Realm Breaker (Last Dragon Charmer 3), by Laurie McKay

Realm Breaker is the third book in Laurie McKay's Last Dragon Charmer series (Harper Collins, March 7, 2017).  The books tell of a young prince and a young girl who's a magic user, inadvertently exiled from their magical homeland to Asheville, North Carolina. There Caden and Brynne found that Ms. Primrose, the principal of the middle school they were forced to attend by their new foster mother is actually a powerful dragon, of uncertain temper, presiding over a staff consisting of banished villains. 

At the end of the second book, the leader of the villains, a  truly sinister fellow, has overthrown the dragon principal and is setting up a dark magical spell  that will allow him to access the magical realm and take control there too.  Caden is naturally determined to stop this evil plan.  But though he has allies in Asheville, and though he has magical gift of his own for persuasively charming speech, it's not at all clear whether he'll be able to do so.  Especially since the dragon ex-principal is being pushed toward her own dark side....

This series is tremendously fun in general, in its lighthearted use of High Fantasy conventions mixed with the real world of Asheville, where Caden is in foster care.  And this third book, not having to set the stage, spends less time playing with Caden's confusion about life in the real world (though he's still confounded at times), giving McKay room to up the ante of the plot.  There's lots of  suspense and danger, making for truly gripping reading! 

The world building of the fantasy realm and its inhabitants is strengthened here, adding interest, and the relationship between Caden and his older brother (banished to Asheville under a cloud of suspicion) is also given more depth. Though there are lots of great character interactions, it's especially fun to see Caden gingerly negotiating with Ms. Primrose, who is one of the most diverting dragon characters of the current middle grade fantasy scene!

Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and younger middle grader aficionados of magical mayhem (the 9 to 11 year olds not ready for YA) should seek the books out post haste!  Here's my review of the first book, Villain Keeper, and the second book, Quest Maker.  Realm Breaker builds on the strengths of these two, making for very good reading indeed!  This installment ends at a good ending point, but there are lots of questions and unresolved issues left, so hopefully there will be more to come!

final note--  I want to share the link to the Goodreads page for the book, because Ms. Yingling's review there gives a lovely detailed summary, and because she loved it, though she is not naturally drawn to middle grade fantasy, so I think her admiration for the series is about as shining a testimonial as one can get....

disclaimer: review copy received (with great happiness) from the author


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (2/26/17)

Here's this week's roundup--please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

100 Cupboards (series review) by N.D. Wilson, at Redeemed Reader

Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson, at Charlotte's Library

Ben the Dragonborn, by Dianne Astle, at Middle Grade Munch

The Burning Bridge, by Roy Carter, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood and Co. book 4), by Jonathan Stroud, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, at My Brain on Books

The Doll's Eye, by Marina Cohen, at Mom Read It

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, by Steaphanie Burgis, at The Book Smugglers

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, at GeoLibrarian

The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler, at Sharon the Librarian

The Goblin's Puzzle, by Andrew Chilton, at GeoLibrarian

The  Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, at Imaginary Reads

If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses #1) by Susan Maupin Schmid, at Redeemed Reader

The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Book Nut (audiobook review)

A Little Taste of Poison, by R.J. Anderson, at Redeemed Reader

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi, at Redeemed Reader

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel, at Nerdy Book Club

Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale, at Leaf's Reviews

A Pocket Full of Murder, by R.J. Anderson, at Redeemed Reader

Saturdays at Sea, by Jessica Day George, at Reading Violet

Time Travelling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Authors and Interviews

Carter Roy (The Blood Guard Series) at Always in the Middle and the Children's Book Review

Other Good  Stuff

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center 2017 best of the year book  list

The Alsc 2017 Notable Children's book list

The Nebula Awards List has been announced, and I'm pleased to see that Evil Wizard Smallbone is in contention for the Norton Award (for "YA" books) .  Here's the whole Norton list:

      The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)

  • And finally, after twenty years, the world of Megan Whalen Turner's books has a map, created by artist Maxime Plasse


    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson

    I have not read the first book about Audacity Jones, denizen of Miss Maisie's School For Wayward Girls (Audacity Jones to the Rescue) but that did not stop me from enjoying her second outing! 

    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson (Scholastic, January 31, 2017), Audie is once again taken on as a detecitve's sidekick.  "Cypher", the mysterious gentleman responsible for Audie's first outing, now has been hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and needs a set of young eyes and some quick wits to help him on another case.   Accompanied by her best friends, a fellow Wayward girl and a most unusual cat, they set off for New York.

