10/20/20

Paris on Repeat, by Amy Bearce, for Timeslip Tuesday


Paris on Repeat, by Amy Bearce (July 2020, Jolly Fish Press) is both a really fun and somewhat heart wrenchingly realistic upper- middle grade ground-hog day time slip story.

Eve, a military kid, is determined she'll make the most of her 8th grade trip to Paris.  She going to get over her inhibitions, and give a note to the boy she likes, Jace, telling him how she feels about him.  But before she screws up her courage to do so, she sees Jace and her best friend, Reggie, kissing in the Eiffel Tower.  Sure, Reggie challenged Jace with dare to do it, but as the day goes on, Eve watches in horrified jealous anger as they realize they really do like each other.  They even decide to put a lock on the famous bridge of love to seal the deal.  The rather mysterious old lady who sells them the lock gives Eve the key, and when Jace and Reggie aren't looking, she unlocks it and throws it into the river.

And then the next morning Eve wakes up to find she's living the same day over again!  It's another chance to tell Jace how she feels, and so she does her best to keep him and Reggie apart, but it doesn't work. She changes a few things to make her horrible day better, but the next morning, she repeating it all over again.  The old lady lets her know that the changes she needs to make are bigger than the small things....and Eve finds that ending one day by pushing Reggie into the river is not the change she needs to make!  When Reggie wakes up repeating the day alongside Eve, Eve has to come clean about how she really feels about Jace.  In the end she realizes that her friendship with Reggie is more important than her crush (which turns out to be unrequited in any event), and she becomes a braver, more open person, sharing her anger and sadness about her parents planned divorce, and realizing that she doesn't have to monopolize Reggie's friendship, making room in her mind to cultivate another friendship with a girl she's previously seen only as a rival for Reggie's attention.

Though it's the same day over and over, Eve's impressions of the sights of Paris change along with her feelings towards Reggie and Jace, and it doesn't get at all repetitive!  In fact, because Eve is becoming more thoughtful and mature, and more likeable and relatable as a result, it becomes more interesting every day (and also the suspense of Eve trying to figure out what she needs to change adds interest!).

The angst, the drama, and the growing up are all so typically, painfully middle grade that it's easy to imagine kids loving this one, especially older mg kids starting to get romance on their minds.  Paris is beautifully described too!  I really enjoyed it, and it made me happy when I marked it as read on Goodreads to see that is "Wish and Wander, book 1."  A teaser at the end points to Rome for the next book....I look forward to it!

10/18/20

This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (10/18/20)

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

The Reviews

The Barren Grounds, by David A. Robertson, at Writer's Alley

The Beyonders Trilogy, by Brandon Mull, at Redeemed Reader

The Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Creatures, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Pham Quang Phuc, at Sharon the Librarian

The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher, at Geo Librarian

Don’t Let The Doll In. by Mike Ford, at Twirling Book Princess

The Edge of Everywhen, by A.S. Mackey, at K.A. Cummins

The Endangered, by Philippe Cousteau and Austin Aslan, at Always in the Middle

Fiends on the Other Side, by Vera Strange, at The Bookwyrm's Den and Nerdophiles

The Fire Star: A Maven & Reeve Mystery, by A.L. Tait, at Children's Books Daily

Gobbledy, by Lis Anna-Langston, at Kids Lit Review

Midnight Magic, by Michelle Harrison, at Book Lover Jo and Library Girl and Book Boy

Molly Thompson and the Crypt of the Blue Moon, by Nick Tomlinson, at Book Craic

Mulan: Before the Sword, by Grace Lin, at Semicolon

Orion Lost, by Alastair Chisholm, at My Best Friends are Books

Rival Magic, by Deva Fagan, at Semicolon

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustrated by Junyi Wu, at Pages Unbound 

The Silver Box, by Margi Preus, at The Muffin

The Sisters of Straygarden Place, by Hayley Chewins, at Waking Brain Cells, Our Thoughts Precisely, Cracking the Cover, and Read and Reviewed

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen, at Redeemed Reader and books4yourkids

The Time of Green Magic, by Hilary McKay, at Redeemed Reader

The Time Thief (The Gideon Trilogy #2),  by Linda Buckley-Archer, at Say What?
Tommy Black and the Coat of Invincibility (Tommy Black #2), by Jake Kerr, at S.W. Lothian

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at Emerald City Bookworm

Welcome To Superhero School, by Gracie Dix, at Book Briefs and Mermaid Reads

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, at Never Not Reading

Witch Wars, by Alane Adams, at Always in the Middle

Two at alibrarymama--Shuri, by Nic Stone, and Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads-- Dragon Mountain (#1), by Katie Tsang, and Kevin Tsang, and The Fallen Hero (Dragon Warrior #2), by Katie Zhao

