1/31/16

This week's roundup of middle grade fantasy and science fiction (1/31/16)

This was one of those weeks where I didn't get to my blog reader (I use bloglovin) till yesterday, and then after checking 5 posts of over 700 I accidently clicked "mark all as read" and so in order to find the mg spec reviews, I went to each blog on my list individually which took ages and was rather sad, because so many of the blogs I follow are moribund.  So if I missed your post, this would be why, because it was rather difficult to stay focused.....

The Reviews

Beetle Boy, by MG Leonard at The Book Zone (for boys)

Bounders, by Monica Tesler, at The Book Wars and Charlotte's Library

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, by Annie Schmidt, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip, at Fantasy Book Café (more all ages, really, than MG, but I'm always eager to plug McKillip's books!)

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, at The Booklist Reader

Criminal Destiny, by Gordon Korman, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Dragon of Trelian, by Michelle Knudsen, at Read Till Dawn

The Dungeoneers, by John David Anderson, at Semicolon

Fires of Invention, by J. Scott Savage, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Fog Diver, by Joel Ross, at Semicolon

The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice, by Andrew S. Chilton, at Librarian of Snark

Jungle Jim and the Shadows of Kinabalu, by James King, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

My Diary From the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, at Ex Libris

The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tnaquary, at Cracking the Cover

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, at The Children's Book Review

The Ruins of Gorlath (Rangers Apprentice book 1) at Buxton's Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels, and also  Book 2, Book 4Book 5, Book 6, Book 7, Book 8, Book 9, Book 10, Book 11, and Book 12  and then keep scrolling for the first 4 Brotherband chronicles.

Rise of the Wolf, by Jennifer Nielsen, at Read Till Dawn and Cracking the Cover

Secrets of Valhalla, by Jasmine Richards, at Librarian of Snark

Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon, at Welcome to ny (New) Tweendom

Vison of the Griffin's Heart, by LRW Lee, at This Kid Reviews Books and Log Cabin Library

Zaia Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood, by Keira Gillet, at Log Cabin Library

Two at alibrarymama--The Forgotten Sisters, by Shannon Hale, and Nomad, by William Alexander

Authors and Interviews

Lisa Papademetriou (A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic) at Cynsations (giveaway)

Margaret Chiavetta (The Alchemist's Theorem: Sir Duffy's Promise), at Nayu's Reading Corner

Keira Gillet (Zaria Fierce series), at Mom Read It

Helen Moss (Secrets of the Tombs series), at Middle Grade Strikes Back

Kandi Wyatt (Dragon's Future) at Carpinello's Writing Pages

Marie C. Collins (A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp), at Carpinello's Writing Pages 

Other Good Stuff

Frances Hardinge's  book, The Lie Tree,  has won the Costa Book of the Year Award.

The Bodleian Library has made a free dowloadable coloring book from its collections

1/30/16

Bounders, by Monica Tesler

Bounders, by Monica Tesler, is a debut middle grade sci fi story that I feel can reasonably be described as a simpler, somewhat watered-down version of Ender's Game for younger readers, in which the characters aren't as formidably smart, and the enemy isn't as immediately apparent.  In this future version of Earth, certain kids have been chosen to be the first class sent to space to train as bounders (which I understand to be a way of travelling vast distances through quantum particle manipulation); they might not be a smart as Ender and co., but they haven't been picked for their IQ scores.  Instead, they have been bred to have the traits of the Autism spectrum, ADDHD, Executive Functioning Disorder, OCD, and all the other non-neurotypicalnesses that are diagnosable these days.  These characteristics had been bred out of the human population, but it turns out that they are just what Bounders need to be successful. 

On Earth, these kids, pejoratively called B-wads, were teased and bullied.  Now they are headed up to a space station, the first class of "recruits" to become bounders.  12 year old Jasper, the main character (attention deficit disorder), and the other four kids in the group he's been assigned to, soon realize that there are secrets they haven't been told, and that there are reasons for the breeding program (and serious ethical questions about it), and reasons why there's a military aspect to the whole operation.   Snooping around and seeing an imprisoned alien from a strange species he's never seen before is a bit of a giveaway.  And then there are the gloves that let the kids manipulate their Bounding abilities, technology that is very different from anything developed on Earth....(the gloves are wicked cool, I must say, dating myself more than somewhat.  I don't think they say "wicked cool" anymore).

I am pretty sure that a nine or ten year old who has never read Ender's Game, and who enjoys speculative fiction school/training mission stories, in which kids are forced to become loyal comrades to each other, will enjoy this one just fine, and am kind of thinking that kids who are aware that they've been labeled with various diagnoses will find it interesting to see the traits that get them into trouble at school, or make it hard to have friends, are valued here (although since it takes a certain amount of introspection to recognize that one has particular traits, and since introspection isn't necessarily strong in lots of quirky kids, this might be a somewhat moot point). 

Because the Bounder kids are such a bunch of quirky misfits, there's a delicate balancing act required to make them people, and not just bundles of characteristics, a balance Tesler doesn't aways manage to achieve.  One character in particular, a girl named Mira, is pretty far along on the Autism spectrum (non verbal, non compliant, no obvious awareness of social norms), but she is almost magical in her fey gifts, so much so that it made me a little squirmish.  Especially when Jasper developed a Special Bond with her, and she became something close to his Magic Pixie Dream Girl. We never get much sense of her as a person apart from her fey-ness.   But Tesler does do a good job showing the strengths of certain non-neurotypical qualities; one character is one of those information gathering type kids, and his attention to fact, to history, and to detail makes him great at military tactics.  And Jasper's own ADD tendencies make intuitive manipulation of reality easier, in as much as reality is kind of optional for him in any event.

I myself enjoy stories of kids in school-type situations (as long as it isn't All about bullying, because bullying is so often not subtle; there is some here, a bit more than I'd have liked, but not enough to have affected my reading experience negatively).  And I like kids in space learning that there's a lot more going on, that's high-level secret and dangerous.  And this is very much a first story of a larger whole, setting the stage and introducing the proponents and the problem I am interested enough to want to keep going--I want to find out more about the aliens, and what is motivating them, and what they are thinking and feeling.

Short answer--not a must read, but not bad.  One for the younger middle grade readers, who have not yet chased aliens into outer space.

