Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett (Broadway Books, April 2014 in the US, Jan. 2012 in the UK), is one for those who enjoy sci fi about people making homes for humanity on strange new worlds that aren't populated by unicorn kittens. Which is to say, darkish ones for older readers.  And this is why it took me a while to read the book.

I started several months ago, and found myself on a planet without a sun.  Life here on Eden comes from the hot core of the planet, and the indigenous creatures have evolved enough bioluminescence for humans to survive.    But the humans aren't exactly thriving--quite quickly we learn that this is in in-bred group, all descended from two people a few generations back, and it's clear that they are rapidly loosing the technology and learning of Earth.  

And the book didn't work for me immediately--I just didn't want to be on Eden, with a somewhat miserable group of people in a weird dark place all sitting around in one small valley waiting for Earth to find them again, stuck with them on a world that brought them no sense of wonder or beauty

But I came back to it, and was rewarded.   Because one of the young men of Eden, John Redlantern, is also tired of just sitting there in a valley whose resources are being strained by the growing population of Family.  And he leads a small group away from the first settlement, experimenting,  innovating, taking Eden for what it is, and making it a place where people can actually Live, as opposed to simply surviving.

Of course, there are many who don't want change, and who hate John for breaking up Family.   And so, along with hope, John brings war to Eden...

And the reading of the book was very much like the story of the book--a reluctance to be there, with a gradually growing sense that there were people I could care about, and wonders of Eden beyond that first small valley that really were the stuff of wonder.    And as the book gathered steam, the central point--that the life worth lived is one that's not spent passively waiting to be somewhere else, that being Here, and doing all you can with that, is what's important, became tremendously appealing and interesting.  

So although it never quite became a book I loved, it did become one I read with ever more riveted fascination, helped along by the character's own realization that they were making a new Story that would shape the future of Eden.

Some added value comes from an exploration of gender roles.  Though John is the Hero of the epic that he is creating, narrating much of the story, a young woman who goes with him, Tina, narrates considerable parts of it.  And through her eyes we gain an awareness of a matriarchal society being challenged, and a sense of questioning how women can fit into this new story created by this new hero.  I myself would have liked to see Tina given an ending with stronger hints that there will be power for her, and other women, in the new future, but at least the issue was raised.   There's also the inclusion of a central character with a disability (club feet, resulting from the inbreeding), who is the smartest of the bunch and who is right up there in terms of being an essential creator of the new future for the Edenites.

This isn't a book for kids-- there's considerable, very casual, sex, there's incest, there's attempted rape, and there's violence, and some may be disturbed by the fact that the religions of Earth have become distorted and irrelevant.   But I can imagine lots and lots of older readers finding much here to appreciate, and indeed, having typed that I see that Dark Eden won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2013 (that's the UK cover on right).  And I am genuinely intrigued by the sequel, Mother of Eden, coming out in the UK this November, which promises to confront  the issue of the role of women in patriarchal societies.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publishers.

The KidLitCon 2014 Program is out in the world!

So for the past six weeks, I have been much preoccupied with developing the program for KidLitCon 2014 (Oct. 20-11, Sacramento--register here) and at last it is out in the world!

There are two smallish things I'm still waiting for before it is All  Done, but it is done enough to go out in public, and here it is. I am somewhat abashed to realize I put myself first.  It was not intentional :)

Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?October 11 and 12, 2014  Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, Sacramento, CA

(Link to Registration Form) (Link to KidLitCon Main Page)

Friday, October 11

8:30-9:30 Registration
9:30-9:55  Welcome and Opening Remarks

10-10:50 A  Finding Your Voice, Finding Your Passion- Blogging With Conviction 
Charlotte Taylor Charlotte’s Library
Blogging is hard work, made easier by passion. Having an intense focus (such as a passion for some aspect of diversity, or some particular sub-genre) can both motivate the blogger and help the blog find its audience. But passion and conviction by themselves aren’t enough to make a blog a success for both its writer(s) and its readers—you have to be able to communicate them effectively. Topics in this session will include how to find the voice, or voices, that work for you, and how to use them to make a stronger, more powerful blog.

10-10:50 B   Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA
Nathalie Mvondo Multiculturalism Rocks!Gayle Pitman The Active VoiceKim Baccellia Si, Se Puede- Yes, You Can!
Many bloggers want to review more diverse books, but are uncertain about where to find the best ones, and are uncertain how to evaluate and promote them. This session, featuring three bloggers who focus on multicultural and LBGT books,  will help bloggers get diverse books onto their blogs and into the hand so young readers.  

11-11:50 A    Sistahs (and Brothers) Are Doing It for Themselves  — Independent Publishing From the Creators’ and the Bloggers’ Points of View    
Laura Atkins Laura Atkins, Children’s Book EditorZetta Elliott Fledgling[with blogger to be determined]
Is it possible, in a publishing world that so dramatically lacks diversity in its offerings, to provide viable alternatives, using people power to provide books that all children in this country can relate to and enjoy? We think so! An ever growing number of authors and illustrators are independently creating children’s books, and many of these are about diverse subjects and children. An editor, and author and self-publisher, and a blogger come together to talk about different models and approaches to creating independent children’s’ books, and the role of bloggers in publicizing them, with a discussion of reviewing self-published books from the blogger’s point of view. 

11-11:50 B Social Media Tips and Tricks for Bloggers
Kelly Jensen (Stacked and Book Riot)
You write a blog post and now you want people to find it. This session will give you tips and tricks for best social media practices across a variety of platforms, including Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Learn how to build an engaged and excited readership, as well as how to manage the nitty-gritty components of social media. Whether you’re new at it or you fancy yourself a seasoned pro, you’ll learn some new best practices.

12-1:30 Lunch (box lunches included in price of registration)   
This first lunch will feature optional talk clusters, where bloggers can gather with those who share their particular interests (such as “diverse spec. fic”  “picture book reviewing”  “middle grade books”  “LBTG” etc.), with the option of general seating as well. (Please share ideas for conversational groups with Charlotte Taylor (charlotteslibrary@gmail.com).

