Tag Archives: adventure

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose. February 7, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399168116.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 750.

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who’s long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.

In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
News that gold’s been discovered in northern Canada has just arrived in 1897 Seattle; learning that his brother, Mel, has joined the stampede of amateur prospectors, Jasper, 11, follows him north.With their mother dead and their father alcoholic and unemployed, Mel, 16, was the family breadwinner. Feeling hurt and abandoned, afraid Mel might send him home, Jasper sneaks onto the ship that will take them to Skagway, Alaska. Jasper’s brought along their father’s gold pocket watch and mother’s washboard; resourceful and determined, he trades his laundry services for a place to sleep and money for food, avoiding capture as a stowaway. The prospectors embarking on this long, dangerous journey to the Klondike as winter approaches are rough, dishonest, and highly credulous (even Jasper questions whether Yukon gold litters the ground or grows on trees). But like them, Jasper’s spellbound by the story of One-Eyed Riley, an unhinged prospector who abandoned his valuable claim but left clues to its whereabouts. Untold riches await the miner who solves the riddles. Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Rose milks the setting for all it’s worth. Jasper and Mel are both white. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it’s the brothers’ struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem -Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels in verse May B. and Blue Birds. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.carolinestarrrose.com.

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Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Masterminds: Payback on Amazon

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Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 192 p. ISBN: 9780062455734.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 720.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. While some journey hopefully toward a destination, Rydr’s expectations are decidedly low. Following her grandmother’s death, she’s traveling by rail to meet her next guardian, a great-uncle she has never met. In the meantime, the train becomes her home. She befriends a couple of passengers as well as her Amtrak chaperone and the snack-counter attendant, while the train travels from California to Chicago. Along the way, she celebrates her thirteenth birthday, deals with a personal crisis, and forms a strong bond with a boy. Each of these occurrences has an element of the unexpected as well as a feeling of inevitability. And in the end, this tough, smart, vulnerable kid leaves readers with the conviction that wherever she’s headed, it’s going to turn out OK. Written in a style that is simple and direct but not without nuance, the novel introduces Rydr as an initially enigmatic narrator whose story becomes more intricate and more involving as the many complications of her journey elicit memories from her past. While there’s tragedy in Rydr’s background, her way forward is lit by insight and hope. In his first novel, Mosier offers a cast of well-drawn characters, an unusual setting, and a rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Rydr, as she calls herself, is trying to put a brave face on a journey that feels much like doom.The 13-year-old, hungry and broke, is the daughter of an addicted mom “who used to have public embarrassments”—but now she’s dead. Her reluctant grandmother (also now dead), whose best quality was her excellent pancakes, was her next not-quite-a-caregiver. Now the girl, battered by life but always resiliently and often cleverly struggling forward, is on a long train trip from Palm Springs to Chicago, where she’ll be placed with an elderly great-uncle she doesn’t know but whose “monthly check will get bigger” when she arrives. During the journey she’s under the care of, then befriended and perhaps even saved by, Dorothea, an Amtrak escort, Neal, a gay snack bar worker, Carlos, a traveling poet, and an antipathetic Boy Scout called Tenderchunks who touches her heart. Along the way Rydr will savor her first kiss, run away from the train and her memories—but return—leave the burden of her mother’s ashes in an Iowa wood, and nearly destroy a restroom while trying to cope with her excruciating recollections. Her pluck and her perceptive narrative voice combine to make her brief yet deeply affecting connections with caring strangers plausible although occurring over the course of just a few days. Race and culture are implied in naming convention and speech patterns, with characters defaulting to white. A harrowing, moving, immersive, and ultimately uplifting debut novel. (Fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011, but has written in some fashion his entire life. He lives a short walk from the place of his birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, but it has been a very circuitous route that brought him there. He is married and is father to two lovely daughters who both read fanatically. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, talking nonstop, and riding trains. In fact, he has ridden most of the route described in his debut novel, Train I Ride, which has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

His website is novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.

