2/28/10

New Releases of Fantasy and Science Fiction for Children and Teens--the end of February edition

Here are the new releases of science fiction and fantasy for children and teenagers from the end of February; as usual, I get my information from Teens Read Too, with blurbs lifted from various on-line bookstores. I'll have the beginning of March up early next week...Sorry for the absence of pictures--February ended with a mad rush, and I ran out of time...

Middle Grade:

BLASTIN' THE BLUES: SLUGGERS
by Phil Bildner & Loren Long. "The year is 1899, and the Travelin' Nine are barnstorming their way across the good ol' U.S. of A., trying to raise money to pay off the Payne family's big-league debt. After jumping off the train to retrieve the baseball, Woody and Griffith find themselves stranded. When they come across a familiar face, they get back on track and Griffith learns just how magical their baseball is. With the Rough Riders down a player, Graham finally gets his chance to play with them and show what he is made of. But he better be careful. There is no telling what the Chancellor is willing to sacrifice in order to use Graham's abilities to his own evil ends. And Ruby is still concerned that there is a mole in their midst and is more determined than ever to find out who is betraying them. With the opportunity to raise the most money yet at the game in New Orleans, they can't afford to let anything get back to the Chancellor. All this and there is still a game to play. Things are about to get rough in the Big Easy!"

THE GHOST THAT FOLLOWED US HOME by Peg Kehret. "Doll museum burglarized! Kayo Benton and Rosie Saunders race to the museum to check on their favorite dolls. Everything seems okay. But the keys to the display cases are missing. And the musical mohair cat is playing a song...as if squeezed by unseen hands. Someone...something...is watching them. But who? And who is the strange-looking soldier in the rumpled uniform who's following them, beckoning them to return? Rosie thinks it's a ghost -- a ghost with a tragic secret. Soon they're back again, locked in the museum after closing time, trapped between two ghosts -- and a pair of ruthless thieves..."

THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING: THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE by Maryrose Wood. "Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels. Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies. But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?"

A NEST FOR CELESTE: A STORY ABOUT ART, INSPIRATION, AND THE MEANING OF HOME by Henry Cole. "Beneath the crackled and faded painting of a horse, underneath the worn and dusty floorboards of the dining room, lives Celeste, a mouse who spends her days weaving baskets, until one day she is thrust into the world above. Here Celeste encounters danger—and love—unlike any she's ever imagined. She dodges a hungry cat and witnesses the brutality of hunting for the first time. She makes friends with a singing thrush named Cornelius, a talkative osprey named Lafayette, and Joseph, Audubon's young apprentice. All the while, Celeste is looking for a new home. Is her home in the toe of a worn boot? Nestled in Joseph's pocket? Or in the dollhouse in the attic, complete with mouse-size furniture perfect for Celeste? In the end, Celeste discovers that home is really the place deep inside her heart, where friendships live."

THE NIGHT FAIRY by Laura Amy Schlitz. "What would happen to a fairy if she lost her wings and could no longer fly? Flory, a young night fairy no taller than an acorn and still becoming accustomed to her wings — wings as beautiful as those of a luna moth — is about to find out. What she discovers is that the world is very big and very dangerous. But Flory is fierce and willing to do whatever it takes to survive. If that means telling others what to do — like Skuggle, a squirrel ruled by his stomach — so be it. Not every creature, however, is as willing
to bend to Flory’s demands."

THE SABLE QUEEN: REDWALL
by Brian Jacques. "He appears out of thin air and vanishes just as quickly. He is Zwilt the Shade, and he is evil. Yet he is no match for his ruler, Vilaya the Sable Quean. Along with their hordes of vermin, these two have devised a plan to conquer Redwall Abbey. And when the Dibbuns go missing, captured one by one, their plan is revealed. Will the Redwallers risk the fate of their Abbey and all of Mossflower Wood to save their precious young ones from imprisonment? Perhaps Buckler, Blademaster of the Long Patrol, can save the day. He has a score of his own to settle. And fear not, these Dibbuns are not as innocent as they appear. After all, they’re from Redwall"

THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS by Marianne MaloneAlmost everybody who has grown up in Chicago knows about the Thorne Rooms. Housed in the Children’s Galleries of the Chicago Art Institute, they are a collection of 68 exquisitely crafted miniature rooms made in the 1930s by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. Each of the 68 rooms is designed in the style of a different historic period, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say, the rooms are magic.Imagine—what if you discovered a key that allowed you to shrink so that you were small enough to sneak inside and explore the rooms’ secrets? What if you discovered that others had done so before you? And that someone had left something important behind?

THE STORY OF CIRRUS FLUX by Matthew Skelton. "London, 1783. Orphan Cirrus Flux is being watched. Merciless villains are conniving to steal the world’s most divine power—The Breath of God—which they believe Cirrus has inherited. Now he faces a perilous journey through the dirty backstreets of the city as a sinister mesmerist, a tiny man with an all-seeing eye, and a skull-collecting scoundrel pursue him. Cirrus must escape them, but he’ll need to trust some unlikely allies if he hopes to thwart his foes . . . and survive a grand and terrifying showdown."

VIOLET EYES: ONCE UPON A TIME by Debbie Viguie. "When a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her family's farm, Violet falls in love at first sight. Richard also gives Violet his heart, but he knows his marriage is destined to be an affair of state, not of passion. For the king and queen have devised a contest to determine who will win their son's hand in marriage. To be reunited with her prince, Violet must compete against princesses from across the land. It will take all of her wits -- and a little help from an unexpected source -- if Violet is to demonstrate the depth of her character and become Richard's bride."

Young Adult

THE CARBON DIARIES: 2017 by Saci Lloyd. "It's over a year since her last diary and Laura Brown is now in her first year of university in London, a city still struggling to pull itself together in the new rationing era. Laura's right in the heart of it; her band, the dirty angels, are gigging all over town until a police crackdown on rioting students forces them out of the city. After a brief exile on her parents' farm, the angels set off in a battered VW bus on a tour of Europe with the fabulous Tiny Chainsaws in the Distance. The tour soon unravels, however, in an increasingly dramatic sequence of events that include drought in Europe and Africa, a tidal-wave of desperate immigrants, a water war in the Middle East and a city-wide face off with the army in London. Not to mention infidelity, betrayal, friendship, love and massive courage. How long can Laura distance herself from the struggle? And more importantly, how can she keep her style and hope alive in a world on the edge of madness?"