1:30-3   Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story 
Edith Campbell Crazy Quilt EdiHannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómezJewell Parker Rhodes
While gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or ability add to who we are, they do not define who we are. And these differences do not define our stories. How do we teach, discuss, or describe diverse books without making diversity the issue? Should we? How do we respond to the perception that ʺdiverse booksʺ are only for ʺdiverse peopleʺ and deliver book reviews and essays that highlight what makes books universal for those disinclined to think diversity is for them while acknowledging readers who need and deserve to find themselves in literature? Presenters Edith Campbell, Hannah Gómez, and author Jewell Parker Rhodes will deliver an interactive session with talking points, booktalks, strategies and much honest discussion.

3-5 Author Mix and Mingle
Meet and mingle with authors, publishers, and of course fellow bloggers! Signed books to buy, swag and ARCs to snag, good conversations to be had. 

Dinner (paid for individually) at The River City Brewing Company

Saturday, October 11

8-9 Registration for new arrivals

9-10 KEYNOTE  Mitali Perkins— Can Bloggers Diversify the Children’s Book World? You Bet We Can.
Blogger and author Mitali Perkins will share stories of how some key blogs have made a difference through the years, offer practical tips on how to influence our circle of blog readers, and discuss how to integrate our social media platforms with our blogs for maximum impact.
Mitali Perkins (mitaliperkins.com) has written nine novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association’s Top Ten Novels for Young Adults, starred in Publishers Weekly as “a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.”) Mitali graduated from Stanford University in Political Science and received her Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley. After spending 13 winters in Boston, she now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her blog, “Mitali’s Fire Escape: A Safe Place to Think, Chat, and Read About Life Between Cultures” (mitaliblog.com), has been around since April 23, 2005.

10-10:25 Break

10:25 -11:05  Beyond the Echo Chamber of the Kidlitosphere: Reaching Readers.
So you’ve read the book and written your review. Now what? Learn where the readers are, how to reach them and what to say so they’ll listen.
Pam Margolis, Unconventional Librarian

11:15 to 12:  Skype session with Shannon Hale

12-1:30 Lunch (box lunches included in the price of registration)

1:30-3  We Need Diverse Books Presents:  Book Bloggers and Diversity, an Unbeatable Combination  with Mike Jung, Karen Sandler, S.E. Sinkhorn, and Martha White
In the first part of this session, the panelists will share the lessons learned from the very successful #WeNeedDiverseBooks social media campaign with regard to crafting your message, using your message, and establishing an emotional connection. Second, the panelists will focus on how diverse children’s literature can enrich our blogs, and how authors and editors can further expand the content available to us.

3:-3:30 Break

3:30-5  We’re Not Going To Take It and Neither Should You: Why Book Bloggers DO Have the Ability to Make Divers Books Happen
Hannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómezKelly Jensen Stacked and Book RiotFaythe Arrendondo YALSA-The HubSummer Khaleq Miss Fictional’s World of YA Books
We know bloggers matter to the publishing industry and to readers. And we know reading diversely is important for all readers, as it opens up your worldview. But how can bloggers effect positive change when it comes to diversity? This session will explore the ways bloggers can audit their own reading habits, assess and address personal biases, as well as create and curate stronger content as it relates to diversity in all shapes and forms — race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, body image, and more. We’ll offer tools and tips for not just finding and highlighting diverse reads, but also how to advocate for diversity within one’s own blog and beyond. This is more than an awareness of diversity; it’s an opportunity and an obligation for active change.
5-9 Banquet at The Citizen Hotel (included in conference price)
We welcome your feedback about the 2014 KidLitCon!
Charlotte Taylor: Program Coordinator
Sarah Stevenson and Tanita Davis and Jen Robinson: Co-Chairs
Reshama Deshmukh and Melissa Fox: Author Coordinators
Maureen Kearney: Registration Coordinator


Requiem for a Princess, by Ruth M. Arthur, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's time travel book is Requiem for a Princess, by Ruth M. Arthur, which is one of those nice English books that American libraries were buying in the 1960s, often illustrated by Margery Gill, and mostly deacessioned at this point, and if you are lucky you find them in library booksales.  Ruth M. Arthur is an author I'll automatically buy at such sales, though I have yet to find a book of hers I love.  I had hoped Requiem for a Princess would be that book, as it has lots of elements I enjoy (old house, old garden, time-slippishness, historical mystery, music), but sadly it never quite hooked me emotionally.

Here is the story:

When she is 15, and off at boarding school studying music, Willow Forrestser is told by another girl that she is adopted.   The shock is considerable, and in as much as she can't bring herself to talk to her parents about it, and is still weak from a nasty case of flue, she has something of a breakdown.  Happily she gets to take time off school to recuperate, and goes to Cornwall, to a lovely old house by the coast, where she builds her strength back up doing light gardening and piano playing (I feel I could use this too).

There she finds herself intrigued by the story of Isabel, a young Spanish girl adopted by the head of the family at the beginning of the 17th century (a time when the Spanish were not loved by the English).   Nobody can tell her much about Isabel, though her portrait hangs in the house and Willow sleeps in her room...just that she was assumed to have drowned when she was still young.   But Willow can't stop wondering, as she restores the Spanish Garden Isabel laid out, and walks the same paths along the shore.  And gradually she finds herself dreaming, more and more vividly, of Isabel's life back in the past.  Through her dreams, she sees the growing danger surrounding Isabel, and the nightmarish events that led the night when she disappeared from history.

The book is told in the first person points of view of Willow in the present, and Isabel in the past.  This is time travel as spectator sport--Willow is an uninvolved observer, and though there are two loose ends to Isabel's story that get tied up because of Willow, there is little meaningful interaction of past and present (it's more like two parallel stories, one present and one past, than it is time travel, but there's just enough substance to Willow's dreaming to make me able to count it.

