12/12/18

The books my boys are getting for Christmas (a post mostly for future me to remember it by...)

Ever since I've started blogging I've shared the books I've bought as Christmas presents for my loved ones, and it's fun for me to look back at them all!  There was only one year when a child peeked, and he regrets it, so I think it's safe to share in advance....

For my 15 year old son--

Murderbot books 2 and 3 (Artifical Condition and Rouge Protocal) (although he'll get book 2 in advance, to read on the plane)

Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia, who's other book, Eliza and Her Monsters, is his most favorite book of all

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: a Sortabiography, by Eric Idle (which he asked for; he is a big Monty Python fan)

In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan

For my 18 year old graphic novel loving son--

The Divided Earth (Nameless City book 3) by Faith Erin Hicks

Castle in the Stars: the Moon King, by Alex Alice

Tales from the Inner City, by Sean Tan


Books for my sister (whose reading taste if fairly close to mine, which is nice for both of us)

The Key to Flambards, by Linda Newbery

The Skylarks' War, by Hilary McKay

Emily and the Headmistress, by Mary K. Harris


For my mother (whose taste is less similar to mine, but for whom I can still buy books I want to read too)

The Road Through the Wall, by Shirley Jackson

The Mitford Murders, by Jessica Fellows

And for my 15 year old nephew-Sanity and Tallulah, by Molly Brooks

12/11/18

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott, for Timeslip Tuesday

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott (Random House, October 2018), is an urban fantasy for older elementary aged kids (8-10 ish years old, younger if they are a bookworm type kid, older if shorter books are more enjoyable) who are past Magic Treehouse but not yet at Harry Potter.  The main character is a black boy who gets to have a fantasy adventure in his home city of Brooklyn.  There are not many good diverse, urban books, and it's great that this one is out in the world!

Jaxon's mom needs to go to court to fight against them being evicted from their Brooklyn apartment, and so, in desperation, she takes him to the home of an old woman she calls Ma.  Naturally, Jaxon thinks this is the grandma he's never met, but that's not who Ma is.   Instead, she's a witch, who needs a helper with her magical work.  Today the job is to deliver a clutch of baby dragons to a magical world where they can thrive; Brooklyn lacks the requisite ambient magic.  They can't be let out of the bag, or they'll imprint on humans, and they can't eat anything sweet, or they'll grow....

Ma takes Jaxon with her to the portal to the magical world, and they cross through.  But something has gone wrong--they've travelled back in time to the age of dinosaurs!  And the dinosaurs aren't ready to be friends.  Jaxon, at Ma's command, escapes back to Brooklyn with the dragons, and now he has to figure out how to get them where they belong, and find help for Ma, still stuck in the past.

His friends Vikram and Kavita have some experience with magic of their own, as described in Elliott's earlier book, Phoenix on Barkley Street, but they don't know the baby dragon rules...and break them both.  Jaxon's problems keep escalating! Fortunately, help comes in the form of his mother's father, who he's never met before...and Jaxon learns that his own mother once had the chance to be part of the magic community herself!

It's a brisk adventure, with grown-ups to help along the way, as is fitting for this age group.  There's a nice balance of magic and real-world happenings, and I appreciated Jaxon's mother's choice not to get involved with magic--that refusal made the magic more real and weighty to me--something not to be entered into lightly.  The dragons get enough time out of their bag to be cute (although I would have liked to have seen even more of them!), and the dinosaur time-travel element makes it clear how much magic there is out there.  It's great for young readers, and a quick fun read for grownups!  Brooklyn kids will especially love it, since the setting will be so familiar to them.

As I said above, it's great to have a book like this--there really aren't many.  In fact, the only other diverse urban fantasy books for this age group that I can think of (you get more moving into middle grade territory of books for 9-12 year olds) are Zetta Elliott's earlier City Kids books (with links to my reviews where applicable)--the aforementioned Phoenix on Barkley Street, Dayshaun's Gift, The Ghosts in the Castle, and The Phantom Unicorn (which I haven't reviewed yet, so it's a goodreads link).  These earlier books were all self-published.  While it's great to see Dragons in a Bag being traditionally published, with all the greater reach that offers, and I'm really happy about this, I am a teensy bit huffy about people saying Dragons is something new and different, when the other books are all excellent too, but the commenters maybe just don't know about them...


12/10/18

Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? by Kelly Jones

I enjoyed Kelly Jones' first book about Sophie and her unusual chickens, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, very much (my review), and when I treated myself to a batch of new middle grade fantasy from the library last week, the second book, Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? (November 2018) was one I was very excited about! It is just as fun and warm and engrossing as the first book.

Sophie is now more than a beginner keeper of unusual chickens.  She's used to caring for a small flock of poultry who are special in a magical kind of way, with a whole slew of paranormal talents.  But she's never hatched eggs before.  Part of being a keeper of unusual chickens is ensuring the survival of the vaious breeds, so hatching is part of the job, and eggs are on their way to her.  So she must hunt around the chicken farm she inherited from Agnes, a great breeder of magical chickens, for all the incubation supplies she needs.

The eggs arrive, are incubated, and hatch, and Sophie learns a lot (as does the reader); fortunately she has chicken-savvy friends to rely on for help and advice....and in the meantime, Sophie works to get Agnes' place back into order, which means getting help from her whole rural community.  And also in the meantime, summer comes to an end and school starts; Sophie worries that she'll be the only brown kid in a sea of white (she is not; there is a Mexican girl who is also new...)  Sophie's cousin Lupe has come to stay while she attends the local college, and that's a change too, though a good one, and Lupe is also a big help.

And typing that pervious paragraph, it occurs to me that one theme of the book is letting other people help you, and realizing what you need to learn to do to make you able to carry out your passion in life!  And it that sounds like the book is preachy, please don't think it is!  It's told in letters from Sophie to Agnes, her deceased grandmother, and a fellow unusual chicken breeder, and Sophie's voice is fresh and sharp, and her letters are full of descriptive details, making her chickens, her people, and her place all come to vivid life!

