11/29/21

Guardians of Porthaven, by Shane Arbuthnott

I very much enjoyed Shane Arbuthnott's first two middle grade books, Dominion, and Terra Nova, starring a brilliant girl who challenges the corporate greed of her society, realizing her ancestors did bad things and working to undo them.  I finished the books wanting more of the characters and their fascinating world.  But although this is not yet to be, I happily dove into Arbuthnott's new Guardians of Porthaven, and found it very good as well, hitting many of the same thematic points just as well (smashing corporate greed and undoing your family's morally bankrupt choices!)

Malcolm Gravenhurst was born into a powerful family; they have been the Guardians of Porthaven ever since aliens began to portal through to this one particular city on Earth.  The Gravenhursts are able to destroy the aliens minions, the robotic klek, thanks to superpowers that they acquired when the gate to Earth was opened.  And this has made them the incredibly wealth and fame, making them de facto absolute monarchs of Porthaven. 

The book begins with Malcolm turning fifteen, the age at which he can use his own powers to help keep the city safe.  He dreams of helping the citizens of Porthaven, not just dispatching of the klek on days they come through the gate, but along the lines of the superheros in the comic books he loves--keeping watch against more ordinary nefariousness.  So he sets off into the night alone....and his world gets upended when he meets three teens who also have powers, who use them for the common good; and these teens had friends who were disappeared when their powers became known to the Gravenhursts. 

Malcolm's belief in the heroic goodness of his family begins to crack, and through those cracks he and his new friends begin to understand the deep rot behind the operation the Gravenhursts are running.

(spoiler alert)

Turns out their powers and wealth actually come from the aliens....and in Malcolm's grandfather's mind, that's worth keeping a gate to hostile aliens open.

Malcolm and his friends disagree, and are proven all too right when the aliens come for real.

(end spoilery bit)

The sci fi plot is full of excitement--there's the interest in uncovering the mystery of the alien gateway combined with lots of action-packed alien fighting.  Supporting and strengthening this is the more character-driven story of a privileged boy recognizing that privilege, and the harm it's done, and trying to do better.  He has to learn, for instance, that now he is part of a small group of rebels he can't just go off making decisions that seem reasonable to him, from his place in the ruling family, because he lacks to context to understand the bigger consequences.  It takes a few times of screwing things up for the group before he learns his lesson, but he does learn it, and tries to do better. 

Malcolm is white, but the 3 rebel kids are more diverse--two have dark skin, and one's name seems Asian.  The two girls in the group are in a relationship.

In short, there are many reasons why I highly recommend it to readers on the upper end of middle grade and into YA (11-14 year olds), particularly to superhero comic book fans, and to young sci-fi fans who are setting themselves up to work on the side of social justice.

Just checked the Kirkus review, and we are in complete agreement, so good job, Kirkus.

11/28/21

no round-up this week

 Instead of round-up the mg sci fi/fantasy post from this week, I get to go on a long long drive on the worst possible day of the year to do same in order to take my kid back to college.....

11/21/21

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (11/21/21)

 Welcome to this week's round-up, in which I have nothing of my own to share because I have bitten off way more than I can chew in the home renovation department.....sigh. Let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Aru Shah and the City of Gold, by Roshani Chokshi, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Children of the Fox, by Kevin Sands, at Semicolon 

Dragon Legend, by Katie and Kevin Tsang, at Bookworm for Kids

Dragon Mountain, by Katie & Kevin Tsang, at Valinora Troy

Dragon’s Winter by Kandi J Wyatt, at The Faerie Review

The Ice House, by Monica Sherwood, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste, at Page Unbound

The Mermaid in the Millpond by Lucy Strange, illustrated by Pam Smy, at Scope for Imagination and Little Blog of Library Treasures

Never After, by Melissa de la Cruz, at Books Only

Root Magic, by Eden Royce, at A Kids Book a Day

The Shadow Throne, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Pages Unbound

A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, at Fantasy Literature

A Touch of Ruckus, by Ash Van Otterloo, at Kidlit Underground

We Will Stand With Them (Time Travel School #3), by Nikki Young, at Whispering Stories

5 Cybils nominated fantasies at alibrarymama--The Threads of Magicby Alison Croggon, The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis, Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna, How to Save a Queendom by Jessica Lawson, and Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti

Authors and Interviews

Lisa Stringfellow (A Comb of Wishes), at Black Children's Books and Authors

Julie C. Dow (TEAM CHU AND THE BATTLE OF BLACKWOOD ARENA) at Medium

Other Good Stuff

For Wings of Fire fans--Scholastic has a series of discussions going on Homebase (thanks, Ms. Yingling!)



11/14/21

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (11/14/21)

 Hi all!  Here's what I found of interest to us fans of mg sci fi and fantasy this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Accidental Apprentice (Wilderlore #1), by Amanda Foody, at Semicolon

Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani, at Fantasy Cafe 

Beyond the Birch, by Torina Kingsley, at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks

Bradley's Dragons, by Patrick Matthews, at Say What?

The Chime Seekers, by Ross Montgomery, at The Book Muse

City of the Sun, by Aisha Bushby, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale, by Marcia Berneger, illustrated by Bernice Castro, at Mom Read It

Fledgling, by Lucy Hope, at Book Craic

The Haunted Mustache (Night Frights #1), by Joe McGee, at  Say What?

Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor, at Kidlit Underground

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro, at Rosi Hollinbeck

Kiki Kallira Breaks A Kingdom, by Sangu Mandanna, at Valinora Troy

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen, at The Hub 

River Magic by Ellen Booraem, at Children's Books Heal

The School Between Winter and Fairyland, by Heather Fawcett, at Waking Brain Cells

The Shadow Prince, by David Anthony Durham, at Charlotte's Library

Shadow Town, by Richard Lambert, at Library Lady

Snotlings, by Tarryn Mallick, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Temple Alley Summer, by Sachiko Kashiwaba, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa, at Stories that Stay with Us

The Time of the Ghost, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Tor

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2), by Kwame Mbalia, at Eye-Rolling Demigod's Book Blog

The Unforgettable Logan Foster, by Shawn Peters, at Booklist

Vacancy, by K.R. Alexander, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Welcome to Dweeb Club, by Betsy Uhrig, at Charlotte's Library

Three at alibrarymama--The Plentiful Darkness, by Heather Kassner, Long Lost, by Jacqueline West, Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares. by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Authors and Interviews

Jan M. Hill (The Asteria Adventures. Books 1 and 2—Asteria: The Discovery and Asteria: Annese Does it Again) at The Bookshop at the End of the World

Other Good Stuff

The Spiderwick Chronicles are coming to Disney +, via Tor

For those who love middle grade book covers--a competition is on going at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

11/13/21

The Shadow Prince, by David Anthony Durham

I read a lot of middle grade sci fi/fantasy, and it always surprises me how authors can put new twists on familiar tropes and make something that just screams "kid appeal." The Shadow Prince, by David Anthony Durham  (September 28th 2021 by Lee & Low) is such a book.

Ash lives in an alternate ancient Egypt, where the gods walk among the mortals, and where solar tech has reached great heights (literally--cool solar powered flying ships!).   But there's no reason the gods would want to come to Ash's village, out in the middle of the desert, and though there's solar tech, Ash and his guardian can't afford the cool things Ash would like.  Ash's guardian has been training him fiercely all his life, in martial arts, survival, and learning, but Ash can't visualize a future beyond the backwater village that's all he's seen of the world.

On the night of his 12th birthday, that changes.  His guardian explains that Ash was born on the same day s Prince Khufu, making him a candidate for the honor of serving as the princes shadow--a companion for life, tasked with protecting, and even dying, for the prince.  And the next day a solar barge arrives to take Ash and his mentor to the royal capital, where the candidates will be pitted against each other.  There can only be one shadow prince.

And so Ash takes part in five days of tests, each day orchestrated by a different deity.  Demon slaying, battle with monsters, and impossible tasks await.  It is expected that many candidates will be killed.    Ash doesn't give himself great odds, but he's determined to try, and as he begins to see in Khufu someone he'd be glad to serve, his resolve stiffens.

Some of the other contenders are friendly, and form an alliance with Ash. Others are determined to win at any cost.  And this group of shadow prince contenders faces an additional challenge.  The god Set does not want any of them to survive, and uses his powers of chaos to interfere with the tests, making them even more horrendous, and there's tension in the royal family that also adds to the danger the kids are in.

It's tremendously gripping and readers who love dangerous contests will of course be hooked!  The violence is not so great, though, that it will be off-putting to those who prefer more character-driven books; though the trials are violent they don't pit the kids directly against each other until the very last day, and there's plenty of time for Ash to develop the first real friendships of his life, and have his mind blown by the royal city and all its panoply.  

So basically lots of really exciting stuff happens, some of it tense, some entertaining (I loved Prince Khufu's fierce little bouncing hippo protectors), and Ash is a good kid who's easy to cheer for.  There are a lot of characters introduced, but the important ones are easy to track of.   The Egyptian gods are incredibly powerful, and idiosyncratically weird, adding entertainment value and a Riordan-esque feel to the story.  I loved the solar-punk alternate Egypt too--it was just straight out really cool.

Short answer-this book gave me Wings of Fire vibes, even though I can't do a point by point argument for this.  Give it to your sixth graders, and they will love it!

(added kid appeal bonus--one of the contenders who are Ash's friends is a young lioness....)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

11/9/21

Welcome to Dweeb Club, by Betsy Uhrig, for Timeslip Tuesday

Trying to change the past is often the goal of time travelers, whether it's killing Hitler, or making sure to be in the right place at the right time to meet the right person. Betsy Uhrig has come up with a fresh twist to this type of story in Welcome To Dweeb Club, (September 2021, Margaret K. McElderry Books) that's a fun story of a bunch of 7th graders who find themselves the ones being visited by the future....

At the start of seventh grade, Jason and his friend Steve are confronted with bewildering fair of clubs they could join.  Amongst the panoply and promotion is one odd club, H.A.I.R. There's no description, nothing to try to make it alluring; there's just a piece of paper on which no one has signed their name.  Jason and Steve seize the chance to be founding members....and when other kids see Glamorous Steve, as he's known, signing up, they do to.

So H.A.I.R. ends up with with 8 seventh graders, who are surprised to learn that the club will be in charge of monitoring the school's ritzy new security cameras (donated with the stipulation that H.A.I.R be created for this purpose).  The kids are a mixed lot, but all are eager to mess with their new tech, and they are given a tiny room down in the basement, and start going through the security footage.

The footage proves more interesting then they could have guessed.  They see themselves in the school cafeteria, five years in the future!  None of them are happy about what they see.

And so they set themselves to figuring out what's going on, determined to change the future.  In the processes there's social tension the way only 7th grade can be social tense,  quite a few bits that made me chuckle, and many more that made me grin, some mayhem, and a very affectionate skunk....and the outcome is just what the instigator of the whole shebang would have wanted (or will be wanting, and will be inspired to set in motion....).  

It's a quick and entertaining read, and it might inspire a few of the target audience to introspection about what they might change about themselves (one character, for instance, decides to embrace her inner nerd, another starts working on being less self-centered, etc.; the sort of things that are useful nudges for many 7th graders.).    If you are looking for an oddball, funny sci-book with middle grade angst (and a skunk), this is a good pick! 

(Oddball and quirky is not own personal favorite sort of sci fi, and I don't like being made to think of all the things I'd like future me to have nudged me to change, but despite that I enjoyed it quite a bit!)

11/7/21

this week's round-up of mg sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (11/7/21)

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

The Reviews

Amari and the Night Brothers, by B.B. Alston, at Say What?