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Train I Ride on Amazon

Train I Ride on Goodreads

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Train I Ride Publisher Page

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park. March7, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062327413.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

In the second installment of the spellbinding Wing & Claw series, Newbery Medal—winning author Linda Sue Park takes a young apothecary hero to new heights of danger, exciting adventure, and intriguing botanical magic.

Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Cavern of Secrets masterfully explores one boy’s responsibility to his friends, family, and the wider world.

Sequel to: Forest of Wonders

Part of series: Wing & Claw

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 3-6. After spending months hiding in the woods, Raffa, Garith, and Kuma, accompanied by their animal friends, decide it’s time to go home, if only because Raffa’s talking bat, Echo, is gravely ill. On their trip back, Raffa stumbles onto a new plant with miraculous healing properties, which comes in handy once aggressive animals treated with the scarlet vine start attacking people in unnatural ways. Raffa’s new plant seems to reverse the effects of the scarlet vine, and he endeavors to return to the heart of the city, no matter how dangerous, to thwart the Chancellor’s nefarious plans. Amid all the action of his mission, Raffa faces some hard truths about his apothecary gifts, especially when he considers what might be best for Echo. While Raffa’s fretful inner monologue sometimes bogs down the pace, Park’s meaningful exploration of emotions nicely grounds the plot, and her rich, vividly drawn characters add plenty of depth. Another cliff-hanger ends this second volume of the Wing and Claw series, but that only means there’s more for fans to pine for.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
In this sequel to Forest of Wonders (2016), hero Raffa applies his apothecary skills to thwart the Chancellor of Obsidia’s malevolent plot to treat wild animals with botanicals and use them against her own people. Raffa, his cousin, Garith, and his friend Kuma, along with a talking bat named Echo, a gigantic bear, and a raccoon, have spent the winter in the Sudden Mountains, hiding from the Chancellor who wants to silence them because of their knowledge of her secret plan. With spring’s approach, Raffa decides to return to his parents. On the perilous journey home, Raffa discovers a hidden cavern where he harvests a mysterious, translucent plant whose healing properties cure the ailing Echo. After witnessing the Chancellor’s manipulated foxes, stoats, and crows devastate Kuma’s village and finding his own home in ashes, Raffa covertly develops an antidote from the cavern plant, hoping to cure and free the captured animals. When his plan fails, a desperate, desolate Raffa faces a precarious future, pondering his role as a healer vis-à-vis his family, friends, and Obsidia. As in the trilogy opener, Park demands that her child protagonist make adult-sized choices that come with real consequences. Raffa’s world is a diverse one; he has dark hair and light-brown skin, Kuma’s skin is dark, and Garith is newly deaf. The nail-biting adventure, relevant moral dilemmas, and complex characters will leave readers eager for the final installment. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is a Korean American author of children’s fiction. Park published her first novel, Seesaw Girl, in 1999. To date, she has written six children’s novels and five picture books for younger readers. Park’s work achieved prominence when she received the prestigious 2002 Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard.

Her website is www.lindasuepark.com.

Teacher Resources

Wing and Claw Reading Guide

Around the Web

Cavern of Secrets on Amazon

Cavern of Secrets on Goodreads

Cavern of Secrets on JLG

Cavern of Secrets Publisher Page

Hideout by Watt Key

Hideout  by Watt Key. January 10, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304829.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.2.

In this riveting middle-grade adventure, the son of a Mississippi policeman finds a boy living on his own in the wilderness. Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his bayou home. Then he discovers a strange kid named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin deep in the woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys and hidden truths become harder to conceal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to marijuana use