Though both the girls are emotionally perturbed for much of the book, the book itself is not full of fraught immediacy.   There's a distance to the whole tone, with emotions told and not shown.  Willow is an interested, but somewhat dispassionate observer of her own life and Isabel's.   Isabel is a somewhat passive exile.  Why does she just accept the fact that she's stuck in Cornwall? She never suggests to anyone that a letter be written to her family in Spain. It is also not believable how isolated from the community she is.  She is not particularly emotionally convincing either.

So the beautiful setting and the pleasing historical mystery are enough to carry the story, and I think for the young romantic daydreaming 10 or 11 year old it would all be magical.....especially since it all ends well...but for the grown-up who has read lots of similar stories, there's just not quite enough here to make it one to love.

Although I did appreciate that the piece of music that gives the book its name, Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte, which Willow plays often, is one I myself played (very badly) back in the day (here is a nice piano version of it).

(Ruth M. Arthur seems rather collectible--I was surprised by how expensive some of her books, like this one, are even when ex-library.   Probably it is a boom fueled people who read the books when they were young back in the 1960s/70s, who were enchanted then, and nostalgic now....I am very glad I have copies of the books I loved most when I was young, so that I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to find them again.....)


Me at FangirlNation, talking about middle grade sci fi/fantasy

I am still more or less on vacation here, but you can find some of my thoughts and book recommendations of middle grade speculative fiction over at FangirlNation!


This week's round of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (8/24/14)

 A light week for reviews....I myself have nothing, because of being on vacation, desperately trying to Make Happy Memories for the children darn it.   Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, at Fantasy Book Critic

Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny, by Malia Ann Haberman, at Words Escape Me

The Cottage in the Woods, by Katherine Coville, at Educating Alice

Dreamwood, by Heather Mackley, at Bibliobrit

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson, The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm, at Educating Alice, Waking Brain Cells, and Hope Is the Word

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at The Book Monsters

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle, by George Hagen, at Wandering Librarians

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Leaf's Reviews

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at The Hiding Spot

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Hades Speaks, byVicky Alvear Schecter, at Mom Read It

The League of Seven, by Alan Gratz,  at Ms. Yingling Reads, thebookshelfgargoyle, Librarian of Snark, and Tor

The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson, at Geo Librarian

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Welcome to my (New) Tweendom

The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhands, by Jen Swann Downey, at Tales of the Marvelous

Odessa Again, by Dana Reinhardt,  at Not Acting My Age

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve, at Becky's Book Reviews

The River Singers, by Tom Moorhouse, at Wondrous Reads

Rose and the Lost Princess, by Holly Webb, at alibrarymama

Rose and the Magician's Mask, by Holly Webb, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

A Stranger at Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, at Semicolon

Authors and Interviews

Jennifer Donnelly (Deep Blue) at A Backwards Story

 Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at Small Review and Word Spelunking

Marcus Sedgwick (The Raven Mysteries) at Wondrous Reads

Other Good Stuff

The Application Period for Cybils Judging closes Sept. 5 and because Cybils judging is really really fun you should seriously think of applying.   (Some categories get more applicants than others--"picture books" gets many more applications than it can handle, whereas "graphic novels" has not yet gotten much love this year.  MG SF is kind of in the middle).

Via Waking Brain Cells--casting news for A Monster Calls (Sigourney Weaver!)

From Teen Librarian Toolbox--  the good things the Ferguson Library is doing (yay libraries!)

Malorie Blackman (UK children's laureate) talks diversity in children's books at The Gaurdian

The lastest Kidlitcon shoutout from Tanita at Finding Wonderland

And speaking of diversity, September brings the More Diverse Universe reading challenge!  yay!  (I would kind of like to include in my reading a non-fiction book about science for grown-ups, just for a change; any recommendations? The requirement is that the author be a POC.)

Brave Kitties of WW I!  at io9.  Trench warfare is hell, but better when you have a kitty friend.


Kidlitcon 2014 Program peek, starring Jewell Parker Rhodes!

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes will be coming to Kidlitcon 2014!  I am so excited--I loved her magical realism/ghost story Ninth Ward lots, so much so that I enthusiastically helped shortlist it for the Cybils Awards* the year it came out (2012) (here's my review).  And her 2013 book for young readers, Sugar, is great too.

Here's a peak at her session, where she'll be joining two great bloggers:

Friday 1:30-3   Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story 

Edith Campbell Crazy Quilt Edi

Hannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómez

Jewell Parker Rhodes  (fangirl squee from me!)

"While gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or ability add to who we are, they do not define who we are. And these differences do not define our stories. How do we teach, discuss, or describe diverse books without making diversity the issue? Should we? How do we respond to the perception that ʺdiverse booksʺ are only for ʺdiverse peopleʺ and deliver book reviews and essays that highlight what makes books universal for those disinclined to think diversity is for them while acknowledging readers who need and deserve to find themselves in literature? Presenters Edith Campbell, Hannah Gómez, and author Jewell Parker Rhodes will deliver an interactive session with talking points, booktalks, strategies and much honest discussion."

And that is just one of the great sessions at this year's Kidlitcon; I'm putting the final touches on the program, and should have it all done (d.v.) on Monday!  Please join us in Sacramento, CA October 10th and 11th for a really fantastic time of talking blogging and books and diversity non-stop!

*and speaking of Cybils, now is the time to sign up to be a panelist for the 2014 season!


Crashing the Party (Time Flyers #4), by Perdita Finn, for Timeslip Tuesday

On my largest TBR shelf there is a section of emergency time travel books--books that are very fast reads for those times when longer books just aren't going to be finished in time (because, for instance, of trying to finish an impossible number of major tasks ere summer ends).  And so, in about 25 minutes, I was able to read Crashing the Party (Time Flyers #4), by Perdita Finn (Scholastic 207, 109 pages, upper elementary/ lower Middle Grade).

This was my first Time Flyers book, but I was able to quickly pick up on the pertinent backstory.  Josh and Katie are two ordinary American middle schoolers whose family is chosen to host time travelling kids of many lands via the Time Flyers program (the parents don't know about the time travelling, because they are dolts not keen observers).   The lasted kid to arrive is a French aristocrat from 1788, and she is not really getting into the spirit of good time travelling visitor--demanding, spoiled French aristocrats are not good houseguests, and they leave white hair powder on your furniture.  Basically, she's utterly awful. 

