10/19/17

Cover Reveal for The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings, a new middle grade fantasy from Sarah Prineas!

I am a huge fan of Sarah Prineas; in particular I love her middle grade Magic Thief series!  And so I am just thrilled as all get out that she has a new middle grade fantasy coming next year, and honored to host its cover reveal!

The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings (HarperCollins Children's) will hit shelves June 26.

Here's the blurb:

For years, all the libraries in the kingdom have been locked up. 

Is it to keep the books safe from readers?

Or...is it to keep readers safe from books?

Alex is an apprentice librarian, and he is certain that books have a secret, powerful history.  Unfortunately, his elderly master is a lot more interested in bug poop than in teaching Alex anything useful.  When the old man dies under extremely suspicious circumstances, Alex travels to the palace and impersonates his master so he can take up the position of royal librarian—a job that is far more dangerous than he ever imagined. 

The young queen, Kenneret, is pretty sure this scruffy, obnoxious boy is not who he claims to be, and she doubts he’s really a librarian, either.  But she has other things to worry about, so she agrees to give Alex fifteen days to prove himself.  That’s enough time for him to discover that he was only partly right—books aren’t just powerful, they’re alive.  Even worse, some of the books possess an ancient, evil magic that kills librarians, and now they are coming after Alex.  A book about the weather attacks him with lightning bolts; a book about vines tries to strangle him; a book about explosives is ready to blow up, and the book about swords...

...well, you know.  It’s a good thing Alex knows how to fight. 

With the help of the queen and her illiterate brother, Alex has to figure out who, or what, is controlling the books and their power.  If they can’t, the entire kingdom could be at risk. 

Doesn't it sound great!  And it the description weren't enough to entice you, here's the gorgeous cover:



(This could be me, trying to cope with all the books plotting world domination in my own home)

Thank you, Sarah!  I can't wait.

10/16/17

Race to the Bottom of the Sea, by Lindsay Eagar

I am not drawn to pirate books.  So I almost said no when offered a review copy of Race to the Bottom of the Sea, by Lindsay Eagar (Candlewick, middle grade, October 2017), which as you can see from the cover illustration has pirates.  But I could not resist a book about a girl who is a brilliant young marine biologist with steampunkish overtones (I like girl scientist books and a touch of the mechanical).  And so I said "yes please" and the book arrived, and I read it with  enjoyment, though not without some doubts (about which more below).

11 year old Fidelia Quail has grown up assisting her marine biologist parents in their endeavors, devising ingenious devices including a small submarine.  When her parents leave her on the deck of their boat to keep an eye on the weather while they use the sub to go below, Fidelia lets the appearance of a shark (a species she's never seen before!) push the safety envelope; the fierce weather of the Undertow arrives faster than she thought it would, and her parents never resurface.

Life on dry land with her librarian aunt doesn't inspire Fidelia, but wracked by guilt and grief, she copes with the dull days as best she can.  But then she is kidnapped by pirates!

There's actually a good reason why the pirates have come to kidnap her--one of Fidelia's prototypes (not yet actually functional) is a way to breath underwater.  And the leader of the gang of pirates needs this device to recover a lost treasure that sank long ago....So Fidelia goes to sea again, on a once grand pirate ship that's now practically a wreck, with a tiny crew and a notoriously wicked, and utterly obsessed, pirate captain--Merrick the Monstrous-- driving them on.

It is a good distraction for her, helping her work through her depression, and Eagar does a nice job making the voyage, in which not much Adventure actually happens, interesting.  The dynamics of the pirate crew (all two of them), the Captain, and Fidelia are interesting,  Fidelia's marine biological thoughts and her work on her water-breathing system likewise.  There are lots of touches of humor,  and for those who really do like things to Happen, there are flashbacks to several years back that provide the (more adventurous) context for the current situation.

But though I enjoyed reading it, and the pages turned briskly, there were two things that bothered me, one big and one small.

First, the reader, and Fidelia, fall prey to something that felt like Stockholm Syndrome.  Merrick is really quite monstrous, and has done terrible things (including kidnapping and threatening Fidelia) but he is limned in such a way that he becomes more and more a romantic figure with whom Fidelia and the reader must sympathize than the manipulative killer he actually is. This needs to happen for the story's emotional arc to be satisfying, but it felt distasteful to me.  Likewise, the way he controlled the physical circumstances of the woman at the heart of Merrick's romantic past story was not something that made him anyone I'd want to be involved with, and so I resented ultimately feeling sorry for him.

Second, the crew of two plus a captain is not sufficient to sail such a large sailing ship and it is tricky if not impossible to sail around inside a cave (because most caves aren't windy).  This ship behaves more like it's motorized.

Do, however, read this if you love smart sciencey girls inventing things that both save the day and add to the world's knowledge of marine biology!  Here's the Kirkus review, that notes the same positive things I do.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.

10/15/17

This week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (10/15/17)

Another week, another round up.  Please let me know if I missed your post!

First--today is the last day for public nominations for the Cybils Awards!  Show a favorite author some love!  Here's a collection of links to lists of the as yet unnominated, including one for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction.  I've put stars next to books reviewed this week that are eligible and haven't been nominated yet....Nominate here today!

The Reviews

Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor,  at alibrarymama

Clash of the Worlds by Chris Columbus, Ned Vizzini, and Chris Rylander, at Say What?

*Code Name Flood, by Laura Martin, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

A Crack in the Sea, by H.M. Bouwman, at alibrarymama

The Creeping Shadow, by Jonathan Stroud, at Say What?