Amberly and the Secret of the Fairy Warriors, by Gina Vallance, at Andi's Middle Grade and Chapter Books

The Ash House, by Angharad Walker, at Magic Fiction Since Potter 

Avalina Jones and the Eye of the Storm, by Lori Adams, at Say What?

Explorers at Pirate Island (Explorers' Club #5) by Alex Bell, illustrated by Tomislav Tomić, at Book Craic

Fireborn, by Aisling Fowler, at The Quick and the Read and amyjanealice

Ghost Cloud, by Michael Mann, at Book Craic 

Gobbledy, by Lis Anna-Langston, at June McCrary Jacobs

Hag Storm, by Victoria Williamson, illustrated by Elise Carmichael, at Book CraicThe Artsy Reader and  Stoomio

The Last Fallen Star, by Graci Kim, at alibrarymama

Liar's Room, by Dan Poblocki, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Much Ado About Baseball, by Rajani LaRocca, at Semicolon

Once Upon a Camel, by Kathi Appelt, at Semicolon

Pahua and the Soul Stealer, by Lori M. Lee) at yabookscentral

Race to the Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse, at proseandkahn (audiobook review)

The Raven Heir, by Stephanie Burgis, at Vilanora Troy

Sisters of the Neversea, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, at Semicolon

Time Villains, by Victor Piñeiro, at Charlotte's Library

Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2), by Kwame Mbalia, at Eye-Rolling Demigod's Book Blog

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine, at Fantasy Literature

We Will Stand with Them (Time School #3), by Nikki Young, at Book Craic

Wishyouwas: The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters, by Alexandra Page, at The Book Muse

Two at The Book Search--The Girl Giant and the Monkey King, by Van Hoang, and Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Shadow Prince, by David Anthony Durham, adn  Escape from Falaise, by John Flannagan


Authors and Interviews

David Nielsen (Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmlesss Horrors), at Middle Grade Ninja

Sara Pennypacker ( Pax: Journey Home) at The Horn Book

Pam Smy (The Hideaway), at Library Girl and Book Boy

Valinora Troy (The Lucky Diamond) at Iseult Murphy


Other Good Stuff

A book list of MG fantasy about mighty girls, at Accidently Alien
A Wrinkle in Time discussion at Swords, Sorcery, and Socialism podcast

11/2/21

Time Villains, by Victor Piñeiro , for Timeslip Tuesday


Yay me!  I have my  Timeslip Tuesday act together this week, with Time Villains, by Victor Piñeiro (Sourcebooks, May, 2021). And it's an exciting one (as the title suggests)!

It starts out peacefully enough, with Javi Santiago and his kid sister Brady dragged out to yet another antique store by their dad.  But the table that comes home with them is is anything but ordinary.  For one thing, it purrs...and that's not all.

Javi needs to bring his English grade up, so he can stay in the same class as his best friend, Wiki (who came by his nickname honestly).  And so Javi needs to ace the assignment that roles around every year--if you could invite any three people to dinner, who would you invite, what would you talk about, and what would you feed them?  Javi's a great cook, so he's not too worried about the menu, but who to invite?  Brainstorming at the table they decide on  young Mozart, the Earl of Sandwich (Javi loves making sandwiches), and when Javi asks that the third guest be someone academic and historical, who sounds scholarly, Wiki picks someone named  Edward Teach.

The table is all set for the guests...and then it starts to shake, with a strange noise coming from underneath it.  Investigating, the kids find a hidden compartment, in which there's a bell, and when they ring it, something extraordinary happens. 

There at the table are child Mozart, the Earl of Sandwich, and Edward Teach--more commonly known as the most notorious pirate of them all, Blackbeard.  It's an awkward dinner party, for sure.  And when it's time to send the guests home again (at least, that's what the bell's supposed to do, they figure), Blackbeard escapes, running off into the woods.

Javi gets an A on the assignment, but to his horror Blackbeard shows up at school, determined to get the bell and summon his pirate crew!  His threats seem all to terribly real, but fortunately the kids don't have to take him down on their own.  The school is staffed with a most unusual group of teachers, and Wiki's Aunt Nancy, who the kids have known all their lives, turns out to be a personage they could never have dreamt of meeting.

Wild hijinks ensue, and Blackbeard almost succeeds in making the school staff walk the plank (the school diving board).  But Javi, though he might not be as fiercely brave as his little sister, or as fiercely smart as Wiki, has it in him to be just the hero that's needed to save the day (with the help of a handful of other allies quickly summoned with the help of the magical table and its bell). 

I appreciated that Javi and his family are Puerto Rican, and Wiki is Haitian; their diverse cultures aren't the point of the story, but come up enough in the course of events to add richness to it (especially with regards to Javi's cooking!)

It's a fun twist on time travel, with nice attention paid to Blackbeard's fiercely intelligent efforts to figure out how the modern world works.  I would have liked it better if there hadn't been fictional characters thrown into the mix as well (like Dr. Jekyll and Don Quihote).  But kids who enjoy the adventures of story characters (real or imaginary) thrown into the real world will probably not complain!  In short, a solid series opener with high entertainment value (and a bit of historical and literary education thrown in!).