The fact that the story is told in these sharp bursts of correspondence help keep the reader's interest going--there's not a lot of Excitement or Danger here, and no adversary to overcome, just the tension of egg hatching and coping with the unexpected chicks that result.  So it won't be to everyone's taste.

But I found it a lot of fun.  I would happily keep reading more about magical chickens, thought there are hints that the whole magical livestock/farming world might contain more than just poultry...

Give this book to kids who want to be zookeepers when they grow up; it is all about caring appropriately for your animal charges!  Or give it to kids who just want a magical pet.   Or kids who just want to spend some time out in the country in good company eating apple-blackberry crisp and watching chickens do impossible things.....

12/9/18

the Sunday round-ups of middle grade sci fi and fantasy will resume in 2019!

I'm taking a break on my weekly round-ups until 2019-- too much else to do! I still have lots of reading to do for the YA Speculative Fiction Cybils, and a lot of home renovation to do ere the snow really gets going (because of wanting to put the downstairs bathroom radiator back in the downstairs bathroom--heat makes a bathroom so much friendlier!).  So happy reading to all of my middle grade spec fic/fantasy friends, and look for the round-ups to resume in January!

12/6/18

Fire & Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst

https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Heist-Sarah-Beth-Durst/dp/1101931000/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Fire & Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst is a great book for the younger YA set that twists dragons, a dangerous heist, and a portal fantasy into a family/friendship/coming of age real-world framework.

Imagine that some people in today's world are actually fire breathing wyverns; not shapeshifting into dragon form like their ancestors, but still busily hoarding gold (and stealing it from each other) and being all wyverny in a somewhat snooty way (but with no scales...).  Sky is a wyvern, and her family used to be very close to the top of the draconic pecking order. But when a heist of her mother's went totally wrong, the family has been shunned by the other wyvern families.  And her mother never came home.

Sky's boyfriend Ryan, and all her high school wyvern pals, have cut her off.  She wants her mother back.  And she wants to know what secrets her father and her three older brothers are keeping from her.  So she sets off to find what her mother was trying to steal from Ryan's father, and steal it herself to redeem her family, and maybe find her mother too and bring her home.  A good heist, especially when there are both magical and technological obstacles in the way, needs a good team, and Sky assembles one--Ryan, who only shunned her to save her from his father (or so he says), a wyvern magician, and a human classmate, Gabrielle, who researches interesting things as a hobby, and who was there to befriend Sky when her wyvern cohort abandoned her (I love Gabrielle!).

But Sky's heist doesn't go as planned....(this is where the portal fantasy part comes in, but I don't want to be too spoilery….).  Dragons are involved, lots of them...

And then there's a happy ending!

Back when I was 13, YA fantasy wasn't really a thing; my local library had maybe 4 fantasy books on the three small shelves labeled "YA."  (The only one I remember being shelved there is The Blue Sword). One went straight from the magical stories in the kids' section to Dragonriders of Pern etc.   Today of course there's lots of YA speculative fiction....and I've read a lot of it, but many of the books don't seem written for readers like 13-year-old me; the concerns are mostly more realistically adult than I would have wanted, since I mostly wanted escapism.  I almost never say about a YA book that I want to give it to young teen Charlotte, but this one is just perfect for the sort of 13 year old I was--not ready to think about growing up, dreaming of dragons and unicorns and kissing cute boys (all equally fantastical).  And grown-up me enjoyed it just fine too!

So if you weren't or aren't that sort of reader, you might find this reads a bit young to you.  But Sarah Beth Durst's writing is lots of fun regardless, Sky is a snappy sort of heroine, and the premise is lovely, so give it a try!

disclaimer: review copy received from the author

12/3/18

Any Second, by Kevin Emerson

I was very impressed by Kevin Emerson's middle grade sci fi story, Last Day on Mars.  So when I saw he had a new book coming out this fall, my ears pricked up.  Any Second (Crown Books, November 2018) is neither middle grade nor speculative fiction, being instead realistic YA, but it's not like I only read mg spec fic, and so I approached it with eager interest, and was not disappointed.  (This one needs trigger warnings, for rape, physical abuse of a child, self-harm, and suicide).

This is the story of two teenagers who met at a mall during dire circumstances.  One, Eli, was there to blow the mall up after being made into the weapon of a crazed zealot after four years of being  brainwashed, tortured, and raped.  Maya was the girl who stood next to him and kept him from letting go of the release mechanism that would detonate the bomb.  Almost a year latter, both are traumatized.  Eli has been reunited with has family, and is trying not to drown in post-traumatic stress.  Maya is also trying to live in the present, and not let her obsessive hair pulling be her one release mechanism (she was dealing with mental health issues even before the mall, and now things are worse....).

And then fate rolls the dice, and they end up at the same high school.  None of the students are supposed to know who Eli is, but Maya recognizes him.  The two are drawn to each other--they were both at that same defining moment, and they are both trying to move away from it.  But will they help or hurt each other?

They aren't left to peacefully discover which it will be.  The evil zealot who kidnapped Eli is still on the loose, and Eli lives with police protection.  Maya is in a toxic relationship with another girl, that's holding her back on her road to recovery.  And Eli makes the worst possible friend at high school--a socially ostracized boy who became obsessed with Eli's story, and who fantasizes, like the kidnapper, of striking a blow against the "sheep." When he finds out who Eli really is, his obsession grows.

So not a comfort read.  But though what has happened, and what is happening, to these three teenagers is grim, it manages not to be a grim book.  It has more a feel of spring slowly coming after long winter.  Maya and Eli practice their coping strategy of living in the present, and really noticing things around them, and their growing friendship, so improbable, brings both comfort.  It is uplifting to see them getting stronger.  Things end for Maya and Eli on a hopeful, forward-looking note.

