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.


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.


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.


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:


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
Sarah Stevenson and Tanita Davis and Jen Robinson: Co-Chairs
Reshama Deshmukh and Melissa Fox: Author Coordinators
Maureen Kearney: Registration Coordinator


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.....)


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!


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.


Kidlitcon 2014 Program peek, starring Jewell Parker Rhodes!

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes will be coming to Kidlitcon 2014!  I am so excited--I loved her magical realism/ghost story Ninth Ward lots, so much so that I enthusiastically helped shortlist it for the Cybils Awards* the year it came out (2012) (here's my review).  And her 2013 book for young readers, Sugar, is great too.

Here's a peak at her session, where she'll be joining two great bloggers:

Friday 1:30-3   Getting Beyond Diversity and Getting to the Story 

Edith Campbell Crazy Quilt Edi

Hannah Gómez  sarah HANNAH gómez

Jewell Parker Rhodes  (fangirl squee from me!)

"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."

And that is just one of the great sessions at this year's Kidlitcon; I'm putting the final touches on the program, and should have it all done (d.v.) on Monday!  Please join us in Sacramento, CA October 10th and 11th for a really fantastic time of talking blogging and books and diversity non-stop!

*and speaking of Cybils, now is the time to sign up to be a panelist for the 2014 season!


Crashing the Party (Time Flyers #4), by Perdita Finn, for Timeslip Tuesday

On my largest TBR shelf there is a section of emergency time travel books--books that are very fast reads for those times when longer books just aren't going to be finished in time (because, for instance, of trying to finish an impossible number of major tasks ere summer ends).  And so, in about 25 minutes, I was able to read Crashing the Party (Time Flyers #4), by Perdita Finn (Scholastic 207, 109 pages, upper elementary/ lower Middle Grade).

This was my first Time Flyers book, but I was able to quickly pick up on the pertinent backstory.  Josh and Katie are two ordinary American middle schoolers whose family is chosen to host time travelling kids of many lands via the Time Flyers program (the parents don't know about the time travelling, because they are dolts not keen observers).   The lasted kid to arrive is a French aristocrat from 1788, and she is not really getting into the spirit of good time travelling visitor--demanding, spoiled French aristocrats are not good houseguests, and they leave white hair powder on your furniture.  Basically, she's utterly awful. 

And she becomes worse when she masters the art of cultural immersion into the circle of It Girls at Katie and Josh's school. 

And then things get even worse when she refuses to go home again....

I guess the point of the story is that middle school is even worse than it usually is when you have a bitchy French aristocrat who treats you like dirt staying with you and going to your school.   Which is certainly a reasonable plot, but its one that, in this case at least, lacks much emotional depth.  There were a few brief intimations that there might be depth to the girl's character, but they were too fleeting to have any umph. 

The story itself is not all that educational--if you had never heard of the French Revolution, that would be one thing to learn, and you would also learn that French aristocrats of that time period had a rather generous sense of entitlement.    But this particular French girl is so busy becoming American that her own time is not of interest to her, so we don't hear much about it.  There is an Educational Epilogue in which information on life in late 18th century France is shared, but it is so much easier to pick up on information that's embedded in the text that I'm not sure how useful this is.

I am not deeply tempted to look for the other books in the series, except that they are quick reads, and goodness knows there will be other Difficult Tuesdays in my future....


This Week's Round-up of Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy (8/17/14) w/ special announcement and discussion question!

So Google has killed blog search, and though there's a way to force it to search blogs, this returns far fewer hits.  So I might well be missing an ever growing number of posts; let me know if I missed yours!  (And if any publicists or marketers want to send me direct links to blog tour stops, review links, etc., that would be great.)

The Reviews:

The Book of Bad Things, http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-book-of-bad-things.html

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell, at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Courting Magic, by Stephanie Burgis, at The Book Smugglers

Ever After High, by Shannon Hale, at Nayu's Reading Corner

Evil Fairys Love Hair, at Mary G. Thompson, at The Book Monsters

The Fog of Forgetting, by G.A. Morgan, at I Read to Relax

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm, at For Those About To Mock, Log Cabin Library, Emily Reviews! Random Musings of a Bibliophile, and Librarian of Snark

Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor, by Julie Anne Grasso, at The Ninja Librarian

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at Adventures in Scifi Publishing, The Book Monsters, and Ageless Pages Reviews

Gabriel Finley and the Ravens of Doom, by George Hagen, at Log Cabin Library

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at Becky's Book Reviews and Charlotte's Library