Four at Feed Your Fiction Addiction--A Wish in the Dark, Ghost Squad, Scritch Scratch, & Midnight at the Barclay Hotel

Authors and Interviews

William Ritter (Deepest, Darkest: the Oddmire #3) at MG Book Village

Amy Wilson (Owl and the Lost Boy) at Book Lover Jo

Christian McKay Heidicker (Scary Stories for Young Foxes) at Fuse #8 

Haley Chewins (The Sisters of Straygarden Place), at Nerdy Book Club

Sherry Ellis (Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure) at Literary Rambles

Other Good Stuff

Bookslists-- 
Spooky middle grade at Book Riot and The Contented Reader 
Six MG and YA titles for Black SFF Month, at Brain Mill Press Voices

Goddesses, Queens, and Witches, at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

The first-ever winners of the Ignyte Awards were announced at FIYAHCON 2020! FIYAH created the awards to “celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.”

Here are the middle grade books chosen:

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia (Disney Hyperion) (Winner) 
Just South of Home – Karen Strong (S&S BYR)* 
The Mystwick School of Musicraft – Jessica Khoury (Audible/HMH BYR)* ** 
Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga (HarperCollins) 
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe – Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)

*BYR: “Books for Young Readers” 
** audiobook released in 2019

And finally, the public nomination period for the Cybils has closed, and although 100s of great kids and YA books were nominated, there are still many excellent books that aren't.  Publishers and authors have until October 25th at 11:59 p.m. PDT to fll in the cracks- here's where you start with that.


10/13/20

Displacement, by Kiki Hughes, for Timeslip Tuesday


Displacement, by Kiki Hughes (First Second, August 2020), is a stunning graphic novel that tells of a girl travelling back to the internment camp where her Japanese great grandparents and their daughter, her grandmother, were imprisoned during WW II.  

The book opens in 2016, with sixteen-year-old Kiku being dragged around San Francisco by her mom, looking for the house where her family had lived before all people of Japanese descent on the West Coast were rounded-up and incarcerated during WW II.  Standing where the house had once stood, Kiku finds herself inside a sudden fog, and when it clears she's in the audience of a violin concert.  Her own grandmother, Ernestina, is the violinist. 

A second "displacement," as Kiku thinks of them, happens soon after.  This time she finds herself in a nightmarish line of Japanese people, herded along while Caucasian men with guns watch them. Meanwhile, on the tv in their hotel room, Kiku and her mother hear Donald Trump railing against Muslims entering the US.

Home again in Seattle, Kiku displaces once more, and this time she's gone so long in the past she thinks she might never get home again.   As Number 19106, she's one of many shunted first to a temporary internment camp, and then sent to the Utah desert where she spends the next year.  Many things are horrible.  The fear and uncertainty weigh heavily on all the Japanese Americans in the camp, and the living conditions are grim. Kiku find comfort in good freinds, which keeps her going.  And she can hear her grandmother's violin, traveling through the thin walls, though their paths don't cross, and Kiku feels reluctant to force a meeting.

When she finally tries to do so, the fog comes back, and she is home again, in time to see more xenophoic poison on tv. Her experience is too vivid to keep to herself, so she tells her mother, and it turns out she, too, had travelled back to the camp.  And the story wraps up with a bit more time slipping, with her mother, to see Ernestina as a grown-up, and finally closes with real world activism by Kiku and her mother, protesting the new versions of internment camps in Trump's America.

Her mother's theory is that the trauma of the experience has left a generational echo, but the time travel is much more physically real than an echo suggest--Kiku comes back from her second slip with a knee grazed by a fall in the past, and her life in the internment camp, a very real, very lived life, is much more than can be easily dismissed as unreal.  The months she spends in the camp, bored, and frightened, making friends (including one girl who I got the impression might, if things had been otherwise, been more than a friend) might be low on action and adventure, but it's tremendously evocative, and Kiku is a very real and believable teenager.  It was bleak, sad, and scary, but not depressing.

In any event, the time travel is a satisfying mechanism for Kiku, and the reader, to visit a dark piece of American's past.  In my own way of thinking about time travel books, I'd classify this as "time travel as educational experience for character and reader,", but it's also, just as much so, the story of a girl in horrible circumstances, making it though as best she can.  

Even though I'm graphic novel challenged (I have trouble making my eyes move from the words to the pictures when I read them), I had no problem following what was happening even though I wanted to read rather than look!  I was helped, I think, by Kiku's hair being lighter in color than everyone else's (her dad is white); it helped my eyes find her quickly in the pictures without focusing (everyone else looked distinct too, but not as immediately so).

I liked it lots!


