9/15/14

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson (Clarion Books, August 2014, middle grade).

On the face of it, the instructions seemed simple enough--raise a flock of tiny fairies, feeding them on human hair, pass a starter flock on to another kid, and get a wish once that flock has been grown as well.  Ali is sure she'll be able to do it....but the instructions were not written to be what one might call as helpful as they might be.   And the fairies are not in the business of granting wishes just to be friendly.

In fact, they are evil fairies! (as the title indicates).   And from a relatively simple struggle to find enough hair (that's not her own) to feed her voracious flock, Ali finds herself in a very complicated struggle indeed to foil the nasty plot of the fairy mastermind, who's determined to give her fairy kin a new lease on life.  A lease on human life, to be more exact.

Tangled snarl after tangled snarl complicates Ali's efforts to save friends and family for the greedy little hands of the fairies, and it becomes a wild ride indeed, with things getting worse and worse and worse and more and more complicated....

In the interests of full disclosure, I have never read a Goosebumps book.  That does not stop me, though, from recommending this one to the young reader who has, and who is ready for something a step beyond.   In short, Evil Fairies Love Hair is a horror book of magic going horribly wrong sort, with real world consequences, in which the creep factor grows from the simple consumption of human hair (icky) to the insanity of nightmare fairies taking over the characters home town. 

The character of Ali, bravely holding it together while she tries to use her brains to outwit the fairies (who aren't the brightest little hamsters in the litter) holds things together in a more or less coherent story, and there are interesting bits of subplot involving her friendships, which evolve as events progress.  (Just for the record--one of these characters is a smoker, who evolves into a non-smoker, and a more sympathetic character than he first appears.  It's odd to find kids who smoke in middle grade books, but at least here it's presented in negative way, as something that makes him repellent).

And even though this book wasn't really to my personal taste, I couldn't help but be rather fascinated by the magical train wreck of it all.  It's not exactly a funny book, but the insane grotesquerie of it all may well amuse readers with a fondness for wacky creepy mayhem!  It's the sort of book whose cover, I think, will do a good job selecting its audience.

That being said, its not one I'd leap to give the reader who actually loves fantasy for the sake of its magical escape from reality!

9/14/14

This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (9/14/14)

Welcome to the first really fall-ish round-up of MG SFF from around the blogs! I am typing this while wearing my coat, because it is cold and haven't found the strength to close the windows (they are 150 years old, and don't go up and down well.  I cracked the glass of a storm window on my first try, and gave up).

Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews:

Constable and Toop, by Gareth P. Jones, at Finding Wonderland

Eva, by Peter Dickinson, at Views From the Tesseract

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, at Hope is the Word

The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler, at Reader Noir

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm, at Read Write Tell

Ghost Knight, by Cornelia Funke, at Books Beside My Bed

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at The Book Smugglers and Redeemed Reader

The House of Secrets, by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, at Claire M. Caterer

The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Claire, at Waking Brain Cells, My Precious In Bed With Books, and Hidden In Pages

Janitors: Strike of the Sweepers, by Tyler Whitesides, at Geo Librarian

Loki's Wolves, by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr at Log Cabin Library

The Lost Children (Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island) by Gillian Philip, at Wondrous Reads

Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age, by Dave Zeltser, at Librarian of Snark and The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

The Magic Thief: Home, by Sarah Prineas, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, at Fantasy Literature

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Reads For Keeps

Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins, at A Year of Reading

The Only Thing Worse Than  Witches, by Lauren Magaziner, at Charlotte's Library

The Pirate's Coin, by Marianne Malone, at Fantasy Literature

Rose, and Rose and the Lost Princess, by Holly Webb, at Jen Robinson's Book Review

Rose and the Magician's Mask, by Holly Webb, at Sharon the Librarian

The Runaway King, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at One Librarian's Book  Reviews

Scare Scape, by Sam Fisher, at Dead Houseplants

Snow in Summer, by Jane Yolen, at Reading the End

The Song of the Quarkbeast, by Jasper Fforde, at Sonderbooks

Spirit's Key, by Edith Cohn, at Akossiwa Ketoglo and Charlotte's Library

Terror of the Southlands (Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, book 2) by Caroline Carlson, at Librarian of Snark

There's a Dead Person Following My Sister Around, by Vivien Vande Velde, at The Wanderer

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philipa Pearce, at Leaf's Reviews

Turning on a Dime, by Maggie Dana, at Annie McMahon

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life, by P.J. Hoover, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile, Sharon the Librarian, Social Potato, and The Book Monsters

The Witch's Boy, by Kelly Barnhill, at Book Nut

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, by Kate Saunders, at Tales of the Marvelous

Heavy Medal (the Mock Newbery blog of School Library Journal) is up and running again--A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, is discussed here, and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing here.


Authors and Interviews

Jasper Fforde (The Wizard of Kazam) at SLJ

Madelyn  Rosenberg (Nanny X) at From the Mixed Up Files


More Good Stuff

Scenes From the Multiverse, a Tuesday Ten at Views From the Tesseract

Scientific American picks up on the reading Harry Potter = greater empathy study

Why you should come to Kidlitcon if you are fan of MG and YA spec. fic, at Charlotte's Library--a list of  spec. fic. authors who will be there.

And a reminder--the registration for Kidlitcon is Sept. 19th!  More info. here

Us Cybils organizers are busily working to form our panels of judges, to be announced (d.v.) toward the end of next week...but in the meantime, start thinking of your favorites from last year! Anyone can nominate books published in the previous Cybils year (Oct 16, 2013- Oct. 15, 2014), 1 per category, beginning Oct. 1.   (This year I am going to be Sane (another d.v.)  and not be jealous of the fact that YA Spec Fic always gets more books nominated than MG Spec Fic.)

Why you'd like to come to Kidlitcon 2014 if you're a fan of MG/YA speculative fiction

The registration deadline for Kidlitcon 2014 (Sacramento, Oct. 10th and 11th) is the 19th of September...and if you are fan of MG/YA speculative fiction you should come!  Here are some of the authors you will meet if you do:

Jewell Parker Rhodes -  Ninth Ward

Karen Sandler -- Tankborn, and its sequels

Mike Jung - Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities

Sarah Jamila Stevenson - The Truth Against the World

Ian Lendler --The Stratford Zoo Midnight Review Presents: Shakespeare's Macbeth 

Kelan O'Connell-- Delta Legend

Sherie Peterson - Wish You Weren't

Jenny Lundquist-  The Princess in the Opal Mask

Zetta Elliott -  The Deep, Ship of Souls

and on top of all that goodness, there will be a Skype Chat with the lovely Shannon Hale! 

