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

Put The Serpent’s Secret at the TOP of your TBR.

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1), by Sayantani Dasgupta, (Feb. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1338185706

Recommended for readers 9-12

Kiranmala is an ordinary 12 year-old girl, living in New Jersey, with her totally embarrassing parents who keep calling her “Princess” and telling her stories about Indian mythology: so annoying. The thing is, they’re not telling stories. Kiranmala is a real Indian princess, she’s from a secret fantasy world, and she’s a totally awesome demon slayer. And she discovers all of this when she gets home from school, on her 12th birthday, to find her parents gone and a gross, slobbering, rhyming rakkhosh demon coming for her. While she’s trying to figure out what is going on, two princes show up to help out, bring her back to the secret world where she’s from, and help her rescue her parents. Oh, and save the world. No pressure.

This book is un-put-downable. Sayantani Dasgupta packs so much action into this story, yet gives us wonderful character development and a fabulous introduction to Indian mythology (black and white illustrations throughout help). Seriously! I tweeted at NatGeo Kids while I was reading The Serpent’s Secret, because I think it’s high time we got an Indian Mythology compendium to join their Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Mythology volumes. Rhyming demons? Talking birds? They have flying horses, too? There’s so much I need to know here! To be fair, Ms. Dasgupta does give us a bit of an introduction at the end of the book, but with all these wonderful Southeast Asian books hitting shelves (looking at you, Aru Shah and the End of Time), it’s time to join the party. There is a wealth of rich storytelling that readers are gaining access to; let’s give them the context, the origins, of these stories.

I know I’m gushing, but I’m not even sorry. Kiran is a fun, sarcastic, tween heroine, and she’s surrounded by a hilarious, exciting, and straight up gross cast of characters. And this is only the first book of a new series? Sign me up. I want more! Give this to any of your fantasy fans; especially those Rick Riordan readers who have already demonstrated their love of Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Roman mythologies. Give this to the kids in your library who want heroes and heroines who look like them. Give this to the kids in your library who need to understand that there are heroes and heroines who don’t look like them.

The Serpent’s Secret has starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.

Sayantani Dasgupta has an author website and a list of appearances and events.

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Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Hermes: The next Olympian graphic novel!

Hermes (Olympians, Volume 10), by George O’Connor, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626725256

Recommended for readers 9-12

The 10th volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians series brings out the trickster. No, not Loki; the other trickster. Hermes – the winged feet guy? – is the god of tricksters and thieves, animal husbandry, trade and merchants, sleep, contests and athletes, astronomy, language, and he happens to also be a guide for the dead. From his humble beginnings as an infant who had a penchant for cattle rustling (he’s the god of that, too) to his adventures with his son, Pan, O’Connor provides a nice overview of Hermes, framed as a series of stories told by a character who is not exactly what he seems. There are additional mythological figure biographies, a bibliography, footnotes, and discussion questions. The Olympians collection is a good graphic novel go-to series for kids’ collections; they’re a good additional resource for research reports, and kids enjoy reading about the Olympians. I display my set with my Percy Jackson books, and it generates a lot of interest, especially when you booktalk the series as the basis for Percy Jackson. (Nothing about Mount Olympus being at the top of the Empire State Building in O’Connor, but who knows, right?)

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

Illustrated/Graphic Novel Rundown

Phew! I may have overextended myself just an eensy bit with  my own summer reading list, but it was all worth it. There are some great books out this Fall. Here’s a quick rundown of some graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction out this month (and one from June… it was a busy summer!).

    

Heretics!: The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, by Steven & Ben Nadler, (June 2017, Princeton University Press), $22.95, ISBN: 9780691168692 / Ages 16+

This nonfiction graphic novel tells the story of the 17th-century thinkers – Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Newton, and more – who fundamentally changed the way mankind saw society and ourselves. These philosophers and scientists challenged the church’s authority to prove that Earth was not the center of the universe; that kings were not divinely chosen to rule; that neither God nor nature makes choices: sometimes, things just happen. Period. The reader-friendly, cartoony drawings, combined with simple explanatory text helps readers understand the scandalous nature of these thinkers. Booktalk and display with the Action Philosophers collection.

