Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

More Thunder Girls! This time, it’s Sif story… and Loki’s in trouble again.

Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures (Thunder Girls #2), by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams/Illustrated by Pernille Ørum, (Oct. 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481496438

Ages 8-12

The Thunder Girls are back! I loved the first Norse take on Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ middle grade mythology series, Freya and the Magic Jewel, so I was psyched to see another book hitting shelves so soon – and so were my library kids, who continue to gobble up the Greek counterpart to this series, Goddess Girls. Freya and the Magic Jewel was a hit, and I fully expect to have Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures clear the shelves shortly after it arrives.

Sif, Goddess of the Harvest, has been toying with going public with her prophetic abilities. She’s a bit of a seer, but she doesn’t like to talk about it, ever since she had a mishap in second grade that cost her a friend. But messages in her Runes class come true when Loki – that troublemaker! – cuts off her hair in a prank that has horrible consequences for Midgard (that’s us, folks)! Sif’s ability to affect the harvest on Midgard lies in her beautiful, flaxen hair; without it, the crops begin withering and dying, giving the giants a big advantage. Sif demands that Loki fix the mess he caused, sending him to the dwarfs – skilled blacksmiths – to craft new hair for her. But with Loki, it’s never that easy – he’s going to attempt to play one set of dwarfs against the other, and chances of it backfiring on him? About 100%.

This is a fun, kid-friendly retelling of some of Norse mythology’s Loki- and Sif-related tales: Loki cutting Sif’s hair and journeying to the dwarfs to craft golden gifts; Loki’s getting into trouble with the dwarfs, and the origin of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Set in Asgard Academy, fantastic Norse myth references abound and are made fun for middle graders. “Head” Librarian Mimir is a bouncing head that loves to bob around in fountains and finds an amusing way to repurpose Sif’s shorn locks; Frigga continues knitting on a scale that would make Mrs. Weasley cringe; and the warring Norse friezes in the Asgard cafeteria have a nightly food fight that takes no prisoners.

Way too much fun for middle grade readers who love a fun take on their mythology. Talk this series up with Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Grimmtastic Girls, Goddess Girls, and Heroes in Training. Joan Holub’s website has links to printable activities for Goddess Girls and Heroes in Training. Suzanne Williams’ website has Goddess Girls downloadable goodies and quizzes.

Advertisements
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Sanity & Tallulah are a STEAM Dream Team!

Sanity & Tallulah, by Molly Brooks, (Oct. 2018, Disney-Hyperion), $21.99, ISBN: 9781368008440

Ages 8-12

Life aboard a space station is never boring, especially when you have to cobble things together to keep things running. Sanity Jones, and her best friend, Tallulah Vega-Davisson, certainly know how to keep things interesting aboard Wilnick Station: their latest experiment is Sanity’s project; a three-headed kitten named Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds (one name for each head, naturally!). Princess Sparkle is discovered, but the kitten escapes into the duct system. As the girls go on the search for their pet, before she can get hurt or caught, Dr. Vega, the station’s senior scientist and Tallulah’s mom, has bigger problems on her hands: Wilnick Station is experiencing some big-time glitches that could put the station at risk. While some of the crew point their fingers at Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds, Sanity and Tallulah find evidence of something else in those ducts. They’ve got to solve the mystery and save their kitten, and they may just have to rescue the whole space station!

This is such a positive, fun read. The cast is diverse, with our two heroines coming from African-American and biracial (Latinx-white) families of prominence: Sanity’s dad is Wilnick’s station director, Tallulah is the daughter of the senior scientist. Her white dad rocks a man bun, prosthetic leg, and context clues allude to his being a celebrity heartthrob at some point in the past. There’s humor and technospeak that kids will love. The three-color white, purple, and pink artwork has bold lines and gives a real feel for the sheer size and scope of a space station.  Molly Brooks gives readers a vision of a diverse future where strong female characters are valued. A must-add to graphic novel collections – put this with your Zita the Spacegirl and Star Scouts books!