Let's see what Kirkus says! I have added my comments in blue.

"While the origin of the Bounders is intriguing (agreed--it's very intriguing), it is not enough to overcome the dodgy science (I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief about science, especially in books for young readers who hare my ignorance of the possibilities of molecular resonance and quantum mechanics.  If the science seems more like magic than anything else, that's ok with me), cardboard characters (cardboard is too harsh; see my thoughts above), and meandering plot (the plot of the book I read took me from Point A to Point B with no meanders at all.  I would have welcomed a bit more meander, frankly.  Maybe my idea of a plot meander is different). Slow-moving and lacking tension (well, it is a bit slow to get the "real" action, but sometimes the point of a book is the journey), this is one space adventure that is not out of this world (I'm not saying it's the greatest thing since sliced bread myself, but it is the sort of book I think an adult well versed in similar stories just can't appreciate as much as the target audience can).

(here's what else I think--I think I enjoy using Kirkus as a straw man a bit too much.)





1/26/16

Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project, by Dan Gutman, for Timeslip Tuesday

Dan Gutman needs no introduction for anyone familiar with kids books--the Genius Files, My Weird School, and the Baseball card Adventure series have won him many young fans.  And now he is turning his attention to time travel with Flashback Four: The Lincoln Project (HarperCollins, upper elementary/younger middle grade, February 23, 2016).

So four kids travelling back in time to an important moment in American history (in this case, the Gettysburg Address) isn't that remarkable a premise.  But Gutman, as one might expect, makes it interesting.

This is organized, planned, time travel with high tech science (and lots of funding) driving it.  The four kids receive individual invitations to be part of it (although at first they don't know what the invitations are really for.....).   A solid chunk of the beginning is setting up the whole How and Why and Where of the time travel, a reason is given for why kids were chosen to be the travelers (although there's no reason why these particular kids were picked), and they get coaching on 19th century idioms, food, and clothing.   Their mission is not to change history, but simply to take a photo of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address--nice and easy.

Except it isn't easy.  They arrive a day early, and one of the team members, Julia, gets somewhat distracted by thoughts of selling souvenirs on ebay, causing difficulties.  They have no food and nowhere to stay.  But they muddle through, and there they are, ready to point and shoot at Lincoln, and then things get really quite tricky when they arrested for attempted assassination.  The tension doesn't last long, though, and they return safe home. 

It's a fun, easy time travel read, good for confidently reading second graders up to fifth grade or so.  It's mostly entertainment, but there are a few little touches of thought provoking comment on the historical context.  For instance, one of the four kids is black, and so we are given his reactions to certain events from the perspective of a position that is more dangerous than that of his white comrades.  The inclusion of actual historical photographs (including one of dead soldiers lying on the battlefield, which is sad but not grotesque) adds educational interest and pleased primary source-loving me.

Definitely one to give to the kid who loved the Magic Tree House books last year.

Disclaimer: ARC acquired from the publisher at ALA Midwinter

Cry of the Sea, by D.G. Driver


Multicultral Children's Book Day is coming 1/27/16! A while back, reviewers like me signed up to be matched with multicultural books, and  links to all the book reviews resulting will start going up on that site today.
 
My book to read was Cry of the Sea, by D.G. Driver, an upper MG/lower YA mermaid story with an unusual twist--if you love mermaids, but aren't keen on truly fantastical fantasy, or really wild sci fi, and if you like reading about high school social drama and fighting for the environment, this is one you might like lots.
 
Juniper Sawfeather, like many teenaged girls, is being pressured by her parents.  They assume she will follow in their footsteps as environmental activists, and they ignore her (really immaturely) when she makes efforts to chart her own path toward marine biology. Being roped into all her parents' activism hasn't done much for Juniper's popularity at school, either--the mean beautiful girls, present in full stereotypical force, think she's a looser.
 
But then Juniper finds mermaids.  When she and her father rush to the scene of an oil spoil on the Oregon coast, there they are, three of them--half fish, half human in appearance, their gills choked with oil.  Two of the mermaids die, but one lives, and Juniper and her father rush the creature to the lab that's bracing to receive the influx of oil spill victims.
 
Juniper sees a person when she meets the mermaid's eyes, and as she enters the mermaid's tank (in scuba gear) to help clean her off, their minds meet too, not in full on telepathy, but more general communication.  And so when the mermaid mysteriously vanishes from the lab, along with its chief scientist, Juniper is desperate to find out what's happening.
 
After her video footage of the mermaid goes viral, the popular kids become Juniper's unlikely, and not quite trustworthy, allies, in a confrontation with scientists working for the folks responsible for the oil spill.  Can a bunch of kids use the power of the press (and the internet) to shape what happens to Juniper's mermaid, and others of her kind?

Obviously the mermaids tilt this story into the realm of speculative fiction, but the tone and Juniper's point of view keep it feeling very realistic.   Young environmentalists (I'm thinking eighth graders) will enjoy sharing Juniper's anger at the perpetrators of the oil spill, her fascination with the mermaid, and her nascent relationship with the really cute college intern who seems to be returning her interest very nicely....There's no sex or swearing, so it's appropriate for that age.   The social drama part of the book didn't quite convince me, but may well ring truer for the intended audience.   I myself would have liked more exploration of what sort of creature/person the mermaid actually was; she doesn't actually get much page time.

Apart from generic social awkwardness and environmental activism, Juniper is different from the other kids in that she is half  Native American; her dad is Chinook.   She herself does not identify as Chinook in any meaningful way, nor does the author provide a convincing cultural context or sense of Juniper's identity as a Native person.   As a result, I am not comfortable recommending this book specifically as a window or a mirror into the experience of a Northwest Coast Native teenager.
 
In Juniper's own words, when her father tells her a "legend of our people" she thinks to herself "I hated to be lectured about my father's people. I felt as much part American Indian as I did part elephant." (p  75)  Bits of information about Chinook identity and culture seemed a bit off to me, and I didn't feel the author had done much in depth research, or talked to any Chinook tribal members. 
Her description of the Potlatch as casting material goods into the water is very odd; this doesn't fit with standard accounts of what the Potlatch is.  Mr. Sawfeather is supposed to be an activist for the tribe but his activism is unspecified;  the Chinook Nation has for the last few years been engaged in an intense struggle for recognition, which would have solidified his identity if that specific had been included.  Also the book ends with a threat to Chinook lands; not being federally recognized, the Chinook Nation has no reservation, so I'm not sure what the "tribal lands" would be.  Kind of minor points, but there was just not enough here to really conventionalize Juniper has a believably Chinook father.
 