10/31/21

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blog (10/31/21)

Here's what I found this week in my blog reading.  It's Halloween today, so understandably lots of spooky books show up on the list today!  Please let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston, at Valinora Troy

Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches, by Michel Guyon, at Charlotte's Library

The Bear House, by Meaghan McIsaac, at Eli to the nth and Rajiv's Reviews

The Book of Stolen Dreams, by David Farr, at A Dance with Books

The Collector, by K.R.  Alexander, at Twirling Book Princess

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Laughing Place

Deltora Quest (21st Anniversary Edition) by Emily Rodda, at The Book Muse

The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story, by Charis Cotter, at Jill's Book Blog

The False Rose by Jakob Wegelius, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko at Randomly Reading

The Halloween Moon, by Joseph Fink, at Always in the Middle

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni, at Rajiv's Reveiws

Monster Blood by R.L. Stine, at Fantasy Literature

A Most Unusual Friday Knight, by Alan Frost, at Literary Titan

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne, by Jonathan Stroud, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Return of Zombert, by Kara LaReau, at Mom Read It and Sally's Bookshelf

The Runaway King, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Pages Unbound

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustated by Junyi Wu, at Mom Read It

The School Between Winter and Fairyland. by Heather Fawcett. at alibrarymama

Skeleton Keys: The Wild Imaginings of Stanley Strange, by Guy Bass, at Book Craic

 Small Spaces series, by Katherine Arden, at Bookshelves of Doom, and Small Spaces and Dead Voices at Introverted Reader

Time Travel for Love and Profit, by Sarah Lariviere, at Time Travel Times Two

Too Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff, at  alibrarymama

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu, at Mom Read It

Uki and the Ghostburrow, by Kieran Larwood, at Book Craic

Under the Whispering Door, by TJ Klune at Ex Libris Andrea

Voyage of the Lost and Found, by Aisha Bushby, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

Two at The Book Search-- Pony, by RJ Palacio, and Ghost Girl, by Allie Malinenko


Authors and Interviews

Vashti Hardy (Crowfall) and Tom Huddleston (FloodWorld trilogy), at climate fiction writers league

Jessica Vitalis (The Wolf's Curse), at Smack Dab in the Middle

Michael Mann (Ghostcloud) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Ally Condie (The Darkdeep, coauthored with Brendan Reichs, at The Salt Lake Tribune

Anne Ursu (The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy) at  Mpls.St.Paul Magazine 

T.A. Barron (Giant, prequel to the Merlin Saga) at  A Fuse #8 Production 


Other Good Stuff

20 Children’s Books About Witches For All Ages at romper.com

A fun Halloween video, with an achingly sad backstory, at Ben Hatke

"Beyond Dark Academia: The Real Horror in Magic School Is Systemic Inequality" at Tor.com

Fantastic Halloween Spooktacular Kids Book Reads 2021 at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books
 
The Rise of Middle Grade and YA Black Horror, at Book Riot


10/30/21

Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches, by Michel Guyon

For those who like portal fantasies with malevolent magic at work both in the other world and ours, with epic monster battles, here's Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches, by Michel Guyon (October 19th 2021, by Andrews McMeel Publishing, in the US, 2018 in the UK).

Archibald Finch and his big sister Hailee are not at thrilled when their parents decide to move into Grandma's manor house, which they'd never visited before, after her death. It is a huge house, full of stuff, and tremendously creepy. The huge fireplace, for instance, is decorated with women being tortured for witchcraft. Unlike most kids thrust into houses full of old stuff, these two have desire to explore...except that Archibald thinks his Christmas present from his parents has been hidden in it, and so he starts to search.

Instead of his present, he finds an ancient globe, it surface covered not just with maps but with fantastical creatures. When, in a stroke of luck (?), he unlocks the globe so that it can spin again, he is drawn into it, and on into a world called Lemuria. It is a world of monsters--Marodors--who come in a slew of deadly, twisted shapes, and the only people living there are the girls dedicated to keeping themselves and their enclaves from falling prey to tooth and talon.

Though Archibald would be among the first to admit he's not much of a fighter, he has no choice but to join the girls who found him lost and confused in the monster infested wilderness. But Archibald, with his fresh perspective, see something in the monsters that the girls don't, and sees, as well, all the questions they aren't asking...

Hailee, back in the ordinary world, and traumatized by watching her brother disappear into the globe, is also faced with mysteries to unravel. Following a twisty path of clues, she too finds herself facing monsters...in human form.

500 years ago, girls were burned as witches. 500 years ago, an escape for them, to Lemuria, was crafted. But Lemuria was never a utopia; the evil that created the need for it warped it from the beginning, and is still very much alive and well...

I was not immediately hooked by this one. Archibald is not an appealing character; he's annoying, and anxious (the author himself says "To put it plainly, our hero is a bit of a wimp." And the story is told in the first person present, which isn't my favorite. But as the pages turned, I realized that I was reading one heck of a mystery. I also very much enjoyed the immersive look at the lives of the girl monster hunters, a world in which Archibald gets to grow into himself, becoming a character I enjoyed spending time with.  I also liked Hailee very much, once she stopped being a unsympathetic big sister and became passionately determined to get her brother back. (I became resigned to the third person present, but never to the point of enjoying it....). 

The book is generously illustrated with detailed, creepy black and white drawings, which I'm sure added value to people who are able to stop and look at pictures and appreciated them when they are reading (I have to force myself to do this, which I find jarring and uncomfortable, but I did go back and appreciate them after I was finished with the words).  

But regardless, somewhat to my surprise, by the time I reached the end I was hooked, and I will happily (despite the choice of tense), continue on deeper into this maelstrom of magic and malevolence! Recommended in particular to young readers who love monster hunting; lots of really top-notch monster battling!)

If you are curious about the book, do check out its website where you'll see for yourself how fascinating the world of Lemuria is (lots of gorgeous illustrations on view!)


disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

10/24/21

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (10/24/2021)

Good morning all!  Nothing from me this week, because the real world was too busy (sigh).  But here's what I found in my online browsing this week! As always, let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Anya and the Dragon, by Sofiya Pasternack, at Fantasy and Sci Fi Fanatics

The Bear House, by Meaghan McIsaac, at The Bookwyrm's Den

The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo, at Redeemed Reader

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, by Phil Hickes, at Twirling Book Princess

Children of the Fox, by Kevin Sands, at Cracking the Cover

Dark Waters, by Katherine Arden, at Valinora Troy

Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas, at Sonderbooks

A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter (Dragon’s Guide #2), by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder, at Colorful Book Reviews

Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch, by Julie Abe, at Pages Unbound

The First Escape, by G.P. Taylor, at Strange and Random Happenstances 

The Ghosts of Gosswater, by Lucy Strange, at Silver Button Books

Hideaway, by Pam Smy, at Mom Read It

How to Save a Superhero, by Ruth Freeman, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Jadie in Five Dimensions, by Dianne K. Salerni, at bibliosini

Locked Out Lily, by Emily Gravett, at Book Craic

Maggie Blue and the Dark World, by Anna Goodall, at A Cat, a Book, and a Cup of Tea

Root Magic, by Eden Royce, at Raise Them Righteous

The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani (audiobook review), at proseandkahn

The Shattered Castle, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Cracking the Cover

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence, at Lazy Day Literature

 StormTide by Tom Huddleston, at |Library Lady and Library Girl and Book Boy

Time Villains, by Victor Piñeiro, at alibrarymama

Tips for Magicians, by Celesta Rimington, at Rosi Hollinbeck.

