This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/18/18)

Here's what I found in my blog reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? by Kelly Jones, at The Reading Nook Reviews

The Book of Bad Things, by Dan Poblocki, at Dark Fairie Tales

Buttheads from Outer Space, by Jerry Mahoney, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo, by Stephen Bramucci, at Semicolon

Embers of Destruction (Mysteries of Cove, Book 3) by J. Scott Savage, at Hidden in Pages

Frogkisser, by Garth Nix, at You Book Me All Night Long

The Ghost of Thomas Kemp, by Penelope Lively, at The Emerald City Book Review

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow and as an audiobook at Hidden In Pages

Harriet the Invincible, by Ursula Vernon, at Geo Librarian

Krikkit's Shoes, by Jessie L. Best, at Red Headed Booklover Blog

The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic, by Eliot Schrefer, at Mom Read It

The Marvelwood Magicians, by Diane Zahler, at alibrarymama

The Misadventure of Bolingbroke Manor by Ellie Firestone, at LILbooKLovers

The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, at Leaf's Reviews

The Nothing to See Here Hotel, by Steven Butler, at Alittlebutalot

Ranger in Time: D-Day: Battle on the Beach by Kate Messner, at The Children's War

Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, by Jeramey Kraatz, at Charlotte's Library

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, at Pages Unbound

Switched, by Jen Calonita, at Cracking the Cover

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes, at Redeemed Reader

The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette, at Nerdy Book Club

Watchdog, by Will McIntosh, at alibrarymama

Wizard for Hire, by Obert Skye, at The Readathon

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  A Bad Night for Bullies, by Gary Ghislain, and Skeleton Tree, by Kim Ventrella

Two at Boys Rule Boys Read:  Guardians of the Grypon's Claw, by Todd Calgi Gallicano, and The Winged Girl of Knossos, by Erick Berry

Authors and Interviews

Liz Kessler (Emily Windsnap) at B and N Kids Blog

Stephanie Burgis (The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart) at The Cybils

Zetta Elliott (Dragons in a Bag) at Elizabeth Dulemba

Other Good Stuff

Have you been checking out the facebook posts of KidlitWomen?  Lots interesting and motivating reading.

Rhianna Pratchett talks about her Moomin infused childhood at The Guardian

And do you  know that the next KidLitCon will be in Providence RI in March of 2019?  Check out the fantastic list of folks who are already planning to come!


Monsters Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado

Monsters Beware! is the third book of the Chronicles of Claudette, written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafael Rosado, with John Novak. This is a great graphic novel series for elementary and middle grade kids that will delight all young adventurers, and this third installment keeps the fun and excitement going very nicely indeed.

Claudette's home town is playing host to the Warrior Games, in which three children from each participating kingdom compete to slay monsters.  Claudette, being Claudette, wants desperately for the chance to slay, and manipulates the other kids so that's she's chosen, along with her little brother, Gaston, and best friend, Marie. But Marie's father, the lord of the town, doesn't want anything bad to happen to her, so instead of monsters, the competitions feature domestic and agrarian tasks!  When the trio of kids start to win competition after competition, with other kids mysteriously disappearing during each event, Claudette throws off her disappointment viz lack of monsters to through herself fiercely into the fray of truffle hunting, plowing, etc.

But there actually are monsters--the Sea Kingdom kids are not what they seem to be, and they want more than just victory in the Games.  When their monstrous true nature is finally revealed for all to see (though the reader, Maria and Gaston realized this much earlier in the story), Claudette finally gets to attack.  But though her sword work is fierce, it's Gaston's magical cooking skills and Marie's ability to stall through polite small talk that really save the day!

And the ending is happier than readers could have guessed.

It is tremendously fun, and funny, and this third volume only reaffirms my opinion that the series is one that belongs on the shelves of every young fantasy fan.  The pictures are bright and vibrant and easy to understand, helping moving the story along in beautiful synchronicity with the words (I'm not the best graphic novel reader because I tend to focus on words, and so I appreciate books like this where I can absorb the picture information at the same time).

