No middle grade round-up this week

I'm in the those of home renovation, which has to be finished before my mother comes for Thanksgiving, so don't have time for a round-up today.  I hope it will be done by next Sunday so the round-up can happen then!

I'm also going to an event today--a middle grade STEAM sci-fi panel, at An Unlikely Story just up the road from me (if you aren't from RI, otherwise practically a day trip) in Plainville MA.  It looks like lots of fun!


The Last Human, by Lee Bacon

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=The+Last+Human+lee+bacon&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss The Last Human, by Lee Bacon (middle grade, Abrams, Oct 8, 2019), is set in a future in which robots exterminated humanity to save the earth from environmental destruction.  Now the robots live peaceful lives, carrying out their duties, and every day the President reminds them via its universally shared messages just how horrible humans were, and how good robots always do what they are supposed to do (which includes never keeping secrets).

12-year-old XR_935 is a good robot, working with his team-mates to install and maintain solar panels every day, then going home to their family units to recharge.  Each has a role--Ceeron is the brawn of the group, lifting and carrying, zippy little SkD is the electrical engineer, and XR-935 is the analytical one, making sure all the numbers work.  Then one day their peaceful lives are disrupted when an Unknown Lifeform comes into the solar field where they are working.

It is an unthinkable lifeform, a human girl called Emma.  Emma survived with a handful of other humans in an underground bunker, but was the only one to make it through a devastating sickness.  Now she is trying to do what her parents wanted, following a map to the place they wanted her to go.

The robots face a dilemma.  Emma doesn't seem like a monstrous world destroyer; she seems like someone who needs their help.  XR_935 crunches the numbers, and realizes that the probability of Emma making her way through a world full of enemy robots is almost nil.  A little bit of help for Emma at the beginning snowballs into the robotic threesome going AWOL, setting out with Emma and getting themselves into greater and greater trouble.   

The journey with the human girl forces XR_935 to question not just whether humanity was a horrible as it's been led to believe, but whether the President is in fact not being a good robot itself.  And indeed, the President has been keeping information from the robot community; information that can, and does, change everything (the ending offers the promise of human/robot co-existence).

It's a story told in short chunks, making it very friendly for readers daunted by large swaths of text.  XR_935, and his comrades, are also very engaging traveling companions, and it's delightful to see XR_935, the point of view robot, stretching its consciousness past acceptance of the status quo.  Ceeron and SKD are delightful in their own ways as well, bringing considerable humor to the tense adventures.

I thought at first this would be a dystopia from the human point of view--attempted extinction and a world ruled by hostile robots is fairly awful.  But it turns out that the robot society itself has dystopian elements, with knowledge controlled by a de facto dictator, and free will (these robots are so advanced that free will is possible for them) suppressed.   I also thought Emma's journey would be the center of things, but instead it's just as much as story of XR_935 growing from trusting kid robot to questioning thinker, taking responsibility for its own actions.   And so I found it much more interesting than I expected!

I enjoyed it lots, and I think it has tons of kid appeal. Definitely one to give to fans of The Wild Robot, or kids who love reading about plucky kids copying with unimaginable circumstances.


Bone Talk, by Candy Gourlay

Bone Talk, by Candy Courlay (middle grade, David Fickling Books, November 5 2019 in the US), is set in the mountains of the Philippines in 1899.  Samkad is ten, on the verge of become officially recognized as a man, and taking his place as a warrior of the Bontoc people, fighting their enemy, another mountain people,  on and off as they have for generations.  His best friend Luki also wants to be a warrior, but she's a girl, and that's not the role awaiting her.   The ancestors are close at hand, giving guidance and protection, the rice grows well, and the world seems to be working as it should.

Then the world changes.  An American arrives, with a boy originally from Samkad's village, who grew up in the lowlands.  The man is friendly, sharing knowledge of his strange country and its customs.   But other Americans have come to the Philippines too, bringing war, and they too come to the village.   They are not friends, and Samkad's passage from childhood to adulthood is the trauma he and his father must face together in the wake of the American war.

I did not know anything about the Philippine-American War before reading this book, though the general trajectory of violent invasion and clash of cultures didn't surprise me.  But the story isn't about the invasion so much as it is about Samkad's growing up, and coping with the dramatic disruption of his world.  He's a great, believable kid, anxious to prove himself, making impulsive decisions that sometimes aren't great, and ultimately come through everything true to himself.  There's enough about the war and the Americans to make things exciting, without that story decentering Samkad and his perspective as things fall apart around him.

The sights and sounds and even smells of Samkad's world are well described, making this place and its people vividly real, which in turn makes the story of invasion and cultural disruption even more powerful.  The story ends gently, with the horror softened by a reprieve for Samkad and the Bontoc people, and indeed, after finishing the book, I was relieved to find that the Bontoc are still living in their mountains (see link above).

So the book is two things--an excellent, and universally familiar story of growing up, and a great introduction to a culture very foreign to many US readers, and to the horror of "culture contact" and imperialism for young readers!  And it is, in fact, endorsed by Amnesty International:

"Amnesty International endorses Bone Talk because it upholds many human rights, including our rights to life, to equality, to have a religion, to enjoy our own culture. It also shows us what can happen when these are taken away from us."

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (11/10/19)

Welcome to this week's round-up, and please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab, at Hidden in Pages

The Darkdeep, by Ally Condy and Brendan Reichs, at Hidden in Pages

A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1), by Anna Meriano, at Imaginary Friends

The Dragon Warrior, by Katy Zhao, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Edge of the World (Mightier than the Sword #2), by Drew Callander and Alana Harrison, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction, A Garden of Books, and Always in the Middle

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, by Jaclyn Moriarty, at alibrarymama

The Forgotten Girl, by India Hill Brown, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Frostheart, by Jamie Littler, at Book Craic

The Griffins of Castle Cary, by Heather Shumaker, at Geo Librarian

Grimworld, by Avery Moray, at Becca Leighanne

The Hound of Rowan, by Henry Neff, at Say What?