And on top of all that,  there will be fellow bloggers, full of friendly enthusiasm, and lots of great sessions that will engage and inspire you!  The theme this year is Diversity, but there are general interest sessions as well.

And on top of that, if it is books you want, as well as the books available to buy and have signed, there will a huge ARC swap,  swag, and other goodies!!!

Here's the full program--please join us!

(I thought about putting all the cover pictures up, then I thought about blogger + pictures + me = frustration....so I didn't.  Sorry!)

9/13/14

Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert

Just a quick post about a quick (and entertaining) book for the elementary set--The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert (Scholastic, June 2014).

Sam Graves has just been appointed Hall Monitor at Eerie Elementary School, and on his first day, the playground tries to eat him.  Afternoon hall monitoring goes no better- the school comes to really scary life--the clock its beating heart, the fire hoses like living serpents, the tree outside a malevolent hand, and more-- and Sam is once again its target!  Both times he is saved by the wise old janitor, who shares the horrible truth with him.  The school is alive, and it is hungry!

Sam, as Hall Monitor, is all that stands against its rapacious evil!!!!!  And when the school strikes at his best friends during the class play, Sam must save them from the hideous maw of folding chairs that's trying to consume them...

So maybe it sounds kind of silly, and maybe it is, but it was actually really creepy because goodness knows an elementary school at night alone with lockers banging supernaturally at you etc. would be really terrifying.   I think Jack Chabert did a tremendously effective job bringing his school to scary life!

The pacing is pretty much spot on for the 7 or 8 year old reader--nice fast action with bits of friendship centered narrative breaking it up, and the plot is one that will be comfortable in its familiarity--wise mentor teaches young hero to fight evil. 

An added bonus is that Sam's best friend, Antonio (cast as Peter Pan in the play) is shown as a kid of color in the illustrations.  Yay for a non-white Peter Pan!

So I am able to recommend this one with a pretty high degree of confidence to 7 or 8 year olds who are still most at home with pretty short, easy books and who don't mind being scared.  I would not give this one to a kid who is already afraid of school, though.  It would make things worse!

The second book in the series, The Locker Ate Lucy, was just released at the end of August....and I am almost tempted to give it a quick read just for my own amusement.....

(It's possible that I am biased in favor of this series because Hall Monitor Sam of course reminds me of another Sam who was Blackboard Monitor....)
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

9/11/14

In Real LIfe: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age, by Nev Schulman

So, ever one to broaden my horizons (in a mild sort of way) viz today's digital world, I accepted a copy of In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age, by Nev Schulman.  I thought it would be interesting for me to read, and possibly useful for sharing with my young teen.  And it was definitely the former, though not so much, at this point in time, the later (he's still not on line that much, and rather young for his age....).

Nev Schulman is the host of MTV's program, catfish, which I had never heard of before reading this book.  I had heard, from afar, about catfishing--the way some people create online identities of whole cloth and use them to manipulate others.   What makes this particular book interesting is not just its discussion of the many ways in which people catfish, but Nev Shulman's open sharing of his own experience as a victim.  He fell hard for a girl who, along with her whole family and community, didn't exist as the people they appeared to be online.  And this story, fascinating in its own right, leads to thought provoking discussion of what makes people trust the people they find online.    Nev Schulman is a story teller, rather than a sociologist or psychologist, but the particular story he tells here and his struggle to make sense of his own experience hold their own just fine (even though I wouldn't have minded a bit of academic gloss....)

It's good reading not just for those interesting in catfishing per se, but for everyone who has at some point created an online persona, and wondered about the authenticity of their own digital selves and the communities of which they are part.   I am pretty sure that most everyone I know in the kidlitosphere is pretty much who they say they are, and I am pretty sure that I am who I am saying I am (although one never knows....), but of course all of us have silences, and bits of personal thin ice, that make this whole business of public sharing at least something of a construct....

So in any event the book was very interesting reading, and I am much less likely to fall victim to catfishing now than I was before (and I am left wondering if anyone has ever tried-- pitches for fantasy books that don't exist, or something like that-- but I don't think that blogging, unlike, say, Facebook, is as amenable to the sort of personal rapprochement that good catfishing requires....)

In any event, all the bloggers that I've met in real life were pretty much what I was expecting (ie, lovely people) and I am happily planning on sharing a room at Kidlitcon with someone (KarenYingling) I've never met (and who I am very much looking forward to finally meeting!).

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

9/10/14

Spirit's Key, by Edith Cohn

Spirit's Key, by Edith Cohn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 9, 2014, middle grade)

Many things set 12 year old Spirit apart from the others who make Bald Island their home.  She and her dad aren't natives--and outsiders never quite become true islanders.   Her dad makes a living with his gift of prophecy, and though the distrust that drove him and his daughter to the island aren't quite as bad there, still it makes them different.   But most of all, what sets Spirit apart is that she is the only one on the island to have made a dog her beloved companion.

The island is home to wild dogs.  Nobody else likes them, and many truly fear them, calling them "devil spirits." Despite this prejudice, Spirit and Sky formed a bond of great love, until his untimely death (which happened just before the book begins, mercifully for young dog lovers!).   But before she has time to finish grieving, Sky's ghost appears to her--a puppy-ish Sky, frisky and playful and loving as ever.  And he's not back just because of his affection for her.  He is a ghost dog on a mission....

Sky isn't the only dog to die--others are turning up dead as well.   When people start falling ill, the dogs are blamed for the sickness.  But Spirit is convinced that there is something more going on, and she is determined to defend the dogs.   Following ghost Sky's lead, and accompanied by a boy who might be her first real person friend, Spirit gradually uncovers the secret of what's really been happening on her island home.  And in the process, with help from the ancestors who send her help, she begins to manifest her own unique version of her family's powers.

