this week's middle grade sci fi/fantasy round-up (6/4/23)

Settling back in to life with two kids home from college, which is always a shock to the system....Here's what I found this week of interest to us fans for mg sci fi/fantasy!

And speaking of MG sci fi fans--maybe you have thought about being a panelist for the Cybils Awards (perhaps in MG Speculative Fiction even?) but have been daunted by the thought of over 100 nominated books and three months to read them in....Us Cybils organizers have come up with an answer!  We are having an early call for panelists, so that the summer months can be spent reading.  No books will be nominated until fall, but this will be a book club like chance to share recommendations, read ones we are interested in, and talk about what we are reading!  There is no commitment to becoming an official panelist come fall, so if you'd like to spend the summer talking MG spec fic with me, or reading in one of the many other categories, apply here before June 14!  

If you only want to read for the second round, you can join the chatting for the summer, and move to Round 2 in fall.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to apply, though only books published in the US between Oct 16, 2022-Oct 15 2023 are eligible.  If you have any questions, leave them in the comments or email me at charlotteslibrary@gmail.com

The Reviews

Aliyah Serin and the Box of Zenas, by Lucy Anne Holland, at Mark My Words

The Cobra's Song, by Supriyata Kelkar, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Middle-Grade Review: The Counterclockwise Heart by Brian Farrey – YA Books Central

The Grace of Wild Things, by Heather Fawcett, at Dead Houseplants

Greenwild: The World Behind the Door, by Pari Thomson, at Library Girl and Book Boy and Scope for Imagination

Grimwood, by Naida Shireen, at Always in the Middle… 

Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms, by Jenna Yoon, at Bookworm for Kids and  Cracking the Cover

The Magic Hour, by David Wolstencroft, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

Matteo, by Michael Leali, at  Paw Prints in the Sink

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecyn by Angie Thomas, at Pages Unbound, Rapunzel Reads, and Mark My Words

The Probability of Everything, by Sarah Everett, Fuse #8 (nb: I'm not actually certain this is spec fic having not read it yet....)

Ravencave, by Marcus Sedgwick, at Charlotte's Library

The Sister Switch, by Sarah Mlynoswki and Debbie Rigaud, at YABookNerd

Time Traveling Through Yellowstone National Park – The Adventures of Bubba Jones, by Jeff Alt, at Always in the Middle… 

The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder, at A Library Mama

Authors and Interviews

H. S. Norup (Into Faerie Hill), at Valinora Troy

Pari Thomson (Greenwild: The World Behind the Door) at Scope for Imagination

Jenna Yoon (Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms) at Writer's Digest 

Other Good Stuff

8 Middle Grade Magical Realism Novels to Read Right Now (bookriot.com)


Ravencave, by Marcus Sedgwick, for Timeslip Tuesday

I am determined to get back into the swing of blogging now that both kids are back from college and I have a long month ahead with no particular busyness planned.  That being said, Ravencave, by Marcus Sedgwick (March 2023, Barrington Stock), although a really good book, and perhaps the last children's/YA book of his to be published (he sadly died in the fall of 2022 at a much too young age) is a slightly questionable Timeslip Tuesday book.  It is actually a ghost story, but there is, toward the end, enough timeslipping that I am going ahead and using it today.

The story takes place in a single day, though it is a day is suffused with memories.  Jamie and his family (two parents, older brother) are on a rather miserable family holiday in Yorkshire.  The main point of the trip is to scatter his grandmother's ashes in the region where she was born, and the father is also keen to visit places where his ancestors lived and worked.  But the weather has been awful, the father has lost his job, and the mother, a published author, is suffering from writer's block.  No one is paying any attention to Jamie, not even his brother, though they used to get along really well.

And then Jamie sees a ghost, a girl who wants his help.  She's not just any ghost, but a family member from a hundred odd years ago, and she leads him away from his family, underground where a terrible tragedy occurred.  In the shock of what Jamie learns, his spirit briefly slips through time, visiting his long ago family in the places important to their lives.  It's no more than a few pages, but it serves to connect Jamie to the land and its history, and learn how he fits into it, in a way that's very meaningful, and rather comforting.

Sedgwick did a top notch job of building the suspense of the story.  It's not just a story of the supernatural, but a story of a hurting family and their relationships to each other.  And its the story too of the injustices experienced by the ancestral family--there's a thread of socialism that will appeal to progressive young readers (it's an 11-14 year old book, I think) without being too heavy handed to disrupt the flow of the story.

Knowing that the author was facing death while writing this incredibly poignant story makes it even more powerful.  One of the most memorable of the 100 books I've read so far this year.  It's only out in the UK at the moment, but if it sounds at all appealing, it's worth heading over to Blackwells and ordering a copy (with free shipping to the US and a favorable exchange rate), which was what I did, very soon after reading this review at Magic Fiction Since Potter.


no round up this week

 I'm writing this from the beatuiful Hudson River Valley, where my oldest has just graduated from Bard College (yay!  though the whole college experience was mucked with by the pandemic, they made it through!).  Now that May, with desperate home and garden work, is over, and both kids will be safely home, I'll have more time (d.v.) for blogging!  