The Lifters, by Dave Eggers, at The Comfort Table),

The Other Side of the Wall (Castle in the Mist #3) by Amy Ephron, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Over the Moon, by Natalie Lloyd, at Puss Reboots

The Piper's Apprentice, by Matthew Cody, at Fantasy Literature

Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest, by Daniel Lee Nicholson, at Log Cabin Library

The Princess who Flew with Dragons, by Stepahnie Burgis, at Foreward Reviews

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Broadway World Books

The Spirit of London (Spirits #2), by Rob Keeley, at Pages for Thoughts

Throwback, by Peter Lerangis, at Charlotte's Library

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at Player FM (audiobook)

Two at The Book Search--Spark, by Sarah Beth Durst, and Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas

Authors and Interviews

Katharine Orton (Nevertell), also with review, at thereaderteacher

Matt Harry (Cryptozoology for Beginners) at Carpinello's Writing Pages

Rick Riodan at the B and N YA podcast

Ross MacKenzie (Evernight) at thereaderteacher

Other Good Stuff

What's new in the UK, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Five fractured fairy tales, at Scholastic Parents


Throwback, by Peter Lerangis, for Timeslip Tuesday

Throwback, by Peter Lerangis (HarperCollins, October 2019), is a riveting middle grade time travel story about a kid who can change the past.

Corey is used to being told he has an active imagination, and he used to noticing odd things, so when he sees an old picture in his friend Leila's house, and finds himself in what seems to be New York 100 years in the past, he thinks it's just part of the movie he knows is being filmed in his neighborhood.  Or possibly a hallucination.  It's not, though.   Corey's actually travelled though time.  And he is one of a very small group who can actually change things in the past.

His grandfather is also a time traveler, who can't change things.  He tells Corey how he's gone, over and over again, back to 9/11, to try to keep his wife from going to work in the World Trade Center that day.  And of course, when Corey's talent emerges, the possibility that he might be able to save her occurs to them both....the possibility that he might change other things, disrupt the timeline in ways they can't predict, also occurs to them, and the possibility that if news of his gift spreads in the time traveler circles, there are those who will want to control his use of it for their own purposes....

But Corey is determined to try to save his grandmother, and so he sets off to 9/11, with modern coins and his cell phone with him as anchors that will let him get home to his own time again.  It doesn't go well, and instead of getting home, he goes further back in time to 1862, and his phone and money are stolen. Fortunately, he makes a good friend, Quinn, a kid who also has secrets...and the two become urban railroad cowboys (riding on the track ahead of the train, to clear obstacles). Meanwhile, in the present, Leila learns secrets about her own family, and finds she too can travel in time, and heads down stream to 9/11 herself....
Full of lots of tense moments, vivid depictions of the past, interesting characters, and lots of time travel intrigue and danger, this is a gripping read!  The first half is full of the mystery of Corey discovering his gift, the second half is essentially dangers in past.  The time travel is as believable as it can be, and the implications of being able to change the past aren't complicated any more than they need to be (so my mind stayed as clear as it ever does--sometimes, even though I'm a veteran time travel reader, I get confused by multiple timelines, but that didn't happen here).  There's much that isn't fully and carefully explained, leaving room for other books to explore things further, and there's a lot of room for more character development of Corey and Leila now that their setup for adventures is established, and I hope there are more books, and that Quinn, in particular, is in them!


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (11/3/19)

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

The Reviews

The Thousand Year Old Boy, by Ross Welford, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander, at Say What?

The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup, at Say What?

Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden, at Abby the Librarian

Doll Bones, by Holly Black, at A Garden of Books (audiobook review)

The Double Helix (Explorer Academy #3), by Trudy Truit, at Always in the Middle

The Dragon Thief, by Zetta Elliott, at Middle Grade Book Village and Charlotte's Library

The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao, at Hit or Miss Books

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott, at Middle Grade Book Village

The Fire Keeper, by J.C. Cervantes, at Feed Your Fiction Additiction

The Ghouls of Howlfair, by Nick Tomlinson, at Book Craic

Grimworld, by Avery Moray, at Jazzy Book Reviews

The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper, at Mom Read It

The Impossible Boy, by Ben Brooks, at Book Craic

Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker, at Defining Ways

The Mystwick School of Musicaft, by Jessica Khoury, at The Write Path

The Other Side of the Wall, by Amy Ephron, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Princess Who Flew With Dragons, by Stephanie Burgis, at Foreward Book Reviews

Rose Coffin, by M.P. Kozlowsky, at Charlotte's Library

Saving Fable (Talespinners), by Scott Reintgen, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Titans, by Kate O'Hearn, at The Never Ending TBR

The Tunnel of Bones, by Victoria Schwab, at Twirling Book Princess, The Zen Leaf and Imaginary Friends

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at Laughing Place

also seven new ones with blurbs by me at the B and N Kids Blog

Authors and Interviews

Thomas Taylor (Malamander) at Nerdy Book Club

Kara LaRue (Rise of the Zombert) at Middle Grade Book Village

K.G. Campbell (A Small Zombie Problem) and Laura Ellen Anderson (Amerlia Fang and the Barbaric Ball) at B and N Kids Blog

Other Good Stuff

A children's author and her son share their favorite middle grade fantasy fiction that features children of color, at embracerace blog

This year's Witch Week is off and running!

Publishers Weekly has announced its list of best kids books of 2019; not as much mg sff as I'd like, but still some good ones!


Rose Coffin, by M.P. Kozlowsky

                            ROSE COFFIN by M.P.  Kozlowsky

Rose Coffin, by M.P. Kozlowsky (Scholastic October 2019), is a fun middle grade portal fantasy with a very interesting twist!

Rose is going through a tough patch.  An accident has left her twin brother is in a coma, and her parents have little time and energy to spend on her.  At school she's teased for her too-small clothes, and for blushing all the time, and so when the popular SallyAnn encourages her to audition as a singer for her band, Rose is thrilled.  But the "audition" is simply an excuse to get Rose off alone in the woods, to humiliate her utterly and record it all to share in school.

