Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack for Timeslip Tuesday

If you have a six to eight year old who loves dinosaurs and is reading at the Early Chapter Book level of large font and generous spacing and who really thinks it would be cool to have a Dino Jacket full of dino special effects and neat gadgets, by all means try Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack (Stone Arch Books, March 2015) , written and illustrated by Franco. It's the first in a series of dino-filled adventures staring Mike, who has just such a jacket, and who meets lots of dinosaurs over the course of his adventures.

For reasons never made convincing (in this first book at least), some people think they should bring back the dinosaurs, using time travel to do so, resulting in a rouge T. Rex rampaging around the dig where Mike is hanging with his paleontologist dad.  For reasons that do not require explanation, there are other people working to stop the dinosaur lovers, and in this case a oprative named Shannon, a girl a bit older than Mike, has been given the task of capturing the T. Rex.  

T Rexs are hard to capture, especially so if there's an enemy agent working against you.  Mike and Shannon have lots of close calls and there are lots of exciting dinosaur chases (some dinosaur chasing kid, some kid chasing dinosaur).  The time travel part, though not explored in great detail, added interest, and leaves lots of room for further books.  Generously sprinkled illustrations of big eyed kids (and big toothed T. Rex)  add to the young-reader friendly-ness of the mix.

This book, however, made a mistake that annoys me no end. A paleontological excavation for fossils is not an "archaeological dig" and Mike's dad had no business saying so.

There are other books about Dino-Mike, one of which, Dino-Mike and the Jurassic Portal, sounds more time-travel focused than The T. Rex attack, which serves more as an introduction to the scenario, and so I will probably look out for it, though I'm not sure I feel the need to read all eight books in the series (six currently out, plus two more coming August 1, 2016)
So if you are the target audience, enjoy them!  I'm not, but still they seem to me the sort of books that are a good gateway to a life of geeky spec fic reading....


The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale

If you are looking for a book to offer a third to fifth grader who likes supernatural mayhem mixed with the real world, The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale is a good one!

What do you do when your favorite teacher starts acting very strangely indeed, chasing chickens around the classroom and suddenly sprouting hair on his very bald head?  Best friends Carlos and Benny decide to figure out what's going on, with the help of the owner of their favorite comic book store (a former wrestling star, now using a wheelchair).  She's a font of information on the supernatural, as well as running a great store!  But then what do you do when you realize that he's turning into a were-hyena, a curse that will be permanent by the time the next full moon arrives (in just a few days) and that (as is the normal way of were-creatures) there must be at least one other were-hyena in town who bit him?

Carlos and Benny are determined to find a cure for Mr. Chu, even if it involves breaking into the town museum, being trapped in a tree by an angry were-hyena, and hanging out in a cemetery at night with hyena bait on hand.  They get almost more than they bargained for, but happily all goes well...though the story ends with the promise of more monster hunting to come.

It's a fast read, with lots to chuckle at, and the descriptions are very vivid. Young readers who like monster stories will eat it up.  The supernatural escapades are leavened by real life threads of friend and family issues, and those looking for diversity in their reading will appreciate Mexican-American Carlos (and the wheelchair-using comic store owner).

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (7/24/16)

The letter C (my favorite letter, naturally) did rather well in this week's round-up, although perennial frontrunner S still won.  Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Calling on Dragons, by Patricia Wrede, at Lunar Rainbows

A Clatter of Jars, by Lisa Graff, at My Brain On Books

Cogheart, by Peter Bunzl, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Copper Gauntlet, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, at Got My Book (audiobook review_

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale, at Prose and Kahn

The Drake Equation, by Bart King, at Always in the Middle

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, by David Neilsen, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies, at Leaf's Reviews

Fuzzy, by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dillinger, at Sharon the Librarian

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, by Cahterynne M. Valente, at Falling Letters

Goblin Secrets, by William Alexander, at Nerdy Book Club

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field, at Kidlitgeek

The Might Odds, by Amy Ignatow, at Fuse #8

The Ministry of Ghosts, by Alex Shearer, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Once Was a Time, by Leila Sales, at The Book Wars

The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee, by Erin Petti, at Middle Grade Mafioso

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, by Jonathan Auxier, at Semicolon

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde, at Leaf's Reviews

Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty, at BooksForKidsBlog

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, at Michelle I. Mason

Shadows of the Dark Crystal (#1), by J. M. Lee, at Mom Read It

The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians #4) by Brandon Sanderson, at Geo Librarian

Space Hostages, by Sophia McDougall, at Bibliobrit

Summons (Fable Rangers #1) by A.L. Brown, at Sharon the Librarian

The Thief's Apprentice, by Bryan Methods, at This Kid Reviews Books

Authors and Interviews

Sarah Beth Durst (The Girl Who Could Not Dream) at Finding Wonderland

N. Cauldron (Anya and the Secrets of Cupola) at Carpinello's Writing Pages

Other Good Stuff

Ursula Le Guin announces "the Big Book of Earthsea," illustrated by Charles Vass, at Book View Café, and talks about how they are working together to make her dragons just right.

NASA sends Groot and Rocket into space, on a mission patch! Via io9

Via 100 Scope Notes, here's a Moomin documentary

Covering the Dark Is Rising at The Booklist Reader

A Toothless couch for all the How to Train Your Dragon fans, via Tor

The latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them can be seen at Tor

And finally, I am the program organizer for Kidlitcon 2016, and I need programs to organize!  Here's a post I wrote with information and ideas.


Kidliton 2016--looking for panelists!

For the third year in a row, I find myself in charge of organizing the panels for Kidlitcon, which this year takes place in Wichita this October.  Kidlitcon is an annual conference primarily of children's book bloggers, although authors, librarians, teachers, readers, and publishers are all part of the mix.

The theme this year is  Gatekeepers and Keymasters: Connecting bloggers, librarians, teachers, authors, and parents to promote literacy.  Adults are the ones with the money (though not necessarily enough money!) who buy children's books, and we want to talk about how this role plays out in real life--the challenges we face, the opportunities available, the ways to be the best Gatekeepers we can be (or even how we can subvert the gatekeeping process, to let kids play a role in their own choices).

So there's lots to talk about, and we need people to come to Wichita to talk about it!  You can email me directly with ideas (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com), or fill out the submission form found here. (but please don't delay too long--I want to have a solid program by the second week of August).