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

The Hypnotists, and its sequel, Memory Maze, by Gordon Korman, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Inventor's Secret, by Chad Morris, at The Obsessive Bookseller (missed it last week)

The Iron Trial, by Holly Back and Cassandra Clare, at Zach's YA Reviews

Kat, Incorrigible (series review), by Stephanie Burgis, at Fantasy Fiction

Loot, by Jude Watson, at Reader Noir

The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, at Fantasy Book Critic

The Magic Thief series, by Sarah Prineas, at Beyond Books

Magyk, by Angie Sage, at Rcubed's Reads and Reviews

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie, by Jeff Norton, at Juniper's Jungle

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, at Sonderbooks

No Such Thing as Dragons, by Philip Reeve, at Hidden in Pages

Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins, at Librarian of Snark

The River at Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

Ship of Souls, by Zetta Elliott, at Reading in Color

The Time of the Fireflys, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Five Minutes for Books

Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life,  by P.J. Hoover, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow and books4yourkids

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, at Michelle Isenhoff

Authors and Interviews

Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at Cracking the Cover, The Book Monsters, and The Children's Book Review


The Call for Cybils Panelists goes out tomorrow!  Once again, I'm the team leader for middle grade speculative fiction.  Throw your name into the hat to be a panelist in judging either the first round (coming up with a shortlist of 5-7 books) or the second round (picking a winner from the shortlist!). 

The reading period for the first round runs from October through December, and there will be c. 150 books nominated in MG Spec. Fic. (published from Oct. 16, 2013 through Oct. 15, 2014).

  Here's what you should ask yourself before applying to be a panelist--

--how many books have I read already?  If you have a comfortable cushion of eligible books read already, that is good.

--how easy is it for me to get hold of books?  Some books will come from publishers, but others we'll have to find ourselves at libraries.  So if it is hard for you to get a hold of books, the first round is probably not a good fit for you.

--am I a fast reader?  First round panelists don't have to read all the books, nor do they have to finish the books they count as "read."  But you do have to be able to read lots, and fast.

--are there things happening this fall that will make it hard to do lots of reading?

--do I want to be thinking about books in a rather briskly frantic way just before Christmas?

But on the plus side, you can also ask yourself:  do I want to spend this fall reading tons of books in my favorite genre and having a great time discussing them intensely with fun, interesting, fellow fans?

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Other Good Stuff

An interesting look at the structures of the Harry Potter books at Bookriot

I could fill this post with Giver related things, but am sticking to this one:  Lois Lowry and Phillip Noyce interviewed in tandem at Deadline Hollywood

And then I just found this one, which I wouldn't actually call "good"-- "The Giver Now Has Its Very Own Nailpolish" at Jezebel
Why, world, why?

Discussion Question (I don't know if this will be a regular feature or not, because I can easily imagine not having decent questions every Sunday for next several years...but we will see.  Let me know what you think!)

So over on Twitter, Anne Ursu drew my attention to this line from the (starred) Kirkus review of Sparkers, by Eleanor Glewwe-- "Social injustice is a rare theme in middle-grade fantasy..."  And as Anne said, "no," because clearly social injustices of many kinds (economic, gender-based, racial prejudice) are a dime a dozen in mg fantasy.  But maybe, I thought (and I haven't read the book yet, so I might be off-base) the author of that Kirkus line is thinking that rebellion/active efforts to subvert the dominant system by a group of people constituting the driving force of the plot is rare.   I can think of lots of books in which individuals fight/are victims of social injustice, but not so many that take it to the larger level of the oppressed taking on the system as a group.

Here's what I came up with:  
Zelpha Keatly Snyder's Below the Root trilogy (1975-1978)--a dominant group of people up in the trees, a subordinate group of rebels trapped below the roots, and the brave group of young teens who bring down the injustice of it (of course three of the main people fighting the system are from above the root, with only one from below, but there's a larger sense that a revolution is underway).

Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (2012) --set in a society in which those with no magic are oppressed by those who have it, and tells of the efforts underway to change this.

Janice Hardy's Healing War trilogy (2010- 2011) which features a rebellion against foreign oppressors.

What do you think?

I think that more fantasy and science fiction for kids explicitly involving fights against social injustice can only be a good thing...and speaking of fighting against social injustice, here's a guide to "Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder" at What Matters


Searching For Sky, by Jillian Cantor

There are some books where the bulk of my reading enjoyment comes at a distance from the text--an un-immersive reading experience of running commentary.   This is what happened to me in Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer, where I spent most of the book planning my own end of the world shopping trip, thinking critically about house heating, water supply issues, etc.  Perfectly enjoyable, but distant, and not all that emotionally invested.