Rose can't make herself get on the school bus the next day.  Instead she takes off into the same woods, and her life is upended.  A walking tree person and a golden boy kidnap her, and take her into the magical realm of Eppersett, where she is hailed as the chosen one.  But don't role your eyes at this seeming cliché--in Rose's case, her bad luck continues, and being chosen one means she'll be the one who gets to be sacrificed to the Abomination, swapping her life for 10 abomination-free years for Eppersett.  (We readers find this out almost immediately, so it's not too severe a spoiler).

Rose, naturally, doesn't find this appealing, but she's not given a choice.  The only thing the Eppersettians are worried about is getting her into the maw of the Abomination alive.  So the golden boy, the tree person, two fierce dog-like beings and a fairy with no wings agree to try to get her there alive.

Dangers beset the travelers, and Rose discovers that she is not, in fact, helpless; she has an actual magical talent of her own (that makes her even more valuable as a sacrifice).  Fighting alongside her captors, and seeing the horror that the Abomination is bringing to Eppersett makes Rose feel some sympathy for them....and if it weren't for the fact that they were bent on sacrificing her, they would be her first true friends outside her family....

And then in the end, Rose has to decide what she will do to save not Eppersett so much as her own self.

So as a standard story of child from our world find a magic gift and a destiny in a magical land it is fine; the magical world and its characters and their backstories and motivations are interesting, the challenges formidable and inventive, with nicely high stakes , and the Abomination unquestionably abominable.  But the whole twist of Rose being a sacrifice gives it a most enjoyable edge of ethical dilemma, that is brought to a satisfying conclusion that makes Rose a victim neither of fate, or of Stockholm Syndrome, but still requires a satisfactorily high level of threat/sacrifice on her part.

It's a journey in which Rose moves from being isolated to being a member of a community, and though she didn't start the journey willingly, in the end she's glad she did (and so is the reader!)

Here's the Kirkus review, if you want another opinion that is basically the same as my opinion...

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


The Dragon Thief, by Zetta Elliott

In Dragons in a Bag (link to my review), Zetta Elliott introduced a  young boy named Jaxon, who was given a job to do by a magical old woman, Ma.  He had to return three baby dragons to the world of magic.  It didn't go as planned, not that Jaxon knew enough about what was going on to really "plan" anything, but he did his best.  It wasn't enough.  One of the babies was stolen by Kavita, the little sister of his best friend, Vik.

The Dragon Thief  (Random House, Oct 22 1019) picks up the story right where we left it.  Jaxon is worried about Ma, who has fallen into a strange sleep, and he's desperate to get the baby dragon to the magical world.  Kavita is worried about the baby dragon, which grows at an alarming rate when it gets fed.  When she realizes she can't keep it safe, her old aunty who lives with her family decides to help her get it home.

So on the one hand we have Jaxon and Vik, racing to find Kavita while figuring out how they can manage to open a door to the other realm, and on the other we have Kavita, an increasingly large dragonet, and her aunty on a journey to the same goal....

Jaxon's well aware he needs help, so when a mysterious man named Blue, covered with tattoos, offers assistance, Jaxon things this might be what he needs.  But the man is a trickster, with an agenda of his own...and the fate of the little dragon hangs (very tensly) in the balance!  (Blue's motivations and actions are ambiguous; I love a nice ambiguous "bad" guy, and I hope we meet him again in a future book so we can see if his point of view is in fact at all valid....)

It's a great story for younger middle grade readers (8-10 year olds).  There's a nice serving of ordinary story, including Jaxon and Vic becoming friends with a boy they'd steered clear of because of being intimidated by his large size, and Kavita finding out about her auntie's past in India (which offers an eye-opening bit of history).  The kids are very real characters, and one can easily imagine hanging out with them.  But the ordinary doesn't stay that way for long, as the boundaries between the magical and the real world collide, with the kids right smack in the middle of it!

It's lots of  fun, and I enjoyed it even more than I did book 1.  The only thing I can think of that would have made it even better would have been more dragon page time!

disclaimer:  the publisher sent review copies for Kidlitcon Providence 2019 last March, which came to my house, so of course I treated myself to one of the copies...and though I didn't get it read in time to pass on to another Kidlitcon attendee, I did find it a good home with a kid who loved it.


This weeks round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (10/27/19)

Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post (or a post about your book....)

The Reviews

The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander, at Say What?

The Bookwanderers, by Anna James, at Ms. Yingling Reads and Book Nut

Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden, at Geo Librarian and Books4YourKids

The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao, at Read Love

Ember and the Ice Dragons, by Heather Fawcett, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Iggy and Oz: the Plastic Dinos of Doom, by J.J. Johnson, at Reading, Writing, and Stitch Metric

Knock Three Times (Wizards of Once #3), by Cressida Cowell, at Twirling Book Princess

Lalani of the Distant Sea, by Erin Entrada Kelly, at Puss Reboots

Lintang and the Pirate Queen, by Tamara Moss, at Read Love

The Lost Girl, by Anne Ursu, at Not Acting My Age

Malamander, by Thomas Taylor, at Milliebot Reads

The Poison Jungle, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Hidden in Pages

Rise of the Dragons, by Angie Sage, at Say What?

The Rubicus Prophecy, by Alane Adams, at Always in the Middle

The Runaway Princes, by Kate Coombs, at Leaf's Reviews

Sam Saves the Night, by Shari Simpson, at Nerdophiles

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at The New York Times

We're Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey, at Imaginary Friends

Two at The Book Search--The Spinner of Dreams, by K.A. Reynolds, and A Wolf Called Wander, by Rosanne Perry

Authors and Interviews

Jacqueline West (A Storm of Wishes) at Spooky Middle Grade

Katie Zhao (The Dragon Warrior) at Nerdy Book Club and Literary Rambles

Anna James (The Bookwanderers) at Nerdy Book Club

Other good stuff

Middle grade ghosts of 2019, compiled by me at the B and N Kids Blog


What I've been up to at the B. and N. Kids Blog

blogging here has been slow (just as soon as I finish painting the outside of my house, which I hope to do tomorrow, because goodness knows if there will ever be any nice warm days this fall), but I have been reading lots, and have written several nice posts for the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog!

