fun of prehistoric hippos causing consternation amongst the townsfolk might be wonderful.  The kids were a nice lot though, and it was good that there weren't intrusions of class distinction.  If the other books (there are three in total) come my way, I'll be happy, but I won't seek them out.Kirkus reviewed the book when it came out in the US in 1966, and I don't think the reviewer was at all conversant with mid 20th century UK books, saying that the characters "keep up a steady banter often pleasantly silly, frequently affected, and always very British."  I, who have read hundreds of mid 20th century books, found the dialogue none of the above and I really wonder what is meant by "affected."  I am also baffled by this sentence:  "The transition to fantasy is always smoothly made, although the course of events often seems illogical or incidental."  I myself think that when you are making your own spells out a Victorian spell book, the course of events [...]

This weeks mg sci fi fantasy round up (2/4/18)


Welcome to this week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs; please let me know if I missed your post.The ReviewsEdge of Extinction series by Laura Martin, at Redeemed ReaderFire of Invention, by J. Scott Savage, at Hidden in Pages The Four-Fingered Man, by Cerberus Jones, at The Write PathGhosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Puss Reboots Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms, by Lissa Evans, at Completely Full BookshelfThe League of Beastly Dreadfuls, by Holly Grant, at Puss RebootsLove Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, at MG Book VillageMy Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, by Jerry Mahoney, at Log Cabin LibraryThe Night Gardiner, by Jonathan Auxier, at Good Books and Good Wine (audiobook review)Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at The Winged PenThe Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd, at Ms. Yingling Reads (scroll down)Sisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus, at Charlotte's LibraryThe Thrifty Time Travel Guides--Ancient Rome and the American Revolution, by Jonathan W. Stokes, at Small ReviewThe Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, at NerdophilesTricked (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jenn Calonita, at Say What?Tumble and Blue, by Cassie Beasley, at A Resilient LifeThe Unicorn Quest, by Kamilla Beno, at B and N Kids blogWhiskerella, by Ursula Vernon, at Puss Reboots and Ms. Yingling ReadsThe Wild Book, by Juan Villoro, at Playing By the BookAuthor and InterviewsSinéad O’Hart (The Eye of the North) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted BooksKamilla Benko (The Unicorn Quest) at From the Mixed Up Files and B. and N. Kids BlogOther Good Stuff"Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain Tells a Fresh Story with Old Tropes" at Tor"Wanting Realism in Fantasy" at Pages Unbound[...]

Sisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus


Sisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus (HarperCollins, Nov. 2017), is a good pick for fans of middle grade revolution fantasy, a sub-genre I've just coined for myself in which the young protagonists lead the oppressed against tyranny (having just now thought of this subgenre, I haven't gotten a lot of examples together yet, just Westmark by Lloyd Alexander, and Lian Tanner's books, but I feel there are quite a few...).  Neither of the two heroines of this particular book imagined that they would be leaders of a revolution in a world full of magic, where the elite bend material things into enchantments.  Nalah has no idea this destiny awaits because she's from a different world altogether, in which magic is forbidden, which is horrible for her because she's fizzing with it, putting herself and her father in great danger, Halan because she's the pampered princess, only child and heir, and doesn't know the horrible details of the kings oppression.  She just knows that she's bored and tired of being a failure for not having any magic of her own.But when Nalah crafts a magic mirror, and steps through, she finds that Halan is her twin on the other side, in a world that mirrors her own where her magic can flow freely.  And Halan, who's snuck out of her comfortable cage in the palace, only to be captured by the rebels who are fighting against her father's cruelty, has to decide if she's going to help this strange twin....or support her father.So of course, this being a classic mg rev. fant, as it were, Halan ends up leading the rebellion (a rather brisk and successful one) and Nalah must then decide whether or not she will stay in the world of magic...This is a good story, but I had a heck of a time getting into it.  The two girls don't meet until just before page 200, which is a lot of set up before things start actually happening.  I'm glad I pushed on through, because once the two girls meet, there's action and adventure, and plots and magic, and I found myself enjoying it lots.   But half the book for set up really is an awful lot; I loved the craft based magic, and so I stuck with it primarily for that.  And though I then enjoyed it, the resolution seemed almost too quick and easy, and the world building was a little bit throw in the middle of it all.  But for the sake of how quickly the last 100 pages turned, I feel I can recommend it, with just a bit of reservation.  After all, not many books have glass falcons made by the heroine coming to life, and I'll read a lot for a glass falcon....Kirkus is more enthusiastic than me, so go read their review if you have doubts.complaint about the cover-the two girls are supposed to be essentially identical, details of hair cut aside, and both dark haired.  Why then is the princess one blond?[...]

