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

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

The Reviews:

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

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

Courting Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, at The Book Smugglers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loot, by Jude Watson, at Reader Noir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authors and Interviews

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Good Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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


  1. There's Francis Hardinge's stuff. Fly by Night and Fly Trap. I just finished the latter, which offers a nice metaphor for privilege. Both books are very reminiscent of Lloyd Alexander's non-Prydain books, which also tend to be about revolutions and set in worlds that resemble 18th century Europe.

    I think fighting against social injustice is a major theme in middle grade fantasy. After all, what are the choices?

    - finding the true heir to the throne (these ones need a "true heir" warning label so I can avoid them)
    - a struggle against oppression
    - marriage (why?)
    - environmentalism

    In fact. Think about The Princess Academy. It appears to be about marriage. But it's really about a struggle against oppression.

    1. I'm glad you brought up Fly Trap--I wasn't sure if I was remembering it well enough to include it.

      But viz the major theme of mg fantasy--I would argue more that it is the progagonist gaining puissancy and identity; and this could of course involve any of the themes you mention, but doesn't necessarily involve big picture struggle against oppression... This is how I see your own Jinx, for instance, yes, there are struggles against oppression (and environmentalism) but the story is so much about Jinx as a person that all else becomes a minor motif, as it were.

      (I hated Alexander's Westmark books. No joy in them at all).

  2. I love Janice Hardy's Healing War trilogy.

    I never really thought about social injustice in MG novels. I sort of feel like there's a lot of books out there that have this theme in some way. I wish I could be clever and list titles here, but I can't think of anything at the moment. I'll just, um, walk away slowly now... ;)

  3. I loved Below the Root! I never see it mentioned anywhere these days. And if there's anyone else who remembers the video game based on it (flying between trees, so fun), I will send them a prize.

    Otherwise, although I'm not a fan of it, what about Wildwood by Colin Meloy -- has a bizarre police state and an underground rebellion. I've only read the first book so I don't know how the sequels pan out.

    1. Now that I have remembered Below the Root I might well try it on my own son!

      I am not a Wildwood fan either, and I don't think I'd count it as a fighting social injustice book, because the whole police state thing is indeed so bizarre that it strays into badness for the sake of badness, as opposed to the system, organized badness of injustice.... ????

    2. I think you're right -- I was so frustrated with the book because it had some great ideas but they were not worked out well. I'm still trying to think of others, I feel there must be more but they are eluding me.

  4. Wait, is Below the Root the one that takes up the story of the people from the Land of Green Sky that Ivy tells Martha in ZKS's The Changeling? I adored The Changeling but never knew of the other books til fairly recently!

    Viz fighting the power, I've got nothing.

  5. Argh, my comment didn't go through. I think the Rose books are a subtle fighting social injustice series - there is a lot there, including Rose's ambiguous social position given that she's a servant and a magician.

  6. Among the Hidden (Margaret Pederson Haddix) was the first that came to mind for me. Also, the Pendragon series...maybe.

    I wonder if one of the reasons for seeing less of what you describe in MG is because that is not a typical state of mind for a middle grader? They are more about finding themselves and how they fit into family and friendships? Not quite as global and teens who are more spreading the wings into the world...of course those sound more like tropes of mg and teen. Heh, need one more cappie and then maybe will have deep thinks on this one. _Great_ food for thought...thanks for getting sharing it!

    1. Yeah, mg is more the individual journey, in general...I think, maybe!

  7. What about the parts of Harry Potter with Umbridge at Hogwarts or with the Ministry of Magic under the control of Deatheaters? (You may be interested in a recent study finding that kids who read Harry Potter rate more highly in empathy toward members of stigmatized groups. I planned to discuss this in a post over at my blog, but haven't gotten around to it yet, so you can see the study here: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/07/can-harry-potter-teach-kids-empathy.html) Or what about Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy?
    It seems to me that social injustice is a hugely prevalent theme in MG speculative fiction - aren't there tons of books in which our heroes are "unpopular" kids or characters who experience teasing, bullying, prejudice for one reason or another? But what is rarer is having the central theme of the book be a large scale fight against an unjust system. Probably, as some have mentioned here, because for the most part MG kids are working in the personal range, not the whole governmental and societal range. So they do think about and care about social injustice, they just do it in their own age-appropriate way.

    1. Yeah, which is why I can't believe the Kirkus reviewer really meant that fighting social injustice is rare!

  8. What about The Roar by Emma Clayton?

    1. Oh yes indeed, Iron Guy Carl! Thanks for reminding me of that one--it is just the large scale kids fighting an unjust society I was not coming up with many examples of!

  9. Yay! Crossing my fingers to be apart of the CYBILS again, it was awesome working with you last year!


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