My posts from the last month are:

10 Middle Grade Island Adventures to Thrill and Delight Young Readers 

8 Great New Middle Grade Action and Adventure Stories! 

Get On the Case with 5 Brand New Middle Grade Mysteries 

From Slightly Spooky to Downright Frightening: 8 Haunting New Middle Grade Ghost Stories

Two were assignments, for which I didn't pick the books myself, two were ideas I pitched to the blog editor.  At the moment I'm finishing off a list post of books with bullying....surprisingly not as depressing to read as I'd feared!


Stolen Time, by Danielle Rollins, for Timeslip Tuesday

If you are in the mood for a real page turner of a YA time travel story (it only took me two and a bit hours to read 400 pages), with lots of twists, lots of great characters, and lots of action, look no further than Stolen Time, by Danielle Rollins (Febraury 2019, HarperTeen).

It begins in Seattle, in 1913, when Dorothy runs away from the marriage her con-artist mother has inveigled her into.  Her flight leads her to a time traveler, from New Seattle, 2077.  Ash is on a mission to find his mentor, the professor who figured out time travel technology, and who disappeared. leaving his team of young people gathered from different times without guidance and purpose.  Dorothy stows away in his ship, and Ash inadvertently takes her back to his own time, to a city devastated by earthquakes and inundated by tidal waves.

It's a city living in fear of a vicious gang, whose co-leader, Roman, was once one of the professor's brightest students.  But Roman wanted time travel to be used to save his city and its people before it was destroyed, and the professor refused to believe this was possible (for good reasons).

When Dorothy goes exploring by herself, and is kidnapped by Roman, she's caught in the greatest long-con of her life.  But who is its mastermind, Roman, or someone else entirely?  And why did the professor disappear, and where has he gone?  And can Dorothy find a place for herself with Ash and the other members of the professor's team, earning their respect for her skills, and not just being admired for her pretty face?  A trip back to a military base in the 1980s gives her the chance to do just that; but whose hands is she playing into?  Will she be on the side of the destroyers, or the saviors (and is saving anything she cares about actually possible?)

Dorothy is a fascinating character.  She's badly damaged by her horrible mother, who's used her as a beautiful pawn in various scams her whole life.  Even though Dorothy is a point of view character, I was never sure I liked or trusted her, but it's clear that it's not her fault she's the way she is. She's been taught never to trust anyone, and no one has given her any reason to trust them...until she meets Ash.  Ash, a young World War II pilot, is less complicated, but still appealing in his loyalty to his comrades.

And then everything goes bang at the end, leaving one tremendously anxious for the next book.  Don't be me, and look at the end of the first book half way through to make sure it comes out all right in the end, because it isn't the end!  Fortunately book two, Twisted Fates, comes out reasonably soon, in February of 2020 (but don't read the blurb for that yet, because spoilers).

It's good fun time travel through technology, with lots of different jumps through time and tangled timelines, that manages not to be too confusing.  An interesting twist is that time travelers start to get glimpses of their future lives...used to good effect to ratchet up the tensions of their present lives....


this week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the web (10/20/19)

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

(I changed my post title from "around the blogs" to "around the web" but do cool kids these days actually say "the web"?  Would "on-line" be more au currant?)

Book Reviews

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

The Battle, by Karuna Riazi, at Randomly Reading

The Beast (Darkdeep #2), by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horwitz, at Cracking the Cover and A Garden of Books

The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao, at Endless Chapters, For Ever and Everly, and The Quiet Pond

Dual at Araluen (Royal Ranger #3), by John Flanagan, at Say What?

The Evil Wizard Smallbone, by Delia Sherman, at Kid Lit Geek

The Fire Keeper, by J.C. Cervantes, at Pamela Kramer

Guardians of Magic, by Chris Riddell, at Book Craic

The Jumbie God's Revenge, by Tracey Baptiste, at Sally's Bookshelf

The Key of Lost Things (Hotel Between #2), by Sean Easley, at Kid Lit Reviews

The Land of Roar, by Jenny McLachlan, at Thoughts by Tash

The Last Dragon (Revenge of Magic #2), by James Riley, at GeoLibrarian and Good Reads with Rona

The Little Grey Girl, by Celine Kiernan, at Pages Unbound

Malamander, by Thomas Taylor, at PidginPea's Book Nook

Master of the Phantom Isle (Dragonwatch #3) by Brandon Mull, at Read Love

The Missing Barbegazi, by H.S. Norup, at Log Cabin Library

Rebels with a Cause (Max Einstein #2), by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, at Say What?

The Revenge of Magic, by James Riley, at Boys and Literacy

The Shores Beyond Time, by Kevin Emerson, at Charlotte's Library

Skeleton Keys: the Unimaginary Friend, by Gus Bass, at Book Craic

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Imaginary Friends

Spark, by Sarah Beth Durst, at Dead Houseplants

Trace, by Pat Cummings, at Locus

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at  Paul's Picks, YA Books Central, Feed Your Fiction Addiction, Broadway World, Ashley and Company, and Charlotte's Library

Weird Little Robots, by Carolyn Crimi, at Always in the Middle

A Wolf Called Wander, by Roseanne Parry, at Redeemed Reader

Two at The Book Search--The Bootlace Magician, by Cassie Beasley, and The Revenge of Magic, by James Riley

Authors and Interviews

Katie Zhao (The Dragon Warrior) at the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

Kwame Mbalia (Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky) at the News & Observer

Adrianna Cuevas (The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez) at Middle Grade Book Village

Nicole Valentine (A Time-Traveller's Theory of Relativity) at the Lerner Podcast

Nick Tomlinson (The Ghouls of Howlfair) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Sarah Jean Horwitz (The Dark Lord Clementine) at Middle Grade Book Village

Paul Mason (The International Yeti Collective) at Alittlebutalot

J. de laVega (Peter Tulliver and the City of Monster) at Reading With Your Kids Podcast

Other Good Stuff

"Historical Fiction With a Touch of Fantasy" at Lyn Miller-Lachmann

at Tor--"The messy beautiful worldbuilding of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"

Not exactly good stuff, but I'm looking for new middle grade dystopia, and would welcome suggestions!  Here's what I have so far.


Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia

I just read, and wrote about, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, for a Barnes and Noble Kids Blog post, so I'm not going to do a full review here.  But I want to talk about it here a bit too, since this is my more personal record of book reading.

Wow!  This is so powerful, and sad, and important, and funny (in places), and the sort of book one wants to give to kids Right Now.

Tristan's grief over his best friend's death, and the way he blames himself for it, and his sense of failure for loosing his first boxing match (I was cross at his dad and grandfather for being so clearly disappointed in him) set the stage for his journey into a world of magic and mayhem.  He's carrying a lot of emotional weight with him when he punches the titular hole in the sky, and once he goes through, a whole heap more is piled on him.

And it's not just personal weight, but the weight of sad and terrible history. There's the fact that the primary attacking monsters are iron fetterlings, and the land is called Midpass, evoking the Middle Passage, and more along the same lines as the story continues.

But also there are African American god heroes, West African gods, and lots and lots of story holding everything together.  And it's Tristan's affinity for stories and storytelling, learned from his grandmother, that is his own greatest power (although the magical boxing gloves he gets are pretty darn cool too!).

Looked at more dispassionately, it's a very solid story, with a familiar sort of Riorden-esque feel to it--the hero struggling to figure out just what he's supposed to do, with help, and hindrance, from lots of new characters met along the way.  It moves along at a good pace, and the writing makes everything come vividly to life.

So basically, it lives up to its gorgeous cover!

looking for recent dystopian middle grade books

Back in 2017 I wrote a post for the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog about dystopian middle grade books, and I've been asked to refresh it.  Problem is, there haven't been a whole lot of mg dystopian books published in the US since then, and it has to be something available at B and N! I think of dystopian primarily as a systemic loss of civil liberties, although environmental collapse with concomitant social collapse works for me too.

Here's what I've found so far, with help from twitter.  It isn't much, though I have combed through Goodreads and Kirkus, and have myself read about 500 mg books in the past two years. I am wondering if the fact that we are actually living in an increasingly dystopian world is making US publishers less interested in dystopian mg.....

I would love love love more suggestions of books available in the US, especially books by diverse authors!  and feel free to disagree with my classification of any of these as "dystopian."

Suggested, but problematic for my purposes:

FloodWorld, by Tom Huddlestone (Nosy Crow October 2019) only available on Nook right now, so not sure I can use it

The Middler, by Kristy Applebaum (Nosy Crow March 2019) not at B and N

Where the River Runs Gold, by Sita Brahmachari (Hachette Australia July 2019) not at B and N.

2019 Books I haven't Read, which look possibly dystopian:

Darren Simpson, Scavengers (Usbourne, March 2019)

The Rise of Winter, by Alex Lyttle (Central Ave. Publishing, May 2019) looks like it has environmental and societal collapse, but is it "dystopian?"

The Last Human, by Lee Bacon (Abrams October 2019)  Robots have eliminated almost all humans, creating a robot utopia; is it actually dystopian from a human point of view, or just an undesirable situation????

Books from 2019 that I've read:
Metl: the Angel Weapon, by Scott Wilson (Month9books, March 2019)

Rise of the Dragons, by Angie Sage (Scholastic, February 2019), is dystopian in many ways.

Wings of Fire books 11-13, by Tui T. Sutherland

Possibilities from 2018

The Turnaway Girls, by Hayley Chewins (Candlewick October 2018)

Blue Window, by Adina Rishe Gewirtz (Candlewick April 2018)


The Shores Beyond Time, by Kevin Emerson

The Shores Beyond Time, by Kevin Emerson, is the third book in the Chronicle of the Dark Star series that began with Last Day on Mars, and continued in The Oceans Between Stars (links to my reviews).   Basically the premise is humanity, and an alien race with whom humanity is at war, are out among the stars after our sun went nova (and some other stars have too), both races looking for new homes (the aliens because humanity decided the Telphon's planet would be a great new home, and essentially nuked it, so there are only about three hundred of them left).  One human boy, Liam, and one Telphon girl, who goes by Phoebe, became friends on Mars and Liam met an ancient time travelling alien of a different species (as told in the first book) and were both separated from their people on a long lonely space flight, and Liam started travelling in time himself (the second book).

In this third book, Liam and Phoebe find themselves at the heart of the mystery of the supernovas and the time traveling Liam's been doing.  Is the Dark Star, with its miraculous ability to create new universe, the answer to humanity's problems?

This took me right back to the days back in the 1980s when I first discovered science fiction--the sense of mysteries upon mysteries out in space, strange alien technology of unbelievable power, whose makers aren't necessarily friends, and the aliens and humans maybe about to kill each other, or not.  But without the sexism and imbedded racism and imperialism of much mid 20th century sci fi.

And so I recommend this series to today's middle grade readers with strong conviction.  It is a great story of friendship, action and adventure, and marvelous science fiction.

This being my time travel book of the week, I should mention that it is just full of Liam, and to a lesser extent, Phoebe, bouncing up and down timelines.  It is confusing at times, but not so much as to vex the easily confused reader (me).  The past on Mars is where Liam goes to retreat, the futures he sees are part of his path to questioning the present.  So it's good and useful time travel, and it allows for an especial bitter sweetness to the epilogue....


This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (10/13/19)

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

The Reviews

The Bootlace Magician (Cicus Mirandus #2), by Cassie Beasley, at Randomly Reading

The Boy Who Was Fire, by Marcus Kahle McCann, at The Children's Book Review

City of Bones, by Victoria Schwab, at Pages Unbound

The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Howitz, at Sally's Bookshelf

Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden, at Charlotte's Library

Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee, at Imaginary Friends

The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao, at Log Cabin Library, Forever and Everly, and Lost In Storyland

Ember: the Secret Book, by Jamie Smart, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper, at Charlotte's Library

Homerooms and Hall Passes, by Tom O'Donnell, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The International Yeti Collective, by Paul Mason, at Book Craic

The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart, at Fantasy Literature

Mightier than the Sword, by Drew Callander and Alana Harrison, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Race to the Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse, at Imaginary Friends

The Red Fox Clan (Royal Ranger #2), by John Flanagan, at Say What?