We've gotten some good proposals already, but we need more.  Here are some ideas for panels that I'd personally be interested in (though please come up with your own ideas too!).  There's redundancy in the ideas I share here, but with different slants.  I would really really really like diversity  to be part of the conference, but because we are small (aka we have no money) we can't invite speakers and waive the registration fee, so I can't make that happen by myself.

Checking Privilege and Bias--big issues, useful tips (gender, race, religion, disability, sexuality, politics, economic inequalities)

Beyond the book review--using your blog to talk about what matters to you (having built an audience for your blog, you have the opportunity to shape discourse on other book/literacy issues--I'd love to hear other bloggers talk about how they've done this!)

What is "middle grade?"  How do gatekeepers judge/evaluate/promote books for this age group (9-12)

Who is the audience?  reviewing (and writing books, for any interested authors) with an eye toward the "right" reader

Finding hidden gems- reviewing and promoting great books from small publishers and self-published books

How do we judge is "good."  Critical reviewing, going beyond our own preferences, acknowledging bias, being mindful.  How can we be critical outside our own areas of experience and expertise?

Who is the reader-- Identifying readers for whom a book might truly resonate

Being part of a community, in real life and in the Kidlitosphere

One from last year that I wasn't able to go to that could serve as a springboard for another panel-- Authentic Voices Pam Margolis and Liz Burns
"The importance of diverse representation in children’s fiction and nonfiction is becoming more widely recognized in the children’s book community. But as important as it is to have diverse books, it’s just as important that they be authentic. As bloggers, how can we do our part? Evaluating diverse representations can be difficult if we don’t have any direct experience or knowledge of the represented group. This panel will look at the issues of authentic representation in children’s literature and important considerations for bloggers, with a particular focus on books featuring LGBTQA+ and differently-abled people"

Making the most of alternate platforms and social media (podcasts, book tube, and all the other things social media)

Author and bloggers and publishers working together.  Such a panel was presented in 2011, and could be revisited)
"Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My!
Presented and facilitated by Pam Coughlan and Liz Burns, with Kirby Larson and Zoe Luderitz
In Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My! the panel will explore the relationships of the various members of the children’s literature industry. The age of social media is blurring the already indistinct boundaries between reviewer and author, blogger and publisher, author and publicist. The opportunities of this new communication and collaboration are extraordinary, but the questions are also increasing in terms of disclosure, standards, and professionalism. This panel hopes to address these issues with input and questions from the attendees."

another from 2011 I'd like to hear more about--
"The Future of Transmedia Storytelling: Angel Punk, Pottermore, and Skeleton Creek
Presented by Amber Keyser, Devon Lyon, Matthew Wilson, and Jake Rossman
Transmedia storytelling refers to the delivery of story through a variety of media.  These forms can include film, graphic novels, traditional books, flash fiction, iPhone/iPad delivery of content, and various forms of audio.  Typically, story lines are interwoven and connected but not strictly repetitive.  Often, fan engagement and participation in the creative process are facilitated by social media.  J.K. Rowling’s new venture, Pottermore, is an excellent example that promises to extend and enhance the experience of the Harry Potter series. Increasingly, all media forms - books, movies, games and TV shows - are looking for transmedia opportunities. During this session, the AngelPunk.co team discusses their approach to transmedia storytelling and gives an inside look into the complex structure necessary to delivery story via novels, feature film, comic books, and an interactive fan site."

Beyond fiction--Looking at STEM books and non-fiction

and a few other perennial favorites--

Balancing the Personal and Professional on your blog (for authors and bloggers), blogging the backlist, boy books/girl books, group blogging....

So once again, please come be part of the conversation at Kidlitcon 2016!  You can email me directly with ideas (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com), or fill out the submission form found here. (please don't delay too long--I want to have a solid program by the second week of August!)


Roses, by Rose Mannering

Roses, by Rose Mannering (Sky Pony Press), went on my to-be-read list when it first came out in 2013, and I read the Kirkus review--"A lyrical, remarkably unusual retelling breeds new life into the “Beauty and the Beast” tale." But other books happened, and I would periodically look at it in my Amazon cart and sigh, and continue to want to read it.  So I was very happy when I was offered a review copy to coincide with the new paperback edition and sat down with high hopes.

We meet Beauty as an orphan, taken in by a wealthy woman who doesn't actually want her (the backstory to this is revealed as the story progresses) and she's unloved, unwanted, and freakishly strange--her skin is silvery and her hair is white, making her name, which is thrown at her for lack of anything better, seem at first ironic.  In a country building up to paranoid hatred for magic and magical persons, being not entirely human looking is a huge strike against her.

When the magic-haters take over her home city, Beauty is taken up into the hills by the family's horseman (the one person who truly cares for her) and still not yet adult, starts a new life with him there in the village he came from.  But the villagers in the hills also think she is strange, and her protector's own biological daughter who he left behind as a baby is (naturally) jealous as heck that her father loves the odd orphan girl more than her. Then the violence that drove Beauty from her first home catches up to her in the hills, and the Beast story enters the picture, and so to save her foster father after he took a rose from the magical castle in the forest, she goes to live with the beast.

Fans of Robin McKinley's Beauty will enjoy the next part, because Roses is essentially the same, down to the world of the garden reflecting the weakening of the spell, the magical  library, the horse that is Beauty's best friend.  I loved this part, and wish it had started before page 179.  There are some diffence, enough to make it interesting, but it felt very familiar in general.

The problem with beginning a book when the main character is a baby is that it is tedious to watch her grow up. I feel I had gotten the point of Beauty's unhappy childhood in the big house in the city long before that part of the story was over, and I felt like I was slogging a bit. Bits of interest about the world and its magic/non-magic tensions hinted at a larger story to come, but it had never fully materialized even by the end of the book.  Getting up in the hill country, where Beauty starts taming wild horses, was good, and getting to the castle was better.  But I kept feeling that the author repeatedly was making points that I'd already grasped, or hinting at, but not fully grappling with, the larger story, which made me feel somewhat frustrated

The larger social issues of violence against magical beings swings into the story's ending, rather abruptly and with no particular emotional resonance because of feeling rushed.  There's definitly lots of room for more story to happen, as Beauty learns who her parents are and becomes more aware of her own powers of magic and figures out how to use them.