So basically this is:

--a girl and beloved dog story
--a girl and a boy she gradually learns to trust solving a mystery story
--a girl coming into her magical powers story

all of which is wrapped up in a tidy and satisfying whole that should please 10 and 11 year old readers who like those sorts of stories very much!
What makes these disparate threads a satisfying whole is that it is also the story of a girl's fight against her community's superstitious hatred of the animals she loves.  The interweaving of superstition and true magic creates tension that drives the plot even at those time when not much in the way of Adventure is actually happening.   Spirit must fight the islander's belief in the devilish magic of the dogs, while being deeply aware that there is true magic in the world, and knowing the dogs share in it--after all, Sky is right there with her as a spirit.   

And on top of that, Spirit is caught in the tension of feeling like an outsider, but knowing that she and her father are in fact different--an uneasy place for any 12 year old to occupy, but even more so than most for Spirit!  Solving the mystery of the dying dogs resolves the conflict, bringing Spirit to a place where she is both part of the community and able to be her unique self.

Which of course is one of the most satisfying of endings for a middle grader reader.  Give this one to the girl who likes dogs, of course, but who also likes fantasy meeting real life.

(Not being a middle grade reader myself, I worried about the economic sustainability of the island, inbreeding of both dog and human populations, what the heck the dogs were eating, and whether the resolution at the end would include some sort of organized management program for the dogs.  But these are grown-upish concerns, that the target audience will probably not share!)

Here's a longer and more detailed review at Tor

Disclaimer:  review copy gratefully received from the author.



9/8/14

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, by Lauren Magaziner

If you are looking for a fun fantasy to give an elementary school kid (7 to 9 years old), and that kid is the sort of reader who loves the wacky humor of Wayside School, say, but is looking for something just a tad more challenging, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches (Dial, August 2014) is an excellent bet.

In a small town by the sea lives a community of witches.   Not particularly nice witches, the sort that the local non-witches are somewhat nervous about, but not, generally speaking, horrible.

There are exceptions.  And one of the worst of these exceptions is moonlighting as a teacher.

Rupert, one of her unfortunate students, just thinks she's the most abominable horrible thing ever to happen to him (and why won't the adults believe their kids when they say so?).  But then Rupert meets a girl his own age--a girl who's a witch in training.  And Witchling Two opens his eyes, breaking the rules to share witchy knowledge with him.   Witchling Two picked Rupert to be her apprentice--she needs a study buddy to pass her witch exams.  Rupert (forbidden by his evil teacher to socialize with his classmates) is happy to have a new friend.

Witchling Two's chances of passing her exams aren't looking good--her spells keep going bad.  Rupert's chances of escaping his teacher aren't looking good either--her spells work just fine!  But the two of them together figure out a way to come up on top, and all works out very nicely indeed.

The friendship between Rupert and Witchling Two is satisfying, and her struggles with magic convincing; there is a backstory to Rupert's mothers more than usual anxiety viz the witches that adds some depth to the story, there's some ambiguity about two the witches that's very nice, and the plot wraps up nicely.   And Rupert's teacher is beautifully over the top in the horror that constitutes her approach to educating/terrorizing the young.

So like I said above, this is a fun one for the elementary school reader.  If they like the cover, they will like the book.  And  you'll know if you are the type who'll enjoy it lots if you don't flinch when you learn that there is a teacher named Miss Snugglybuns (not Rupert's teacher!) because it is the sort of lighthearted, whimsical sort of story in which nice teachers are named things like Snugglybuns, but even though I found this off-putting, I was able to read the book in an appreciative spirit. 

In short, what it sets out to do it does well. 

9/7/14

This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (9/7/2014)

Here's what I found in my quest for MG SFF book reviews etc. this week; please let me know if I missed your post! If you are an author or a publicist, you too are welcome to send me links to posts of interest.

The Reviews:

13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison, at Reader Noir

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, at Readaraptor

The Candymakers, by Wendy Mass, at Puss Reboots

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at Redeemed Reader and Evelyn Ink

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, by Emma Trevayne, at Log Cabin Library

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, at Not Acting My Age

Hook's Revenge, by Heidi Schulz, at Snuggly Oranges

The Iron Trial, by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, at The Guardian, Winter Haven Books,  Fluttering Butterflies,  The Quiet Concert, The Book Belles, and Please Feed the Bookworm

Linnets and Valerians, by Elizabeth Goudge, at Tor

Loot, by Jude Watson, at Bibliobrit

Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age, by David Zeltser, at Geo Librarian (giveaway)

The Map to Everywhere, by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, at Views From the Tesseract

Memoirs of  a Neurotic Zombie, by Jeff Norton, at Wondrous Reads and Fluttering Butterflies

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Redeemed Reader and For Those About to Mock

Rose and the Magician's Mask, by Holly Webb, at The Book Monsters

The Scavengers, by Michael Perry, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier, by Ying Chang Compestine and Vinson Compestine, at Bibliobrit

Sparkers, by Eleanor Glewwe, at The Discriminating Fangirl

Spirit's Key, by Edith Cohn, at Tor

Starfire (Guardian Herd #1), by Jennifer Lynn Alverez, at Kid Lit Reviews

Summer and Bird, by Katherine Catmull, at Sometimes I Read

The Swallow, by Charis Cotter, at Falling Letters

The Terror of the Southlands, by Caroline Carlson, at On Starships and Dragonwings

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Big Hair and Books, and Charlotte's Library

The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud, at Book Nut

Winterfrost, by Michelle Houts, at The Book Monsters

The Witch's Boy, by Kelly Barnhill, at Book Snob (and at the NY Times)

A Wonderlandiful World by Shannon Hale, at Fantasy Literature

Three at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Bully Bug, by David Lubar, The Scavangers, by Michael Perry, and  Greenglass House, by Kate Milford


Authors and Interviews

Kenneth Oppel (The Boundless) at Wondrous Reads and Readarapter!


Other Good Stuff

The finalists have been announced for the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards--scroll down to the end and you'll find the books in the running for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Sarah Prineas has given us a free Magic Thief story!  It tells us what happens right after book 3--Found--finishes.  Book 4 (Home) comes out Sept. 16.

For Labor Day--a Tuesday Ten on "working for a living" in mg fantasy at Views From the Tesseract

A discussion on "How dark is too dark in children's books?" at The Guardian

"Constructing a Comic Character" at Project Mayhem

Maybe you were one of the folks who got all excited when the news travelled around the web about "Viking warrior women," and imagined historical fiction full of them--here's a cautionary note from an archaeologist I knew back in the day when I was getting my MA.