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. From the author of Alabama Moon (2006) and Terror at Bottle Creek (2016) comes an exciting adventure set in Mississippi’s Pascagoula River marshlands. When 12-year-old Sam finds another boy, Davey, living alone in an abandoned fishing camp, Sam’s efforts to help him draw the attention of a trio of criminals. Emotionally reeling from a beating at school, Sam wonders if he’s been marked as a loser for good. He wants to do something brave, like his police chief dad, so he’s taken to piloting his boat in the bayou’s unmapped areas, where he finds Davey. Davey claims to be waiting for his father and brother, but as Sam begins sneaking him food and supplies, it’s clear Davey isn’t telling the whole truth. He’s hidden piles of money, which remind Sam of a robbery his dad is investigating. Sam’s struggles to fit in at school, to like himself, and to solve his own problems reflect middle-grade concerns. The boys’ survivalist adventures in the swamps are suspenseful, and the reassuring ending relies on supportive adult intervention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
Key treads familiar territory in this tale of boys trying to be men, this time in the dangerous swampy bayous of Mississippi.Narrator Sam Ford has been beaten badly by two bullies at his new middle school. With a dad who has just become chief of police of Pascagoula, Sam tries to escape his humiliation by blaming his only friend, nerdy white Grover. Hoping to prove himself, Sam heads to the bayous in his new boat, a present for his 13th birthday, looking for a dead body that search and rescue hasn’t been able to find. Instead, Sam finds Davey holed up in a deserted and rotting old fish camp. Given the absence of racial markers, particularly in this Mississippi setting, readers are likely to conclude that both boys are white. With little heed to common sense, Sam begins to help Davey by taking him supplies he’s sneaked out of his house. The natural predators of the swamp and backwaters combine with human dilemmas to test the boys and their mix of loyalties. The ways they meet such frightening circumstances as thieves on the run highlight the difference that a loving and supportive family can make, and that has nothing to do with what money can buy. The boys are on the cusp of manhood, and navigating those waters is as treacherous as any swamp. It’s man versus nature as well as man versus man in this tale that will have strong appeal to Key’s fans and adventure lovers. (Adventure. 10-15)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

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Hideout on Amazon

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Hideout Publisher Page

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron. February  14, 2017. Entangled: Teen, 400 p. ISBN: 9781633755925.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run―a betrayal and a death sentence.

Part of Series: The Ryogan Chronicles (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
Cameron (Assassins: Nemesis, 2017, etc.) tells a YA fantasy tale about a “nyshin”—a warrior, mage, and hunter—on a desert island rife with danger. Khya is no stranger to hardship. Life on the island of Shiara is inhospitable at best, and as a nyshin, burdens fall especially heavily on her. Nevertheless, she’s always been able to depend on her clan and the fact that everyone in it works for the good of the many. But everything changes when they threaten to take from her the one thing she can’t give up: her brother, Yorri. Her worries are understandable as her sibling approaches a rite of passage that will determine the course of his life, but the greatest dangers facing her are ones that she can’t even imagine. As storms rage across the island and enemies probe the clan’s borders, a conspiracy begins to unfold that will test everything Khya has ever known. Not knowing whom to trust, she must rely on strange bedfellows: Sanii, a member of the servant class and the love of Yorri’s life; and Tessen, Khya’s sometime-friend, sometime-archrival, and possibly something more. But most of all, she must depend on herself, casting aside faith, duty, and honor for the strength of love and family. Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This rare gem of a book has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife. A fresh, original series starter bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth.

About the Author

After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years studying psychology and creative writing, basically getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Now, she’s the author of several series for young adults. She’s also a reader, asexuality advocate, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse who loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.

Her website is www.byericacameron.com.

Around the Web

Island of Exiles on Amazon

Island of Exiles on Goodreads

Island of Exiles on JLG

Island of Exile Publisher Page

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix. February 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 384 p. ISBN: 9781338052084.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

The Last Thing She Needs Is a Prince.

The First Thing She Needs Is Some Magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land-and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Trailer

Sneak Peek

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-10. Princess Anya is in a bind. Her stepstepfather Duke Rikard (who happens to be an evil sorcerer) is plotting to steal the crown, her older sister’s suitor has been transformed into a frog, and Anya has promised to help turn him back into a prince—but she’s fresh out of the transmogrification-reversal lip balm she needs for the job. There’s nothing for it but to embark on a quest to gather the hard-to-come-by lip balm ingredients and hopefully devise a way to stop the duke while she’s at it. Anya is accompanied by Ardent, an eager (talking) royal dog, and it isn’t long before their journey takes on a more significant purpose. Playing on fairy tale tropes and conventions, Nix (Newt’s Emerald, 2015) delivers a delightful adventure stuffed with absurdity, magic, and a spirited young heroine. Beneath these entertaining trappings lies a heartfelt message of justice and fair treatment for all. As for Anya, there’s always room for leading ladies like her: “I don’t expect to need rescuing. I’m not that kind of princess.”