Elizabeth and Zenobia, by Jessica Miller, at Falling Letters

The Farwalker’s Quest (Farwalker’s Quest, Book 1) by Joni Sensel, at Hidden in Pages

*Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw, by Todd Calgi Gallicano, at Charlotte's Library

Impyrium, by Henry Neff, at The Write Path

Last Day on Mars, by Kevin Emerson, at Fuse #8

The List, by Patricia Forde, at B and N Kids Blog

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power, by Mariko Tamaki, at Book Nut

*The Many Worlds of Albie Bright by Christopher Edge, at Proseandkahn

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar, at Puss Reboots and Log Cabin Library

The Taster's Guild, by Susannah Applebaum, at Leaf's Reviews

*Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic by Armand Baltazar, at From My Bookshelf

*Tumble and Blue, by Cassie Beasley, at Semicolon

The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, at That's Another Story

*A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay, at Semicolon

Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Wolf Hour, by Sara Lewis Holmes, at By Singing Light

The World's Greatest Adventure Machine, by Frank Cole, at Always in the Middle and The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Authors and Interviews

Sara Lewis Holmes (The Wolf Hour), at Charlotte's Library

Frances Hardinge (Face Like Glass) at The Guardian

Garret Weyr (The Language of Spells) at Fuse #8

Other Good Stuff

"Fantasy is the Realm of Idealism": Tamora Pierce in Converaation with the Female Fantasy Authors She Inspired" at  Torl

Two great book lists of scary stories, at SLJ and Book Riot


10/12/17

The Doughnut Kingdom (Cucumber Quest #1), by Gigi D.G.

The Doughnut Kingdom (Cucumber Quest #1), by Gigi D.G. (FirstSecond October 2017), is a cute and fun graphic novel for young readers.

My younger son, now 14, has been a fan of Cucumber Quest webcomic for years, and he and I were both very exited to get the book in our hands--he because books are more fun to read, and me because books are all I read, and I was very curious to see what this Cucumber Quest thing was all about.  It's the story of a young rabbit person, Cucumber, whose plans to spend peaceful years at magic school are derailed when a mysterious oracle tells him he has to go save the kingdom.  He knows he's not up to the task of overthrowing the evil queen, and so does his little sister, Almond.  Fortunately Almond sets off after him, determined to be an epic hero in her own right, and her sword skills save him from almost immediate defeat.

She's thrilled to be off on a quest for the fabled Dream Sword; Cucumber less so.  And Carrot, the really rather pathetic excuse for a knight who's joined them, doesn't add much to Cucumber's  confidence.  As for the oracle, she turns out to be much more interested in keeping up with her tv shows than she is in helping quests along, and in fact has carelessly handed the Dream Sword over to an infamous young thief, Saturday.  Can the brave (and less brave) bunnies really succeed against the powerful enemies who are threatening world domination?  Almond thinks yes, Cucumber not so much.

The bright pictures and zippy story carry readers along very nicely indeed.  It's funny, and a tad subversive (Almond's heroic potential is dismissed at first, but she's not going to let anyone keep her from the fun!).  This first volume is something of a stage-setter, and apparently things will get even more exciting in future adventures.  Enthusiastically recommend to fantasy loving eight to ten year olds, who will, if they are like my own child, eat up the zesty sweetness of Cucumber's adventures!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


10/11/17

Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw, by Todd Calgi Gallicano

Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw, by Todd Calgi Gallicano (Delacorte, middle grade, Aug. 29 2017), is a fun start to a new adventure series that will have fans of magical creatures clamoring for more!

Sam London is an ordinary sort of boy who wants very much to have his own special Thing.  None of the usual things (sports, arts, music) have done it. But then, a series of dreams leads him to an encounter that will truly make him extraordinary.  On a rock outcrop in the south west, he comes face to beak with the awesome majesty of Phylassos, Lord of the Gryphons.  And Phylassos needs his help.

Long ago, the great gryphon bound all mythical creatures in an enchantment that renders them (mostly) invisible to humans, and (mostly) powerless to act directly in the human world.  He sacrificed one of his own claws to serve as a talisman to hold that magic in place.  But there are those among the non-human peoples who chaff at the restrictions imposed on them, and they are rising up against Phylossos.

Sam, to his amazement, becomes part of a strangely assorted group (including an agent from a top secret government department) racing around the world to find and secure the claw before it is captured.  He's not just extra baggage, but a useful and important member of the team.  Many of the mythical creatures are on the gryphon's side, but many others are not, and so there is magical creature mayhem and danger aplenty as the pages turn quickly.

It's not deeply subtle, and some of the good guys are just too talented for me to swallow, so I don't think I'll ever feel the need to re-read it.  But I was perfectly happy to read it this first time, and will be happy as well to read the sequel.  There are plenty of amusing bits, and it's an excellent pick for readers who like the wind in their hair as they rush with the story from one danger to the next, and of course it's especially good for devoted fans of magical creatures!  And the stakes are made high enough, both for the world and for individual characters, not all of whom make it to the end of the book, that it's a bit more than lightweight fun.

Short answer--if your kids' ears prick up when you say "gryphon," "yeti," "tanuki," or "cynecephalus" (especially the last one, because that kid is a die hard magical creature fan!) offer this book.

NB:  Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw is eligible for this year's Cybils Awards, and has not yet been nominated!  Click here to nominate this or any other fine book in a variety of categories.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

10/9/17

The Wolf Hour, by Sara Lewis Holmes, with a rather different sort of interview

The Wolf Hour, by Sara Lewis Holmes (Arthur A. Levine, middle grade, Sept. 2017), is a lovely book for those who like to venture into the dark woods of stories made horribly real (and who don't mind spiders, because there are lots of spiders....)



Magia has lived all life at the edge of a vast Polish forest, the Puszcza, a dark and magical place.  Her father is a woodcutter, and Magia wants to follow in his footsteps, though he warns her against this because those steps lead into the heart of the forest.   And in the Puszcza stories have become real, played out over and over again, with deadly consequences.  When Magia is forced to follow into the forest, she finds herself caught in the web of an evil enchantment that threatens not just her own future but that of her whole family.  With young girls vanishing into the forest, and her father lost there as well,  accusations of witchcraft leveled at her, and her mother and siblings fallen into a magical sleep, Magia must find the strength to confront the woman controlling the threads of the stories and break those threads once and for all.  Her only ally is a wolf, Martin, who fell afoul of his own story when he failed to grasp that he was supposed to be eating the three little pigs (he'd rather be snug in a good library reading, as is the case with so many of us....). But Magia, with her red hood, is bound by her own story to be a wolf-killer....