This week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy (5/21/23)

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

The Reviews

Aboard the Time Line, by Bastian Gregory, at  Bookworm for Kids 

Bloom, by Kenneth Oppel, ar Proseandkahn

The Book of Stolen Dreams, by David Farr, at Pages Unbound

Charlie Hernandez & The Golden Dooms, by Ryan Calejo, at Kiss the Book

The Firebird Song, by Arnée Flores, at NW Book Lovers

Future Hero #1, by Remi Blackwood, at Mark My Words: 

Kelcie Murphy and the Hunt for the Heart of Danu (The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts #2), by Erika Lewis, at Mark My Words

The Lake House, by Sarah Beth Durst, at YABookNerd

Mace and Hammer (Del Toro Tales #3), by Darby Karchut, at Log Cabin Library: 

Midwinter Burning, by Tanya Landman, at Scope for Imagination

Mission to Shadow Sea (Future Hero #2), by Remi Blackwood, at Mark My Words and YA Books Central

Revenge of Queen Rose, by Valinora Troy, at Hayley Reese Chow

Small Bites Back, by Hannah Moffatt,  illustrated by Rory Walker, at Book Craic

The Thief of Farrowfell, by Ravena Guron, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

The Witch of Woodland, by Laurel Snyder, at Unleashing Readers

Authors and Interviews

Laurel Snyder (The Witch of Woodland) at The Yarn (100scopenotes.com)

Matt McMann (Escape From Grimstone Manor) at From The Mixed Up Files

Other Good Stuff

Children's Book Picks UK - May 2023 at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


this week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy (5/14/2023)

 I write this from a motel room in Ithaca NY where I am doing my motherly duty of fetching a child from college....I do appreciate at least the first few hours of the drive home, though, as it is the best conversational opportunity a parent gets at this point.  And happily I will be visiting the giant Ithaca library used bookstore later today.

As ever, please let me know if I missed your post! (which I might have, because I'm using my very old laptop which isn't conducive for pleasant browsing)

The  Reviews

 Epic Ellisons: Cosmos Camp, by Lamar Giles, at Ms. Yingling Reads:

 Escape From Grimstone Manor (Monsterious #1), by Matt McMann, at Mark My Words and YABookNerd

 The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox, by J.D. Maddox, at Kiss the Book and  Twirling Book Princess

The Girl Who Speaks Bear, by Sophie Anderson, at Kiss the Book 

The Golden Frog Games (Witchlings #2), by Claribel A. Ortega, at Charlotte's Library

Haarville, by Justin Davies, at Mark My Words

Hollowthorn (A Ravenfall Novel #2), by Kayln Josephson, at Mark My Words

Hummingbird, by Natalie Lloyd, at  Smack  Dab in the Middle

The Kingdom Over the Sea, by Zohra Nabi, at Book Craic

Kingston and the Echoes of Magic, by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi, at Charlotte's Library

The One and Only Ruby, by Katherine Applegate, at Ms. Yingling Reads: 

The Prisoner of Shiverstone, by Linette Moore, at  Pages Unbound

Ravencave by Marcus Sedgwick, at Scope for Imagination

The Storm Child, by Gabriela Houston, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Stories of the Islands, by Clar Angkasa, at Fuse #8

The Wildstorm Curse, by Eve Wersocki Morris, at Valinora Troy

World's Worst Time Machine, by Dustin Brady, at Always in the Middle…  and Mark My Words

Authors and Interviews

 Hannah Moffatt (Small Bites Back) at Scope for Imagination

Matt McMann ( Escape From Grimstone Manor) YABookNerd


Kingston and the Echoes of Magic, by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi, for Timeslip Tuesday

Yay for me!  I have a Timeslip Tuesday offering, and happily it was a book that was such a fast fun read that I was able to get it read between coming home from work and now---Kingston and the Echoes of Magic, by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi (October 2021, G.P. Putnam's Sons).  

It's the second of a duology, and if you haven't read book 1 (Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found) you will want to before opening this one, because otherwise you will probably flounder not knowing who everyone is, and all that happened before this one starts--in a nutshell, Kingston, his cousin Veronica, and their best buddy Too Tall saved Brooklyn from a magical catastrophe involving a portal to an alternate dimension, but couldn't rescue Kingston's dad, who remains trapped there.

Life is going on after those adventures....or maybe not.  Kingston and Veronica realize they are stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again.  And when they start hunting for an explanation, they find that the looping is tied to a plot to rewrite the timeline of the world, destroying all the reality they love.  Hints and strange helpers lead them on a path through time, as they slip into different pasts trying to find a way to stop the magician mastermind who is behind it all.  They spend time with their teenaged dads, for instance, and a fascinating visit to ancient Egypt is key to saving their world.  

Though it's said several times in the book that it isn't time travel, per se, it certainly was time slip, and very entertaining slipping it was.  And the authors did a great job making it all complicated, but easy to accept without fuss.  The kids are great characters, though I wish Too Tall, the only one without magic, had had a Moment of Helping that wasn't just him being tall enough to get out of the lap of a giant Pharoh statue and such.  He deserved more than just being the tall sidekick.

These are great books for kids who like arcane secrets, riddles, and magic tricks, kids who want books about city kids with magic, especially black urban kids who will get to see themselves here, and for grownups like me who enjoy good magical time slipping.


The Golden Frog Games (Witchlings #2), by Claribel A. Ortega

The Golden Frog Games (Witchlings #2), by Claribel A. Ortega (May 2, 2023, Scholastic), begins soon after the tumultuous events of the first book. Seven and her two best friends, Valley and Thorn, are still well aware that they are "spares"--young witches not chosen for one of the covens,  looked down on by most, and held in utmost contempt by too many- but they are not letting that stop them from living their own magical lives. 

There's lots of stress for all three. Seven, who has found herself an Uncle (in charge of her town's magical relationship with and care of magical creatures), is terribly worried about her magic--it isn't considered right for an Uncle to communicate with monstrous creatures as well as ordinary ones, but that's what Seven is doing.  Valley's coping with the fallout from the collapse of father's reputation, and is embarking on a very sweet relationship with another girl witch.  Thorn has put her shy self out front and center, competing in the Golden Frog Games, where witches from all the twelve towns compete for glory.  It's almost unheard of for a Spare to be a strong contender, but Thorn's skill with magical clothing is hard to beat.