    There Harry Houdini is about to pull off his biggest magic trick yet-he plans to make an elephant disappear!  But someone is trying to sabotage him, and its up to Audie and her friends to make sure that the absent-minded genius who's the brains of this trick isn't "taken care off" by a jealous rival before she can complete her work for Houdini.  And in the meantime, there's the elephant himself--a young and mistreated animal, who must be saved!

    It's  fun visit to turn of last century New York.  There's enough historical detail to make it convincing, without weighing the story down.  The highly intelligent and highly unusual cat brings a touch of fantasy to the mix, which makes it all the more intriguing; that being said, it's subtle enough so that those who are looking for more realistic fiction won't be bother, but those who are looking for full blown cat fantasy will be pleased but might perhaps want more!

    Animal lovers, magical cat lovers, and fans of upper elementary level detective stories with strong girl leads will love it.  It's not a long or dense book, so it's good for the third to fifth grade set.

    disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


    The Invisible Hand, by James Hartley, for Timeslip Tuesday (British boarding school meets Mcbeth!)

    In The Invisible Hand, by James Hartley (Lodestone Books, Feb. 22, 2017), Sam is stuck at a gray and dismal British boarding school finds himself caught in the story of Macbeth, time-traveling back to medieval Scotland for brief intervals (that usually end up in him being badly damaged or killed, Macbeth not being the most peaceful story to visit. Back in the past, he meets a girl, Leana, and she too is caught in the the time-travel magic, only she moves forward in time to the boarding school.

    The episodes of danger in medieval Scotland are vivid and convincing. This is sort of time travel where the traveler fits neatly into a slot, and knows the right thing to say, but though Sam passes as a native just fine, he keeps his own internal point of view. We don't get to see medieval native Leana's point of view as she finds herself at boarding school far in her future, but it's still an interesting narrative, and we do get her perspective back in the past as Macbeth's story plays out.

    The time slipping isn't, though, the actual point of the story, merely a symptom of supernatural forces at work. The magic of Macbeth's three witches spills into ordinary life at boarding school. The ordinary lessons and discomfort that Sam has been learning to put up with become mixed with danger. The school is the repository of an ancient book that can change reality, and Sam needs to find it in order to chart a course that will steer him clear of the darkness of Macbeth's story, giving him and Leana a more hopeful future.

    If you are looking for a YA fantasy that is a change from the standard "young magical savior of the realm, possibly in an attractive dress on the cover" sort of thing, and of course if you enjoy Shakespearean riffs, and British boarding school stories, you might well enjoy this one lots. It's not necessarily for every reader--the bouncing between past and present is somewhat abrupt, and Explanations aren't as forthcoming as some of us might like. For instance, if there was a reason why Sam started time-slipping, I didn't pick up on it. But it is a vivid and memorable story, that sticks very nicely in the mind.

    It's possible that more answers will be forthcoming. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeare´s Moon, in which book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

    Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


    This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (2/19/17)

    Welcome to this week's collection of blog posts of interested to fans of middle grade fantasy and science fiction.  It's a little light this week, which makes me feel I might have missed things, so let me know if I missed your post!

    The Reviews

    A Crack in the Sea, by H.M. Bouwman, at books4yourkids

    The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, at Great Imaginations

    The Dog Ray, by Linda Coggin, at Charlotte's Library

    Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, at alibrarymama

    The Forbidden Fortress (Omega City #2), by Diana Peterfreund, at Ms. Yingling Reads

    The Inquistor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Pages Unbound Reviews

    The Marvellous Magic of Miss Mabel, by Natasha Lowe, at The Write Path

    The Nethergrim, by Matthew Jobin, at Say What?

    The Secret Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart, at Pages Unbound Reviews

    Shadow Magic, by Joshua Kahn, at Geo Librarian

    The Skeleth (Nethergrim, #2), by Matthew Jobin, at Say What?

    The Sorcerer of the North, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

    Talons of Power, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Hidden in Pages

    The Unfinished Angel, by Sharon Creech, at Completely Full Shelf

    Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers, at Geo Librarian

    When the Sea Turns to Silver, by Grace Lin, at Geo Librarian

    Authors and Interviews

    Kent Davis (A Riddle in Ruby) at The Reading Nook Reviews


    The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin

    The Dog, Ray, by Linda Coggin is the story of a girl who is reincarnated as a dog.  Which sounds rather bald, and kind of odd.  But it is a story that works; a gripping, emotional read.