10/12/20

We need diverse books! (to be nominated for the Elementary/Middle Grade Cybils)

Back when I was a panelist for the 2010 Cybils awards, I went through to see how many of the 130 nominated books had diverse protagonists shown on the covers of the books, and added a few more I knew of to the list.  It was not a long list.  10 years later, 18 of the 45 books nominated so far in EMG SF have black, indigenous, and Asian kids on their covers, and there are 4 other books by diverse authors with no kids on the cover.  This is really heartening; the years when we fretted over the lack of diversity on the EMG SF shortlist seem to be behind us.....

But!  There are still quite a few books with diverse kids by diverse authors that haven't been nominated yet in EMG SF! (please let me know if you can think of others I've missed)

Thunder Run. Dactyl Hill Squad Book 3 by Daniel José Older
The Chaos Curse (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond) by Sayantani DasGupta
Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor
Mixture of Mischief, by Anna Meriano
Muse Squad, by Chantel Acevedo
Gloom Town, by Ronald L. Smith
White Fox, by Chen Jiatong
Silverworld, by Diana Abu-Jaber
The Fallen Hero, by Katie Zhao
Treasures of the Twelve, by Cindy Lin

I can't think of any eligible EMG spec fic books that have disability rep. this year, which makes me sad.
LGBTQ rep is also lacking, although for the first time I know of, there an EMG spec fic with an intersex protagonist--Cattywampus, by Ash Van Otterloo

Here's where you go to nominate (Oct 15 is the last day!) And if you nominate a diverse book for the Cybils, you get a sticker!


(nb: diversity per se isn't a criteria the Cybils panelists use in picking the books to shortlist, but it can contribute to the two criteria of reader appeal and literary merit....)


10/11/20

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (10/11/2020)


Hi all,

Welcome to another collection of posts from the past week interesting to us fans of middle grade sci fi and fantasy!  (please let me know if I missed your post!) Books with asterixis are eligible for the Cybils Awards, and have not, at the time of writing this (5:58 am, EST) been nominated, and at the bottom of the round-up are links to various lists of the unnominated.  Anyone can nominate books in Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, and a variety of other categories of less personal interest to me!  But the deadline to nominate is October 15....so don't delay!  

The Reviews

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (Monsterstreet #1) by J.H. Reynolds, at Lazy Day Literature

*Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, by Jake Burt, at books4yourkids.com

*The Daring of Della Dupree, by Natasha Lowe, at Twirling Book Princess and Log Cabin Library

*The Deceivers (Greystone Secrets #2), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Say What?

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George, at Not Acting My Age

*Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts, by Dianne K. Salerni, at Ms. Yingling Reads and Twirling Book Princess

*The Fallen Hero, by Katie Zhao, at Krisha's Cozy Corner, Lyrical ReadsLatinx Magic, and Utopia State of Mind

Fuzzy Mud, by Louis Sachar, at Redeedmed Reader

*The Girl and the Ghost, by Hanna Alkaf, at Fuse#8

Ghost Squad, by Claribel A. Ortega, at Jill's Book Blog

The Griffin Gate, by Vashti Hardy, at Library Girl and Book Boy and Book Craic

*Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor, at Charlotte's Library

Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El, illustrated by Kelly Pousette, at Jean Little Library

Mañanaland, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, at Not Acting My Age

*The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Summer Rachel Short, at Redeemed Reader and Charlotte's Library

Of Salt and Shore, by Annet Schaap, at Always in the Middle

*Over the Woodward Wall, by A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire), at Tor

*Shadow Weaver, by MarcyKate Connolly, at Falling Letters

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Whimsy Pages

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Never Not Reading

Tommy Black and the Coat of Invincibility (Tommy Black #2), by Jake Kerr, at S.W. Lothian

Tristan Strong Destroys the World, by Kwame Mbalia, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Two at Feed Your Fiction Addiction--Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe, and Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Two at alibrarymama--*The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown, and *Thunder Run. Dactyl Hill Squad Book 3 by Daniel José Older

Three at Ms. Yingling Reads--*Cleo Porter and the Body Electric, by Jake Burt, *Heroes Level Up (Homerooms and Hall Passes #2) by Tom O'Donnell, Tristan Strong Destroys the World, by Kwame Mbalia

Authors and Interviews

Hayley Chewins (*The Sisters of Straygarden Place), at Middle Grade Ninja

Sheela Chari (*The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel), at Nerdy Book Club

Jennifer Nielsen (The Captive Kingdom), at Literary Rambles

Other Good Stuff

A list of 35 scary books at Pop Goes the Reader (with many eligible books that haven't gotten their Cybils nomination yet; sigh)

Lists of elementary/middle grade books not yet nominated for the Cybils can be found at 

Log Cabin Library

Semicolon

alibrarymama

Charlotte's Library

10/10/20

Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor

Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor (Penguin Random House August 2020) is a gripping fantasy set in modern Nigeria.  Anyone who likes stories of real-world kids dealing with extraordinary powers and the extraordinary responsibilities that come with them will love this one!