And then the tension gets worse when someone starts using forbidden, archaic magic to attack Thorn.  It's only chance that the magic attacks harm others nearby...and since they aren't stopping, and no one in authority is able to figure out who is behind them, Thorn is in grave danger.

Seven is determined to solve the mystery.  In order to do so, she'll have to embrace the part of her magic that scares her most, and she'll need her friends.  But their tight bond is in danger of breaking.  And the dreadful Nightbeast of the first book calls to her from its magical prison....

This is a book that starts with a focus on magical extravaganza--the Golden Frog Games are lavish and lushly described, and will hook young readers who love to read of marvels.   The friendship tension, and Seven's anxiety that her magic is wrong, make it relatable.  But as the danger grows (and it gets very real and close to home), the tension of the mystery takes center stage.  There's still plenty of neat magical detail, and Seven's ability to communicate with animals adds lots of delightful moments, but the plot really starts boiling. 

I (a non-target audience reader, in case you didn't know that), liked the last third of the book best (I prefer reading about people figuring things out than about people being anxious)...and enjoyed it even more than I did the first one.  I continue to be a bit uncertain about the world building-- what lies beyond the twelve towns? How does their economy function?  but again--not the target audience.  And I continue to cheer for the struggle of the three Witchlings against prejudice, and am happy to cheer for the LGBTQ inclusion.

The book ends at a reasonable point, I guess, but also no it is not reasonable because there's a very big tense thing unresolved and there's clearly lots and lots more of the story to come.  It looks like there will be plenty of more dangerous and twisty plot to look forward to and of course big tense thing had better not stay that way!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

Cover reveal for The Great Forest, by Valinora Troy

 Happy cover reveal to my friend Valinora's latest book, the third and final installment of the Lucky Diamond trilogy!  I had the good fortune to work with Valinora in the Elementary/Middle Grade Cybils Awards year before last, and I'm so happy for happy for her! 

The Great Forest blurb:

“Everything here hates you. The trees long to consume you, the ground to swallow you, the plants to poison you, and as for the creatures who live here… Your only chance of survival is to do exactly as I say. Clear?”

Twins Cathy and Alan are thrilled to be asked by the king of the Diamonds to enter the Great Forest on their eleventh birthday to complete the cleansing of the land. After all, Queen Rose is dead and all darkness gone from the trees. But when their home is attacked by a horde of vicious boars, and Alan and Cathy unwillingly taken to the Great Forest, the twins realise that evil remains there. Now they are faced with a terrible choice: escape from their captors and take their chances at survival, or find out who is waiting for them in the centre of the forest, and why?


Cathy and Alan are about to face the deadliest battle of their lives, against the forest, the monsters, … and each other.


The exciting conclusion to The Lucky Diamond trilogy


Cover art by Phan Duy


The Great Forest will be published on 21st June 2023. The ebook is currently available here for pre-order at a special price of .99 cent/.99 pence


About the Author:

Valinora Troy has been writing since she was a child. Her first story popped into her head when she was 5 or 6, about a little girl who found a magic diamond. Recently she completed a M.A. in Creative Writing, specialising in Children & Young Adult fiction. Her short stories for adults have appeared in numerous venues. She has also served as a panellist for the CYBILS award, visits schools and libraries, and occasionally run writing classes for talented young authors. She hails from Blackrock, Co Louth, Ireland, and after living in Dublin for a number of years, recently returned to Louth to live in a magical writing cottage. Find out more at Valinora Troy – Children's Fantasy Writer


this week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy (5/7/23)

 Nothing from me again this week, sigh, becuase of work, house, and garden, but next week I have great hopes for solid reading and reviewing! Here's what I found from others; as always, let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

 Clara Poole and the Long Way Round, by Taylor Tyng, at Mark My Words

Emba Oak and the Beckoning Bones, by Jenny Moore, at Book Craic

The Guardian Test, by Christina Soontornvat, at  Redeemed Reader

A Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy, at Proseandkahn

Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom, by Nina Varela, at A Library Mama

The Lake House, by Sarah Beth Durst, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Might As Well Be Dead, by Mark Goldblatt, at Log Cabin Library

Nic Blake and the Remarkables, by Angie Thomas, at PBC's Book Reviews

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1), by Andrew Peterson, at Mark My Words

Skandar and the Phantom Rider (Skandar #2), by A.F. Steadman, at Mark My Words

The Snowcat Prince, by Dina Norlund, at Pages Unbound 

The Thames and Tide Club: The Secret City, by Katya Balen, ill. by Rachael Dean, at Scope for Imagination

Authors and Interviews

Angie Thomas |(Nic Blake and the Remarkables) at American Libraries Magazine

Matt McMann (Escape From Grimstone Manor), at Literary Rambles

Mark Goldblatt (Might as Well be Dead), at Smack Dab in the Middle

Polly Holyoke (Skyriders), at MG Book Village

Brian Young (Heros of the Water Monster), at Cynsations

Other Good Stuff

10 of the Best Magic Systems in Fantasy Books (includes some middle grade), at Book Riot


this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (4/30/23)

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

The Reviews

Between Monsters and Marvels, by Alysa Wishingrad, at Mark My Words

The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island, book 1), by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong, at A Kids Book A Day

Ghosts, Toasts, and Other Hazards, by Susan Tan, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Grimwood, by Nadia Shireen, at Log Cabin Library

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch, by Derek Keilty & Magda Brol, at Scope for Imagination

Jodie, by Hilary McKay, at Book Craic

The Kingdom Over the Sea, by Zohra Nabi, at Islamic School Librarian

The Lake House, by Sarah Beth Durst, at  Charlotte's Library (technically published as YA, but great upper mg appeal!)

