Friday, April 26, 2019

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Reading this book is better than nibbling the ends off a Cadbury Royal Dark chocolate bar. And if you haven't read it yet - I know, how can you miss reading a Newbery medal winner! - then now's your chance. It's being released next Tuesday, April 30, in paperback. So fill up your mug with hot tea, grab a chocolate bar, and give yourself permission to go on a mini-vacation so you can enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted reading.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
By Kelly Barnhill
400 pages; ages 10 – 14
Algonquin Young Readers, 2016 (2019 paperback)

Here's the scoop (from the back cover):
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest to keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is really kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge with unpredictable consequences, just when it’s time for Xan to go collect another child. Meanwhile, a young man is determined to free his people by killing the witch. And a volcano, dormant for centuries, rumbles within the earth… 

Of course, the story is so much more complex than one can blurb on a book jacket. Or back cover. And, say my writerly friends and colleagues, the story seems so much darker for adults than for children. It could be that we older folk have forgotten the portals to the world of magic, have forgotten the secret handshake and password. 

What I like love about this book:

As an emerging fiction writer who can't nail my character to a sheet of lined notebook paper, I fell in love with Kelly Barnhill's cast of characters:
  • A Grand Elder who is nothing more than a bully and a thug, scheming ways to consolidate and keep political power
  • A reluctant Elder-in-Training who prefers carpentry to politics
  • A witch who is short and squat and "a bit bulbous about the belly" - not only does she resemble people I know, but there's that fun bit of alliteration
  • A swamp monster with attitude - who else would have the chutzpah to roll his eyes at a witch?
  • A tiny dragon who believes it is Simply Enormous
  • An abandoned baby, enmagicked by accident
I love the way folk tales of the bog-people are woven through the book. And the origin story: In the beginning there was only Bog.

I love that the book is filled with more than magic; there are ethical questions that make you pause and ponder.

And I love the way each chapter has a title. Some could have come from my own experience, like this one: "In Which a Map is Rather Useless".

Beyond the Book: Check out Barnhill's essay, in which she finds things she did not expect! 

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Get Geeked Out!

Geeked Out, a Lame New World
by Obert Skye
224 Pages, Ages 9-12
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2018

I love a new series - especially when it contains the end of the world, the breakdown of society, and STEM connections. Plus zombies. And, as Obert Skye demonstrates, there is no better place to find all of these things than in a middle school. 

The Otto Waddle Jr. High Government Outpost, to be exact. Society may be in danger, but middle school must go on! At least that's Tip's perspective. 

Like middle schools everywhere, Otto Waddle is blessed with the usual cliques and clubs - though perhaps a bit more extreme than we're used to. There's Jocks, Sox, Goths, Loners, Freaks, Pens, and a few more. Then there's the Geeks. Tim's group of friends who are thinkers, not fighters: Owen, Xen, and Mindy. All members of the AV club who are tired of being picked on. So they plot a prank. It involves a pinata and lots of grease from the lunchroom. I won't go into the gross details; suffice it to say the prank goes horribly wrong.

Punishment is dealt. Vengeance sought. And somewhere along the line the friends decide to take a stand. They form a secret group, the League of Average Mediocre Entities (LAME). Because, seriously, who couldn't use a few heroes. What they lack in superpowers they make up for with science! All they lack are capes.

What I like about this book - besides the geek elements - is the laugh-out-loud humor and comic-style illustrations. This is the perfect book for car reading whilst driving to soccer/karate/orthodontic appointment...  You can read an excerpt of the book here. But I guarantee you're gonna want to read more.

And guess what! Volume two is coming out at the end of this month. Titled Bigger, Badder, Nerdier, it is guaranteed to be... ah. It's right there in the title! Because Otto Waddle Junior High School is worse than ever. Now that Tip and his LAME buddies finally come into their superpowers mediocre powers they have new bad guys to deal with.

You'll find an excerpt of the new book here.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Three Rules of Everyday Magic

The Three Rules of Everyday Magic
by Amanda Rawson Hill
192 pages; ages 8-12
Boyds Mills Press, 2018

There's something about that moment right before the first star appears in the sky.

You know - that quiet time, when the whole world seems to be holding its breath and waiting. It's an almost magical time, except that Kate doesn't believe in magic. She does have some big wishes, though. Dad is gone and Kate misses him. Her guitar is collecting dust because she won't sing without him.

Then Grammy comes to live with them. She needs a bit of watching, because she's gone wandering. That's one big change in her life. Then her karate friend and neighbor, Parker, will be joining her class at school. He's been homeschooling till now. And one more big change: best friend Sofia is in a community theater production and seems to have found a new BFF!

When Grammy tells her the three rules of everyday magic, Kate can't resist believing. At least a little bit. So she tries to follow Grammy's rules (believe, give, trust) to bring her dad back to her. Things don't go as expected, because if the did we wouldn't have a story, right?

But will Grammy's magic and the karate wisdom from her Sensei help bring her dad back or heal the hole left by her best friend?

What I like about this book: the writing is so honest. Kate isn't perfect. She lies. She gets angry. She's just a kid. And while I don't really believe in magic, I really really want to believe that Grammy's simple rules of everyday magic can work for all of us. Because we could all use a bit more giving and trust in our lives, right?

I also like the language. Take this bit: "It smells like cows. Like grass and rain and mud all pressed together in a heap." I may not live where Kate lives, but I can identify with that fresh mowed-grass-before-the-rain smell.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle , so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Sweet Dreams, Sarah

Sweet Dreams, Sarah
by Vivian Kirkfield; illus by Chris Ewald
32 pages; ages 7-11
Creston Books, 2019

themes: nonfiction, women in history, inventor

Before the Civil War, Sarah obeyed her owner. 
Hurry up. 
     Eyes down. 
          Don’t speak.

But Sarah dreamed of a different life: a family and work she loved. When the war ended, she moved north with “hope in her heart, and dreams swirling in her head.” She married and helped run the family furniture store. And dreamed of creating something new: a bed that folded up when it wasn’t being used.

What I like about this book: I like how Vivian Kirkfield shows us Sarah’s perseverance:  when things don’t work the way she wants them to, she tweaks her design and rebuilds. She applies for a patent. Gets rejected. Tries again. What a great example of the drive and commitment it takes to create something new.

I like that Sarah builds more than a bed that folds into a desk. She builds a life of freedom, where she can realize her dreams.

I like the back matter: an author’s note about Sarah Goode and what a patent is. There’s also a timeline so we can put her life and invention into broader historical context. And… ta-da! There’s a timeline of black women patent holders from Sarah Goode (1883) to Janet Bashen (2006, web-based software program).

Beyond the book:

Meet some other black women inventors - click here.

Invent something! Have you ever thought, "gee, someone should make a _____________?" Inventors are the ones who say, “this would be better if....” Here's a video from Kid President about his inventions.

Can kids be inventors? You bet. Here's 10 inventions dreamed up by kids.

We're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It's a weekly event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.