Nnamdi's father was the chief of police of the town of Kalaria, a man determined to rid the town of the criminals that were basically running the place.  When he is murdered, Nnamdi is sure the most powerful of the criminals, dubbed the Chief of Chiefs, is responsible.  Nnamdi wants justice for his father, but what can a 12 year old boy do?

Then his father's spirit appears to him, and hands him an Ikenga, a small statue full of power.  The Ikenga gives Nnamdi the chance to carry on his father's mission to end the crime wave destroying Kalaria, and  bring down the Chief of Chiefs.  When he is angry, the Ikenga transforms into a giant shadow man of tremendous strength, and the criminals give him many opportunities to be angry.  Soon several are behind bars, but the Man, as the shadow being is known, becomes himself the object of fear--Nnamdi as the Man is violent, and almost kills several criminals.  Nnamdi is horrified by this violence, and by what worse things his alter ego might do, but he has so much anger he doubts his ability to stay in control.

The stress of this situation drives a wedge between him and his best friend, Chioma, but fortunately, when he is honest with her, this heals, and she's able to help him in both confronting criminals, and solving the mystery of who killed his father. 

This is in large part a superhero story (Nnamdi is himself a big fan of comic book heroes, and compares the Man to the Incredible Hulk).  But Nnamdi is not just a superpowered fighter for justice.  He's a grieving and confused kid, struggling to do the right thing, and confronting injustice and corruption as best he can.  As a result, there's lots of emotional heft to the story, alongside the "ka-pow" action and adventure.

It's also a lovely visit to Nigeria, with lots of details about the town and daily life.

nb: Ikenga is eligible for the Cybils Awards, and has not yet been nominated!  (any one can nominate books in a range of childrens/YA categories, including Elementary/Middle Grade speculative fiction, where Ikenga belongs!)




10/5/20

The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Summer Rachel Short

The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Summer Rachel Short (Simon and Schuster, Sept. 22 2020) is a great one for kids who love science (especially real-world science taken into the realm of the speculative) mixed with mystery and danger!

Maggie has set her sights on winning the Junior Naturalist Merit Award offered by Vitaccina, the one big employer in the small southern town of Shady Pines.  If she wins, maybe she can convince Vitaccina to offer her dad a job again. An unfortunate occurrence of rats in a vat of Vitaccina soda (made with rainforest ingredients) led to his firing, and now he's miles away working for the Park service, while Maggie and her older brother Ezra live with their grandma in a trailer park.  

When her best friend Nate talks her into exploring a forbidden woods where weird "ghost lights" have been seen, Maggie agrees to trespass with him--maybe the lights are a natural phenomena she can photograph.  And indeed, they find a host of bioluminescent mushrooms.  Old Man Bell, the owner of the woods also finds them, but while he's threatening them with his dogs, he has a heart-attack and dies. Ezra, who joined the younger kids, tries to save the man, but ends up having weird glowing spores coughed all over him...

When Maggie figures out that the last word Old Man Bell tried to say was "ophiocordyceps," and looks it up, she becomes convinced the fungi are seriously strange, and quite possibly dangerous.  Ophiocordyceps is a real fungus that turns ants into zombies, driving them to infect their own nests. This is just what seems to be happening in Shady Pines--Ezra, his friends, and other townsfolk are acting like they are becoming zombified.  

Maggie and Nate can't find help anywhere--not from the heads of Vitaccina, though they do seem very interested in Maggie's research, and no from the CDC, who think they're pranksters.  But Maggie has a sharp mind, and knows how to use it...and though the fungus becomes an almost insurmountable adversary, with it's human puppets doing its will, she figures out how it came to Shady Pines, and how to defeat it.

It's a great to see Maggie putting her love for science and research to work, nice to see the teamwork and loyalty of the two kids, and grossly horrible to see people infected with nasty fungi!  The pace picks up dramatically as the spores spread and the pages turn, and the final confrontation is a cinematic whammy! And as a result it's easy to imagine lots of kids eating it up! There isn't an awful lot of mg science fiction with  kid doing actually research and investigation, and this is a good one.

(not a criticism-- I myself found it a bit too hot and sticky for this to be a really pleasant read--the spore-filled southern summer was really vividly described!  so perhaps a good one to read in January....)

NB:  The Mutant Mushroom Takeover is eligible for this year's Cybils Awards, and has yet to be nominated....the public nomination period closes October 15!

disclaimer: review copy gratefully received from the author

10/4/20

this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (10/4/20)

Welcome to this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs!  Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post.  