 

    

Greek Myths: Three Heroic Tales, by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden/Illustrated by Carole Henaff, (Sept. 2017, Confident Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9781782853497 / Ages 8-12

Three of the most famous Greek myths: Demeter and Persephone, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Eurydice – get the illustrated treatment here. Award-winning French illustrator Carole Hénaff uses a palette of deep and bright colors to create beautiful illustrations that would be as beautiful in a frame as they are in this book.

Water Memory, by Mathieu Reynes/Illustrated by Valerie Vernay, (Sept. 2017, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781941302439 / Ages 13+

I love a good, spooky story, and if it’s a good, spooky graphic novel that I can share with my library kiddos, even better. Marion’s mom inherited an old family house. It’s got a private beach and overlooks the ocean. It’s too good to be true, right? Right. Marion discovers some strange rock carvings and that a chilling local legend may be coming to life. The artwork is beautiful, and the translation from the original French to English is seamless.

    
Little Pierrot Vol 1: Get the Moon, by Alberto Varanda, (Sept. 2017, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781941302590 Ages / 4-8
This is the first in a new graphic novel series, translated from French, and perfect for young readers. Little Pierrot is a little boy with a big imagination. He and his snail buddy – Mr. Snail, naturally – have surreal adventures and end their day together, like best buddies do. Give this to your TOON Books readers; it’s got a similar look and feel. The artwork is sweet and whimsical, and kids will identify with Pierrot in terms of imagination and having a best buddy at one’s side, whether it’s a snail, a dog, or a stuffed plush. Booktalk with Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield, who never likes to be without his teddy bear, Pooky.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle School, mythology, Tween Reads

Loki’s daughter has her say in The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child, by Francesca Simon, (June 2017, Faber & Faber), $11.95, ISBN: 9780571330270

Recommended for ages 12+

Being the daughter of a giantess and the god of mischief is hard enough, but being born as a half-corpse on top of it? No wonder Hel, daughter of Loki and Angrboda, has a chip on her shoulder. Her older brothers are a snake and a wolf, her half-brothers are human – but they’re jerks, and her father’s no prize, whether or not he’s a Marvel and Tumblr heartthrob in another universe.

So goes the story of Francesca Simon’s The Monstrous Child. Narrated by Hel herself, it’s Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for the middle school set. We read about her anger at Odin’s casting her into Niffelheim to rule over the dead, and the pain of her unrequited love for Baldr, the most beautiful of the Norse gods. We discover her friendship with a frost giant, condemned to oversee the bridge to Hel’s realm, and the despair that leads her to consider a role in Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods.

I loved this book. As a fan of Norse myth and YA, I enjoyed seeing the myths from Hel’s perspective: an outcast, literally cast away from her family; forced to make her way on her own. She suffers loneliness, the pain of loving someone unavailable, and the desire for revenge. This is a perfect addition to middle school libraries, and a great way to connect ancient myths to contemporary YA. Hel’s voice is clear and strong; supporting characters also have defined personalities and the dialogue – both Hel’s internal dialogue and the dialogue between characters, particularly between Hel and Loki, is delicious.

Francesca Simon has delved into Greek and Norse myth in the past. While I’m not sure if her books The Sleeping Army and The Lost Gods are part of The Monstrous Child‘s Universe, as they take place on Midgard (Earth), I’m still going to add them to my collection to stand next to Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, because the kids at my library read any and all things fictional myth. The Monstrous Child stands on its own as a solid work of Norse myth and middle school-level fiction. Younger readers will be familiar with Ms. Simon’s Horrid Henry intermediate series.

Originally released in hardcover in May 2016, The Monstrous Child‘s paperback release is due out in a few short weeks. You can grab a copy from your library right now!

Posted in Fantasy, mythology, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Myth of the Minotaur? That’s BULL.