Sanity & Tallulah has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Turnaway Girls, by Hayley Chewins

Raised in a shelter cloister with other young women, Delphernia Undersea is a 12-year-old Turnaway Girl: girls raised to be silent, invisible; to weave male Masters’ music into gold they call “shimmmer”. Delphina is well aware of her place in society – Mother Nine beats it into her regularly enough – but still has a rebellious streak in her. While she can’t make shimmer, she can sing; a forbidden action in this world. Girls are told that the sea waits to swallow girls with musical throats, but Delphernia must sing, so she does so in secret until the day a young Master named Bly comes to claim her. Once out of the cloister, Delphernia’s world opens up, befriending a trans girl named Linna, who calls herself a Master and wears a dress covered in bells. Delphernia spends time with Bly, discovering more about him and his sister, the Childer-Queen, and in so doing, discovers more about herself and the society she moves through. It’s time for rebellion, and Delphernia holds the key.

Wow. This book is high literary fantasy that has the gift of empowering readers. Delphernia is a strong, intelligent heroine who motivates those around her. This is a male-driven society that doesn’t want music, free thought, or questions. They twist the truth to suit their means, but this next generation of children is about to bring it all down. Hayley Chewins’ weaves gold – shimmer – with words that nearly brought me to tears as I read. I was Facebooking and texting passages from this book to my friends, family, and coworkers over the last two days, because I could not keep these words inside me.

 

This is how you talk to middle graders. This is how you write middle grade fantasy that makes a statement, always respecting your readers. This is fantasy that holds our society up to a mirror and lets readers see for themselves how change is theirs to make. Diverse and gender fluid characters, discussions about gender roles and corrupt leaders, and a tale of self-discovery, magic, and music put this firmly on my must-read, must-have list, and my Newbery and Hugo watch lists.

The Turnaway Girls has a starred review from Kirkus. Author Hayley Chewins has a playlist for the book available on her blog.

Want your own copy of The Turnaway Girls? Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

 

Blog Tour Roll Call! Visit these book bloggers for their The Turnaway Girl thoughts.

October 8 – Purple Readers

October 9 – YA Books Central

October 10 – Cheyenne Reads

October 11 – Mom Read It

October 12 – Wizard Library

 

The Turnaway Girls, by Hayley Chewins, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763697921
Ages 10+

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Bigfoot Files searches for Bigfoot and even mother-daughter ground

The Bigfoot Files, by Lindsay Eagar, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763692346

Ages 10-13

Mirando Cho is tired of being the parent. The 12-year-old student council president is dead set on securing a spot in a leadership camp this summer that will get her out of the house and away from her cryptozoolist mom, Kat. Kat’s obsession with mythical monsters, especially the ever-elusive Bigfoot, has taken center stage in her life: bills have gone unpaid, the house is in danger of foreclosure, and neither her father nor her grandmother is interested in helping out. It’s time for Kat to grow up, and Miranda has a plan to make it happen. The two set off together for another Bigfoot hunt, where Miranda plans to confront her mother with everything; once she breaks her down, she’ll help her get back on track to being a responsible adult. But nature has a different plan, and Kat and Miranda end up lost in the woods together. Miranda may have a thing or two to learn about magic after all.

The Bigfoot Files is an interesting take on the “irresponsible single parent, stressed out smart kid” story. We’ve got a mom who still has that spark of magic in her, but she’s let it take over her life, to the detriment of her daughter and the family finances. She’s always ready for the big score: the picture of Bigfoot, the big research grant, the one moment where the proof will magically appear. Miranda has overcompensated for her mother’s flightiness by becoming an overachiever with compulsive tendencies – she pulls her hair out to soothe herself and obsessively focuses on her planning, research, and lists, lists, lists. Kat is frustrating, and Miranda isn’t always sympathetic, which – let’s be real – is spot on. Both parties need to give a little to get somewhere, hence the trip into the woods. And that’s where things get interesting. Miranda is the ultimate skeptic – and as readers, so are we – until a pivotal moment that threatens to turn everything upside down. We get a touch of the speculative in our realistic fiction, inviting readers to keep the faith; there is magic to be found out there, if you’re willing to find it. Ultimately, readers and our characters come to a compromise and understand that somewhere in the middle lies the best way to go: bills still need to be paid, and magic can still exist.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Lulu the Broadway Mouse is ready for the Great White Way!

lulu the broadway mouseLulu the Broadway Mouse, by Jenna Gavigan,
(Oct. 2018, Running Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-6461-6
Ages 8-12

Lulu is a little girl who loves, loves, LOVES the theatre. She lives in New York’s famed Schubert Theatre, where she and her family work side by side with the actors, actresses, and crew to help every production stay on track. Lulu dreams of being of making her Broadway debut, but there’s just one sticking point… Lulu is a mouse. When a young understudy named Jayne joins the cast of the Theatre’s current show, she and Lulu bond immediately over their love of the craft and their frustration with Amanda, the child star and resident mean girl. Will Lulu – and Jayne – ever get that big break?