It is a haunting story, that leads the reader along with Magia into a web of alternate realities.  It not a fairy tell retelling, but more a twisting and re-use of familiar stories, used to excellent effect to create the challenges that lie within the Puszcza.  The occasionally intrusion of the narrator (which I sometimes find annoying, but didn't here) worked to great effect, keeping readers thinking and aware of Stories and Storytelling.  

Magia is one of the most lonely heroines I've read this year, and it was easy to sympathize and mentally encourage her as she pressed onward.  Not only does she have fight an evil, magical antagonist, she has to resist the expectations of ordinary human folk, making her very relatable.  Martin the wolf, with his penchant for a good book, and failed efforts to break the story of the three little pigs (not because he knew that's what he was doing, but because he simply was not interested in being a vicious killer), is one of my favorite wolf characters ever, and possibly even more relatable!  His efforts to communicate with the pigs never work; he never found the right words to get them to listen (which was, within the framework of the story they're trapped in, not possible in any event, but I felt for him as he tried his best).

The Wolf Hour doesn't fit neatly into standard "this is a middle grade" book categorization (for ages 9-12) , though that's where I'd put it.  It really is an all ages book, one that encourages and rewards thoughtful reading. When I enjoy a book, I generally don't think about it much, but I found myself doing so here, and it enhanced my pleasure and let me relate in a deeper way to Magia as we both tried to unravel the enchantments of the forest.  In fact, I was thinking so much that I actually underlined bits of the book that struck me as breadcrumbs on the trail into the story and dogeared the pages to come back to.  (I was reading an ARC.  I would never do this to a finished copy).

I then offered some of these passages to Sara Lewis Holmes for her thoughts on them!


And so, a rather different sort of interview:

"You must learn the paths of the forest, and how to find the direction of the sun when there's no light overhead.  You must be so certain of your true story that you always end up where you want to be."

Tata gives Magia this advice early in the novel, and I know he believes it, and is trying to pass on his wisdom to her.  Ironically, though, it’s Tata who ends up where he doesn’t want to be and Magia who has to straighten out the “true story.” 

In writing The Wolf Hour, I was interested in how stories both fool and guide us. Other people love to plug us into their narratives, and assign us roles to play. That’s why Magia’s path to her “true story” is so twisty and difficult—-because she’s fighting against the world’s notion of who she should be… or not be. And I wanted readers to know that twisty and difficult is okay.

"Better she'd not come back, then," Pani Wolburska said, her voice breathless.  "Some lost things should stay lost.”

Oh, this is a hard one.  I had to include this awful line because this is what some people believe about some human beings.  That you can lose your way so badly that you can never come home.  But I don’t believe that. (Even my wolves can be heroes.) 

Of course, it helps to have friends who will believe the best of you, instead of the worst, as Pani Wolburska does. And to have wise books and kind teachers, too—-and yet, those things are often “lost” in budgets. Honestly, I think the only thing that deserves to stay lost is that sixth grade picture of me in a Bay City Rollers costume. 

"A wolf is everything we give it to swallow.  We kill it and it comes back. We fight it and it never dies.  We humans write stories to kill it, to defeat it. to boil it alive, to slice open its bell, but none of that works."
Her voice grew teeth.
"Because you can't truly kill a wolf.  He's the wildness without which the world would be a pale shadow of itself.  He makes us feel alive.  He reminds us of the magic in our tame and failing human bones!"

One of the irritating things about my antagonist, Miss Grand, is that she often tells the truth about the world: that it is hard; that people will take things from you; that Story is the way to fight back.  And here, too, she is right about Wolves—-that we invest them with wily power, and then try with all our might to kill them so that we can be safe. 

And yet—-is being safe the only thing to strive for? What about being fully alive? What about finding the magic in our own bones? What about being brave and finding our own way? 
I believe wildness is necessary in my own life—-I love being outdoors whenever I can—- and I know it’s necessary in my creative life, too—-for I can’t write true story without being somewhat uncivilized. By that, I mean:  I don’t always get out of my pajamas when I should.  I don’t always write drafts that make sense the first time, or the third time, or the fifth. (Ask my editor!)  And I don’t always let my antagonists lie. Even if I wish a wolf would just gobble her up. 

(Back to me, Charlotte)

Thank you Sara, both for expanding on the quotations and for writing this lovely, magical book!

This post is part of a blog tour for The Wolf Hour, the first stop is here at Finding Wonderland, where you'll find an interview and a review, and here's another review at By Singing Light.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

10/8/17

This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (10/8/17)

Welcome to this week's gathering of middle grade sci fi/fantasy goodness!  Please let me know if I missed your post.

First--nominations for the Cybils Awards are open.  Any kids book published in the US or Canada between Oct 16 2016 and October 15 2017 is eligible, and anyone can nominate. There are lots of great mg sci fi/fantasy books that haven't found their champions yet! I've made two lists-a long list here, and one that specifically lists diverse books here.  I've also starred the books reviewed this week that are eligible and haven't been nominated yet.