And she becomes worse when she masters the art of cultural immersion into the circle of It Girls at Katie and Josh's school. 

And then things get even worse when she refuses to go home again....

I guess the point of the story is that middle school is even worse than it usually is when you have a bitchy French aristocrat who treats you like dirt staying with you and going to your school.   Which is certainly a reasonable plot, but its one that, in this case at least, lacks much emotional depth.  There were a few brief intimations that there might be depth to the girl's character, but they were too fleeting to have any umph. 

The story itself is not all that educational--if you had never heard of the French Revolution, that would be one thing to learn, and you would also learn that French aristocrats of that time period had a rather generous sense of entitlement.    But this particular French girl is so busy becoming American that her own time is not of interest to her, so we don't hear much about it.  There is an Educational Epilogue in which information on life in late 18th century France is shared, but it is so much easier to pick up on information that's embedded in the text that I'm not sure how useful this is.

I am not deeply tempted to look for the other books in the series, except that they are quick reads, and goodness knows there will be other Difficult Tuesdays in my future....


This Week's Round-up of Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy (8/17/14) w/ special announcement and discussion question!

So Google has killed blog search, and though there's a way to force it to search blogs, this returns far fewer hits.  So I might well be missing an ever growing number of posts; let me know if I missed yours!  (And if any publicists or marketers want to send me direct links to blog tour stops, review links, etc., that would be great.)

The Reviews:

The Book of Bad Things, http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-book-of-bad-things.html

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Courting Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, at The Book Smugglers

Ever After High, by Shannon Hale, at Nayu's Reading Corner

Evil Fairys Love Hair, at Mary G. Thompson, at The Book Monsters

The Fog of Forgetting, by G.A. Morgan, at I Read to Relax

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm, at For Those About To Mock, Log Cabin Library, Emily Reviews! Random Musings of a Bibliophile, and Librarian of Snark

Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor, by Julie Anne Grasso, at The Ninja Librarian

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at Adventures in Scifi Publishing, The Book Monsters, and Ageless Pages Reviews

Gabriel Finley and the Ravens of Doom, by George Hagen, at Log Cabin Library

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at Becky's Book Reviews and Charlotte's Library

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

The Hypnotists, and its sequel, Memory Maze, by Gordon Korman, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Inventor's Secret, by Chad Morris, at The Obsessive Bookseller (missed it last week)

The Iron Trial, by Holly Back and Cassandra Clare, at Zach's YA Reviews

Kat, Incorrigible (series review), by Stephanie Burgis, at Fantasy Fiction

Loot, by Jude Watson, at Reader Noir

The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Fantasy Book Critic

The Magic Thief series, by Sarah Prineas, at Beyond Books

Magyk, by Angie Sage, at Rcubed's Reads and Reviews

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie, by Jeff Norton, at Juniper's Jungle

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at Sonderbooks

No Such Thing as Dragons, by Philip Reeve, at Hidden in Pages

Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins, at Librarian of Snark

The River at Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

Ship of Souls, by Zetta Elliott, at Reading in Color

The Time of the Fireflys, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Five Minutes for Books

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life,  by P.J. Hoover, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow and books4yourkids

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, at Michelle Isenhoff

Authors and Interviews

Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at Cracking the Cover, The Book Monsters, and The Children's Book Review


The Call for Cybils Panelists goes out tomorrow!  Once again, I'm the team leader for middle grade speculative fiction.  Throw your name into the hat to be a panelist in judging either the first round (coming up with a shortlist of 5-7 books) or the second round (picking a winner from the shortlist!). 

The reading period for the first round runs from October through December, and there will be c. 150 books nominated in MG Spec. Fic. (published from Oct. 16, 2013 through Oct. 15, 2014).

  Here's what you should ask yourself before applying to be a panelist--

--how many books have I read already?  If you have a comfortable cushion of eligible books read already, that is good.

--how easy is it for me to get hold of books?  Some books will come from publishers, but others we'll have to find ourselves at libraries.  So if it is hard for you to get a hold of books, the first round is probably not a good fit for you.

--am I a fast reader?  First round panelists don't have to read all the books, nor do they have to finish the books they count as "read."  But you do have to be able to read lots, and fast.

--are there things happening this fall that will make it hard to do lots of reading?

--do I want to be thinking about books in a rather briskly frantic way just before Christmas?

But on the plus side, you can also ask yourself:  do I want to spend this fall reading tons of books in my favorite genre and having a great time discussing them intensely with fun, interesting, fellow fans?

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Other Good Stuff

An interesting look at the structures of the Harry Potter books at Bookriot

I could fill this post with Giver related things, but am sticking to this one:  Lois Lowry and Phillip Noyce interviewed in tandem at Deadline Hollywood

And then I just found this one, which I wouldn't actually call "good"-- "The Giver Now Has Its Very Own Nailpolish" at Jezebel
Why, world, why?

Discussion Question (I don't know if this will be a regular feature or not, because I can easily imagine not having decent questions every Sunday for next several years...but we will see.  Let me know what you think!)

So over on Twitter, Anne Ursu drew my attention to this line from the (starred) Kirkus review of Sparkers, by Eleanor Glewwe-- "Social injustice is a rare theme in middle-grade fantasy..."  And as Anne said, "no," because clearly social injustices of many kinds (economic, gender-based, racial prejudice) are a dime a dozen in mg fantasy.  But maybe, I thought (and I haven't read the book yet, so I might be off-base) the author of that Kirkus line is thinking that rebellion/active efforts to subvert the dominant system by a group of people constituting the driving force of the plot is rare.   I can think of lots of books in which individuals fight/are victims of social injustice, but not so many that take it to the larger level of the oppressed taking on the system as a group.

Here's what I came up with:  
Zelpha Keatly Snyder's Below the Root trilogy (1975-1978)--a dominant group of people up in the trees, a subordinate group of rebels trapped below the roots, and the brave group of young teens who bring down the injustice of it (of course three of the main people fighting the system are from above the root, with only one from below, but there's a larger sense that a revolution is underway).