And I found this bit of banter, with the cool beautiful boy who is the romantic interest/hero offensive, more offensive than Juniper does--
 
"I sighed and rolled my eyes and moved away from Carter enough to be dad-approved.  "Ugh."
 
"Ah, there's that American Indian in you, Miss Sawfeather," Carter laughed.
 
I smacked him.  "That I so inappropriate.  I take away your coolness points."
 
"Sorry," he said, but he was still snickering."  p 85 
 
Carter gets to keep golden boy status, despite this nasty remark.
 
My general feeling is that the father's Native American identity is there to add weight to the environmental concerns of the book, and it's more window-dressing than anything else.  So I would not recommend reading this book just for its multicultural aspects; it disappointed me in that regard.

Do head over to the Multicultral Children's Book Day page for more!
Here's a bit more information about it:

The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The co-creators of  this great event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from /Jump Into a Book

Thanks to all the sponsers:




Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts; you can visit the links below or see them all  here.

All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground

And finally, there is a Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children's book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. Here are words you could spread:


Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife 
http://ow.ly/UUy96

The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books
 
http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/?p=1796

1/24/16

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (1/24/16)

Welcome to this week's round-up; I hope you find lots to enjoy!  You won't find much from me, because I have been in a terrible review slump and the books they are building up something fierce. Please let me know if I missed your post!

The  Reviews

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum, by Gregory Funari, at Sharon the Librarian

The Blood Guard, by Carter Roy, at Cindy Reads A Lot

Bloodstone, by Allan Bouroughs, at Charlotte's Library

Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley, at Buxton's Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels

Dark Days (Dead City #3), by James Ponti, at Ms. Yingling Reads

 A Frozen Heart, by Elizabeth Rudnick, at Metaphors and Moonlight

Ghost Horse Mystery, by DJ Arneson  and Tony Tallarico, at Views from the Tesseract

The Goblin's Puzzle, by Andrew S. Chilton, at Ms. Yingling Reads and Waking Brain Cells

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic, by Ursula Vernon, at School Library Journal

Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith, at Akossiwa Ketoglo

Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger, at Destined 4 Weirdness

Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly, at On Starships and Dragonwings (audiobook review)

The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary, at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Rise of the Wolf, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Read Till Dawn

The Shadow Keeper, by Abi Elphinstone, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon, at Welcome to My (New) Tweendom

The Sign of the Cat, by Lynne Jonell, at Semicolon

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, by Tania del Rio, at School Library Journal

Young-Hee and the Pullocho, by Mark James Russell, at The Book Wars


Authors and Interviews

Patrick Samphire (Secrets of the Dragon Tomb) at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

 Danika Dinsmore (Narine of Noe) at Laurisa White Reyes


Other Good Stuff

A nice midde grade book list for fans of King Arthur, at Project Mayhem

a Tuesday Ten of spec. fic. Newbery winners at Views from the Tesseract

XKCD is even more brilliant than usual, with this helpful infographic inspired by the possibility of a vast dark ninth planet  (I especially love the "fools planets").

1/21/16

Bloodstone, by Allan Bouroughs

Bloodstone, by Allan Bouroughs  (Pan Macmillan; Main Market Ed. edition, December 1, 2015) is a steampunkish adventure that sends its characters on a dangerous mission to find the lost treasure of Atlantis.  It's the sequel to Ironheart (Sept. 2015), but works just find as a stand-alone.

In a world where the Great Rains have wrecked havoc, a girl named India is apprenticed to great tech-hunter Verity Brown, and together they travel the globe, scavenging for lost technology to sell.  But in Sing City, things go badly wrong.  They've attracted the unpleasant and dangerous attention of Lady Fang, the criminal overlord of the City, and India is falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the leader of an order of Recycling Monks.  When a treasure-seeking zealot antiquarian, Professor Moon, seeks to recruit them on a wild and  impossible mission to find Atlantis in Antarctica, it's their best and fastest way out...but the Monks and Lady Fang are both unpleasantly anxious to track them down, for Professor Moon has come into possession of the monk's piece of an ancient, and powerful, stone--and this piece of the Bloodstone has  magically joined itself to the one he already had.  If the third piece is found and rejoined with the others, it will become the key to unlocking the fabled lost tech of Atlantis that Professor Moon is convinced exists.

So what follows is a madly dangerous trip south, in which India and Verity are pursued by enemies and beset by sea monsters.  And when all three piece of the Bloodstone are rejoined, and "Atlantis" is in fact found, beneath an extinct (?) volcano, things get even more hair-raising, with near-certain death narrowly avoided time and time again.

This is one for older Middle Grade/younger YA readers who love dangerous adventures, in which every twenty pages seems to bring in new ways to die!  Lots of shooting of interesting weapons, lots of desperate attempts to get technology to work, strange creatures and adventures, and a truly extraordinary discovery at the end of it.  The adventures are given a human element by the character of India, who is a truly loyal friend and perseveres bravely despite the odds.

Give this one to fans of the Copernicus Legacy series--they will love it!  It was not exactly my own cup of tea (me not being a frantic danger on every page person, and me also being un-enthused by Oriental villain lady crime bosses like Lady Fang), but even I found it a page turner, especially once the expedition reaches Atlantis.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1/17/16

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (1/17/16)

Here's this week's round-up!  Please let me know if I missed your post.  It is quite possible that I have because I have been poorly and wooly headed.........