The Reviews

*The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers and Book Briefs

Brave Red, Smart Frog, by Emily Jenkins, at  Sharon the Librarian and Waking Brain Cells

The Case of the Cursed Dodo, by Jake G. Panda, at Log Cabin Library (audiobook review)

Cry of the Icemark, by Stuart Hill, at Sydne Marie Gernaat

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at alibrarymama

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller, at Waking Brain Cells

The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, at Hidden in Pages

*A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge, at Semicolon

Fortune Falls, by Jenny Goebel, at The Shannon Messenger Fan Club

*Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford, at Charlotte's Library and BooksForKidsBlog

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Alexa Loves Books

A Handful of Time, by Kit Pearson, at Time Travel Times Two

*Into the Shadowlands (book 2 of Monsters or Die) by Cynthia Reeg, at Always in the Middle

*The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, by Lindsay Currie, at Ms. Yingling Reads

*The Ship of the Dead, by Rick Riordan, at B. and N. Kids Blog

Sorcery for Beginners, by Matt Harry, at Geek Mom

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, at Redeemed Reader

*Thornhill, by Pam Smy at proseandkahn and The NY Times  

 *Toto-The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz, by Michael Morpurgo, at Always in the Middle

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor book 1) by Jessica Townsend, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books and divabooknerd

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, at Leaf's Reviews

Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, at Lu and Bean Read

*The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell, at B.and N. Kids Blog

*The Wonderling by Mira Bartok, at Mrsreadsbooks

*The World's Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank L. Cole, at The Write Path

Three at Ms Yingling reads-- Sven Carter and the Trashmouth Effect, by Rob Vlock, The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, Ship of the Dead, by Rick Riordan


Authors and Interviews

Nnedi Okorafor (*Akata Warrior) at the NY Times 

Laurie McKay (Villain Keeper series, most recently *Realm Breaker) at Boys Rule, Boys Read

Other Good Stuff

A great list of spooky MG for Halloween at Batch of Books

A look at some new fantasy in the UK at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Terror of Trees, at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

"A Wrinkle in Time star: 'It means everything to be a girl of color' and play lead role" at EW

"Giant straw animals invade Japan" via Bored Panda

10/7/17

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869, by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869, by Alex Alice (First Second, September 2017) is the most beautiful graphic novel I've read so far this year, and on top of that, it is one of the most interesting stories I've read this year of any genre. It is an oversized book, so the pages have plenty of room for both the detailed illustrations and the detailed plot!

Claire Dulac knew that she was taking a risk when she flew her hot air balloon to the very edge of the stratosphere.  But she judged it one worth taking--if she could find the aether, a mysterious element, air travel, and possibly even space exploration, would be possible. She promised her husband that she would return to him and their son...but she didn't.

The boy Sarphin, won't give up hope that somehow she survived.  And when, a year after she disappeared, a mysterious letter arrives from someone claiming to have found her logbook from that last journey, his hope is renewed.  The letter summons them to the castle of King Ludwig of Bavaria, a "mad" king who dreams of flying ships powered by aether.  The king hopes Claire's husband and son can continue his work, but in the meantime, Bismark dreams of a united Germany given power on the world stage by controlling aether themselves.  His spies are everywhere, and Seraphin and his father are in danger....

So this is part steampunk, part historical fiction, part a celebration of the fabulous creativity of the Victorian age, when scientists were making incredible discoveries and writers were exploding with romantic creativity.  It is a book that screams "give me as a present!" and so, if you need a gift for:

--a young graphic novel fan in general (teenaged rather than a young kid, because the story is a bit complicated and some knowledge of history is helpful.  But there's nothing particularly "young adult" about the plot, so if you have the right sort of 9-12 year old, who likes detail, and history, and machines, offer it up!)
--a fan (of any age) of steampunk, Jules Verne, or late 19th century European history,

this is the one!

I was in fact tempted to keep my review copy hidden from my own teenaged graphic novel reading son, but he is a judge for the Cybils Awards in the graphic novel category, and would be reading this before Christmas in any event.  Here are his thoughts, at his own blog, A Goblin Reviews Graphic Novels.  He would have liked getting it as a Christmas present.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

10/6/17

We need diverse books nominated for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category of the Cybils!

Diversity isn't a criteria we use to evaluate books for the Cybils Awards, but we do like having diverse books on the shortlists.  This is hard to do, though, when books by diverse authors and books with diverse characters aren't nominated.   Here are a few that are eligible for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category (for which I am the team leader).

It is very depressing, how short this list is.  I think this is the slimmist year since I've been paying attention for diversity in middle grade sci fi and fantasy.  And this list is not short because lots of diverse books have already been nominated (they haven't-I think we have two so far--The Gauntlet, and Rise of the Jumbies).  So I hope I've  missed lots, because of not knowing every author and not having read every book.  Please put more in the comments, and I'll add them!  And please also nominate them, and lots of other diverse books in all the other categories!  Here's where you go to nominate (by October 15).  Even it they don't end up being shortlisted, it's a way to show the authors you appreciate them, and to give them a bit of publicity.

Books by diverse authors:
Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (now nominated)
The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott
Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh  (now nominated)
The Mesmerist, by Ronald L. Smith  (now nominated)
Rebellion of Thieves, by Kekla Magoon
The Crystal Ribbon, by Celeste Lim
Voyage to Avalon (Mice of the Round Table, #2) by Julie Leung
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic, by Armand Baltazar
A Properly Unhaunted Place, by William Alexander (now nominated)

Books with diverse characters who are central to the story:
A Crack in the Sea, by H.M. Bouwman  (now nominated)
Ghosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford  (now nominated)
Journey Across the Hidden Islands, by Sarah Beth Durst  (now nominated)
The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders
One Way or Another, by Annette Laing

Here's a longer list of books I made that not yet nominated; perhaps some of these are also diverse (?)

10/5/17

Ghosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

Ghosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford (2017, middle grade, Clarion Books), was my most anticipated book of 2017 (I loved the first book, Greenglass House, very much, and if you haven't read it first, do so before reading this because spoilers).  It was released 2 days ago, so I'm later than I wanted to be getting a review up, but it was for a good reason--my 9th grade made friends this year with an 8th grade girl who also loved Greenglass House, and so I passed on my ARC to him to lend to her, which made me (and her) both happy--it has always been my dream that my boys' friends would be happy recipients of my ARCs and this hasn't happened as much as I had anticipated....