NB--books with an asterisk are those that are eligble for the year's Cybils Awards and haven't yet been nominated!  Anyone can nominate books, so show your favorites some love!  (If you need more ideas for Elementary/middle grade books to nominate, here's my working list of the books that are still up for grabs!)

The Reviews

Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads, by Laura Ellen Anderson, at Twirling Book Princess, A little but a lot, and Library Girl and Book Boy

The Barren Grounds, by David A. Robertson, at Cracking the Cover

Cattywampus, by Ash Van Otterloo, at Charlotte's Library*

Coo, by Kaela Noel, at Not Acting My Age *

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic, #1) by Anna Meriano, at Based on a True Story

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, by Julie Abe, at Charlotte's Library*

The Girl and the Witch's Garden, by Erin Bowman, at Kid Lit Reviews

Hatch, by Kenneth Oppel, at Middle Grade Minded*

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull (Jim Morgan #2), by James Matlack Raney, at S.W. Lothian

Kiki's Delivery Service, by Eiko Kadono, at Lazy Day Literature*

The Legend of Gap-Tooth Jack (Skeleton Keys #3), by Guy Bass, at Book Craic

The Lost Wonderland Diaries, by J. Scott Savage, at Log Cabin Library *

The Magic in Changing Your Stars, by Leah Henderson, at Semicolon and Bookfoolery

Maya and the Rising Dark, by Rena Barron, at The Bookwyrm's Den*

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, by Fleur Bradley, at Log Cabin Library *

The Midnight Swan, by Catherine Fisher, at Library Girl and Book Boy

Shadowspring (The International Yeti Collective #2), by Paul Mason, at Book Craic

Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake, at Rosi Hollinbeck

Tunnel of Bones, by Victoria Schwab, at The Book Dutchess

Witch Wars, by Alane Adams, at Log Cabin Library*

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher, at Puss Reboots*


Authors and Interviews

Tehlor Kay Mejia (Paola Santiago and the River of Tears*) at Kansas Public Radio

Rena Barron discusses her new middle grade novel Maya and the Rising Dark*with Dhonielle Clayton on youtube 

Shelby Bach (Of Giants and Ice) at This Kid Reviews Books

Kim Ventrella (The Secret Life of Sam*) at From the Mixed-up Files

Laura Stegman (Summer of L.U.C.K*) at Literary Rambles


Other Good Stuff

Five re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin at Tor

Strong Fairy Tale Heroines #30: VASILISA THE PRIEST'S DAUGHTER, at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

10/3/20

Do you need ideas for great Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction to nominate for the Cybils?

This is the last day of the public nominating period for the Cybils Awards! And as always at this point, I'm on tenterhooks about the great books that have not yet been nominated in Elementary/Middle Grade Fiction (the category for which I'm chair)! It's especially tenterhooking this year, because lots of great books came out during the Crisis, and might not be as well known....

Here's my current list of un-nominated books: 

Diverse books:

Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor
Gloom Town, by Ronald L. Smith
Thunder Run Dactyl Hill Squad Book 3 by Daniel José Older
The Chaos Curse (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond) by Sayantani DasGupta
Silverworld, by Diana Abu-Jaber
The Fallen Hero, by Katie Zhao
Mixture of Mischief, by Anna Meriano
Muse Squad, by Chantel Acevedo
Treasures of the Twelve, by Cindy Lin
White Fox, by Chen Jiatong

Other eligible books

A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher
Wishes and Wellingtons, by Julie Berry
The Sisters of Straygarden Place. by Hayley Chewins
Over the Woodward Wall by Seanan McGuire
The Secret Life of Sam, by Kim Ventrella
Spindlefish and Stars, by Christiane M. Andrews
The Silver Arrow, by Lev Grossman
The Daring of Della Dupree, by Natasha Lowe
Twilight Hauntings, by Angie Sage
A Storm of Wishes, by Jacqueline West
Homerooms and Hall Passes: Heroes Level Up, by Tom O'Donnell
Rise of ZomBert, by Kara LaReau
Seekers of the Wild Realm, by Alexandra Ott
Thieves of Weirdwood, by Christian McKay Heidicker
The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher
The Way Past Winter, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
A Pinch of Magic, by Michelle Harrison
Voyage of the Frostheart, by Jamie Littler
Embassy of the Dead, by Will Mabbitt
Gargantis, by Thomas Taylor
Nevertell, by Katharine Orton
The Midnight Hour, by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder
All the Colors of Magic (aka A Tangle of Magic), by Valija Zinck
The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Summer Rachel Short


So please show these authors some love, and nominate their great books! Or, of course, nominate other books you love because I haven't listed everything eligible....