Nominations are now open at the Brown Bookshelf for 28 Days Later--a Black History Month celebration of African American authors and illustrators.

Something to put on your calendar for the end of October--Witch Week, hosted by Lori at The Emerald City Book Review, which will focus on Diana Wynne Jones.

And finally, the September/October issue of Middle Shelf Magazine is out in the world, offering lots fantasy/sci fi goodness.

9/3/14

Julia's House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke--utterly charming

Ben Hatke became a favorite author in our house with his lovely graphic novels about Zita the Space Girl, and we were tremendously excited about his first foray into the world of picture books-- Julia's House for Lost Creatures (First Second, September 2, 2014).  It did not disappoint, so much so that my eleven-year-old son said it was one of his favorite books ever.



Julie's house comes to town on the back of an enormous tortoise, and settles by the sea.  It is a lovely house, warm, with tea and toast, but Julia is lonely.  So she quickly makes a sign, proclaiming it "Julia's House for Lost Creatures."   And creatures come--all sorts of strange fantastical creatures.

It is too much of a good thing.  Before she knows what's happening, Julia is running a house party of huge proportions, all is chaos and mess, and Julia is being run ragged.  Clearly it can't go on...

So Julia makes a giant chore list, taking into account everyone's unique attributes (the little ghost is a natural duster, and of course dragons are the best suited for hot kitchen tasks) and everyone pitches in....but it takes one last guest for everything to be perfect!  (and owners of old houses, creaking at the seams like Julia's is, will want a guest like this one for themselves....)

The illustrations are charmingly friendly and detailed--just really darn nice to look at.   Julia's a lovely character, and the fantastical visitors are fun and whimsical.   The charm of it all makes this one that will appeal to readers older than the standard picture book audience; there is really nothing not to like. 

This is an obvious one to offer a child who needs to contribute more to the smooth running of the domestic side of things (I cough meaningfully in the direction of the above-referenced eleven-year-old).   But it's fun to read without driving any moral point home! 

Julia's House is currently on a blog tour--check out these stops for a bestiary of the lost creatures!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.

9/2/14

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little (Scholastic July 2014, middle grade), is great Southern gothic time travel for the young--give this one to your handy nine year old girl who likes things a spooky and she will just eat it up, and remember it for her lifetime.

Larissa's family has been plagued by misfortune...untimely death and disaster have visited every generation for a hundred years.   Larissa herself almost died in an accident that left her face badly scared...and still the curse goes on.  

But then a phone call comes--on an antique phone unconnected to any land line.  And the girl on the other end of the line tells Larissa to trust the fireflies, and follow where they lead.   And she does, crossing the uncrossably dilapidated bridge to the island where her family's plantation house once stood.  There she sees her great, great-grandmother, Anna, the spoiled daughter of the house, take for her own the beautiful doll that was given to another girl,  Dulcie, daughter of the housekeeper.   The doll still sits in Larissa's family's antique shop, labeled "not for sale." 

As Larissa follows the fireflies on more journeys across the bridge, and more mysterious messages come to her from the girl on phone, she sees the doll handed down from mother to daughter, and learns more of the tragedies that have befallen her family.  Larissa has never much liked the doll, but now it seems to grow in sentience and malevolence.  But just as she understands the curse, it strikes again, threatening the life of her mother and unborn sibling.  Can Larissa put things to rights before it is too late?????

Well, yes, because this is a children's book, but the journey to that point is a scary and creepy one.  And there aren't just supernatural challenges of curses and time slipping to deal with--Larissa must lay to rest her own personal ghosts, and come to terms with the accident that left her scared, and the girls who were responsible.

It's all very satisfying, and just gothically horrible enough to be creepy without being truly the stuff of nightmares.   I liked it much more than I did the somewhat similar books I couldn't stand to re-read when I was the target-audience age--Jane-Emily, by Patricia Clapp, and A Candle in Her Room, by Ruth M. Arthur--and I don't think this is because I am somewhat older now.  Here there are the fireflies, with their time-slip magic, and the girl on the other end of the line, exerting a force for good and giving reason to hope, and here also there is hope and progress being made in the real world, as Larissa learns to forgive and accept friendship from one of the girls who wronged her.

The time travel, too, with its "excursion to the past" feel, strikes just the right balance between being scary (Larissa comes close to real physical danger) and being magically nifty the way of my favorite sort of time travel, with the old house appearing all shiny and new where there's a ruin in the present.

And the discovery of treasure at the end (which any older reader will guess pretty quickly is going to be found) makes the already happy and resolved ending even happier.  I do like a nice treasure.

On a somewhat tangential note, the way the author dealt with the legacy of slavery was rather interesting--to the adult reader, it's easy to assume that the servants Larissa sees in the past, like Dulcie, the girl who was given the doll, are the descendant's of the plantation's slaves, but there aren't any physical descriptors, and slavery isn't mentioned until a considerable ways into the book.   It would probably have gone over my own nine-year-old head, used as I was to living in an all-white world (the Oporto British School in northern Portugal in the 1970s wasn't a hotbed of diversity) and busily reading English books with their built-in, all-white, class system.  And I wonder if it is better to make race clear from the get go, or if Kimberley Griffiths Little's approach is more useful to the larger cause of opening kids' imaginations-- not to say "a black man" but simply "a man," and to let people imagine whatever they imagine, and then bring in the fact of plantation slavery in clear enough terms that even 9 year old me would have had (I think) an ah ha moment...and maybe not have defaulted to white as much next time around.

On the other hand, I would have accepted unquestioningly back then the fact that the curse came from Caribbean voodoo-ish magic; now I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with that.  

But regardless, I thought it was very good book (I would like to spend more time in the present with Larissa and the sundry family, friends, and townsfolk, even without time-sliping), and I'm happy to recommend it.  Although not to girls who have large fancy dolls in their rooms that are already giving them the creeps.

9/1/14

Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire -- best Baba Yaga ever!

The nesting dolls of Russia open to revel smaller and smaller dolls, until you reach the baby who's the smallest of all.  Egg and Spoon, Gregory Maguire (Candlewick, September 9 2014), takes readers on a  journey through a historic Russia of myth and magic that's the opposite of that progression.  It's a story that starts small, beginning in an isolated, lonely place, and becomes large and larger still, with its characters travelling every onward till even home, the ending point, will never be as small and lonely again.  And, for the most part, it's a tremendously entertaining journey.