The Reviews

The Candy Shop War--Arcade Catastrophe, by Brandon Mull, at The Write Path

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof, by Annie M.G. Schmidt, at Fantasy Literature

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, at Sonderbooks

The Doll People, by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, at Leaf's Reviews

The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler, at Puss Reboots

The Girl Who Could Not Dream, by Sarah Beth Durst, at Fantasy of the Silver Dragon

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, by Liesl Shurtliff, at One Librarian's Book Reviews

Jinx's Fire, by Sage Blackwood, at Rachel Neumeier

The Last Ever After, by Soman Chainani, at The Book Smugglers

Mary Poppins Comes Back, by P.L. Travers, at Log Cabin Library

The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood, at Strange and Random Happenstance

Nightbird, by Alice Hoffman, at Sharon the Librarian

Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DeCamillo, at Educating Alice

Return of the Forgotten (Mouseheart #3), by Lisa Fielder, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Fantasy Literature

The Stolen Chapters by James Riley, at Read Till Dawn

A Tale of Highy Unusual Magic, by Lisa Papaemetriou, at This Kid Reviews Books

Time Window, by Kathryn Reiss, at Charlotte's Library

The Wrinkled Crown, by Anne Nesbet, at Charlotte's Library

A passel of MG fantasy from 2015 at Librarian of Snark


Authors and Interviews

Anne Nesbet (The Wrinkled Crown) talks humming at Project Mayhem

Sara Pennypacker (Pax) at SLJ


Other Good Stuff

At Educating Alice, Monica has some scope on Megan Whalen Turner's next book(s)!

There's a petition going to name Element 117 "octarine" in honor of Terry Pratchett; here's more info. at Tor.

"Why the British tell better children's stories" at The Atlantic.  Rather interesting in a somewhat provocative way.

And because book pictures are pretty, here are the books that came home from ALA with me (I a wondering if I am personally drawn to blue and black and brown because of being inherently a melancholy person, or if it was just chance; if anyone else went to ALA and came home with yellow, orange, red and bright green books let me know.....)

1/14/16

Space Dumplins, by Craig Thompson


Why I am reviewing Space Dumplins, by Craig Thompson (GRAPHIX , August 25, 2015, middle grade graphic novel), today (after having it in the house for months):

The Amelia Bloomer Project list was announced yesterday, and as usual it is a great collection of books celebrating girls and women whose lives and choices give us feminist role models.  I was home sick and feverish yesterday when I read the list, and that might be why when, feeling better today (though still poorly), I tidied a pile of books (as one does) and I saw in the pile Space Dumplins, and thought I remembered seeing it on the Amelia Bloomer Project list.  I think my mind had conflated Interstellar Cinderella and Dumplin', which are in fact on the A.B. list.  But in any event, before I realized that it isn't in fact on the A.B. list, I was inspired by my mistake to sit down and finally read Space Dumplins, and did not, in my reading of it, find it lacking in feminism....much in the same way that Zita the Space Girl was an A.B. listed book back in the day. 

So in any event, there will never be a better time than today for me to actually review it, so here I go:

Violet and her mom and dad are a close-knit family, not well off (they live in the intergalactic equivelant of a trailer park) but very loving.  Except that, as is so often the case, the financial thing has made things a bit tense between Violet's parents.  Then her dad, a big tattooed guy who lets Violet drive his space truck equivalent, goes off on a longer term job than usual (he is a harvester of space whale poop, which powers this civilization).  And her mom, a fashion designer, gets a promotion that takes her and Violet up to one of the more elite nodes of residence, a high-falutin space station. 

And then her dad goes missing. 

Violet's mom makes all the calls she can, but no one is interested in helping her (her husband isn't important enough).  So Violet sets off to do the rescuing herself, getting her own space motorbike equivalent in working order and heading off on her father's trail, with two mostly stalwart comrades-a sentient chicken boy and an orphaned alien boy.   Turns out her father's ship has been swallowed by a space whaler, and turns out the rich and powerful were doing some questionable whale experimentation....and then it all turns out alright, yay!  (that was me leaving out lots of plot particulars--this is a longish graphic novel, and there are lots of particulars that add to the story and the world-building).

So--this is the only book for middle grade readers, graphic novel or otherwise, that is clearly about a working class kid in space.  Violet doesn't have the material trappings of the rich girls at the school on the space node where her mother's new job is, and she doesn't get into the school either, because her father's past as a somewhat delinquent youth showed up in the background check.  Her mother is hired for the fashion job on the space station because she'll be able to supply the folksy edge that "her people" (the ones living outside the space stations) have.   And I think it is feminist in the Amelia Bloomer list criteria sense, in as much as Violet has many mechanical and technological skills that are still unfortunately coded as male in our society, and uses them to save her dad.

The illustrations are complex and detail rich, depicting a sort of mad almost steampunk welter of technology, helping carry the story along nicely.

In short, it's easy to recommend Space Dumplins to any fans of Zita the Space Girl, or to any young reader whose looking for wild and whacky adventure in space.  Kirkus agrees with me on this one (I just checked), saying almost exactly the same things:

"Thompson's art is wild and busy, with overcrowded, unconventional panel structures. The worldbuilding is a strikingly imaginative pastiche that seamlessly blends biblical references, poop jokes, and social satire. Fans of Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl series should gravitate to this offering.
A weird and wonderful intergalactic tale."

And when Kirkus and I agree, they are almost always right, so there you go (although there weren't exactly "poop jokes" so much as running (as it were) references to space whale diarrhea, so don't be put off by Kirkus' suggestion that there's lots of potty humor).

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher at BEA (I think).

1/12/16

Time Windows, by Kathryn Reiss, for Timeslip Tuesday, with bonus Time Travel book ID question from a reader

There are a whole slew of 2016 YA time travel books coming down the pipeline, and I actually got a few up at ALA midwinter, but it's still a bit aways from their publication dates, so I grabbed one of my TBR shelf at home for this week's Timeslip Tuesday--Time Windows, by Kathryn Reiss (1991).

Miranda and her parents are excited to  move into a big old house that's been sitting empty for ages, and she's pleased to find in the attic a lovely dollhouse that is a replica of the actual house.  She looks into the house through its windows, and sees and hears former inhabitants of the real thing going about their lives!  Miranda passes hours of each day watching their goings on, and learns that there are two families that keep appearing, one from the 19th century and one from the mid-20th century.  The mother in the 19th-century family is beautiful but terribly cruel to her little girl, Dorothy.  And (this is the scary part), the cruel-ness of that long ago mother is haunting the house.  Miranda watches the mid-20th century mother get infected, changing from a gentle loving mama to a hateful abusive one and, even more horribly, she watches her own mother (who she calls Mither, which I didn't care for) start quoting practically verbatim the words of the first evil mother, and starting to behave just like her too. 