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker, at Books4YourKids

The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, a review revisited at Twirling Book Princess

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Geo Librarian

The Tyrant's Tomb, by Rick Riordan, at Say What?

The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster (Polly and Buster #1), by Sally Ripen, at Always in the Middle

Two at alibrarymama--Freedom Fire. Dactyl Hill Squad 2, by Daniel José Older, and Spark, by Sarah Beth Durst

Two at Falling Letters-- Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier, and The Stone Girl's Story, by Sarah Beth Durst

Two at The Book Search--We're Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey, and Twinchantement, by Elise Allen

Authors and Interviews

Nick Tomlinson (The Ghouls of Howlfair) at A Little But a Lot

Daniel Kraus (The Teddies Saga) at Fuse#8

Paul Mason (The International Yeti Collective), at Thereaderteacher.com (also with review)

Liesl Shurtliff (The Obsidian Compass: Time Castaways series #2), at A Year of Reading.

Other Good Stuff

"Imagining Other Worlds in Diana Wynne Jones' Witch Week" at Tor

"25 Scary (and not-so-scary) books to get you in the Halloween spirit" at Pop Goes the Reader

And if you haven't nominated a book for the Cybils Awards in Elementary/middle grade speculative fiction, here is a list I made of books that haven't been nominated yet!

Elementary/Middle Grade speculative fiction books that haven't been nominated for the Cybils yet

Thanks everyone who nominated books during the public nomination period!  Now we give publishers and authors a chance to fill in the gaps (from today through October 25th).  So I'll leave this list up for now to show them I was thinking about their books.....

So here, in no particular order, is a list of some books that need nominators (and it's not all the eligible books, and I'm sure I'm missing some great ones...for which I apologize.  I haven't read all of these, so this isn't a list of personal endorsements (though I did love all the ones I did read!).

And here is where you go to start the nomination process.

Tin, by Padraig Kenny

Cogheart, by Peter Bunzl

Ghost and Bone, by Andrew Prentice

The Haunting of Henry Davis, by Kathryn Siebel

Legends of the Sky, by Liz Flannagan

The Twelve, by Cindy Lin

The Flight of the Bluebird, by Kara LaReau

The Fire Keeper, by J.C. Cervantes

The Bookwanderers (Pages and Co. #1) by Anna James

Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray, by Jess Keating

Ember and the Ice Dragons, by Heather Fawcett

Freedom Fire, by Daniel Jose Older

Anya and the Dragon, by Sofia Pasternack

Archimancy, by J.A. White

The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper

The Library of Ever, by Zeno Alexander

The Afterwards, by A.F. Harrold

Max and the Midknights, by Lincoln Peirce

Eventown, by Corey Ann Haydu

Daughters of Steel, by Naomi Cyprus

The Star Shepherd, by Dan Haring and Marcykate Connolly

The Little Grey Girl, by Celine Kiernan

Thisby Thestoop and the Wretched Scrattle, by Zac Gorman

Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, by Henry Lien


Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden

Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden (middle grade, G.P. Putnam's Sons, August 2019), is a delightfully spooky sequel to Small Spaces, perfect for a chilling read as winter draws closer!

Ollie, Coco, and Brian became close friends under somewhat trying circumstances last fall--the evil Smiling Man trying to turn them into scarecrows--and now winter has come, they're on their way to a fun weekend at a new ski lodge with Ollie's dad and Coco's mom.  They almost don't make it through the intense snowstorm, and when they arrive, they find themselves the only visitors.  The snow keeps falling, trapping them inside, and the power goes out.  And there are ghosts.

The day after they arrive another visiter makes it through the snow, a young reporter for a ghost hunting magazine.  The owners of the hotel aren't sure that publicity about the hotel's previous incarnation of an orphanage with a dark, sad, history is what they want, but the young man is keen to get ghost hunting, and can't leave in any event because of the snow.

Which keeps falling, as things inside the hotel get scarier and scarier, with the ghost of a frostbitten girl begging Ollie for help, and the reporter urging the kids to join in his hunt.  And there is a lot of matieral for him to work with.  There are forces of evil at play inside the hotel that might trap the kids forever with the dead orphans and their cruel caretaker, but the most deadly danger comes from outside....

It's a story full of lots and lots of details that add beautifully to the growing tension, from the many taxidermied animals that great the kids when they arrive to the  claustrophobia of being snowbound. There are multiple plot twists too, that I didn't see coming, but which make sense.   The kids rise to he occasion beautifully, working together really well, and Ollie's own reflections about the loss of her mother are a strong counterpoint to the tragedies of the hotel's past.

Apparently there will be two more books in the series, one in spring, and one in summer, and then I hope the kids get a rest from hair-raising horrible-ness!


The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper

If you are a fantasy fan who loves quirky small museums with collections of oddities, you will love The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper (first published in the UK in 2017, now out in the US from Candlewick, Oct 2019).

Ben's invitation to the Gee Museum was delivered by bees.  He'd never heard of the place before, but despite his mother's reservations about letting him go there on his own (reservations which seem, for reasons, to be a bit much, even taking into account the fact that Ben's only ten)  he went...There, in its rooms full of taxidermidied creatures, other natural history collections, a glass bee hive, and clocks and other treasures collected by the Gee family from around the world years ago, he found magic, and the truth about his father, who died many years ago while off on an expedition of his own.

Ben also found danger, one of my personal least favorite types of danger--the unscrupulous developer, in this case paired with the unscrupulous director of a larger, splashier museum.

With help from the creatures who make the Gee museum their home (including the titular hippo), Ben is determined to find a way to save the museum.  But not all the magic in the museum is necessarily friendly.....

The museum and its magic are lovely, and the danger is real and gripping, without making me squirmisly check the ending, Ben is a great character to cheer for, and even the grown-ups (his mother and the elderly director of the museum) have useful parts to play in saving the day.  Generously sprinkled with illustrations by the author, this is one of the best museum visits I've had in ages!  A delightful read, that reminds me lots of the classic middle grade British fantasy I loved as a child back in the 20th century.....

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher.

