The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler

The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler (Penguin, April 2014, middle grade) -- a review in three acts.

Act 1:  In which we meet Alice, and the Library

Alice, who quickly becomes an orphan once she
a.  realizes she's the heroine of a middle grade fantasy
b.  loses her father to a mysterious boat accident in which a nasty insect fairy person might have had a hand

is taken in by her "kindly" uncle who has
a.  a big house
b.  a big house with really strange and creepy staff of two and no clear reason for putting Alice in a maid's room at the top of the house
c.  a Forbidden Library

and Alice of course enters the Forbidden Library and starts becoming embroiled in its secrets.

Act 2:  In which there are magical secrets revealed
Setting:  a library with lots of mysterious bookish passages, nooks, etc, as well as (more unusually) places where the ambiance and environment contained within particular books leaks out, causing physical ramifications.

In the library, Alice meets
a. a cat
b. a boy
both of whom strike up conversations with her,

And finds that
a.  it is possible to read oneself inside certain books, after inadvertently doing so and almost being killed by the cute little deadly killers trapped inside.
b.  She's really good at reading herself into books, and now has psychic control over the whole host of cute little deadly creatures (this comes in useful in Act 3)

[The book is illustrated, but the picture of these little creatures is the only one I noticed because the cuteness is just too cute.  Does anyone else read so fast you can't remember if a book was illustrated or not?]

Act 3--In which we learn that not everyone can be trusted and there were lots of things people weren't telling Alice

Turns out Alice is being used to do something magical that might have ramifications and there is Potentially Fatal Adventure involving the denizen of a very dangerous book indeed....

It's a perfectly fine fantasy adventure, with a nicely detailed and intricate plot and setting ( although I expected more actual bibliophilia).   Not a huge amount of emotional depth, but that's not a necessary prerequisite for middle grade reading enjoyment, and there was enough actual rational thought and sincere feeling on Alice's part to make her more than a place-holder.  She also gets points for pluck.

So basically, I enjoyed reading it just fine, can easily imagine lots of 11 year olds enjoying it, don't particularly want to urge it on adult readers of middle grade fantasy in a Read This Now because My God it is Brilliant way,  but wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from reading it either.   I will be reading the sequel; it ends at a good ending place but clearly there needs to be more.

Those who like The Books of Elsewhere series, by Jacqueline West (another trapped by magic story, though in paintings, not books, and another one with talking cats) might well enjoy this too. 

Here is the UK cover, which I personally prefer; the US cover makes me think of Poltergeist.


Waiting on Wednesday-- The Swallow: a Ghost Story, by Charis Cotter

I do not always see eye to eye with the folks reviewing middle grade fantasy books over at Kirkus, but still, when I read a Kirkus review that says "Middle-grade storytelling at its very best— extraordinary" my little eyes light up.   Although The Swallow: a Ghost Story, by Charis Cotter, sounds like one I'd have wanted to read regardless.....

"In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren't alone--they're actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so... ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose's name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family... before it's too late."

(I like a synopsis that makes good use of ellipses.)

And here's the Kirkus review.

Coming from Tundra Books, Sept. 9, 2014.

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


The Trolley to Yesterday, by John Bellairs, for Timeslip Tuesday

I feel that many people, knowing they will want to review a time travel book next Tuesday, will read one over the weekend.  And I wanted to...but there was the fence to put up, the sofa cushions to sew, the wood to stack, the birthday party for a child's friend to host at our house, and several etcs.  So when it became clear at c. 5pm today that I wasn't going to finish the book I'd wanted to review (The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare), I turned to a shorter book of yesteryear-- The Trolley to Yesterday, by John Bellairs (1989).   This is the sixth book in a series about Johnny Dixon and the eccentric professor who is his neighbor, but it can stand alone.

So the basic premise of the plot is that the professor has a time travelling trolley in the basement of his house, and has been using it to go back in time to watch the build up to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.   And Johnny and his friend Fergie intrude themselves into the trolley rides to the past.

Now, I myself would be surprised to find a neighbor had a time-travelling trolley, and had used it not only to go back to 1453, but also to ancient Egypt from whence he had returned with a minor Egyptian god nicknamed Brewster but Johnny and Fergie take it in their stride.  And it is good that they are able to accept the impossible, because back in time in Constantinople they get to experience--

--a boatload of Knights Templar ghosts
--a magical device, given to them by the ghost Templars, that acts as a magical transporter
--the original inventor of the time trolley, who for some time thinks he's a Venetian admiral
--a talking statue that makes them answer Roman trivia questions; if they can't, their stuck in the city's subterranean aqueduct forever
--Brewster's magical abilities

And the more mundane efforts of the professor to save the Christians who have taken refuge in the Hagia Sophia pale by comparison to all these divertissements.

What there is, clearly, is lots of story, and a lot of tense excitement as things get worse and worse for the time travelers and they are separated from their trolley ride home to the future by more and more people who want to kill them (both Christians inquisitors and Muslim invaders).   It was kind of like a time-travelling Mad Libs story.   As I read, I didn't bother to ask "what is happening?"  because there it all was, happening away, and though impossible and rather insane, it all followed a fairly linear path.   I did, however, ask "why are they so blasé about all this magic?" but I guess that's what a time-travelling trolley will do to a person.

I also asked the rather more interesting question "how is this book different from books published today?" and the main thing that struck me (apart from the fact that it was shorter) is that there is very little tension between the characters--there's no important emotional story arc, which I feel most middle grade fantasy books of today at least aspire to.  That's not to say there's no emotion--the friendship and not always amiable interactions between the two boys were just fine, and the emotional desperation of the people inside the besieged city was believably intense.  It's just that the same things would have happened to any old kids just about, and character development wasn't the point at all.

Oddly, Booklist called this one "perfect for the pre-Stephen King set" and I am really having trouble wrapping my head around this...there is no similarity, no sense that the Templar ghosts of today will become the dark horror of tomorrow.   It is just as perfect for the pre-Hemmingway set.

Publisher's Weekly said something I found odd as well--  "Bellairs's vision of Constantinople is as spooky as it is exotic" and I do not know at all what they mean by "exotic" because we barely see the place, unless they mean "not 20th century New York" which isn't saying much, or possibly exotic as in  "having magical talking statues guarding the aqueduct" which is saying more.  It is not exotic in the sense of providing a rich, detailed description of life in a different culture.