Here are my reviews of the first book--Giants Beware!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, by Jeramey Kraatz

Though I do my darndest to read All the Books (specifically, all the middle grade science and fantasy books), sometimes I miss them when they come out, and then the sequel appears and I must play catch-up.  That's the case with Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, by Jeramey Kraatz, that came out in May 2017 (HarperCollins) whose sequel, Dark Side of the Moon, came out last month...and since I enjoyed Kraatz's earlier Cloak Society series, and since there's so little exoplanetary mg sci fi that each new series is exciting, I pushed Moon Platoon up on my reading list....and had a nice afternoon of excitement on the moon as my reward!

Benny Love has spent his twelve years in the drylands that cover most of western North America fifty years or so in the future, years he's spent help his dad find food and water for their caravan, helping look after his little brothers, and always dreaming of a way out.  Now the way out has come--Benny has been chosen to go to the moon.  Elijah West, genius inventor and eccentric, has chosen him to be one of 100 scholarship kids who will go spend two weeks at the Lunar Taj, his  luxury resort playground on the moon.  Benny and the other kids, who come from all around the globe, are thrilled at the chance to pilot Space Runners, tinker with cool technology, and compete to earn West's favor (and maybe get to stay on the moon and work for him).

But almost immediately there are signs (not very subtle ones; mechanical exploding asteroids are not subtle) that something is very wrong on the moon.  Benny and the kids in his new cohort soon find themselves breaking rule after rule to find out what's really happening. And then, once they do, it's up to them to do something about it, because there's no-one on earth who can save the day.

If you are a reader who thinks drag-racing in space sounds awesome, you are the perfect reader for this book.  If you are a reader who enjoys cool technology and a mystery plot, with kids saving the day in the end, you are an excellent reader for it.  If you enjoy sci fi mysteries with a lot of page time spent on kids in a boarding school-like situation, where friendship formation is as important as the technology to both saving the world and moving the plot along, you are a very good reader for it.  This would be me.


Though I enjoyed it as light entertainment, and very much wanted to see what was going to happen, it wasn't as emotionally powerful as I like my fraught adventures to be.  Benny is just too darn good to be true.  In fairness, his nobility is what got him the scholarship, but still.  He is an angel teen, very likeable and sympathetic, but a bit much, and so the reader is being more told to feel certain emotions in response to him rather than be overcome from behind by them (as it were).  The supporting kids were less angelic, but not desperately nuanced either. So if you demand fully-three dimensional characters who are more than their primary attribute (coder girl, jock girl, bratty rich boy sort of thing), you won't love this one.  The author adds some character depth with backstory, but backstory can only take you so far.  

So it is best to simply power up your space runner and go along for the ride....and since I still want to know what happens next (and since the second book has gotten more favorable reviews ) the best part of having taken a while to get to this one is that I can add the sequel to my library holds list right away!


this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/11/18)

Welcome to this week's sprung forward edition of what I found in my weekly blog reading of interest to us middle grade sci fi/fantasy fans!

The Reviews

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Hopeful Reads

Beast and Crown, by Joel Ross, at alibrarymama

Dominion, by Shane Arbuthnott, at alibrarymama

Dragon's Future by Kandi Wyatt, at Cover2CoverBlog (audiobook review)

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island, by Liz Kessler, at Read Till Dawn

Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be, by Kevin John Scott, at The Write Path

Granted, by John David Anderson, at Maria's Melange and  Log Cabin Library

The Ice Sea Pirates, by Frida Nilsson, at Semicolon

Intergalactic P.S. 3, by Madeleine L'Engle, at Charlotte's Library

The List, by Patricia Forde, at Semicolon

The Lost Frost Girl, by Amy Wilson, at This Kid Reviews Books

Love Sugar Magic-a Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, at Mom Read It

Nightfall, by Shannon Messenger, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson, at Charlotte's Library