(nb:  The Hippo at the End of the Hall is eligible for this year's Cybils Awards, but hasn't yet been nominated....so if you haven't made your elementary/middle grade speculative fiction pick yet, do keep it in mind!)


This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blog (10/6/19)

Bloglovin utterly failed me this week, so I doubtless missed many posts.  So let me know if I missed yours, and I'll add it!

The Reviews

Cog, by Greg Van Eekhout, at Charlotte's Library

Creep, by Eireann Corrigan, at Not Acting My Age

The Double Helix (Explorer Academy #3), by Trudi Truit, at Mom Read It

The Fairfield Curse, by Kaleb Nation, at Say What?

The Last Dragon (The Revenge of Magic #2), by James Riley, at The Write Path

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, by Kim Long, at A Garden of Books

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages, by Trenton Lee Stewart, at Puss Reboots

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying, by Kelley Armstrong, at Geo Librarian

Scourge: A Grim Doyle Adeventure, by David H. Burton, at Say What?

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at A Dance with Books

The Storm Runner, by J. C. Cervantes, at A Backwards Story

A Tale of Magic, by Chris Colfer, at Ms. Yingling Reads

A Time Traveller's Theory of Relativity, by Nicole Valentine, at Charlotte's Library and Always in the Middle

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia, at Brain Mill Press Voices

Zombies are People Too, by Tom Greenwald, at Say What?

Other Good Stuff

Seven series recommendations, with an Australian slant, at Emma Louise Hughes

A gathering of spooky middle grade at Some the Wiser

The nominations for this year's Cybils Awards are open!  Here's what's been nominated in Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction so far, and here are a few eligible titles that are new this October that haven't ben nominated yet (this isn't a comprehensive list by any means, but a quick off the top of my head; I'll almost certainly be mentioning more eligible titles between now and when nominations close on Oct 15).  Anyone can nominate books first published between Oct 16 2018 and Oct 15 2019; you don't have to be in the US, or have a blog, or be a grown up (so get your kids to send love to their favorite books of the past year!)

Here's where you go to nominate.

Alien Superstar, by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler
Cog, by Greg Van Eekhout
Tristan Strong Punches  a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalai
The Dragon Warrior, by Katie Zhao
Throwback, by Peter Lerangis
Ember and the Ice Dragons, by Heather Fawcett


Cog, by Greg Van Eekhout

Cog, by Greg Van Eekhout (HarperCollins, Oct 1 2019), is a charming, funny, smart middle grade sci fi story with tons of appeal for both kids and grown-ups!

Cog looks like an average 12-year-old boy.  He reminds me of one of my own boys at that age--driven to accumulate information and eager to share tidbits of learning to others, without stopping to gauge the recipient's interest in facts about the platypus, for instance (who I am I kidding--it's reminding me of me).  Still with a lot of practical life-lessons to learn, and with a loving adult on hand to help steer him toward independent thinking.  Cog, however, isn't an ordinary boy.  He is a robot, and the loving adult is Gina, his programmer.  She works for uniMIND, a big corporation of robot designers, but she's gone slightly rogue, and added programing to Cog that gives him control over his own choices (and more, but that's a spoiler).  She and Cog live alone, and the corporation doesn't know what she's up to.

But when Cog takes to heart Gina's lesson that making mistakes can lead to learning, and leaves home one morning on his own to learn in this way, his choice to save a dog from being runover lands him in the uniMIND labs, in the hands a roboticist who believes devoutly that robots are tools, and the financial bottom line is what's important.  And when Cog realizes, through observation and experience, the danger he's in, he knows he must escape and find Gina again.

So he does, with a trashbot, a robot dog, a robotic car, and ADA, Gina's previous robot child, designed to be tool for war. A desperate, often funny, often terribly tense road trip ensues, with uniMIND and the police on the hunt for the fugitives.  (Car is my favorite fictional car ever, btw, though it's possible the first sentient fictional car I've ever actually felt fond of). Happily, it ends well (though around page 120 I cracked and had to read the end to make sure).  

This is more than just boy/robot adventure/coming of age/found family story with lots of danger and humor, though.  It has a thought-provoking punch about the choices we make, and the dangers we face if we loose our freedom to think for ourselves.  "I may be a weapon," [ADA] says, "but I will decide for myself how I'm used."

short answer: I loved it.  It made me grin a lot, and even chuckle out loud, I was riveted (except for having to put it down a couple of times when things got too tense),and I appreciated that it was a relatively short, compact package of goodness, making it one to recommend to younger mg readers.

If you have a super curious, quirky kid of 9 or so who needs a book to read, offer this one. Then, if you are a smart, quirky grown-up, read it yourself.

(NB:  Cog is eligible for this year's Cybils Awards (in Speculative Fiction: elementary/middle grade, but still needs someone to nominate it!  Click the link above to find out how to nominate this and an other great kids and YA books in lots of different categories).


A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity, by Nicole Valentine for (this Wednesday's) Timeslip Tuesday

Sometimes time gets slippy, and even with the best intentions in the world, Tuesdays come to an end before one's post is written.  So here's the (very good) time travel book that was supposed to be up yesterday!

A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity, by Nicole Valentine (Carolrhoda, middle grade, Oct 1 2019) is indeed about time travel, but mostly it's about a boy, Finn.   Finn's twin sister drowned when they were three, and the hole in his family is still there, though Finn only remembers fragments of her.  Now Finn's mother has left home, with no message or explanation, leaving him with his absent-minded historian dad, who won't talk about it, and who then heads off on a research trip, leaving Finn with his grandmother.  Happily, his best friend Gabi lives nearby, and she has his back, and his grandma is loving, warm, and caring.  She also knows where his mother is, although she doesn't come out and tell him immediately...and when she does, it's hard to believe.

Finn comes from a family of time-travelling women, and his mother is trying to reshape the past.  But things have gone wrong.  In order to bring her home, and perhaps even bring Faith home to, Finn is going to have to trust his grandmother's cryptic instructions and travel through time himself.  Gabi refuses to let him go alone, and so they head off to find a portal up in the mountains....But there are those who want a different version of the past, who are determined to stop Finn and his mother.  And everything almost goes horrible wrong.....

