8/31/10

Frozen in Time, by Ali Sparkes, for Timeslip Tuesday

Frozen in Time, by Ali Sparkes (Egmont/Random House, 2009 in UK, 2010 in US, middle grade, 312 pages).

Rain has kept Ben and Rachel trapped inside their old house on the far outskirts of a small English town. It has also washed away a secret--when it finally clears up, the kids find the sealed hatchway to an underground vault. Despite their (perfectly natural) misgivings, they climb down and begin to explore the hidden rooms, finding a time capsule of 1950s life. Literally-as well as tins of vintage spam, there are two kids down there. Rachel unwittingly sets in motion the mechanism to bring them back from their frozen un-life....and then the fun begins.

Polly and Freddy were sealed in their cyronic chambers by their scientist dad, back in 1956. Then he disappeared, before he could wake them again. It seemed as though he had murdered them, and perhaps defected to Russia...but Polly and Freddy are proof he didn't do the former, and they refuse to believe he would have done the later.

Now the two modern kids have to instruct the two 1950s kids in all the niceties (or not) of 21st life...and all four must use their wits to find out what really happened to the lost scientist. Because Polly and Freddy's reappearance is sending out ripples in the hush hush world of government agencies...and the ripples are attracting sharks.

In large part this is a straightforward, fun adventure, in which considerable time is spent on the fun and games of time culture shock. Imagine the kids from The Famous Five (Polly was reading them, back in the past, as fast as they were published) showing up in your own kitchen, with their outdated attitudes toward gender, and their understandable confusion at linguistic and technological changes. Imagine Polly and Richard's confusion, as they were asked to share the very bedrooms that had been theirs the day before...over fifty years ago....

And then imagine Russian spies, and the like, closing in. While over the heads of the four children hangs the mental image of what happened to the father's other experiments--the rats who had died, bleeding and blinded, after long experimental spells of cyronic sleep. The parents aren't around to save the day (Ben and Rachel's old uncle has gone off to pull strings in London) and the school bullies must be out witted! Will it be a jolly good show, or something...else.

Time travel wise--lots of points for good time culture shock, nicely balanced with the progression of the story. The time travelling kids were allowed genuine moments of emotion, before their stiff upper lips kicked in, and they were allowed to adapt at what I thought was an acceptable pace--neither blind acceptance of everything, or too stubborn a refusal to grasp what had happened.

In short, a fun, fast read, good for light, rainy day escapism. That's the English cover at right--I like it better. It looks less cheesy; the US cover has a very dated look, to my eyes.

8/30/10

New Releases of Science Fiction and Fantasy for kids and teens--the end of August edition

Here are the new releases of fantasy and science fiction books for kids and teens from the end of August. The one I want most is The White Horse Trick, by Kate Thompson...but lots of them sound good!

Middle Grade:

AMONG THE GHOSTS by Amber Benson
"A classic ghost story gets a fresh twist in The New Newbridge Academy from author/actress/director Amber Benson."

THE BIG STINK: NATHAN ABERCROMBIE, ACCIDENTAL ZOMBIE by David Lubar
"It’s a stinky situation when Nathan’s school, Belgosi Upper Elementary, develops a mold problem and his class is forced to share space with the first graders. Soon the eighth graders show up too, including Rodney the bully’s older and meaner brother, Ridley. Could he be the reason for the stinky, putrid, rotten smell that seems to be following Nathan around? It’s up to Nathan, Abigail, and Mookie to solve the mystery of the big stink before it pollutes the entire town.
Fans of David Lubar’s popular Weenies short story collections, which have sold more than one and a half million copies, are sure to enjoy this fourth hilarious installment of the adventures of Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie."

THE CALL: THE MAGNIFICENT TWELVE by Michael Grant
"Twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Medium looks. Medium grades. Medium parents who barely notice him. With a list of phobias that could make anyone crazy, Mack never would have guessed that he is destined for a more-than-medium life.
And then, one day, something incredibly strange happens to Mack. A three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys’ bathroom to deliver some startling news: Mack is one of the Magnificent Twelve, called the Magnifica in ancient times, whatever that means. An evil force is on its way, and it’s up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it. He must travel across the world to battle the wicked Pale Queen’s dangerous daughter, Ereskigal—also known as Risky. But Risky sounds a little scary, and Mack doesn’t want to be a hero. Will he answer the call?"

A CRACK IN THE SKY: THE GREENHOUSE CHRONICLES by Mark Peter Hughes
"Thirteen-year-old Eli Papadopoulos is worried. Even though he’s a member of the most powerful family in the world. Even though his grandfather founded InfiniCorp, the massive corporation that runs everything in the bustling dome-cities. Even though InfiniCorp ads and billboards are plastered everywhere, proclaiming: DON'T WORRY! INFINICORP IS TAKING CARE OF EVERYTHING! Recently, Eli noticed that there’s something wrong with the artificial sky. It keeps shorting out, displaying strange colors and random images. And though the Department of Cool and Comfortable Air is working overtime, the dome-city is hotter than it’s ever been. Eli has been raised to believe that the dome-cities are safe, that the important thing is to keep working and consuming, and that everyone is secure and comfortable in InfiniCorp’s capable hands. But now he begins asking questions. All of a sudden, operatives from a dangerous band of terrorists keep contacting him. The Friends of Gustavo—or Foggers—want to tear down everything InfiniCorp has created. They promise Eli that they have the truth he seeks—if he’s brave enough to handle it. Eli isn’t convinced. And he’s about to find out that in the dome-cities, being a Papadopoulos isn’t enough to save a rule-breaker like him from being sent far away to learn right-thinking. In his new home, the Tower, Eli meets Tabitha, once at the top of her Internship class, now a forgotten slave. Together, and with help from Eli’s beloved pet mongoose, Marilyn, they just might be able to escape . . . and try to make a life for themselves in the scorched wilderness outside the domes."

THE CURSE OF DEADMAN'S FOREST: ORACLES OF DELPHI KEEPby Victoria Laurie
"Since Ian Wigby and his sister, Theodosia, found the silver treasure box and the prophecy within it, their world has changed. There's no denying what they discovered in Morocco: a powerful evil is budding, and to defeat it, and save the world from darkness, six uniquely gifted children must be gathered.According to prophecy, a trip through the magical portal near the castle will bring them to the third Oracle--a child with extraordinary powers to heal. But the very same prophecy foretells Ian's death should he venture through the portal again.Everyone agrees: to risk Ian's life is too great a gamble. But when a terrible curse enters the keep, it becomes clear that there is no other choice.If Ian and Theo stay in Dover, all will surely be lost, but to follow the prophecy, they will risk their lives and everything they have ever held dear."