    When Daisy is killed in a car accident, she's slotted for reincarnation.  In the normal run of things, she would have been born again as a person, but lack of availability in her area lands her rebirth as a puppy.  And in a slip-up, she's been left with her memories of her human life, and she wants to get back to her parents.  Instead, she finds a friend in a homeless boy named Pip, who also is looking for family, and as they travel together, Daisy gradually looses her human memories and becomes more and more completely Pip's dog, Ray.

    Daisy's metamorphosis into true dog sounded to me, when I first read about this book, like something horrifying and grotesque--a loss of humanity and a loss of self.  But the actual progression of her change was, instead, gentle and natural; she wasn't, after all, Daisy the human girl any more, so sinking more and more into dogness seemed like a gentle, natural  thing to happen to her.  And it was made more palatable by the bond between her and Pip, a loving relationship formed purely by the dog, Ray, with very little of Daisy to do with it.

    This book offers a moving portrayal of homelessness; one of Daisy's first and best friends in her dog life is a very sympathetic older homeless man, who is also kind to Pip, himself a runaway from foster care. 

    Give this one to kids who love dogs who like their fantasy real-world oriented and their reading on the sad side: it didn't make me exactly cry, but almost.....Kirkus and I are on exactly the same page with this one; they say (full review here):  "A powerful story brought to heart-beating life by its cogent craftsmanship."


    Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt, by George O'Connor

    In his afterword to Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt (First Second, January 31, 2017) , the latest in his graphic novel series about the Olympian gods and goddesses, George O'Connor shares that this was one of his favorites to create.  That enthusiasm shows clearly, and this was by far my favorite of the series to read.

    The story of Artemis, strong-minded protector of wild things, is told from multiple points of view, beginning with her mother, Leto's persecution by Hera, and including the sad tale of Niobe whose pride in her children came to a dreadful end, the story of  fierce hunter Atlanta, and that of Orion, her would be lover, as well as others. It's a rich and varied tapestry, with one constant factor--Artemis herself, steadfast in her choice to be free and fierce all her life.  She is not kind, but she is not unsympathetic either; though she's a killer, she's also admirable.  The book is given depth by the emotional heft of Artemis' choices and their consequences.

    Although I haven't read the other books in the series recently, the images here seem brighter, which is appropriate for moon-loving Artemis, and they are full of vivid detail and expressiveness.  They
     help make Artemis a more complex character than some of the other Olympians featured in earlier books..

    In short, it's a very vivid collection of vignettes that combine into a gripping portrait of one of my own favorite Olympians, and fans of the series will not be disappointed!

    disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


    This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (2/12/17)

    A shortish round-up this week, which is fine because now I can go play more Stardew Valley (although my new cat is not letting me in my house, and my children are asleep so I can't ask them what to do...)

    As always, please let me know if I missed your post!

    The Reviews

    The Castle in the Mist, by Amy Ephron, at Great Imaginations

    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, at Charlotte's Library

    The Doll's House, by Rumer Godden, at Semicolon

    The Eternity Code, by Eoin Colfer, at Lunar Rainbow Reviews

    Foxheart, by Claire Legrand, at A Reader of Fictions

    Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane, at Sonderbooks

    The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Becky's Book Reviews

    The Jamie Drake Equation, by Christopher Edge, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

    Journey Through Ash and Smoker (Ranger in Time 5) by Kate Messner, at Time Travel Times Two

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at Charlotte's Library and Word Spelunking (with giveaway)

    The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith, at Cracking the Cover and Ms. Yingling Reads

    The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones, at The Book Smugglers

    When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin, at Sonderbooks and Falling Letters

    A Wizard Abroad, by Diane Duane, at Fantasy Faction

    Word of Mouse, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, at Log Cabin Library and A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    Two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  Finders Keepers (Rebels of the Lamp #2). by Michael Galvin and Peter Speakman. and The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith

    Authors and Interviews

    Amy Ephron (The Castle in the Mist) at Nerdy Book Club

    Fred Holmes (The Ugly Teapot) on adapting his screenplay to a book, at Middle Grade Ninja

    Dana Langer (Siren Sisters) at Literary Rambles (with giveaway)

    Other Good Stuff

    The Waterstone Children's Book Prize (a UK Award) shortlist has been released, with Middle Grade Spec Fic well represented.