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Princess Anya goes questing to fulfill a promise to her sister.When Princess Anya’s stepstepfather, evil Duke Rikard, transforms her older sister’s latest love into a frog, the self-possessed white royal promises to transform him back. Alas, the Transmorgification Reversal Lip Balm is depleted in kissing the wrong frog, and Anya is forced on a dual quest to escape death by Duke Rikard and gather supplies for more balm. The third-person narration chronicles the high jinks that ensue as Anya sets off with her faithful talking canine companion, Ardent, and the transformed prince. Anya and company fall in with various intriguing characters: Bert (short for Roberta), the strong, capable, dark-skinned leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers (think Robin Hood), who challenges Anya to examine her princess privilege; the powerful and also dark-skinned and female Good Wizard; and the Wizard’s teacher, who’s both Merlin and Snow White (just one way Nix cleverly and hilariously turns fairy-tale tropes upside-down); as well as the Seven Dwarves. The characters are so enjoyable readers are sure to miss them when the quest (and book) ends. Refreshingly, there’s no romance plot here, and just as refreshingly, the two dark-skinned women are both beautiful and benevolent. Nix takes inspiration from classics and improves on them: he doesn’t fall into negative tropes and masterfully infuses the weight of first recognizing one’s privilege with humor. Great fun with heart. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

About the Author

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing ‘Hail the Conquering Hero Comes’ or possibly ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher’s sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.  His website is www.garthnix.com.

Around the Web

Frogkisser! on Amazon

Frogkisser! on Goodreads

Frogkisser! on JLG

Frogkisser! Publisher Page

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book Two by Rick Riordan. October 4, 2016. Disney-Hyperion, 480 p. ISBN: 9781423160922.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 690.

Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon–the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki–and the price he wants is very high.

Sequel to: The Sword of Summer

Part of Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Reference to drugs; Allusions to abuse

 

Book Trailer

Book Tour

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 6-9. Death has been pretty good to Magnus Chase, son of Norse god Frey. After a victory against Fenris Wolf, preventing Ragnarok (for now), Magnus has started to settle into his (after)life in Valhalla. But nothing is quiet for long when gods are involved: Thor’s hammer is missing again (shh); two of Magnus’ best friends have disappeared; Valkyrie Samirah, a daughter of Loki, is being forced into marriage with a giant king; and Loki himself might be behind it all. It’s a good thing Magnus has allies—even if they include a talking sword with a penchant for Top 40 songs. Riordan combines Norse mythology with a number of social issues: gender fluidity (Alex, a child of Loki, was born male but predominately identifies as female), disability (elf Hearthstone is deaf, and several characters know ASL), and race and religion (Samirah balances her Muslim faith with her Valkyrie duties). There’s some crossover with characters from Riordan’s other series, and the ending promises more overlap in future installments. A surefire hit.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2016)
It’s the end of the world as they know it, and Magnus Chase and his godly cohorts are back for another round of sword fighting and wisecracking.With Ragnarok rapidly approaching, Magnus and his friends are charged with retrieving Thor’s magical hammer in time to stop giants from invading the human world. This latest installment in Riordan’s Nordic-themed fantasy series is a fast-paced adventure narrative featuring snappy dialogue and a diverse cast of well-developed characters. The author possesses a singular talent for re-creating contemporary teenspeak. In his capable hands, Magnus’ cocksure attitude and pithy observations further establish him as completely distinct from other Riordan protagonists as he races from Newbury Street in Boston to Provincetown, Massachusetts, searching for the elusive hammer, which is still missing after the events of series opener The Sword of Summer (2016). The author effectively interposes racial and sexual complexity into the typically all-white Norse mythological world through the addition of Alex Fierro—Muslim Valkyrie Sam’s shape-shifting gender-fluid half sibling—who may or may not be a double agent for their father, Loki. He also deepens the mythology surrounding the Chase family’s connection to the various gods, neatly connecting this series with the exploits of Percy Jackson’s Greco-Roman heroine Annabeth Chase. An entertaining sequel that will whet fans’ appetites for the next installment. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Magnus Chase Discussion Guide