EMPIRE OF NIGHT: VAMPIRATES by Justin Somper
"After the surprising revelation of the Tempest family history, twins Connor and Grace face a newly-defined future marked by their Vampirate roots. Meanwhile, Sidorio's evil Vampirate Empire continues its expansion, making it tragically apparent that no ship is safe. As for the pirates, they have a new mission: wipe out the vampirates.There's a bloody battle brewing in the seas, and each crew will need all hands on deck. And, this time, Grace and Connor may find themselves fighting for their lives-or against each other."

HOW TO GROW UP AND RULE THE WORLD by Vordak T. Incomprehensible
"Slip on your acid-free gloves, make sure you have a duplicate copy of How to Grow Up and Rule the World (just in case something should happen to this one) and try to follow along as the incomparable, superior-in-all-ways Vordak the Incomprehensible teaches you a thing or two about villainy. Now you, too, can try (and fail) to attain Vordak's level of infamy.From selecting the most dastardly name, to choosing the ideal henchmen, to engaging in witty repartee with disgustingly chipper superheroes, experienced supervillain Vordak the Incomprehensible guides readers step-by-step toward the ultimate goal of world domination (from his parents' basement in Trenton, New Jersey). With chapter titles like "Bringing Out the Evil" and "Building a Top-Notch Evil Organization," numerous bold illustrations, and detailed quizzes to assess your level of dastardliness, this book provides everything necessary to rise above the masses, and then rub your ascent in their faces.In return for this wealth of knowledge, Vordak requests nothing more than an honored place in the evil regime of he who achieves control of the world. (And, of course, the opportunity to assume command, should things not work out.)"

THE MULTIPLYING MENACE: A MAGIC REPAIR SHOP BOOK by Amanda Marrone
From Publisher's Weekly, because I couldn't find a publicity blurb: "Maggie's magical powers--whatever she wishes for comes true--render a classmate bald and get Maggie expelled at the start of Marrone's (Devoured) Magic Repair Shop series. Since Maggie's entomologist parents are leaving for a year in the Amazon, the soon to be sixth grader reluctantly goes to live with her grandmother in Connecticut, where she discovers that her late grandfather used to work at a "magic repair shop." After she follows magician Milo the Magnificent (whose rabbits are multiplying out of control) to the store, she is hired to help solve Milo's problem, catapulting her into a convoluted mystery involving the magician's ill-fated spell to duplicate himself."

THE NIGHTMARYS by Dan Poblocki
"Timothy July has been having nightmares. About his brother, who is in a coma after being wounded in Iraq; about his best friend, Stuart, who is behaving like a jerk; about the old biology specimens in jars lining the walls of his classroom; and about Abigail, the new girl who seems to be a magnet for trouble. Or perhaps she is the cause.Suddenly Timothy’s nightmares are coming true. His brother, his face decaying, approaches Timothy on the street. Stuart ends up in the hospital, terrified that monsters are stalking him. And the specimen jars are tormenting not only Timothy but his teacher as well. What is the secret in Abigail’s past that is the key to these horrors? And can Timothy figure it out before his nightmares become a deadly reality?"

NOTES FROM A TOTALLY LAME VAMPIRE by Tim Collins
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" meets "Twilight" in this hilarious and sweet story."

RADIANCE by Alyson Noel
"Riley has crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. She has picked up life where she left off when she was alive, living with her parents and dog in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. When she’s summoned before The Council, she learns that the afterlife isn’t just an eternity of leisure. She’s been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a possibly cute, seemingly nerdy boy who’s definitely hiding something. They return to earth together for Riley’s first assignment, a Radiant Boy who’s been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But all of that was before he met Riley . . ."

SABOTAGED: MISSING by Margaret Peterson Haddix
After helping Chip and Alex survive 15th century London, Jonah and Katherine are summoned to help another missing child, Andrea, face her fate. Andrea is really Virginia Dare, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jonah and Katherine are confident in their ability to help Andrea fix history, but when their journey goes dangerously awry, they realize that they may be in over their head. They've landed in the wrong time period. Andrea doesn't seem that interested in leaving the past. And even worse, it appears that someone has deliberately sabotaged their mission...

SAVING SKY by Diane Stanley
"The country is at war, terrorists strike at random, widespread rationing is in effect, and the power grid is down. But thirteen-year-old Sky Brightman is remarkably untouched by it all. She lives off the grid on sixty acres of rural New Mexico ranch land with chores to do and horses to ride and no television or internet to bring disturbing news into her family's adobe house. Sky's schoolmates think she's a little weird.

Then a string of mysterious arrests begins, and her new friend, Kareem, becomes a target. Sky is finally forced to confront the world in all its complexity. Summoning her considerable courage and ingenuity, she takes a stand against injustice. With humor, hope, and fierce determination, she proves that even a child can change the world"

THE SMOKY CORRIDOR by Chris Grabenstein Zack is about to start at his new school, and his dad, who went there years before, tells Zack the stories of the haunted janitor’s closet, the specter of a dead crossing guard, and the Donnelly brothers, who perished in a suspicious fire. Dad doesn’t know that Zack has already met the Donnellys’ ghosts, who have warned Zack that there is an evil zombie under the school. Zack also learns that while zombies are usually content eating corpses, if they happen to bite someone who isn’t dead, that person also becomes a zombie.Before midterms, Zack is dealing with two zombies, while trying to protect a friend whose curiosity has put him on the zombies’ menu.

THE WOLF TREE: THE CLOCKWORK DARK by John Claude Bemis "Can you imagine eternal Darkness, sir?"So asks the sickly stranger who staggers into Peg Leg Nel's birthday party. Before the man dies, he tells Ray and his friends of a Darkness spreading like wildfire across Kansas, turning good people bad and poisoning anyone who tries to escape. It's clear that though the evil Gog is dead, his devilish machine has survived and is growing stronger.Now a full-fledged Rambler, Ray leads his friends on a mission into the heart of darkness. Vital to their success is tracking down the legendary Wolf Tree, rumored to be a pathway to the spirit world. Only with one of the tree's limbs can the Nine Pound Hammer be repaired and the Gog's terrible machine finally destroyed. The search for the Wolf Tree grows desperate as the Darkness spreads, threatening Ray, his friends, and all of humanity.