Miranda, with the help of the cute boy next door, finds the reason why the infection of maternal mother clings to the house, and things tilt somewhat to horror when she and the boy find out what happened to little Dorothy.  It is rather creepy and horrible.   Fortunately Miranda is able to use the magic of the dollhouse to set things right, and all the bad stuff with her mother gets overwritten with the good mother stuff that should have been there from the beginning.

So this is an interesting time slip experience; Miranda is almost entirely a passive viewer of the past, until right at the end when she actually sends an object back in time.   I found the premise pleasing, especially the historical detective story aspect of it, and the horror aspects of the whole experience, in which time slip is combined with haunting, worked well.  Miranda was neither a compelling nor dis-compelling heroine; she wasn't, in and of herself, that interesting, and it struck me as really implausible how the neighbor boy falls hard for her almost at first sight, and how both of them start taking it for granted that he'll be hugging her and taking her to the movies.  Most girls, even if they are involved in time slip mysteries of horror, have a few thoughts to spare for the boy that's hugging on them, but Miranda just takes it for granted....

Final though--not bad, definitely creepy, probably won't ever re-read, though I bet I would have if I'd read it when I was 11 or so.

Bonus Time Trave Book ID Question:

A blog reader just sent me the following request for book id help, which I was unable to provide:

"I read the book in question while in middle school...so it would have been
 published before 1991. I think the main character was a boy. He is staying
 at some sort of old home-a castle? He visits a room in the attic or tower
and from there is able to slip through a wall? door? mirror? back in time-I
 think to medieval England. There may be another character, an older
 gentleman who is caring for him?

Any thoughts?

1/11/16

The Wrinkled Crown, by Anne Nesbet

Yay!  I have written a review, despite writing it in the same living room as two adolescent boys stressed about school work and breathing at each other in aggravating ways, followed of course by whacking each other etc.  I hate winter because we all end up in the room with the wood stove.  Clearly we need a second wood stove in another room far far away (like someone else's house).  So in any event I am very glad to have written about a book despite everything!  Especially glad to have written about a book I enjoyed, because it frets at me when I don't get to writing about books I think deserve to be written about....

And so-- The Wrinkled Crown, by Anne Nesbet (HarperCollins, November 2015).

Linnet's story starts up in the Wrinkled Hills, where the twisty landscape holds magic, and where girls aren't allowed to play, or even touch, the stringed instrument known as the lorka before they turn 12 because if they do, they will be taken off by the magic to Away.   Linnet knew this perfectly well, but it didn't stop her from making one for herself- her wanting was to great for caution to hold her back.   But the magic twists itself, and instead of Linnet being taken, her best friend's spirit is instead.  Her fading body is all that's left.

Linny's mother came from the city down below the Wrinkled Hills, where the twistiness of magical  foldedness met the straight and level Plains that could be surveyed and measured nicely.  She thinks it's possible that the sister she left behind when she adventured into the hills might have a remedy that will bring Linny's friend back.  So down out of the hills Linny goes...accompanied by Elias, her father's apprentice in lorka making  (whom Linny doesn't much care for, since he got to learn instrument making above board and with encouragement, and she didn't.)

There in the city divided between magic and science Linny finds herself greeted as if she stepped out of a legend.  And, while narrowly avoiding being used by a whole score of people with different ideas of how a living legend might be useful, she actually does what the Legendary "Girl with a Lourka" was supposed to do...

But being a Chosen One of Destiny was not why Linny came to the city in the first place, so she continues to search for her aunt, who is out even further from the magical hills of her home.  And there are fresh dangers and excitements, and there's the whole question of whether a "cure" for magic is a good thing or not,  but it's clear that it's a really good thing in the end that Elias came too, and it is also a really, really good thing that Linny has been adopted by a most extraordinary cat (a great cat, both sciency and magicy!) and in any event that's the gist of it.

So this is an interesting story of magic vs. science, but the "vs." part isn't there in Linny's mind because she can appreciate both, so it's also a story of appreciating different perspectives on reality.    And it's about factions trying to use legend to gain power.   It's not tremendously subtle political intrigue, and so that part of the book on its own isn't quite quite strong enough to make me throw the book eagerly in the direction of grownups who like MG fantasy (although it's pretty much just right for ten-year-olds).   But mostly the book is about a brave girl with very interesting magical and musical gifts (and a very interesting cat friend!) being clever and determined, and this I enjoyed very much, and so I happily can recommend The Wrinkled Crown very nicely indeed to both the target audience and to grown-ups who like the same sort of MG fantasy as I do.

(final thought--my 12 year old son is aging out of MG and is reading YA now.  Which I guess was bound to happen.  But I would have given him this one in a second two years ago, and now am not sure that it would grab him...which makes me a bit wistful.)

(second final thought--I always appreciate girls who take delight in sewing and make it something magical, because I rather like embroidery and get cross when we don't let girls do it anymore because they have to be off climbing trees or doing other "boy" stuff.  So I really liked that Linny's friend who gets magiced away is an extraordinary embroiderer, and that one thing she sewed is absolutely lovely and magical  and also a very useful thing for Linny to have taken down to the non-magic world).

1/10/16

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (1/10/16)

Here's me back from Boston with a slew of books, finishing up this week's round-up.  I accidently marked about fifty posts in bloglovin read by accident, so if you don't see yours here, that's what might have happened to it.

And now that I have EVEN MORE Books in my house to read, I had better get cracking on writing some reviews (I had two this week, but for B. and N., not from my own list of books to review....)