    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson (Walden Pond Press, February 14, 2017), is the most gripping middle grade science fiction book I've read in ages.  A hundred and fiftyish years in the future, our sun is going supernova, long before it should be.  Humanity has been forced to leave Earth, settling on Mars, but with Mars about to be engulfed by the sun, colony ships have set off for a new solar system.  Liam and his friend Phoebe are supposed to be on the last ship leaving Mars.  Their parents are desperately working to finish the terraforming project that will make their new planet habitable, but they have only a few hours left before the colony ship must leave.  And things are going wrong.

    The first half of the book covers these last few hours, and it is basically my own personal travel anxiety dream taken to a whole new level of anxious, because the clock is ticking...and  if the kids and their parents don't make it onto the colony ship, they die.

    And like I said, things are going wrong.

    It's not just your basic level of last minute panic wrong, but a much larger, more threatening wrongness.  We learn right at the beginning of the book that the supernova is not a random happenstance, but deliberate sabotage not just of our sun but of other stars.  An alien scientist had come to Mars before humanity left earth, and was killed there, leaving behind a strange device that allows its user to see future possibilities.  Liam and Phoebe find it, and Liam sees disasters ahead.

    Can he and Phoebe save their parents (the terraforming project headquarters is sabotaged), and get off Mars safely?  And in future books, will humanity be able to foil the evil star destroying masterminds? 

    So tense. Very, very tense.  I must confess I enjoyed the first half of the book, with just the generic tenseness of escaping a doomed planet, more than the second, in which enemies (the star destroyers aren't the only ones) start playing a more active role.  Liam and Phoebe are sad to be leaving Mars, their home, and the poignancy of their situation is made vividly real, along with the physical details of the Mars colony itself.   I liked Liam and Phoebe lots; they are not so plucky and lucky as to be unbelievable, but simply ordinary kids doing the best they can.

    Sabotage, robots, space travel and time-slippiness combine for a nail-biting adventure, that will leave readers anxious for the next book.

    Kevin Emerson is the author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection as well as the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos is Gonna Get It. He is also an acclaimed musician who has recorded songs for both children and adults. A former K-8 science teacher, Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. Visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net

    Disclaimer: review copy received from the publishers, as part of the blog tour for the book.  The other stops are:

    Other Blog Tour Participants: 
    Jan. 27th  Unleashing Readers 
    Jan. 30th  SciFi Chick
    Feb. 1st  This Kid Reviews Books
    Feb. 3rd  Walden Media Tumblr
    Feb. 6th  Word Spelunking
    Feb. 7th  Novel Novice
    Feb. 9th  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
    Feb. 10th  Librarian's Quest

    There's a fascinating educator's guide, which you can find at the publisher's website (under "learn.")


    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders, for Timeslip Tuesday

    The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders (Delacorte, Dec. 2016), brings back twins Oz and Lily, and their friend Caydon, for another adventure involving magical chocolate (Oz and Lily's family have a  somewhat dubious heritage of mixing of magic with chocolate, as explained in The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop).  Although this is a sequel, it stands alone just fine, and it's a fun "magical romp" (meaning mostly lighthearted adventure with magic) with some evil antagonists, a talking cat, a young vampire (though she's been 11 for several centuries) and time travel. 

    It starts when the talking cat finds some crumbs from the chocolate phoenix imbued by the twins' Uncle Isadore with time travel magic.  Her visit with Queen Elizabeth has no great implications for the stability of the time stream, but the magical enforcement agency of London is worried.  With good reason--sinister forces are at work, determined to use the time travel chocolate to change the course of history (for the worse).   Silver, who was made a vampire when she was 11, several centuries ago, is assigned to the kids to be their bodyguard, because they have the right magical heritage that enables the chocolate to work its magic.

    And because of this, they are sent on two missions to make sure the past happens as it should--the first, to make sure the Great Fire of London happens, and the second, to make sure that St. Paul's isn't burned in WW II.  Both are exciting time travel adventures, although the actual experience of being in the past is not the point; thwarting the villains, with good reason, absorbs the energies of all concerned. 

    Even though there are plenty of tense moments, when Lily in particular is not as brave as one would like ones young fantasy heroines to be (though goodness knows I two would be a mess if I was thrown into the prison of child-eating giants to be their next snack), the whole ensemble is good magical adventure fun.  The magical world is broadened somewhat in this second book in the series, and there's lots of potential for more character growth and world building to come!