ZALLY'S BOOK: THE FAIRY GODMOTHER ACADEMY by Jan Bozarth Zally Guevara always knows where she's going. She has a passion for maps of all kinds and can't wait to pack her suitcase and explore the world. But Zally doesn't have to wait to get her wish. With the help of a cup of magical cocoa from her grandmother, she travels to a place that only girls training to become fairy godmothers can get to—the enchanted dreamland of Aventurine, a place that has no map.In Aventurine, Zally is given her quest: to save a fairy queen who has lost her will to live. Zally's companions are a young fairy with a broken wing, and a stallion prince. The trio's journey proves to be even more challenging than they could have imagined as they meet monsters and get lost in a ruined fairy city. All the while, Zally is making a map of Aventurine and discovering that she has a talent, passed down from generations of women in her family: understanding the thoughts of animals. But will this be enough to save the fairy queen and ensure that Zally can continue her fairy-godmother training?

Young Adult

BLACK HOLE SUN by David Macinnis Gill
"Durango is playing the cards he was dealt. And it’s not a good hand. He’s lost his family. He’s lost his crew. And he’s got the scars to prove it. You don’t want to mess with Durango."

THE CANDIDATES: DELCROIX ACADEMY by Inara Scott
"Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that's not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia's mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just...happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt. So Dancia does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, belieiving this way she can supress her powers and keep them hidden.

But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dancia's days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for diplomats' kids and child geniuses--not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are they treating Dancia like she's special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.

And then there's her mysterious new friend Jack, who can't stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn't convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her "gift" than they're letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it...But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy."

THE CLOCKWORK ANGEL: THE INFERNAL DEVICES by Cassandra Clare
"Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all."

DAUGHTERS OF DRACULA: THE STOKER SISTERS by Kailin Gow
"Two sisters... Born during the time of Jane Austen... Set to marry for advancement, but escaped their fates by becoming vampires. Now vampires in the 21st century, hunted by a sect of rogue hunters and governed by an ancient Romanian and Bulgarian vampire myth, the sisters live in a small beach town of California where they meet Keegan Knowles, a mysterious boy. For hundreds of years they've shared clothes, books, and their home, but will they share the same boy or is it there going to be war?HALO by Alexandra Adornetto Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces.
Is love a great enough power against evil?"

DEVASTATION by Gloria Skurzynski
"Earth's population has been decimated by disease, and fourteen-year-old Corgan, genetically engineered to be the perfect warrior, plays an important part in the impending virtual war alongside his partner, the beautiful Sharla.'


THE HAUNTED: THE HOLLOW by Jessica Verday
"After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with--the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead--Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all.

But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates--a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess...."

KISSES FROM HELLby Kristin Cast, Richelle Mead, Kelley Armstrong, Alyson Noel, & Francesca Lia Block This irresistible collection features stories of love amid vampires by five of today's hottest authors—Kristin Cast (Tempted), Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy), Alyson No√čl (Evermore), Kelley Armstrong (The Summoning), and Francesca Lia Block (Pretty Dead).
From a fugitive vampire forced to trust a boy who might work for the group bent on destroying her to the legendary romance of two immortals whose love compels them to risk everything, this heart-pounding collection brings new meaning to the words "love you forever." Whether you're into romances that are dark and moody or light and fun, these stories will quench that insatiable thirst for enchanting tales of the beautiful undead.

MOCKINGJAY: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
"Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12."

NEVERMORE by Kelly Creagh
"Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it."

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.

PULSE by Kailin Gow
“17 year-old Kalina didn t know her boyfriend was a vampire until the night he died of a freak accident. She didn t know he came from a long line of vampires until the night she was visited by his half-brothers Jaegar and Stuart Greystone. There were a lot of secrets her boyfriend didn t tell her. Now she must discover them in order to keep alive. But having two half-brothers vampires around had just gotten interesting.”

ROMEO & JULIET & VAMPIRES by William Shakespeare & Claudia Gabel
"You are deluded, Romeo. Vampires do not have the capability to love. They are heartless."
The Capulets and the Montagues have some deep and essential differences. Blood differences. Of course, the Capulets can escape their vampire fate, and the Montagues can try not to kill their undead enemies. But at the end of the day, their blood feud is unstoppable. So it's really quite a problem when Juliet, a vampire-to-be, and Romeo, the human who should be hunting her, fall desperately in love. What they don't realize is how deadly their love will turn out to be—or what it will mean for their afterlives. . . .
This riotous twist on the ultimate tale of forbidden romance is simply to die for.”

TIMERIDERS by Alex Scarrow
“Maddy should have died in a plane crash. Liam should have died at sea when the Titanic sank. Sal should have died in a tragic fire. But a mysterious man whisked them away to safety.Maddy, Liam, and Sal quickly learn that time travel is no longer just a hope for the future; it is a dangerous reality. And they weren't just rescued from their terrible fates. . . they were recruited for the agency of TimeRiders created to protect the world from those seeking to alter the course of history for personal gain. By reliving the highly documented events in New York City on 9/11, they can closely monitor history for any deviations—large or small. When just such a change is detected, they are alerted that a threat is at hand unleashing the evil of the Nazis to wreak havoc with Earth's present and future. Can Maddy, Liam, and Sal fulfill their destinies as keepers of time to save the world from utter destruction?An exhilarating adventure that shifts readers back in time to Nazi Germany and then forward into an ever-changing present.”

UNRAVELED: AN INTERTWINED NOVEL by Gena Showalter
"Since coming to Crossroads, Oklahoma, former outcast Aden Stone has been living the good life. Never mind that one of his best friends is a werewolf, his girlfriend is a vampire princess who hungers for his blood, and he's supposed to be crowned Vampire King—while still a human! Well, kind of.
With four—oops, three now—human souls living inside his head, Aden has always been "different" himself. These souls can time-travel, raise the dead, possess another's mind and, his least favorite these days, tell the future.
The forecast for Aden? A knife through the heart.
Because a war is brewing between the creatures of the dark, and Aden is somehow at the center of it all. But he isn't about to lie down and accept his destiny without a fight. Not when his new friends have his back, not when Victoria has risked her own future to be with him, and not when he has a reason to live for the first time in his life….”

THE WEE FREE MEN: THE BEGINNING by Terry Pratchett
"When Tiffany Aching sets out to become a witch, she faces ominous foes and gains unexpected allies. As she confronts the Queen of Fairies and battles an ancient, bodiless evil, she is aided (and most ably abetted) by the six-inch-high, fightin', stealin', drinkin' Wee Free Men!"