The McNeills at Rathcapple, by Meta Mayne Reid, at Charlotte's Library

Nightmare Island, by Shakirah Bourne, at Kiss the Book

Once There Was, by Kiyash Monsef, at  Always in the Middle…

The Paper Museum, by Kate S. Simpson, at Kiss the Book

Serpent of the Sands, by Vashti Hardy, at  Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Seven Wherewithal Way – Across the Ice and into the Jungle, by Samatha-Ellen Bound, at  The Book Muse 

Spellstone, by Ross Montgomery, at Scope for Imagination

The Thief of Farrowfell, by Raven Guron, at Valinora Troy

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson, at Faith Elizabeth Hough

Authors and Interviews

Angie Thomas (Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy) at CBC

 Eden Royce (Root Magic, Conjure Island) at Words, Images, & Worlds podcast

Anthony Pckham (Children of the Black Glass) at Geo Librarian (with a review as well)

 Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman (The N.O.A.H. Files: I am the Walrus) at Smack Dab in the Middle

Other Good Stuff

35 Incredible Middle Grade Magical Realism Books, at  Imagination Soup


The Lake House, by Sarah Beth Durst

Happy slightly belated book birthday to The Lake House, by Sarah Beth Durst (April 25th, 2023, HarperTeen)!  I am a huge fan of her books in general and was not disappointed.

Three young teenaged girls arrive at a house camp on an island in the middle of the Maine woods; none of them wanted to go, but their parents, who had been there themselves long ago, promised them a wonderful, transformative experience.  

They have doubts, and these doubts are more than realized.  Dropped off by boat and left to make their own way through the woods to house, they are stunned to find the Lake House is a burned shell.  The discovery of a fairly fresh corpse who has been shot is not a comfort.  They have no way to communicate with the outside world, and no food or clean water, and presumably there's a killer on the loose, possibly still on the island. And then things get worse, when they must survive a horrible evil that makes the island its home....

I loved the growing friendship between the girls, and especially how Claire's anxiety and tendency to catastrophize proves incredibly valuable.  The other two girls also emerge as fully three-dimensional characters with much to offer the survival of the group, and the trio works through a lot together, growing in understanding and acceptance of themselves and each other.  Though the horror was not exactly to my own personal taste (I had to take it with lots of grains of salt), it offered nicely high stakes and plenty of twists.  The friendship and survival elements were totally my jam (I am always up for catching fish with a tennis net, starting a fire with a hair dryer battery, etc.) and so I ended up being both gripped and entertained.

 A great one for 12-14 year olds who like friendship stories mixed with supernatural horror.  This really falls into the sweet spot of upper middle grade/younger YA!

disclaimer: review copy received from the author


The McNeills at Rathcapple, by Meta Mayne Reid, for Timeslip Tuesday

The McNeills at Rathcapple, by Meta Mayne Reid (1959), is a lovely vintage time travel book set in Ireland, and I wish I'd had it to read as a kid (although I still enjoyed it as a grownup).

When we meet Sandy and Richard, they are living in rented rooms in a city in Northern Ireland without their beloved dog and their slightly less beloved cat while their father searches for a new job (he's a historian) and recovers from being ill.   They have an uncle, holed up in the family's ancestral home, Rathcapple, but there was family unpleasantness, and they've never met him.  But the uncle is getting old, and their mother decides that they shall foist themselves on him, and live in a few rooms of to the side, until their father is better and has a solid job.  The uncle is not welcoming, but doesn't forbid this, as long as his work on his book about local history and nature isn't disturbed.

Sandy and Richard are delighted to be in the country, with their pets.  The old, ruined fortification, the rath that the house is named for, is a thrilling place, and there they meet a young horseman, Angus, who seems almost magical.  They are determined to make their uncle want them to stay by helping him find the last bits of information he needs for the book--the story of the fiddler who played a role in a long-ago Irish rising against the English, and the story of a young nursemaid to the McNeills accused of stealing a family treasure.  

And this is where the time travel comes in (if you don't want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph) --Richard visits the fiddler, and inhabits the Mcneill boy his own age fleeing for his life, and Sandy in her turn lives the crucial day of the young nursemaid's life.  But though they know what really truly happened, they have to find proof, and their quest to find corroborating evidence through material remains and historical documents was as interesting to me as the time travel itself.  They are encouraged in their efforts by the horseman, Angus, who is himself unmoored in time and who I assume is the instigator of their time slipping...

There are more quotidian doings and happenings of the sort you'd expect from two kids moved to an old house in the country, and this was very enjoyable as well.  There is, for instance, a lovely pageant that is quite amusing, jam making, exploration of the countryside, and shenanigans with a local boy who becomes their friend (one such episode is shown on the cover, which I find an odd choice, when the illustrator had the big old house and the ruined rath and the heroic figure of Angus on his magnificent horse on hand; perhaps "boy riding cattle, seen from behind" seemed more Exciting and Likely to Appeal to Boys....).

It didn't quite reach the numinous heights I wished it would have, possibly because there wasn't quite enough emotional tension, but it came close, and I am pleased that there is a second book about the family for me to look forward to.