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching by Kwame Mbalia, at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu, at By Singing Light

The Wild Huntsboys by Martin Stewart, at alibrarymama

The Witches of Orkney, by Alane Adams (series review), at Mom Read It


Authors and Interviews

Kory Merrit (No Place for Monsters: School Of Phantoms Bk2), at From the Mixed Up Files

Kate DiCamillo, Sophie Blackall, and Anne Patchett Discuss Life, Courage, and 'The Beatryce Prophecy' at Publishers Weekly


Other Good Stuff

Enter to Win the TOAST GHOST Poetry Contest, at Scope Notes

"From Middle Grade Novel to Netflix: A Conversation with Adam Gidwitz about A TALE DARK & GRIMM" at 100 Scope Notes

Congratulations to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, by T. Kingfisher, this year's winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature (here are all the shortlists and winners at Locus)

Here are the 2022 Silver Birch Fiction Award finalists (ten great books from Canada), at CBC

"9 Empowering Middle Grade Feminist Fantasy Books," at Book Riot 

10/17/21

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (10/17/21)

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

The Reviews

Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches by Michel Guyon, at Log Cabin Library

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales, by Soman Chainani, at Pages Unbound

Daughter of the Deep, by Rick Riordan, at The Bookwyrm's Den

Dust & Grim by Chuck Wendig, at Rajiv's Reviews 

Eighth Grade vs. the Machine, by Joshua Levy, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Enchanted Misadventures with Great-Aunt Poppy, by Hallie Christensen, at Valinora Troy

Ghost Girl, by Ally Malinenko, at Mom Read It

The Ghoul Next Door, by Cullen Bunn, at Twirling Book Princess

Hangman's Crossing (Embassy of the Dead #2) by Will Mabbitt, illustrations by Taryn Knight, at Log Cabin Library

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes, illustrated by Keith Robinson, at Silver Button Books

Haven’s Secret, by Melissa Benoist, Jessica Benoist, and Mariko Tamaki, at Nerds and Beyond

Heroes, by Jen Calonita, at Cover2CoverBlog

The Mermaid Queen, by Alane Adams, at Always in the Middle

Over the Woodward Wall, by Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire), at Simone and Her Books

The Retake, by Jen Calonita, at Charlotte's Library

Revenge of the Beast, by Jack Meggitt-Phillips. at Sifa Elizabeth Reads

The Shadows of Rookhaven, by Pádraig Kenny, at Book Craic

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu, at alibrarymama, Maria's Melange, The Neverending TBR, Charlotte's Library, and The Washington Post

What Lives in the Woods, by Lindsay Currie, at Silver Button Books

Willodeen, by Katherine Applegate, at Say What?

Wulfie Saves the Planet, by Lindsay J Sedgwick, at Valinora Troy

Two mini-reviews at Charlotte's Library--Healer of the Water Monster, by Brian Young, and Sisters of the Neversea,by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Authors and Interviews

Loriel Ryon (Into the Tall Grass) at Mrs. Book Dragon

"On Monsters," by Anne Ursu (The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy), at Nerdy Book Club 

Donna Barba Higuera (The Last Cuentista), at MG Book Village


Other Good Stuff

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

A Tale Dark and Grimm Comes to Netflix, via 100 Scope Notes

"Film rights for David A. Robertson's YA series The Misewa Saga picked up by ABC Signature" at CBC

Despite my best efforts to encourage people to nominate books for the Cybils Awards, there are always great books still un-nominated.  Publishers and authors--now's the time to fill in the gaps (by Oct 25).  Books nominated during this week are considered on a equal footing to those nominated by the public.

10/14/21

my troubled mind


Some of the choices I make are good and sensible ones, others perhaps less so.  Here's a list of choices I've made; the likelyhood I'll end up entirely happy is in doubt....

I am the category organizer for the elementary/middle grade speculative fiction category for the Cybils Awards.

I try really hard to encourage people to nominate books they love, and feel awful for the books that don't make it.

I also feel awful when I later read a book that wasn't nominated and find it brilliant, and one I'd have championed.

I wait until the very end to use my own nomination, so that I can fill in a gap if I need to, or actually show love for a book I love if no one else has chosen it.

But in order to know what book I want to nominate, I have to read all the books first.

I have checked out a lot of library books that haven't ben nominated yet.




I am now reading at least the first 50 pages of them to see if one is a must nominate for me (about halfway done with this, but the public nomination period ends at midnight tomorrow....)

I want to finish all the ones I've started.

I am sharing my rather excessive book picture in the hopes that some of you might see one you want to show love for, which would take the pressure off me.....

the book shown in the picture are:

Darkwhispers
The Year I Flew Away
The Edge of Strange Hollow
Thornlight
The Last Windwitch
The Ship of Stolen Words
Last Gamer Standing
The Outlaws Scarlett and Brown
The Wild Huntsboys
How to Save a Queendom
Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches (not actually eligible this year; sorry!)
Pahua and the Soul Stealer
The Midnight Brigade
Escape to Witch City
Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Souls
The Robber Girl


sigh.

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu

 

I just finished The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, by Anne Ursu, and I think it is her best book yet (which is saying a lot!)