This week's round-up of middle grade sc fi and fantasy from around the blogs (1/28/18)


Welcome to another week of my mg sci fi/fantasy blog gleanings!  Please let me know if I missed your post.The ReviewsThe Castle in the Mist, by Amy Ephron, at Always in the MiddleDiego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic, by Armand Baltazar, at This Kid Reviews BooksDominion, by Shane Arbuthnott, at Sci Fi and Scary'Dragon Bones, by Lisa McMann, at Ms. Yingling ReadsFlower Moon, by Gina Linko, at Say What?The Glass Town Game, by Catherynne Valente, at Fantasy LiteratureHave Sword, Will Travel, by Garth Nix, at Reading TimeHouse of Many Ways, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Millibot ReadsMoon Princes, by Barbara Laban, at Jean Little LibraryMy Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, at Charlotte's LibraryThe Painting, by Charis Cotter, at SemicolonPodkin One-Ear, by Kieran Larwood, at Redeemed ReaderRace to the Bottom of the Sea, by Lindsay Eager, at SemicolonSpeedy in Oz, by Ruth Plumly Thompson, at Puss RebootsTokoyo, the Samurai's Daughter, by Faith L. Justice, at The Haunting of Orchid ForsythiaWatchdog, by Will McIntosh, at Middle Grade NinjaWhiskerella, by Ursula Vernon, at books4yourkids.comThe White Assassin,by Hilary Wagner, at Say What?Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, at Hope is the WordTwo at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Book of Boy, by Catherine Glbert Murdock,and The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome, by Jonathan W. StokesAuthors and InterviewsZetta Elliott (Dragons in a Bag) at Social Justice BooksJames Nichol (A Witch Alone) at Scholastic Blog On Our MindsRoshani Chokshi (Aru Shah and the End of Time), at Publishers WeeklyOther Good StuffA look at some new middle grade books from the UK at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books[...]

Spirit of the Earth: Indian Voices On Nature, for Multicultural Children's Book Day


I was one of the participants in Multicultural Children's Book Day who was matched with World Wisdom, and I received two books to review. The first, Rock Maiden, by Natasha Yim, I reviewed earlier today.  The second is Spirit of the Earth: Indian Voices On Nature (May 2017), edited by Michael Oren Fitzgerald and Joseph A.  Fitzgerald, with a foreword by Joseph Bruchac.  It is not a children's book, but it is one that middle grade and YA readers can certainly appreciate.This book is a gathering of stunning images, both color pictures of places, and historic pictures of Native peoples  living within places, juxtaposed with quotations from Native speakers about persons (human and nonhuman) living within places, and the relationships that join people to the earth and sky.  It is not a book to rush through, but one to read meditatively and thoughtfully, listening to the words as one reads.  As Bruchac puts it in the introduction, " [T]he quotations....[are] so well chosen, so well paired with the images, and so beautifully centered on our appreciation, understanding and lasting reliance on that natural world, they do what our traditional stories have always done-engage and teach."So it is a lovely book, with lovely pictures and words.I did have two reservations though.  The first is one of temporality--Native peoples are still here, and yet with the exception of just two quotations at the very end, both the words and the images of Native persons are from the past, reinforcing the stereotype of vanished Indians.  I would have liked images of living people, and more contemporary quotations, to put a lie to that stereotype.  My second reservation is that the texts were drawn from previously published sources, mostly written by anthropologists and ethnographers years ago.  Some of the quotations are part of ceremonies, and I would have felt more comfortable if the Tribes whose words these are had given permission for them to be included here (I didn't see any acknowledgement that such permission was sought).  Without that permission, I couldn't accept the words as a gift freely given.   The fact that the foreword was written by Joseph Bruchac was some comfort, as he is a well-regarded Abenaki writer, and if he is comfortable with the book, that makes me feel better about it; also, his words are very much in the present tense, which gives some balance in that regard.Despite my reservations, I'll say again that it is a lovely book, and one that offers riches to those who want to learn and who want to think about being in the world.Thank you World Wisdom, and thanks to all the sponsors of WNDB and to the organizers and hosts for another tremendous event! Here's the link round-up for WNDB 2018; lots of great books![...]