(Note on the metaphor above-- the nesting dolls are a Central Image/Metaphor within the text, such as could be the subject of an academic essay, so I didn't pick it random, nor, I see now (having looked at the Amazon page) am I the only one to use it.)

But in any event.

Round about the early 20th century, lightning strikes a bridge in the middle of nowhere, Russia, and a train is forced to stop.  On the train is  Ekaterina (Cat), a young lady of privilege on her way to the court of the Tsar to be offered to Anton, the Tsar's godson.   Outside the train is Elena, a starving peasant girl who's mother is dying, whose father is dead, whose brothers have been conscripted.   Chance, in the form of a Faberge egg beautifully decorated with scenes from Russian fairytales, meant to be a gift for the Tsar, interferes with their lives.  Elena finds herself on the train headed for Saint Petersburg, Cat finds herself in a peasant hovel.

Cat never saw the sense in believing that stories were real, but when she is herded to the hut of Baba Yaga herself, she has to change her mind pretty quickly.   And the story she finds herself in turns out to be a big one--something has gone wrong with the magic of Russia--the Firebird has disappeared.   This misfortune is spilling over into the real world; the seasons have gone awry, and famine and flood cover Russia.

Baba Yaga, being somewhat more than a witch, is compelled to fix things with Russia, so she and Cat head to the city in the chicken-legged house.  There they meet with Elena and Anton (the Tsar's godson), and the three kids and Baba Yaga set out to Do Something.

So at this point we are about 343 pages into the story.  After a somewhat slow start, for which I blame the Intrusive Narrator and the heavy underlining of peasant suffering, I had been enjoying the journey, watching things getting progressively more surreal and magical (Baba Yaga is an utter joy--very puissant, in a funny way, and the two-girls-switched plot was very entertaining).  At page 343, with the whole cast assembled, and the problem identified, I expected things to be a straightforward quest in which the kids would somehow heroically fix things.    I was also expecting the Firebird (who is, after all, missing), to continue to be the central problem.

But there's another twist--the problem is a different one,  and the solution to the problem is kind of ..... disappointing.   I felt that Baba Yaga could have fixed things without the kids, or the kids could have fixed things without Baba Yaga (although they would have had transportation difficulties), and I felt that I was being given a moral lesson on how to live a good life.  It's not that I demand heroic deeds in every story, and internal character growth and magical drama are plenty satisfying, and I certainly approve of people appreciating life and not consuming to excess etc., but so much self-awareness had already occurred, and so much magical drama had already happened at this point that the last hundred pages felt like a bit of a fizzle.

So it wasn't exactly a Story that satisfied me.  But taken as a series of set piece on the journey, it was lots of fun, and it was a pleasure to watch things expand, all out of anyone's control!   There were bits that made laugh out loud, bits that were beautiful, and bits that strained my ability to suspend disbelief, but still in an enjoyable way.

Definitely read it for the sake of Baba Yaga, if nothing else.  She is brilliant.  She rules the whole book.

Here's what I'm wondering about--the kids aren't exactly heroes, but rather they are passengers in a story.  Will this please the young adult audience who are the target audience?  I am thinking that this is one that will actually be more pleasing to grown-up readers of fantasy who occasionally read young (the sort that enjoyed Catherynne M. Valente's Fairland books).   Those readers will not necessarily expect the same level of Young Character at the Forefront as an actual YA reader might.   (And I bet that only adults will get the poisoned Kool-Aid reference).  

But then I think of the magical wonders in this fairytale journey--images and imaginative delights that really are magical, and think that actually the best reader for the book might be the younger than YA child who loves nothing more than the escape offered by the beauties and dangers of the best sort of fairy tale--the sort who's pictures stay in your mind a lifetime.

Am I glad to have read it?  yes, I enjoyed it.  Will I re-read it?  probably not.  Would I have devoured it as a child?  quite possibly.

Here's what The New York Times said, and here's what Kirkus said, and just to show another use of the nesting doll metaphor thing, here the review at Educating Alice.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.

8/31/14

This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (8/31/14)

My own reading has been taking a back seat to desperate work on home renovation, back to school busyness, and visiting family....but others of you all have still been reading, and here's what you wrote!  Please let me know if I missed your post.  

The Reviews

The Book of Bad Things, by Dan Poblocki, at Storytime Hooligans

Cabinet of Curiosities, by Stefan Bachman, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne, at Fantasy Book Critic

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at Tales of the Marvellous

Courting Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, at alibrarymama

Doll Bones, by Holly Black, at Not Acting My Age

Dreamwood, by Heather Mackey, at Geo Librarian

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson, at The Hiding Spot (giveaway)

The Fog of Forgetting, by G.A. Morgan, at Between the Pages

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm, at My Precious, The Fourth Musketeer, and Ms. Yingling Reads

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at BooksForKidsBlog

Invitation to the Game, by Monica Hughes, at Dead Houseplants

The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, at The Story Goes... and Log Cabin Library

Loot, by Jude Watson, at Nerdy Book Club

Magic in the Mix, by Annie Barrows, at Semicolon

The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson, at For Those About to Mock

Mouseheart, by Lisa Fiedler, at Fantasy Book Critic

The Pirate's Coin, by Marianne Malone, at Time Travel Times Two

The School For Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, at One Librarian's Book Reviews and Log Cabin Library

The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Reader Noir

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, at Bibliobrit and The Children's Book Review

The Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo, at alibrarymama

Starfire (The Guardian Herd 1), by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at This Kid Reviews Book

The Stones of Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

The Time Fetch, by Amy Herrick, at The Book Monsters

The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud, at Hidden In Pages

The Witch's Boy, by Kelly Barnhill, at Good Books and Good Wine

A three-fer (?) at Views from the Tesseract--Rose and the Lost Princess, by Holly Webb, The Forbidden Flats, by Peggy Eddleman, and Rain Dragon Rescue, by Suzanne Selfors.