THE WHITE HORSE TRICK by Kate Thompson
"The world is drowning.
Freak storms and devastating hurricanes sweep across the countryside. No one has enough food or firewood—electricity is an option only for the tyrannical Commander—and then the Commander begins stealing young children away. Pup's little brother is one of the missing.
Determined to save his brother, Pup confronts the Commander and finds himself “volunteered” for a special force. One that will slip through the barriers of time into a land where the sun never sets . . . just as another boy from Kinvara did long ago. With the future of both realms at stake, the fairies and humans must take drastic measures to stop the destruction. But not everyone wants the human race to survive. . . .
The thrilling conclusion to the story that began in the acclaimed The New Policeman."


Review and Giveway of Spaceheadz, by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita

Thanks, everyone who entered the giveaway! The winners were Parker and Rosemary--congratulations!

Spaceheadz, by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita, illustrated by Shane Prigmore (Simon and Schuster, 2010, middle grade, 161 pages, but since several are written in Hamster, etc., it's a slightly shorter book in actual fact)

Poor Michael. It's his first day of fifth grade at a new school, and he's been stuck (horribly, irrefutably stuck in the way that only bad classroom luck can stick you) with the other two new kids, Jennifer and Bob. And Jennifer and Bob are more than just your standard playground albatrosses of social misfortune. They claim to be aliens on a mission to save Earth by signing up 3.14 million and 1 kids to be SPHDZ (whatever that means). And to add to the sense of overwhelmingly insane incomprehension Michael is experiencing, their leader is a hamster (see above).

Poor Anti-Alien Agent Umber, one of an elite force whose mission is to protect the Earth from extra-terrestrials. His desire to serve is great, his luck abysmal. The embarrassing "Fried Santa Incident" still haunts him, and he's mortified that he, of all the agents, got stuck with a pickle phone. But when he receives news that aliens have been detected in his territory, he's determined to bring them down....

Jennifer and Bob, whom Michael can't seem to shake, lead him on a nightmarishly dance of commercial-driven consumerism--for some reason, they are obsessed by the advertisements of particular products. Michael, observing their alien behavior, begins to wonder if their story is true, and that tv waves beamed from Earth have become entangled with life on another planet. Once he starts thinking along those lines, it's only a short step to believing the rest of their story--that Earth will turned off, like a boring tv program, unless the 3.14 (and one) SPHDZ can be recruited....

Copious illustrations, full page breaks from the story to explain relevant bits of science in humours diagrams, and a friendly hand-written font give this the feel less of a "straight chapter book" and more the feel of a "straight chapter book meets a graphic novel for kids." In short, it's a very kid friendly book, with a very kid friendly story, and lots of laughs (and as an added bonus (?) there is no potty humor).

My one reservation about this book is that it relies heavily on the audience being media savvy, and I think that to appreciate it fully, the reader needs to have watched lots of commercials. My ten year old test read hasn't (just a few, at grandma's house, which is a good thing, because that one commercial about athlete's foot he saw came up in conversation for the next three months), and so he didn't quite get the point of this book.

That being said, he still enjoyed it, as did I. And we both enjoyed visiting the websites of Bonus Material:

At sphdz.com, you can sign up to be a SPHDZ and help stop the Earth from being turned off.

At antialienagency.com, you can see what the government is doing to protect the Earth from the alien menace.

At mrshalleyscomets.com, you can see Michael K.'s fifth-grade class website.

(and, according to Madigan Reads, with sufficient poking, you can apparently find more information about the Fried Santa Incident. I must go back and poke further!)

GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to the publisher, I have two copies of Spaceheadz to give away! The lucky winners will also each receive a neon Spaceheadz pencil! Please leave a comment (making sure there's a way to get back to you) by midnight (EST) on Monday, September 6th! (US only).

Once you have read book 1, you will want to find out what happens next. Happily, Spaceheadz book 2 is on it's way this December; here's the blurb:

"The campaign is going well. The SPHDZ word is getting out. 1000's of kids have signed up to say they are SPHDZ. But things haven't gotten any easier for Michael K. The SPHDZ are still trying to blend in to our Earth culture, but not very successfully. They're still mixing up Thanksgiving, cartoon plots, holidays, and commercials. This makes it especially hard for Michael K. to both hide the SPHDZ from Agent Umber and accomplish the SPHDZ Mission. He's forced to enlist the help of fellow fifth graders, Venus and TJ.
When they (Michael K. and the SPHDZ) are given the assignment to write and perform the school play, Umber thinks he's closing in on the aliens...the kindergartners playing the turkeys."

8/29/10

This Sunday's Middle Grade Fantasy/sci fi round-up

Here's another week's worth of middle grade fantasy/science fiction reviews and news! Enjoy, and let me know if I missed your post.

Reviews:

The Celestial Globe, by Marie Rutkoski, at Books your mother would approve of.

Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, by Jenny Nimmo, at Fabulous Reads.

A Crack in the Sky, by Mark Peter Hughes, at Middle Grade Ninja.

The Dragon Whisperer, by Lucinda Hare, at Fantasy Book Review.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, at books3yourkids.

The Golden Acorn, by Catherine Cooper, at Nayu's Reading Corner

The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman, at Maltby Reads.

House of Dolls, by Francesca Lia Block, at Jean Little Library.

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, by Matt Myklusch, at 5 Minutes for Books.

The Limit, by Kristen Landon, at Presenting Lenore

A Matter of Magic, by Patricia C. Wrede (an omnibus of Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward), at The View from the Foothills.

The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz, at Madigan Reads.

The Shadows (Books of Elsewhere 1), by Jacqueline West, at Read Schmead: Tales from the Book

The Shifter (Healing Wars Book 1), by Janice Hardy, at Beyond Books

Skellig, by David Almond, at Random Acts of Reading.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet Book 1), by Kazu Kibuishi, at Let the Words Flow

Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, by Adrienne Kress, at Read in a Single Sitting.

When You Reach My, by Rebecca Stead, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

Interviews:

Susannah Applebaum (Poisons of Caux: The Tasters Guild), at Fantasy Book Critic, Teenreads, Suvudu, Cleverly Inked, and Random Acts of Reading.

Mark Peter Hughes (A Crack in the Sky) at Middle Grade Ninja.

An interview with Tove Jansson's (Moomins!) niece Sophie at Bookwitch (and Moomins are featured in strange video form at Fuse #8 today)

Other news:

Katherine Langrish continues her series on witches in children's literature with Witch Queens and Crones.

The Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts has just issued their call for papers from their March 2011 meeting. The theme is The Fantastic Ridiculous, and there's a Children's and YA Division.

I've just sent in my registration for this year's Kidlit Con--you can find the information on how to do so here. I'm looking forward to seeing friends from last year, meeting other bloggers for the first time, and listening to keynote speaker Maggie Stiefvater!

It's Cybils time again--the call for panelists/judges has now gone out! It is incredibly worthwhile to be part of this process, so, fellow bloggers, do consider throwing your name in! Authors are welcome to take part, as long it is a genre in which they haven't published a book in this past year (October to October). You don't have to live in the US, either.

And finally, just because I think they're really cool, I'm passing on the news that a set of Science cookie cutters is being given away at Not So Humble Pie (enter by tomorrow). Although I think I would have made different frosting choices.

8/28/10

Bone and Jewel Creatures, by Elizabeth Bear

Bone and Jewel Creatures, by Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean Press, 2010, 131 pages)

I shall start by saying flat out that this is a book for fans of Patricia McKillip (like me). Which is to say--this is a book where language and description and things hinted at in the shadows and old histories hanging between characters are of paramount importance, and plot and character motivations aren't spelled out in obvious ways. I loved it.

Bijou lives surrounded by the creatures of her magical artifice--skeletal creatures whose bones she has bound together with jewels. She has grown old in the making of them, and now they fill her house--Hawti the elephant (its trunk given shape by the bones of a boa), the sloth, Lazybones, Lucy the gorilla, and more....But her peaceful labors are disturbed when her former apprentice, Brazen, shows up on her doorstep, bringing with him a strange gift, a child with a badly wounded hand.

"It doesn't talk," Brazen said. "It is a feral child. If you cannot save it, I thought you could use the bones." (page 13).

Bijou, not quite sure of her own motives, takes the child into her pack of strange creatures, and prepares to make for it, of its own amputated bones, a magical jeweled hand....And the child lives, and is named Emeraude, and learns about life lived by people/bone creatures.
Pause in the summary here, to make it clear that the bone and jeweled creatures are lovely magic, not grotesque at all once you get to know them; in fact, rather charming and full of craft, caring and even heroic, and it is rather a lovely change to have an old woman be a great Magical Craftsperson, working with lots of tools etc. The picture of the bone hand on the cover is grotesque and vaguely robotic; it's not like that in the book. So don't be put off. Back to the summary--
But the necrotic wound that had sickened the child was no mere chance; it was the work of a necromancer, one whose past is intimately entwined with that of Bijou. As he readies himself to move against Bijou and Brazen, he sets in motion a necromantic plague--all over the city, animals and people begin to fall prey to similar putrefying infections that leave them in a state of hideous un-deadness. And that is all I am going to say.

My summary might make this sound like a Good vs Evil battle-type book, but actually, it is not action-packed (although exciting(!) things happen). It's thoughtful, concerned with interesting characters fully living in their world, with pasts that are gradually unveiled, with complex geographies, histories, and mythologies present in the background. There is no romance. None is needed.

It is rather refreshing, after the heat of the first person immediacy and non-stop action/emotion of the last book I read (Mockingjay), to read a much cooler book, a third-person past-tense book that never lets us entirely into the heads of the central characters, one in which there are spaces for the reader to pause, and wonder, and reflect. That being said, much of the story is told from the present-tense (yet still third-person) perspective of the feral child. This was one of the most interesting, yet problematic, parts of the book for me--although I enjoyed, uncritically, the feral child's point of view, I had to be careful not to pull myself out of the book and start questioning whether a feral child could, in fact, be thinking what Bear said it was.

The book is short, at 131 pages, but the quality of Bear's writing is such that it seems much longer (it reminds me of some of Kelly Link's longer short stories in this regard). Part of me wants to whine for more--more backstory, more future story, more in general, but the mature part of me (small though it is) appreciates that this book is a gem--bone and jewels indeed--and more verbiage is actually not necessary

(although I think a few more words would have helped me personally, because thinking it over as I write this, I am not sure I understand what was motivating the bad guy--he went to a lot of trouble making zombie sparrows etc. and I'm not sure what it did for him. But quite possibly I missed something subtle. After all, I fall firmly into the "I don't understand the ending of Fire and Hemlock" (by Diana Wynne Jones) camp and lots of other readers seem to be able to figure out what happened).

Anyway, this was a really good book and I think I might need to ask for my own copy for Christmas (btw, the publisher still seems to have the book in stock, so do not be alarmed by the high Amazon price).

Age wise: Amazon has it as 9-12. And indeed, there's no sex, or bad language. But it's not a kid's book. The vocabulary, style, pacing, plot, characters etc all say "grown up reader" to me.

This is another book for my multi-ethnic sff list, as Emeraude, the feral child, is brown skinned both in text and on the cover. Although I am not sure I want to include, as an example of a kid of color, a character who is essentially portrayed as a wild animal and whose gender we never learn.

8/27/10

CYBILS TIME IS HERE AGAIN!!!!!

That's the first time I've ever shouted a blog post title. But I am excited.

Any reader of my blog knows just how much I love the Cybils Awards. Not only does the awards process generate reading lists of really truly excellently great books (like these), but it also gives us bloggers a chance to come together as a community and be awarders ourselves, recognizing, in a very public way, the books we love best.

I have been a first round panelist for several years, and recommend the experience 100 percent. I have become friends with authors and readers, I have read many great books, and I've felt that my voice made a difference to the success of books I love. If you are a blogger (reader, author, librarian, teacher, parent) being a panelist or judge for the Cybils is, bar none, a tremendously rewarding experience.

The call has now gone out! Head over to the Cybils, read about what it entails, and throw your name into the hat! (by Sept. 15)

And another very important thing--the lists of nominated books are chosen by readers. ANY READERS. One book per category per reader, submitted the first few weeks of October. I'm now mulling over my lists of various categories--the easy readers, the picture books, the non-fiction, etc, to decide what books I'm going to put on the lists (extrapolating from what was the case last year, I imagine the books have to have been published from October 16th 2009 through October 15th 2010). My 10 year old loves this part of the process too, because who doesn't want the books they love to get their chance to shine?

(and anyone who, for lack of anything better to do, wants my personal take on what it all involves is welcome to contact me!)