So Ghosts of Greenglass house takes place a year after the last book.  Once again it is Christmas, and it has been a year since Meddy, the ghost girl who once lived there has turned up.  It is slowish to start; Milo, whose parents run Greenglass House as a hotel, is disgruntled and cranky (partly because he is a Chinese adoptee, and has just had to deal with an insensitive teacher), and there's no snow yet.  There's only one guest in residence--a young art student in love with the stained glass windows.  But then guests arrive.  The first to come are dear characters from the first book--Clem and Georgie, professional thieves.  Their most recent job, liberating an extraordinary map, went sour, and they need to lie low.  Then the Waits ( mummers and carol singers) arrive, and the peace of Greenglass House is shattered when one of them is poisoned, and the treasures that Clem and Georgie have brought with them are stolen.

Milo is of course eager to solve this mystery, and happily Meddie turns up to assist, and once more they fall into the role-playing game that helped them out last time.  And once more storytelling brings clarity to the puzzle, and lots of hot chocolate is drunk, and more of the strange history of Nagspeake is revealed. And there's another ghost involved...  So of course I loved reading all this!

Because the oddball collection of individuals who make up the Waits are not actual guests, the story takes place in basically a day and a half, which made it somewhat more frantic than book 1; there was less time for Christmassy peace, and things felt a tad squashed. I was also slightly disappointed that Meddie didn't do more; Milo has to do almost all the figuring out himself.  But still it was a great read!   I look forward to reading it again, out loud closer to December, to the 9th grader referenced above, who has already asked me to do so.  Knowing how things unfold, and the slower pace of reading out loud, will let me enjoy it even more!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

10/4/17

Some elementary/middle grade books that haven't been nominated for the Cybils yet

Updated!

I know that nominations for the 2017 Cybils Awards  don't close till the 15th, and I also know that we have lots of good books nominated.  But I am twitchy about the books that haven't been nominated, especially the ones I haven't read yet; what if one of those is The One for me to champion?  And not that I am competitive, but ordinary Middle Grade Fiction is ahead by about 28 nominations.....

So here's a list of books that haven't been nominated yet; it's still an incomplete list, but I will be adding to it when I have time and updating it as books get nominated.   I'm not personally endorsing any of these, though several I did like lots, and though I'm pretty sure they are all eligible, I won't be doing Deep Checking until they get nominated...

Feel free of course to nominate a book that isn't on this list!

This is where you go to nominate.  You'll need to create a Cybils identity, but then you'll see all the different categories where you can nominate books (you get a nomination in each category).

The Ghosts in the Castle, by Zetta Elliott
Rebellion of Thieves, by Kekla Magoon
The Crystal Ribbon, by Celeste Lim
Voyage to Avalon (Mice of the Round Table, #2) by Julie Leung
Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic, by Armand Baltazar
The Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix, by Kate Saunders
One Way or Another, by Annette Laing
Thornhill, by Pam Smy
The Daybreak Bond, by Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Last Panther, by Todd Mitchell
The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, by Gabrielle Kent
The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright
If the Magic Fits, by Susan Schmid
Horizon, Scott Westerfeld
The Griffin of Darkwood, by Becky Citra
The Star Thief, by Lindsey Becker
Edgeland, by Jake Halpern 
Jed and the Junkyard War, by Steven Bohls
Silo and the Rebel Raiders by V. Peyton
The Emerald Tablet by Dan Jolley
Hatched, by Bruce Coville
The Dog Ray by Linda Coggin
The Goblin Crown, by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
The Beginners Guide to Curses by Lari Don
Stormwalker by Mike Revell
Race the Night, by Kirsten Hubbard
Defender of the Realm, by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler
The Painting, by Charis Cotter
Maggie and the Flying Horse, by E.D. Baker
Dragon's Green, by Scarlett Thomas
The Doll's Eye, by Marina Cohen
The House of Months and Years, by Emma Trevayne
The Night Garden, by Polly Horvath
The Girl with the Ghost Machine, by Lauren DeStefano
Wormwood Mire, by Judith Rossell
The Silver Gate, by Kristin Bailey
The Mage (Foxcraft #3), by Inabalie Iserles
The Wizard's Dog, by Eric Kahn Gale
Gold, by Geraldine Mills
Tumble and Blue, by Cassie Beasley
Monsterland, by James Crowley
The Bone Snatcher, by Charlotte Salter
Wonderling, by Mira Bartok
The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine
Joplin, Wishing, by Diane Stanley
Emily and the Spellstone, by Mike Rubens
The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley
Rules for Thieves, by Alexandra Ott
Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy, by Gareth Wronski
Realm Breaker, by Laurie McKay


10/1/17

this week's roundup of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (10/1/17)

Welcome to this week's round up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs!  Please let me know if I missed your post.

First--Cybils nominations are now open!  Anyone can nominate books (one book for each category), and so I hope you all go nominate (at a minimum) your favorite Elementary and Middle Grade speculative fiction book!  I'm the category organizer, and I'm also a proud mother, because for the second year, my own teenaged son (his blog is A Goblin Reviews Graphic Novels) is a panelist in the graphic novel category.

The Reviews

Battle of the Beasts, by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, at Say What?

Beast and Crown, by Joel Ross, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Curtain of Mist, by M. Pardoe, at Charlotte's Library

The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at That's Another Story and  Semicolon

 Everything You Need to Know about Nightmares! And How to Defeat Them, by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller, at The Reading Nook Reviews

Ghosts of Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Log Cabin Library

The King's Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) by Cheryl Carpinello, at Mythical Books

Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder, at Bibliobrit and Semicolon

The Neddiad, by Daniel Pinkwater, at Puss Reboots

The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan, at Leaf's Reviews

The Silver Mask (Magisterium #4) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina #3) by Robert Beatty, at Sharon the Librarian

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George, at Completely Full Bookshelf

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library, by Linda Bailey, at Redeemed Reader

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones, at Finding Wonderland

The White Tower, by Cathryn Constable, at Cracking the Cover

Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell, at Minerva Reads

The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok, at Charlotte's Library and  Say What?