Written by actress Jenna Gavigan, who made her Broadway debut at the age of 16, Lulu is a fun story that takes a look at dreaming big and navigating the mean girls we all meet in life. The novel also gives a wonderfully detailed peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of a stage show; your drama fans will love it and your animal fiction fans will cheer for Lulu, a lovable heroine who can stand up for herself and her friends.

Booktalk this one with Being Juliet by Joanne Stewart Wetzel for your drama fans who want a good story with a dash of theatre life.

Author Jenna Gavigan’s webpage has a page dedicated to Lulu, links to social media, and background information.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Children of Jubilee concludes Margaret Peterson Haddix’s latest series

Children of Jubilee, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, (Nov. 2018, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781442450097

Ages 9-13

The third book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile series is told through Kiandra’s point of view as the alien Enforcers raid Refuge City, capturing Edwy, Kiandra, Enu, and Rosi and transporting them to an alien planet, where they are forced to labor in mines as slaves with no bodily autonomy. Somehow, the Enforcers control their every movement, pushing them to mine and harvest strange bluish pearls from the planet, long past the point of exhaustion and only giving them their bodies back for the briefest amount of rest. Kiandra plots to find a way out, but she can’t do it alone – luckily, little Cana has found her way to the group; working under the Enforcers’ radar, she’s able to explore the planet and just maybe, find some help.

Margaret Peterson Haddix writes fantastic science fiction and dystopian fantasy. I discovered her Shadow Children series when my eldest read the first book, Among the Hidden, in elementary school. The two of us hit our local bookstore and bought every book in the series that weekend, and I can’t wait until my youngest is ready to read them in a few more years. She creates fascinating characters and morally ambiguous situations that leave a wealth of room for discussion. Children of Exile has been a voraciously readable series from the first installment; Children of Jubilee includes some final plot twists, subplots, and a reveal that left me picking my jaw up from the floor. It’s that good.

For my home and my library, Margaret Peterson Haddix books are a must-have. If you have sci fi/fantasy readers, they should be for you, too. There’s a free downloadable discussion guide for the first book, Children of Exile, on Ms. Haddix’s author website; they provide excellent jumping-off points for deeper discussion into the series.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Astrid the Unstoppable gives #kidlit a new fiery redheaded heroine

Astrid the Unstoppable, by Maria Parr, (Nov. 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536200171

Ages 7-11

“The Little Thunderbolt”, as she’s nicknamed, Astrid is a 9-year-old girl who lives in the town of Glimmerdal, Norway, with her farmer father and her marine scientist mother, who’s often away on research adventures. She spends most of her days with her best friend, Gunnvald, who also happens to be her 70-something year-old godfather; she also spends quite a bit of time aggravating the mean old Mr. Hagen, who runs a resort – ADULTS ONLY! – nearby, but Astrid can’t be bothered to be upset when he yells at her: she’s got too much living to do! She’s a fun, spunky, free spirit, until Gunnvald has a terrible fall that lands him in the hospital. Secrets are revealed that send Astrid into a tizzy, but not for long: she relies on her new friends to help her set things right.

Astrid the Unstoppable is like the books I read when I was a kid. Classics like Heidi (a book which also plays a part in Astrid), Pippi Longstocking, and Caddie Woodlawn, all seem to have inspired Maria Parr and her beloved Astrid. She’s smart, yet not afraid to be vulnerable; she’s got a wonderfully upbeat personality and view of the world, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind, whether it’s to another child, or an adult who’s behaving badly. She’s got great relationships with most of the adults in the book, and even the ones she doesn’t see eye-to-eye with can’t stay too mad at her. She’s got an infectious personality, in all the best ways.

Astrid the Unstoppable is kidlit done right, and Astrid herself will be a character kids will be reading about in school and on reading lists for years to come. Make sure to add this one to your to-buy lists, and talk up our classic female characters, too: don’t let anyone be left out! Perfect for your more sensitive readers. The book has been translated into 19 languages and adapted for the stage (so why not look into some reader’s theatre with your copies?)