However, not all educational opportunities are lost--at least the young reader will know that Constantinople fell, and have a confused but vivid sense of how that day in history played out.

I myself have no desire to read any more John Bellairs, but I can see how the kids of 1989 who would have loved Harry Potter and Percy Jackson would have enjoyed his books.   And I can imagine, though with a tad more effort, kids of today enjoying this book, because it really was rather fun.

(fans of Edward Gorey will have noticed that he did the cover art; here's a post about the book's art at the Goreyana blog which has just distracted me more than somewhat.)


Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson -- Beowulf in the Florida swamps, with football

Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson (Random House, upper middle grade/younger YA, April 2014)

Charlie has come to the Florida sugar cane country for the funeral of his step-dad's foster father, football coach and mentor of generations of boys in a small town up against swampland.   There he meets Cotton, a second step-cousin his own age, who takes him exploring off the edge of town...and what they find there is the start of a battle against darkness.  For off in the swamp a dark, twisted mother is making the town's dead into zombie children.  And Charlie and Cotton are caught in an age old struggle between good and evil that they can't outrun.  Not matter how fast they are....

To my surprise and pleasure, it turned out that I was reading a Beowulf reimagining!   Grendel is played by the zombies, Grendel's mother is of course the mother down in the swamp, and Charlie is forced into the role of the hero!   Very cool.*   I don't think you have to know Beowulf to make sense of things, but it sure added a lot to my own reading pleasure.

But it's more than just a retelling.  It's also a story about family and coming to terms with the past.  Charlie's biological father, who ended up abusing him and his mother, is out of prison, and back in this same small town (he was a football player in sugar cane country too).  And it's a story with lots of football--Charlie's step-dad made it to the big leagues, and so is a returning hero, and just about all the boys in town are football crazy (note--in general, I have no desire to read about football, but I thought it added lots to this particular story).

It's not a story about race, but is a story in which some of the characters (like Charlie's step-dad) are black and some are white, and this is the way things are, and there are tensions but this is not the point.

It's also just a flat out good story.   The sense of place is really, really strong-you can almost feel the slash of the sugar cane on your face, and smell the dark stinking mud-- and it's a place that clearly has deep (and dark) history (a history in which the Native people are a key part, though they are not here in this place at the time of the telling).   Exploring this place, and learning its story, is what sets things in motion.

And Charlie and all the other extended cast of characters are great.  Charlie's step-dad is awesome, Cotton (forced to a high level of erudition by his home-schooling mama) is awesome, and Charlie himself is a character you can root for with conviction.

And on top of that, the whole story manages to fit inside 195 tight and succinct pages, without loosing any umph.   This friendly brevity, and all the football in the book, makes it a good one to offer the kid who likes Chris Crutcher...and who might be ready for a dark supernatural twist alongside the athletics!   It might also be a good one for fans of horror for kids who are now somewhat older.  Here is my idea of a the perfect reader-- the smart seventh through ninth grade ex-Goosebumps reader who plays football and who knows who Beowulf is.

Which is of course not exactly me, but I was also a good reader for it all the same, and enjoyed it lots.  It wasn't too icky, though it was scary (don't give this to a younger kid who gets scared) and tense and a panther dies (sad). There was never once so much non-stop unbroken action that I started skimming, and I loved the Beowulf references.

*A small pedantic note:  I hope future editions change "Welcome to my heriot" on page 118 to "Welcome to my Heorot"-- the first is a death-duty, the second the great hall in Beowulf.   Or even take it out altogether, as it calls for higher level Beowulfian knowledge than most of the target audience will have. Which leads to my one issue with the book--it would have been good if there had been more introduction to that story, because if you don't know it, you might find the references to things like Grendel's arm pretty meaningless.


How I presented at Kidlitcon, and how you can too!

Kidlitcon, the wonderful yearly gathering of book bloggers (Sacramento, October), is seeking proposals for sessions, and I have a rather personal interest in having lots of proposals come in, because I am the Program Organizer, and need program elements to organize.

So I thought to encourage folks to submit I would share the story (not very interesting, but there it is) of how I myself bravely submitted a session idea, and what happened next.

Be the conversation you want to have!
(this is the title of the story, not just a random marketing slogan)

The wonderful thing about Kidlitcon is talking to like-minded people about subjects of keenly shared interest.   But I wanted to make certain sure that the subject I most wanted to talk about, blogging middle grade books, was going to be discussed, and the only way to do this was to propose a session myself.    I didn't want to be all alone at the head of the room, so I asked the Kidlitosphere group* if there was anyone who would join me, and lo!  Katy of BooksYALove and Melissa of Book Nut became my comrades in presenting!

The actual session was tons of fun, with lively audience participation, and we all got so enthused talking about the second topic on the list we'd prepared that we never got to the rest.  (This second topic was the issue of  "boy book/girl book" -- gendered marketing, reader/parent bias, individual readers vs gender blocks, the idea that boys don't read girl books, or don't read at all, etc etc. (This could be a session all by itself, with YA books and picture books too.)

This year there's a Theme to Kidlitcon--Blogging Diversity (and here's one of the organizers, Tanita Davis, talking about what we mean when we talk about diversity).   But!  (I will make it an even bigger BUT!!!)  This does not mean that diversity will be the only thing talked about.  On Friday there will be times where there are two sessions at the same time, and so there will be room for general bloggish sessions as well as those focusing on diversity.    I hope that lots of bloggers come who have never been to a Kidlitcon before, who haven't had a chance to talk about some of the topics that have come up in the past, and I want to be sure that there are things on the program to inspire and enthuse them (not that diversity sessions won't inspire and enthuse, but I want entry level sessions too).

Here's a sample Kidlitcon schedule (from 2011)--take a look, and think about what conversations you want at this year's conference! 

The deadline for proposals is August 1; here is the submission form.  If you think you might want to talk about something but are uncertain, do feel free to email me (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com), and I will offer advice, encouragement, the possibility of matchmaking with others interested in the same topic, etc., to the best of my ability.

(and if you have never been before, and are on the fence about even coming, here are recap posts that some of us who went to Austin last year wrote.  None of us regretted it....)