Roses did have something that's rather rare in fantasy--religion is a cherished part of the lives of several main characters, praying brings comfort, and the village priest up in the mountains is wise and compassionate, though we don't hear much about the dogma of the religion.  Religion as part o daily life, that brings comfort (as opposed to angry gods and cults of savage priests) is something so seldom mentioned in YA fantasy that it was a refreshing change.

Final thought--didn't quite work for me mostly for reasons of personal preference but also because of a feeling that the larger Magic vs the World plot and Absent Magical Parents plot was unevenly woven into the story.  And also because the Castle part felt rather too familiar.

That being said, give this one to a horse loving young teen who likes fairy tales, and I bet they will enjoy it lots!

The second book in this trilogy, Feathers, has just been released--though it seems more companion than sequel, I'm invested enough in this world and it's problems that it's now on my reading list, and hopefully will be read in a more timely fashion than was the case with Roses!


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (7/17/16)

No contributions from me this week (except one at B. and N.); I've been in deadline mode for a work side of my life project...but here are the posts from others; please let me know if I missed anything!

The Reviews

The Apprentice Witch, by James Nicol, at Playing by the Book (with bonus (lovely) charm making!)

Brightwood, by Tania Unsworth, at Hidden in Pages

The Girl of Ink and Shadows, by Kiran Millwood, at Bart's Bookshelf

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Jana The Teacher

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Hidden in Pages

The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice, by Andrew S. Chilton, at Fantasy Book Critic

The Lost Compass, by Joel Ross, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl 4), by Eoin Colfer, at Say What?

The Peddler's Road, by Matthew Cody, at Say What?

The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau, at Leaf's Reviews

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Ferrey, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Seraphina and the Twisted Staff, by Robert Beatty, at B. and N. Kids Blog

The Seventh Element (Voyagers 6), by Wendy Mass, at Say What?

The Shadow Cadets of Pennyroyal Academy, by M.A. Larson, at On Starships and Dragonwings (audiobook review)

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier, at Life With the Tribe

Sparkers. by Eleanor Glewwe, at Finding Wonderland

The Sword in the Stacks (Ninja Librarians 2), by Jen Swann Downey, at Nerdy Book Club and To Read or Not to Read?

The Wish, by Gail Carson Levine, at Read Till Dawn

Authors and Interviews

James Nicol (The Apprentice Witch) at Nayu's Reading Corner


Serafina and the Twisted Staff, by Robert Beatty, at The Children's Book Review, and Both Serafina books at Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Other Good Stuff

Philip Pullman has a middle grade graphic novel coming out-- The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship; read more at Tor.

Warrior series read-alikes at Jean Little Library

Ellen DeGeneres is producing the movie version of Ursula Vernon's Castle Hangnail! (I love that book!)  More here.


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (july 10, 2016)

Here are the middle grade fantasy and sci fi posts I found in my combing of book blogs this week; please let me know if I missed yours!

The Reviews

Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson, at Lunar Rainbows

The Beginner's Guide to Curses: Spellchasers 1, by Lari Don, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Big Dark, by Rodman Philbrick, at Say What?

The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase, by Wendy Mass, at Say What?

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, at Leaf's Reviews

The Curse of the Were-Hyena, by Bruce Hale, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Darkstalker, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Charlotte's Library

The Forgotten Sisters,by Shannon Hale, at Reading Violet

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Lazy Day Literature

Grayling's Song, by Karen Cushman, at the NY Times, and Cracking the Cover

The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan, at Book Munchies

The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz, at Fuse #8

The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians #3), by Brandon Sanderson, at Geo Librarian

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, by Robin Yardi, at Jean Little Library

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, by Jennifer Maschari, at Randomly Reading

School of the Dead, by Avi, at Say What?

Serafina and the Twisted Staff, by Robert Beatty, at The Book Smugglers

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile, Charlotte's Library, and Welcome to My (New) Tweendom

The Silver Bowl, by Diane Stanley, at Leaf's Reviews

Thor: Dueling with Giants, by Keith R.A. DeCandido, at Diary of a Reading Addict

The Voyage to Magical North, by Claire Fayers,at On Starships and Dragonwings and Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, at Waking Brain Cells

Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, at @HomeLibrarian

Authors and Interviews

Bontle Senne (Shadow Chasers Book 1: Powers of the Knife), at The Book Fairy's Haven (a South African debut)


Serafina and the Black Cloak and Serafina and the Twisted Staff, by Robert Beatty, at The Book Smugglers

Other Good Stuff

Not much other good stuff in this sad, sad week.  But here's what I have.

The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize long list is up, and even though it's not middle grade, I am in love with this cover in particular (it's an Othello retelling in space).

Kidlitcon 2016 is coming this October in Wichita, Kansas!  Kidlitcon is a conference of book bloggers and others interested in wide-ranging conversations about children's books.  This year's theme is Gatekeepers and Keymasters: Connecting bloggers, librarians, teachers, authors, and parents to promote literacy.   The call for presenters is currently open; if you would like to be part of a panel, but don't feel ready to organize one yourself, please sent me an email (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com) to let me know what you might be interested in talking about!

And also on the horizon are the Cybils Awards, given by bloggers.  Now is the time to start thinking about applying to be a panelist--it is open to all bloggers, and we welcome new folks!  So get your sample posts ready for the category of your choosing. Here's a Cybils information post I did last year.  All of you who's blogs regularly appear in these round ups--do consider applying in Middle Grade Speculative Fiction (the category for which I am organizer).  It is lots of fun.


The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner (Bloomsbury, June 2016), spins off of the fairytale of the fisherman and the wish-granting fish a middle-grade contemporary story dealing with the hard issue of drug addiction.

Charlie misses her big sister Abby, in her first year at college, but she's happy to fill her time with her friends and her relatively new passion for Irish dancing.  Ice-fishing brings in a bit of extra cash to help her buy just the right shinny dress for her Irish dance competitions...and it brings magic into her life when she catches a fish that grants wishes. 

As is so often the case with hasty wishes, they don't go quite right--her friend Drew didn't actually want to make it onto the basketball team, and her mother's new, and much-wanted/needed job means that sometimes what Charlie wants has to go out the window.  And there's the fish's mix-up between Roberto Sullivan, the boy Charlie wants to have a crush on her, and Bobby O'Sullivan, the boy that now is infatuated with her.  But these problems pale into comparison when more serious trouble enters her family--smart, athletic, beautiful Abby has become a heroin addict, and there's no way to wish that away forever.