Cloaked in Red, by Vivian Vande Velde

Here's a book that fans of fairy tale retellings will want to put on their wants list: Cloaked in Red, by Vivian Vande Velde (Marshall Cavendish, October 1, 2010, YA, 128 pages), a collection of short and snappy re-takes of the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
Vivian Vande Velde has Issues with Little Red Riding Hood. From the introductory Author's Note:

"There are different versions, but they all start with a mother who sends her daughter into the woods, where there is not only a wolf, but a talking, cross-dressing wolf. We are never told Little Red Riding Hood's age, but her actions clearly show that she is much too young, or too dimwitted, to be allowed out of the house alone.

But apparently Little Red's mom hasn't noticed this."

(I am strongly tempted to keep typing quote after quote from this deliciously snarky dissection of LRR...but will resist. Just one more....)

"I don't like to criticize anyone's family, but I'm guessing these people are not what you'd call close. Little Red doesn't realize a wolf has substituted himself for her grandmother. I only met my grandmother three times in my entire life, but like to think I would have noticed if someone claiming to be my grandmother had fur, fangs, and a tail.

But Little Red, instead of becoming suspicious, becomes rude."

So anyway. Vande Velde goes on to tell eight Little Red stories of her own imagining, taking girl, cloak, granny, wood cutter and wolf and twisting them in fascinatingly twisted ways. Different perspectives are offered-- granny's point of view, the wolf's point of view, and even, most intriguingly, the red cloak's take on things! A wide range of alternate circumstances--magical, economic, and personal--are thrown into the mix. And for fans of paranormal stories, there's even a werewolf...

The result is a collection of tasty stories, each with its own distinct flavor. Many I delighted in, others simply liked just fine, and I wish there had been more. It's clear that Vande Velde had great fun writing these, and I had great fun reading them!

Note on age: this is being marked as 12 and up, and I'm not sure why. Although some of the themes are "older" -- the relationship problems of a granny, for instance, and a rather strange story of thwarted motherhood-- there wasn't anything "older" in an explicitly described way (there's just one kiss, on page 46- "My, what firm lips you have!"). I am planning on passing it on to a ten year old girl of my acquaintance, and I'm putting middle grade in my labels, as well as YA.

8/26/10

Juggler in the Wind, by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin

Imagine that the Greek gods now wander the Midwest as a third-rate circus troop, their powers, and memories of past glories, faded...that's the central premise of Juggler in the Wind (The Wand Bearer Trilogy: Part One), by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin (Chiron Books, 2010, YA, 202 pages).

In the small town in western Kansas, where 14 year-old Randy lives with his single mother, life has a certain monotony to it. But when the Circus Olympus makes an unheralded arrival in town, and sets up their tent in an empty pasture near Randy's house, everything changes. Drawn to the motley circus by a powerful compulsion, and despite his mother's passionate conviction that he should stay away from it, Randy cuts school to see the show...and finds himself, almost without thinking about it, hitching a ride in one of the circus wagons and heading out of town.

Randy doesn't understand why his mother has taken such a scunner to the circus, but it's clear that it's out of the ordinary. As circus acts go, the performances might not, at first, seem all that great, but it becomes clear that extraordinary things are taking place, and that the performers are not what they seem to be. They are, in fact, the Greek gods and goddess, fallen on hard times.

Money is short in the circus, and to make matters worse, they've fallen afoul of the law. They push their old bus faster toward the west, not quite sure where to go. Nor are they at all certain, any more, who they even are themselves, and what they are doing with their immortal lives. As he travels with the ragtag crew of aging performers, Randy begins to dream, strange dreams that seem to come from Dionysus himself, and he begins as well to find that he has a preternatural skill for juggling. But Randy, too, is uncertain of his purpose, and the circus is falling apart. As the dry, hot winds blow, the gods fall into a stupor, and the law closes in...

And in the meantime, Randy's mother is desperately looking for him, finally ready to tell him the mystery of his own father, absent since the time of his conception.

It's a fascinating premise, explored in delightful detail. The descriptions of the Greek gods as down-on-their-luck circus performers were immensely diverting (the mythological adroit reader realizes that this is the case very early on, and then it's a fun game of "spot the god"), and I'm happy to recommend the book simply on the strength of this aspect of it. I especially enjoyed meeting Dionysus in the form of seedy lounge singer "Johnny Vine."

I was left, however, not quite convinced about Randy's role in all the goings on of the gods. It's clear that he's going to somehow save them, but here in Book 1, his special-ness plays out in a somewhat fuzzy way. In particular, I was bothered by the interventions of Dionysus that take place in Randy's dream life- Dionysus seems to have a power left to him that isn't in keeping with the premise of the book, and the central episode of Randy's own journey to "power" in a mysterious dream sequence didn't make all that much sense to me (and the juggling part of things wasn't quite successfully integrated into the story either. Unless I missed something). To be fair, these things don't make much sense to Randy either, and maybe more will be made clear in the subsequent books--this is the first of a trilogy, after all. But still, I myself found it a book to enjoy much more for the playing out of the great premise than for the particulars of Randy's story.

Recommended in particular to fans of Greek mythology, fans of fictional third-rate circuses, and those seeking books that are set, at least in part, in western Kansas. Randy, in this book at least, doesn't match Percy Jackson's wham bam god-like powers, and there are no monsters to kill, so it's not an automatic read-a-like to that series, although this might change in the subsequent books.

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)

The stress of summer reading is now behind us

My boys went back to school today--2nd and 5th grades. And in the car, three minutes before we arrived at the gates, my oldest finished the last page of his summer reading (Fighting Ground, by Avi). "I don't like to read when I have to," he has said repeatedly for the past month, eschewing above-referenced book in favor, primarily, of a massive Asterix re-read. My younger boy finished his summer reading in a more timely fashion (ha ha) last night, when he read all three required books in 20 minutes. He had resisted because they were picture books, and "too babyish...." And truly, what child is there who can read chapter books who really wants to curl up with Rainbow Fish??? Not me.

But, on the other hand, older son decided he wanted two picture books for himself when we were at the library yesterday, getting younger son's books out --he pounced on Henry's Freedom Box and Precious and the Boo Hag, which made me happy.

Although one of his classmates was walking into school with his nose in the first of the Ranger's Apprentice series, and I couldn't help but wish that my boy was doing the same. It is so stressful, this raising a reader business. And if I, with so many resources at my disposal and so many books on hand, find it difficult, I can only imagine how hard it must be for others who aren't as fortunate (which is why I work my tail off for my local library).