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine, by Frank L. Cole, at Mom Read It

York: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby, at Sonderbooks

Authors and Interviews

Sara Lewis Holmes (The Wolf Hour) at Finding Wonderland

Mira Bartok (The Wonderling) at Cracking the Cover  and Great Kid Books

James Ponti (Dead City triology) at From the Mixed Up Files

Other Good Stuff

"Exploring Miyazaki's Fantasy World" at Tor

Witch Week is coming to the Emerald City Book Review at the end of October

Ten creepy Middle Grade books for Halloween, at Batch of Books

9/26/17

Curtain of Mist, by M. Pardoe, for Timeslip Tuesday

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6791141-curtain-of-mist
Curtain of Mist, by M. Pardoe, is an old one from the UK--1956.  It is a classic timeslip story, of three children and their tutor who slip through time to ancient Britain just before the invation of the Romans.  It starts so beautifully, with the three kids (boy, girl, boy) trying to adjust to life in the Scottish castle of their grandparents, and their new tutor arriving to try to catch them up to a British standard of education (they'd lived in the South Pacific with their parents before this, thought the oldest two had been to school already in England).   And the youngest brother has made friends with a strange boy from the past called Cymbel, who he has met through a thin spot in the fabric of time.

It's not clear which of the two boys is slipping from their own time, but it is very intriguing and vividly clear and I was so looking forward to more tension between past and present, tensions between lessons and the outdoors, and tensions between grandparents and somewhat untamed children.

Then-RATS.  The three kids and the tutor all time travel for real back to Cybel's home time of late Iron Age Britain, where it turns out he is a prince of a domain far to the south who has run away from being schooled on the holy island of Iona.  And this would be ok, with the modern folks coping with life in the past, but instead being an  interesting story, the book turns almost 80% didactic, and Teaches about Celtic Britain.  Sometimes flickers of story and character would emerge briefly, only to be swallowed by descriptive details again.  .

I was really frustrated. The first thirty pages or so were so darn enticing.  Probably if I had read it as the young Celtophile I was back in the day, my youthful imagination would have filled in the story to make a satisfying read for myself.  But that ship has sailed, and I will sadly shelf this one in my time slip shelf, never to be read again.

9/25/17

The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok

https://www.amazon.com/Wonderling-Mira-Bart%C3%B3k/dp/0763691216
The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok (Candlewick, September 2017)

The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is a dumping ground for young groundlings--animal hybrid persons.  This horrible place, run in true evil orphanage fashion by Miss Carbunkle, is home to a young fox groundling, known only as No. 13.  The shy, good-hearted creature has the memory of a long-ago song to comfort him, and can hear far off sounds and understand the language of the mice in the orphanage walls.  But the conditions at the orphanage are terrible.  When a new groundling, a little flightless bird being named Trinket arrives, she becomes his first friend, and gives him a name, Arthur.

Trinket's determined to escape, and she convinces Arthur to brave the world outside the walls with her.  They part ways, each driven to find the place they came from, and Arthur, utterly innocent and naïve, must navigate the teeming, often cruel city of Lumentown, which is not a good place at all for a young groundling.  Thanks to his marvelous hearing, he learns that Mss Carbunkle has a dastardly plan to remove all music from the world.  And Arthur, still enchanted by the memory of his own song, is determined to stop her. Reunited with Trinket, and joined by a brave mouse, Arthur returns to the orphanage to free the other groundlings and destroy Miss Carbunkle's plans.

Arthur is as sweet a young hero as all get out, and more naïve than even young readers, who will want to shake the pages of the book to warn him of dangers from time to time!  Trinket and the mouse are fine sidekicks, and hints of bigger magic than just the existence of the groundlings add a mythic underpinnings to the adventure.  It's the vividness of the world, though, that truly makes this stand out.  It's a place with ancient woods, clockwork deices, flying bicycles, and magical crows.  The reader can almost smell the sewers and hear the music...

This is definitely one for the young reader who identifies with the lonely and the outcast, whose favorite books are fairytale-like worlds of wonder where goodness is never squashed under the heal of evil and prejudice. Bartok's beautifully detailed illustrations, generously sprinkled thought the story, add to the magic of it all.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

9/24/17

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (9/24/17)

Here's what I found in my blog reading this week of interest to us fans of middle grade fantasy and science fiction; please let me know if I missed your post!

First-- come to Kidlitcon 2017!  Hershey PA, Nov 3-4.  The Early Bird registration rate ends September 24.  (If you want to come, but would like a hotel room-mate to help with the costs, let me know and I can try to match you up with another (perfectly sane, not ax-murdering) children's book fan!  Or bring your whole family, and send the rest of them to Hershey while you talk books!)

We have an amazing line up of children's book folks coming (see the end of the program for the whole list).  At Kidlitcon, you actually get to socialize with the authors, and it's pretty great!  Perhaps because I am the program organizer, there are a number of wonderful MG fantasy authors:

Tracey Baptiste The Jumbies (Algonquin Young Readers, 2015) and Rise of the Jumbies (2017)

Caroline Carlson The World’s Greatest Detective (2017 HarperCollins),  The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (HarperCollins)

Jen Swann Downey Ninja Librarians series (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Celeste Lim The Crystal Ribbon (Scholastic, 2017)

Laurie McKay Villain Keeper series (HarperCollins)

David Neilsen Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom (Crown Books 2016) and Beyond the Doors (Crown Books 2017)

Mike Rubens Emily and the Spellstone (Clarion 2017)

Eric Wight Frankie Pickle series (Simon and Schuster)

The Reviews

The Adventurers Guild, by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, at Reads All the Books

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, by Joe Ballarini, at Jean Little Library and The Write Stuff

Can I Get There by Candlelight? by Jean Slaughter Doty, at Time Travel Times Two

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, at The Children's Book Review

The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, at Sharon the Librarian

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester, at The Children's Book Review

Curse of the Werewolf Boy, by Chris Priestly, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Darkness of Dragons, by Tui T. Sutherland, at Hidden in Pages

The Daybreak Bond, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, at Batch of Books

Deadzone (Horizon #2), by Jennifer Nielsen, at Black Plume

The Dollmaker of Krakow, by R.M. Romero, at Literary Aliteration

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, by Alexandra Bracken, at Story Notions

The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, at Log Cabin Library

The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen, at That's Another Story

Giant Trouble, by Ursula Vernon, at Puss Reboots

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, at The Book Smugglers

The Gravedigger's Son, by Patrick Moody, at Say What?