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/23/2023)

My reading this week was grown up books for book clubs and work, so nothing from me.  But happily there's lots from others! Let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Breath of Mischief, by MarcyKate Connolly, at Cracking the Cover

The Chestnut Roaster, by Eve McDonnell, at Valinora Troy

Come See the Fair, by Gavriel Savit Cracking the Cover

Dylan Dover: Into the Vortex by Lynne Howard - Chick Lit Cafe

Eden’s Everdark, by Karen Strong, at  Kiss the Book

 Evil Genius (The Smartest Kid in the Universe #3), by Chris Grabenstein, at Mark My Words

Felice and the Wailing Woman, by Diana Lopez, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Finch House, by Ciera Burch, at Mark My Words

Ghosts of Rancho Espanto, by Adrianna Cuevas, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Guardian Test, by Christina Soontornvat, at Pages Unbound 

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Taking the Blame, by Louie Stowell, at Twirling Book Princess

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy, by Angie Thomas, at Kiss the Book and Paw Prints in the Sink

Nura and The Immortal Palace, by M. T. Khan, at YA Books Central

The Rage of the Sea Witch, by Roland Chambers, at Scope for Imagination

The Rescue of Ravenwood, by Natasha Farrant, at Book Craic

Serpent of the Sands, by Vashti Hardy, at Scope for Imagination

The Silver Road, by Sinéad O’Hart, at Book Craic

A Storm of Wishes, by Jaqueline West, at Puss Reboots 

Tales of the Forgotten Founders (The Falinnheim Chronicles #3), by C.W. Allen, at  Mark My Words

Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal, by Donna Galanti, at A Library Mama

The Wherewood, by Gabrielle Prendergast, at Young Adulting

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads-- A Spoonful of Time, by Flora Ahn, and Shinji Takahashi: Into the Heart of the Storm, by Julie Kagawa

Authors and Interviews

Andy Ruffell  (Lily Grim and The City of Undone) Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books 

P. Djèlí Clark (Abeni’s Song) at Fuse #8

Other Good Stuff

Myth and Middle Grade (publishersweekly.com)


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (4/16/2023)

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

The Reviews

Come See the Fair, by Gavriel Savit, at the NY Times

Dead Alley, by S. A. Larsen, at Always in the Middle… 

Elf Dog and Owl Head, by M. T. Anderson, at Charlotte's LibraryBookPageYA Books Central

The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía, by Alexandra Alessandri, at Pages Unbound 

Greenwild: The World Behind The Door, by Pari Thomson, at Scope for Imagination

I Am the Walrus, by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman, at The Bookwyrm's Den 

The Labyrinth of Doom, by Stuart Gibbs, at Lucy Knows Things

Miracles for the Maharaja, by Aditi Krishnakumar, at Books Teacup and Reviews 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin's Guide to Monsters: The Trouble with the Two-Headed Hydra, by Karen Foxlee, at Kids' Book Review

Nura and the Immortal Palace, by M.T. Khan, at Little Bookish Teacher (YouTube)

Once There Was, by Kiyash Monsef, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Piper’s Promise, by Leah Cypess, at Kiss the Book 

Stink, written and illustrated by Jenny McLachlan, at Book Craic

Summer in Orcus, by T. Kingfisher, at Tor.com

Tiger Warrior: Rise of the Lion Beast, by M. Chan illustrated by Alan Brown, at Log Cabin Library

The Unforgettable Logan Foster and the Shadow of Doubt, by Shawn Peters,  PamelaKramer.com

Unicorn Island – Beyond the Portal, at  Always in the Middle…  and The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow 

Wendington Jones and the Missing Tree, by Daniel Dockery, at Book Craic

Winnie Zeng Vanquishes a King (Winnie Zeng #2), by Katie Zhao, ar Courtney Reads Romance 

Authors and Interviews

P. Djèlí Clark (Abeni’s Song), at School Library Journal 

M.T. Anderson (Elf Dog and Owl Head) at Writer's Digest and  Kirkus Reviews

Taya and Nathan Okerlund (Never Lore) at The Story Sanctuary

Yarrow and Carrie Cheney (Superworld: Save Noah) at  Middle Grade Ninja

Other Good Stuff

New in the UK, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books - 


Elf Dog and Owl Head, by M. T. Anderson

Elf Dog and Owl Head, by M. T. Anderson, illustrated by Junyi Wu (April 11, 2023, Candlewick), is a truly delightful middle grade fantasy, especially for those who love dogs (but even cat lovers, like me, will still appreciate the titular dog lots!)

When we first meet this elf dog, she is part of the wyrm hunting pack of the Queen Under the Mountains.  A particularly cunning wyrm (a dragonish creature) leads the hunt out from under the mountains, into our world, and she doesn't make it back underground.  And then she meets a human boy, Clay.

Clay and his family are stuck at home during a global plague, and we know what that's like.  Clay and his sisters have to share one computer for school (not going well), and can't see their friends.  They are driving each other (and their parents) batty, and money is tight.  When Clay meets the elf hound in the woods, he is thrilled to find in her a friend and companion.  And after doing the responsible lost dog (with distinctive pointed red ears) efforts, his parents agree that Elphinore can stay (and isn't that a perfect elf dog name?).

Walks through the woods with Elphinore become magical, as she leads Clay through the boundaries of the other world.  A visit to the village of owl headed folk (who don't welcome human visitors) leads to a friendship with an owl head boy, and Clay's summer gets even better.  

But the fact remains that Elphinore is an elf dog, and Clay has taken possession of her, a dangerous thing.  The Queen wants her back.  The wyrm still prowls. And tensions and worries build at home.  The ending is a little bittersweet, but wraps up everything well, and, for those who are worrying, Elphinore and Clay get their happy ending of boy and dog together.

It is a really good story, with the real world and the fantasy balanced beautifully.  The characters and relationships are rock solidly constructed, and the places appeared in glorious technicolor, as it were, in my mind's eye.  I especially was pleased, in one memorable scene of a nighttime magical revelry, to be reminded of my favorite bit of Moominland Midwinter, which doesn't often happen; probably not the author's intention, but it made me happy.

I bet this would make a great read aloud; I'd have had a great time reading it to mine when they were nine or so.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher, and though the illustrations in my copy weren't final, they were still very effective, and I must remember to get ahold of a finished copy so I can appreciate them fully!


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/9/23)

Happy Easter, Ramadan Mubarak, Happy Pesach, and Happy Spring! May your daffodils be free from girls' heads, becuase who wants that.