It's the story of Marya, a girl growing up in the shadow of a brother who seems destined to become one of elite sorcerers who keep the country safe from a mysterious, magical, deadly plague of shadowy monsters.  While he studies, she looks after the goats.  She's girl who can't fit herself into the mold of "good girl," as expected by society, and her parents, who she is constantly disappointing.  When the sorcerers show up to test her brother to see if he has the gift for magic, she reaches peak disappointing-ness (although to be fair, goats will be goats....).

Then soon after a letter arrives, summoning Marya to Dragomir Academy, a far off school for "troubled girls" and her mother can't get her out of the house fast enough

Dragomir Academy exists to shape troubled girls into useful, docile girls, many of whom find places doing useful work helping the sorcerers (all men).  There are lots of rules, and Marya, not optimistic from the get go, is pretty certain that she doesn't have what it takes to fold herself into following them all.  And though the girls get a good education, it's one that's not answering all Marya's questions.

The one true champion of her childhood was a neighbor, Madame Bandu, a master weaver who secretly taught Marya to read, and who also taught her to question and challenge.

"When you hear a story powerful people tell about themselves, and you're wondering if it's true," Madame said, "ask yourself, who does the story serve?" (page 76).

And Marya asks this about the stories at the heart of the Academy, and at the heart of the patriarchal magic of her country.  The answers she finds upend everything....

This is a great book, especially if you like undaunted girls using brains and courage to smash magical patriarchies.  It wasn't a very comfy book, though, because much of the story is about the school attempting to smash girls' brains, courage, and individuality.  Though it's a girls boarding school story, this agenda means that there isn't a huge amount of comfy girl school friendship at Dragomir Academy.  One of the things that bothered me most about the school wasn't the brainwashing, indoctrination, and shaming (though these were all troubling) but the rule that the girls weren't allowed to talk about their pasts.  It's a rule designed to limit bonding, to limit individuality, to force the girls to fit the mold of their new life, and I hated it! (both as a person and a reader--many of the girls seemed like empty shells).

Despite the schools best efforts, though, there was one other girl in the school who shone so brightly she couldn't be diminished, and this girl becomes Maryu's friend and ally in mystery solving, and I loved her!  

As a lover of textiles in fantasy, I also very much appreciated the role that women's art of sewing and weaving played in the mystery and its solving.  As a lover of libraries and archives, I liked exploring those of the school along with Maryu.  And as someone who loves many men and boys, I liked that Maryu's brother staged his own rebellion against the expectation of family and society, and came back into her life as an ally (it is not an anti-male book).

Towards the end of the book, I was very strongly reminded of how Ursula Le Guin, realizing she had created a magical patriarchy in her Earthsea books, set about writing new ones to smash it to pieces.  At the book's virtual launch last night, I asked Anne Ursu if Le Guin had been in her thoughts at all.  Turns out another author (William Alexander) had recommended Tales from Earthsea to her during the writing of this book.....and so I was not wrong in hearing echoes that made me appreciate this new story even more!

Short answer--read the book!  Ask yourself "who does the story serve?" and smash the patriarchy, magical or otherwise!  

and go read Anne's essay, "On Monsters," at Nerdy Book Club!

Books that came out in the UK/Ireland that are eligible for this year's Elementary/Middle Grade Cybils Awards

 For the first time, the panel of first round readers for the Cybils Awards includes someone from the other side of the pond--Valinora Troy, a writer from Ireland (it's great to have you, Valinora!).  Now that most of the review copies publishers send us panelists are ebooks, the books are more accessible even if they aren't out over there yet.  

That being said, there are plenty of books that released in the UK/Ireland almost simultaneously, or before coming out here in the US/Canada!  For readers there, here are some that haven't been nominated yet, that might be books you love and want to champion by nominating them!  A great way to warm an author's heart, and to help books find new readers!

You have until the end of October 15 to nominate, and here's where you go to do so!

These are the ones I know about (feel free to add more in the comments!)

The Monsters  of Rookhaven, by Pádraig Kenny 

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency, by  L.D. Lapinski  

The Hatmakers, by Tamzin Merchant

The Raven Heir, by Stephanie Burgis

Darkwhispers, by Vashti Hardy

The Storm Keeper's Battle, by Catherine Doyle

A Discovery of Dragons (Darwin's Dragons in the UK), by Lindsay Galvin

10/12/21

The Retake, by Jen Calonita, for Timeslip Tuesday

 

Yay me!  I have read a timeslip book in time for this week's Tuesday!  Travel back to middle school, with all its social pain, in The Retake, by Jen Calonita (February, 2021, Delacorte)

Zoe's phone is full of pictures of her and her best friend, Laura.  Except this summer she had to go on a trip with her family, and Laura was busy sharing pictures of herself having fun with a new group of girls.  And Zoe, desperate to re-establish their friendship in time for the start of 7th grade, is faced with a best friend who isn't interested in her anymore. The first day of 7th grade is a disaster for an already unhappy Zoe.  One thing after another goes wrong.  But that night she finds a strange app has appeared on her phone (while it was confiscated in the principal's office), one that offers a chance to "retake."

Using the app, she opens  a picture of herself at a sleepover three months ago with Laura, the night she first felt like an outsider in her friend's world.  Zoe thinks she'll be able to change things for the better this time around....but instead she makes things even worse.  And so it goes, with Zoe using the app on one picture after another.  

Nothing she does in the past (giving up on things she likes that Laura thinks are childish, trying to come between Laura and her new Queen Bea type friends, and other small differences) makes her friendship with Laura what she wants it to be, and mostly she makes it worse.  But her trips to the past do end up with Zoe finding value in other girls she'd previously dismissed because of her fixation on Laura, and  when she finds herself with the app burned out, back on the second day of seventh grade, she's able to pick up the piece of herself and live more fully in the present.