Greenglass House, by Kate Milford, at Puss Reboots (a road narrative deconstruction)

The List, by Patricia Forde, at The Write Path

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood, at Say What?

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, by R.A. LaFevers (series review) at Milliebot Reads

The Painting, by Charis Cotter, at Falling Letters

The Peacock Door by Wanda Kay Knight, at I Heart Reading

Quests for Glory, by Soman Chainani, at B. and N. Kids Blog

The Raven God, by Alane Adams, at Nicsthebibliophile

The Rise of the Jumbies, by Tracey Babtiste, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Tentacle and Wing, by Sarah Porter, at Weezie's Whimsical Writing

Tumble and Blue, by Cassie Beasley, at B. and N. Kids Blog

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World, by Bryan Davis, at Page Dreaming

Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, at Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup

The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell, at The Gaurdian

York, by Laura Ruby, at Semicolon

Authors and Interviews

Tracey Babtiste (Rise of the Jumbies) at Publishers Weekly, B. and N. Kids Blog, and From the Mixed Up Files

Soman Chainani (Quests for Glory), at B. and N. Kids Blog

Laurel Gale (Monster, Human, Other) at Word Spelunking

Catherynne M. Valente (The Glass Town Game) at Yayomg

Other Good Stuff

A passel of middle grade fantasy recommendations at Project Mayhem

An interesting look at The Hobbit from the perspective of a child reader, at Tor

Cybils nominations will be open October 1-15; nominate books published between October 16, 2016-October 15, 2018 in a wide variety of categories (you get one nomination in each category).  At Always in the Middle Greg shares some eligible Elementary/Middle grade speculative fiction books he's considering.

Lockwood and Co. is becoming a tv series





9/19/17

Future Shock, by Elizabeth Briggs, for Timeslip Tuesday

Future Shock, by Elizabeth Briggs, is a YA time travel thriller, in which five teens are sent to the future on what seems like a harmless mission that soon goes horribly wrong.

Elena Martinez, tough, tattooed, and in the gifted program at school, is about to age out of the foster care system. If she doesn't find a job before she turns 18, she'll be homeless, and her one most pronounced skill, perfect recall, isn't doing her much good.  Then comes an unexpected offer, that will solve all her financial problems-- to be a test subject for the tech giant, Aether Corporation, for just one day.  She and four other teenagers—Adam, Chris, Trent, and Zoe—will be sent through time to the future to bring back information about technology that hasn't been invented yet.  All but Adam are foster kids, with no one make a fuss if they don't come back.  The rules are simply--don't look up your future self, and be back at the portal point at the right time. 

But there are many things the Aether folks haven't told them.  Little things like other test subjects going insane.  And things go wrong from the moment they arrive at Aether Co. in the future and find it abandoned.   When the teens break the rules and look into their own future lives, it's clear that things are even more wrong than they were starting to suspect.  Because when they get home, all of them but Adam will be murdered.

There isn't much the kids can control, but they struggle to work together to figure out what's going to happen to them, because they must, though suspicion and the dangers of the future make it hard to do so.  Adam seems an obvious suspect, because he lives, but he and Elena are drawn to each other, and she can't help but believe that there's lots more going on than meets the eye.  There is.  And the clock is ticking...because if they don't go back to their own present, with or without the information they need to save their lives, they're stuck.

The mad science of the future, and the big question of whether past events can be changed, make this a very successful time travel story. The thriller mystery part was exciting reading, in a scrambling to put pieces together way.  The romance was a tad on the cheesy side, and too quick to blossom from attraction to more, but that's what happens to fictional YA characters.  The ensemble cast of diverse teens take a while to emerge as individuals as opposed to types, but by the end there's enough to each one's story to make them believable people to care about.

I enjoyed it, and have added book 2 to my tbr list!

Here's another review at Finding Wonderland

9/18/17

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869, by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869, by Alex Alice (First Second, September 2017), is an utterly gorgeous alternate history, originally published in French.  It's the story of a boy whose mother is a great adventurer, determined to rise in her balloon to deadly heights in pursuit of Aether, a substance that could power incredible wonders.  Sadly, just as she makes her discovery that it doesn't in fact exist, her mission fails, and she dies up in the dark cold at the edge of Earth's atmosphere.  Her journal, though, falls to Earth...

And her son, Seraphin, and her husband grieve, but when, a while later, they receive word her journal has been found and is waiting for them in Bavaria, they set off to retrieve it.  This journey takes them into danger, for the political situation is tense.  The Prussian general Bismark is pressing the other German principalities hard to join him in a unified Germany, and King Ludwig of Bavaria is most reluctant to do so.  Aether, with its potential for military usefulness, could tip the balance of power, and lead to conquest of not just earthly realms, but galactic ones.

Seraphin is determined to foil the Prussian plans, and throws himself into working to continue his mother's dream, while planting false information for Bismark's spies to find.  And Mad King Ludwig, perhaps not so mad at all, dreams of flighing beyond Earth. Fortunately for Seraphin, he becomes part of a cohort of plucky youngsters who can make this dream come true.  If, that it, Bismark doesn't seize it from them....