The Reviews

Beetle Boy, by M.G. Leonard, at Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley, at Geo Librarian and The Children's Book Review

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, at Next Best Book

The D'evil Diaries, by Tatum Flynn, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Ennara and the Fallen Druid, by Angela Myron, at Cover2CoverBlog

Escaping Peril, by Tui T. Sutherland, at the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

The Girl Who Could Not Dream, by Sarah Beth Durst, at A Backwards Story

The Goblin's Puzzle, Andrew S. Chilton, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Hollow Boy, by Jonathan Stroud, at Leaf's Reviews

Into the Waves, by Kiki Thorpe, at the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

The Last Bogler, by Catherine Jinks, at BookForKidsBlog

The Mad Apprentice, by Django Wexler, at Middle Grade Strikes Back

The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary, at Me On Books, In Bed With Books,  and The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Jackson Pierce and Maggie Stiefvater, at Jean Little Library

Renegade Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, at Strange and Random Happenstance

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, by Patrick Samphire, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Star Wars--The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary, at Boys Rule Boys Read

Switch, by Ingrid Law, at Destined 4 Weirdness

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones, at Kitty Cat at the Library

Two at Great Kid Books--Diary of a Mad Brownie, and Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--Bounders, by Monica Tesler, and The Stone Warriors, by Michael Northrup

Two at alibrarymama--I'm With Cupid and Shadows of Sherwood

Authors and Interviews

Gregory Funaro (Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum) at The Hiding Spot


Other Good Stuff

Frances Hardinge has won the 2015 Costa Children’s Book Award for her book, The Lie Tree

I made a list of great books on the care and keeping of magical creatures, at the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

Star Trek Forever!  May our mail keep going boldly with these new stamps.



This week's MG Sci fi/fantasy round up will be rather late today

I am trying hard to get out of the house and up to ALA in Boston; I'll get the round up up when I get back this evening (d.v.)

1/5/16

Until We Meet Again, by Renee Collins, for Timeslip Tuesday

If you love Time Travel romance, with the two beautiful characters sitting on the knife edge of "will they be able to be together or will Time always separate them?" and if you are prepared to forgo any critical mindset with regard to insta love that somehow in a matter of days leads to a relationship of Utter Meaningfulness and if you don't mind a sort of cheesey secondary plot thrown in involving the mob and extortion, and if you think that rich spoiled kids are just the sort of people you want to imagine yourself being/falling in love with This is a Book For You!  Sadly, Until We Meet Again, by Renee Collins (Sourcebooks Fire, YA, November 2015), is not for me.

Cassandra slips through time back to the 1920s when she goes down to the beach one moonlight night, and there she meets her insta love Lawrence, who happily insta loves her right back.  When they figure out that they are not in fact co-temporaneous, and that the only place their two times overlap is this piece of beach, they are naturally distressed.  They become even more distressed when Cass looks Lawrence up in the archives of the local library and finds out he is about to be murdered.  (The fact that they've already changed time enough so that someone has died who in the original timeline did not die distresses them briefly, but not enough so that they are willing to stop seeing each other).  So Cass and Lawrence in their own time try to figure out who will kill him and how to stop it, and lo!  Lawrence discovers that his uncle is involved in shady dealings with the mob.  And lo!  Cass's mother discovers her daughter is sneaking off to the beach at all hours to canoodle with a strange guy (the time travel is not exclusive to Cass).  Everyone is distressed.  But the real distresses for Cass and Lawrence is wondering if they can ever make their dream of beautiful love forever become reality (the beach is getting old.  They'd really like to get a room). 

So it was kind of interesting to see dude from the 20s meet girl from the teens.  But it didn't work for me.  I found myself wit a basic inability to accept that Cass and Lawrence were at all interesting and a basic inability to believe in their Young Love:

Also
--I was annoyed at Cass's mother being a real bad parenting piece of work and shoving preppy dude Brandon at her and making plans for the two of them when she is clearly uninterested:

Brandon offers to go home, but "I don't think so," Mom says.  She steps out of Brandon's line of sight and gives me a stern, why-are-you-being-so rude look.  "Brandon's been waiting almost an hour for you.  Whatever you have to do can wait until tomorrow." Cass did not invite Brandon over, he just showed up.  And now she has to entertain him just because he's there?  No.  I was annoyed at Cass too for not just saying no to her mom and to Brandon. Pretty feeble.  It's all a set up for Brandon to be a potential suspect because of jealousy in the murder that hasn't happened yet.

--I do not think that even in the 1920s a guy would say to a girl "Faye. Talk to me.  Tell me why you're being this way.  Is it...lady troubles?"  What? Faye has been coming on strong to him in the sexy dept. and then attacking him when she's rejected, and he thinks that "lady troubles" might explain it?  And not something to do with "the muscular Italian fellow" who's been staring at them intently and clearly agitating Faye?

--Lawrence, a would-be poet, got on my nerves lots with his poetic thoughts. 
"I want to lie beside her in my bed and take her in my arms as we fall asleep to the serenade of crickets.
My breath trembles at these yearnings I cannot quell."  I cannot stand trembling yearnings of unquellable-ness.  Makes me twitchy,

So nope, not one for me, but you don't have to take my word for it.  Kirkus disagrees with me, for instance, calling it "Suspenseful, poignant, and romantic: well worth the read."

1/3/16

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (1/3/16)

Happy New Year!  I hope 2016 is a kind, gentle year, with enough to keep us busy without taxing our strength too terribly much.  Here's the first round-up of the year; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum, by Gregory Funaro, at Please Feed the Bookworm

Chase Tinker and the House of Magic, by Malia Ann Haberman, at Always in the Middle

Finders Keepers, by Dorothy A. Winsor, at Nerdophiles

The Girl With the Silver Eyes, by Wilo Davis Roberts, at Views from the Tesseract

Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith, at Charlotte's Library

Keeper, by S. Smith, at This Kid Reviews Books

The League of Seven (League of Seven, 1) by Alan Gratz, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Long Road To Freedom, by Kate Messner, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, by Liesl Shurtliff, at One Librarian's Book Reviews

The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver, at Jump Into Books

Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan, at On Starships and Dragonwings

Under Their Skin, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Read Till Dawn

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones, at Sonderbooks

Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder, at Pages Unbound Reviews

Two at alibrarymama--I’m with Cupid by Anna Staniszewski and Shadows of Sherwood (Robyn Hoodlum Book 1) by Kekla Magoon

and a whole slew of them at Librarian of Snark

Authors and Interviews

Alison McGhee (Firefly Hollow) at MPR News

Other Good Stuff

The finalists for the Cybils Awards have been announced; here's the Elementary/Middle Grade  Speculative Fiction list.