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

The Reviews

Artemis Spark & the Sound Seekers Brigade, by Kimberly Behre Kenna, at Valinora Troy

The Deadlands: Hunted, by Skye Melki-Wegner, at  Mark My Words

Elidor, by Alan Garner, at Pages Unbound 

The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions, #1), by Sunayna Prasad, at Boys' Mom Reads!

Ghosts, Toast, and Other Hazards, by Susan Tan, at Mark My Words

The Great Fox Heist, by Justyn Edwards, at Scope for Imagination

Hamra and the Jungle of Memories by Hanna Alkaf, at The Story Sanctuary and The StoryGraph

I Am the Walrus (N.O.A.H. Files #1), by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, at Mark My Words

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy, by Angie Thomast, at The New York Times,   Always in the Middle… BookPage, glorious reads, and Ms. Yingling Reads

Once There Was, by Kiyash Monsef, at  YA Books Central

A Rover’s Story, by Jasmine Warga, at PBC's Book Reviews 

The School Between Winter and Fairyland, by Heather Fawcett, at Dead Houseplants 

Skyriders (Skyriders #1), by Polly Holyoke, at The Plain-Spoken Pen 

The Sister Switch, by Debbie Rigaud and Sarah Mlynowski, at Ms. Yingling Reads  

Speculation, by Nisi Shawl, at Charlotte's Library

Spellstone by Ross Montgomery, at Book Craic

Windy City Ruins (Talisman, Book 3) by Brett Salter, at Baroness' Book Trove 

Wendington Jones and the Missing Tree, by Daniel Dockery, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books 

Wildsmith: City of Secrets, by Liz Flanagan, illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, at Book Craic

Authors and Interviews

Kiyash Monsef (Once There Was), at Fuse #8

Shawn Peters (Logan Foster and the Shadow of Doubt) at MG Book Village

Other Good Stuff

A great LGBTQ+ Middle Grade Fantasy Book List, at alibrarymama


Speculation, by Nisi Shawl

My recent middle grade fantasy reading has been mostly mythology infused quests, and although it's great to have such a wealth of diversity, it was refreshing to read Speculation, by Nisi Shawl (Feb 2023, Tu Books), set firmly in our own world, albeit back in 1962.

I fell hard for Winna, the young heroine, who when we first meet her is reading Edward Eager, a favorite fantasy author of my own youth, and dreaming of magic.  I  thought how very nice but odd it was to see a contemporary character reading vintage books, and it wasn't until it was spelled out for the reader that this was 1962 that I realized I was reading a historical fantasy.  Indeed I also had been struck by Winna's grandfather using the term "colored" in relation to the family, who are Black, but being engrossed I didn't stop to think about it.  But in any event, I knew I'd enjoy spending time with her, and I did.  

Winna and her little sister are at their grandparent's house while their mother is in the hospital.  When her sister breaks her glasses (by accident), Winna is crushed; new glasses are both expensive and inaccessible.  So her grandfather gives her a pair that belonged to her great aunt Estelle. The glasses make her vision even sharper than her old ones, and there's a glimmer to what she sees...and so on the off chance that it's magic, she speculates-what if they show her ghosts?  And they do.  Generations of ghosts, including Estelle, haunt the family cemetery.  

Winna learns from Estelle's ghost about the curse on her family.  Winona, Estelle's mother, escaped slavery and while still moving toward freedom, gave birth to a baby boy, Key.  But Key vanished, or was taken from her, and Winona's grief stayed with her all her life.  So much so that when dying she unintentionally cursed her family, a curse that can only be broken if she and Key can be reunited.

Winna is sure her mother, getting worse in the hospital, is a victim of the curse.  So joining forces with a boy cousin she can't stand, she sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to Key.....and if he's still alive, to bring him back to the family. 

It's a great story, full of dualities that balance each other beautifully-- past and present, magic and reality, the loving family and the racist world.  I loved the historical and genealogical research that Winna and her cousin undertake, I loved how the magic wasn't just seeing ghosts with magical glasses but was aided and abetted by Winna's grandfather's affinity for African infused magic (for lack of a better word) of his own.  And of course I hated the racism that Winna and her family face, and hated too that this part of the book didn't read as much like historical fiction as it should.

Spoiler-- Key was raised as white, with a white family.  And so one of the horrors of chattel slavery, rape, is there in the story, not explicitly discussed by name but an unavoidable fact of what happened.  I'm all in favor of fiction that kids to think about the painful parts of the past and how they affect the present, and sure do hope this one gets to stay on the shelves....



This week's roundup of mg sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/2/23)

Happy April to all!  Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Amari and the Great Game, by B.B. Alston, at The Book Nut

Beyond the Portal (Unicorn Island book 3),  by Donna Galanti, at Bookworm for Kids and Charlotte's Library

A Breath of Mischief, by MarcyKate Connolly, at  Kiss the Book

The Enchanted Bridge, by Zetta Elliott and Cherise Harris, at  Puss Reboots

Happily Ever After, by James Riley, at Bookworm for Kids

The Raven Heir, by Stephanie Burgis, at Tor 

Magestone (Gemfall Book One), by David Burleyson, at  Mark My Words

The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DeCamillo, at Rosi Hollinbeck

Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind, by Misa Sugiura, at  Little Blog of Library Treasures 

The NoWhere Thief, by Alice M. Ross, at Valinora Troy and Scope for Imagination

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape From Zafa, by Julian Randall, at Readgab (YouTube)

The Road to Balinor, by Mary Stanton, at Dragon Bite Books 

Skyriders, by Polly Holyoke, at JennCaffeinated

The Storm Child, by Gabriela Houston, Little Blog of Library Treasures 

What Stays Buried, by Suzanne Young, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Winnie Zeng Vanquishes a King, by Katie Zhao, at  Mark My Words