    The true hero is the immortal talking rat, Spike;  the kids themselves are mostly pawns in the battle of grown-ups.  But it's plenty diverting to just go along with them for the ride!

    Caydon's family is from Jamaica, providing some diversity (and I think it's cool that he got to be front and center on the phoenix); I hope we see more of his grandma in future books!


    She had run out of books to read. What she did next will amaze you! (especially #6) (a 10th anniversary of blogging post)

    (I have been wanting to use this clickbait-inspired post title for ages, and now that it is the ten year anniversary of my blog, I think it is time....nb.  #6 is not actually any more exciting than anything else.)

    So in my twenties, I didn't have anything to read.  Sure there were books for grad school, and a couple of hundred favorites from my youth, but I would go to bookstores and libraries, and not find much of anything that appealed, and it was sad and I whined a lot. 

    Here's how I changed my life, so that now my Book Needs are met.

    1.  In the late 1990s, I joined an online group called Girls Own, thanks to my sister who found it first.  It is a group of fans of primarily British school girl stories, with lots of recommendations of older girls fiction thrown in.  This was wonderful; it gave me lots of authors to look for, and lots of books to buy, especially when small publishers sprang up (like Girls Gone By) who were reprinting some of the scarcer titles.  It also gave my sister lots of books to lend me whenever she visited.

    2.  I married a fellow bibliophile.  This resulted in me reading, in the early days of our relationship, books he had lying around that he recommended to me even though he hadn't read them himself yet (I didn't know that until I had read Angle of Repose and River of Traps, with no enjoyment whatsoever, sparing him the pain of having to do so himself).  On a more positive note, it also resulted in him building lots of bookshelves in our new home (the bedroom shelves are shown below; couldn't get them to fit in one frame, so the splice is awkward, with half the chimney cut off), and lots of visits to used bookstores in England when we went to see his family there.

    3. Amazon was founded in 1994, and Ebay started in 1995.  Ebay was especially exciting, because rare books could be bought rather cheaply....(does anyone else remember making rash purchases of random old books just because one could?)

    4.  The Library card catalogue became available on line.  Placing library holds became a source of much comfort in the first decade of the 21st century, especially when I realized, admittedly rather late in the game, that authors I liked might have written other books.

    5.  I started running booksales for the local library around 2000. Not only did this give me first crack at donations, but the library was also just starting to weed the children's books, which had been stagnant since the 1950s, which I also got first crack at.

    6.  And then the thing that made my book piles explode--I started this blog back in February of 2007.  I started reading blogs the fall of 2006, after successfully selling a first edition of  Newbery award winner Kira-Kira on Ebay for $300, and realized that Newbery Award book speculation was a sure fire way to untold wealth.  The first blog post I ever read was one by Linda Sue Park on what would win the Newbery that year, and that led me to other book blogs, which meant recommendations galore.

    7.  And when I saw that publishers would send you books to review if you had your own blog, I knew I had to do it...And it worked (except for the untold Newbery speculation wealth part).   Hundreds, possibly thousands, of review copies have come my way, and I (and my local library, where many of the finished books have ended up) am very grateful.  I have written almost 3,000 reviews.  I now review for the B. and N. Kids Book blog too, which has added to my review copy piles.

    (Here is my first post to get over 1000 views, on Women's Sufferage Fiction.  You will notice there are no hyperlinks.  It took me almost a year or so to learn how to do those, because I lacked Confidence, but I can now, and that's all that matters.  I am a much better blogger now).  Incidentally, the book by Geraldine Symons I mention was discarded by the library the next year, and is now safely on my own shelves (proving that my cunning plan to get all the books is working).

    So now, twenty years after my horrible time of book drought, I will never be hungry again (imagine a book in Scarlet's hand instead of a potato which is what I would have done if I had decent photo editing capabilities.  Although I also have lots of potatoes that come up year after year because of my poor harvesting skills, which is also fine).


    this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from aroudn the blogs (2/5/2017)

    Welcome to this week's round-up; please let me know if I missed anything!

    The Reviews

    Audacity Jones Steals the Show, by Kirby Larson, at On Starships and Dragon Wings

    The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

    The Court of the Stone Children, by Eleanor Cameron, at Time Travel Times Two

    The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim, at Manga Maniac Café

    The Emerald Tablet, by Dan Jolley, at Say What?