This was what happened to me with Searching For Sky, by Jillian Cantor (Bloomsbury, May 2014, YA).

Sky and her mother, and River and his father, had left the United States for a peaceful life alone on a small island in the south Pacific, and life was good--sometimes a bit hungry, but good.  Then the two adults died when River and Sky were young teens, and River and Sky were alone...with even less to eat.   So when River sees a boat, he signals to it...and the two of them are rescued, and taken back to California.

Living with a grandmother she'd never known even existed, in a world of modern conveniences and social norms she has no clue about, Sky struggles to keep herself intact.  But worse than all those things is that she is separated from River...and it is like part of herself, her real self, is gone.  And gradually Sky learns the reasons why her mother took her to that far off island....and it is not a pretty story....And then she finds River again, and Sky at last thinks that her dream of escaping back to the island will come to pass...

So I enjoyed the story, liked Sky just fine, liked the dark secrets gradually revealed, found the ending solid, etc.   It was a fine book.

But all throughout I had Mental Commentary going full force--questioning details of island survival, and the likelihood that they wouldn't have been found sooner, questioning Sky's reactions to the modern world and the efforts of the grown-ups to instruct her (they did a pretty bad job, in my opinion.  An awful job. What they needed was an anthropologist/sociologist, not a shrink), questioning her grandmother's choices, questioning Sky's state of mind (it's told from her first person viewpoint, and I wasn't quite convinced that her voice was believable, given her up-bringing).   I had a lot to question, and this kept me from really accepting Sky's story qua story.

Of course, all this made it more interesting for me, and I enjoyed the reading of it just fine.  If you are looking for a YA mystery/suspense/romance, that isn't quite exactly any of those but is more a story of personal grown and exploration of life with more than a bit of sadness, you might well enjoy this one lots.

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher.


The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia McKillip

So this weekend I finally read a book I was given by my husband for Christmas in 2008-- The Bell at Sealey Head, by Patricia McKillip.   Sheesh--so pathetic of me, but that is what happens when your tbr piles explodes and keeps growing--the books you know you love and really want to read get set aside (someday I'll read The Islands of Chaldea...).

But I am So Glad I have now read The Bell at Sealey Head because it is one of my most favorite of all Patricia McKillip's books and I loved it. 
It is a beautiful story of ordinary life twisted with magic in which nice people such as I'd like to be friends with who like books and stories and questioning the edges of reality learn about the magic and not much Happens in an action-packed sort of way and there are small things that made me laugh and beautiful pictures painted in my mind.  

So pretty much a perfect book for me, and if you at all love the same books I love do try it!

Here is a quick synopsis-

Every day, just as the sun sets, the bell at Sealy Head rings.  No one has seen the bell, no one knows its story--it is a mystery that is part of the fabric of life.   One young woman writes stories to explain it, one young man listens for it with his blind father, as their inn sits empty, one young man comes from far away (bringing lots of books) to find its story, one dying woman in her ancient manor house holds to its sound and to life, waiting....and another young woman hears it, but has moved passed it to the magic of the world that sometimes can be seen through the doors inside the manor.  And behind the doors is a third young woman, caught in an endless ritual of magic of which the bell is a part... (There are other people too, worth mentioning, but I feel I've mentioned enough).

And their lives all come together and they figure out the story (with the help of books) and untangle the chains of magic (which have a malevolent twist to them) and it is a happy ending with nice romance and it is flavored nicely with bits of comic relief from minor characters.

Yep.  Possibly even my favorite McKillip.....

If I were marketing it I would want to market it to YA readers because the main characters are in their teens, and it is very much a teens growing up story, but it is so different from what's in the YA section these days that I don't know how it would do there.....(pause while I try to think of a contemporary YA title I would describe as "beautiful magic."  Cannot think of one).


The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove (Viking Juvenile, middle grade on up, June 2014), is perhaps the most ambitious and original time slip book I have ever read (and I have read more than three hundred).   It took me several weeks to read it, and not because it is long--487 pages, but more because the world-building is so complicated that my busy mind wanted time to digest between immersive reads of it....And this is not to be critical of the book, because I did not find that this strange-to-me way of reading detracted from my enjoyment, but it is something to keep in mind when matching the book with readers who will love it.