The Middle Grade Nerdies have also been announced, and include a nice smattering of sci fi/fantasy (interestingly with no overlap with the Cybis MG Spec Fic Shortlist)

The greatest Lemony Snicket quotes ever gathered at The Guardian

News of a lovely-sounding orphan illustration exhibit in London, via the Guardian, with fantasy well represented.

1/2/16

Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith

I have allowed myself to be lax with the reviewing these past few weeks, but the iron is hot again (or something, probably the desire to move books from my home into the hands of library patrons).  So here's a review of a really distinctive horror book nominated for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Cybils--Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith (Clarion Books, September 2015) .  I might well have read it anyway, because Ronald Smith came to Kidlitcon to be part of a panel on middle grade horror, which was lots of fun, and Hoodoo sounded most intriguing....African-American Southern Gothic horror for the young doesn't come my way all that often.

12-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher comes from a family with magic running strong in their blood.  Yet Hoodoo has yet to live up to his name.  Then a strange man comes to down, bringing horror with him...and Hoodoo is right in the cross-hairs of this stranger pruriently awful interest.  He has to learn to conjure with supernatural forces as quick as ever he can, or else.  And the reason why the stranger has come for him in particular is pretty dreadful in its own right, for one of Hoodoo's hands is not his own. It is the hand of a man hung for murder...

Fortunately Hoodoo, with the help of family and a loyal friend, a girl named Bunny, are able to persevere against the dark magic of the stranger, but not before some really scary happenings!

I wasn't sure I'd like Hoodoo, the boy, all that well--at the beginning of the book, he spends an awful lot of time telling the reader things; "if you didn't know," he says all too often.  But once the stranger's malevolence comes into full flower, it all gets nicely page-turny indeed!  Give this one to the young reader who enjoys supernatural scariness and is on the lookout for something a little different.  The setting, in Alabama in the 1930s, and the combination of hoodoo magic (rich and detailed) and Christian faith (strong and vibrant) pitted against an evil that's truly creepy, make a good change of pace, and the touches of humor in Hoodoo's narrative voice, and his eminently relatable struggle to figure out just what he's capable of make him a good comrade.  

I'm in agreement with Kirkus on this one--"The authenticity of Hoodoo's voice and this distinctive mashup of genres make Smith one to watch. Seekers of the scary and "something different" need look no further."
It's also a good one to read on a cold winter day up here in the north--the best sort of day for visiting hot, muggy southern swamp land. 

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher for Cybils Award Consideration

1/1/16

Looking back at my 2015 reading

I have to start with the most memorable thing that I read in 2015, that most excited my fevered brain, causing me to bring it up in conversation early and often-- the descriptions of the food in The Tournament at Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice). The first part of the book is mostly a bunch of rangers travelling around, and I would much much much rather travel with them than with Strider, a ranger with no appreciation for food.  When John Flannagan's rangers stop of the evening, one of them quickly gathers "wild greens" for a salad, and just happens to be carrying around a supply of vinaigrette dressing.  They bake bread in the coals of the fire, stop travelling early to fish for a salmon or hunt a deer, and have a plentiful supply of butter on them, which makes both the bread and the salmon tastier.  The butter especially preoccupied me with regard to logistics.  But also the fact that these guys are supposed to be hurrying, yet still have time to go for a quick deer hunt and butcher the dear and roast the deer just for supper and are weighing themselves down with all those condiments.  One supper-- "The rich taste of the venison contrasted pleasantly with the astringent taste of the salad and the warm bread was ideal for soaking up the delicious meat juices."  Another supper-- salmon "liberally covered in butter and slices of wild-growing onion and lemon." They are also traveling with coffee and wine. They need to work harder on dessert though.

Now I've gotten that out of the way--

In 2015 I read 325 books (according to what I put on Goodreads, + 3 read twice), so probably a few more than that).  106 were review copies, 118 were from the library, and the rest were presents and purchases and a few, a sad few but better than nothing, came from the languishing depths of the tbr shelves.  And I re-read one book from my shelves just for pleasure (What has happened to me?  I used to re-read like a fiend....).

My criteria for "favorite" books is whether or not I will re-read them (maybe I can count "re-reading" them in my head while doing domestic tasks?).  Two books I first read in 2015 I have already re-read--Bayou Magic, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Moon Rising, by Tui T. Sutherland, both of which (uncoincidently) were just shortlisted for the Cybils Awards.   I loved Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones. The Hob and the Deerman, by Pat Walsh, is lovely (it's a continue of the Crowfield Curse series).  All of these are middle grade; there are only two YA  books I'd be interested in re-reading-- The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow, and Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, and no adult books, because most of the adult books I read are non-fiction and once is generally enough.

The book I most enjoyed (sorry, you probably won't be able to get hold of it unless you make friends with my sister and she lends you her copy) is Beaux, by Evan Commager.  It is always a fraught thing to read an older children's book set in the South, because of the very real risk of intolerable racism on the part of the writer or the characters.  Commager (perhaps because she moved north as a young woman) managed to actively offend me only once.  So I was able to take great pleasure in the growing up of a really engaging, literate, young heroine and her best friend, with the added bonus of a nice young man who is interested in sustainable farming methods.  Possibly I liked it as much as I did because it is illustrated by N. M. Bodecker, who did Edward Eager's books, so it felt friendly and familiar.  Possibly I was just hungering for someone to address in a children's book the dangers of monocropping in early 20th century South Carolina.


Misc. final thoughts:

Book I read that I would least like to have as my one book on a desert island--Beating Gout: A Sufferer's Guide to Living Pain Free (read when my poor mother was afflicted)

Worst cruelty to kittens--The Sign of the Cat, by Lynne Jonell.  I really liked this adventure fantasy, whose hero could talk to cats.  It's a good book.  But the horrible thing the villain does to kittens is so awful that I can't actually recommend it to any young readers who love kittens, which is a large chunk of them. I will go ahead and spoil it (highlight to see)-kittens are thrown alive into a meat grinder on a regular basis so that bad guy can eat them.

Worst plausibility issues-- Judy, Patrol Leader (scroll down), by Dorothea Moore.  Every school girl danger imaginable (the falling cliffs, the burglars breaking into the school, saving people's lives right and left, thwarting smugglers) is here, but it it's actually not a bad read.   (bought in Sacramento while shopping with Maureen after Kidlitcon 2014, so I'm fond of it)

Goal for 2016-- re-read more.  Do household tasks more efficiently so that there is more time for reading.  Take the bus to work more for same reason. Read all the books.