 *a Yahoo list for children's book bloggers; more info. on how to join here

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (7.27.14)

The last round-up of July....please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Ability, by M.M. Vaughan, at CSL Children's Department Blog

Blue Moon, by James Ponti, at The Book Monsters

Blue Sea Burning, by Geoff Rodkey, at The Book Monsters

The Broken King, by Philip Womack, at Our Book Reviews Online

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Fairy Luck, by J.L. Bryan, at Word Spelunking

The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen, at A Tapestry of Words

Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell, by Jen Barton, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Fog of Forgetting, by G.A. Morgan, at Charlotte's Library (with necklace giveaway!)

Hollow Earth, by John and Carol E. Barrowman, at Second Childhood Reviews

The Hound of Rowan, by Henry H. Neff, at Leaf's Reviews

How I Became a Ghost, by Tim Tingle, at Guys Lit Wire

Hunt for the Hydra, by Jason Fry, at alibrarymama 

The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Waking Brian Cells

Magic in the Mix, by Annie Barrows, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Log Cabin Library

Nightingale's Nest, by Nikki Loftin, at Good Books and Good Wine

Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr, at Books & Other Thoughts

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, at Wandering Librarians

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve, at The Hiding Spot books4yourkids and In Bed With Books

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at Fantasy Book Critic and Good Reads with Ronna

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, at The Write Path'

Skullduggery Pleasant, books 1-3, by Derek Landy, at Woven Magic

The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale, at Hit or Miss Books

The Swap, by Megan Shull, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile
and Once Upon a Twilight

A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, at Librarian of Snark

Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul, by Michelle Isenhoff, at Christina Mercer

The Terror of the Southlands, by Caroline Carlson, at Wandering Librarians

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Word Spelunking

Zombie Baseball Beatdown, by Paolo Bacigalupi, at Nerdy Book Club

a two-fer (sp?) at the Social Potato--The Luck Uglies and The Eighth Day

and another two-fer at Ms. Yingling Reads-- The Gloomy Ghost, by David Lubar, and  File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents (All The Wrong Questions #2.5) by Lemony Snicket
The Avatar Battle, by Chad Morris, at The Write Path

Other Good Stuff

A Kidlitcon 2014 update from Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page,  and at KidLitosphere Central, Tanita asks "What do we mean when we talk about diversity....and how you can contribute to the conversation."  The deadline for session proposals is August 1st.

And speaking of diversity, here's a nice list of mg sff fantasy books that fit the bill at Girls in Capes!

And here's another good list, of magical time travel books, at Views from the Tesseract  (when I started reviewing a time travel book every Tuesday, four years ago, I thought I would run out of books in about five or six years.  How wrong I was!)

Did you ever read E. Nesbit's story for younger children, The Book of Dragons?  It's a collection of eight lovely dragon stories.   At Oz and Ends, I just learned that a comics adaptation of the story is in the works from online comics magazine Off Registration, with help from Kickstarter.


Wondering what favorite authors will publish next (and hoping that the answer is "something" even if googling won't tell you more)

One of the nice (?) things about being a fan of Megan Whalen Turner is that you know she is working on the next book and the years and years it will take will result in a good book.  But lately, looking at my bookshelves, I have found myself wondering in a somewhat anxious way how certain other authors I like very much are doing. 

Sometimes this wondering leads to happiness.  Lena Coakly, for instance, wrote a book, Witchlanders about which I said "it's a cold, clear read of a book, that made lovely pictures in my mind" and I continue to be convinced it would appeal lots and lots to boys moving past the Ranger's Apprentice series.  So there I was looking at Witchlanders, and wondering if I should offer it to my 11 year old now, or wait, and I thought, wow, 2011--that's a long time ago, and I became anxious, hoping she was still writing, wondering if I'd missed a book....and lo!  A visit to her website last week let me know she was writing away...a visit just now has information about her new book!

"Keep an eye out for WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW, my forthcoming book from Abrams (US) and Harper Collins (Canada).  What’s it about?
On a lonely Yorkshire moor, young Charlotte Bronte must save her siblings and herself when they are haunted by the characters they themselves created."

So that is good.

But gee, I wish English author Caro King would write another book.  Her Seven Sorcerors duology is really really good, and Kill Fish Jones is rather brilliant in a darkly funny, thought-provoking way.  She has no website; there is no news.  

I just visited Rebecca Barnhouse's website--Coming of the Dragon and Peaceweaver are lovely historical fantasy, and Peaceweaver came out in 2012...so maybe the next one is coming?  will there be a next one?  will there ever be anything again?  I found some comfort in placing a book of hers for adults on my shopping list (Recasting the Past: the Middle Ages in Young Adult Literature), but that's not the same as another story.

And Elizabeth Bunce is an author who hasn't yet written a book I've fall in love with, but her books, especially StarCrossed, came close enough that I am full of hope that her fourth one will be the charm.   Let us check her website....nothing about a new book.

So anyway, on general principals I send lots of hopeful and encouraging thoughts through the ether to all authors (whether I know them or not) who might be writing books I will love. 

Who are you hoping will write another book sooner rather than later?

Mrs. Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life 1812-1823

Before my sister comes to visit me, she peruses the holdings of the Rhode Island library system, and when she arrives, there are her books.  On her last visit, she thoughtfully chose one I'd never heard of, which I enjoyed very much.

Mrs. Hurst Dancing is a gem of a book.  It is a collection of the water-colors of a young Regency woman, Diana Sperling, in which she's captured the daily lives of her brothers, sisters, parents and guests.  There are dances and donkey rides, sometimes ending in falling off the donkey.  There are expeditions in the countryside, sometimes involving fierce campaigns against wasps' nests, and journeys, sometimes involving getting stuck in the mud.  And these are lovely pictures, in the sense that they make these people from the past seem real and friendly. 

But what is more unexpected, and more delightful, are the pictures of the Sperling family throwing themselves with gusto in any domestic activity that might be of interest.  There's  scene of chicken chasing, and a lovely picture (I think it's my favorite) entitled "Mrs Sperling murdering flies--assisted by her maid who received the dead and wounded."   Mrs. Sperling is perilously standing tiptoe on the windowsill, swatting at a fearsome swarm, while the maid, perched on the chair-rail and clinging to the curtain, catches corpses in  basket....