The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd, at Puss Reboots

Rebel Genius, by Michael DiMartino, at alibrarymama

The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta, at Rajiv's Reviews

Sisters of Glass, by Naomi Cyprus, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Spinner Prince (Pride Wars), by Matt Laney, at Books for Kids

Terra Nova, by Shane Arbuthnott, at Sci Fi and Scary

The Twistrose Key, by Tone Almhjell, at Hidden in Pages

The Zanna Functin, by Daniel Wheatley, at A Dance With Books

Three at Ms. Yingling Reads--The World Below, by Wesley King, The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta, and Leia, Princess of Alderan, by Claudia Gray

Authors and Interviews

Vashti Hardy (Brightstorm), at Minerva Reads

Diane Magras (The Mad Wolf's Daughter) at B. and N. Kids Blog

Amy Wilson (A Far Away Magic) at Stephanie Burgis

Other Good Stuff

This year's winner of the Blue Peter Award, given by the UK's Book Trust, is The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell

Lots of Wrinkle in Time stuff out there; here's one I liked at Tor--How Could I Forget the Liberating Weirdness of Madeleine L’Engle? and here's a list of books for Wrinkle in Time fans to read next that I made for B and N Kids Blog

And though not quite seasonally appropriate here in the north-east, the homemade ice-cream books at Playing by the Book are utterly charming!

and finally, Kidlitcon 2019 will be next March, in Providence RI, hosted by me and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom! I hope you can come talk children's books and make new friends with us!


Intergalactic P.S. 3, by Madeleine L'Engle

When I heard there was a new book published in the Wrinkle In Time series, I was thrilled.  But then I discovered that Intergalactic P.S. 3 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb. 2018, 112 pages) was just the starter point for what would become the second book in the series, A Wind in the Door.  L'Engle published it for Children's Book Week in 1970, and it's more a long short story than a full book.  L'Engle tells, in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, that she struggled with the plot of A Wind in the Door, with the characters coming clear to her mind but the story being more troublesome.  Intergalactic P.S. 3 was an early stab at the story, and so it doesn't fill in an actual gap in the series, but simply is an alternate version of what "really" happened.

Charles Wallace is about to start school, and he and his family are convinced it is going to be a disaster, because the stereotypical small town mentality where they live is going to make it impossible for a little genius like C.W. to survive without getting beaten up.  The conversation is a lot more direct than it is in a Wind in the Door, and I couldn't help but feel that his parents were setting C.W. up for failure without actually doing anything useful, like trying to talk to his teachers, or possibly moving so he could have a fresh start without negative preconceptions shadowing him.  Meg is determined to save her brother from the hell of public school kindergarten, and so with the power of will and wishing she summons the three Mrs. W, who whisk C.W., Meg, and Calvin off to school on another planet.  

There they are each paired with an alien child, and although Calvin's dolphin-headed partner didn't make it into the final version (no great loss), Progo the cherubim and Sporos, not yet a mitochondrian, are paired with the others, and Meg has to undergo her "which is the real Mr. Jenkins" test.

When I read a Wind in the Door at the age of nine, the Mr. Jenkins test blew my mind.  The story of Calvin's shoes, especially the pathos of Mr. Jenkins trying to make the new ones look a bit used, so as to spare Calvin's feelings, had a huge impact on me (and maybe even made me a better person....at any rate I spent considerable waiting to fall asleep time trying to love the principal of my own school, with little success but perhaps it was good for me).  So reading a much-less developed version of the story did nothing for me.

Basically this book isn't a thrilling expansion of the known universe of A Wrinkle In Time, but simply a look at how the final story of A Wind in the Door developed.  Not without interest to fans, but not exactly a treat.  If, on the other hand, there are young kids today who want to read "the next book" but are not ready to independently read A Wind in the Door, this would be just fine--it's a lot shorter and easier to read, and has friendly illustrations by Hope Larson (who did the graphic novel version of Wrinkle).