That was me trying to avoid giving too much away.  There are lots and lots of twists and alternate timelines and lots of questionable actions and motives....but like I said at the beginning, it's mostly about Finn.  About 100 pages into the book (it's 339 pages long), I thought to myself something like "I am really enjoying the measured way in which the world of this book and its characters are being built up, and how it's been done so skillfully that my interest just keeps getting more and more piqued"  And indeed, the "action and adventure" part where the time travel goes wild doesn't really start until more than halfway through.  But that part of the book wouldn't have been nearly as interesting if I didn't already know Finn, and Gabi (she is great!), so well, and the chance to get used to the time travelling rather gradually made it easier to go with the flow when the flow got going.  

The pacing also gave Finn and Gabi a chance to think about and discuss what they were doing, adding thought-provoking-ness to the story that I appreciated.  Sometimes rushing around like kittens sort of books are fun, but I really appreciated reading one that felt more like a grown-up lap cat.

In short a really interesting, thoughtful, very likeable time travel/friendship/family secrets story that I highly recommend!

disclaimer: review copy.


The Disaster Days, by Rebecca Behrens

If Hannah had known what was going to happen, she would have told her dad, off on a business trip, that she loved him.

If she had known, she wouldn't have gotten into a fight with her best friend.

And if she had known, maybe she wouldn't have grumped at her mom's advise.

But she didn't. And now a devastating earthquake has stranded her and the two younger kids she's babysitting on an island.  There are no grown-ups.  No power.  No water.  No phone service.  Will they make it?

The Disaster Days, by Rebecca Behrens, is a gripping story of kids surviving on their own after an earthquake that will set your mind racing!  

It's  only Hannah's second time babysitting the neighbor's kids; she's not all that much older than them (she in 7th, Zoe's in 4th and Oscar is in 3rd  Her mother has fussed at her for not being responsible enough to look after anyone, but Hannah feels fairly confident, even if her mother won't be on the island where they live that evening either.  Both moms will be back in just a few hours.

But then an earthquake strikes the Northwest coast, and the hours turn into days.  Hannah does her best to keep a level head, but she's only a kid herself, and desperately worried.   There's an emergency radio at Zoe and Oscar's house, and the news is terrible.  The immediate situation is too. The house is a wreck, and is being rocked by aftershocks, but outside is cold and wet.  Food and water runs out, and a gas leak forces the kids outside.  Both Zoe and Oscar injure themselves badly, and Hannah blames herself (with some reason).  But though she herself is almost incapacitated by asthma, she carries on, even when things keep getting worse...

It's my favorite sort of survival book, with tons of  room for second guessing the characters!  Hannah did pretty well for a 7th grader, but would I have done better?  (not that I'm competitive with fictional characters or anything, but I've read more survival books....).  It's tense enough that it really seems possible one of the kids is going to die, if not all three of them, or at the very least the guinea pig (this is a middle grade book, so they don't all die), but it gets to this point so realistically and gradually that it doesn't seem contrived at all.

Very much recommended to anyone who loves kids surviving on their own stories!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science-fiction from around the blogs (9/29/19)

Welcome to this week's round-up of mg sci fi and fantasy blog postings!  Please let me know if I missed anything (anyone is welcome to send me posts during the week for the following Sunday's round-up, including authors and publiscists etc.).

The Reviews

Anya and the Dragon, by Sofiya Pasternack, at Read Love

The Battle, by Karuna Riazi, at Charlotte's Library

City of Ghosts, by Victoria Schwab, at Fantasy Literature and Treestand Book Reviews

The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horwitz, at Log Cabin Library

Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas, at Puss Reboots

The Green Children of Woolpit, by J. Anderson Coats, at Charlotte's Library

The Library of Ever, by Zeno Alexander, at Cover2CoverBlog

The Lost Girl, by Anne Ursu, at Imaginary Friends

Malamander, by Thomas Taylor, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Marigold Star, by Elise Primavera, at Nayu's Reading Corner

The Red Rover: Origins, by C.E. Whitaker III, at The Write Path

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez, at Imaginary Friends

Small Spaces, by Katherine Young, at Puss Reboots

The Specter Key, by Kaleb Nation, at Say What?

The Switching Hour, by Damaris Young, at Book Craic

Tin, by Pádraig Kenny, at Book Craic

Trace, by Pat Cummings, at RaiseThemRighteous

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia,at Ms. Yingling Reads

Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House, by Michael Poole, at Cracking the Cover

Authors and Interviews

Carolyn Crimi (Weird Little Robots) at The Children's Book Review

Other Good Stuff

For the B. and N. Kids Blog, I made a list of great middle grade island books, including lots of fantasy!

And don't forget to head over to the Cybils Awards to nominate your favorite middle grade speculative fiction book from the past year (the year being Oct 16, 2018-Oct 15, 2019).  And you can also nominate books in each of the other categories as well....


The Green Children of Woolpit, by J. Anderson Coats

Back in the 12th century, two green children were found in the English village of Woolpit.  The boy died, but the girl lived, and spoke of the twilight underground country they'd come from.  They became a legend.  And now J. Anderson Coats has made them the center of a magical middle grade story, The Green Children of Woolpit (Atheneum, September 2019).

Except that the center of her story is not actually the two green children, but Agnes, the peasant girl who finds them.  Agnes, whose mind wanders, who can see the wind, who isn't rushing toward growing up like her former best friend, Glory.  Agnes was the only one to hear the green children calling for help.  And because she went to their aid, her own life becomes a nightmare.

While the green girl tries to take her place in her family with guile and fairy glamor, Agnes is trapped in the underground halls of the malevolent and sadistic Good People.  To make things right, she must undo the bargain she became ensnared by, but it is a very tricky business to try to outsmart the fairies....

It's top notch historical fantasy, with lots of shuddery horror and magic.  It's not a swords and sorcery sort of fantasy, but a more personal journey, though one full of magical dangers.  Agnes, and the green girl too, both become very real for the reader, and I found their struggle to take back their lives from the Good People totally engrossing.

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