And there's a lovely picture of brother Henry electrifying a chain of the others which his hand-cranked generator!

So if you are at all a fan of Regency books, do get a hold of this one--it is delightful.

If you live in Rhode Island--I'm about to return Mrs. Hurst to the stacks, and it will be up for grabs again!


The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew (First Second, July 15, 2014, YA) is a graphic novel about a boy who becomes a superhero... Green Turtle, the first Asian American superhero!

During the Golden Age of superhero comics, the 1940s, the Green Turtle burst onto the scene to fight for China against the invading Japanese.   Created by Chu Hing, a Chinese American cartoonist, it's probable he too was intended by his creator to be Chinese, though his face was never shown clearly enough to be certain.  He didn't burst with any success--there are just five issues about his adventures, and there were no clues about his origins.

Now we have that backstory.   In The Shadow Hero, Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew tell of how Hank, a boy born to Chinese immigrant parents becomes an unlikely and at first unwilling hero, pushed by his mother and assisted by the great Turtle Spirit of China.   When his gentle shopkeeper father is killed by the Chinese mafia, Hank is determined to get revenge...and so the Green Turtle bursts onto the scene!

It's a story of much more than superhero adventures--it's historical fiction, as well, creating a vivid picture (lots of pictures, actually, cause of it being a graphic novel), of life in a Chinese community in California before WW II.   And it's a coming of age story of the classic sort--a boy compelled to grow up and embrace challenges he never particularly wanted.   And it's the sum of these parts, resulting in an exciting, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant story, with a lovely little twist right at the end that brings the themes of immigration and identity into zesty focus!

And as a bonus, there's an appendix in which the story of the original Green Turtle is thoughtfully explained, and the first issue of his adventures is reproduced (complete with an advertisement urging the "fellers" to send away for a ju-jitsu course...).

Short answer:  Mind-broadening and entertaining, with an appealing hero and great artwork.

Note on age:  it's very much YA in terms of theme, and there's the expected violence (distressing at times, though not gorey).   So not one for the little kid running around in a cape, but more for readers of 12 and up, who might still have their capes but don't wear them in public anymore.


The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, YA, July 8, 2014), is an absolutely top-notch exposition of its subject.  It's a pretty gripping story, of course, and reading this book is much like watching a train wreck in progress.  But even knowing the horrible inevitability of the end doesn't make the journey less suspenseful.

Fleming's beautifully lucid prose humanizes its subjects without straying into any sort of overly emotional intimacy--their story is  fascinating one, and they are fascinating people, and she is wise enough to let the primary sources and the facts of the matter speak for themselves without distracting authorly adornment.    It is narrative non-fiction of the sort that makes the people whose lives are recounted believable, without straying into speculation about things we can never know.  And Fleming doesn't tell the reader what to think, meaning that the reader is left with lots of room for independent pondering.

Interspersed in the account of the Romanovs--Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children--are primary sources that give voice to other Russians--the peasants, the workers, the ordinary people.  It is a tremendously effective approach.  Not only does it break up the primary narrative in a friendly sort of way for those with shorter attention spans, but it makes the whole state of affairs in Russia much more vividly real.  Numerous photographs, not just of the Romanovs and Rasputin, but of the world they lived in (including horrific images from WW I), also bring the past to life.

 I never thought I would really truly have a grasp on this period of Russian history (and the causes of World War I--it's the best two page discussion of this I've ever read), but this book has managed to educate me most beautifully.   But though I appreciate being educated immensely, I appreciate even more the fact that I sincerely enjoyed the reading of the book.   It's maybe marketed to YA audiences, but there absolutely no reason why even older adults won't like it too.

(includes bibliography, footnotes, and index)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares, for Time Slip Tuesday

The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares (Delacorte Press, YA, April 2014).

It is a bad future.   Messed up climate.  Plauges.  Scarcity.  Death from plagues.  Hopelessness....But no, there is hope!  With the help of newly perfected time travel, the future can be ameliorated!

Except that a whole bunch of time travelers arrive in our United States and don't actually want to mess anything up--they are too busy not being in the bad future.  And to make sure that their comfy present isn't jeopardized, the leaders of the time travelers make it their priority to enforce Rules, in a nasty, private little dystopia way of their own.

Our heroine, Prenna, is a traveller from the future and after a few years crash course in "passing" she is a (still an odd-ballish) high school student.  Our hero, Ethan, is a normal enough high school boy...who saw her arrive (though she doesn't remember it), and won't stop being her friend.  Even though close contact with the natives is one of the things forbidden to Prenna....

And so things would have gone on uneventfully enough, with Prenna pushing at the rules, and Ethan pushing at her differences (in a nice way--I like Ethan) except that......

There are other time travelers.   And not everyone wants one-way trip to the past to be just a staycation.  Some want to change it.  And one such man tells Prenna secrets she was never supposed to learn.  What he tells her sends Prenna and Ethan fleeing from the time traveler community to try to save the future....and to enjoy as deeply as possible being together in the present they're about to try to change, for as long as they can.

So although this might seem like Romance Time Travel, there's actually a lot more too it.  It's also Stranger in a Strange Land time travel, and two people from different places trying to connect story, and young person questioning assumptions story, as well as two people falling in love and exploring all of that together, and it's really quite interesting once it all gets going.   Not paradigm-shifting interesting of a deeply moving kind, but a good read.

It is, however, not desperately fast to get going--I really truly didn't need to be told with quite so heavy a hand how Ethan understood Prenna.  And the time travel paradoxes make me a bit nervous--Ethan and Prenna really do change time so that the future is different, which should mean Prenna not being Prenna....but sometimes, when reading travel, "whatever" is the best way to simply enjoy a good story.

And it is not one I would give to the sci fi/speculative fiction fan; it's more one, I think, for the high school relationship fan who wants something with a bit of a twist (that doesn't involve vampires).  It doesn't have the full on, gritty, really high stakes feel of a full-blown dystopia; it's more a story using speculative fiction elements to get to the relationship between the two main characters.   To like the story, you have to like Prenna and Ethan, and kind of let the glimpses of the future and the action in the present just carry you along.

So sort of a restful, escapist, romantic spec. fic. with dystopian elements, good for beach reading.