It is also a very gripping page turner with the reader terribly anxious about the kidnapper and the third kid who might or might not go off...So even if you mostly read MG spec fic, you'll find this a good read!

disclaimer: review copy received from the author


12/2/18

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (12/2/18)

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

The Reviews

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini at Original Content

The Book of Boy, by Katherine Gilbert, at Mom Read It

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, at Leaf's Reviews

The Hotel Between, by Sean Easly, at Middle Grade Book Village

Inkling, by Kenneth Oppel, at Pages Unbound

The Land of Neverendings, by Kate Saunders, at Read Till Dawn

Lodestar (Keeper of the Lost Cities 5), by Shannon Messenger, at Say What?

Seeing Red (Whatever After #12), by Sarah Mlynowski, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, at The Book List Reader

The Third Mushroom, by Jennifer L. Holm, at proseandkahn

The Train to Impossible Places, by P.G. Bell, at Pages Unbound

The Wrath of the Dragon King, by Brandon Mull, at BooksForKidsBlog, Why Not? Because I Said So, and The Write Path

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, at The Chronicles of Danielle

Two at alibraymama--The Turning, by Emily Whitman, and Strange Star, by Emma Carroll

Three ghost stories at alibrarymama--When a Ghost Talks, Listen, by Tim Tingle, A Festival of Ghosts, by William Alexander, and City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab

Authors and Interviews

Stephanie Burgis (The Girl with the Dragon Heart) at Kick-butt Kidlit

Kenneth Oppel at Fuse #8 (a Walking and Talking graphic interview)

Liana Gardner (The Journal of Angela Ashby), at Wishful Endings

Other Good Stuff

A celebration of Madeleine L'Engle at Tor

Victoria Schwab's City of Ghosts is getting a tv adaptation (more at Tor)

11/29/18

Sanity and Tallulah, by Molly Brooks

This past week has been busy, with family, home-renovations, and determined reading of YA Speculative Fiction for the Cybils Awards.  But now the family are gone the home renovation can take a back seat (no houseguests expected till February) and I should have the time to blog more!  So here's one I just read, that's easy to write about because it is easy to see without much effort that it's good.

Sanity and Tallulah, by Molly Brooks (Disney-Hyperion, October 2018), is a fun science fiction graphic novel, particularly great for science-minded kids who love cats, but also good for story-minded kids/grown-ups who enjoy fun graphic novels.

Sanity and Tallulah are best friends, and so when Tallulah illicitly uses the lab of their space station home to create a three-headed kitten (Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds), Sanity is there to help cuddle , and to be sad when the kitty is taken from them and imprisoned in the lab.  But PSDofW is not lacking in smarts either, and breaks free, disappearing into the bowels of the space station.  And at just about the same time, electrical malfunctions start plaguing the space station, and there are signs of chewed wires....is it the kitten(s) that are too blame, or some other menace?  Sanity and Tallulah set out to investigate (breaking more rules in the process), and discover that the whole space station is in danger of destruction.  Fortunately, Sanity's clandestine work in the lab has given her the skills she needs to fix the problem...but what will become of Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds?

This is a great book for many reasons.  The friendship of the two girls is a joy to see; they are supportive of each other just beautifully!  The parents are involved and caring, though not always able to keep tabs on their kids, especially Sanity's parents, but they try.  And of course it's a joy to see smart girls doing science; it's not clear to me where Tallulah's own gifts lie, but she's there for her friend and perhaps future stories will give her more of a chance to shine.  The characters are diverse--Tallulah's mom, the senior scientist on the space station, is Latina and Sanity is black.

And on top of that, the story is interesting and engaging, and tense without being overwhelmingly so.  The illustrations help keep things light and the story on the fun side, even when things are going wrong, though the entertaining text doesn't need much help.

My only quibble is that I really wanted to have more context for this space station; there's a bigger story hinted at, and hopefully we'll see more of that in future books!

But in any event, if you have a graphic novel loving kid of 8-on up, offer this book!

11/20/18

Knights vs Dinosaurs, by Matt Phelan, for Timeslip Tuesday

Knights vs Dinosaurs, written and illustrated by Matt Phelan (Greenwillow, Oct 2018) is a great one to give to kids who love Ursula Vernon's Hamster Princess books, but want a bit of a change!  It's a fun story, and it's a graphic heavy one, with generous line spacing and not too many pages (148), making it friendly for Elementary School readers into the Middle Grade ages (so basically, 7-10 year olds).

Here's the story--

King Arthur's knights roam around the countryside, looking for bad guys/dragons to fight, but mostly they come up empty handed.  Still, they have to boast about something when they gather around the Round Table, and one night Sir Erec boasts that he slew 40 dragons. Merlin decides it's time to teach the knights a little lesson about boasting....and challenges Sir Erec, and three other knights, to a very different sort of quest, one that involves battling giant reptiles...

The knights follow Merlin's instructions to a cave....and once inside, the four of them, plus one squire, Mel, are sent back in time to the age of the dinosaurs!  At last there real monsters to fight, and the knights agree that they must be vanquished to complete the quest before they can return to their own time.  The dragons chomp and chase and swing their spiked tails, the knights thwack and run away and swing maces and throw rocks and run away a bit more.

But after a bit of practice facing off against the dinosaurs, the knights start working together more effectively, and make it home again!

The coolest of all the knights, both brave and level-headed, is the Black Knight, who turns out to be a woman.  Mel the squire is a girl in disguise.  Gender equity in dino fighting!  Harriet the Hamster Princess I mentioned above would be right at home amongst all the wild rampaging.

It is not a great time travel book qua time travel book, because, as Matt Phelan admits in his instructional guide to prehistoric fauna at the end, he included species that weren't contemporaneous.  So it basically a generic "dinosaur past."   But still it is lots of fun, and Phelan's illustrations are delightful.  If ever Merlin planned a second adventure for these knights, I'd welcome it.