8/25/10

The non-results of my Cybils sff poll, plus Waiting on Wednesday - Invisible Things, by Jenny Davidson and other Cybils sequels

A couple of days ago I threw up a poll to see which Cybils shortlisted sci fi fantasy book was the best beloved. The results were, as expected, inconclusive--only 41 of the 97 people who've looked at it to date were able to pick a favorite (I found it almost impossible to do so myself), and of the 40 books in the list, all but 15 have at least one vote. Because the votes are so scattered, no clear favorite has emerged--Graceling is in the lead, with 4 votes.

One of the books I would have voted for if I'd had a few more votes to scatter around was The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson (my review). The sequel, Invisible Things, comes out this November (yay!). Here's what Davidson had to say about it back in February 2009 (goodness--what a long time ago that seems...)
"The book takes up with Sophie in Copenhagen at the alternate-universe version of Niels Bohr’s Institute for Theoretical Physics, which was possibly the most exciting of all possible places to be in our own world’s real historical 1930s, and follows her on a strange and stressful journey first to Sweden and then up north to Lappland and the island of Spitsbergen, where she encounters the Snow Queen in her ice palace. The story is very loosely based on the fairy tale of the same name, one of my favorite ones by the nineteenth-century Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen."

There are several other exciting sequels/follow ups/companions to the Cybils sff books coming out:

Ptolomy's Gate, by Jonathan Stoud, and Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, each got more than one vote, and each has a prequel/sequel coming out this fall (The Ring of Solomon, in November, and Sapphique, in December respectivly). There's a new Skulduggery Pleasant out next month (enigmatically/portentously, the wikipedia entry for it says that it is "the first of the Skulduggery Pleasant novels to be published in a September"). Part three of D.M. Cornisth's Monstor Blood Tattoo series, Factotum, is out this fall (and it's on my tbr pile--yay!). Sarah Prineas has written a fourth book in the Magic Thief series (see this interview) , but I dunno if its been officially acquired by HarperCollins....I hope it has (note to self--write review of the third book of the series (which was very fun) for crying out loud). Scumble, the companion to Savvy, by Ingrid Law, just came out. (So did Mockingjay). And Bitterblue, the eagerly awaited companion/sequel to Graceling, is (according to wikipedia) coming out next April.

And even though this sequel has been out a while, I've been following this book's availability with great interest--The King Commands, sequel to Northlander, by Meg Burden (one vote) is up on Amazon again for its regular price of $8.95.

Did I miss any?

(Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine)

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, by Danette Haworth

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets, by Danette Haworth (Bloomsbury--Walker Books, 2010, middle grade)

The Meriwether, a once grand hotel in Hope Springs, Florida, hides secrets--hidden rooms and staircases, as well entire floors kept from the view of the guests who still come to enjoy its faded grandeur and partake of its famous blueberry pancakes. No-one knows those ordinary secrets better than Allie Jo Jackson, the hotel-keepers daughter; after all, she's lived in the Meriwether her whole life. This summer she's sharing it with two other kids--a boy and a girl her own age who are ordinary friends that she hadn't expected.

But then Allie meets Tara...beautiful, mysterious, and with a strange fondness for swimming at night...Tara has a secret that is far beyond the ordinary. And she is in danger...someone is looking for her, to make her secret into his own fortune.

It's a lovely story of the fantastic and magical intersecting with the real world. The other-worldly setting of the old hotel provides a perfect setting for this type of story--it is almost unreal itself, the sort of place where anything could happen. The friendships that develop among the kids are as central to the plot as the magical side of things, making this a beautifully three-dimensional story. I imagine it will be enjoyed by a whole range of audiences-- fantasy loving kids, mystery loving kids, and kids who want stories about finding friends. And, of course, those of us who love books featuring mysterious, enormous, old buildings full of secrets....

Haworth does a lovely job with her story--she balances description, character-building, and clues to the mystery in a seamless way that makes for a great read.

Here's another review at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea-Cozy, in which the author shares background on the creation of her grand hotel.

8/24/10

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk for Timeslip Tuesday

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen From the Future-- The second graphic novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins the creators of Captain Underpants (along with Dav Pilkey) (Blue Sky Press/Scholastic 2010, middle grade or whatever, 175 pages)

George and Harold have created two cave-boy alter-egos for themselves in this wham bam time-travel cartoon book/graphic novel--the titular Ook and Gluk. The boys are enjoying their life back in .... , running from, and then befriending, a dinosaur, pushing the envelopes of stone-age technology, and tormenting the bullying Big Chief Goppernopper. with their boyish pranks in true George and Harold style.

But when a time-travelling descendant of the chief arrives to pillage the natural resources of the past to fuel his corporate greed in desolate future of 2222. Ook and Gluk, along with the rest of the cave folk, find themselves enslaved. But all is not lost, for Ook and Gluk travel to the future! They bring with them their young, delicately stomached (ie it pukes a lot), very cute dinosaur (who plays an important role in the story)! They train as Kung-fu masters with a Wise Old Sensei! Grow into young cave men! They return to the past and battle robo dinos to save the day! They find (in the case of Ook) young love!

Not the, um, typical, deeply nuanced sort of time travel book I generally review, but heck, the time machine is at the heart of the plot, and it is a temporal paradox that handily resolves everything (in a completely contradictory way, but whatever). It is a lot of fun, and one's boys pounce on it. Even though it's not going to help their spelling, it's a pleasure to watch them enjoying it (and I liked it too).

But when is Dav Pilkey going to write the rest of the Ricky Ricotta books for crying out loud? Me want them for me boys (I studied the handy guide to cave talk at the end of this book).

(Gluk is a cave boy of color, making this book a nice addition to my list of diverse sci fi/fantasy for kids. Adding more diversity are Master Wong and his daughter (edited to add) Lan (when I went back through the book to look for her name, I couldn't find it, so thanks, Anon. commentor, for letting me know she had one after all!)

8/23/10

Howl vs Eugenides...the clock is ticking!

There's a little less than an hour to go in the Epic Battle of Howl vs Eugenides. Who will triumph in the YA Fantasy Showdown? Much as I love Gen, I think Howl would win...but Gen is currently ahead by a nose....

It was fun being part of this, even though I was only in it at the beginning. Thanks, Heather, for making the last few days while we waited for Mockingjay such fun!