What I'm really left with is the desire to re-read Wind in the Door, and a horrible feeling that I don't know where I shelved it...and the old feeling of "those eyes are really scary."
(this isn't my copy, but mine is the same edition in about the same state...I re-read it a lot.)

Kidlitcon 2019-Providence!

Kidlitcon is coming to Providence RI March 22 and 23 2019!  We'll be the Hotel Providence, right in beautiful, quirky downtown, and we hope you can join us!  Here's our website, with all the information to date.

Kidlitcon is an annual (more or less) gathering of children's and YA book folk (authors, illustrators, reviewers, librarians, gatekeepers, parents, publishers and more), and we can promise two days full of great discussions and great friendships, with two keynote speakers and concurrent panels on a wide variety of book topics!  There will also be food and drink and swag.  The Kidlitcon organizers for 2019 are Mia Wenjen and me, and we are determined to make this the best Kidlitcon ever (which is a high bar).

Since we're still a bit more than a year out, registration isn't open yet, but you can start planning to come now!  We welcome ideas for panels and expressions of interest (there's a poll at the website, to give us a sense of what people are most interested in talking about), and we've also started looking for sponsorships so that we can keep registration costs down and still break even.

Here are some sponsorship opportunities:

As soon as we have ticketing set up, you can select Sponsorship from the list of options. Any amount over $50 will get you a side bar listing on our website, a post on our facebook page, inclusion in the program and on signage at the conference, recognition from the podium, and will be part of a coordinated social media blast to the c. 300,000 folks reached by our team!

 The following special options are also available.

 Food and beverage sponsorships:  

 These sponsorships will give you the listing and outreach above, plus an easel in the food and beverage room displaying an advertisement/promotional image of your choice (that fits on a standard conference easel) on display both days of the conference.
·            Breakfast $250 (two available)

·           Morning coffee and tea. ​$200 (two available)

·           Afternoon snack: $250 (two available)      

·           Lunch: $500 (two available)

·           Friday Evening reception sponsorship $150 (four available)       

·                Snack: $300 (two available)
Audio Visual sponsorship

Sponsor the AV needs of one of our meeting rooms!  As well as the listing and outreach above, you can send us an image to use as the screen saver/default page of one of the projectors, and each session in that room will begin with a thank you image and acknowledgement from the podium.

AV sponsorship: $225 (three available)


Your ad placed in the program given out to attendees. Attendees actually look at and keep our program.

Quarter Page                       $50
Half Page                            $100
Full Page                             $200

Easel Display

Your promotional image/advertisement displayed on an easel in the registration/food and beverage area! Kidlitcon attendees love to look at book pictures and book news, so this is a great way for publishers to showcase forthcoming titles, or if you're an author, it's a great way to spotlight your newest book (you can share your spot with other authors too, to save money!).  Limited to 6, we can print your image for you at cost or you can mail it to us.

One day  $50
Both days $75

If you are interested in coming, presenting, sponsoring, or all of the above, please shoot me an email-charlotteslibrary@gmail.com. Thanks!

And keep an eye on the website for more information as we get closer to the date!


The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Oceans Between Stars, by Kevin Emerson (Walden, middle grade, Feb 2017), is the sequel to Last Day on Mars, an action-packed story of the sun going supernova as two kids, Liam and Phoebe, find themselves scrambling against sabotage and disaster to get themselves and their parents off Mars before it is toast.  This is what happens to them out in space, as they try to rendezvous with the rest of humanity, hoping their little space yacht and the robot piloting it will get them to safety.  Both sets of parents are badly injured, and must stay in stasis, so there's no help from them.  Space is cold and vast and lonely when you aren't sure if you'll ever have a home, and there's the looming fear that whoever the aliens are who are setting suns on supernova fire are going to keep up their nasty work, and no where will be safe.

There's enough plot in just that part of the story for a whole book.  But wait, there's more.

This is not a spoiler because it's how the book starts.