11/18/18

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (11/18/18)

Welcome to this weeks round-up; please let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? by Kelly Jones, at Neverending TBR

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, at Redeemed Reader

Bluecrowne, by Kate Milford, at Hidden in Pages

The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, by Samantha M. Clark, at Semicolon

City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab, at Pages Unbound and Bookish Wandress

Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older, at Charlotte's Library

A Dash of Trouble (Love, Sugar, Magic #1), by Anna Meriano, at From the Biblio Files

Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic, by Armand Baltazar, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Evangeline of the Bayou, by Jan Eldredge, at Semicolon

Everblaze (Keepers of the Lost Cities #3) by Shannon Messenger, at Say What?

Flashback (Keepers of the Lost Cities #7), by Shannon Messenger, at Kitty Cat at the Library

The Frog Princess Returns, by E.D. Baker, at Sharon the Librarian 

The Hotel Between, by Sean Easley, at Middle Grade Book Village

The House in Poplar Woods, by K.E. Ormsbee, at Milliebot Reads

The House with Chicken Legs, by Sophie Anderson, at Waking Brain Cells

Inkinling, by Kenneth Oppel, at Always in the Middle

The Jamie Drake Equation, by Chrisopher Edge, at BooksForKidsBlog

The Language of Spells, by Garret Wyre, at Books4yourkids

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis, at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

Ogre Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine, at Pages Unbound

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, by Chris Riddell, at Pages Unbound

The Portal and the Veil, by Ted Sanders, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Scroll of Kings, by Sarah Prineas, at Off the Shelf Reviews

The Storm Runner, by J.C. Cervantes, at Book Dust Magic

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, at Semicolon

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery, by Allison Rushby, at Cracking the Cover

Unicorn Quest, by Kamila Benko, at alibrarymama

Wundersmith: the Calling of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, at Diva Booknerd

Lots of mini-reviews from Cybils reading at Library Chicken

Authors and Interviews

Tara Dairman (The Great Hibernation) at Bas Bleu

There's a new blog in town--Spooky Middle Grade, a collaboration of authors; here's an intro post, wherein authors share why they write spooky stories, and why these stories are important year round

Other Good Stuff

.A look at popular middle grade fantasy series, at Redeemed Reader

I love the posts showcasing what's new in the UK at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books!

11/17/18

Dactyl HIll Squad, by Daniel José Older

There is a special fun that comes when reading a book in which it's clear the author enjoyed the books nifty premise immensely (or at least gives that impression). The premise of Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine, MG, Sept. 2018), is that instead of horses, 19th-century USA relied on dinosaurs and pterosaurs for transportation. 

 The story takes place in New York City, around the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. Magdalys Roca, an insignificant resident of the Colored Orphan Asylum, is away from the Asylum for a treat with her friends, when the Daft Riots break out, and New York City becomes a battleground.  Richard Riker, an evil magistrate of the city, has his greedy eyes set on the orphans, who can be shipped out of the city as human cargo.  The orphanage is burned down, the 100 plus kids there are missing.  But Magdalys and her friends escape, and flee to Brooklyn.

There they find a group of men and women dedicated to stopping Riker and his ilk, Magdalys and the other kids determined to rescue their fellow orphans, now captives.  And it turns out that Magdalys is just the secret weapon that's needed for the job.  She has a rare ability to communicate mind to mind with the dinos and pterosaurs...and the determination to do what ever it takes to win!

It's a bright book (in the sense of bright as not dull)--it makes clear pictures in the reader's mind, it's, fast-paced, and the dino-wrangling is enjoyable mind candy.  There's a serious depth to it though--though it's all good fun, the wrongs that are being fought against really happened.   Kids wanting dinosaur fantasy fun and fighting won't be disappointed, but they'll also learn something.  There's good back matter, with historical information, dino information, and a note on "weapons and words."  Shakespearean dramatics also are part of the background, with the plays being embraced and played w by a famous African American actor who was part of Magdalys' escape to Brooklyn (it's nice to see Shakespear included as something fun and friendly).  I myself especially appreciated the thought given to how each type of dinosaur would be useful, both in battle and in daily life.

Short answer--I enjoyed it, and would recommend it in a sec to kids who enjoy historical fiction, gun fights, and dinosaurs!

11/16/18

Honor Among Thieves, by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

I have family coming to stay for Thanksgiving, and one of the most pressing things I need to do is to read all the books I have out from the library because my house looks like someone has vomited books all over it.  In this diligent spirit, I have spent the last four hours reading Honor Among Thieves, by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (Katherine Tegan Books, YA, February 2018), in a single sitting, all 465 pages of it, so clearly I found it engrossing as all get out!

A ways in the future, humanity was on the verge of wiping itself out when the Leviathans appeared from out among the stars, saving us from ourselves.  All they wanted in exchange was to chose 100 young men and women each year  to voyage with them.  Most came home after one year.  Others journeyed on, and did not return.

Black teenager Zara Cole lives as a petty criminal in one of the few unrehabed parts of urban Earth, and so she never expected to be one of the chosen ones.  But she can't refuse the golden ticket.  So she finds herself, with another young woman, Beatriz, on board Nadim, sentient, living creature who flies through space.  It's a bit of an adjustment to be living inside Nadim, but Zara feels strangely at  home, and as her bond with Nadim deepens, she can't imagine being anywhere else.

But though the media have spun the arrival of the Leviathans into a glorious deliverance, Zara, suspicious by nature and nurture, has always wondered if there's a con at work.  And indeed, all is not well out in space...

Beatriz, Zara, and Nadim play of each other very well as they get to know each other, and I enjoyed watching them bond.  There's smart-alecky bantering to lighten the mood, some moments where I was deeply moved, and intellectual pleasure from guessing where the plot was going (which wasn't hard to do).   Nadim is a bit like a manic pixie dream girl in ungendered sentient ship form, and it's a bit of an insta love between Nadim and Zara, but I was able to take this in stride.  Zara and Beatriz both have considerable abilities, both intellectual and physical, that are almost a bit much, but since they were chosen out of all of humanity, I felt it was allowable for them to be exceptional.