Bull, by David Elliott, (March 2017, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544610606

Recommended for ages 13+

You may know the myth of Theseus, the Minotaur, and the Labryinth, but I guarantee you’ve never read it like this. Told in verse, with each character’s voice using its own poetric form, from sonnets and stanzas to split couplets.  Poseidon acts as a kind of narrator, boastful and smug, laying out the lay of the land for readers: how Minos wouldn’t sacrifice a bull to him, so he decided to take it out on his wife and son. We have Minos, who’s not winning any father of the year awards; poor, insane Queen Pasiphae, who loves her baby boy and loses her mind when he’s taken from her; Ariadne, Minos’ daughter who just wants to take her brother, Asterion – the Minotaur – away from the hell he’s living, Daedalus, the engineer of the labyrinth, and last but never least, Asterion, the voice of the Minotaur himself.

There are inevitable Hamilton comparisons to be made, and this is a good thing: it’s a modern, compulsively readable, update of the classic myth, full of dark humor, angst, and betrayal. Elliott fleshes out the story by giving his take on the characters’ internal dialogue; most notably, Asterion’s growing despair and rage, also depicted by the progressively darker pages on which his dialogue runs. I’d love to see this staged, and I’m sure many, many high school and college students will, too.

Bull received (well-deserved) starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Language and situations may give some more conservative readers pause, but it is a Greek myth, after all.

Author David Elliott’s webpage has more information about the author and his books, plus information about author visits. There is also a link to Mr. Elliott’s Pinterest page, where readers can find more links to information about the players in Bull and their mythology.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

The story of Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt

artemis_1Artemis, by George O’Connor, (Olympians #9), (Jan. 2017, First Second), $9.99, ISBN: 9781626725225

Recommended for ages 8-12

The latest in George O’Connor’s graphic novel series on the Olympians gives readers the origin of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, nature, archery, wild animals, young women, and sudden death (yes, you read that right). Like a lot of gods and goddesses, Artemis and her twin brother, Apollo, were born when Zeus introduced himself to Leto, daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Artemis assisted with her brother’s birth, despite being only 9 days old, and when the family was invited to live on Mount Olympus, was protective of her mother, who, for obvious reasons, wasn’t really in Hera’s favor.

 

I love this series because it really utilizes the graphic novel format to bring these myths back to life. When I was a kid, I had history and mythological comics that breathed life into their stories, splashing the pages with the color and action that infused them. O’Connor’s Olympians series is good, solid story-telling that brings mythology back to kids and adults alike. Put these books out with your Rick Riordan books; your Greek mythology nonfiction books (D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths is brilliant and often used in schools), and, for readers who are ready for them, Gillian Cross and Neil Packer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Zaria Fierce returns in the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes!

zariaprologue-360x570Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes, by Keira Gillett, (Jul. 2016, Keira Gillet Books), $14.99, ISBN: TK

Recommended for ages 10-13

Keira Gillet’s Zaria Fierce trilogy comes to a huge conclusion with the final book in her adventure, Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes. Picking up where Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland Sword left off, Zaria and her friends need to rescue the Stag King’s son, Hart, stop Koll and his fellow dragons, and save Zaria’s birth mother, Queen Helena. No pressure, Zaria.

Zaria also feels the crushing weight of these responsibilities – and the part she played in them, when tricked by the dragon, Koll – and it’s taking its toll on her. Thankfully, her friends aren’t going to let her confidence flag; they’re there for an adventure, and they’re not going to let anyone, be it a dragon that personifies fear, or a fierce water-wyvern, stop them.

That’s the great thing about the Zaria Fierce trilogy: adventure is fast, furious, and loaded with Norse mythology, but the friendship between Zaria and her group of friends is the heart that drives this story. They won’t give up on Zaria, even when she’s ready to give up on herself; in turn, she will do anything to keep her friends safe. Even fight a dragon.

There are so many wonderful moments in this book, but to start talking about them would lead to spoilers. Suffice to say that Keira Gillett takes us on a hero’s journey, in the guise of a young girl whose entire life is upended one morning as she crosses a bridge to get to school. Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper’s Golden Shoes brings us to the end of one story, and a wish to return to this universe soon.

Recommended for middle grade collections where fantasy is popular. I’d book talk this with other hero’s journey tales like CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson/Magnus Chase series; they’ll have a firmer frame of reference when you present the series with these popular fantasy tales. Talk up Zaria as a strong female character who overcomes her fears and self-doubts to outwit monsters, and save herself and her friends!