    The Firefly Code, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, at alibrarymama

    Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, edited by Jon Scieszka, at Good Books and Good Wine

    The Hero's Guide to.... series by Christopher Healy, at Boys Rule Boys Read

    If the Magic Fits, by Susan Maupin Schmid, at A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Sonderbooks

    Key Hunters: The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper, at Jean Little Library

    Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at This Kid Reviews Books

    The Lost Property Office, by James R. Hannibal, at Log Cabin Library

    The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Good Books and Good Wine (audiobook review)

    Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King, at Ms. Yingling Reads and Charlotte's Library

    The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith, at Me On Books

    The Scourge, by Jennifer Nielsen, at Semicolon

    Story Thieves: Secret Origins, by James Riley, at Carstairs Considers

    Time Traveling with a Hamster, by Ross Welford, at Charlotte's Library

    The Wishing World, by Todd Fahnestock, at Imaginary Reads

    The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories, by Terry Pratchett, at Back to Books

    The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale, at Always in the Middle, Charlotte's Library, and Falling Letters

    Two at alibrarymama--Me and Marvin Gardens, and Ninja Librarians--the Sword in the Stacks

    Authors and Interviews

    Greg Leitch Smith (Chronal Engine and Borrowed Time) at scbwi

    Zeta Elliott (The Ghosts in the Castle) at Cynsations

    Eric Kahn Gale (The Wizard's Dog) at The Write Path

    Dianne K. Salerni (The Eighth Day series) talks about character names at Project Mayhem

    Janet Fogg and Dave  Jackson (Misfortune Annie and the Locomotive Reaper) at Carpinello's Writing Pages

    Other Good Stuff

    Visit The Brown Bookshelf every day this month for 28 Days Later, featuring a different black YA or Childrens author/illustrator every day!

    At Semicolon, a look at trends and themes in middle grade spec fic from 2016


    Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King

    Things I have in common with the Obe, the 11-year old boy who's the protagonist of Me and Marvin Gardens, by Amy Sarig King (Arthur A. Levine Books, January 31, 2017)

    --plastic trash is vile, and picking up other people's trash is a normal and proper thing to do, and when you live near a creek you go down there lots and come home with your pockets full of trash.
    --houses being built on beloved open space is vile.
    --growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be, and being 11 when your friends are trying to grow up faster than you is miserable. (Especially for Obe, whose former best friend ended up punching him in the face in a territorial war that Obe didn't want any part of).
    --science is cool, and "environmental scientist" seems like a fine career choice and learning science in school is better than doing math worksheets.
    --families are complicated, but when it counts they have your back.

    And both of us, me and Obe both, think that a new species of animal that's a kind of dog sized mishmash of animal-ness that eats plastic would be better if its scat wasn't corrosive enough to melt the soles of one's sneakers and create little circles of dead vegetation.

    Obe finds this animal, who he names Marvin Gardens, down by the creek that's the last wild remnant of his mother's family farm (most of which got sold off, bit by bit, thanks to his Mom's grandfather's drinking problem).  Now a subdivision is being built on the beloved open space.  But down by the creek there's Marvin Gardens, a whole new type of animal.  One who eats plastic. 

    Obe wins his trust, and studies him, while making friends with an over-protected neighbor girl who becomes his ally, and while hurting pretty badly from his ex-best-friend's betrayal.   The gang of boys Tommy hangs out with now are the sort that might hurt Marvin, and Marvin's corrosive poop and his plastic eating is drawing the attention of the builders and the neighbors...To save Marvin, Obe has to let the secret of his existence out into the world, the sort of decision that is its own sort of growing up in its recognition of responsibility and the inevitability of change.

    So this is more than just a tree-hugging sort of story; it's mostly a story about coping with the fact of being an 11 year old in a tense and difficult world, and getting through it in such a way as to still have hope.  Which isn't to say its a depressing story, because there's lots about Marvin Gardens that's charming, and Obe's sister and Mom and science teacher come through for him very nicely, and his new friend is also a good addition to his life, and finally his mother realizes how bad his chronic nosebleeds are and gets him medical attention, and it was not leukemia which is what I was worried about....And Marvin Gardens finds a mate and makes more little baby plastic eaters (yay!).

    But I think that, although there are universal themes here,  the audience that will most appreciate this book are the animal-loving kids who would never, never let a piece of plastic fall from their hands onto the ground, because sea turtles.

    disclaimer: review copy received courtesy of the publisher and author at Kidlitcon 2016.

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