All in all it was a package of things I enjoy, and it took no effort at all to sit and read it more or less straight through.




11/13/18

Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword, by Wendy Mass, for Timeslip Tuesday

Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword, by Wendy Mass (August 2018), is the start of a new series in the Scholastic Branches line, aimed at kids just beginning to read easy chapter books independently.  It's the story of two siblings, Chase and Ava, who we meet in a flea market where they are helping sell their mom's art.  Exploring the flea market, they spot an old suitcase that has a strange appeal for them...and the manager of that stall lets them have it for nothing.  An angry man comes demanding that she give him that very suitcase, but she stands her ground and claims she doesn't know what he's talking about.

Clearly, it is a special piece of luggage....and when Chase and Ava open it, they find an array of strange objects, one of which looks like a dragon-headed doorknob.  When it almost flies into Chase's hand, the two kids find themselves whisked back in time to the court of King Arthur!

All is not well back in the past; Merlin and the King are both in trouble, and the same angry man from the flea market is back in the past as well, and seems just as angry....  But the dragon-headed doorknob (which is Not a doorknob!) is just what it needed to save the day.

It is a perfectly fine story for what it is; it's meant for an audience still not quite ready for the Magic Tree House book (I actually found the writing, on a very basic work level, more interesting than Magic Treehouse, but I am scarred for life by having to listen to MTH books on audio where the fact that it is "….said Jack" and …."said Annie" over and over is inescapable).   The siblings are supportive of each other, and though there's not quite enough time for them to become fully developed characters, Mass does quite bit in that direction, rather skillfully.  The addition of the sinister bad guy adds interest to the story, and a mystery that is yet to be resolved.  

So it's fine, like I said, and the illustrations on every page will help kids still acquiring reading conviction enjoy the book.

But as a fan of time travel and medieval fiction...it was disappointing.  We don't get any educational value out of the time travel experience; there's almost no detail about the past, except that this being King Arthur's court, there are tapestries and knights and stone walls....And of course it's not even a real past, though never does the story acknowledge that this high medieval King Arthur is just a story.  I feel Wendy Mass could have pushed her word limit to get a bit more history in there....Oh well.



11/11/18

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

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

The Reviews

Archie Greene and the Alchemists’ Curse by D.D. Everest, at This Kid Reviews Books

Bluecrowne, by Kate Milford, at Puss Reboots and Magic Fiction Since Potter

The Darkdeep, by Allie Condie and Brendan Reichs, at Semicolon

Freya and the Magic Jewel, by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Girl Who Saved Christmas, by Matt Haig, at Jill's Book Blog

The Girl with the Dragon Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at The Story Sanctuary and YA Book Nerd

The House in Poplar Wood, by  K.E. Ormsbee, at From the Biblio Files

Hurricane Katrina Rescue (Ranger in Time), by Kate Messner, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh, at Charlotte's Library

The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr, at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Max Tilt: 80 Days or Die, by Peter Lerangis, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker, at Laurisa White Reyes 

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, Book 1) by Jessica Townsend, at Hidden in Pages

The Royal Rabbits of London, by Santa Montefiore, at From the Biblio Files

Snared: Escape to the Above, by Adam Jay Epstein, at alibrarymama

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, at Redeemed Reader

The Train to Impossible Pages, by P.G. Bell, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

Twilight of the Elves (Adventurers Guild 2), by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Unwritten, by Tara Gilboy, at Lost in a Good Book

Watch Hallow, by Gregory Funaro, at Middle Grade Mafia

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

Winterhouse, by Ben Guterson, at alibrarymama

Authors and Interviews

Melanie Crowder (The Lighthouse Between Worlds) at Literary Rambles

E.D. Baker (More Than a Princess) at Publishers Weekly

Other Good Stuff

Charles Vess on Working with Ursula Le Guin on the illustred version of The Books of Earthsea, at Tor


11/10/18

The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh

Not my greatest blogging week, but at least I'm getting one post up!

The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, middle grade, July 2018), is the sequel to last year's fantastic horror story, Spirit Hunters.  In that book, Harper Raine learns to use her gift for communicating with spirits, with the help of her Korean grandmother, and saves her little brother from a horrible ghost.  Now she's off to a family vacation on a remote Caribbean island, and has a bad feeling about it.  With justification, as it turns out to be demon infested.  Some years ago, 13 people were found horrible killed, and the mystery of their deaths was never solved.  It quickly becomes clear to Harper that supernatural forces were to blame, and when she experiences visions of what happened back then, she learns that it's not ghosts she's dealing with; it's demons.  And the demons are determined to claim more victims so that they can use their life force to break into our world and run amok.

Her grandmother can't come to island to help her, so Harper must take the lead on freeing the trapped spirits inside the demons, and sending them away from our world before they can kill again.  Fortunately her best friend, Dayo, has come along for the trip too, and she's a stalwart ally, but it is all very touch and go, and the horrible death of her little brother, and other young people,  is only a whisker away!

Spirit Hunters is a stronger book, because it deals more deeply with mundane concerns of middle school kids--moving to a new town, family tensions, friendship worries, wondering if the fact that you see ghosts makes you weird.  Here the story is almost entirely focused on the immediate threat, and that's certainly enough to keep the pages turning, but though the supporting characters are all clearly drawn and there's a mystery to solve about the past deaths, it's not quite so emotionally interesting to me story-wise.

That being said, kids who love horror (and it's pretty horrible, with some nasty disemboweling) will eat it up!

11/4/18

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (11/4/18)

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

The Reviews

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes, by Wade Albert White, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle, by Christina Uss, at Fuse#8

Amoung the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Proseandkahn

Begone the Raggedy Witches, by Celine Kiernan, at Randomly Reading

The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker, by Matilda Woods, at Rosi Hollenbeck

The Frame-Up, by Wendy McLeod MacKnight, at alibarymama

Exile, by Shannon Messenger, at Say What?