But Charlie's family is strong enough to hold together, and Charlie is strong enough to realize that she can't make everything all better with wishes, or promises from Abby never to use drugs again.  So even when the seventh wish is gone, and the magic fades away, though there's no guarantee that everything will be all better, there is hope.

The topic of drug addiction is a serious one, that is taken seriously in the story,  It's disturbing how easy Abby's path to heroin was--starting with the familiar, readily available Adderall and moving on down the line.  It's clear how easily substance abuse can take over someone's life, even if that person has a loving family and lots going for them.  And it's clear that Abby's never going to be truly out of the woods, and that what seemed like it should be an easy path through life for her is now gone. 

But this darkness isn't presented in any graphic or overpowering way that is inappropriate for middle grade readers (9-12 year olds). The Seventh Wish still manages to be a warm, friendly, and funny story.  Charlie grieves, is angry, is resentful, is in denial--all the things that one would expect from a middle school kid.  But she's a strong enough person with a strong enough family to still be aware of the good and the funny and the beautiful things in life, and Kate Messenr shares such things generously.  Charlie learns, with some help from the Serentity prayer, that there are some things she can change for the better without magic, and that she can still love her sister. (And poor magic-ed Bobby O'Sullivan gets a nice ending too once the magic wears off....)

The drug addiction in The Seventh Wish triggered some backlash (you can read about it at Kate Messner's blog).  But gee, kids don't live in bubble wrap, and why the heck not encourage them to read an educating, eye-opening story about a huge real-world problem (or for some kids, a story that's personally familiar that might make them feel less alone) that's also a good, fun story?

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


Darkstalker, by Tui T. Sutherland

Tui T. Sutherland's Wings of Fire books are deservedly wildly popular with their target middle grade audience (and me).  The books are set in a world full of warring clans of dragons, each clan with its own physiological and cultural differences.  The first series is about young dragons working to bring peace to their war torn world.  The second series introduces a new group of dragons, who meet at a dragon boarding school for intercultural understanding, and then go off and have adventures.  Though this story line (now at three books) is going to continue, Tui T. Sutherland found herself taking a break from it to go way back in time and write the story of Darkstalker, an enigmatic, incredibly powerful, and trapped dragon who the young boarding school dragonets come into contact with...and then have to decide if they want to free him from his horrible fate.

So Darkstalker, the first book of the Wings of Fire Legends series (Scholastic, June 28, 2016) can be read as a standalone book, the story of three young dragons caught in trap of magic.  Fathom is a young Seawing dragon who has the animus power of magic that turned his grandfather into a homicidal maniac ( a very appealing new character).  Clearsight is a Darkwing with an extraordinary prophetic gift.  And Darkstalker is the child of on an animus Icewing prince, now exiled, and a Darkwing, and he has all the gifts of magic possible, making him the most powerful dragon ever.  When he transfers his animus powers to an enchanted scroll, he avoids the trap of insanity that goes with that magic, and now there are no limits to what he can accomplish.  Except, perhaps, for Clearsight's prophecies and her love for him, and his for her.  But will that be enough to keep Darkstalker from being corrupted by all the power at his disposal, and keep him from using it to get the revenge he wants on those who have wronged him?

When we meet Darkstalker in Moon Rising, it's not at all clear if he is good or evil, or in-between...and this mystery adds tension to the book and its sequels.  So you shouldn't read Darkstalker first on its own, because then you will have a very clear idea of just what sort of dragon he is....and it isn't pretty.  Although if  you do read this one as your introduction to Wings of Fire, you might have hope that there will be a happy ending, fans of the series know already that that didn't work out.  There were good reasons why he ended up imprisoned.  In fact, one of the things he does is so very horrible that there doesn't seem to be much chance of redemption for him, and it's so horrible that sensitive readers will not want that image in their heads at all (forcing another dragon to eat himself alive).   The Wings of Fire books don't shy away from violence, but this is the most extreme example.

That being said, fans of the books will enjoy this one too (and already have, judging by the long string of five star reviews on Amazon)--the dragons are all well-characterized, and the experience is as immersive as ever.  Except that for the first time I was a tad bothered by a bit of the world building--there were some problems of scale, because if the dragons are so big that they keep humans (aka scavengers) as small pets in cages, why are they growing human-scale plants in window boxes?  But that will probably not trouble the many young fans at all.

And now I can continue to look forward to the next book in the main series, knowing that things are going to be very tense indeed....

Side note--the Wings of Fire website has lots of fun things to do, and a friendly fan community, and now origami has been added to the mix, which I had hoped my boys and I would try out in time for this review, but it was not to be....


The Time Travler's Handbook, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Time Traveler's Handbook, by Wyllie, Acton, and Goldblatt (Harper Design, May 2016) is designed to prepare the traveler for eighteen extraordinary trips back to the past.  It's not a fictional account of adventures there, but more a guidebook to where to find food, what to wear, how to get around, and more.  It reads very much like a good travel guide, throwing historical context into the mixed so that your experience of the past is informed by details of what's happening.   The time travel company offers a variety of trips-- you can join Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, see the premier of Julius Caesar at the Globe,  march on Versailles with the revolutionary women of Paris.  The trips are strongly Europe and the United States focused, but a trip with Captain Cook to Tahiti is offered, and one to the Xanadu of Kublai Khan.  In the cultural and sports side of things, you can go hang out at the Rumble in the Jungle at Kinshasa or see Charlie Parker at the birth of bebop or the Beatles in Hamburg....

This is a truly fun way to read about history; the framing device is present enough, and detailed enough, so that you can imagine actually being there, and it's fun knowing where you should stay and eat on your visit to Shakespeare's London!  It's not a book to read in one sitting, but it is a very good one to keep around and dip into, especially when there are other people in the room not doing anything important, so that you have someone with whom to share all the interesting tid-bits of information that you learn.  I enjoyed it very much. 

If you are teaching any of the periods covered, especially to middle school kids, you might want to check this out--the accounts are enging, easy to read, and full of information without being dry and didactic.  This is not a children's book per se, but if you are the parent of an information loving reader this might also be one to look out for.  I would have liked it from the age of eight on up if someone had given it to me (a big fan of history from an early age).  I would have liked the look and feel of it (fancy gold embossing), as well as the history within.