The Fog of Forgetting, by G.A. Morgan, with beautiful necklace giveaway!

The Fog of Forgetting (Book 1 of The Five Stones trilogy) by G.A. Morgan. (Islandport Press, middle grade/YA, July 17, 2014)

The three Thompson brothers--Chase (13), Knox (11),  and Teddy (6)--expected an ordinary summer in family house on the coast of Maine.   They didn't expect to have new neighbors--Evelyn (13) and Frankie (9), orphaned by the Haitian earthquake.   And they most certainly didn't expect that a forbidden excursion out on the waters of coastal Maine would take them through a mysterious fog to a magical land, from which there is (apparently) no returning.

There they find themselves in the middle of a struggle between the powers ruling four different realms, each attuned to one of the four elements.  Three of the rulers seek balance; the four, mastery over all, and unless he is stopped, the conflict could spill over to the ordinary world.   And there the five children find within themselves sufficient strengths to survive the challenges this conflict throws at them, and gain gifts from the magic of the various realms to which they find themselves attuned.   Chase, for instance, finds himself drawn to the element of air, and in the cold of the mountains, the asthma that has plagued him all his life is vanquished by magical healing.

The fantasy elements of The Fog of Forgetting are solid--those who enjoy kids encountering dangers and magics (with some lessons in sword-fighting) will like it.   This aspect of the story is strong enough to carry a group of kids who seem at first  unappealing (young Frankie excepted--the story of her kidnapping by the evil forces, and the unexpected friend she made in her journey, is my favorite part of the book).  But as the kids move past their bickering, lack of respect for each other, and lack of common sense, they are given a chance to become characters the reader can care for, caught up in a sweeping story given depth by the philosophy underlying the fantasy.

I'm awfully pleased to be able to offer a most excellent giveaway in conjunction with this review.  The magic of each of the realms within the story is tied to a gemstone, and there are a limited number of necklaces with these stones to be won!  This lovely Varuna necklace could be yours; just leave a comment below by 12 noon next Monday, July 28th!

Visit these blogs this week for chance to win other necklaces!
Moving on from my own take on the book to a look at what Kirkus said about it, because I have Issues....Kirkus says that "Morgan’s ambitious debut novel, the first book in the Five Stones Trilogy, has a mildly British feel to it, with vague nods to Swallows and Amazons and Harry Potter."   I guess I can see the "mildly British feel" (though I think I would say English)--there are more books set in England  in which children pass into magical realms than there are books with American kids, in America, doing the same.    Harry Potter...uh, no.  This is an adventure fantasy, with treks through hostile landscapes, meetings with mythical powers, sword-fighting.    The only similarity I saw is the age of the protagonists.  And Swallows and Amazons? No.  Swallows and Amazons is all about deep imaginative play (with sailboats involved) and just because this adventure starts with a (motor) boat doesn't mean it has anything in common with S. and A.  

Disclaime: review copy received from the publisher


The week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (20 July, 2014)

Here's this week's round-up; as usual, please let me know if I missed your post!  Thanks.

The Reviews

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass, at Books Beside My Bed

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, at Bookends  and Mister K Reads

The Burning Shadow, by Michelle Paver, at The Book Monsters

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man, by Lloyd Alexander, at Fantasy Literature

The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau, at That's Another Story 

The Extraordinary Book of Doors, by Anne E.G. Nydam, at Charlotte's Library

Fire and Ice (Spirit Animals Book 4), by Shannon Hale, at proseandkahn

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, by Kirsty Murray, at Charlotte's Library

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm, at Mom Read It

Hell Hound Curse (Sammy Feral's Diaries of Weird), by Eleanor Hawkin, at Nayu's Reading Corner

House of Dark Shadows, by Robert Liparulo, at Time Travel Times Two

Minion, by John David Anderson, at This Kid Reviews Books and Charlotte's Library

My  Zombie Hamster, by Havelock McCreely,  at Wondrous Reads

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Great Imaginations, Reader Noir, and Lunar Rainbows

Of Sorcery and Snow (Ever Afters #3) by Shelby Bach, at Log Cabin Library 

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve, at Mom Read It and Carstairs Considers

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at Evelyn Ink

Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, at By Singing Light

Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain, by Richard Roberts, at alibrarymama

The Savage Fortress, by Sarwat Chadda, at books4yourkids

Silent Starsong, by T.J. Wooldridge, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia 

Timesmith, by Neil Bushnell, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

The Tomb of Shadows (Seven Wonders book 3), by Peter Lerangis, at Ms. Yingling Reads

A World Without Princes, by Soman Chainani, at The B.O.B and  Good Books and Good Wine (audiobook review)

The Vengekeep Prophecies, by Brian Farrey, at Here There Be Books

Authors and Interviews

G. A. Morgan (The Fog of Forgetting) at On Starships and Dragonwings 

More Good Stuff...

...and lots of it, at Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature where stories that didn't make it into the book of the same title are shared.  Go there now, if you haven't yet, because the number of great stories keeps growing, and you could find yourself spending hours of catch up time there.....

A lovey list of scary stories from Kell Andrews (Deadwood) at Project Mayhem  and more scariness and danger from School Library Journal

And finally, registration is now open for Kidlitcon 2014!


Minion, by John David Anderson

Minion, by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, June 2014, upper middle grade, but pushing toward YA), is a riveting tale of a 13-year-old kid with super-powers, set set in the same world as last year's Sidekicked, but with all new characters.

Under different circumstances, Michael could have been a super hero, or at least a sidekick.   He has the power to control people's minds (if he's making eye contact, and can keep his focus...).   But Michael wasn't raised to be one of the good guys.  Plucked from a Catholic orphanage while still a boy, he was adopted by a brilliant inventor who sells his creations to the highest bidder.  The inventions are not of a warm, fuzzy sort, and the bidder in question is the head of one of the local organized crime syndicates.  And Michael's new dad isn't adverse to using the power of mind control to keep the cash coming in between inventions.

But Michael loves his dad, and after all, his powers aren't really hurting anyone much....and so he lives a somewhat lonely life, homeschooled and isolated, hanging out with a crime family minion, hypnotizing strangers at ATMs, and helping out on the experiments in the basement.