Frostfire, by Jamie Smith, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Grump, by Liesl Shurtliff, at Semicolon

Inkling, by Kenneth Opel, at Imaginary Friends

Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, at Charlotte's Library

Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer, by Catherine Holt, at Sharon the Librarian

Monstrous Devices, by Damien Love, at Books4yourkids

The Mortification of Fovea Munson, by Mary Winn Heider, at A Backwards Story

The Nameless Hero (Joshua Dread #2), by Lee Bacon, at Say What?

Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy, at Geo Librarian

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Always in the Middle

Snared: Escape to the Above, by Adam Jay Epstein, at Charlotte's Library

The Snow Witch, by Rosie Boyes, at Kitty Cat at the Library

The Stone Girl's Story, by Sarah Beth Durst, at From the Biblio Files

The Storm Runner, by J.C. Cervantes, at The Reader Bee

The Train to Impossible Places, by P.G. Bell, at Laura Noakes

The Wild Book, by Juan Villoro, at alibrarymama

To Catch a Thief: an Endless Quest Book, by Matt Forbeck, at The Write Path

Two at Falling Letters-- The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh, and Fesitval of Ghosts, by William Alexander

Two at alibrary mama--  Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate, and Heartseeker, by Melinda Beatty

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Girl With the Dragon Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, and Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams


Authors and Interviews

Jan Eldrege (Witch Girl) at Alittlebutalot

Adam Gidwitz, on his podcast Grimm, Grimmer, and Grimmest, at Educating Alice

Other Good Stuff

A look at the busy reading of an Elementary/Middle Grade Cybils panelist, at A Library Chicken

"How Narnia and Harry Potter Wrestle with Death and Rewrite Christianity" at Tor

A fun dreary Edward Gorey quiz at The BookList Reader

11/3/18

Snared: Escape to the Above, by Adam Jay Epstein

Snared: Escape to the Above, by Adam Jay Epstein (Imprint, June 2018), is a fun adventure fantasy for the young end of middle grade; if you have a kid of ten or so who's intrigued by Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy, offer this book!

The only life young Wily has ever known has been spent down in a monster-filled maze of caverns, making traps to snare adventurers searching for his masters treasure.  Fortunately, many of the monsters are his friends, and one young hobgoblet girl, Roveeka is like a sister to him, even though he himself is a strange sort of hobgoblet, not shaped quite like all the others.  And fortunately, Wily enjoys creating puzzle and traps (cleaning up giant snail slime and pushing boulders back into place not so much).

No adventures ever make it anywhere close to the treasure.  And Wiley never goes outside.  But the boredom of this state of things is relieved when a party of adventures arrive who don't play by the rules.  The elf, the fighter with the magical detached arm, and the earth golem make it through alive, and as well as the treasure, they want to take him away with them too; his skill with traps makes him valuable in his own right

So Wily, and Roveeka, who comes too, get to see the Above world.  Though it is wonderous in many ways, it is a place of danger as well.  It is ruled by a fanatic king, who is determined to bring order to everyone's lives, kidnapping them with his mechanical minions to live perfectly structured lives in his mechanical city.  Wily and the adventures, against their will, find themselves not looking for treasure, but looking for a way to bring the tyrant down, and, along the way, to solve the mystery of Wily's parents.

The strength of the story is the charm of the found family of the two kids, human and hobgoblet, and the adventures.  The adventures are not at first interested in the kids except as a means to an end (treasure enough to escape the kingdom), but gradually strong bonds form, and that's a pleasure to read. It's also lots of fun to see the above world through Wily's eyes, but I wish his innocence had lasted longer...I think the strangeness should have lasted longer than it did.

The adventure part is fun too, and any kid who enjoys tricksy dangers and creepy creatures will be enthralled.   Suspension of disbelief is required with regard to Wily's mechanical brilliance (he manages to quickly whip together a propeller plane at one point), but it's a fantasy, so one can let that slid.

In short, it's not a particularly complicated book, and the final challenge is perhaps too easily overcome (it's a bit "voila, a happy ending!), but it has charm, and I think it's one that works well for its target audience, though I myself didn't love it enough to imagine wanting to re-read it.

11/2/18

Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa

I have been busily reading YA speculative fiction for the past few weeks, in my role as a 1st round Cybils Awards panelist in that category, so busy reading I haven't given much attention to reviewing...which I find annoying.  Happily the book I just finished, Shadow of the Fox, by Julie Kagawa  (Harlequin Teen, Oct. 2018), is one I enjoyed, and I have no trouble figuring out why I enjoyed it, so it is easy to blog about!  

I was doubtful, at first.  I liked the first point of view character, young Suki, and she dies almost immediately, and I was all, uh, what? But nevertheless I persisted.  And yay!  none of the other pov characters die (at least, not in this first book of the series).  Which is good, because one of them I liked very much indeed, and the other I am keenly interested in.

The character I liked very much is Yumeko, a half human, half kitsune (fox shapeshifter) girl raised by monks in an isolated temple.  Though her childhood was lonely, the monks were not unkind, not even when the kitsune half of her rose to the surface to play tricks.   It's a horrible shock for her, as indeed it would be for anyone, when her temple home is attacked by demons.  They kill all the monks, but not before the master of the monastery entrusts her with a fragment of a magical scroll (the sort of magical scroll fragment that, if reunited with its fellow fragments, would bring disaster to the world if it fell into the wrong hands), and tells her to run to a second temple.

So Yumeko flees into the night, not sure how to find this other temple, just as POV Character 2 arrives.  Tatsumi is a young man of the Shadow Clan, who was made into their weapon (serving his clan masters with almost no free will left) during the course of a hellish childhood.  He wields a demonic sword, and must constantly keep all emotion in check lest the demon get free.  Like the monk-slaughtering demons, he's looking for the scroll.  Instead he finds the destroyed monastery and the demons, who he kills, and Yumeko, who his sword would like to kill if he let it, which he doesn't (it's not a nice sword).  Yumeko tells him the scroll was already sent away, but that she must warn the monastery where it was sent.  And he decides she might be a useful tool in getting the scroll, so he agrees to travel with her and help her on her journey.  Help is needed, because an evil witch of great power (the one who sent the demons) wants them to fail...

