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.

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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 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 Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Snazzy Cat Capers introduces a new super team-up!

Snazzy Cat Capers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (Sept. 2018, Imprint Reads), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-14343-3

Ages 7-10

Ophelia von Hairball V is the world’s greatest cat burglar; she’s a celebrity among her peers at the FFBI (Furry Feline Burglary Institute), the bane of the Central Canine Intelligence Agency (CCIA), and the envy of her cousin and FELLOW FFBI cat burglar, Pierre. Her next challenge: steal a rare Himalayan diamond from the Belle Mew-seum in Paris for the FFBI’s Annual Purr-fect Heist Competition! There’s only one hairball: Oscar Fishgerald Gold. He’s the newest in a series of inventors the FFBI wants Ophelia to work with, but Ophelia is a one-feline show. Oscar is persistent, though, and finagles his way onto the mission. Can this cat-and-fish combo snag the diamond and win the top spot again? Will the CCIA finally catch up to Ophelia? Or will Ophelia’s scheming cousin, Pierre, outsmart Ophelia and win the diamond and the top spot for himself?

Snazzy Cat Capers is the first in a fun new intermediate/middle grade series, and it is too much fun. Ophelia von Hairball V is a fabulous diva with an eye for the good life, and even though she’s a thief, she’s not all bad: the FFBI just encourages cat burglary to keep their skills sharp; the heisted goods are always returned. Eventually. There are black and white graphic novel panels and artwork throughout the story, breaking up the narrative by communicating a chunk of story visually and giving reluctant readers a nice bridge into linear reading. Oscar is a sweet, smart sidekick who won’t give up his chance to be taken seriously – he’s kind of like James Bond’s Q. Every chapter starts off with a life quote from Ophelia that provides some wink-nudge insight into her divahood: “You can’t possibly be your best if you haven’t had a manicure. Or if you’re a dog”; “They say humility is the key. Thankfully, I can pick any lock”; “When all hope seems lost, check the last handbag you used. It might still be there”. There are a lot of laughs, some fun action and adventure, and a whodunit showdown that kids will love. The next installment is out next year, so talk this one up and get your readers on board. And show them some Kim Possible – not an animal show (except for the naked mole rat, Rufus), but still fun to watch. Booktalk and display with Jonathan Bernstein’s Bridget Wilder trilogy or Stuart Gibbs’ Spy School series.

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

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is hilarious and thought-provoking. Like the news.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by MT Anderson/Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 9780763698225

Ages 10-14

Elitist elf (is that an oxymoron?) historian Brangwain Spurge has a mission: go into goblin territory and deliver a gift – a peace offering – from the elf king to the goblin king. Oh, and he’s also supposed to spy on the kingdom, transmitting his thoughts back to the elves so they can get an elf’s-eye view of everything. He’s shot off in a large barrel, and invited to the home of goblin archivist Werfel, who extends every hospitality to Spurge, who is a culturally insensitive, rude, bumbling boob. Naturally, Spurge bungles his spying mission, setting off a cross-kingdom incident that leaves Werfel and Spurge running for their lives, and at one another’s mercies.

This brilliant socio-political comedy of errors is hilariously told by National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and illustrated by Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, and mixes action and adventure with a tale of friendship, culture clash, and intrigue. Eugene Yelchin’s mixed media, black and white illustrations let readers see what Spurge transmits back to his kingdom, but Anderson’s text lets us know that things aren’t exactly what they seem. So who’s telling the truth? Well… truth is in the eye of the beholder; something we learn as Spurge’s world seems to grow under the long-suffering Werfel’s guidance. There are false assumptions on each side that need to be cleared up, but Brangwain Spurge refuses to see the black marks on elf history, no matter how clear Werfel states it. After all, history is written by the victors.

It isn’t until Spurge creates an incident that puts his, and his host’s, lives in danger that he understands how words and memories can be manipulated. The two share a mutual love of books, and it’s there that they find common ground on which to build a relationship. That, and the fact that they need each other to survive. Want kids to understand Fake News? Put this book in their hands.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge is a National Book Award longlist nominee, and has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.