THE HUNT FOR THE EYE OF OGIN: THE WINNITOK TALES by Patrick Doud. "Elwood Pitch is only thirteen years old when he is carried away to the land of Winnitok, in the otherworld of Ehm. Desperate to find a way back home to his family, Elwood's one hope is Granashon, the land's immortal protector. But Granashon is missing, and her power that protects Winnitok is fading fast. When Elwood dreams of the Eye of Ogin, a legendary object with the power to see Granashon wherever she might be, he vows to find it. With his dog Slukee and two newfound companions, Drallah Wehr of Winnitok and her talking raven Booj, Elwood sets out on an epic quest. Legend states that the Eye was lost in the Great Swamp of Migdowsh, a land of nightmare ruled by a horrible frog demon known as the Otguk. The Great Swamp is far to the west, and a vast wilderness lies between the companions and their goal. Many dangers threaten them along the way-hungry nahrwucks, cruel green yugs and their Graycloak masters, a despotic girl queen and the powerful witch who counsels her-but by their wits and courage, as well as an unseen hand that seems to guide and protect them, the companions reach the Great Swamp at last. And then their troubles really begin…"

This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogging world

Welcome to another week's worth of gleanings of middle grade fantasy and science fiction reviews and interviews from around the blogging world. If I missed your post, please let me know!

Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, by Linda Chapman and Steve Coll (2009), at Charlotte's Library.

The Hotel Under the Sand, by Kage Baker (2009), at Becky's Book Reviews.

Lord Sunday, by Garth Nix (2010), at The Book Zone (for boys).

The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge (2009), at BookKids.

The Nine Pound Hammer, by John Claude Bemis (2009), at Tor.

The Sable Queen (Redwall), by Brian Jacques (2010), at Where the Best Books Are.

Spellbinder, by Helen Stringer (2009), at One Librarian's Book Reviews.

The Thirteenth Princess, by Diane Zahler (2010), at the Jean Little Library.

The Wonderful O, by James Thurber, at Vulpis Libris.

The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth (2010 in the US), has been making the blog tour rounds, with stops (including guest posts and author interviews) at Wondrous Reads, Bookworming in the 21st Century, Hey! Teenager of the Year, Tales of Whimsy, Seven Miles of Steel Thistles (as well as an interview at Steel Thistles with the author on writing fantasy--an Australian perspective), Bookalicious Ramblings, The Word, and an also an interview at The Word), I Want to Read That, Today's Adventure, Me and My Big Mouth, My Fluttering Heart, and The Clock Monkey.

2/27/10

A Crack in the Line, by Michael Lawrence

A Crack in the Line, by Michael Lawrence (Harper Collins, 2003 UK, 2004 US, YA, 323 pp)

It was a crack in the line that caused the train accident two years ago that killed Alaric's mother. Now Alaric and his father living in gloom and ever increasing squalor sprawling, in their old family home, Withern Rise. Then one day Alaric wanders into one of the many cold and lonely rooms his mother had loved, where his attention is caught by one of her last great art projects--a scale model of Withern Rise. By some strange twist of fate, it takes him to an alternate time line, one in which his mother didn't die. But instead of an Alaric, that family had a daughter, Naia.

Naia and Alaric are, not unnaturally, dumbfounded when they meet. For Alaric, it is incredibly bitter to see his home as it might have been, still filled with his mother's presence. Fascinated by their glimpses of what might have been, their meetings continue, stretching across possibility. Until (by chance or fate) they push too far, and their lives are altered irrevocably.

Lawrence takes the idea of fates splitting off from each other, and uses it not just to play with the conceit of alternate futures, but to create an incredibly powerful character study of a boy still reeling from his mother's death. His descriptions of the two Withern Rises, Alaric's cold and filthy, Naia's warm and welcoming, are a beautiful materialization of the different lives the two lead--but then, I do have a penchant for books about old houses with lots of rooms.

This is a lovely book for somewhat meditative reading, inspiring, as it does, thoughts about roads taken and not, loss and grief, and old house maintenance. It's fantasy without any epic good vs evil-ness, which is always nice for a change of pace. Not much "happens," in a rushing around doing things sense, except, of course, the travelling to alternate realities part. And maybe that's why the dead guy suddenly showing up toward the end irked me--I was happy with the small intricacies of the two lives being shown me, and didn't feel the need for a deceased ancestor to come along and imply complications to come.

It is easy to begin questioning the exact reasons and mechanisms by which Alaric and Naia travel to their alternate fates, and Lawrence muddies the waters somewhat here, by introducing the aformentioned dead family member lurking on the sidelines. This is book 1 of a series, however, so I'll give him a by into the next round in this regard. The next round being Small Eternities, which I've just requested from the library...(and which I reviewed here).

2/25/10

Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, by Linda Chapman and Steve Coll

Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, by Linda Chapman and Steve Coll (Harper Collins, 2009, middle grade, 326 pages). Published in the UK as Genie Us! (cover shown at right).

Four children (two brother and sister pairs, brought together by their parents' recent marriage) are removed from their pleasant lives in London and plunked down in a small country town where their parents are opening a used book store. Unhappy with the move, uncertain that they want to be a family, the four children wish they could go back to the way things used to be...

And then magic enters their lives, in the form of a book that promises to teach them how to become genies...and inside the book is a grumpy magical bookworm, who serves as their guide to the complicated intricacies of mastering genie magic. Mayhem and madness result when the children practice their wish giving and learn (the hard way) to master the magic. But then things take a more sinister turn, when it appears that there are other magic users looking for the genie guide book. Magic users who don't seem friendly. At all.

It's a light-hearted, enjoyably escapist book that I'm happy to recommend to anyone looking for Edward Eager read-alikes (who have already read Laurel Snyder's Any Which Wall), and indeed, it was written as an homage to E. Nesbit, who was Eager's inspiration. Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps doesn't have the depth of characterization that make Eager and Nesbit favorites of mine--the four children in this book don't dramatically transcend stock child archetype-ness (the brainy boy, the smart-alack boy, the little sister who is the sweetest one, the older sister who likes shopping). On the other hand, the magic-gone-awry scenes are well done, and Eager fans should find them very amusing in a pleasantly familiar way.

After reading Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, which has cell phones and computer games, and is clearly set in the Now, I am wondering now just how old fashioned Eager seems to today's kids. When I first read him, back in the seventies (his books were published from 1954-1962) it didn't seem as though the stories were set in "the past," the way Nesbit's stories clearly were. My kids lead a life that some days seems to me a slighly badly done historical re-enactment of simpler times (we don't, for instance, have cell phones yet), so they are not a good source of data in this regard. I just asked my nine-year old, who happens to be home "sick" (the cough was very convincing this morning)--he said that the Eager books (he's read 4 of them) could be "in any time." I wonder how Be a Genie, with its clearly early 21st century technological references, will feel to readers in fifty years...