So that's the set up.  The journey is the bulk of the story, with various adventures and new companions along the way, and it's good reading.  What makes it especially interesting is that Yumeko is trusting, naïve, and good-hearted, and her warmth causes chinks to develop in Tatsumi's control of his emotions...very, very slowly.  She slows their journey down to help people, for instance, which is a novel idea for him, and she tries not to hurt him when she cleans his wounds (wounds happen) which blows his mind.  No one ever tried not to hurt him before.    

Here's what I especially like about the way their relationship is built--Yumeko gets to stay a young teen in her perceptions; she's not swooning into insta love, and she gets to start growing out of her naiveite gradually. She's not an adult in young teen clothing.  And Tatsumi  does not have an aha moment of love, which would have been annoying and out of character, though it's clear to the reader that that is where we are headed....he basically only gets to the point of "I don't want to be told to kill her" but that's huge for him....So lots to look forward to in the next book on that side of things!

Likewise, not a lot of progress is made on the whole quest they are on.  So if you set a high value on  briskness in plot, with the things that happen all push the main plot along, you might become restive at times.  I myself am happy for things to meander a bit if I'm enjoying the characters, and I don't mind descriptions of meals....and there were bits that were actually funny. There's not a lot of sarcasm in YA fantasy (Sarah Rees Brennan is the only author I can think of for sarcasm, recommendations for others welcomed), and I did very much appreciate the sprinkles of it here!  It is one of the most entertaining YA fantasies I've read for a while; dark things happen, but I was probably grinning quite a bit during the non-dark parts.

What I did not enjoy was the ending, which is basically the first book stopping.  If I had the next book on hand I'd keep reading, probably straight through till I finished it...but that not being possible, I will wait with anticipation.  

10/31/18

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

I very much enjoyed Have Sword, Will Travel (my review), the first book by this author duo about a boy and a girl who both become keepers of magical swords, and who, after many adventures, are declared knights of the realm by the very dragon they set off to vanquish.  So it was with much anticipation for a fun, relaxing read that I picked up Let Sleeping Dragons Lie (Scholastic, Oct 30, 2018).  It did not disappoint.

Sir Odo and Sir Eleanor, and their swords, are home from adventuring, but adventure soon comes to find them again when an old blind man named Edga and a warrior named Hundred arrive in their village, and are attacked by bilewolves.  Evil has come to the kingdom, spawned from the ambitions of the young king's regent, his own grandmother.  And Edga, for reasons both personal and politic, is determined to stop it.  But even Hundred, fierce and skilled though she is, can't get the two of them to the capital alive to save the kingdom, what with magically enchanted beasts attacking at every turn.  Fortunately the young knights are ready to step up to the challenge...and fortunately, the young king, though sequestered and seemingly powerless, has a plan of his own....

The rescue party sets out, and adventures ensue; nothing particularly gruesome, but all very diverting!  And the final confrontation is as gloriously magical as all get out, with bonus dragon! The enchanted swords do their bit to the best of their ability, as do Odo and Eleanor, and the fight against tyranny, which includes overblown bureaucracy running rampant, is one that's fun for the reader to participate in vicariously,

I strongly recommend these books to young readers of fantasy--the nine and ten year olds, ready to start of on fantasy quests, swords and books in hand.   They are fast and fun to read, but interesting enough in both world-building and characterization to spark young imaginations beautifully.  There's lots about learning to fight, and then putting it to work, that I think younger readers will especially appreciate.  And I, though no longer that sort of young reader, and a veteran of many wonderful quests, really enjoyed devouring each of them in a single sitting!  So if you are a grown-up fantasy fan, wanting a good read that will keep you happy for a short plane trip or such, that won't tax the tired adult brain, you might consider them for yourself.....

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)

10/28/18

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (10/28/18)

Another week, another round-up!  let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, at Milliebot Reads

Black Panther: the Young Prince, by Ronald L. Smith, at alibrarymama

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, at From the Biblio Files

City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab, at Fictionologyst

Curse of the Werewolf Boy, by Chris Priestly, at Charlotte's Library

Dactyl Hill Squad, by  Daniel José Older, at Always in the Middle

Dragon Daughter, by Liz Flanagan, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret, by Trudi Trueit, at That's Another Story

The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott, at @homelibrarian

The Girl with the Dragon Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at From the Biblio Files

The Ice Witch, by Joel Ross, at Puss Reboots

Inkblot, by Kenneth Oppel, at Falling Letters

The Long-Lost Home, by Maryrose Wood, at Kid Lit Geek.

The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings, by Sarah Prineas, at alibrarymama

Race to the Bottom of the Sea, by Linday Eager, at Bibliobrit.

Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, at Book Nut

The Truth Pixie, by Matt Haig, at alittlebutalot

An Unexpected Adventure, by Kandi J. Wyatt, at Bookworm for Kids

Witch Watch, by Sibéal Pounder, at Pages Unbound

The Wrath of the Dragon King, by Brandon Mull, at Mom Read It and Getting Your Read On

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads-Forgotten City, by Michael Ford, and The Wrath of the Dragon King, by Brandon Mull

Four at Semicolon--Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain by Zac Gorman, The Turnaway Girls by Haley Chewin.