It turns out that the planet chosen for humanity's new home already had sentient beings on it, and all but a few were killed when humanity sent a cleansing inferno down to wipe all life from its surface so that humanity could have a clean slate.  They might not have known for sure what they were doing, but quite possibly suspected....and the 238 survivors want their planet back, and have no pity to spare for humanity's need for a new home.

That's a lot of plot too.  But there's still more.

Phoebe has been keeping a secret.  A terrible one.  She's been secretly leaving stasis to alter the course of their little spacecraft so that it won't reach the rendezvous point when it's supposed to.  Is she still Liam's friend? Her parents' daughter?  Readers of the first book know that she is one of the survivors of the blasted planet, but Liam doesn't, and when he finds out there is great emotional tension and powerful considerations of friendship and loyalty.

And on top of that, you also get time slipping with alien technology! 

[apologies for the next paragraph.  I didn't really understand what was happening with regard to the time travel, and had a choice--I could slow down, and carefully try to make sense of things, or simply keep turning the pages to see what happened next.  I chose the later.  I always choose the later.]

Back on Mars, Liam found an alien corpse, and took from it a device that messes with time, showing him the future or the past, and himself and others doing things in both that have a huge impact on the choices he makes.  He doesn't actually travel through time in a standard boy going to another time way; it's more like time is traveling weirdly around him, or he's traveling within time, or something.  When he encounters the alien whose device it was in a past pocket of time, they try to explain...and neither Liam or I really understood.  But both of us continued on with the story, trusting that events would unravel into some sort of temporal coherence.  Which they did, to a point, although that point involved an increase in the travelling part of the time slipping....and no answers to anything......

So we must wait for the third book....which will involve reading books 1 and 2 again just before it comes out, so that everything makes more sense in my mind.  Good thing the books are worth it!

Kirkus nails it on this one-- "Thrills, violence, time/space questions, and some contemplation about colonization make for action on the thoughtful side"  (To which I will add that this is the sort of book that makes me realize again how much easier it is for me to enjoy middle grade books, with kids as the central protagonists, than it is for me to enjoy YA books these days...there's a clarity of focus to middle grade (or something) that just holds my interest more).


This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and sci from from around the blogs (3/4/18)

Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Abby the Librarian

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy, at Minerva Reads and  Playing by the Book

Children of Exile, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Geo Librarian

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic) by Anna Meriano, at Puss Reboots

Elementals: Ice Wolves (Book 1) by Amie Kaufman, at Readings

Flower Moon, by Gina Linko, at She's Going Book Crazy

Ghosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Locus

Handbook for Dragon Slayers, and The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at Small Review

Harper and the Night Forest by Cerrie Burnell, at Say What?

Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, at Book Nut

Oddity, by Sarah Cannon, at Always in the Middle

The Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd, at Children's Books Heal

The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin, at Middle Grade Mafioso

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta, at SLJ

Shadow Magic, by Joshua Kahn, at Susan Uhlig

Skeleton Tree, by Kim Ventrella, at Semicolon

Tin, by Padraig Kenny, at The Great British Bookworm

The Unicorn Quest, by Kamilla Benko, at Kidsreads

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, at Leaf's Reviews

Wizardmatch, by Lauren Magaziner, at Pages Unbound Reviews

Two at Time Travel Times Two: The Painting, by Charis Cotter, and Within a Painted Past, by Hazel Hutchins

Two set in Poland, at Semicolon:  The  Wolf Hour, by Sara Lewis Holmes, and The Dollmaker of Krakow, by R.M. Romero

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  The Wishmakers, by Tyler Whitesides, and The Boggart Fights Back, by Susan Cooper

Another two at Ms. Yingling Reads:  The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray, by E. Latimer, and Legends of the Lost Causes, by Brad McLelland, Brad and Louis Sylvester

Authors and Interviews

Sayantani DasGupta (The Serpent's Secret) at B and N Kids Blog

Linday Currie (The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street) at Melissa Roske

Other Good Stuff

An enticing list of new books coming out in the US in March at From the Mixed Up Files, and new books in the UK, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

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