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (2012) --set in a society in which those with no magic are oppressed by those who have it, and tells of the efforts underway to change this.

Janice Hardy's Healing War trilogy (2010- 2011) which features a rebellion against foreign oppressors.

What do you think?

I think that more fantasy and science fiction for kids explicitly involving fights against social injustice can only be a good thing...and speaking of fighting against social injustice, here's a guide to "Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder" at What Matters


Searching For Sky, by Jillian Cantor

There are some books where the bulk of my reading enjoyment comes at a distance from the text--an un-immersive reading experience of running commentary.   This is what happened to me in Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, where I spent most of the book planning my own end of the world shopping trip, thinking critically about house heating, water supply issues, etc.  Perfectly enjoyable, but distant, and not all that emotionally invested.

This was what happened to me with Searching For Sky, by Jillian Cantor (Bloomsbury, May 2014, YA).

Sky and her mother, and River and his father, had left the United States for a peaceful life alone on a small island in the south Pacific, and life was good--sometimes a bit hungry, but good.  Then the two adults died when River and Sky were young teens, and River and Sky were alone...with even less to eat.   So when River sees a boat, he signals to it...and the two of them are rescued, and taken back to California.

Living with a grandmother she'd never known even existed, in a world of modern conveniences and social norms she has no clue about, Sky struggles to keep herself intact.  But worse than all those things is that she is separated from River...and it is like part of herself, her real self, is gone.  And gradually Sky learns the reasons why her mother took her to that far off island....and it is not a pretty story....And then she finds River again, and Sky at last thinks that her dream of escaping back to the island will come to pass...

So I enjoyed the story, liked Sky just fine, liked the dark secrets gradually revealed, found the ending solid, etc.   It was a fine book.

But all throughout I had Mental Commentary going full force--questioning details of island survival, and the likelihood that they wouldn't have been found sooner, questioning Sky's reactions to the modern world and the efforts of the grown-ups to instruct her (they did a pretty bad job, in my opinion.  An awful job. What they needed was an anthropologist/sociologist, not a shrink), questioning her grandmother's choices, questioning Sky's state of mind (it's told from her first person viewpoint, and I wasn't quite convinced that her voice was believable, given her up-bringing).   I had a lot to question, and this kept me from really accepting Sky's story qua story.

Of course, all this made it more interesting for me, and I enjoyed the reading of it just fine.  If you are looking for a YA mystery/suspense/romance, that isn't quite exactly any of those but is more a story of personal grown and exploration of life with more than a bit of sadness, you might well enjoy this one lots.

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher.


The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia McKillip

So this weekend I finally read a book I was given by my husband for Christmas in 2008-- The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia McKillip.   Sheesh--so pathetic of me, but that is what happens when your tbr piles explodes and keeps growing--the books you know you love and really want to read get set aside (someday I'll read The Islands of Chaldea...).

But I am So Glad I have now read The Bell at Sealey Head because it is one of my most favorite of all Patricia McKillip's books and I loved it. 
It is a beautiful story of ordinary life twisted with magic in which nice people such as I'd like to be friends with who like books and stories and questioning the edges of reality learn about the magic and not much Happens in an action-packed sort of way and there are small things that made me laugh and beautiful pictures painted in my mind.  

So pretty much a perfect book for me, and if you at all love the same books I love do try it!

Here is a quick synopsis-

Every day, just as the sun sets, the bell at Sealy Head rings.  No one has seen the bell, no one knows its story--it is a mystery that is part of the fabric of life.   One young woman writes stories to explain it, one young man listens for it with his blind father, as their inn sits empty, one young man comes from far away (bringing lots of books) to find its story, one dying woman in her ancient manor house holds to its sound and to life, waiting....and another young woman hears it, but has moved passed it to the magic of the world that sometimes can be seen through the doors inside the manor.  And behind the doors is a third young woman, caught in an endless ritual of magic of which the bell is a part... (There are other people too, worth mentioning, but I feel I've mentioned enough).

And their lives all come together and they figure out the story (with the help of books) and untangle the chains of magic (which have a malevolent twist to them) and it is a happy ending with nice romance and it is flavored nicely with bits of comic relief from minor characters.

Yep.  Possibly even my favorite McKillip.....

If I were marketing it I would want to market it to YA readers because the main characters are in their teens, and it is very much a teens growing up story, but it is so different from what's in the YA section these days that I don't know how it would do there.....(pause while I try to think of a contemporary YA title I would describe as "beautiful magic."  Cannot think of one).


The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove (Viking Juvenile, middle grade on up, June 2014), is perhaps the most ambitious and original time slip book I have ever read (and I have read more than three hundred).   It took me several weeks to read it, and not because it is long--487 pages, but more because the world-building is so complicated that my busy mind wanted time to digest between immersive reads of it....And this is not to be critical of the book, because I did not find that this strange-to-me way of reading detracted from my enjoyment, but it is something to keep in mind when matching the book with readers who will love it.

When Sophia's great-grandmother was a girl in Boston, back in 1799, the world fractured in time. A great disruption brought the past to some places, the future to others...and history ceased its linear progression.   And a new era of exploration and map-making began, that ended up taking Sophia's parents to a far of time and place, leaving her with her cartographer uncle in Boston.  Slowly she learns to read map of memories held in glass, maps of earth, of water....but she is not permitted to stay sheltered in New Occident.

Instead, she when her uncle is kidnapped, Sophia must follow a trail of cartographic riddles across a time-struck continent...a journey that will take her to the end of the known world, and a map that might change everything once again. It's a journey that brings new friends, adventures of all sorts, wild flights of imagination to delight the tourist heart of the fantasy reader.   And interspersed with Sophia's story we see what is happening to her uncle, the tortured prison of someone with a time shattered backstory of her own.