When Sophia's great-grandmother was a girl in Boston, back in 1799, the world fractured in time. A great disruption brought the past to some places, the future to others...and history ceased its linear progression.   And a new era of exploration and map-making began, that ended up taking Sophia's parents to a far of time and place, leaving her with her cartographer uncle in Boston.  Slowly she learns to read map of memories held in glass, maps of earth, of water....but she is not permitted to stay sheltered in New Occident.

Instead, she when her uncle is kidnapped, Sophia must follow a trail of cartographic riddles across a time-struck continent...a journey that will take her to the end of the known world, and a map that might change everything once again. It's a journey that brings new friends, adventures of all sorts, wild flights of imagination to delight the tourist heart of the fantasy reader.   And interspersed with Sophia's story we see what is happening to her uncle, the tortured prison of someone with a time shattered backstory of her own.

So the thing with this book is that there is So Much Story, and so much to learn about the world while following Sophia, that it really cannot be gulped down.  And it requires patience to learn to be in that world....many pages of patience before the twistings of fate gather enough momentum to really get the story rolling.   But it rewards the reader lots and lots with its imaginative delights and great characters.  And the premise of the shifting times is genius--and one reason that the book was slow to read for me is that it invited more daydreaming and speculation than was good for page turning. 

It really does take time to get going, though, so you have to trust that it will be worth it to try to make sense of everything.  And so, though this is a middle grade book for kids in grades 5 and up, it isn't going to be for every middle grade fantasy fan.   Give it to the kid who, like Sophia, daydreams strange worlds...the thoughtful kid, who's a fast and confident reader, who looks at reality slight slant-wise.   Or give it to grown-ups who love the way the best fantasy books for kids open new windows in the mind.

My middle grade speculative fiction comrade from last year's Cybils Awards reading, Stephanie Whalen, recommend this one in her School Library Journal Review to those who loved The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, and found it comparable to Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy.  I don't disagree, but to me it gave an even stronger feeling of similarity to the Monster Blood Tattoo series of D.M. Cornish in the sheer splendorous details of its imagination.

I have to say, though, that I personally admire the book more than I love it with the sort of cozy fondness I feel for my favorite books--it really is almost too much of a good thing in the elaboration of its imagination for my taste. 

Despite that, I am pretty sure I want my own final copy of this one.  The copy I read was an ARC, and the final book, with its generous servings of cartography, is a lovely book qua book....


Parched, by Georgia Clark

Parched, by Georgia Clark, is an excellent newcomer to the field of YA dystopias, and even if you are feeling burned out by that sub-genre, give it a try!  It is a very good read, with interesting twists that add just tons of zest (especially for those who enjoy unreliable narrations).

Tess spent the first fifteen years of her life in the comfort of Eden--a closed-off community of abundant resources.  Then tragedy sent her fleeing into the Badlands outside Eden, where life is a hardscrabble struggle.   After a year of fighting for survival, she's tracked down by an Edenite, who persuades her to come back to work to topple the dictators of Eden and bring justice (and little things like water) to the people of the Badlands.  And Tess agrees...but she has her own reasons for going home again, ones her would-be revolutionary colleagues could never guess.

Back in Eden, and welcomed into her uncle's home, Tess meets his student Hunter, assigned by her uncle to help her catch up with her education.  And there is attraction between the two of them...(I found him very geekily appealing myself).

And then, to summarize briskly and without spoilers, the revolutionaries, with Tess now on board, set to work to foil the evil plans of Eden to bring death to the people of the Badlands once and for all. There's exciting confrontations involving robots and high-tech gizmos, and there are game-changing secrets of the sort that those who like unreliable narrations will enjoy tremendously (even though it's easy to see the biggest of the revels coming, it is still cool in an intellectually and emotionally diverting way). 

So--Dystopian romance with robotics, and a nice helping of social justice.  Engaging central characters, who have a most interesting relationship indeed.   Nice fast pacing, but with enough breaks in the action to satisfy those, like me, whose eyes blur when the pacing is too exciting.  The world of Eden and the Badlands isn't in itself a desperately fresh premise, but the twists at work in the story makes it interesting.   It's also pretty believable, which is depressing.

It deserves lots of teenaged readers, who will enjoy it immensly.  And that includes younger YA readers (the 12 and 13 year olds)--there is some violent torture and death, and some romance, but not of an older readership kind.  Though there is certainly space left for a sequel, it ends in a satisfying, non-cliffhangery place, which I appreciated.