And if you haven't explored the YA Fantasy Showdown site thoroughly, do check out the Author Fights--

Bree Despain in Jace vs. Daniel
Sherwood Smith in Alanna vs. Meliara
Kara Dalkey in Lessa vs. Goranu

Speaking of Mockingjay, I'm suddenly, and very belatedly, hit by the realization that maybe I should have re-read the first two this week...I can't exactly remember what happened in Catching Fire in enough detail to be certain I'll appreciate every nuance of this one. And now I don't know what to do...

Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Cynthia Light Brown and Nick Brown; also--geological sci fi?

Nomad Press has a lovely non-fiction series, Explore Your World, that combines information about a variety of topics (here's the full list). My kids and I have enjoyed those that we've read, and the most recent to make it into our home was no exception.

Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Cynthia Light Brown and Nick Brown, is a straightforward introduction to geology, beginning with the planet itself, proceeding thought the various types of rock, and concluding with fossils. I particularly appreciated the discussion of the atomic underpinnings of minerals and crystals, which most geology books for kids (to the best of my knowledge) don't include:

"If you could explore the inside of a mineral and see its atoms, you would see that the atoms are held together in patterns. The pattern could be in the shape of a cube, a HEXAGON, or another shape. Geologists classify those patterns into six different groups depending on their shape. The pattern of atoms is repeated over and over again to build a crystal." (page 17)

There are many more details included, but this gives an idea of the level of the writing--straightforward, but instructive.

Hexagon, by the way, is in caps to show that it's one of the Words 2 Know, listed at the bottom of the page--handy, because words like "clastic" are challenging (even for grown-ups with a basic knowledge of geology).

The book includes twenty projects that are much more explorations than "crafts," and they bring to life the principles discussed most excellently. For instance, a metaphor of the earth is provided by a hard-boiled egg--a tactile representation of crust, mantle and core. Likewise, one can make a model of a salt crystal with gumdrops and toothpicks, basalt columns with cornstarch and water, and a sandwich with sedimentary layers. Each activity includes a "Things to Notice" section, to encourage Thought.

In short, a most excellent geology book for the young. I dunno if I'll ever get around to making basalt columns, but next time we have hard-boiled eggs, I'll certainly be bringing geology into the conversation....

(Bringing this on topic blog-wise, just because that's where my mind went-- geology isn't the science most widely featured in science fiction, but it sure comes in useful when exploring strange planets, and I think exo-geology is one of the most fascinating fields of study open to a sci fi character...But now I'm trying to think of some examples of geology in sci fi, I can only come up with three--Anne MacCaffery's Crystal Singer books, David Brin's Startide Rising, and The Green Book, by Jill Patton Walsh...what other good geological sci fi is there????)

The Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is at Playing By The Book today!

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)

8/22/10

A new poll--which Cybils sci fi/fantasy short-listed book do you love the best?

It is a chilly, grey evening here in southern New England; the rain, which made me happy at 6:00 a.m. (goodness knows we needed it), has overstayed its welcome. It cheered me no end, however, to see over at the Cybils blog the first stirrings of new life...with its promise of a new exciting season of book celebrating to come!

For those who don't know the Cybils, these are awards given by bloggers to books that combine quality writing and kid appeal. Since 2006, anyone who wanted to has nominated the books they loved best in a variety of categories, and panels of bloggers have created shortlists (I've been lucky enough to have been a panelist several times), and picked winners. The Cybils Shortlists are pretty much must read books in my opinion (many of them I Love, and there's only one I didn't enjoy at all. But not because it wasn't a good book).

And so, in an anticipatory spirit, I thought it would be fun to have a poll to see which, of all the books shortlisted in my favorite categories of sci fi/fantasy for middle grade and YA readers from 2006-2009, is the most best beloved! It's a long list--in 2006, there were only 5 books on the short list, but the astronomical increase in the number of books nominated meant that by 2009, middle grade and YA were two categories, with seven shortlisted books each.

Here's the poll; please vote for your favorite (incidently, when you look at the results, the grey bar goes with the book above it).




Which one do you like best?












































View Results
Create a Blog Poll



If that isn't a nice list of books, I don't know what is. And I am finding myself totally unable to pick just one, so maybe this whole poll thing was a bad idea....

This Sunday's Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy round-up

Here's this Sunday's round-up of blog posts about middle grade science fiction and fantasy! Please let me know what I missed!

Reviews:


The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, by Dav Pilkey, at The Excelsior File

Come Fall, by A.C.E. Bauer, at Charlotte's Library (now with new and improved spelling)

Crossing Over (Suddenly Suppernatural) by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, at Jean Little Library.

Haywired, by Alex Keller, at The Book Zone (for Boys)

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch, at Educating Alice.

The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks, at Middle Grade Ninja.

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, by James Rollins, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Karma Bites, by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas, at Welcome to My Tweendom

Lost, by Sarah Prineas, at By Singing Light.

Magic Below Stairs, by Caroline Stevermer, at By Singing Light.

Stoneheart, by Charlie Fletcher, at Bow. James Bow.

Taran Wanderer, by Lloyd Alexander, at Stella Matutina

Tower of Treasure, by Scott Chantler, at 100 Scope Notes

The Toymaker, by Jeremy de Quidt, at Charlotte's Library

Witch Baby and Me On Stage, by Debi Gliori, at Nayu's Reading Corner.

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams, by Rhonda Hayter, at Becky's Book Reviews

and at KidsBooksNZ, here are three mini reviews of new releases of a spooky/fantastical sort--Organ Music by Margaret Mahy, Boy Zero, Wannabe Hero: The petrifying plot of the plummeting pants, by Peter Millet, and A crack in the sky by Kyle Mewburn


Interviews:

Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (The Familiars), at YA Book Shelf, Brimful Curiosities, and The Book Smugglers.

Lukas Ritter (Monster Slayers) at Nina Hess.

Nick Ruth (The Dark Dreamweaver) at Shemika Eurton.

Briony Stewart (Kumiko and the Dragon) at Pardon My Ducks

Miscellany:

At Fuse #8 you can find The Hero Project: A Children's Literature Perspective, and at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles there's A Word About Witches.


I read with interest at Bibliolore (the best musicology blog I know of) that a new journal has arisen (possibly from the undead)--Horror Studies. The first issue includes such articles as this:
“Of submarines and sharks: Musical settings of a silent menace” by Linda Maria Koldau, an essay that explores how film composers have depicted the primal fear of the silent monster stealthily approaching from the depths."
And I can't resist borrowing Bibliolore's illustration of a WW II German submarine.

Free Blog Counter

Button styles