Then a new type of crime comes to town--one that transcends ordinary thuggery.  And there to stop it is a new superhero--the Blue Comet!

The clash of superhero and supervillian shakes Michael's world to its foundations.  Michael's powers and his dad's almost preternatural inventing genius become valuable commodities in the struggle....and Michael finds himself faced with a choice that will change the course of his life.  Minion....or good guy, whatever good guy might mean.

It's an interesting premise--this whole question of good vs evil--but it's by no means a heavy-handed moral story.  Instead, it's more like a mystery with nuance.   Things grow progressively more complicated, what with hidden identities,  villains hatching plots, and the family secrets that Michael didn't even know were there.    This tension, coupled with a cast of (mostly) likable, always interesting, characters keeps the pages turning nicely.

I think Michael is a tremendously relatable young teen--behind the excitement of the struggle of villains and heroes the heart of the book is about growing up, questioning your parents, thinking about relationships, etc.--all the things that young teens are thinking about!  Except that most young teens aren't in danger of being exploited by criminal masterminds on account of their super-powers....

Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher as part of the Minion blog tour--there's one last stop tomorrow, at Literacy Toolbox!  


The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, by Kirsty Murray, for Timeslip Tuesday

I have a lovely one for this week's Timeslip Tuesday-- The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, by Kirsty Murray (Allen and Unwin, July 2014 in the US, 2013 in Australia).  I am not alone in thinking it is lovely--it won Best Children's Book in last year's Aurealis Awards (Australian awards for spec. fic.). 

Eleven-year old Lucy must go stay alone with her eccentric old aunt in the old over-grown family home out in the bush.  Her older sister Diana, studing music in France, had an accident and is in a coma, and her mother has gone to Paris to be with her.  Her father must travel for work.  So the only option is Aunt Big.

Lucy is not happy.  She's anxious for her sister, very uncertain about gruff Aunt Big, and pretty sure she'll be bored alone in the middle of no-where (with no electronic devices on hand).   When she first sees the painted room downstairs--each wall decorated with the surronding landscape, one wall for each season--she doesn't care for it--she feels the outside should stay out.

But then one night Lucy cannot sleep...and magic happens when she enters the painted room, and follows the girl in the picture of spring who is calling to her.

And Lucy is back in the late 1930s, with a girl named April who could almost have been her twin, who lives in the same old family house, in this time a loved and lived in home.   Lucy travels through each season in turn, growing closer to April, her siblings, and her friend Jimmy.   Twice she is a hero, thanks to her study of Bush Fire Safty pamphelts at Aunt Big's house in the present, and thanks to her lifesaving course.  

But when she realizes who April will become, and what will happen to April's brother Tom, she wants to try to change the past....

And all the while in the present Lucy and Aunt Big are growing closer together to, in a most satisfying way.

I enjoyed it thorougly. The mystery of who April is is easy to guess, but that makes the interactions of Lucy and her aunt more meaningful.

If you are at all a fan of Tom's Midnight Garden, you must read it.   If you are a fan of intergenerational friendships, read it.   If you like lovely descriptions of beautiful places, and kids being kids, read it. 

Possibly my personal favorite book of the year so far (but then, I love old-fashioned British stories about kids sent off to old relations in the country, which is what this felt like, and I love gentle, episodic time-travel, so it was pretty much tailor-made for me!)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


The Extraordinary Book of Doors, by Anne E.G. Nydam

I'm always a sucker for magical books within books (twice the bookish fun for the reading!), and the 16th-century tome that gives its name to The Extraordinary Book of Doors, by Anne E.G. Nydam (Createspace, 2014), is a lovely one indeed, opening up fantastic adventures for two ordinary kids.

It begins with Chen Connolly finding a copy of Serlio's Extraordinary Book of Doors seemingly abandoned beneath a park bench in Cleveland.  The book is what it sounds like--Serlio was a tremendously influential Renaissance architect, and this book is essentially a illustrated catalogue of doors.  But the book is magical.  The embossed key on the cover detaches, allowing Chen to travel through the doors to the buildings that wait inside them.

And at the same time, a quirky girl named Polly in Massachusetts comes upon a second copy of the book, one that belonged to Benjamin Franklin.  Her book and key work the same way...but on the backs of each door, Franklin has left cryptic clues--and if they can be solved, they'll provide the information needed to claim a bequest Franklin established during his lifetime to be used for humanitarian and educational purposes.

Polly and Chen meet through the interconnectedness of the doors in their two books, and set off on a journey of exploration that takes them across the world as they try to solve Franklin's riddles.  But there's a third copy of the book, and its unscrupulous owner is after the Franklin fortune too.  At just about every step of their way Polly and Chen find themselves in a struggle to keep their own books from falling into his hands as they race to solve the mystery before its too late....

It is an absolutely lovey premise, made even more so by the black and white illustrations of doors drawn by the author (some based on Serlio's doors, some imaginary) included throughout!  And it's an exciting adventure, too, given depth by the friendship, at first uncertain, that grows between Chen and Polly.

It's a good one for kids who like heist stories that come with magical twists.  By the end of the book, the magical exploration of the doorways is secondary to the danger posed by the rival treasure hunter, with the excitement of outwitting him (by the skin of their teeth) and solving the clues taking center stage.

Do not be deterred by the fact that this is a self-published book--I noticed no infelicities of editing (such as are found, all too often, here at my own blog; sigh).

Bonus:  Chen is adopted, presumably from China (his given name is a Chinese surname, sometimes used in the US as a first name) making this one for my list of multicultural speculative fiction books.

Secondary bonus:  probably I was taught about Serlio somewhere back in the day, but I'd forgotten about him.  I feel better educated now.  I also feel like drawing doors.

disclaimer: review copy received from the author.