Authors and Interviews

Havelock MacCreely (My Zombie Hamster) asks "Why Do I Write Middle Grade?" at The Children's Book Review

Pat Walsh (The Hob and the Deerman, a book all about Brother Walter the Hob!  which will make those who liked The Crowfield Curse and The Crowfield Demon squee joyfully) at Wondrous Reads

Lou Anders (Frostborn) at The Enchanted Inkpot

Laurisa White Reyes (The Rock of Ivanore) at Write About Now

Other Good Stuff

Rick Riordan is being quizzed on Greek mythology in a live webcasted event Sept. 23, more info. here at SLJ.

"Mary Poppins is a Wizard who Literally Sings her Spell" at Tor; of course, that's the movie Mary Poppins; the book character is much more mysterious....

Also at Tor, a look back at the impact of the Animorphs

A lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has come to light; read more at The Gaurdian

The Kidlitcon Program is out in the world--please come to Sacramento this October to be part of the conversation!

And finally, the deadline to apply to be a Cybils Panelist is this Friday, Sept. 5.

8/29/14

There's a week left to apply for the Cybils...and here's a YA Speculative Fiction Cybils Winner's Poll!


Maybe you've already applied to be a panelist for this year's Cybils Awards....or maybe you've never heard of the Cybils.  If you haven't, these are awards for children's and YA books in various categories, chosen by panels of bloggers from lists of books nominated by all and sundry.   There are two rounds of judging--starting in October, first round panelists pick shortlists from the pool of nominated books, and after the shortlisted books are announced on the first of January, the second round panelists pick the winners.  The deadline to apply to be a panelist is this coming Friday, September 5th.

There are two speculative fiction groups--one for  Elementary and Middle Grade books, and one for YA.   I've already talked up the joys of being an EMG panelist, since I'm the category chair, so today I'm shinning a little light on the fun of YA Spec. Fic.!

For starters, they always get more books than we do in EMG.   And with so many truly excellent YA spec. fic. books published every year, they have a heck of hard time limiting their shortlists to the maximum of seven books!  The first round (October through December) is some of the most intense and enjoyable reading and book discussing you'll ever experience, and it is tremendously worthwhile.  The number of applicants for YA Spec. Fic. is down a bit this year, so do consider throwing your name into the pool of potential panelists--just think of all the great books published in this Cybils year that you will get to read and discuss!  (year being Oct.16, 2013 to Oct. 15, 2014).

Here's where you apply.   It really is a lot of fun, a chance to become an expert in a particular field,  and a great way to make new blogging friends!  The rosters of panelists are announced mid-Sept., and book nominating starts Oct. 1.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

And now, here are the books that have won in YA Spec. Fic. in the eight years of the Cybils' existence!  (Jonathan Stroud, btw, has the honor of having won in both YA and EMG.  Will Shannon Hale, with eligible EMG books, be able to pull the same trick off this year???)

I'll announce the winner next Friday, but in the meantime, here's how things stand on Saturday morning:

8/27/14

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett (Broadway Books, April 2014 in the US, Jan. 2012 in the UK), is one for those who enjoy sci fi about people making homes for humanity on strange new worlds that aren't populated by unicorn kittens. Which is to say, darkish ones for older readers.  And this is why it took me a while to read the book.

I started several months ago, and found myself on a planet without a sun.  Life here on Eden comes from the hot core of the planet, and the indigenous creatures have evolved enough bioluminescence for humans to survive.    But the humans aren't exactly thriving--quite quickly we learn that this is in in-bred group, all descended from two people a few generations back, and it's clear that they are rapidly loosing the technology and learning of Earth.  

And the book didn't work for me immediately--I just didn't want to be on Eden, with a somewhat miserable group of people in a weird dark place all sitting around in one small valley waiting for Earth to find them again, stuck with them on a world that brought them no sense of wonder or beauty

But I came back to it, and was rewarded.   Because one of the young men of Eden, John Redlantern, is also tired of just sitting there in a valley whose resources are being strained by the growing population of Family.  And he leads a small group away from the first settlement, experimenting,  innovating, taking Eden for what it is, and making it a place where people can actually Live, as opposed to simply surviving.

Of course, there are many who don't want change, and who hate John for breaking up Family.   And so, along with hope, John brings war to Eden...

And the reading of the book was very much like the story of the book--a reluctance to be there, with a gradually growing sense that there were people I could care about, and wonders of Eden beyond that first small valley that really were the stuff of wonder.    And as the book gathered steam, the central point--that the life worth lived is one that's not spent passively waiting to be somewhere else, that being Here, and doing all you can with that, is what's important, became tremendously appealing and interesting.  

So although it never quite became a book I loved, it did become one I read with ever more riveted fascination, helped along by the character's own realization that they were making a new Story that would shape the future of Eden.

Some added value comes from an exploration of gender roles.  Though John is the Hero of the epic that he is creating, narrating much of the story, a young woman who goes with him, Tina, narrates considerable parts of it.  And through her eyes we gain an awareness of a matriarchal society being challenged, and a sense of questioning how women can fit into this new story created by this new hero.  I myself would have liked to see Tina given an ending with stronger hints that there will be power for her, and other women, in the new future, but at least the issue was raised.   There's also the inclusion of a central character with a disability (club feet, resulting from the inbreeding), who is the smartest of the bunch and who is right up there in terms of being an essential creator of the new future for the Edenites.

 
 
This isn't a book for kids-- there's considerable, very casual, sex, there's incest, there's attempted rape, and there's violence, and some may be disturbed by the fact that the religions of Earth have become distorted and irrelevant.   But I can imagine lots and lots of older readers finding much here to appreciate, and indeed, having typed that I see that Dark Eden won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2013 (that's the UK cover on right).  And I am genuinely intrigued by the sequel, Mother of Eden, coming out in the UK this November, which promises to confront  the issue of the role of women in patriarchal societies.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publishers.

The KidLitCon 2014 Program is out in the world!

So for the past six weeks, I have been much preoccupied with developing the program for KidLitCon 2014 (Oct. 20-11, Sacramento--register here) and at last it is out in the world!