I know it is only September, but I am already thinking about Christmas presents. This is an absolutely perfect present to give to:

--a connoisseur of beautiful graphic novels.  It has a classy, elegant design and beautiful illustrations.  Likewise, an experienced fan of graphic novels in general (you need to pay attention to the text with this one or else you won't understand it), who likes stories that are fun and fantastical and which bear re-reading multiple times.

--a young reader who enjoyed Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series, even if they might not be a graphic novel fan first and foremost, as this too is alternate European history with a steampunk flavor

--a not necessarily young reader who's a fan of Jules Verne, and 19th century romantic/mad science imaginings in general.  In short, if you have an elderly relative who's impossible to find a present for, but who has Jules Verne on their bookshelves, this would be a suitable gift.

When my review copy arrived, I considered holding it back from my own son till Christmas (he fits all but the last of the categories above).  But it was so perfect for him I couldn't stand to make him wait!  And it was a pleasure seeing him enjoying it.

9/17/17

This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (9/17/17)

Here's what I found this week; let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer, at Leaf's Reviews

Code Name Flood (Edge of Extinction #2) by Laura Martin, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell, at Pages Unbound Reviews

The Crowns of Croswald, by D.E. Night, at Flipping the Pages

Deadzone (Horizon #2), by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Ms. Yinging Reads

Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas, at Kiss the Book

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, by Alexandra Bracken, at The Reading Nook Reviews and  Cracking the Cover

Embers of Destruction, by J. Scott Savage, at Cracking the Cover

The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, at Sonderbooks, The Book Monsters, and The Zen Leaf (audiobook review)

The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places, by Pete Begler, at Jean Little Library

The Glass Town Game, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Vox

The Icebreaker trilogy, by Lian Tanner, at B. and N. Kids Blog

In Over Their Heads. (Under Their Skin #2), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Becky's Book Reviews

Jorie and the River of Fire by A.H. Richardson, at Log Cabin Library

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, by Lindsay Currie, at Sci Fi & Scary

Under Their Skin. (Under Their Skin #1), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, at Becky's Book Reviews

The Winnowing, by Vikki VanSickle, at Me On Books

Authors and Interviews

Tracey Baptiste (The Rise of the Jumbies) at B. and N. Kids Blog

Catherynne  M. Valente (The Glass Town Game) at Whatever

Vikki VanSickle (The Winnowing) at Me on Books

Other Good Stuff

10 great middle grade books of 2017 so far (incuding 5 sci fi/fantasy) at B. and N. Kids Blog

Six middle grade time travel classics, at Time Travel Times Two

Thoughts on middle grade readers and growing with, or growing out, of series at Project Mayhem

Preview Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor, at Tor

Join authors/illustrators Tony DiTerlizzi (The Battle for WondLa) and Ben Hatke (Zita the Spacegirl) at the Carle Museum on Sunday, October 1st at 3:00 PM as they discuss the increasingly popular fantasy and sci-fi genre for middle grade readers. Book signing to follow program.
RSVP on Facebook!


9/13/17

Caleb and Kit, by Beth Vrabel

Caleb and Kit, by Beth Vrabel (Running Press,September 12, 2017) is a moving story of a friendship between a boy and a girl, both of whom are facing tremendous challenges. Caleb has cystic fibrosis, and has spent his life being protected by his mother.  Now that he's twelve, he's kicking against the smothering care (including the indignity of being sent to a summer camp populated by little kids), but is it a fact that he needs his mother's care to keep breathing.  Then one day he heads angrily off into the woods alone, which he's never done before, and meets a girl, Kit.

Kit becomes his new best friend, who leads him out of his protected life to seize the day and all the imaginative adventures it may bring.  Soon Caleb is skipping out of camp to follow Kit's lead, becoming part of her story of fairy magic.  Kit keeps him away from her own home, but gradually Caleb and the reader get glimpses and clues that make it pretty clear that all is not well.  In fact, Kit's home life is very bad indeed.  The book moves to a climax in which Caleb's deceptions are found out, and he tells his mother about Kit, and she is taken into foster care and out of Caleb's life.

Caleb is a normal 12 year old, trying to pull away from parental care, but the fact of his cystic fibrosis, and its dire consequence of a shortened lifespan (not to mention more mundane unpleasant issues), is unescapable.  His life is complicated further by his father's decision to leave his mother and start a new relationship, and his perfect older brother Patrick's ubiquitous perfection.  Caleb constantly is reminded by Patrick's existence of all the things he can never do, and the life Patrick will have that he won't.  It turns out that Patrick is carrying heavy weight of his own, trying to be perfect both to get attention for himself, and because he knows Caleb might die at a very young age, leaving Patrick to have to be a good enough son to fill two places. It's a horrible situation for everyone, but there it is, and inspired by Kit, Caleb has been really living each day (even though Bad Choices are made as part of that living).

Though there is this drama playing out in the book, this isn't a tear-jerking melodrama about a brave, sick kid being an inspiration.  Cystic fibrosis might confine Caleb, but it doesn't define him.  Nor, thank goodness, is it a Bridge To Terabithia knock off, though there are undeniable similarities.  No one dies at the end; instead everyone has become more honest with themselves and each other, setting up hope that though there's no magic cure in sight, there will be good times to come.

I remember back when I was a real middle grade reader being fascinated by stories that gave me windows into the lives of kids coping with sickness and disability.  The matter-of-factness with which the symptoms of cystic fibrosis are discussed and described, and lived by Caleb, make this a good one for young readers like I was--sickness isn't  romanticized, and the kid doesn't become more special because of it.  The reader is left with information, and with sympathy that's not a prurient voyeurism. This leaves room for the themes of friendship, and honesty, and adolescent desire for independence and love combined to flourish in a good story.

2 for 2 in my Kirki (plural of Kirkus?) comparisons this week--"A realistic story with strong, recognizable characters that doesn’t reduce cystic fibrosis to a tragedy." (here's the full review)

Dislaimer: review copy provided by the publisher

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