2/23/10

The Middle Window, by Elizabeth Goudge, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's Timeslip Tuesday post was supposed to be about Blackout, by Connie Willis. But that didn't happen...so I am falling back on one of the increasingly small handful of timeslip books that I have read and that I have on hand--The Middle Window, by Elizabeth Goudge (1939).

Elizabeth Goudge is one of my most favorite authors. I still delight in the beauty of Linnets and Valerians and City of Bells, still sob like a child every time I re-read The Dean's Watch. This particular book doesn't come near those, but it is not entirely without merit.

Judy Cameron has come to Scotland to spend a holiday with her parents and her stodgy fiance, and the moment she crosses the boarder she feels ever so much more herself, caught up in an intense spiritual bond with the Land of her Ancestors. And then, when she crosses the threshold of their holiday home, she becomes even more attuned to the past of this place. When she enters the main room, where the middle window has been covered over, she is overcome with roiling emotions not her own, and when she meets Ian Macdonald, the handsome owner of the house, she feels like she has known him forever....

Sure enough, she's met him before--back in the past. Gradually Judy in the present becomes caught in the story the Judith of the past--a Judith who was caught up in the Jacobite rebellion. When Judy finally becomes entirely Judith, Goudge gives us a self-contained story of what happened to Judith and Ian back then, not referencing the present at all--it's simply what happened. And what happened was war, and despair, and death, and love that transcended time and space...to be reborn in the present.

The book is rather overblown and overwrought at times. But still, there are quite a number of moments of frisson where the book is gripped tightly by the reader. And the part in the 18th century is not a bad historical romance, and the part in the present is not a bad paranormalish romance...Re-reading the book earlier this evening, I was expecting not to enjoy it much, but I was surprised to find myself gripped by the story. But it's one I'd give to historical romance readers, rather than true time-travel aficionados.

It's not really truly a time travel story, in that it is more about reincarnation than travel through time. However, there are moments when past and present intersect that are very time slipish, so I think it counts.

Here's a short essay that discusses the religious aspects of this book--Goudge was a deeply committed Christian, and her beliefs (even when somewhat strangely entwined with myths and legends) are apparent in (almost) all of her books.

Here is the new cover of Magic Under Glass!


Here's the new cover of Magic Under Glass, by Jaclyn Dolamore, which replaces its earlier whitewashed cover. I think it is gorgeous. Thanks to Ari at Reading in Color for the heads up!

Just to reiterate, here is the author's own vision of Nimira (posted at her website), and here is how she is described in the book (the page numbers refer to the ARC):

"My hair tumbled down my back, glossy black and shining in the low light." (page 3)

"I knew how the men of Lorinar thought, what they wanted. To him, I was dark and foreign and crude." (page 4)

"...pink does not do with skin like yours." (pp 32-33)

"Miss Rashten thinks pink doesn't suit my complexion," I warned him.
"Nonsense," he said. "There is no color more feminine than pink; no woman it does not suit, and you especially, with your golden glow." (page 64)

"[The dress] dipped low in back and front...exposing what seemed like far too much of my brown skin." (page 96)

The new cover is just so much more satisfyingly close to the author's vision than the old!

2/22/10

Aliens are Coming! for Non-fiction Monday

Aliens are Coming! The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast, by Meghan McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)

I couldn't resist choosing for Non-Fiction Monday a book that combines both science-fiction and a true story. McCarthy has done a brilliant job bringing to life the story of the science-fiction play that sent 1938 radio listeners into a tailspin. Listeners all over America really believed that Orson Welles' play, an adaptation of H.G. Well's War of the Worlds, was an actual emergency news broadcast.

Aliens are Coming! intersperses black and white (and grey) illustrations for the 1938 scenes with color illustrations of the "alien invasion" story, and there's a satisfyingly long author's note at the end. I loved McCarthy's aliens--I find them charming (although their machines of Death are scary!). It's a great book for the young independent reader, and it works well as a read-aloud for somewhat sophisticated younger siblings.

I say sophisticated because, although my older child and I thought it was great fun; my six-year, who has a strong sense of justice, thought it was a mean joke to play on the unsuspecting American people. It took several re-reads (which he requested) before he truly grasped the point of the book...but he still thinks it wasn't a nice thing to do.

But his reaction did lead to an interesting discussion about the power of the media to influence people's perceptions of reality...and in a few years, we can watch Wag the Dog or something of that ilk and continue the discussion.

The Non-fiction Monday round-up is at Practically Paradise today!

2/21/10

This Week's Roundup of Middle-Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction from around the blogsphere

Here's what I gleaned middle-grade fiction-wise from around the blogosphere this week. Please let me know if I missed your post, and I'll add it to the list when I get back home this evening!

The list of books nominated for the Andre Norton Award is as follows, and includes two middle grade books:

Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (mg)
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst
Ash, by Malinda Lo
Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev
Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (mg)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld

I've read all but two; the ones I've read are all very good!

Book reviews:

Judith Woods reviews two children's books for the Telegraph--The Liberators, by Philip Womack, and Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones.

Charmed Life, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Books & Other Thoughts, and a look at the Chrestomanci books as a group at Original Content.

The Cowardly Lion of Oz, by Ruth Plumly Thompson, at Tor.

The Farwalker's Quest, by Joni Sensel, at One Librarian's Book Reviews.

The Incorrigible Children of Aston Place: the Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood, at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy.

The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz, at Fantasy Book Critic.

The Prince of Fenway Park, by Julianna Baggott, at One Librarian's Book Reviews.

Seaward, by Susan Cooper, at Angieville.

The Serial Garden, by Joan Aiken, at One Librarian's Book Reviews.

Starlight, by Erin Hunter, at Tea and Tomes.

Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children, by Conn Iggulden, at The Book on the Hill,

The Very Little Princess, by Marion Dane Bauer, at Becky's Book Review.

2/20/10

The Magic Thief: Found, by Sarah Prineas -- a pre-review squee

The Magic Thief: Found, the third book in a series by Sarah Prineas, comes out May 25. A long way away...but I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of the ARC, and just a few hours ago put it down again.

I'll be writing a more review-ish review closer to the release date, but I can't wait that long to share how much fun it was! The second book seemed a tad slow and melancholy--Conn, the young thief turned magician who is the series hero, is under a cloud for most of the book. But in Book 3, the brisk action (and the concomitant blur of the pages being turned) swept me along. So besides the fact that I don't like to post reviews too far in advance of publication, I can't actually write a review of this now anyway because I was too busy reading to think!

Such fun. If you haven't read books 1 and 2 yet, now is the time to do so! These are excellent middle grade books, and rather nice reading for the rest of us as well.