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

Join NatGeo’s Explorer Academy!

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret, by Trudi Trueit, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426331596

Ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Cruz Coronado has lived with his dad in Hawaii ever since his mom died in a work-related accident when he was little. Now that Cruz is 12, though, he’s got a big future: he’s been accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy, which will take him to Washington, DC. The Explorer Academy is no joke: they accept only 24 kids from around the world every year; the students train to become the next generation of great explorers. But someone doesn’t want Cruz at the Academy: there’s an attempt on his life before he even leaves for the school! When he arrives at the Academy, he learns that his mother’s history is tied into his – and this could endanger his life, and the lives of his new friends. But who’s out to get Cruz?

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret is the first in a new NatGeo adventure series, and I loved it. It’s action-packed, fast-paced, and features a good cast of diverse, interesting characters with loads of cool tech and devices, like Mell, Cruz’s honeybee drone. There are copious tech and nature facts and information found throughout the story, with scientist and technology profiles in a “Truth Behind the Fiction” section at the end of the book. Color illustrations and maps throughout the book make this a solid hit for tweens and early teens. I’m looking forward to The Falcon’s Feather – the second book in the series – in March. Cruz is a likable hero who has a talent for code-breaking and a good relationship with his dad and his aunt, who also happens to be a professor at the Academy. Cruz’s best friend, Lani, isn’t a student at the Academy (yet), and serves as an anchor to home for Cruz. She, and Cruz’s friend and Academy roommate, Emmett, are the gadget masters here: the Q of the series, for you James Bond fans. Talk them up to your STEM/STEAM kids!

Display and booktalk with the Nick and Tesla series from Quirk; the HowToons comic series, and the Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Berman. And talk up the Explorer Academy website! There are character profiles, book trailers, a chapter excerpt, gadget talk, and a crack the code challenge. It’s a good series to wrap a program around… just sayin’.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

October graphic novels have something for everyone!

There are some solid graphic novels hitting shelves in October: LGBTQ+ positive stories and a dystopian adventure for tweens and teens, and for tweens and teens, Art Baltazar’s adorable artwork for kids are just a few of the books you can look forward to. Let’s dive in!

 

Gillbert, Vol. 1: The Little Merman, by Art Baltazar, (Oct. 2018, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545801451

Ages 6-10

If you have readers who get a kick out of Joey Weiser’s Mermin books, they’ll love Art Baltazar’s Gillbert: The Little Merman! He’s the son of King Nauticus and the prince of Atlanticus, and he’s surrounded by cool friends, like his turtle buddy, Sherbert, and his starfish buddy, Albert. One day, he meets playful mermaid named Anne Phibian, who takes him to a rocking party at WeWillRockTropolis. Meanwhile, aliens invade Earth, but quick action by Queen Niadora and her alien friend, Teeq, save the day.

Art Baltazar creates art that kids love: Tiny Titans; Grimmiss Island; DC Super Pets, and countless more comics have his signature bold, bright artwork and zest for zany adventure. He’s got kid-friendly artwork, storylines, and humor that kids eat up. When my library kids are too young for the DC comics on “the other side of the library” (the teen collection), but still want superheroes, I give them Art Baltazar’s books, and they’re thrilled.

Gillbert’s first outing looks like it’s the start to a fun new under-the-sea series. Papercutz won’t steer you wrong; add this one to your graphic novel shelves.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace, by Maggie Thrash, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763694197

Ages 13+

Acclaimed Honor Girl author Maggie Thrash’s latest book is a continuing memoir with a touch of fiction. A year and a half after the events of Honor Girl, Maggie is spiraling into a deep depression. She’s failing 11th grade; her stuffy, image-consumed mother is baffled, and her workaholic father, a federal judge, pays no attention to her. The only thing Maggie cares about is her cat, Tommi, who seemingly disappears in her rambling home. While searching for Tommi, Maggie discovers a ghost named Tommy, who leads her to peel back layers of her father’s life and see him through new eyes.