Norse mythology Teaching Resources

Around the Web

The Hammer of Thor on Amazon

The Hammer of Thor on JLG

The Hammer of Thor on Goodreads

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. September 27, 2016. Henry Holt & Co., 560 p. ISBN: 9781627792134.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Sequel to: Six of Crows

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol; Smoking

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

School Library Journal Xpress (October 1, 2016)
Gr 7 Up-Teens will be excited to return to Bardugo’s marvelous world, first visited in her “Grisha Trilogy” and in this duology’s previous Six of Crows. They will be treated to a visit from old friends-the graceful (and deadly) Inej; Nina, the Grisha Heartrender; Wylan, the discarded, illiterate merchant’s son; and the mysterious and vengeful Kaz. Characters from the original trilogy (most notably Stormhund, prince-turned-privateer) also make an entrance in the heart of the slums of Ketterdam. Plots to take control of the city’s underworld abound as Kaz rallies his allies and takes on the might of the rapacious merchant class and Pekka Rollins, King of the Barrel and ruler of the dregs of the city. Following the death of his brother, the antihero has surrounded himself with the castoffs of Ketterdam, all of them very young, defective in some way, and abandoned. Together they will either rule the city victoriously or fail magnificently. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to have read the other titles in Bardugo’s series, readers will be better served by this continuation if they are already familiar with the complex world and characters. This fast-paced dive into the Barrel, where fortunes are made and lost and life itself hangs in the balance, will keep readers enthralled long past bedtime. VERDICT A must-purchase for all YA collections.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library,

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2016)
This hefty sequel to Six of Crows (2015) brings high-tension conclusions to the many intertwined intrigues of Ketterdam.It’s time for revenge—has been ever since old-before-his-time crook Kaz and his friends were double-crossed by the merchant princes of Ketterdam, an early-industrial Amsterdam-like fantasy city filled to the brim with crime and corruption. Disabled, infuriated, and perpetually scheming Kaz, the light-skinned teen mastermind, coordinates the efforts to rescue Inej. Though Kaz is loath to admit weakness, Inej is his, for he can’t bear any harm come to the knife-wielding, brown-skinned Suli acrobat. Their team is rounded out by Wylan, a light-skinned chemist and musician whose merchant father tried to have him murdered and who can’t read due to a print disability; Wylan’s brown-skinned biracial boyfriend, Jesper, a flirtatious gambler with ADHD; Nina, the pale brunette Grisha witch and recovering addict from Russia-like Ravka; Matthias, Nina’s national enemy and great love, a big, white, blond drüskelle warrior from the cold northern lands; and Kuwei, the rescued Shu boy everyone wants to kidnap. Can these kids rescue everyone who needs rescuing in Ketterdam’s vile political swamp? This is dark and violent—one notable scene features a parade of teens armed with revolvers, rifles, pistols, explosives, and flash bombs—but gut-wrenchingly genuine. Astonishingly, Bardugo keeps all these balls in the air over the 500-plus pages of narrative. How can such a hefty tome be un-put-down-able excitement from beginning to end?

About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be elated if you visited her web site.

Around the Web

Crooked Kingdom on Amazon

Crooked Kingdom on JLG

Crooked Kingdom on Goodreads

 

The Iron Hand by Scott Chantler

The Iron Hand by Scott Chandler. October 4, 2016. Kids Can Press, 126p. ISBN: 9781771380522.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 2.5; Lexile: 580.