Winter’s Keep & the Weather Weaver series by Tamsin Mori, at Scope for Imagination

Woodwitch, by Skye McKenna, at Library Girl and Book Boy and  A Cat, A Book, and A Cup of Tea 

Authors and Interviews

Joshua Levy (Last Summer In Outer Space) at MG Book Village

Heather Fawcett (The Grace of Wild Things) at OwlCrate

Other Good Stuff

A booklist of MG thrills and chills, at From The Mixed Up Files

I'm not sure if this is actually middle grade, but it is certainly of interest-- And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky, at Fantasy Book Critic

Pixar’s Elemental Feature Will Include New Up Short Called “Carl’s Date” | Tor.com


Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal, by Donna Galanti

Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal, by Donna Galanti, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe (April 4, 2023 by Andrews McMeel Publishing), is the third and final book in one of the strongest new fantasy series for the younger range of middle grade (8-10 year olds, or even 7 year old voracious readers like young me).  That being said, there aren't, actually, all that many books for this demographic compared to all the series for kids 10-14, which means these books really feel a felt need, and kids who loved all the magical vet books like the Pip Bartlett series, the Imaginary Veterinary Series and the like will find the Unicorn Island a good place to continue their fantasy reading! Here are my reviews for Unicorn Island and Secret Beneath the Sand, the first two books- the series really needs to be read in order both to understand what's happening and appreciate the steadily deepening plot.

Discovering Unicorn Island, a sanctuary for magical creatures, and learning the father she'd never met before was its caretaker was just the start of Sam's adventures.  In this final book, she's determined to find her biological mom, who vanished through a portal into the land that was the unicorns original home, a place where they were hunted almost to extinction.   Her best friends, Tuck, and a young unicorn, Barloc, go with her.  They have only a narrow window to find Sam's mother....and when they discover, to their horror, that unicorn hunting is still being practiced, and Barloc is captured, things become very tense indeed!  And then Sam finds that her mother is the community unicorn hunter, who takes their horns from them, and all her hopes for bringing this stranger back into her life are upended.

But things aren't black and white.  The community needs the magic of the unicorn horns to survive; they aren't just hunting them for fun.  She can't let Barloc be robbed of his magic, but she wants to help the townsfolk too....fortunately, with a little luck, lots of determination, and unicorn magic, she and her friends find a way to save not only the town but the de-horned unicorns.

It's not a deeply complex story, as expected, but it is a satisfying and memorable one, full of unicorn goodness, an interesting ethical dilemma, and the mending of a family.  The full color illustrations add to the charm.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (3/26/23)

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

The Reviews

The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie, by Yvonne Banham, at Book Craic

The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox, by J.D. Grolic, at Charlotte's Library

Fablehouse, by Emma Norry, at  Scope for Imagination

Hide or Seek (The Superpower Protection Program) by Dan DiDio, at Mark My Words

The Last Saxon King, by Andrew Varga, at Karen Werkema on Instagram

Lucha of the Night Forest, by Tehlor Kay Mejia, ar Confessions of a YA Reader  and Subjectify Media.

Maggie and the Mountain of Light, by Mark Snoad, at The Children's Book Review

Minecraft Legends: Return of the Piglins, by Matt Forbeck, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Nic Blake and the Remarkables, by Angie Thomas, at Book Page

Olivia and the Gentleman From Outer Space, by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev, at Mark My Words

The Rabbit's Gift, by Jessica Vitalis, at Log Cabin Library

SuperQuesters: The Case of the Missing Memory, by Thomas Bernard and Lisa Moss,at Scope for Imagination

The Super Secret Monster Experiment, by Tian En, at Popthebutterfly Reads

The Superteacher Project, by Gordon Korman, at Geo Librarian.

Thunderbird, Book 1, by Sonia Nimr, at Islamic School Librarian

The Way of the Cicadas, by Audrey Henley, at Independent Book Review

What Stays Buried, by Suzanne Young, at Utopia State of Mind

Two at Feed Your Fiction Addiction--The Last Mapmaker, by Christina Soontornvat, and Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind by Misa Sugiura

Authors and Interviews 

Alice M. Ross (The Nowhere Thief) at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books 

Other Good Stuff

I missed this when it was first announced, so here you are-- 2022 Aurealis Awards Shortlist Announcement   (lots of enticing Mg!)

"10 Middle Grade Books Featuring a Magic School" at The Story Sanctuary


The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox, by J.D. Grolic

I am mostly saying no to review copies from independently published authors these days, because of feeling overwhelmed by books and life, but I'm really glad I took a chance on The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox, by J.D. Grolic!  I enjoyed it lots.

Chloe is sad--her busy parents are neglecting her, and her best friend is growing up faster than she is and has started leaving her behind.  Then one rainy London afternoon, walking home from school through a curious little London street, she tries to shelter in a shop doorway.  The rain comes down harder, and though the shop isn't open for business yet, she tries the door in desperation, and enters "The Extraordinary Curiosities of Ixworth and Maddox."  

There she finds magic, for Ixworth and Maddox aren't just ordinary sellers of curious things.  They are London magicians, creating, with the help of their resident brownies, magical marvels to sell to others such as themselves...and surprisingly, they welcome Chloe; after all, the door opened for her.  She finds herself spending more and more time with them, and the two kindly magicians encourage her own potential for magic.  

When Ixworth disappears with no warning or reason, Chloe is determined to help Maddox find him.  They set off on a journey that takes Chloe deep into magical London, where dark and ancient magic is being worked in a struggle for power.  It's not just Ixworth who needs saving (if saving him is even possible).....