2/18/10

The Pull of the Ocean, by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

The Pull of the Ocean, by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (published in French in 1999, Delacourt translated edition 2006, YA, 190 pp)

In this reimagining of the story of Tom Thumb, seven brothers leave their miserable home and their unpleasant parents and set out to find the ocean. The are led by the seventh son, Yann--the little one, the tiny child who never grew. The brothers have no money, no food, and no clear sense of what will become of them. But Yann, even though he cannot speak, tells them to keep heading west...and at last, they reach the ocean.

The story is told from multiple points of view, as all the players in this journey tell their view of what happens. The six older brothers all have their time as narrators, but they are joined by the truck driver who gives them a lift, the student on the train, the crabby old woman who watches them pass, and many more. And this lack of clear narration gives a surreal feeling to the story--nothing much happens (until the end), but many people are present in small happenings...

The one point of view we never see is that of Yann, himself, sweet-smiled and chubby handed, yet unpleasantly (???) or perhaps protectively (???) manipulative. It is his character, his motivations, his strangeness, that are the most intriguing parts of the book. Or the most frustrating parts of the book, depending on what sort of reader you are.

The Pull of the Ocean won the Prix Sorcieres (the French Newbery equivalent), and also the Batchelder Award for best translated book. I agree, it's a very good book--interesting, intelligent, vividly memorable. I found it a gripping read. I appreciated the writing. It was a fascinating premise, well-executed, although with disturbing elements. But I'm pretty sure I'll never want to re-read it (mainly because I was never able to develop a truly satisfactory relationship with any of the characters), and I am having a hard time figuring out who exactly I'd recommend it to.

My 9 year old--no. He wouldn't appreciate the wide range of adult narrators, and would want more story. Defiantly a YA or higher book.

My husband (currently reading Neil Gaiman/Kurt Vonnegut/Michael Chabon)--no. I don't think he'd find it that interesting.

My local children's librarian--no. It seems too surreal for her taste.

Readers of literary fantasy--um...Yann's ability to communicate telepathically pushes this into fantasy, as does the sense that he is otherworldly in general. But there is much more gritty reality here than there is fantasy, so I'll go with "no." Although it could well be a "perhaps."

Readers of this blog in general--no. I'm hesitant to make a blanket statement of recommendation for a book I'm not sure will be enjoyed by that many people.

Readers of fairy tale retellings--perhaps, although the Tom Thumb story doesn't actually have much to do with the particulars of the story. It's more an evocation.

So after much thought, I have decided that I would feel comfortable recommending this one to those who like dark and surreal short stories.

Most of the other mentions of this that I found on-line were short paragraphs expressing vague confusion; Becky, of Becky's Book Reviews, goes into greater detail.

2/16/10

Old Magic, by Marianne Curley, for Timeslip Tuesday

Old Magic, by Marianne Curley (2001, Simon and Schuster, YA) caught my eye when Tirzah over at The Compulsive Reader posted about its re-release with new cover art (shown at left). She described it as "romance with some time travel action", so I was sold.

Kate has had a strange childhood, raised in a remote Australian village by her grandmother, who is a witch. Not your brewing small children in a pot witch, but more a wise woman, who knows old magic...still, when you combine having such a grandmother with having strange powers yourself, it can make for high-school awkwardness. Especially in Kate's case--although her class is very small, her classmates slot themselves neatly into the stereotypes of unpleasant teenagers, with Kate as the outcast.

Then, enter Jarrod, a new kid, strangely mesmerizing, strangely klutzy. Kate knows he has powers of his own, but he denies that magic even exists. But then he is confronted with overwhelming evidence that his family is cursed, and he is forced to accept that magic is real. The only way to break the curse is to travel back to when it began, the middle ages. So Kate's grandmother sends them back in time...to face the evil that awaits them there.

I have to admit to some disappointment here. I never warmed to Jarrod, despite his mesmerizing green eyes, and the romance between him and Kate left me cold (although perhaps if I had read this when I was younger I would have felt differently).

The time travel part of the book was even more disappointing--this is not a convincing picture of life in the middle ages, and my credulity was strained past breaking point. The cliche of miserable peasant existence is in full force:

"The cottages were full of life. It's incredible to think they are filled with people who know nothing of computerised technology, nor even running water, sewage systems, or electricity. And yet here they live. Surviving." (page 167 of 2001 edition)

And Curley's portrayal of life in the castle was not much more nuanced. Not to mention the utter thin-ness of the story Jarrod and Kate use to explain their arrival at the castle door. Oh well.

What this book does have, however, is the most extraordinarily detailed description of the magic Kate's grandmother prepares to bring them back to the present. It involves scrapping a dying marsupial mouse off the side of a vehicle, extracting two dead marsupial mouse foetuses from it, and making them into charms...most odd.

So anyway, this one might be enjoyed by fans of magic and romance who are willing to suspend their disbelief, but I can't recommend it as a time travel book.

Here's the old cover. It is a good thing that it got changed, because it was whitewashed. In the book, much is made of Kate's long, straight, black hair, and the possibility is raised that her father (who didn't stick around) was Asian. The girl on the cover does have long hair (rather unwashed looking), but is white as all get out.

2/15/10

New releases of fantasy and science fiction for children and teenagers-the middle of February, 2010

Here are the new releases of fantasy and science fiction for kids and teenagers from the middle of February. I get my information from Teens Read Too, with help from Amazon, and, since I haven't actually read all of these, sometimes I have to guess whether a book is fantasy/sci fi or not...please let me know if I'm wrong, or if I've left a book out!

DRAGON: THE FIVE ANCESTORS by Jeff Stone. "Long, the dragon-style warrior, saw his temple burned, his brothers killed, and his novice siblings fleeing to the four winds. But that was many months ago. Now the five young warriors have reunited with Ying, the redeemed renegade who put all of these events in motion, and ShaoShu, the mousy street thief, to prevent the wily mantis Tonglong from taking over China. Time is short and distances are great, and the future of China lies in the hands of five young monks."

HEART OF THE MUMMY: SCREAM STREET by Tommy Donbavand. "Deadstock, the world’s greatest zombie rock festival, is coming to Scream Street! Too bad Sir Otto Sneer is not in the mood for dancing—and when he banishes the concert’s headliners, the fleshmetal band Brain Drain, to the evil Underlands, he causes a riot. Now if Luke and his pals want to restore peace to the neighborhood (and find the fourth relic they seek), they have no choice but to follow the band . . . into the darkest depths of the earth."