Here is seven year old me, re-reading for the umpteenth time my Ladybird biography of Nelson.  I sure do wish I have been given more non-fiction, because although I still have a pretty solid handle on Nelson, there are a gaps that could have been filled by the judiscious applicaton of other books at a young age.  I would have re-read my favorite bits of The Time Travellers Handbook (like the Berlin Wall coming down chapter, and the Shakespeare chapter) lots.


Here's this week's compilation of what I found in my blog reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!


The Art of Disney's Dragons by Tom Bancroft, at Small Review (not MG, but of interest)

The City of Thirst, by Carrie Ryan & John Parke David, at Got My Book (audiobook review)

A Clatter of Jars, by Lisa Graff, at Nerdy Book Club

Curse of the Were-Hyena (A Monstertown Mystery), by Bruce Hale, at The O.W.L.

Death Weavers, by Brandon Mull, at Say What?

Eden's Wish, by M. Tarra Crowl, at Reading Violet

The Fire Thief, by Terry Deary, at Time Travel Times Two

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, at The Book Wars

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, at Diary of a Reading Addict

Island of Dragons (The Unwanteds, Book 7) by Lisa McMann, at Hidden in Pages

The Knights of Crystallia, by Brandon Sanderson, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary, at Log Cabin Library

The Other Alice, by Michelle Harrison, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

School of the Dead, by Avi, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Ferry, at Charlotte's Library

Serafina and the Twisted Staff, by Robert Beatty, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Shadow Cadets of Pennyroyal Academy, by M.A. Larson, at B.and N. Kids Blog

Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs, at Kitty Cat at the Library

Sword in the Stacks (Ninja Librarians book 2), by Jen Swann Downey, at Always in the Middle

The Thief and the Beanstalk, by P.W. Catanese, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

The Tick-Tock Man (Gadgets and Gears), by Kirsten Hamilton, at BooksForKidsBlog

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper's Golden Shoes, by Keira Gillett, at Log Cabin Library

Authors and Interviews

Liesl Shurtliff (Red) at 100 Scope Notes

James Nicol (The Apprentice Witch) at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books


Both Serafina books, by Robert Beatty, at Nerdophiles, and Serafina and the Twisted Staff at Nerdophiles

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers, April 2016), is a fine dark-underbelly-of-utopia fantasy for younger middle grade readers. The Monarchy is a Happy place--negative emotions like sadness and fear vanish from peoples minds before they can take root, and so everyone is happy 24/7.  Even when their loved ones die, it all is just water off a duck's back.  In all the Monarchy, there are only three people who can experience sadness--the Queen, her daughter and heir Jeniah, and a small town girl named Aon.

Aon has grown up in the shadow of the one dark patch on the landscape of the Monarchy--Dreadwillow Carse, and when her sadness (which in large part stems from the loss of her mother) gets too much for her to bear, she finds the heavy, almost intolerable, physic darkness of the foul place gives her some relief.  Princess Jeniah learns of Dreadwillow Carse only when her dying mother takes her to the top of the highest tower of the palace (a standard part of the succession process), and tells her never, never to go there, or else the Monarchy will be destroyed. 

Jeniah doesn't want to just passively accept this dictate, and channels her grief and frustration about her mother into trying to figure out just what the secret of Dreadwill Carse is.  Her search leads her to Aon, who becomes Jeniah's eyes and ears on the ground of the Carse.  And together they find the secret, and Jeniah must make the hardest decision of her life as she figures out just what sort of queen, ruling just what sort of country, she wants to be.

The secret is fairly easy to figure out in general terms for experienced fantasy readers, which diminished the emotional power of the story for me, but the 9 or 10 year old reader might not pick up on the clues as quickly as I did.  And so though the ending lacked some emotional impact for me, because I was expecting it, the horror may well pack a strong punch for younger readers.  It is a pretty horrible horror, which I will describe so that those picking books for sensitive kids can assess nightmare risk-


Aon's father, and other inhabitants of the Monarchy, are planted in Dreadwillow Carse and root their, forced to absorb all the sad and negative emotions of everyone else, and because they only slowly loose their humanity, they suffer horribly.  This is the second parent transformed into tree story I've read recently (Grayling's Song, by Karen Cushman), one more and I'll call it a trend....

Despite this horror, I think the book will most appeal to younger MG readers; it is about friendship, and starting to grow up and take on responsibilities while not yet moving into older concerns of full individual autonomy and relationships.  And the story felt to me rather straightforward and undemanding, such as I would have enjoyed lots when I myself was nine.  There are lots of lovely descriptive bits, making it easy to imagine the setting, and I'm always a sucker for glassblowing, which is Aon's craft.

Jeniah is described as having dark skin; so if you are looking for beautiful and intelligent dark-skinned princess stories, this is a good one!


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (6/16/16)

Here's what I found in my blog reading this week.  Please let me know if I missed your post!  And please feel free to send me links (to your own posts or other people's posts) at any time during the week.

The Reviews

Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief, by Gabrielle Kent, at The Book Zone (for boys)

Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

A Clatter of Jars, by Lisa Graff, at The O.W.L., and Mother Daughter Book Reviews

The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell, at The Book Zone (for boys)

The Crystal Run, by Sheila O’Flanagan, at The Cosy Dragon

Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, at alibrarymamap and books4yourkids.com

Grayling's Song, by Karen Cushman, at The Book Wars

The High King, by Lloyd Alexander, at For Those About To Mock

The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King, and a Pickpocket Squirrel, by Susan Hill Long, at Redeemed Reader

The Ministry of Ghosts, by Alex Shearer, at Mom Read It

Mutation, by Roland Smith, at Read Till Dawn

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel, at Guys Lit Wire

The Nethergrim, by Matthew Jobin, at Fantasy of the Silver Dragon

The Nethergrim, and its sequel, The Skeleth, by Matthew Jobin, at This Kid Reviews Books

Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman, at Tales from the Raven

Remarkable, by Lizzie K. Foley, Pages Unbound Reviews

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan, at Sharon the Librarian

The Shadowhand Covenant, by Brian Farrey, at Leaf's Reviews

Space Hostages, by Sophia McDougall, at alibrarymama

The Sword and the Flame, by Stephen R. Lawhead, at Say What?