10/2/20

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, by Julie Abe


I have decided that my one of favorite sub-genres of middle grade fantasy is "kids with magical powers being responsible for a field of care, and their struggles along the way." This is not yet a huge sub-genre.  There's Tiffany Aching, of Discworld, arguably The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, and The Apprentice Witch series, by James Nicol, The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horwitz, and now Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, by Julie Abe (Little Brown, August 2020).

Eva's magic was slow to show itself, and has never been very strong; not nearly as strong as her powerful mother's.  But in a land where magic was growing less common every generation, it was still enough (barely) for Eva to qualify as an apprentice witch.  Like all apprentices, Eva is sent on a  journey to the town that needs her, with a ticket that will let her know which town is hers.  But Eva falls asleep, and when she wakes up, the ships she's on has reached its last stop, and her ticket is gone.  So this ocean town, for better or worse, is going to get her as its witch.

The mayor certainly wanted a witch, one with strong magic who could protect the town against the yearly storms that have been bringing disaster to the country.  She doesn't want Eva, who has to jury-rig her magic by bolstering it with real world things (enchanting seaweed to make boulders slippery enough to be pushed aside, instead of whisking them away with magic).  But she lets Eva stay, and agrees to sign her apprentice papers if she can keep the town safe from this year's storm.

And so Eva acquires a cottage to live in, a flamefox cub to look after, and some friends, and sets up a semi-magical repair shop.  As she desperately tries to think of ways to keep the town safe, she comes to realize that though her magic might not be the most powerful ever, it can certainly do lots when combined with ingenuity, imagination, and a gift for repairing things!

It's lots of fun, with just the right amount of tension to keep things interesting, while still be being a relaxing read. Eva's lack of confidence in her gifts, and her realization that there's no one path to success, is a comfortable message for kids to hear, and they will love her magical fixes.  Eva herself is still middle school aged, and like the target audience is not only working out who she is as a person, but how to be a good friend, making her very relatable.   And her flamefox, though destructive, adds a nice bonus touch of cute!

And like I said above, this is a "field of care" book, so the town and its setting and its people all become very nicely real!  So much so that although I hope there are more books about Eva, I'm a little rueful that they probably won't be set right there again....

Do let me know if you can think of other books of this sub-genre of magical kids responsible for fields of care!  (Field of care  is a term coined by the great humanistic geographer Yi-Fu Tuan (Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. 1977. University of Minnesota Press), meaning that places can't be reduced to their physical landmarks, but are rather made rich and complex and entwinned with people's lives by being cared about, and cared for....)

NB:  Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch is eligible for the Cybils Awards this year in the Elementary/Middle Grade speculative fiction category, and has yet to be nominated!  I can't nominte all the 100 or so I've read so far this year that I really love, so please do go nominate this, or some other great EMG Spec book from the past year!

10/1/20

What your woodstove looks like when your an elementary/mg spec fic cybils panelist...


...although of course in a few weeks the stove won't be good book storage anymore :(.  

These are all (but one--The Mutant Mushroom Takeover is a review copy that arrived today) the unread library books I have on hand, planning ahead on the assumption they'll be nominated for the Elementary/Middle Grade Cybils this year!  Such fun reading ahead of me;  EMG Spec Fic really is the best!  

nominate today  (or sometime in the next two weeks) here at the Cybils!

9/28/20

Cattywampus, by Ash Van Otterloo

Cattywampus, by Ash Van Otterloo (middle grade, Scholastic August 2020) is the story of two girls, born to two rival magical families in a small Appalachian town, and how they find their own magical gifts. In the process they journey from distrust to hostility to unlikely allies to friends, while struggling to squelch the mob of angry zombie grannies raised from the dead along the way.

Katybird Hearn and Delpha McGill know each other in a general sort of way from school. Though both come from magical families (that have a long history of feuding), their lives are very different. Katy's family is comfortably off; Delpha and her mother are in dire financial straits, and Delpha knows more about home repair than any 6th grader should have to cope with. But both are worried about their magic; Delphia because her mother hates it, and won't pass on the family spell book, and Katybird because she is intersex, and worries she might not be enough of a real girl to inherit the family gifts. The fact that her hands are starting to glow doesn't comfort her, because that doesn't seem like magic enough.

When Delpha finds her family's spell book, and uses it unintentionally to animate an old outhouse, their lives collide. Then Katy borrows/steals the spell book to see if it can help her with her own magic, and it's war between the girls. Delpha takes the war to extraordinary levels by using another spell to animate all the dead women in the cemetery for "wise women" --aka witches. Soon many generations of Hearn and McGill grannies rise from their graves, determined to bring down the living descendants of their old enemies (which would be Katy and Delpha and their mothers....)