THE LAST WILDERNESS: SEEKERS by Erin Hunter. "Is this journey's end . . . or just the beginning? Toklo, Kallik, Lusa, and Ujurak have finally reached the Last Great Wilderness, the legendary bear paradise they've been searching for. But while his companions think they've come to the end of their long journey, Ujurak feels a deep unrest. Is this truly where they're meant to be? In the Last Great Wilderness, one by one the bears begin to remember their true natures. Toklo feels the urge to hunt caribou and mark his territory as a brown bear should, and Kallik feels the pull of the ice within her. It's only Lusa, happy just to be in the wild, who fears the day when her friends will leave her to follow their own paths. As the bears adjust to this new life, disaster strikes. The friends are forced to venture into the world of the flat-faces to save the life of one of their own. Once there, the end of their journey seems farther away than ever, as a new path spreads out before them."

LEGENDS OF THE SHADOW WORLD: THE SECRET COUNTRY, THE SHADOW WORLD, & DRAGON'S FIRE by Jane Johnson. "Magical creatures are at war with the Dodman in the Shadow World. It is up to the Arnold children to save their family and this world from his evil."



THE LOST CHILDREN by Carolyn Cohagan. "Josephine Russing owns 387 pairs of gloves. She's given a new pair every week by her father, a sullen man known best for his insistence that the citizens in town wear gloves at all times. A world away, the children of Gulm have been taken. No one knows where they might be, except the mysterious and terrifying leader of the land: The Master. He rules with an iron fist, using two grotesque creatures to enforce his terrible reign. When a peculiar boy named Fargus shows up on Josephine's property and then disappears soon afterward, she follows him without a second thought and finds herself magically transported to Gulm. After Fargus introduces her to his tough-as-nails friend Ida, the three of them set off on an adventure that will test everything Josephine has ever thought about the rules of the universe, leading to a revelation about the truth of the land of Gulm, and of Josephine's own life back home."

MY UNWILLING WITCH GETS A MAKEOVER: RUMBLEWICK'S DIARY by Hiawyn Oram. "Witty Rumblewick the cat is back, writing about even more hilarious hijinx with his unwilling witch in Book 4 of the series. Rumblewick is Haggy Aggy's right-hand cat, contractually bound to shape her into the best witch she can be. The problem? Haggy is willfully unwilling, and she much prefers nail polish to broomsticks. Now Haggy says black is out and pink is in. What sort of witch wears PINK?! As if that weren't enough, she's on her way to get a makeover to jumpstart her modeling career-and on Fright Night, no less!"

THAT'S LIFE, SAMARA BROOKS by Daniel Ehrenhaft. "Is playing blackjack in the school cafeteria that bad? Samara Brooks doesn’t think so. She isn’t out to hurt anybody. She just wants to create some drama. And she does. Drama . . . and trouble. When the principal threatens to call her parents, Samara proposes a way to save herself. She’ll prove she’s not a bad person by conducting a scientific experiment to show that she has the same DNA as one of the friendliest girls at school: class president Lily Frederick. But then Nathan Weiss, a kid obsessed with UFOs and mysterious codes, gets involved. And things get really weird. Samara’s DNA looks exactly like the eye symbols in the Phaistos Disk and the Voynich Manuscript, a six-hundred-year-old riddle that nobody can decipher—not even professional cryptologists. Does that mean Samara’s an alien? Is it a coincidence? Or does it prove something that has never been proven before?"

TOKLO'S STORY: SEEKERS by Erin Hunter. "Grizzly cub Toklo dreams of one day being a great big bear who will rule the forest. He will mark his wide territory and hunt the biggest game, and his brother, Tobi, will forever be at his side. Other grizzlies may stalk the forest alone, but Toklo and Tobi will always have each other. Yet for now, they're too little to defend themselves, and when a terrifying grizzly demands they leave his territory—or else—they have no choice but to abandon the only home they've ever known. Will Toklo be able to help his family find a new home—or will he just get them into even greater trouble?"

WHISTLE BRIGHT MAGIC: A NUTFOLK TALE by Barb Bentler Ullman. "It has been twenty years since the time of The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood, and grownup Willa has returned to Plunkit with her daughter, Zelly. Willa can't see the fairies anymore, but Zelly can, and she meets an unusual boy—the last remaining fairy child living in Nutfolk Wood, Ronald Whistle Bright. Hard times have befallen the fairy town of Nutfolk Wood, but Whistle Bright is determined to stay in his forest village, even though humans are sure to destroy it. And Zelly wants to stay in the small town of Plunkit, even though her mother insists that they return to their lives in the big city. Zelly is convinced that she belongs in Plunkit, and only there will she find out more about her father, who disappeared when she was three. In their quest to stay in the place that they love, the tiny Nutfolk boy and the human girl become allies, and both are surprised by the unexpected things that can happen in life."

Young Adult:

ELEVENTH GRADE BURNS: THE CHRONICLES OF VLADIMIR TOD by Heather Brewer. "Eleventh grade at Bathory High is draining Vladimir Tod. Joss, a professional vampire slayer and Vlad’s former friend, has moved back to town. The powerful vampire Dorian has an overwhelming desire to drink Vlad’s blood. And his arch enemy, D’Ablo, has brought Vlad’s Uncle Otis to trial for crimes against vampires. So much for dating. When the tables turn on Vlad, he has just enough time to return to Bathory for his final good-byes . . ."

FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK by Melina Marchetta. "Finnikin was only a child during the five days of the unspeakable, when the royal family of Lumatere were brutally murdered, and an imposter seized the throne. Now a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere’s walls, and those who escaped roam the surrounding lands as exiles, persecuted and despairing, dying by the thousands in fever camps. In a narrative crackling with the tension of an imminent storm, Finnikin, now on the cusp of manhood, is compelled to join forces with an arrogant and enigmatic young novice named Evanjalin, who claims that her dark dreams will lead the exiles to a surviving royal child and a way to pierce the cursed barrier and regain the land of Lumatere. But Evanjalin’s unpredictable behavior suggests that she is not what she seems — and the startling truth will test Finnikin’s faith not only in her, but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny."

GONE: WAKE by Lisa McMann. "Things should be great for Janie--she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she's totally in love with. But deep down she's panicking about how she's going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people's dreams is really starting to take its toll. Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time--and he's in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined."

JUGGLER IN THE WIND: THE WAND BEARER TRILOGY by Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin. "When a ragtag circus shows up in the town of Buchanan, Kansas, fourteen-year-old Randy Carmichael faces a deep mystery. Why is his alcoholic mother so troubled by the troupe s arrival? What does Circus Olympus mean to her past and to Randy s future? Voices summon him, a godlike figure appears in his dreams, and supernatural adversaries lay in wait for him as he embarks on a dangerous quest that will take him beyond mortal reality."