If you like middle school friendship drama, on repeat, this is a book you will love.  I myself was ready to give up on Laura much sooner than Zoe was, although I did appreciate Zoe's journey towards self-awareness.   It's a useful and hopeful lesson in accepting that you will grow apart from some friends, and grow towards others.  And I'm sure many middle school girls will relate to Zoe's realistically described experiences with great intensity!

Personal note--I moved to the US from the Bahamas to start seventh grade, so my problems were totally different from Zoe's.  I didn't have friendship drama, but I did have the horror of leaving my friends with whom I was still happily being a kid and finding my self plunged into a world where the girls in my class had crushes on the Bee Gees. Nightmarish for innocent little me, and no amount of time travel would have helped.

10/11/21

Three middle grade fantasy books by Native authors for Indigenous Peoples Day

I'm writing this in the Narragansett Nation, just up the street from the Woonasquatucket River that connects Providence, where the Narragansett people congregated for thousands of years before Roger Williams arrived, to the important Narragansett places in the landscape of interior RI. This being Indigenous Peoples Day, and me being me, I'm think about  middle grade fantasy books by Native authors.

There are more this year than I think there have ever been in the past (which is not hard)--3! Though the number is still awfully small, it is a lot better than none (and possibly I am missing some?  if so, please let me know in the comments!)

They are:

Healer of the Water Monster, by Brian Young, Diné (Navajo). (May 11th 2021, Heartdrum)

It wasn't Nathan's choice to spend the summer on the Navajo reservation with his grandmother, Nali.  Her mobile summer home lacks many of the creature comforts he would have had if he'd spent the summer with his dad, but the thought of sharing his dad with his girlfriend was intolerable.  He loves his grandma, and takes some interest in a science project growing Native corn, but it is still boring. Until it isn't.

One night out in the desert, Nathan finds a Water Monster, a Holy Being from the Navajo Creation Story, who has been poisoned by mistreatment of the earth (parts of the Navajo reservation are radioactive today from uranium mining), and who will die without his help.  Saving the Water Monster requires him to make a perilous journey to the world of  the Holy Beings, full of dangers and wonders. And in the real world, his uncle Jet, a veteran with PTSD, is struggling with depression, and Nali and Nathan are determined to set him on the path of helping himself with a traditional N'dáá, or Enemy Way, ceremony.

The story fits right into the Rick Riordan model of an ordinary kid being caught up in a world of mythical beings, though in this case, as the author explains, the religion and culture are not fantasy, but part of real life.  It is a vividly told story, one that will resonate powerfully with environmentalists kids, and the mix of real world and other world problems makes for great reading!  It's also a great introduction to day to day life in summer on the reservation, as well as to Navajo religion and culture, for kids who aren't familiar with it.


Sisters of the Neversea, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Muscogee Creek,  (June, Heartdrum)

If you think Peter Pan as a character is a bit of an ass, Wendy a doormat and Tiger Lily no more than an offensive caricature, you are not alone! But now Cynthia Leitich Smith offers us a way back into the Neverland in a new imagining of the Peter Pan story, in which two stepsisters, Native American Lily and English Wendy, and the shared little brother they both adore, are trapped in Neverland, and must navigate its enchantments and dangers (not least of which is Peter Pan himself, whose egotistical, unstable rule over the island is turning into a nightmare).

Neverland is still a place of wonders, but here it's also shown to be a place of misogyny, racism, and colonialist-infused rapaciousness. The whole business of the Lost Boys is shaken out into something much more troubling--kidnapping and Stockholm Syndrome. But it's not at all heavy handed; it still manage to be lots of fun! And a large part of the story's heart is the relationship between the two sisters, strained by circumstance in both the real world and Neverland, but rock solid at its core.


(The third book just came out, and I haven't read it yet, so all I can offer is the publisher's blurb, and a few thoughts on the first book)

 

The Great Bear (Misewa Saga #2), by David Alexander Robinson, Norway House Cree Nation (September 28th 2021 by Puffin Books)

The first book is a magnificent portal fantasy, and though it's been a year since I read it, I vividly remember the cold and the hunger of the kids' journey across the barren lands, and how the animal persons they met there taught them traditional ways to be in the world.  I'm looking forward to reading their second adventure!

"Back at home after their first adventure in the Barren Grounds, Eli and Morgan each struggle with personal issues: Eli is being bullied at school, and tries to hide it from Morgan, while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. They turn to the place where they know they can learn the most, and make the journey to Misewa to visit their animal friends. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. But they discover that the village is once again in peril, and they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength to protect their beloved friends. Can they carry this strength back home to face their own challenges?"


All three of these books are eligible for the Cybils Awards, and although Sisters of the Neversea has been nominated, as has Healer of the Water Monster; The Great Bear is still waiting.  Please can someone who loves it go here to the Cybils nominating page and do it?




 

10/10/21

this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (10/10/21)

 Good morning all!  Here's what I gleaned in my on-line reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The last day for the public to nominate books for the Cybils Awards is October 15, and there are lots of great ones still anxiously waiting for love!  (I have put asterixes next to eligible books in this week's round-up).

The Reviews

Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, at Silver Button Books and Completely Full Bookshelf

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani, at Siver Button Books

Children of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow 1), by Kevin Sands, at YA Book Central

City of Thieves (Battle Dragons #1), by Alex London, at Ms. Yingling Reads

*Curse of the Phoenix, by Aimee Carter, at YA Book Nerd

Enchanted Misadventures with Great-Aunt Poppy, by Hallie Christensen, at Teachers who Read

Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things, by Simon Van Booy, at Momologica

Hollowpox (The Hunt for Morrigan Crow) by Jessica Townsend, at Sifa Elizabeth Reads 

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon, by Christopher Edge, at Book Craic

*The Mermaid Queen, by Alane Adams, at Cover2CoverBlog

*The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud, at books4yourkids

*Pencilvania, by Stephanie Watson, at Butler's Pantry

Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green, at Silver Button Books
 
Rita Wong and the Jade Mask by Mark Jones, at Get Kids Into Books

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez, at proseandkahn

Stowaway, by John David Anderson, at Charlotte's Library

Theo Paxstone and the Dragon of Adyron by James Turner, at Say What?