In order to get the feuding grannies back in the ground, the girls have to work together. Neither wants to ask for their mothers' help, so things don't go well. Fortunately, an unlikely ally, a boy both girls had previously thought of somewhat dismissively, even disparagingly, proves to have hidden powers of his own. And in the meantime, Katy's beloved pet racoon is missing, the outhouse is still alive, and the town is trying to hold a festival...Much mayhem ensues and it's touch and go before the girls figure out what they need to do together to set things right (it's a great ending, that doesn't neglect the needs and wants of the outhouse....)

I very much appreciated that one of the main characters is intersex. I can't think of any other intersex kid in a mg fantasy, and thought her character was really well done. Her body doesn't bother her except when she worries about the family magic going to girls (as the book progress, we see that it has passed just fine to Katy), and when societal expectations come into play--at one point other kids start praying for her to heal, and it bothers her tremendously.  "As if making babies was the whole point of me existing, Katy thought, grinding her teeth. Or the point of any girl, for that matter. They meant well. She'd been sweet to all of them, of course, but their unneeded pity had worn Katy's confidence to tatters for months." (p 80).

It got a tad too mayhemy for me when the zombie grannies collided with the town's festival (I prefer a single animated outhouse, and this was a particularly lovely living outhouse, to full on magical blow-ups), but I loved the way the two girls journeyed to friendship.  Recommended to anyone who likes stories of girls discovering their magic, and to fans of Natalie Lloyd, Sheila Turnage, Lisa Graff, and Ingrid Law in particular! (I think of all these as sort of small town, folksy,  kids-with-magic books).








9/27/20

This week's roundup of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (9/27/20)

Hi all, here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post!  Thanks.

The Reviews

The Candy Mafia, by Lavie Tidhar, at Mom Read It

Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo, at Pop! Goes the Reader

The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher, at Cracking the Cover

The Chaos Loop (Throwback #2), by Peter Lerangis, at Charlotte's Library


Emily Knight: I am … Becoming, by A. Bello, at Book Craic

The Everafter War (The Sisters Grimm #7) by Michael Buckley, at Say What?

Gargantis, by Thomas Taylor, at Puss Reboots

The Great Brain Robbery by P. G. Bell, at Woodpecker Books

The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, at Ms. Yingling Reads 

Grimm, by Mike Nicholson, at Book Craic

Hide and Seeker, by Daka Hermon, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Invaders, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull (Jim Morgan #2), by James Matlack Raney, at S.W. Lothian

Maya and the Rising Dark, by Rena Barron, at Waking Brain Cells and Black Girl Nerds

Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher, at Puss Reboots

The Monsters of Rookhaven, by Pádraig Kenny, at Book Lover Jo and Library Girl and Book Boy

The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Rachel Summer Short, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire), at Falling Letters

Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death, by Thomas Lennon, at Say What?

Scritch Scratch, by Lindsay Currie, at Cracking the Cover

The Sisters of Straygarden Place, by Hayley Chewins, at J.R.'s Book Reviews, Writers' Rumpus, and Rajiv's Reviews

Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger #1), by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen, at Mom Read It and Waking Brain Cells

A Sprinkle of Spirits (Love Sugar Magic #2), by Anna Meriano, at Santana Reads

The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Sophie's Corner

Whispering Pines, by Heidi Lang & Kati Bartkowski, at Rajiv's Reviews and The Booksyrm's Den

Wrath of the Dragon King, by Brandon Mull, at Geo Librarian

Authors and Interviews

Padraig Kenny (Monsters of Rookhaven), at A little but a lot

Jacqueline West (Long Lost), at From the Mixed Up Files

Tony DiTerlizzi (Kenny and the Book of Beasts) at From the Mixed Up Files

PJ Gardner (Horace & Bunwinckle) at From the Mixed Up Files

Summer Rachel Short (The Mutant Mushroom Takeover) at MG Book Village

Christiane M. Andrews (Spindlefish and Stars) at From the Mixed Up Files

Rena Barron (Maya and the Rising Dark) at Nerd Daily

Other Good Stuff

"The Golden Key and the Christian Imagination"--a look at George MacDonald, at Redeemed Reader

Strong Fairy Tale Heroines #29: PRINCE HLINI AND SIGNY, at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

Horror books for middle school, at Book Riot, and another list of spooky mg at The Language Arts Coach

On October 1, nominations open for this year's Cybils Awards, and I hope all of you make haste to get your favorite elementary and middle grade speculative fiction books nominated!  At Feed Your Fiction Addiction, here's a look at the books that made the EMG spec fic shortlist last year, from one of the second-round panelists that had to pick just one of them to win!