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (July 13, 2014)

Not much from me in this week's round-up...summer is always more work than I think it's going to be.  But here's what I found from others; let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield, by John Bemelmans Marciano, at Always in the Middle

The Cabinet of Curiosities, by Stefan Bachmann et al., at A Reader of Fictions and Views From the Tesseract

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at The Book Smugglers  and The Book Wars

The Crown of Dalemark, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Tale of the Marvelous

The Dark Hills Divide, by Patrick Carman, at 300 Pages

The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni, at Kidliterate

A Grimm Warning (Land of Stories 3), by Chris Colfer, at Mugglenet.com

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, by Scott Nash, at Mister K Reads

Lost Children of the Far Islands, by Emily Raabe, at The Hiding Spot

The Lost Conspiracy, by Frances Hardinge, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Minion, by John David Anderson, at Shae Has Left the Room

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Phillip Reeve, at Log Cabin Library and Dee's Reads

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, at Librarian of Snark

Rose, by Holly Webb, at Bookyurt

The Sasquatch Escape, by Suzanne Selfors, at books4yourkids

The School For Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, at Quinn's Book Nook (audio review)

The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Guys Lit Wire

Sky Raiders, by Brandon Mull, at Bluerose's Heart

Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz, at mstamireads

A Tale of Time City, by Diana Wynne Jones, at alibrarymama

The Truth Against the World, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (technically this is YA, but it's a great one for upper middle grade readers too....) at Charlotte's Library

A World Without Princes, by Soman Chainani, at Elfswood

Author and Interviews

John David Anderson (Minion) at Middle Grade Mafioso, The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia, and at Candace's Book Blog (giveaway)

Emily Raabe (Lost Children of the Far Islands) at The Hiding Spot

Other Good Stuff

Tor does a nice re-cap of what we learned from the recent Harry Potter short story.

I just found out (or possibly was reminded, I'm not sure) Terry Pratchett has signed a book deal for "Dragons at Crumbling Castle."  Read more here at Fantasy Fiction.

"White Ladies" at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

A new issue of Middle Shelf Magazine is up!

Next weekend there's a mini-Bloggiesta--always good for meeting new folks and sprucing up the blog!

And speaking of meeting new folks, here's Jen Robinson at the Nerdy Book Club talking about why KidLitCon is such a lovely thing (do try to make it this October!)


The Big Book of Superheroes, by Bart King

If you are looking for a book to give a handy tenish-year-old this summer, especially if you are anxious for a book that will lure in the "reluctant reader" and make them laugh, look no further than The Big Book of Superheroes, by Bart King  (Gibbs Smith, April 1, 2014--an excellent publication day for this!)

In a nutshell, this book is 278 pages of superhero fun, full of information on what it takes to be a superhero (stuffed with tidbits of information about the genuine articles), full of activities to help you become one, and generously sprinkled with humor.

Warning: some of the humor is of the potty kind, which strangely appeals less to the grown-up reader.  But despite that, I found myself enjoying the book so much that in the middle of my first reading I summoned my younger child to sit next to me on the sofa so that we could enjoy it together, and he was hooked, and it went off to camp with him the next day.

Sure I enjoyed learning about superheroes I'd never heard of (though I really wish the author had reassured me that they were all real.  I was so full of doubt when I hit "Squirrel Girl" I had to run upstairs to google search... "her ability to control squirrels is surprisingly effective," says Wikipedia).   But what I really loved about this book was that Bart King has a lovely dryish wit to his style, laughing at absurdities while still treating this whole superhero thing and its long history more or less respectfully (and I love that there's a generous bibliography, including secondary sources, included).

Two more good things:

--It is friendly to both girls and boys--superhero-ness doesn't default to boy-ness, and look at that pink-haired girl on the cover!  There is also room for kids of color to see themselves--the boy on the cover can be read as African American or Hispanic (kids in the interior illustrations, though drawn in black and white, also don't necessarily default to white).

--The generous inclusion of black and white comics, and the short text blocks make this a friendly one for the text-uncertain.

Just to give you a taste of the book, here's how it starts:

"I have good news.  By reading these words, you just became an honorary superhero.  Yay!

But maybe you're wondering, "What is a superhero, anyway?"  It's simple- a superhero is anyone who wants to fight evildoers and right wrongs.  These could be small wrongs, like:

"Who used up all the toilet paper?"

Or it might be a big wrong, like:

"Who used up all of the toilet paper in the Secret Lair?"

Of course, you can do things your way.  Instead of fighting evildoers, you might want to argue with them.  (I'm pretty sure this isn't as successful, though.)" (page 9)

(I love italics.)

Short answer:  it's great.  But even better than giving this one to your own child might be to give it to someone else's child.  That way you don't have to worry about the squirting toilet prank...

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


The Truth Against the World, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Books like The Truth Against the World, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (Flux, June 2014, upper Middle Grade/younger YA), are exactly the reason I call it "Timeslip Tuesday" instead of "Time Travel Tuesday."    Without the concept of time-slipping, I'd have to call this one a ghost story.  And indeed there is a ghost--a sad little Welsh ghost girl--but there are also dreams that break down the barriers of past and present, and are more like windows into the past.....

The dreams are dreamt by an American girl, Wyn (short for Olwen), who's Welsh great-grandma, Rhiannon, is dying.  Rhiannon wants to go home to Wales one last time before the end, and so Wyn and her parents travel with  her.  And Wyn begins to dream, and begins, through her dreaming, to realize that her great-grandmother has been holding memories that she has never shared.    There is a mystery to be unraveled about what happened to Rhiannon in the years just after WW II....

And also caught in the same mystery is London boy named Gareth, whose Great-granddad lives in the same village where Riannon was from.   There in Wales Gareth meets a the little ghost girl...and she is very instant that he come back to keep her company.  So much so that her image, her song, her words begin to haunt him even back in London.  Her name, like Wyn's, is Olwen Nia Evans.  And thanks to Google, Gareth finds the American Wyn, and they meet in Wales.

The ghost Olwen seems desperate for them to find out her story.  But Rhiannon is dying, and has no strength to re-tell her past, and others in the village who might no the truth seem determined to keep it buried.   But the dreams keep coming to Wyn, showing her the past....and at last she and Gareth find out what really happened long ago.

(That's the part that makes this a timeslip story--they are very vivid dreams, such that she is an on-looker.  And at one point she's so almost present that someone in the past seems to see her, which clinched it in my mind).

This one was an excellent read for me this past week--enough happens in terms of the slow progression of the mystery and in the friendship between Wyn and Gareth that I was satisfied without being over-whelmed (though those who like Fast Paced Excitement and lots of onward rush might, however, find it too slow).   I very much enjoyed visiting Wales for the first time with Wyn--cool and green, which was also just what I was wanting!  Even though I guessed who the ghost girl must be pretty quickly, I still enjoyed watching the gradual unfolding of the clues.