Authors and Interviews

Kate DiCamillo at The Frederick News-Post

Charis Cotter (The Ghost Road), at Vanessa Shields

Caroline Carlson (The Door at the End of the World) at Stefanie Hohl

Other Good Stuff
Seven scary middle grade books at Abby the Librarian

10/23/18

Curse of the Werewolf Boy, by Chris Priestley, for Timeslip Tuesday

Despite the implications of its title, Curse of the Werewolf Boy, by Chris Priestley, isn't really about a werewolf boy.  It is instead a time travel story set in a miserable boy's boarding school, Maudlin Towers, in the north of England, where two of the young students,  Mildew and Sponge, tumble into a mystery.  At the heart of the mystery is the time travel device invented by a now deceased teacher of physics.  At the periphery are swirling plot threads-- a Roman lady, brought from the past whose now teaching Latin, a bunch of Vikings back in the past with werewolf concerns, the theft of the School Spoon, an irreplaceable heirloom, and the usual discomforts and difficulties of life in an English boarding school with inadequate food and incompetent staff.

Mildew and Sponge aren't, perhaps, the brightest or bravest boys ever, but they have enough instinctual desire to subvert the rules of their blighted existence to stagger their way through time and back to unravel the mystery.  There are no pesky worries about paradoxes and temporal contradictions here; the trusty time machine delivers the boys, sometimes more than once, to the times they are shooting for (once they get the hang of it), and, in a very satisfying way, the time travel is what makes all the plot elements coalesce into a whole in the end.

If you have young readers on hand who like their fiction humorously exaggerated, and not taking itself seriously at all, offer this book! The many fun illustrations will add to their pleasure.  If you find the names Mildew and Sponge off-putting, you will probably not find this a new favorite read for yourself.  It's very diverting, though, for any reader--lots of zigging back and forth through time, with revelations and surprises galore, and lots of witty dialogue.

10/22/18

The Magic of Melwick Orchard, by Rebecca Caprara

The Magic of Melwick Orchard, by Rebecca Caprara, is her debut middle grade real-world fantasy, and it is a good one!

The sapling in the old apple orchard, and its magic, appeared in Isa's life just when she needed it most.  With her little sister June dangerously sick from cancer, her parents seem to have lost the will or the ability to pay any attention to her.  She needs parents too, not just to share her own sadness and worry with, but to take care of the mundane things of life--lunch money, clothes, food.  And she has no friends to turn to. Her father's job has taken them from place to place, so she decided to quit trying to have friends--her sister is enough, and together they enjoyed their new home at Melwick Orchard, where the trees have grown no apples for years, until June got sick.

So Isa is at a very low point when she finds a most unusual sapling in the orchard; it seems almost magical.  When a squirrel decides to dig a hole just the right size to bury her warn out, too small sneakers, Isa throws them in.  But come the next morning, she has no other shoes to wear, and so revisits the sapling.  Much to her surprise, it's grown considerably, and even more surprisingly, there are new shoes in its seed pods (not just ordinary sneaker, but, very thoughtfully, softball cleats and rain boots).  It really is magic.

Heartened by the magic of the tree, Isa finds the strength to say yes to overtures of friendship from another girl in her class, and the courage to tell her about the tree's magic.  But will the magic be able to help June, and help Isa's family cope with the mounting bills that might force them from the magical orchard?  In the end, it's science that helps June, but the magic, once Isa's learned to be careful what she wishes for, that save her home.

There's a very good balance here between the magic of the tree and the realistic story lines of Isa's life.  The magic doesn't solve all the real issues--Isa has to decide to be a friend, and her parents have to realize that Isa is being neglected, and the doctors have to help June...the tree perhaps oils the wheels a bit, but doesn't make miracles happens.  What the tree's magic does is provide a lovely magical counterpart of joy to the sadness Isa is going through, giving her the strength and hope to keep going.

I read it in as much of a single sitting as my day allowed (work gets in the way of so many things...) and enjoyed it very much.  The fantasy was beautifully vivid, and avoided being cloying, the sick sister was touching, without being too sad to bear.

(ARC received at Book Expo)


10/21/18

This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (10/21/18)

Nothing from me this week...but happily lots from others!  Please let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Across the Dark Water (Riders of the Realm 1), by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at Say What?

Begone the Raggedy Witches, by Celine Kirnan, at Cover2Cover, Whispering Stories, and Read Till Dawn

Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, at Redeemed Reader

Charlie Hernadez and the League of Shadows, by Ryan Calejo, at Take Me Away

City of Islands, by Kali Wallace, at alibrarymama

The Collectors, by Jacqueliene West, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older, at The Winged Pen

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic 1), by Anna Meriano, at Hidden in Pages

A Dasterdly Plot, by Christopher Healy, at Carstairs Considers

The Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson, at alibrarymama

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, by Alexandra Bracken, at Heather's Reading Hideaway

Father Christmas and Me, by Matt Haig, at Lili's Blissful Pages

The Girl with the Lost Smile, by Miranda Hart, at The Infinity Words

The Golden Tower (Magisterium 5), by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, at Hidden in Pages

Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger, at Say What?

The Last Chance Hotel, by Nicki Thornton, at Howling for Books


Paradox in Oz, by Edward Einhorn and Eric Shanower, at Puss Reboots

The Royal Rabbits of London, by Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore, at Semicolon

Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy, at Always in the Middle

The Transparency Tonic, by Frank Cole, at From the Biblio Files

The Truth About Martians, by Melissa Savage, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Twelve Minutes to Midnight, by Christopher Edge, at Say What?

The Unicorn in the Barn, by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, at The O.W.L.

Wrath of the Dragon King, by Brandon Mull, at Bookworm for Kids

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yeti! (Nothing to See Here Hotel), by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Darkdeep, by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs, and Sven Carter and the Android Army, by Rob Vlock

At Library Chicken, lots of middle grade speculative fiction mini reivews from her Cybils reading

Authors and Interviews

Patrick Samphire on the Languge of Fantasy

Lois Lowry, at Cynsations

Other Good Stuff

An appreciation of Rick Riordan Presents at Educating Alice

"Wisdom, Proverbs, and Aphorisms from Middle Grade Speculative Fiction 2017" at Semicolon

Snails in dollhouses!  (via Reading the End).  I would like to try this, but I myself have no snails, only slugs, and somehow I feel that would be less photogenic.

 Via @aleia on Instagram

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