A Touch of Ruckus, by Ash Van Otterloo, at Bookshelves of Doom

Tristan Strong Keeps Punching, by Kwame Mbalia, at The Bookwyrm's Den and Turning the Page

*The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu, at Log Cabin Library

The Verdigris Pawn by Alysa Wishingrad, at A Perfectly Cromulent Review of Books

Welcome to Dweeb Club, by Betsy Uhrig,  at Ms. Yingling Reads

Wulfie Saves the Planet, by Lindsay J Sedgwick, at Valinora Troy

Authors and Interviews

Dianne K. Salerni (*Jadie in Five Dimensions) at YA Book Central

Michael Mann (Ghostcloud) at A little but a lot

Kate DiCamillo (The Beatryce Prophecy) at  The Childrens Book Review

Padraig Kenny (The Shadows of Rookhaven) at A little but a lot (nb--the first book in the series, *The Monsters of Rookhaven, is eligble for the Cybils this year)

Joshua S. Levy (Eighth Grade Vs. The Machines) at Whatever 

Richard Pickard (The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy) at  Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Daniel Peak (Little Horror), at Scope for Imagination

 Brett Salter (The Talisman Series) at Spines in a Line

Meaghan McIsaac (*The Bear House #1), at YA Books Central

Other Good Stuff

Here are the National Book Awards Finalists for Young Peoples Literature, with mg fantasy represented by the really wonderful *Too Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff!

Shing Yin Khor, “The Legend of Auntie Po


Ten Spooky, Ghouly, Ghostly Middle-Grade books, at Justine Laismith, at 25 more at Pop! Goes the Reader

Ten Fantasy Books Under 250 Pages, at alibrarymama

Still haven't nominated for the Cybils?  Here's a list at alibrarymama, here's a list I just made focusing on spooky books, and you can also check out the Cybils ideas board (there's one for each category--nominate in all of them!) Here's where you go to nominate.

and finally, to brighten your day, here is a goose parade.  

Spooky books that aren't yet nominated for the Cybils

 If are looking for seasonally appropriate reading, here are some spooky (which is to say, they have ghosts, witches, and monsters) middle grade books that are great reads (and haven't been nominated for the Cybils yet! so if you love one of these books, show your love by nominated it by October 15!).  I'm sure I've missed some, so please feel free to add others in the comments!  Here's where you go to nominate!

To Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff

The Ghost of Midnight Lake, by Lucy Strange

Bridge of Souls (Cassidy Blake #3) by Victoria Schwab

The Nightmare Thief by Nicole Lesperance

The Raconteur's Commonplace Book (Greenglass House #5) by Kate Milford

The Edge of Strange Hollow by Gabrielle K. Byrne

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

Cathedral of Bones by A.J. Steiger

The In-Between by Rebecca Ansari

The Monsters of Rookhaven (The Monsters of Rookhaven #1) by Pádraig Kenny

Dread Watch by Jared Agard

The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches #1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Mine by Delilah S. Dawson

The Thirteenth Cat by Mary Downing Hahn

The Midnight Brigade, by Adam Borba

10/9/21

Stowaway, by John David Anderson

There's a lot more fantasy for middle grade kids (9-12 year olds than there is science fiction, so it's a nice change when one gets to venture out among the stars, as one does in Stowaway, by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, August 2021).  Except something always goes wrong out there...and indeed, lots is going wrong for Leo, the protagonist of the story. Right from the beginning, we know it's going to be a rough ride--this is the first sentence:  "They were playing tag when the first torpedo hit."

"They" are Leo and his older brother, Gareth, and they are on a small ship, the Beagle, in space with their scientist father and a fairly small crew.  There is a war going on between two powerful alien civilizations, and Earth, with its rich supply "ventasium," (the element that powers space travel), has become a pawn in the conflict.  When the Avkari arrived on Earth, they brought wonderous technology and promises of peace, in exchange for the ventasium.  But they also brought war; Earth was attacked by other aliens, the  Djarik, and one of the many casualties was Leo's mother.

Leo's father's work on venasium technology required journeying into space, and three rather boring years have passed since they left Earth.  But when the Djarik attack their ship, and kidnap Leo's dad, life becomes all to exciting.  The Beagle is left drifting, unable to call for help.  It is a sitting duck for the pirates who find them, but when the pirates leave again, without finding much to pilfer, Leo is on board their ship, thanks to his brother's tricking him into becoming a stowaway.  

And in the next few hectic days, the pirates become almost a found family to Leo as they commit to helping him find his father, a hectic journey that takes them to the heart of Djarik territory.  In the course of the various adventures, Leo comes to realize that there might not actually be a "good side" in the war....

The story of Leo's adventures is interspersed with his memories of his life on Earth. Though these interludes slow the helter-skelter pace of events, full of action, strange aliens, and future tech, they gives context and poignancy to his present day experiences, and push forward his inner journey to a more nuanced understanding of what's happening in the galaxy.  Nothing is resolved here in the first book, and in fact the stakes get raised tremendously right at the end, leaving the reader (me) wondering how on earth things can be resolved. The reader (me again) is also left very invested in Leo and the crew of the pirate ship, and anxious to see how their story plays out.

I have lots of reasons to recommend this one--family, both biological and found, at the heart of the plot, excellent sci-fi shenanigans, disability rep., and solid and vividly detailed story telling, for instance.  But here's my main reason for recommending the book enthusiastically--reading is a great way to gently nudge kids towards a deeper understanding of the real world. I'm not sure that the ten-year-old reader will think, as I did, "Wow.  The Avkari are a clear parallel to European imperialists."  But perhaps that young reader will, when they learn of the attempted genocide and exploitation of native peoples here at home,  make the connection and more critically reflect on our own past in the same way that Leo has to rethink his future Earth's recent history.

 





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