So the thing with this book is that there is So Much Story, and so much to learn about the world while following Sophia, that it really cannot be gulped down.  And it requires patience to learn to be in that world....many pages of patience before the twistings of fate gather enough momentum to really get the story rolling.   But it rewards the reader lots and lots with its imaginative delights and great characters.  And the premise of the shifting times is genius--and one reason that the book was slow to read for me is that it invited more daydreaming and speculation than was good for page turning. 

It really does take time to get going, though, so you have to trust that it will be worth it to try to make sense of everything.  And so, though this is a middle grade book for kids in grades 5 and up, it isn't going to be for every middle grade fantasy fan.   Give it to the kid who, like Sophia, daydreams strange worlds...the thoughtful kid, who's a fast and confident reader, who looks at reality slight slant-wise.   Or give it to grown-ups who love the way the best fantasy books for kids open new windows in the mind.

My middle grade speculative fiction comrade from last year's Cybils Awards reading, Stephanie Whalen, recommend this one in her School Library Journal Review to those who loved The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, and found it comparable to Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy.  I don't disagree, but to me it gave an even stronger feeling of similarity to the Monster Blood Tattoo series of D.M. Cornish in the sheer splendorous details of its imagination.

I have to say, though, that I personally admire the book more than I love it with the sort of cozy fondness I feel for my favorite books--it really is almost too much of a good thing in the elaboration of its imagination for my taste. 

Despite that, I am pretty sure I want my own final copy of this one.  The copy I read was an ARC, and the final book, with its generous servings of cartography, is a lovely book qua book....


Parched, by Georgia Clark

Parched, by Georgia Clark, is an excellent newcomer to the field of YA dystopias, and even if you are feeling burned out by that sub-genre, give it a try!  It is a very good read, with interesting twists that add just tons of zest (especially for those who enjoy unreliable narrations).

Tess spent the first fifteen years of her life in the comfort of Eden--a closed-off community of abundant resources.  Then tragedy sent her fleeing into the Badlands outside Eden, where life is a hardscrabble struggle.   After a year of fighting for survival, she's tracked down by an Edenite, who persuades her to come back to work to topple the dictators of Eden and bring justice (and little things like water) to the people of the Badlands.  And Tess agrees...but she has her own reasons for going home again, ones her would-be revolutionary colleagues could never guess.

Back in Eden, and welcomed into her uncle's home, Tess meets his student Hunter, assigned by her uncle to help her catch up with her education.  And there is attraction between the two of them...(I found him very geekily appealing myself).

And then, to summarize briskly and without spoilers, the revolutionaries, with Tess now on board, set to work to foil the evil plans of Eden to bring death to the people of the Badlands once and for all. There's exciting confrontations involving robots and high-tech gizmos, and there are game-changing secrets of the sort that those who like unreliable narrations will enjoy tremendously (even though it's easy to see the biggest of the revels coming, it is still cool in an intellectually and emotionally diverting way). 

So--Dystopian romance with robotics, and a nice helping of social justice.  Engaging central characters, who have a most interesting relationship indeed.   Nice fast pacing, but with enough breaks in the action to satisfy those, like me, whose eyes blur when the pacing is too exciting.  The world of Eden and the Badlands isn't in itself a desperately fresh premise, but the twists at work in the story makes it interesting.   It's also pretty believable, which is depressing.

It deserves lots of teenaged readers, who will enjoy it immensly.  And that includes younger YA readers (the 12 and 13 year olds)--there is some violent torture and death, and some romance, but not of an older readership kind.  Though there is certainly space left for a sequel, it ends in a satisfying, non-cliffhangery place, which I appreciated.

(I also appreciated that the cover does not show Tess with impossibly beautiful hair looking all thin yet tough.  I like the classic sci fic vib the domed cities gives off'; it is a nice change).

I am already thinking ahead to October, and the Cybils--this is definitely a possibility for my YA Speculative Fiction nomination.

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher


This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy (8/10/14)

Welcome to another week's worth of middle grade sci fi/fantasy gleanings....please let me know if I missed your post or the posts of your loved ones!

The Reviews

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass, at Wandering Librarians

The Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince et seq.), by Jennifer Nielsen, at Tales of the Marvelous

Bad Magic, by Psuedonymous Bosch, at Log Cabin Library

Bravo Victor, by Jemima Pett, at The Ninja Librarians

Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny, by Malia Ann Haberman, at This Kid Reviews Books

Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donnelly, at Boarding With Books

The Forbidden Stone, by Tony Abbott, at The Hiding Spot

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm, at Sharon the LibrarianTeen Librarian Toolbox, and Oh Magic Hour

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at Mom Read It, Librarian of Snark, and Wondrous Reads

Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher, at The Book Sphere

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at Icey Books

The Iron Trial, by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, at What a Nerd Girl Says and The Bibliomaniac

Loki's Wolves, by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, at Booked Till Tuesday

The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas, at Hidden In Pages (audiobook review)

Memory Maze (The Hypnotists 2), by Gordon Corman, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at The Hiding Spot

The One Safe Place, by Tania Unsworth, at The Book Monsters

The Path of Names, by Ari Goelman, at Kid Lit Geek

The  Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Geo Librarian

Storybound, by Marissa Burt, at The Cheap Reader

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Middle Grade Mafioso

The Time of the Ghost, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Here There Be Books

Treasure of Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Winterling, by Sarah Prineas, at My Precious

The Wrath of Siren, by Kurt Chambers, at Annie McMahon

Authors and Interviews

Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at The Enchanted Inkpot

N.D. Wilson discusses Boy of Blur in a Sneaky Peeks Video #1 at Wild Things

Other Good Stuff

Disney takes the first steps toward making a movie of A Wrinkle In Time, via Waking Brain Cells

Rocket and Groot reimagined as Calvin and Hobbs.  Love.  (via Tor)

You know that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover with Veruca as creepy doll on it?  Travis at 100 Scope Notes took that approach to a logical conclusion of brilliance....you will never think of The Secret Garden the same way again.