Time Stoppers, by Carrie Jones, at Say What?

Waybound (Ore book 2), by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, at This Kid Reviews Books

Authors and Interviews

"Visions Of Ore" by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, at Middle Grade Ninja


A Clatter of Jars and three other Lisa Graff books at Finding Magic (ends Monday), and A Clatter of Jars at Mother Daughter Book Reviews (11 days left)

Other Good Stuff

Quentin Blake shares a slew of unpublished illustrations from the BFG, and talks about his collaboration with Dahl, at the Guardian

Chris Riddell is the first triple winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway medal for his illustrations in Neil Gaiman’s retelling of Sleeping Beauty--The Sleeper and the Spindle (via The Guardian)

Not middle grade, but still of interest--the Locus Award Winners have been announced

and finally, if you like hidden fantasy folk, check out this utterly cool interactive map of Iceland!


23 Minutes, by Vivian Vande Velde, for Timeslip Tuesday

23 Minutes, by Vivian Vande Velde (Boyds Mills Press, April 2016), is most definitely a time slip book, but there's no need to worry about cultural difficulties caused by time travel here...

Zoe has an odd gift--she can do-over 23 minute sections of the past (with limits-only ten times per 23 minutes, and she can't let time go on past the 23rd minute or it gets locked in place).  So when she takes sheter from a rain storm in a bank, and a bank robber comes in with a gun, and it ends with a charismatic young man having his brains blown out because he was protecting her, and other people dying as well, she most definitely wants a do-over.  But she can't seem to make anything better.  Different people, sometimes more people, die when she changes the past. 

She decides to call on the man who saved her to see if he can help figure out how to change things, but since his memories reset each time, it's tricky.  And when it turns out he and the robber know each other, that makes things trickier.  But Zoe keeps trying. 

So it's primarily a sort of logic game--what can be changed to make better outcomes happen?  It's also a close psychological study of what's going on in Zoe's mind as she sees the shootings time after time, and gets increasingly desperate.  She has demons of her own to confront, and she's had to get used to taking care of herself after being placed in foster care, and now she must trust this stranger to help her...a stranger who's able to trust her even when she can't quite trust herself. Even though the focus is on these particular minutes, Zoe gets plenty of time to reflect and remember her own life, and so she becomes real and important to the reader.

I really like Vivian Vande Velde's writing.  Her characters are always briskly and a tad smart-aleckly real and relatable and her stories are quick moving and full of zest.   This one was especially fun, because the reader is allowed lots of room along with Zoe to try to figure out what little things to change to get a better outcome! 


Mister Cleghorn's Seal, by Judith Kerr

Mister Cleghorn's Seal (HarperCollins, June 2016) is Judith Kerr's first children's novel in 37 years!  It is a charmer, a book that is especially lovely for reading out loud with a 5 or 6 year old, because it's the sort of story with shifts in direction at just the right sort of places to stop for the night, and because it has friendly, sweet illustrations (lots of the titular baby seal) that are great for sharing with a child.

Mister Cleghorn is bored and at loose ends after selling the store he ran for years and years.  So for the first time he says yes to an invitation to visit family by the ocean.  And there he meets a baby seal, who one of the family's kids has been visiting regularly.  They watch as its mother comes to feed and tend it...but then one day the mother seal doesn't come.  The fishermen have been shooting seals, who they see as competition for the fish.  And without a mother, the baby seal will starve.

So Mister Cleghorn decides to take it back to town with him, and find a home for it in the local zoo.

Travelling with the seal goes surprisingly well, but of course the zoo is closed when they get to town.  So Mister Cleghorn brings the seal home, and installs it in the bathtub, with the water dripping to keep it happy...and this results in him meeting the neighbor downstairs, when the tub floods! 

She's a very nice person, and fond of animals, and becomes his ally in seal keeping.  And he needs an  ally, for the zoo has fallen on bad times, with shiftless, careless owners, and it's no place for a young seal.  Mister Cleghorn's apartment isn't great either...especially since the caretaker forbids any animals at all.

Happily, a solution is found that makes everyone happy.  It's a really nice ending that solves the problem of the zoo as well, and includes Mister Cleghorn and his neighbor falling in love.  So it's a good story, nicely told, with just enough tension to keep it going, and without so much emphasis on the death of the seal mother to upset the sensitive young (although they might be, a little).

One reason I'm happy to recommend it is that I think it's good for kids to see old folks in stories having interesting lives, and trying new things, and starting new adventures, and falling in love.  It makes a refreshing counter-narrative to the stereotypes of old age!  Because it is about an "old" man, it might not appeal immediately to the independent reader, but if that reader is an animal fan, the charming seal drawings will suck them in....

So all in all, a pleasure!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (6/19/16)

Here's what I found this week.  Please let me know if I missed your post, and if you are the author of a mg sci fi/fantasy book, please don't be shy about emailing me links to reviews at any time (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com)!  I follow about 500 blogs, winnowing out the MG sci fi/fantasy, but 500 blogs is but a drop in the bucket, and I do so miss Google Blog Search (for a while the work-around way to do it worked, but it doesn't seem to anymore).  I also am quite capable of deleting links by accident, not knowing a book is mg sci fi/fantasy, etc. 

The Reviews

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, at Randomly Reading

A Clatter of Jars, by Lisa Graff, at Word Spelunking (scroll down for review)

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E. D. Baker, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton, at Redeemed Reader

The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan, at Redeemed Reader

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson, at Geo Librarian

Searching for Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede, at Lunar Rainbows

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey, at On Starships and Dragonwings

The Sword in the Stacks, by Jen Swann Downey, at Charlotte's Library

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff, at The Reading Nook Reviews

Under Their Skin, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Say What?