(I also appreciated that the cover does not show Tess with impossibly beautiful hair looking all thin yet tough.  I like the classic sci fic vib the domed cities gives off'; it is a nice change).

I am already thinking ahead to October, and the Cybils--this is definitely a possibility for my YA Speculative Fiction nomination.

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher


This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy (8/10/14)

Welcome to another week's worth of middle grade sci fi/fantasy gleanings....please let me know if I missed your post or the posts of your loved ones!

The Reviews

11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass, at Wandering Librarians

The Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince et seq.), by Jennifer Nielsen, at Tales of the Marvelous

Bad Magic, by Psuedonymous Bosch, at Log Cabin Library

Bravo Victor, by Jemima Pett, at The Ninja Librarians

Chase Tinker and the House of Destiny, by Malia Ann Haberman, at This Kid Reviews Books

Deep Blue, by Jennifer Donnelly, at Boarding With Books

The Forbidden Stone, by Tony Abbott, at The Hiding Spot

The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm, at Sharon the LibrarianTeen Librarian Toolbox, and Oh Magic Hour

Frostborn, by Lou Anders, at Mom Read It, Librarian of Snark, and Wondrous Reads

Furies of Calderon, by Jim Butcher, at The Book Sphere

The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, at Icey Books

The Iron Trial, by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, at What a Nerd Girl Says and The Bibliomaniac

Loki's Wolves, by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, at Booked Till Tuesday

The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas, at Hidden In Pages (audiobook review)

Memory Maze (The Hypnotists 2), by Gordon Corman, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, at The Hiding Spot

The One Safe Place, by Tania Unsworth, at The Book Monsters

The Path of Names, by Ari Goelman, at Kid Lit Geek

The  Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Geo Librarian

Storybound, by Marissa Burt, at The Cheap Reader

The Time of the Fireflies, by Kimberley Griffiths Little, at Middle Grade Mafioso

The Time of the Ghost, by Diana Wynne Jones, at Here There Be Books

Treasure of Green Knowe, by L.M. Boston, at Tor

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Winterling, by Sarah Prineas, at My Precious

The Wrath of Siren, by Kurt Chambers, at Annie McMahon

Authors and Interviews

Mary G. Thompson (Evil Fairies Love Hair) at The Enchanted Inkpot

N.D. Wilson discusses Boy of Blur in a Sneaky Peeks Video #1 at Wild Things

Other Good Stuff

Disney takes the first steps toward making a movie of A Wrinkle In Time, via Waking Brain Cells

Rocket and Groot reimagined as Calvin and Hobbs.  Love.  (via Tor)

You know that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover with Veruca as creepy doll on it?  Travis at 100 Scope Notes took that approach to a logical conclusion of brilliance....you will never think of The Secret Garden the same way again.

Ursula Le Guin talks to  Michael Cunningham about "genres, gender, and broadening fiction" at Electric Lit

Thoughts on having to teach The Lightning Thief for a 6th grade mythology unit, at Teach the Fantastic

An article in the Applied Journal of Social Psychology suggests that reading Harry Potter can teach kids empathy (there's a lay-person friendly summary here at Science of Us

"7 Black Women Science Fiction Writers Everyone Should Know" at For Harriet, which is made more specifically MG SFF relevant  by the news that the film rights to Akata Witch have been optioned.  And indeed, it would make an awesome movie....

The Call for Cybils Judges begins August 18th!  I am returning as organizer of Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, and please all of you who love MG SF think hard about throwing your hats into the ring to be panelists!   Here's how I chose panelists:
--I check to make sure they are in fact enthusiastic about MG SF (don't send in a sample post that says "I don't read much middle grade" as has happened in the past), and check to see if there's some thought to their reviews
--I try to balance tried and true veterans with new folks, try to include teachers, parents, librarians, authors, general fans etc, so a range of background and experiences are included in the mix
--I try not to have too many of my top candidates siphoned off by other needy categories.

If you want more information or have questions, please feel free to email me (charlotteslibrary at gmail dot com)

And finally, in an effort to encourage my kids do make things this summer, I brought out the boxes of miscellaneous junk and hardware such as result from having an old house and huge barn full of stuff, and this is the robot my 11 year old made (with a bit of tool-using help, because of it being his first time).  Its eyes are holograms from expired credit cards.  (The picture was taken in an unsalubrious corner of my semi-subterranean, 250-year-old office.  My own walls aren't quite that bad).

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