The Cybils finalists are here!

The 2015 Cybils finalists have been announced, and as usual, these lists of childrens and YA books in a wide range of categories are a fantastic resource!  The books combine both reader appeal and great writing, making it a very kid friendly set of suggestions.

I was a panelist on the first round of Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, and here are the books we picked for our shortlist:

Bayou Magicby Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton
In a simple but not simplistic story, 10-year-old Maddie visits her Grandmère in the Louisiana bayou in order to learn the magical traditions of her family. While there, she discovers how friendship and magic (and bonus mermaids!) can help with modern problems, and learns the importance of being connected to the land around her. Rhodes has created a book with a lyrical mix of African, French and Creole traditions that has a huge heart and is full of magic and, ultimately, joy.
Melissa Fox, The Book Nut
Castle Hangnailby Ursula Vernon
Dial Books
Nominated by: Jennifer
The titular castle of Castle Hangnail needs a new master, or it will risk being decommissioned, forcing all the resident minions to find new homes. When 12-year-old Molly comes knocking on the castle door, the minions (who expected a powerful dark magic user) are skeptical, but Molly is determined to convince them that she is wicked enough for the job (though she actually has a very good heart). Everything seems to be going well until an evil sorceress shows up claiming she is Castle Hangnail’s real intended master. Its illustrations, humor, messages of friendship and determination, and a host of memorable secondary characters (with a special nod to one minion–Pins, a voodoo doll with a talking goldfish) make Castle Hangnail an utterly enjoyable and charming place to spend your reading time!
Benda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library
Cuckoo Songby Frances Hardinge
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Maureen E
“Mummy, help me, please help me, everything’s strange and nothing’s right, and my mind feels as if it’s made up of pieces and some of them are missing…” When Triss wakes up from a mysterious accident, she is somehow not herself–she feels an overwhelming hunger that is only satisfied by eating the oddest things, dead leaves appear in her room, on her pillow, and in her hair; her little sister Pen rejects her completely. Triss/Not-Triss must put together the pieces of what turns out to be a larger puzzle, one that encompasses a family’s grief, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Set in post-World War I Great Britain, Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song is a beautifully written, deliciously dark fantasy for fans of historical fiction, horror, fairy tales, or family stories. We think that’s everyone.
Anamaria Anderson, Books Together
Mars Evacueesby Sophia McDougall
HarperCollins
Nominated by: Stephanie Whelan
Blast off for Mars on this science fiction debut! In order to keep them safe from the ongoing human-alien warfare on Earth, Alice Dare and other kids from around the world are being shipped off to the red planet . But Mars is far from being a safe haven, and when all the adults vanish, Alice and her new friends set out to get help. Giant floating robot goldfish, unexpected alien encounters and a not-so friendly Martian landscape are just some of the challenges they will deal with along the way. This entertaining and smartly-written romp will make you want to buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Stephanie Whelan, Views From the Tesseract
The Dungeoneersby John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Matt
The Dungeoneers is a first-class adventure that reads like a role-playing game on the surface, while being booby-trapped with plot twists and laced with reflections on morality and loyalty. When Colm starts picking pockets to help his struggling family, they are horrified. But before he can be imprisoned, he’s rescued by a man impressed by his talents who whisks him off to study at legendary Tye Twodin’s School for Dungeoneers–professional treasure hunters and monster fighters. There Colm and his new teammates, the shy young mageling Quinn Frostfoot, tough-as-nails (unless she’s bleeding herself) barbarian-to-be Lena Proudfoot, and druid-in-training Serene (with her a pet spider named Mr. Tickletoes) have to master the skills of dungeoneering. Swordplay, spells and lock picking aren’t as challenging as navigating the social pitfalls of an extraordinary boarding school and figuring out who can be trusted…and that’s before the real adventuring begins!
Katy Kramp, alibrarymama
The Fog Diverby Joel Ross
HarperCollins
Nominated by: PLCarpenter
Set in a world where a deadly fog has taken over the planet, and people are forced to live in the skies, a quartet of ragtag orphans make a living off of what they can scavenge on Earth’s surface, even though it means sending their diver, Chess, down through the toxic mist while still tethered to their sky ship. Chess is in less danger than most, as he has a mysterious resistance to the effects of the fog, but the evil Lord Kodoc will stop at nothing to find out Chess’ secret.
When the four kids – Hazel (the daring captain), Swedish (the strong pilot), Bea (the cheery mechanic), and Chess (the secretive tetherboy) find out that the woman who raised them as family is dying from the Fog sickness, they decide to embark on an mission to save her life, and avoid the evil Lord Kodoc. Featuring air pirates, great characters, and a unique setting, The Fog Diver is a fantastic steampunk adventure with a sci-fi twist that will leave you wanting more.
Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters
Wings of Fire Book Six: Moon Risingby Tui T. Sutherland
Scholastic Press
Nominated by: Angiegirl
The Wings of Fire series returns with new dragons and a brand new story arc! After years of war, the kingdoms of the dragons are at peace, and a school has been founded to gather together young dragons from all the different factions. One of these students is Moonwatcher, a young Nightwing who has the Nightwing powers of telepathy and prophecy, gifts that might help her and her new friends thwart the dangerous and deadly plots that threaten the fragile peace. These books, with their wide range of heroic young dragon characters,, are just full of kid appeal, and Moon Rising is one of the best of them. Strong messages of friendship, tolerance, and forgiveness are presented alongside adventures large and small in a way that will have readers clamoring for more.
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library
 
Isn't that a great list!  In one way, this was an easy year, because we had really really really strong books from which to pick.  But that of course made it hard to pick just seven....
 
And now the books have moved on to the second round of panelists, who have to pick one book as the ulitimate winner (to be announced Feb. 14).  I do not know which one I would pick.  At the moment, I am leaning toward Moon Rising, simply because Dragons at Boarding School is pretty much my personal dream book..............
 
(personal note:  I'm tickled that this year a book nominated by my 12 year old (The Dungeoneers) made it to the list)

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