The Whatnot (The Peculiar #2) by Stefan Bachmann, at The Book Wars

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, at That's Another Story

Withering-by-Sea, by Judith Rossell, at Charlotte's Library

Authors and Interviews

Jen Swann Downey (Sword in the Stacks) at The Reading Nook Reviews and From the Mixed-Up Files

Kate Messner (The Seventh Wish) at Bookriot  (and more about Kate Messner and The Seventh Wish and being dis-invited to a school event here at School Library Journal and at Kate Messners own bloghttp://www.katemessner.com/blog/

Giveaways (New feature--please email me if you are running a giveaway of a MG Spec fic book)

Sword in the Stacks at Fangirlnation (through June 30)

The Ministry of Ghosts at Fangirlnation (through June 19)

Lisa Graff book bundle at Word Spelunking (through June 24)

Other Good Stuff

Here's a new trailer and release date for The Little Prince movie

Make lego shaped gummies! (via io9)


The Sword in the Stacks (Ninja Librarians Book 2) by Jen Swann Downey, for Timeslip Tuesday

Imagine of all the lost libraries of history all ended up in a sanctuary for persecuted libraries in a space outside of ordinary time, and imagine if those libraries (complete with their own gardens, weather, and of course books/scrolls/clay tablets/potsherds with writing on them etc.) were home to a brave society of champions of the written word, "Lybrarians" flinging themselves through time to save books and book writers in danger.  This is the setting for Jen Swann Downey's Ninja Librarian series, the second book of which, The Sword in the Stacks (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, June 2016) has just been released, and just been read by me with much enjoyment (here's my review of the first book, which I also enjoyed).

Dorrie and her brother Marcus stumbled into this collection of libraries by accident in book 1, and found that they had the ability to open the doors between different times, something the Lybrarians naturally value highly.  After a brief visit at home in the real world, the two are back for more training and more adventures.  There's a threat to the Lybrarians' work--a counter-movement of those who would restrict books, and reading, and public dissemination of words and ideas to a very few, and the chief work of the Lybrarians is to foil their efforts.   The leader of this movement has been captured by the Lybrarians, but the threat to the history of books and writers has by no means been neutralized, and there is much tension and adventure and time-travelling and clue finding as Dorrie and her fellow trainees try to help set things right.

And in the meantime there's time travel back to ancient Greece to argue with Aristotle, time travel to early 20th century London where Dorrie and her best friend Ebba get involved with both suffragettes and anit-suffragettes, and time travel including uncomfortable camel riding to Timbuktu as part of the bad-guy foiling.  Even more in the meantime, there's Lybrarian training for the young apprentices--sword fighting (with Cyrano de Bergeraces), codes and cyphers, sailing, near-drowning, and more. And there's also exploration of the whole complex of libraries, the consumption of tasty snacks, the care and keeping of a deadly lizard, and a cute baby seal.

More mundanly, Dorrie is also plagued by guilt (for what happened in the first book) and self-doubt (is she really Lybrarian material?) and there is a mean girl who (as is just about always the case) has a backstory of reasons why she is mean.

So this is a book just jam packed with lots and lots of story, and it is all tremendously interesting!  It might seem like there's so much here that it's too frenetic to enjoy, but it all hangs together around the central character of Dorrie, who is relatable enough and introspective enough to keep things centered. Though Dorrie and Marcus are not identified as anything other than white, the cast of characters around them (reflecting the diversity of the world's libraries) is very diverse. Dorrie's friend Ebba, who is the next main character in terms of page time, is from Mali, for instance.

Happily, Sword in the Stacks starts with a nice explanation of the whole set up given to Dorrie and Marcus' parents, so even if your memories of the first book are fuzzy, you will soon find your feet again and be ready to follow along as the world is saved (or at least, progress made on saving) from book burners!

For fans of time travel, I think this one offers more than the first did in terms of actual contemplation of difference--not just bouncing in and out, but reflection and exploration (this is particularly true of Dorrie and Ebba's adventures with women's suffrage, which is good Time Travel qua Time Travel reading.  For fans of books and history, there are just tons of literary reference to enjoy, and there's a nice glossary of people and places mentioned in the back.  This aspect of the book is a nice treat for established or budding intellectuals!

So in short a wildly entertaining, fun, fast read with food for the mind as well.

Disclaimer: copy of the book gratefully received from the author.


Withering-by-Sea, by Judith Rossell

If you like oppressed orphans, over-the-top adult oppressors who make said orphans sew samplers and balance books on their heads*, secrets that lead to murder in the night in a vast hotel, crashing waves around a crumbling tower,  bottled magical monsters panting to be free, and a villain determined to get his hands on said bottle, Withering-by-Sea, by Judith Rossell (Atheneum March 2016) is a book for you!

The Hotel Majestic might be big and grand, but its curative sulfurous waters hold no charms for young orphan Stella, and it offers few escapes from the unpleasant eyes of her three aunts.   Her only refuge is a tattered Atlas of the World, and one morning, while she is hiding behind ferns in the hotel conservatory, sneaking a bit of forbidden book time in, she sees a man hiding something in one of the plant pots....

And the thing he is hiding is wanted very badly by a nasty man whose repertoire of nasty incudes magical enslavement, murder, and kidnapping.  And when he learns through magical means that Stella has the thing that was hidden, which she promised its dying former guardian she would protect, Stella's dull and horrid life becomes one that is horrid in a much, much more interesting way!

This isn't grand epic fantasy of questy-ness and overthrowing dark lords etc.  It's a much more personal sort of adventure, tightly focused on Stella though with two other interesting kids thrown into the mix as well.   The settings (hotel, theatre, and crumbling tower) are all vividly made real, and the dangers Stella faces makes for riveting reading, once they get going.  Give this one to the 6th grader who enjoys fantasy that has a Victorianish feel, like Maryrose Woods' The Incorrigible
Children of Ashton Place series, or Lemony Snicket, or to any kids around  (though I don't know how likely this is) who are Joan Aiken fans.....

Withering-by-sea won tons of awards and honors in its Native Australia (deservedly so), and I just found out it's the start of a series, which makes me happy! That's the Australian cover at right; not sure why the US publishers decided to disguise the dashes in the hotel's name as curly thingies (it reads to me like a verb clause without clear dashes...)

*incidentally, book balancing is not in and of itself evil.  My sisters and I went through a brief phase of choosing to walk around with books on our heads.  We had obstacle courses and other challenges, and enjoyed it very much. I was also taught embroidery and my father read Silas Marner out loud while we (voluntarily) sewed.....but of course if these things are foced on you by harsh aunts it's a different story.


This week's round up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (6/12/16)

As ever, let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Arctic Code, by Matthew Kirby, at The Write Path

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, at Tales of the Marvelous

Charmed (Fairy Tale Reform School Book 2) by Jen Calonita, at Fantasy Book Critic

Demigods & Magicians, by Rick Riordan, at Jean Little Library

The Dragon Lantern (League of Seven Book 2), by Alan Gratz, at Say What?