There are two smallish things I'm still waiting for before it is All  Done, but it is done enough to go out in public, and here it is. I am somewhat abashed to realize I put myself first.  It was not intentional :)

Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?October 11 and 12, 2014  Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, Sacramento, CA

(Link to Registration Form) (Link to KidLitCon Main Page)
 

Friday, October 11

8:30-9:30 Registration
9:30-9:55  Welcome and Opening Remarks

10-10:50 A  Finding Your Voice, Finding Your Passion- Blogging With Conviction 
Charlotte Taylor Charlotte’s Library
Blogging is hard work, made easier by passion. Having an intense focus (such as a passion for some aspect of diversity, or some particular sub-genre) can both motivate the blogger and help the blog find its audience. But passion and conviction by themselves aren’t enough to make a blog a success for both its writer(s) and its readers—you have to be able to communicate them effectively. Topics in this session will include how to find the voice, or voices, that work for you, and how to use them to make a stronger, more powerful blog.

10-10:50 B   Finding and Reviewing the Best in Diverse Children’s and YA
Nathalie Mvondo Multiculturalism Rocks!Gayle Pitman The Active VoiceKim Baccellia Si, Se Puede- Yes, You Can!
Many bloggers want to review more diverse books, but are uncertain about where to find the best ones, and are uncertain how to evaluate and promote them. This session, featuring three bloggers who focus on multicultural and LBGT books,  will help bloggers get diverse books onto their blogs and into the hand so young readers.  

11-11:50 A    Sistahs (and Brothers) Are Doing It for Themselves  — Independent Publishing From the Creators’ and the Bloggers’ Points of View    
Laura Atkins Laura Atkins, Children’s Book EditorZetta Elliott Fledgling[with blogger to be determined]
Is it possible, in a publishing world that so dramatically lacks diversity in its offerings, to provide viable alternatives, using people power to provide books that all children in this country can relate to and enjoy? We think so! An ever growing number of authors and illustrators are independently creating children’s books, and many of these are about diverse subjects and children. An editor, and author and self-publisher, and a blogger come together to talk about different models and approaches to creating independent children’s’ books, and the role of bloggers in publicizing them, with a discussion of reviewing self-published books from the blogger’s point of view. 

11-11:50 B Social Media Tips and Tricks for Bloggers
Kelly Jensen (Stacked and Book Riot)
You write a blog post and now you want people to find it. This session will give you tips and tricks for best social media practices across a variety of platforms, including Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Learn how to build an engaged and excited readership, as well as how to manage the nitty-gritty components of social media. Whether you’re new at it or you fancy yourself a seasoned pro, you’ll learn some new best practices.

12-1:30 Lunch (box lunches included in price of registration)   
This first lunch will feature optional talk clusters, where bloggers can gather with those who share their particular interests (such as “diverse spec. fic”  “picture book reviewing”  “middle grade books”  “LBTG” etc.), with the option of general seating as well. (Please share ideas for conversational groups with Charlotte Taylor (charlotteslibrary@gmail.com).

1:30-3   Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story 
Edith Campbell Crazy Quilt EdiHannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómezJewell Parker Rhodes
While gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or ability add to who we are, they do not define who we are. And these differences do not define our stories. How do we teach, discuss, or describe diverse books without making diversity the issue? Should we? How do we respond to the perception that ʺdiverse booksʺ are only for ʺdiverse peopleʺ and deliver book reviews and essays that highlight what makes books universal for those disinclined to think diversity is for them while acknowledging readers who need and deserve to find themselves in literature? Presenters Edith Campbell, Hannah Gómez, and author Jewell Parker Rhodes will deliver an interactive session with talking points, booktalks, strategies and much honest discussion.

3-5 Author Mix and Mingle
Meet and mingle with authors, publishers, and of course fellow bloggers! Signed books to buy, swag and ARCs to snag, good conversations to be had. 

Dinner (paid for individually) at The River City Brewing Company

Saturday, October 11

8-9 Registration for new arrivals

9-10 KEYNOTE  Mitali Perkins— Can Bloggers Diversify the Children’s Book World? You Bet We Can.
Blogger and author Mitali Perkins will share stories of how some key blogs have made a difference through the years, offer practical tips on how to influence our circle of blog readers, and discuss how to integrate our social media platforms with our blogs for maximum impact.
Mitali Perkins (mitaliperkins.com) has written nine novels for young readers, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association’s Top Ten Novels for Young Adults, starred in Publishers Weekly as “a graceful exploration of the redemptive power of love, family, and friendship.”) Mitali graduated from Stanford University in Political Science and received her Masters in Public Policy from U.C. Berkeley. After spending 13 winters in Boston, she now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her blog, “Mitali’s Fire Escape: A Safe Place to Think, Chat, and Read About Life Between Cultures” (mitaliblog.com), has been around since April 23, 2005.

10-10:25 Break

10:25 -11:05  Beyond the Echo Chamber of the Kidlitosphere: Reaching Readers.
So you’ve read the book and written your review. Now what? Learn where the readers are, how to reach them and what to say so they’ll listen.
Pam Margolis, Unconventional Librarian

11:15 to 12:  Skype session with Shannon Hale

12-1:30 Lunch (box lunches included in the price of registration)

1:30-3  We Need Diverse Books Presents:  Book Bloggers and Diversity, an Unbeatable Combination  with Mike Jung, Karen Sandler, S.E. Sinkhorn, and Martha White
In the first part of this session, the panelists will share the lessons learned from the very successful #WeNeedDiverseBooks social media campaign with regard to crafting your message, using your message, and establishing an emotional connection. Second, the panelists will focus on how diverse children’s literature can enrich our blogs, and how authors and editors can further expand the content available to us.

3:-3:30 Break

3:30-5  We’re Not Going To Take It and Neither Should You: Why Book Bloggers DO Have the Ability to Make Divers Books Happen
Hannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómezKelly Jensen Stacked and Book RiotFaythe Arrendondo YALSA-The HubSummer Khaleq Miss Fictional’s World of YA Books
We know bloggers matter to the publishing industry and to readers. And we know reading diversely is important for all readers, as it opens up your worldview. But how can bloggers effect positive change when it comes to diversity? This session will explore the ways bloggers can audit their own reading habits, assess and address personal biases, as well as create and curate stronger content as it relates to diversity in all shapes and forms — race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, body image, and more. We’ll offer tools and tips for not just finding and highlighting diverse reads, but also how to advocate for diversity within one’s own blog and beyond. This is more than an awareness of diversity; it’s an opportunity and an obligation for active change.
5-9 Banquet at The Citizen Hotel (included in conference price)
____
We welcome your feedback about the 2014 KidLitCon!
Charlotte Taylor: Program Coordinator
with:
Sarah Stevenson and Tanita Davis and Jen Robinson: Co-Chairs
Reshama Deshmukh and Melissa Fox: Author Coordinators
Maureen Kearney: Registration Coordinator
_____

8/26/14

Requiem for a Princess, by Ruth M. Arthur, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's time travel book is Requiem for a Princess, by Ruth M. Arthur, which is one of those nice English books that American libraries were buying in the 1960s, often illustrated by Margery Gill, and mostly deacessioned at this point, and if you are lucky you find them in library booksales.  Ruth M. Arthur is an author I'll automatically buy at such sales, though I have yet to find a book of hers I love.  I had hoped Requiem for a Princess would be that book, as it has lots of elements I enjoy (old house, old garden, time-slippishness, historical mystery, music), but sadly it never quite hooked me emotionally.