The Rock Maiden, by Natasha Yim, for Multicultural Children's Book Day


Today is Multicultural Children's Book Day! Part of this celebration is for bloggers and publishers/authors to pair up, with the reviews becoming part of a beautiful explosion of links.I was lucky enough to get two books from Wisdom Tales.  The first is a lovely picture book, The Rock Maiden: a Chinese Tale of Love and Loyalty, by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Pirkko Vainio (March, 2017).Long ago in Hong Kong, Ling Yee feel in love with a young fisherman, Ching Yin.  Many more wealthy men would have gladly married her, but Ching Yin's kindness won her heart.  And they were happy, and had a son.  Then a tremendous storm scattered the fishing fleet, and when it passed, Ching Yin did not come home. Every day Ling Yee took her baby up to the headland and looked out over the sea, waiting for her beloved in vain.Ling Yee's parents prayed to Tin Hau, the patron goddess of fishermen, for help.  The goddess was touched by the young woman's sorrow, and decided to end it (rather drastically). She sent a lightning bolt from the heavens, and turned mother and child to stone.  But about a year later, a young man came to town.  No one recognized him at first, but he was Ching Yin.  Happily, Tin Hau once more intervened, undoing the stone enchantment, and reuniting the little family.It is a beautiful and haunting story, with lovely, evocative illustrations in soft colors.  The tension of the story is great enough to keep a young child's interest, and the happy ending offers reassurance.  The stone mother and child, standing looking out to sea, is an image that will stay with young readers for their whole lives.  If you are looking for picture books that will widen your young child's world, this is a lovely one!When Natasha Yim was a girl growing up in Hong Kong,she was fascinated by the actual rock that is the basis for the story.  Amah Rock is a natural formation that looks like a mother and child, and though of course (since it is still there) the happy ending of the book never happened in real life, that story seemed to sad to her, so she transformed it.Thank you Wisdom Tales, and thanks to all the sponsors of WNDB and to the organizers and hosts for another tremendous event! [...]

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, by Jerry Mahoney


My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, by Jerry Mahoney (Capstone, August 2017) is a fun one for younger middle grade readers (9-10 year olds) who enjoy a fun fractured fairy tale.Maddie is a big fan of Cinderella, and she's proud of the diorama she made of the story for school.  But her stepbrother Holden is not impressed with either, and points out the many logical flaws in the story; for instance, surely Cinderella isn't the only girl with that particular shoe size!  And soon Maddie's diorama has changed to something not in the real story, and all the book versions have gone horribly wrong too.  Holden's logic has broken Cinderella, and her happy ending is no more!Holden and Maddie magically enter the story (not of their own volition; it just happens), and once there Madddie's determined to set things right.  Holden, though, is an uncertain ally at best, because he's more interested in things making sense, which isn't so useful when dealing with fairy tales. But the two of them manage to start tidying things up, starting with the stepsister who's now going to marry the prince; this wasn't her idea (she'd rather go to art school).  The stepmother is the villain of the piece, and getting her out of the way of Cinderella's happily ever after  turns out to be rather a tricky job. But once Cinderella and her stepsisters (one of whom is now Maddie, disguised by enchantment) put their past behind them and start working as a team, and once Holden and Maddie do the same, things fall into place.It's a lot of fun, and interesting to visit a well known story through Holden's fresh, critical eyes.  The author also adds a rational explanation for the vexing question of why the prince needed the shoe fitting to recognize his true love again--he has face blindness.  The resulting story is quite a bit more interesting than the original, although happy ever after is once again achieved (I found myself cheering more enthusiastically from the emancipated stepsister, now free to pursue her own dreams, than I did for Cinderella, who's romance still remains founded on the flimsy foundation of insta love...).There are many bits of very kid friendly humor, and the illustrations entertain as well. It's the sort of book you can start reading aloud to kids even younger than 9, and then leave lying around as bait for independent reading.  Kids who enjoy this sort of disrupted fairy tale will then be happy to read the other books in the series, in which Holden ruins other stories in similar fashion.  It is also a good teaching tool about thinking critically about plot, and learning to recognize plot holes; Holden makes many valid points!disclaimer: review copy received from the author[...]