All the pieces finally fall into place in this action-packed finale to the Three Thieves graphic novel series. Now that Dessa has learned the truth about her past, she agrees to form an alliance with the badly injured Captain Drake against Greyfalcon. The pair travel together to the royal city to rescue Dessa’s twin brother, Jared, from Greyfalcon’s evil clutches and put Jared in his rightful place on the throne. But their plans go awry when they arrive to find Jared already on the throne! And it’s nowhere near the joyful reunion one might expect — instead, Dessa is captured and thrown into the dungeon! It’s clear her brother is in no position to come to her aid, so she needs to find another way out. The three thieves have pulled off a number of tricky escapes together, but this time Dessa’s on her own … Or is she?

The conclusion to Scott Chantler’s thrilling, suspenseful and masterfully told fantasy-adventure series is sure to satisfy, as loose ends are tied and vexing questions get answered. The fast pace continues right to the end, with new twists and turns and some shocking revelations, while the characters’ wit and humor continue to shine through. The high-voltage drama and bold illustrations make the books in this award-winning series popular reads, even while the complexity of the multiple plotlines enhances problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. And with so many clues cleverly revealed in the details of the artwork, these books are also terrific for developing visual literacy.

Part of Series: Three Thieves (Book 7)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Criminal culture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 4-6. Chantler’s seven-part fantasy epic began as a fast-paced, high-spirited adventure of three thieves caught up in a royal conspiracy. Slowly, though, larger pieces started to fall into place, and lively characters developed formidable emotional heft. By book four, The King’s Dragon (2014), the series had taken on unexpected weight and urgency.The final book of the Three Thieves brings it all to an exceptionally satisfying conclusion, with Dessa, her royal lineage now revealed, returning to North Huntington, having forged a partnership with its oldest enemy, and seeking to rescue her brother and recover the throne. Chantler continues to tap the emotional vein that has been the saga’s quiet, invaluable strength, maturing Dessa into someone who can embrace her old opponents and her past mistakes. Familial revelations and confrontations resonate back through the entire series and exemplify the characters’ internal journeys as much as tie up the plot, affording this conclusion a rich sense of closure. As always, Chantler’s art balances the emotional turmoil with scrappy, freewheeling excitement, as in a humorous two-page sword-training session, an ingenious castle infiltration, and a final two-page spread that will fire up the wonder and delight of every young reader lucky enough to encounter this grand series.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2016)
The headlong chase that began in Tower of Treasure (2010) ends in a climactic whirl of dramatic rescues, heated confrontations, and sudden reversals of fortune.The twists begin at the outset as one-time adversary Capt. Drake is fished from the sea and, having lost his sword arm in The Dark Island (2016), sets to training his former quarry Dessa in combat. With loyal blue sidekick Topper (the “Three Thieves” having been reduced to two by previous events) and other allies, Dessa then sets out to wrest her kidnapped brother, Jared, and the realm of North Huntington from the clutches of the treacherous chamberlain Greyfalcon—only to find her long-lost twin sitting on the throne. Even so, he cannot prevent Dessa from being seized by Greyfalcon…but wonderful surprises waiting for her down in the dungeons pave the way both to a family reunion and a climactic throne-room dust-up. Before that, though, Greyfalcon obligingly explains his back story, motives, and schemes at length in retrospective monochrome panels. Possibly with an eye to sequels Chantler consigns the bad guys to ambiguous fates, but he does wrap up the storyline in a tidy epilogue that carries Dessa and Jared into adulthood and bright, if well-telegraphed, careers. A multiracial pirate crew and a rescued set of kidnapped young royals provide diversity to an otherwise all-white (human) cast. A well-wrought, well-timed, and satisfying finale to this well-conceived series. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

About the Author

Scott Chantler is the Joe Shuster Award-winning cartoonist of the graphic novels TWO GENERALS, NORTHWEST PASSAGE, and the THREE THIEVES series. He is also a popular commercial illustrator whose clients have included McDonald’s, Reebok, Macy’s, Rogers, The New York Daily News, The National Post, The Toronto Star, and Maclean’s. When he’s not doing either of those things, he teaches Writing for Graphic Novels at Max the Mutt Animation School in Toronto.

His website is scottchantler.com.

Around the Web

The Iron Hand on Amazon

The Iron Hand on JLG

The Iron Hand on Goodreads