A SMALL FREE KISS IN THE DARK by Glenda Millard. "Two young boys, an old tramp, a beautiful teenage dancer, and the girl's baby--ragtag survivors of a sudden war--form a fragile family, hiding out in the ruins of an amusement park. As they scavenge for good, diapers, and baby formula, they must stay out of sight of vicious gangs and lawless soldiers. At first they rely on Billy, the only adult in the group. But as civil life deteriorates, Billy starts to fall apart. Skip, who is barely into his teens, must take over and lead them on a search for sanctuary. This complex and haunting exploration of life on the edge and what it takes to triumph over adversity is a story about the indomitable nature of hope."

TOKEN OF DARKNESS by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. "Cooper Blake has everything going for him—until he wakes from a car accident with his football career in ruins and a mysterious, attractive girl by his side. Cooper doesn’t know how Samantha got there or why he can see her; all he knows is that she’s a ghost, and the shadows that surround her seem intent on destroying her. No one from Cooper’s old life would understand what he can barely grasp himself. . . . But Delilah, the captain of the cheerleading squad, has secrets of her own, like her ability to see beyond the physical world, and her tangled history with Brent, a loner from a neighboring school who can hear strangers’ most intimate thoughts. Delilah and Brent know that Cooper is in more trouble than he realizes, and that Samantha may not be as innocent as she has led Cooper to believe. But the only way to figure out where Samantha came from will put them all in more danger than they ever dreamed possible."

A WISH AFTER MIDNIGHT by Zetta Elliott. "Genna is a fifteen-year-old girl who wants out of her tough Brooklyn neighborhood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a wish gone awry transports her back in time. Facing the perilous realities of Civil War–era Brooklyn, Genna must use all her wits to survive. In the tradition of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, A Wish After Midnight is the affecting and inspiring tale of a fearless young woman’s fight to hold on to her individuality and her humanity in two different worlds."

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

There are some books that so powerfully fill the gaps in one's knowledge of the world that, after reading them, you want to recommend them to just about everyone you know. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer (William Morrow, 2009, 288pp) is such a book.

William Kamkwamba's childhood in Malawi was happy--his family was loving and supportive, there was enough to eat, there was school to go to, there were many interesting things to do. But then the rains failed, and the government failed, and there was famine. School was no longer possible, and every day there was less to eat...

14-year old William turned to the library to continue his education on his own, and, inspired by a book he found that described wind energy, he set out to create "electric wind." With electricity, he hoped to bring water up from the ground to prevent famine, and he hoped to make a way for his mother and sisters to cook without spending their lives scavenging for wood and choking on smoke. And his windmill, made of salvaged bits and pieces, worked, and brought light and hope to his village. Word of his windmill spread, and brought international attention to William, opening the way for him to continue his education.

Kamkwamba and Mealer make a most excellent storytelling team. You can hear Kamkwamba's voice vividly, bringing his childhood to life almost as if he is telling his story out loud to the reader. They do not rush too quickly to the building of the generator, but instead allow the story to unfold gradually, bringing the place and its people to life. Science geeks in particular will enjoy the detailed descriptions of windmill building, and even I, who am made nervous by fuses, was fascinated by the process of turning "trash" into a working wind generator.

Although boys aren't the only audience who will appreciate this book, it is a quintessentially "boy" story--about boy friendships, and building toy cars, and cool experiments with electricity, and worrying about little sisters. I think it should appeal greatly to teenaged boys here in the US, and I will certainly be giving it to my own boys to read when they are older.

Beautifully written, with absolutely no patronizingly admiring Western Outsider feel to it, astoundingly educational on so many levels--I am glad I read it. I did so after reading Tricia's review of it at the YaYaYas, in which she said: "Just go and read this book now. It’s amazing, awesome, inspiring, and I can go on with the adjectives if you want me to, but I’ll stop for now."



Non-fiction Monday is at The Art of Irreverence today!

2/14/10

For Valentine's Day, a very funny love story starring Emma Thompson and Stephan Fry

Here is one of the more romantic literary love stories of the 19th-century, that of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, reinterpreted by Emma Thompson and Stephan Fry. My own dear husband shared this with me when I was poorly last week, and it added considerably to our own banter....

This week's roundup of middle-grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogosphere--Cybils winner edition!

Welcome to this week's round-up of things middle-grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogosphere (and please do let me know if I have missed your review or interview or exciting news....)

The first and most exciting news is that the winners of the fourth annual Cybils Awards have been announced! And the winner for middle grade science fiction/fantasy is:

SILKSINGER, by Laini Taylor. Congratulations, Laini! (here's my review)

The YA winner was Fire, by Kristin Cashore.

In case you aren't familiar with the Cybils--these awards are given each year by bloggers in a wide range of book categories. Books are chosen on two criteria-their quality and their kid-appeal. Anyone can nominate a book during the first two weeks of October, and the shortlists and winners are selected by panels of bloggers. If you are a blogger who'd like to take an active role next year, check in closer to October to find out how you can put your name forward.

Please click on the Cybils link above to see the other fantastic winners!

And now for this week's reviews:

Archer's Quest, by Linda Sue Park (2006), at Charlotte's Library.

Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs, by Ursula Vernon (2010) at Dwelling in Possibility.

The Ever-Breath, by Julianna Baggot (2010) at Parentdish and at Book Aunt.

Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, by M.T. Anderson (2009), at Book Aunt.

Maskmaker, by Jane Johnson (March 1, 2010) at The Book Zone (for boys).

Mortlock, by Jon Mayhew (April 5, 2010--UK), at The Book Zone (for boys).

The Sixty-Eight Rooms, by Marianne Malone (February 23, 2010) at Book Aunt.

Song of the Wanderer: Unicorn Chronicles 2, by Bruce Coville (2008), at A Fangirl's View.

Toby Alone, by Timothée de Fombelle (2009) at Books4yourkids

Waterslain Angels, by Kevin Crossley-Holland (2009) at Charlotte's Library (which actually might not technically be fantasy, but which has fantastical elements).

A Web of Air, by Philip Reeve (April 2010) at Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin (2009), at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, and at Becky's Book Reviews.

N.D. Wilson is Blog Touring to promote his new book, The Chestnut King, 3rd in the series that began with The 100 Cupboards. It is one of the more interesting blog tours I've read, with descriptions of previously unexplored cupboards and more...

2/8 Mundie Moms
2/9 Book4yourkids
2/10 The Reading Zone
2/11 Eva's Book Addiction (and here's her review of The Chestnut King)
2/12 Becky's Book Reviews, where there is also a guest post by N.D. Wilson.
2/12 Fireside Musings

And finally, here's Slate's review of The Lightning Thief movie.