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, at Leaf's Reviews

Emma and the Banderwigh, by Matthew S. Cox, at Let's Read Till We Drop

The Girl in the Tower, by Lisa Schroeder, at Mom Read It

Grayling's Song, by Karen Cushman, at Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, by Maryrose Wood (Book 1--The Mysterious Howling, through Book 5; one post per book, so move up the blog to get them) at Redeemed Reader

The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, Book 3) by Brandon Sanderson, at Skye's Scribblings

The Night Parade, by Kathryne Tanquary, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Jackson Pearce & Maggie Stiefvater, at Me On Books

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George, at Fantasy Literature

Rise of the Ragged Clover, by Paul Durham, at Views From the Tesseract

Seven Wild Sisters, by Charles De Lint, at The Book Wars

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Time Stoppers by Carrie Jones, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall, Karen McCombie, at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wishing Day, by Lauren Myracle, at The Reading Nook Reviews

Withering by Sea, by Judith Rossell, at Waking Brain Cells

Authors and Interviews

Joshua Kahn (Shadow Magic) at Red House Books

Other Good Stuff

A Tuesday Ten of spec fic with spectacles at Views From the Tesseract

An interview with a young Rick Riordan reader at A Year of Reading

From Tor, where you can see an example of the art:
"The Folio Society is publishing a new edition of Terry Pratchett’s Mort, a classic Discworld tale of Death and his young inept apprentice. For this special edition, award-winning artist Omar Rayyan has provided 7 color illustrations that capture the humor and vibrancy of Pratchett’s remarkable work."


Scarlett: A Star on the Run, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller

Scarlett: A Star on the Run, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Papercutz, November 2015), is a graphic novel/text story hybrid of great charm, that I have been meaning to write about for ages (I got a copy at last fall's Kidlitcon down in Baltimore courtesy of the publisher, and enjoyed it very much).

Scarlett is a cat who is a movie star.  Her success on the big screen is not just because she's a good actress, but is the result of experimental animal tinkering.  She and her co-star animals can talk, and think, and be bored by reality tv shows.  They are also prisoners, shut up every night.  But one cold snowy evening a window blows open, and Scarlett heads out to explore for the first time.  Fortunately for Scarlett, before she freezes to death she finds shelter in the cabin of a grumpy old man.   And there she makes a new home for herself.  Soon she's joined by one of her co-stars, a friendly dog, and together they enjoy being just ordinary folks.

But the movie producer, who engineered Scarlett and co., of course wants them back.  And another co-star, the dog who plays the villains in the movies, shows up and makes things unpleasant. And on top of that, the old man falls ill, and it's up to Scarlett to keep up the appearance that everything is just fine in his shack so that no one bothers them.  That means using his credit cards to pay the grocery bills, and Scarlett, being a fastidious cat, takes it upon herself to clean and refurbish the whole house.

But fortunately an ally is close at hand. Erin, the girl next door, has been observing the animals, and figures out their secrets.  She's able to help them find a happy ending, where they no longer are hunted fugitives worried about being dragged back to a movie-production prison....

It's a charming story, and I enjoyed it lots (quite possibly because one of my own favorite things to read about is old houses being cleaned out and fixed up, and seeing a cat and a dog working together to do so was very entertaining).  The art is charming too, as is the relationship that builds between the animals and the grumpy man.

Part of the story is told in graphic novel panels, and a somewhat larger part is straight narrative from Scarlett's point of view.  As a result, I think this is one that would be great for an adult to read alongside an emergent reader child--the child could read the short bits of text in the graphic panels, and the adult could tackle that smaller fonted narration, which is not aimed particularly at young readers.  That makes it also good for middle grade and up readers (especially animal lovers), who enjoy fun graphic heavy stories to read on their own!


Loop, by Karen Akins, for Timeslip Tuesday

Loop, by Karen Akins (St. Martin's Griffin, Oct. 2014), is a fine YA time travel book of the sort where in the future time travel is an organized, government controlled thing.  The heroine, Bree, is at a school for young time travelers, and things are not going well for her.  Her mother, also a time traveler, ended up in a coma after a mission to the past gone wonky, and Bree is desperate to find some way of getting her the best care possible, which means money, which she doesn't have.  Bree is also skating on thin ice academically. 

So things start off bad for Bree, and ever chapter the tension and difficulty of her life grows and grows until I was all like enough already, because it was making me tense.  The difficulties include a boy from the past, Finn, who says that Bree loves him, but not this Bree.  There is a future Bree who knew him a bit before (in his own time), but in a little bit to come (in Bree's time).  So he's all expecting Bree to love him, and she's all, What?  And then of course by the end she does love him (having achieved the future point at which he knew her, when she travelled back to his time). 

And it turns out that future Bree was doing more than just falling in love with a boy from the past.  She was also engaged in a dangerous endeavor to reform the very nature of time travelling in her time, with people working hard to stop her.  And present Bree is desperately trying to figure out just what the heck is happening, before its too late for her mother, for Finn, and for herself.

It was the sort of time travel book where I found myself wishing I had the author on speed dial, so I could check to make sure my fragile understanding of the temporal bouncing back and forth was accurate.  It was also the sort of time travel where the passage between times as an exploration of difference wasn't the point.  The point of the time travel was to set up the heroine vs. those in power thriller plot, and also set up the rather interesting romance of Boy knowing Girl loves him, but Girl not knowing him yet.   So kind of weird relationship-wise, but it works out in the end.  And I wouldn't call the book a romance, because Finn and Bree do fall for each other, but in a context of rather more absorbing events, like foiling nefarious plots and getting Finn back to his own time.

So if you like romantic thriller type time travel with lots of questions that are utterly answered for most of the book, you will like this one lots!  If you are me, you will find it very readable, but you will have to read it in smallish bits because it was not Restful.  I just read the Amazon reviews, and several people found it very funny (Bree as snarky narrator); I guess I was too busy feeling stressed to appreciate that aspect of the book....

hmm.  I also see that there is a sequel, Twist.  I am tempted, although I think I will save it for a time when I have nothing else to worry about.  Possibly the second to last week of August. 

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