Maggie Thrash beautifully captures the tedium and angst of adolescence and the hopelessness of depression. The feeling of shouting into the void is poignantly captured when she opens up about coming out… and being ignored, regardless. She maintains a bitter sense of humor through her journey, making her likeable and relatable, and her watercolor artwork intensifies the feeling of being not-quite-there.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace is a beautifully thoughtful graphic memoir and a must-add to upper middle school and YA collections. Download an author note (also included in the back matter) and Maggie Thrash’s Top 10 Songs for Lost Souls playlist here; view a sample chapter here. Lost Soul, Be at Peace has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

Last Pick, by Jason Walz, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728912

Ages 10+

Last Pick is the first in a new dystopian trilogy. Three years ago, aliens invaded earth, taking everyone between the ages of 16 and 65: everyone they deemed “useful”. The survivors left behind live under cruel rule. Too young, too old, too disabled, they’re seen as worthless, receiving slim food rations and living under constant threat. But Sam and Wyatt, a twin brother and sister, are about to change all that. Sam’s the rebel, distributing food and fomenting revolution; Wyatt, her special needs brother, is the brains of the operation: he’s cataloging the aliens, and knows how to work with their technology. They start disrupting the aliens’ plans and making themselves a general nuisance until the aliens decide they’re too much of a threat, right on the eve of their 16th birthday.

Last Pick is SO GOOD. I tore through this one during a lunch hour; it’s compulsive reading with a tight storyline and characters you want to root for. Aliens appear to be enthralled with earth culture and are played in part as comic relief, from the overlord who seems to be influenced by American Westerns, affecting a cowboy-type flavor of speech, to the gooey creature that shares a love of Ultraman with Wyatt. There’s some intrigue going on among the aliens, too; I’m looking forward to learning more in the next installment. Sam and Wyatt are a solid sister-brother unit; Wyatt’s special needs appear to place him on the autism spectrum, and Sam acts as his partner and protector. An underground radio broadcaster, a Latinx who refers to herself as La Sonida, offers moments of retrospection and I hope we get more of her, too.

Adventure, science fiction, and dystopian fans are going to love this. If you have readers who love Spill Zone and Mighty Jack, hand them this one. Last Pick has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $21.99, ISBN: 9781250178138

Ages 14+

Eisner Award winner Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam collects all the installments of her webcomic. It’s a science fiction adventure in a universe that embraces all relationships. Mia is a young woman on a reconstruction crew that travels through space, restoring buildings and structures. The narrative shifts between the present and Mia’s past, where she fell in love at boarding school with a girl named Grace; a girl who was taken away by her family before Mia could say goodbye. Mia learns more about her crewmates and their own stories as they travel through space, ultimately creating a family of their own.

The cast is incredibly, wonderfully, diverse. There’s Char, the co-captain; she’s an African American woman who shares captain duties with her Caucasian wife, Alma: “Char may have the degrees, but Alma knows how to yell”, according to one character, Jules. Jules should know: she’s Alma’s niece, taken in when her mother – Alma’s sister – died. Jules seems to be the youngest member of the crew; she’s most likely a teen, loves playing games, and is the happy optimist of the crew. Ell/Elliot is a Caucasian nonbinary person who prefers they/them/their pronouns – and the crew vociferously defends their right to those pronouns, as Ell is nonverbal. Grace, Mia’s lost love, is African American.

As the narrative shifts between Mia’s past and present, we see Mia and Grace’s relationship develop, right up until Grace’s departure from the school. The color palette shifts with the narrative: cooler colors like blues and purples dominate the flashbacks, while warmer colors creep during the present day. Mia is the central character, but every character in this novel has a story to tell. This is a book I had to move back and forth with during the first few chapters; not having read the webcomic, I wasn’t altogether sure I was reading a connected story until I got the hang of the shifts, and of Mia’s place in them. Stick with the story: it’s an wonderful work of queer speculative fiction that deserves a spot on your shelves. On a Sunbeam is good for young adult/new adult readers.