Like I said above, please let me know (at any time) if you have reviews of mg sff to add to this or future lists! I pull reviews from the blogs in my reader, and every week I do google searches on "children's fantasy book" and "middle-grade fantasy" (and science fiction), as well as sporadic searching for reviews of specific books I know are just out, but I am sure I am missing lots...

2/13/10

Waterslain Angels, by Kevin Crossley-Holland


Waterslain Angels
, by Kevin Crossley-Holland (Orion Books, 2009, 192 pp)

When Oliver Cromwell's men rampaged through England, smashing to pieces the works of art that decorated the countries churches, the angels of the small Norfolk village of Waterslain were lost.

Waterslain in the 1950s is still a small village, but the fate of the angels has faded from local memory. Then a carved wing is found during a clear-out of the vestry attic. Two children, Annie (10) and Sandy (11), become convinced the angels weren't destroyed, and set out to find them.

The almost illegible words they discover carved on the church's wall give them a clue--

Between her Will
And his Wall
Waterslain
We Lie Waiting

But someone else wants the angels. The shady tough guy of the village is hunting them down too, to sell them. Annie and Sandy must find the waterslain angels and bring them back to the empty places waiting for them in the church before they are lost to the village forever.

As Annie searches, her dreams are full of the rough voices of Cromwell's men, and visions of the angels, urging her to find them where they lie waiting. For Sandy, whose father, an American in the air force, was recently killed in a flying accident, and whose mother has just come home to Waterslain, the quest for the angels brings comfort. And the angels bring the two lonely children together in the strong bonds of a friendship forged by the mystery they are unravelling (and a satisfyingly believable mystery it is, too).

Waterslain Angels is an utterly lovely mix of the detail of everyday life and the power and beauty of dreams. It is a fascinating mystery, a historical treasure hunt, a story of friendship, a lovely evocation of place, and a little bit a fantasy (Annie's dreams) It is beautifully written-- I would be hard pressed to find words to edit out. All in all, an excellently satisfying book that is most definite keeper for future re-reading.

Here are other reviews, at the Falcata Times, Achockablog, and Read Plus.

Waterslain Angels hasn't been published in the US yet, but copies can be found for under $10.

2/12/10

Captivate, by Carrie Jones

Captivate, by Carrie Jones (2010, YA, Bloomsbury)

This sequel to Need (2008) continues the story of Zara, daughter of a Pixie King, and her friends. Chief among these is Nick, her werewolf boyfriend (and a hot and steamy relationship it is). The entrapment of the pixie king and his people had solved the immediate problem of pixie predation on the human population, but the power vacuum that resulted is drawing other, more malevolent, beings to this small town in Maine. And Zara, with her legacy of Pixie blood, is a focal point in the brewing power struggle. Things are about to get desperately, tragically, serious...

Paranormal romances aren't really my thing. No matter how cute the werewolf. And the whole Valkyrie subplot (yes, Valkyries, Pixies, and Were-creatures in one book) seemed odd to me.

But I wanted to read Captivate, despite its paranormal romanticness, because I am in love with Carrie Jones' writing. Her voice is more companionable than anyone else's that I can think of. Friendly. Funny. Quirky. A Carrie Jones heroine is no little Miss Perfect, but rather is someone to whom I can relate, someone who might slightly misjudge the location of the door frame when trying to leave a room, for instance (although I don't remember anyone actually doing this in one of her books).

Here is a rather longish extract, which I hope conveys a little bit of what I mean. By way of background, Zara and Issie have just tied up Zara's pixie king dad and stuffed him in the back seat of Zara's car.

"Girls..." comes the voice from the back of the car.

"Do not talk!" I yell. "If you talk I will just haul you back to the house and put you inside, got it?"

"You plan to do that no matter what I do," he says.

Issie's hand twitches on the door handle. "He has a point."

(a few lines cut here for brevity)

"We don't have to do this," Issie whispers. Her hand grabs my coat sleeve.

I take in a deep breath. "He said that Nick was in danger."

"He could be lying."

"He might not be."

"True. But I'm not in a super trusting mode since he is Mr. Evil Pixie Man."

"He let us tie him up," I argue.

"True." Issie lets go of my arm. "But maybe he knew we sucked at knots." (page 41)

This scene takes places before things really start to happen, and the story goes on to become much more dark and serious, and thought provoking (in a good way), and perhaps a bit much for non-paranormal fans like me. But even then, the bright flashes of snark/character self-awareness manifested in zippy one liners continue...

(Typing this small and wholly inadequate extract, I have decided that one reason I like Carrie Jones' writing so much is that she knows when not to use contractions....)

(ARC received from the publisher at the Boston ALA meeting)

2/11/10

Viruses and Awards

Today I considered bringing my little one's stuffed rabies virus to work with me, hung on a string around my neck, to warn my co-workers that I was a Vector (not, mercifully, carrying rabies--just a bad cold. But still). Rabies (book related) came into my mind later today as I held bigger one's hand as his gums were cauterized for orthodontic reasons, and I distracted him by recounting Emily Bronte's dog bite and subsequent red hot poker treatment of same....

But on a happier note, I was recently awarded one of the Inaugural, very first ever given, Manly SWEATY Doll Blogger Awards!


The guys over at Boys Rule Boys Read! weren't sure that the "Sugar Doll" award that they had just gotten really spoke to who they are, so they made up this award of their own, and I was one of the recipients! (Thanks!)

From what they say, I did not get this award because my blog embodies a robust masculinity. And indeed although I have operated a back hoe and shot a gun etc etc I did not Enjoy these very manly things. Not so as to want to do them again. But I shall try to fulfil my end of this particular award bargain:

Tell a couple of things about yourself: see above
The name of your favorite guy book: Dragonbreath, by Ursula Vernon
Your favorite sports moment: My best friend and I won the three-legged race on Game Day when I was seven
Favorite MANLY MAN movie: The Man Who Would be King
Favorite manly music: Jupiter from Holst's The Planets
Your Favorite Food With No Nutritional Value: candy corn

No blog is leaping gazelle-like to mind as being worthy of this award. I shall have to think about it....

The Great Hamster Massacre wins the Waterstone's book prize

From the Waterstone's website: "The winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2010 is The Great Hamster Massacre by debut author Katie Davies. The Great Hamster Massacre is an endearing tale of a young girl's life and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the untimely death of her beloved pet."

This award is given every year by the booksellers of the UK to a book published the previous year by a newish children's book author.