Here is the story:

When she is 15, and off at boarding school studying music, Willow Forrestser is told by another girl that she is adopted.   The shock is considerable, and in as much as she can't bring herself to talk to her parents about it, and is still weak from a nasty case of flue, she has something of a breakdown.  Happily she gets to take time off school to recuperate, and goes to Cornwall, to a lovely old house by the coast, where she builds her strength back up doing light gardening and piano playing (I feel I could use this too).

There she finds herself intrigued by the story of Isabel, a young Spanish girl adopted by the head of the family at the beginning of the 17th century (a time when the Spanish were not loved by the English).   Nobody can tell her much about Isabel, though her portrait hangs in the house and Willow sleeps in her room...just that she was assumed to have drowned when she was still young.   But Willow can't stop wondering, as she restores the Spanish Garden Isabel laid out, and walks the same paths along the shore.  And gradually she finds herself dreaming, more and more vividly, of Isabel's life back in the past.  Through her dreams, she sees the growing danger surrounding Isabel, and the nightmarish events that led the night when she disappeared from history.

The book is told in the first person points of view of Willow in the present, and Isabel in the past.  This is time travel as spectator sport--Willow is an uninvolved observer, and though there are two loose ends to Isabel's story that get tied up because of Willow, there is little meaningful interaction of past and present (it's more like two parallel stories, one present and one past, than it is time travel, but there's just enough substance to Willow's dreaming to make me able to count it.

Though both the girls are emotionally perturbed for much of the book, the book itself is not full of fraught immediacy.   There's a distance to the whole tone, with emotions told and not shown.  Willow is an interested, but somewhat dispassionate observer of her own life and Isabel's.   Isabel is a somewhat passive exile.  Why does she just accept the fact that she's stuck in Cornwall? She never suggests to anyone that a letter be written to her family in Spain. It is also not believable how isolated from the community she is.  She is not particularly emotionally convincing either.

So the beautiful setting and the pleasing historical mystery are enough to carry the story, and I think for the young romantic daydreaming 10 or 11 year old it would all be magical.....especially since it all ends well...but for the grown-up who has read lots of similar stories, there's just not quite enough here to make it one to love.

Although I did appreciate that the piece of music that gives the book its name, Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte, which Willow plays often, is one I myself played (very badly) back in the day (here is a nice piano version of it).

(Ruth M. Arthur seems rather collectible--I was surprised by how expensive some of her books, like this one, are even when ex-library.   Probably it is a boom fueled people who read the books when they were young back in the 1960s/70s, who were enchanted then, and nostalgic now....I am very glad I have copies of the books I loved most when I was young, so that I don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to find them again.....)



8/25/14

Me at FangirlNation, talking about middle grade sci fi/fantasy

I am still more or less on vacation here, but you can find some of my thoughts and book recommendations of middle grade speculative fiction over at FangirlNation!

8/24/14

This week's round of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (8/24/14)

 A light week for reviews....I myself have nothing, because of being on vacation, desperately trying to Make Happy Memories for the children darn it.   Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, at Fantasy Book Critic

Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny, by Malia Ann Haberman, at Words Escape Me

The Cottage in the Woods, by Katherine Coville, at Educating Alice

Dreamwood, by Heather Mackley, at Bibliobrit

Evil Fairies Love Hair, by Mary G. Thompson, The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm, at Educating Alice, Waking Brain Cells, and Hope Is the Word

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at The Book Monsters

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle, by George Hagen, at Wandering Librarians

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Leaf's Reviews

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at The Hiding Spot

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Hades Speaks, byVicky Alvear Schecter, at Mom Read It

The League of Seven, by Alan Gratz,  at Ms. Yingling Reads, thebookshelfgargoyle, Librarian of Snark, and Tor

The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson, at Geo Librarian

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at Welcome to my (New) Tweendom

The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhands, by Jen Swann Downey, at Tales of the Marvelous

Odessa Again, by Dana Reinhardt,  at Not Acting My Age

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Philip Reeve, at Becky's Book Reviews

The River Singers, by Tom Moorhouse, at Wondrous Reads

Rose and the Lost Princess, by Holly Webb, at alibrarymama

Rose and the Magician's Mask, by Holly Webb, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

A Stranger at Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, at Semicolon


Authors and Interviews

Jennifer Donnelly (Deep Blue) at A Backwards Story

 Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at Small Review and Word Spelunking

Marcus Sedgwick (The Raven Mysteries) at Wondrous Reads


Other Good Stuff

The Application Period for Cybils Judging closes Sept. 5 and because Cybils judging is really really fun you should seriously think of applying.   (Some categories get more applicants than others--"picture books" gets many more applications than it can handle, whereas "graphic novels" has not yet gotten much love this year.  MG SF is kind of in the middle).

Via Waking Brain Cells--casting news for A Monster Calls (Sigourney Weaver!)

From Teen Librarian Toolbox--  the good things the Ferguson Library is doing (yay libraries!)

Malorie Blackman (UK children's laureate) talks diversity in children's books at The Gaurdian

The lastest Kidlitcon shoutout from Tanita at Finding Wonderland


And speaking of diversity, September brings the More Diverse Universe reading challenge!  yay!  (I would kind of like to include in my reading a non-fiction book about science for grown-ups, just for a change; any recommendations? The requirement is that the author be a POC.)



Brave Kitties of WW I!  at io9.  Trench warfare is hell, but better when you have a kitty friend.

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