I think this would be a lovely one to give to a dreamy 11- 13 year old girl (grades 6-8), one who's not ready for full blown YA romantic sci fi/fantasy -- and I am thinking that at that age I might well have been naïve enough not to have guessed who little ghost Olwen was.   

(Speaking of naiveté-- I think it's good to have books like this that gently push young readers toward adult concepts, like sex having consequences, keeping it off to the side with secondary characters in the past, and no graphic content at all.   Some readers charge forward, others need to be nudged....and this is a nice nudge level book.)

Note: if you see a picture of this book for sale, don't be put off by its appearance of wear and tear!  That is part of the cover design--a sort of metaphoric layering of the old within the new just as happens in the story.

disclaimer:  Sarah is a friend of mine--she told me about this one way back last fall when we were room-mates at KidLitCon in Austin, and I have been dying to read it ever since!


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi/fantasy goodness from around the blogs (7/6/14)

Here is this week's round-up, a little late today, because of spending the morning tyring to wrest a living from the hostile soil etc (ie, weeding) and difficulties wresting a computer away from hostile young (mine is not working) and difficulties putting down, of all things, Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which came up in conversation yesterday, as sometimes happens, even to the best of us.

If I missed your post, I'm sorry.  Let me know, and I will add it!

The Reviews:

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, at Fantasy Literature

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merre Haskill, at Kid Lit Geek and Semicolon

Clone Catcher, by Alfred Slote, at Views From the Tesseract

Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede, at 300 Pages

The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen, at Tales of the Marvelous

The Feral Child, by Che Golden, at Tea in the Teacups

The Glass Sentence, by S. E. Grove, at Book Nut

The Interrupted Tale, by Maryrose Wood, at Sonderbooks 

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis, at Puss Reboots

Key to Kashdune, by Claudia White, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books 

The Lost Kingdom, by Matthew Kirby, at Mister K Reads

The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Akossiwa Ketoglo

Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, by Brian Falkner, at Kid Lit Reviews

Minion, by John David Anderson, at Ms. Yingling Reads and The Book Monsters 

Missing, Presumed Evil, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, at Speculating on SpecFic

Northwood, by Brian Faulkner, at The Write Path

Saving Lucas Biggs, by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague, at Semicolon 

The School For Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, at Hidden in Pages

The Spellcoats, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Tales of the Marvelous

The Spirit Animal series, by various authors, at alibrarymama

The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White, at Waking Brain Cells

Authors and Interviews

Paul Durham (The Luck Uglies) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

John David Anderson (Minion) at The Book Monsters

Other Good Stuff

The Guardian Children's Prize Longlist has been announced.  (The Dark Wild, sequel to The Last Wild, is on it....I have had Last Wild for months and months, but not yet read it sigh.)

Book fun places to go with kids in England at Playing by the Book with special attention to "A Viking's Guide to Deadly Dragons"

A nice list of ten Diverse spec fic stories at Views From the Tesseract

Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday, has died (I have never read Freaky Friday, and feel vaguely that I should).

And----- The Call for Proposals for KidLitCon 2014 is now live!  (Please come to Sacramento this fall--I am going and I would like you all to be there too.)


Call for session proposals-- Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?

Last March, Walter Dean Myers asked "Where are the People of Color in Children's Books?"  and the spring was filled with passionate conversations sparked by his words.   The sad news just went out that Walter Dean Myers left us yesterday, and the loss is huge.

Today, just before the news broke, the call for session proposals for this year's Kidlitcon was posted.  The theme this year--Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?--was chosen to keep the conversation going, in the hope that someday Walter Dean Myers' question won't make any sense at all to young readers.

So do join us in Sacramento this October (details here) and do submit a session proposal! Lifting from the official submission form:

“We are looking for presentations and panels that will inspire and edify Kidlitosphere bloggers. While we’re specifically interested in presentations that address what bloggers can do to make a meaningful difference in increasing and promoting diversity in children’s and young adult literature, sessions covering other topics such as reviewing critically, trends, social media, marketing, technology, and industry relationships are welcome.”

I submitted a proposal for the first time last year, rather nervously, and roped two great colleagues in kid lit into doing it with me, and it was great.  If you have an idea that you want to try out, or to see if there's anyone who might be interested in joining forces with you, you can always run it by the kidlitosphere yahoo group, which is what I did.

I'm the program chair this year, so please get in touch with me if you have any questions! (charlotteslibrary@gmail.com)

And please spread the word.

And goodbye, and thank you, Walter Dean Myers.


Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone

As I read my weekly time travel books, I vaguely compartmentalize them into different sub-genres of Time Travel that I come across--the didactic, the cryogenic, the trying-to-change things, etc.   Reading Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone (Hyperion, 2012) made me realize that I have, for the most part, been ignoring a (probably) popular sub-genre--time travel existing to make a romance complicated (as in The Time Traveller's Wife). 

Time Between Us could well be used as the type specimen for the YA branch of this sub-genre.   It tells of a time travelling boy, Bennet, who falls in love with a girl, Anna, born 17 years before him.  And if you are a fan of YA romance where the romance is the plot (but there's no sex), and you like your YA romance with some sort of tension such as might come from being from a different time than your beloved, you may well enjoy this one.

In any event, all the while Bennet  knows his time as a high school classmate of Anna's is fraught, just fraught, with complication, and he is conflicted.  And she knows she is attracted to his attractive self and doesn't understand why he is so distant and then so less distant.  It is love, only fraught.  It is told from the point of view of the girl, Anna, and the reader really gets to know what Anna is thinking and feeling  (which is mostly about herself, and about herself and her time-travelling love). 

Happily for Anna, who dreams of travel, Bennet's gifts of preternatural temporal relocation transcend geographical limits as well, so he can take the two of them to yesterday in Italy etc.  I am not sure this served much point viz story progression, but it made me want to be Bennet's friend really really badly. 

I am pretty sure this is not my favorite sub-genre of time travel...although perhaps if I had found the characters more interesting, and if the fraught romance had been augmented more robustly by the other overshadowed plot elements (like what the heck happened to Bennet's sister?) I might now be feeling differently....

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