2/10/10

Ask Charlotte

I am keenly interested in the questions typed into google that bring readers to my blog. If I have answers, I'm happy to share my knowledge, and so "Ask Charlotte" was born.

Today's burning question: "Is Charlotte the smartest girl in the world?"

Answer: Sadly, no. Charlotte, although plenty smart, is only ranked fourth at Number Mix, one of the games Harper Collins is using to promote its new books. If Charlotte were really smart, she might well have been doing other things with her time anyway......

Today's queries also include one from a reader wondering when the new American Girl book by Laurence Yep (!!!) was coming out. I cannot answer this.

2/9/10

Archer's Quest, by Linda Sue Park, for Timeslip Tuesday

Archer's Quest, by Linda Sue Park (Clarion Books, 2006, middle grade, 159 pp)

Kevin is home alone, trying to muster enthusiasm for his homework, when...THWOCK! An arrow lifts off his baseball cap, and pins it to the wall.

"My arrow would end your life before you took a single step," says the strange man who has suddenly materialized in his room. "Do not even think of fleeing. And if you are armed, place your weapon on the floor. Now." (dialogue from p. 5)

Kevin, being a typical middle school kid, is not, in fact, armed. Even if he were, he would stand no chance against this stranger, who is none other than Chu-mong, founder of the largest of the ancient kingdoms of Korea, and one of the greatest archers of all time. Chu-mong had not intended to visit Kevin's house--some strange twist of chance and magic has brought him into the present. And now Kevin must help him return home, before the Year of the Tiger comes to an end the next day.

Kevin scrambles to use math, the Chinese Zodiac, his grandparent's stories of Korea, and a visit to a tiger in the zoo and to the local museum to help the archer return home, all the while guiding Chu-mong through the perils of 21st-century life. And Chu-mong in turn gives Kevin not only a tangible connection to the land of his ancestors, but the more practical ability to focus that underlies his own skills as a warrior.

Fast-paced (it all takes place in less than one day) and told with considerable humor, this story combines puzzle solving, history and legend, and the workings of the middle-school boy mind to great effect. Because it's set in the present, it is, I think, a more accessible type of time travel story than the sort where modern kids travel back to the past. The reader can easily imagine himself in Kevin's position, for instance, as Kevin tries to explain the workings of cars to the strange visitor who has just jumped behind a hedge on first seeing one.

I'd especially recommend this to the middle-grade kid who doesn't necessarily read fantasy. The ones who do read fantasy might well like it lots too, but they might feel that they are getting something more realistic than they had bargained for. This a testimony to Park's writing, in as much as she has made an impossible situation seem strangely convincing.

I'd also like to recommend this one to kids who are considering taking up archery. It should inspire them nicely.

(for anyone looking for other time slip reviews, I noticed two others today--Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy has A Wish After Midnight, by Zetta Elliot, and Jennifer at Jean Little Library has Don't Know Where, Don't Know When, by Annette Laing. And, as an added bonus, both are also books, like Archer's Quest, with non-white protaginists).

2/8/10

Zombies vs Unicorns, the trailer for A Conspiracy of Kings, fun with Harper Collins, and a blog award

I have four cool things to share.

Cool thing 1: The cover of short story anthology Zombies vs Unicorns has been unveiled, and the Unicorns are clearly kicking lots of undead butt. Go Unicorns! This is the picture that is actually on the book; the actual cover hides part of it, but is also cool. Visit Unicorn Team Captain Holly Black's website for more info. (picture gets bigger when clicked)




Cool Thing Number 2: I just reminded at my last visit to Liz's place (Tea Cozy) that Greenwillow has unveiled the trailer for Megan Whalen Turner's new book, A Conspiracy of Kings!



They also have made a very cool trailer for The Thief, which I think I like even better.



(cool thing 2.5: this is the first time I've ever posted a trailer; we just got a new computer, which means that not only can I put trailers up but I can watch them, which I wasn't able to before).

Cool Thing 3: Harper Collins has set up a game arcade to publicise their new releases where, amoung other things, you can play this really cool game for a chance to win cool prizes!

Cool Thing 4:

Kate at Book Aunt was kind enough to pass along the Prolific Blogger Award--thank you, Kate! Kate herself goes in for quality--her long and lovely posts are a must read (although her shorter posts are good stuff too!). I'm just going to pass it on to one person:

Jennifer, whose blog, the Jean Little Library, I enjoy lots, and who I think of as a kindred reading spirit (a reading kindred spirit?).

Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones

Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones (2010, Harper Collins, 332 pp).

30-something Andrew Hope had spent his summers having, literally, a magical childhood at his grandfather's home off in the English countryside. But as he grew older, and went into academia, his memories of the magic faded. When he finds he's inherited both his grandfather's house and its accompanying "field of care," he's not sure just what he's supposed to do. What he wants to do is to write his book, but this is going to prove difficult.

A cast of characters, strange and distracting enough to keep anyone from their work, enter his life. There are the two very idiosyncratic servants who come with the house (who use giant vegetables and cauliflower cheese as subtle weapons in their power struggles). There's the orphaned boy seeking shelter from menacing demonic creatures, the beautiful and crisply practical local girl who becomes Andrew's secretary (and predicts the future by reading the results of horse races), the young giant living in the garden, and the one-legged jockey whose magic mainly manifests itself in rose growing. And more.

Character after character arrives on stage, all fascinating, all very Diana Wynne Jones-ish....and yet, very little Plot happens. Lots of Mysterious Things, lots of beautiful details to make pictures in the reader's mind, but no clear story (other than that of the characters trying to figure out just what is going on). "Plot" does eventually emerge, but comes rather late, and almost as an after thought to Jones' focus on other things. For instance, even in the throes of the climactic action sequence, the fate of the random child dressed as a tube of toothpaste and the giant vegetable marrow flying through the air distract one (in an chuckle-out-loud way) from the fate that may or may not be about to overtake the main characters.

In short, this is a book more fun for its dreamlike creation of people and place, brilliantly three-dimensional and extremely diverting, rather than fun for its story qua story.

note on age: there is nothing content-wise that would make Enchanted Glass unsuitable for a middle-grade reader, and one of the central characters is a 12 year-old boy. But I think that the people that would most love this book aren't defined by age, but by what type of reader they are. So I will put both mg and YA in the labels, and if I had an adult label too I'd put that in.

note on release dates: Enchanted Glass is slated to come out in the US on April 6. I decided I couldn't wait that long, so I ordered from the UK, where it is already out, through The Book Depository (where you can order books from around the world and not pay shipping). I ended up paying a few dollars more than I would have if I'd waited, but it was worth it. It's out in Canada, too, btw.

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