9/22/20

The Chaos Loop (Throwback #2), by Peter Lerangis, for Timeslip Tuesday

In Throwback (link to my review), Peter Lerangis told the story of an ordinary New York boy, Corey Fletcher, who discovers he has an extraordinary power.  He's a time traveler, but not just any old time traveler, hopping back into the past as a tourist.  Corey is a Throwback, who can actually change things.  He uses his new found gift to save his grandmother's life.  

Now, as told in The Chaos Loop (Harper Collins, May 2020), Corey has an even more ambitious goal--to travel back in time and stop Hitler.  There's an urgency to it--too much traveling in time might make his genes give way, leaving him a mutant animal, unable to go back on any more visits to the past, as it has done to two other travelers he knows.  He has to make his gift count, before it's not safe to use it any more.

And so, with his friend Leila, who was part of his first time travel adventuring, he goes to Germany.  It is 1938, and although many Germans worship Hitler, there are those who do not.  And Corey is determined to make sure their plot to kill Hitler works.

It doesn't.  

Corey and Leila then meet Hitler when he's a struggling artist in Vienna. If they can push him forward on that path, he won't go into politics.

It doesn't work.

So Corey, realizing that trying to stop Hitler leads to a chaos loop every time, decides to fix a smaller thing, the death of his own great uncle, who died escaping the Nazis.....

It's a tad slow to get going; I wasn't immediately hooked, and even found Corey a little tiresome in his impulsiveness.  Leila is much more level headed!  But once things start going wrong, it was fascinating! The interactions of the kids with the past people they meet are believable, and the little nudges to the past are well within the realm of possibility.   I think many young readers are fascinated by Hitler's rise to power, and certainly many of us have daydreamed about how we would try to stop him if we had the chance, making this a book that's both good historical fiction and a chance to imagine oneself inside the story.  Kids who love thinking "what if?" about the past will enjoy it lots! 

And the cliffhanger ending (changing the past is a very tricky thing....) will make them want the third book ASAP.  


9/20/20

This week's round-up of MG sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (9/20/20)

Nothing from me this week....sigh.  But here's what other people wrote about MG sci fi/fantasy books; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Beast and the Bethany, by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, at Motif by Tanya and Rajiv's Reviews

Bubba & Squirt's Mayan Adventure, by Sherry Ellis, at Rosi Hollinbeck

The Captive Kingdom (The Ascendance Series #4), by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at J.R.'s Book Reviews

Connect the Stars, by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague, at This Kid Reviews Books

Dehaunting, by J.A. White, at Puss Reboots

The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Endangereds, by Philippe Cousteau and Austin Aslan, at Log Cabin Library

The Flower of the Witch, by Enrico Orlandi, translated by Jamie Richards, at Pages Unbound

The Great Brain Robbery (The Train to Impossible Places #2), at Twirling Book Princess

Hide and Seeker, by Daka Hermon, at Rajiv's Reviews and Books. Iced Lattes. Blessed.

The Lost Wonderland Diaries, by J. Scott Savage, at Cracking the Cover

The Magic in Changing Your Stars, by Leah Henderson, at Redeemed Reader

The Mystwick School of Musicraft, by Jessica Khoury, at Semicolon

Nevermoor (The Trials of Morrigan Crow #1), by Jessica Townsend, at Pages Unbound

The Simple Art of Flying, by Cory Leonardo, at  This Kid Reviews Books

Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger #1) by Amy Timberlake, at Rajiv's Reviews

The Squire's Tale, by Gerald Morris, at proseandkahn

The Ten Riddles of Eartha Quicksmith, by Loris Owen, at Library Girl and Book Boy

The Time of Green Magic, by Hilary McKay, at Lazy Day Literature and Semicolon

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Series (7 Books) by Claire Youmans, at The Prairies Book Review

The Unadoptables, by Hana Tooke, at divabooknerd

Whispering Pines, by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Winterfrost, by Michelle Houts, at Say What?

Authors and Interviews

Eden Royce (Root Magic) at Charleston City Paper

Amy Timberlake (Skunk and Badger) at MG Book Village

Neil Patrick Harris (The Fourth Suit, Magic Misfits #4) at USA Today 

Sherry Ellis (Bubba & Squirt's Mayan Adventure) at June McCrary Jacobs

Alisha Sevigny (The Desert Prince) at MG Book Village

Other Good Stuff

Ethnocentrism, Heathens, and Heretics in The Horse and His Boy at Tor

Strong Fairy Tale Heroines #28: 'THE HEN IS TRIPPING IN THE MOUNTAIN' at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles Is Coming to Netflix, via Tor

Here are the panelists for this years Elementary/Middle Grade speculative fiction Cybils!  I'm looking forward to reading with this great group this fall.  Be sure to send your favorite books to us when nominations open October 1st!

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