Ursula Le Guin talks to  Michael Cunningham about "genres, gender, and broadening fiction" at Electric Lit

Thoughts on having to teach The Lightning Thief for a 6th grade mythology unit, at Teach the Fantastic

An article in the Applied Journal of Social Psychology suggests that reading Harry Potter can teach kids empathy (there's a lay-person friendly summary here at Science of Us

"7 Black Women Science Fiction Writers Everyone Should Know" at For Harriet, which is made more specifically MG SFF relevant  by the news that the film rights to Akata Witch have been optioned.  And indeed, it would make an awesome movie....

The Call for Cybils Judges begins August 18th!  I am returning as organizer of Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, and please all of you who love MG SF think hard about throwing your hats into the ring to be panelists!   Here's how I chose panelists:
--I check to make sure they are in fact enthusiastic about MG SF (don't send in a sample post that says "I don't read much middle grade" as has happened in the past), and check to see if there's some thought to their reviews
--I try to balance tried and true veterans with new folks, try to include teachers, parents, librarians, authors, general fans etc, so a range of background and experiences are included in the mix
--I try not to have too many of my top candidates siphoned off by other needy categories.

If you want more information or have questions, please feel free to email me (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com)

And finally, in an effort to encourage my kids do make things this summer, I brought out the boxes of miscellaneous junk and hardware such as result from having an old house and huge barn full of stuff, and this is the robot my 11 year old made (with a bit of tool-using help, because of it being his first time).  Its eyes are holograms from expired credit cards.  (The picture was taken in an unsalubrious corner of my semi-subterranean, 250-year-old office.  My own walls aren't quite that bad).


Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics

My Latin teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me memorize this quote from the Aeneid  when I was 15--Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem motilia tangunt (There are tears of things, and they touch the human heart).   It pretty much sums up the book I just finished-- Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy (First Second, July 2014, YA on up)

Many of the poems of the WW I English poets that are anthologized here, illustrated by various graphic artists, were not new to me, but seeing them illustrated twisted, sharpened, and deepened my emotional reaction to them.  And my emotional reaction to the pity of it, and the horror of it, is so great that any intellectual response is dampened to the banality of "I don't like this one as much" or "Yes, that is great writing, and gee those are powerful images" (then taking a break in the reading to allow the eyes to clear).

So I can't critically review this one.

I can say, though, that I think it is a valuable book.  And that I think we need books like this, in a format that's friendly and familiar to young readers, that might shake the foundations of safe complacency.

"If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gurgling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

[Sweet and good it is to die for your country].

George Pratt's black and white illustrations, understated, matter of fact, help bring the point of Wilfred Owen's famous poem home.  

So yes, it's a good book, with the emotional heft of great poems made more so by the drawings.   And it's made education friendly by the ordering of the poems by their sequence in the war--The Call to War, In the Trenches, and Aftermath, by an introduction explaining trench warfare and poetry, bios. of the poets, and by notes about each poem and its adaptation.  You can go look at these things here at First Second

And moving on from there, more poetry comics, please, First Second!  They are such a useful and easy way to acquire cultural literacy.

Example:  On a much lighter and somewhat tangential note--Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy Sayers (the one in which Peter and Harriet are married) is full of quotations and references (I would like an annotated edition, please) and I finally (!), thanks to inclusion of Everyone Sang, by Siegfried Sassoon, realize where the line that comes into Harriet's head at one point "Everyone suddenly burst out singing" comes from.  It's not utterly tangential, because of course Lord Peter was himself a veteran of WW I....and this makes the peace he finds with Harriet all the more powerful.  As Sasson's poem goes on to say--

"And beauty came like the setting sun:

My heart was shaken with tears, and horror
Drifted away..."

Which Sayers doubtless knew and was thinking of, because she was smart without the help of poetry comics!

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)

(for the first time in ages, I get to be part of Poetry Friday, hosted today at A Year of Reading!)


A readathon of my own! Gratefully Reading the Books Given

I have a long, long lovely weekend ahead of me (taking Friday off, and VJ Day on Monday--a perk of living in Rhode Island) and so I am challenging myself to read all the lovely books that have come my way as gifts!  I am bad at reading presents, because having them in the house almost feels like present enough.  So my tbr shelves include Christmas gifts and birthday gifts from loved ones, some unread for several years (oh the shame) and books from dear bloggers (some also unread for years sigh).   But no more!  I will read them this weekend, and then start working on my  Christmas/birthday present wishlist with an untrammeled heart. 

Would you like to join me in my Gratefully Reading the Books Given Readathon?  I realize that I might be alone in my shame, but if not, please feel free to play too!  I went and poked at Mr. Linky, but you seem to have to pay to make a widget of your own, and I don't feel like doing that.  So I'm going to do a round-up by hand-- leave a comment with your intro post to join!

Here are my own presents (and doubtless I am missing some, because the piles of books are deep and dark and precariously staked).   I will start reading them Thursday evening, and have them all read by Monday evening!

Clockwise from left:  from-- Maureen, an unknown blogger (it's been so long), and Brandy:

From my dear husband (yes, that first one is a book by a favorite author that I've had for years and haven't read):

And one more from my husband, and one from my sister:


The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, by MG Buehrlen

It's a great time to be a reader of YA time travel--books like The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, the debut novel of MG Buehrlen (Strange Chemistry, February 2014), keep coming down the pike and offering new twists and turns.   (And I am willing to bet that Outlander is going to keep things hot, as it were--I don't think there any danger of YA time-travel romance petering out any time soon!) 

So the basic premise of today's book is time travel through the visiting of past lives (56 of them in the case of a teenaged girl named Alex Wayfare).  But these are not touristy past life visits, but science-fictionally masterminded ones.  And (as is so often the case) the mastermind in question has been corrupted by the power he wields over the past...and it is his motives and ploys that shape the time travelling.

And Alex, when we first meet her, has no clue.  She thinks she's just a spaz with weird visions and not friends, and so she shrinks into a cocoon of social outcastness, letting the bullying and unkindness go by unopposed while she tinkers with mechanical things and grieves for her little sister who is fighting cancer. 