Like I said, I enjoyed this.  I very much like interesting fantasy shops, and though some readers might find the first half of the book slow, I loved being introduced gently, with lots of details, to what the shop was selling and the workings of the magical city.  And then when things got going plot wise, and there was a mystery to solve and bad people and dangerous magic to foil, I enjoyed that too. Chloe has both believable agency and believable emotional reactions.  

In short, it doesn't break any particularly new ground, but it is does what it sets out to do very satisfactorily.  And if, like me, you like middle grade fantasy shop keeping, it's a must!  I hope there is a sequel.


Llama Rocks the Cradle of Chaos, by Jonathan Stutzman, for Timeslip Tuesday


A fun picture book for today's Timeslip Tuesday, as my brain is somewhat fried.  Llama Rocks the Cradle of Chaos, by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox (July 22, Henry Holt).  This is the third adventure of the titular llama, but happily I am a strong enough reader that I was able to plunge right in.  

Llama is a creature of many interests.  Chief among them  is eating delicious baked goods, especially donuts.   When his birthday donut proves to be the most delicious thing he's ever eaten, the sadness of not being able to eat it again overwhelms him.  Fortunately, the time travelling pants he has on hand can solve the problem!  And so he sets off to the past to be reunited with the donut....unfortunately, without reading the instructions....

And things go haywire, ending up with Llama, his younger self, and a whole bunch of other creatures brought along by mistake in Llama's house, which is getting wrecked....All ends well though, and more treats are eaten.

It is a bright and cheerful romp, a good introduction for the very young to the central question of time travel--the peril of changing the past!  Interestingly, some reviewers on Goodreads seem to have found the time travel confusing, but I do not think children will have this problem, because of course if you have time travel pants (or a time travel diaper, as Baby Llama has), you can travel through time and of course things can get mixed up.....and of course if you are reading, as I have done, time travel books where the time travel gets confusing, the only thing to do is shrug and role with it because otherwise your head hurts.  This did not make my head hurt, and Bably Llama was adorable.


This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (3/19/23)

Sorry I didn't have my act together last Sunday, but here's what I found this past week! Let me know if I missed anything.

The Reviews

The Battle for Verdana (Talisman 4), by Brett Salter, at Mark My Words

 Carnival Quest (Candy Shop War #3), by Brandon Mull, at Kiss the Book and Ms. Yingling Reads

Dead Alley: A Motley Education Book, by S.A. Larsen, at Log Cabin Library 

Desperate Tides, Desperate Measures (Talisman 5), by Brett Salter, at Mark My Words

The Guardian of Whispers, by B. E. Padgett, at Literary Potpourri 

 Illuminations, by T. Kingfisher, at Locus Online  and  Escape Reality, Read Fiction! 

In the Heart of the Linden Wood, by Ekta R. Garg, at Independent Book Review

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts, by Erika Lewis, at Pages Unbound

Legends of Lotus Island: The Guardian Test, by Christina Soontornvat, at  PBC's Book Reviews  and| Children's Books Heal 

May's Moon: Fortis Mission, by S.Y. Palmer, at Bookworm for Kids

Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifestor Prophecy, by Angie Thomas, at Log Cabin Library

The Ogress and the Orphans, by Kelly Barnhill, at Smack Dab in the Middle

Princess of the Wild Sea, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, at Redeemed Reader

Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros, at Books and Such 

The Shimmer (Kingdom Keepers Inheritance #1), by Ridley Pearson, at Carstairs Considers

Skyriders, by Polly Holyoke, at Cracking the Cover

Ten Percent Magic, by Gina Zapanta-Alder & Michael Alder, at Mark My Words

Thunderbird: Book Two, by Sonia Nimr, at Charlotte's Library

Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere, by Ruth Lauren, at Book Craic

Wilder, by Penny Chrimes, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

Two at The Breadcrumb Forest--Spellstone by Ross Montgomery, and Onyeka: Rise of the Rebels by Tolá Okogwu

Authors and Interviews

Anna Brooke (Monster Bogey), at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books 

Cindy Callaghan (Just Add Magic) at Middle Grade Ninja

Dianne K. Salerni (The Carrefour Curse ) at From The Mixed Up Files

Other Good Stuff

The 2023 Unicorn Report  at 100 Scope Notes

35 Incredible Middle Grade Magical Realism Books at Imagination Soup


Thunderbird: Book Two, by Sonia Nimr, for Timeslipe Tuesday

In the first Thunderbird book, which I reviewed last fall) by Sonia Nimr we met Noor, an orphaned Palestinian girl who finds she must save the world from a collapsing chaos of demonic intrusion into our world by finding four phoenix feathers.  The catch is that the phoenix only sheds one feather per immolation, and immolations only happen once every 500 years or so, so she must travel back through time with the help of a djinn in cat form to find them.  The first book was good, but the second book (November 22, 2022 by University of Texas Press) is even better.  With all the set up in place, the reader is plunged into a  really gripping time travel back to Jerusalem of the Crusades.  

Noor arrives outside of the 12th century Jerusalem dazed and confused.  Almost immediately she is captured and taken, blindfolded, to the secret home of  the resistance to the Crusaders who have seized the city, who think she might be a spy.  Fortunately they believe her story when she finally brings herself to try to tell the truth (made more convincing by her talking cat comrade).  Her own quest of the phoenix feather gets slightly derailed when she throws herself into the plans of the resistance to humiliate the crusader overlord, and save the precious library that he plans to burn.

It is a lovely mix of the magical (the boundaries between our world and the supernatural world are starting to slip....) and the historical; very satisfying both as middle grade time travel and as plucky girl adventure!  It's a fairly short, tightly written book, with humor alongside of tension and heartfelt emotion, and it's a vivid portrayal of this particular moment in time. Of course "let's save the precious library!" is a plot I am always there for, and fortunately I wasn't kept in too much desperate tension....

I am very much looking forward to volume 3, which sadly isn't out right now.....

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