But then Alex starts to move through time (with the help of a mysterious older man who shows up to be her mentor)....and on her first trip back to the past she meets a boy called Blue and feels a strong bond with him.  This is especially important to her because he is the first person outside her family she has felt kinship with for ages.  At which point, some of us are thinking "oh, time travel romance" but then the twisty speculative fiction side of things ratchets the pace up a notch.  There is a backstory to Blue that Alex could never have guessed...a story far stranger than insta romance.  

And there is danger afoot, as the aforementioned mastermind becomes aware that Alex has been born again, and is travelling once more.

And so Alex is on the way to the races of, uh, destiny  as she struggles to find Blue again (her primary motivation), and keep getting herself out of the troubles she tumbles into, and the troubles she was born, and born again, to keep on having.....

This is one I found interesting intellectually, more than warm fuzzy emotionally.  On the plus side,  I liked very much the premise on which the time travelling was based.  The time travelling expeditions were nicely detailed and vivid, especially Alex's time as a sharpshooting gang member in the wild west!  Alex inhabits the bodies of her past selves, but without their memories...but with the past persona still able to take over the action as required.  It made for a a nicely twisty sort of time travel!

It was a good premise, but Alex is a bit of a psychological mess and not the most sympathetic character.  Her prime motivation--finding in time travel bonds of affection (ie, making sure Blue cares about her)--is perhaps understandable, but it diminishes the more intriguing scaffolding of the larger worldbuilding and story.  Throughout the book Alex, instead of focusing on the bigger picture, is busier getting external validation from all the guys she was encountering--her mysterious mentor in time travel, Blue, and the guys in the past who loved her past selves, and a guy in the present who wants to be her friend despite her asocial prickliness. 

And I felt a bit put out that her little sister, with whom she had been very close, had become just her dying sister, and not a person with whom she had a convincing relationship.   And on top of that, Alex is given the gift of magical healing through time travel--no more asthma, and no more glasses.   So basically her character arc didn't do that much for me, until right toward the end of the book, when she starts showing independent agency...

At which point I started zipping through it like crazy, and the last 60 pages or so went woosh.  At which point it becomes clear that this book is essentially a set-up for larger confrontations to come--I am glad that even though the Strange Chemistry imprint is no more, MG Buehrlen is moving ahead with the sequel, The Untimely Deaths of Alex Wayfare

So just for clarity-- I am cautiously recommending/not discouraging anyone from reading The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare, because it is an interesting read for time travel fans, and there are those who like it much more than me, and maybe you would be one of them.

If you want a second opinion, here's a good one at The Social Potato-- note that it's a four star review that's mostly negative!


Drift, by M.K. Hutchins

Drift, by M.K. Hutchins (Tu Books, April 2014, upper middle grade/younger YA)

Imagine a world where turtle islands swim through the ocean, each bearing on its back a great tree, each trailing the roots of its tree beneath them.   Some are large, some small, and all are home to people.   But it is not a peaceful ocean  for the turtles and the people for whom they are home.  The turtles must contend with monstrous nagas, who devour their roots and slow them down in their quests for food; the people must contend with the possibility of larger turtle communities attacking and enslaving them.

Tenjat and his sister came to their small turtle home fleeing danger on a larger island.  Tenjat is determined to become a Keeper-one who works to keep the turtle safe and fed, while being supported by the general populace.  That way he can guarantee that he and his sister will have a safe, prosperous future, without having to burden the turtle by slowing it down with the weight of offspring.  For in this world, to become a husband, farming the turtle ground and reproducing so as to have cheap labor on hand, is the most shameful fate a young man can have.

And even though his sister (for mysterious reasons that she won't tell her brother) objects strongly, Tenjat presents himself at the door to his turtle's great tree, and takes the test....

And what the reader gets next is sort of a Magic School of Turtle Keeper Training, complete with forays into the world of the monsters and the gaining of magical treasures and bullying older students and some good teachers and some bad!  (I liked this part of the book very much).

And then what readers get is Tenjat and his allies having to do some serious turtle-saving, during the course of which they up-end their island's ideas of the natural order of things (big twist here--I'm not sure it is entirely convincing, but it was big and interesting all right!).

So all in all, a good, gripping read.  Readers who make it past the rather depressing farming introduction to the great tree will be rewarded.   It's a good one for your older middle grade reader--there's relationship issues, but not of a "romance is the most important thing" kind, more the sort of still emotionally not yet mature middle-grade kind.  And middle grade readers, like me, do enjoy a good magical school-type story....with cool monsters and magical objects wrested from a mysterious non-world!

My one dissatisfaction with the book is the amount of opprobrium toward "hubs" (husbands), which the aforementioned middle grade reader might have a hard time understanding.  On the other hand, many middle grade kids think that ending up settled with a passel of kids a horrible fate, and so they might relate strongly to Tenjat's cultural prejudice against reproduction.   They might, however, be baffled by his repulsion when he starts feeling "hubish" toward the young woman, Avi, who is his trainer (and a beautiful strong, skilled, full-of-agency-and-independent story trainer at that).   In any event, I felt that I grasped the whole issue of cultural prejudice rather more efficiently than the author gave me credit for, and worried more about sustainable, genetically diverse populations than I was expected too.

I was also slightly bothered by the fact that, while women who marry and reproduce are also not respected, they are seemingly less despised, as if they have less choice, and I am one for gender-equaliaty in public shaming, if public shaming their must be...But on the other hand, I am pretty sure this unbalance comes from Tenjat (being our male POV character) desperately not wanting to become a hub himself, and so we hear more about that side of things....

Drift is inspired by Mayan cosmology, twisted and added to, which makes it a refreshing change, and its people are described as brown skinned, making this one for my list of diverse speculative fiction.   The world-building, especially the Info Dump reveal towards the end, does require that belief be gently folded and put on a top shelf, perhaps more so than most, but that makes it all the more fresh and fascinating for those who cooperate with the story-telling!

Here's  what Kirkus said, which isn't actually all that helpful....but you can read samples on line at Lee and Low, which is more so.  Drift is a Junior Library Guild selection.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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