Tag Archives: humor

The Road to Epoli by Ben Costa & James Parks

The Road to Epoli: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 1 by Ben Costa & James Parks. June 6, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399556135.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nimona meets Adventure Time as a singing skeleton searches for his origins in this full-color graphic novel series kickoff!
 
Meet Rickety Stitch . . . a walking, talking, singing skeleton minstrel. He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

His only clue to his former identity is a song he hears snippets of in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

His sidekick and sole friend is the gelatinous Goo, who Rickety alone can understand. Together they set out in search of Rickety’s past, with abundant humor and danger galore.

Part of Series: Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Irreverent humor, Bawdy humor

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 5-8. Rickety Stitch is not like the other skeletons. Instead of being a mindless drone, Rickety is a skeleton with a soul, a wisecracking minstrel on a mission to discover his past, how he managed to escape the fate of the other skeletons, and what is so special about the mythical road to Epoli, a place he keeps dreaming about. Coming along on his journey are Gelatinous Goo, a sentient, wobbly blob that only Rickety can understand; a two-headed troll that blackmails Rickety into kidnapping a kindly gnome; an insecure imp; and a host of other fantasy creatures, some of which speak in ill-considered dialects. The world that’s been created is a gorgeously realized homage to fantasy-quest conventions, complete with knights in armor, unicorns, suspicious villagers, and ghostly evil presences, and the artwork reflects that in its bold colors and lively character designs. The jokes, on the other hand, are modern, funny, and sometimes bawdy. The first of a planned trilogy will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment of Rickety’s adventure.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
A minstrel skeleton and his wobbly companion embark upon an epic quest to learn their origins in this gloriously ribald graphic tale. Unlike the other, dronelike skeletons, who never tire and soundlessly work, Rickety Stitch has both a soul and a song in his heart. Cast out from his dungeon into a dark and mysterious wood for his ineffectiveness and nonconformity, he and his faithful companion—a silent, shopping-bag–shaped creature named Gelatinous Goo—soon find themselves tricked by a snarky little imp. Goo is imprisoned by a two-headed giant who demands that the imp and Rickety bring him a pure-hearted gnome to eat. The plan goes awry, and hilarity ensues (along with the more-than-occasional cheerfully caustic joke). Rickety has no memories of his human life, and in addition to rescuing his friend is determined to track down something from his past. Costa and Parks’ script is imaginative and laugh-out-loud funny, unafraid to crack a well-timed, verging-on-naughty joke. Costa’s art is unfalteringly, vibrantly buoyant, with many sight gags that effortlessly turn the profane into something adorably laughable. A cliffhanger ending leaves readers poised for the sequel—they will be clamoring. For those who loved Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (2015) and have struggled to find something similar, this may scratch that itch. Don’t be fooled by the cheery illustrations; this is irreverent, bawdy, and lots of fun. (Graphic fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Ben Costa is a writer and artist living in the Bay Area. He has self-published two volumes of his award-winning, martial arts historical fiction comic Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk. He has also done work for IDW, Viz Media, and SF Weekly. Throughout his life, he has maintained a steady diet of samurai comics, kung fu movies, spacefaring farmboys, and tabletop RPGs.

James Parks is a speculative fiction writer and graphic novelist living in the Bay Area. James was weaned on monster flicks, ghostbusting, lightsaber duels, samurai cinema, and comics—with a sober dose of Victorian literature and ’80s cartoons. James is also the author of the Southern Gothic horror collection The Gospel of Bucky Dennis, was a staff writer for Campfire Graphic Novels, and is a current member of the Horror Writers Association.

Around the Web

The Road to Epoli on Amazon

The Road to Epoli on Goodreads

The Road to Epoli on JLG

The Road to Epoli Publisher Page

Advertisements

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

Around the Web

Stranger Things Have Happened on Amazon

Stranger Things Have Happened on Goodreads

Stranger Things Have Happened on JLG

Stranger Things Have Happened Publisher Page

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. May 30, 2017. Simon Pulse, 380 p. ISBN: 9781481478687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. It’s not always as easy as boy meets girl. In the case of Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah, it’s more like boy is arranged to marry girl, and girl attacks boy with iced coffee. In her delightful debut, Menon tells the story of two Indian American teenagers, fresh from high school and eager for adulthood. While Rishi’s version of growing up involves happily following his parents’ life plan (giving up art for engineering and accepting an arranged marriage to Dimple), Dimple sees college as her chance to escape her immigrant parents’ stifling expectations (which include little more than wearing makeup and finding a suitable Indian husband). And yet, when Dimple and Rishi finally meet, they are both shocked to realize what it is they truly want—and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. While Menon’s portrayal of the struggles of Indian American teens is both nuanced and thoughtful, it is her ability to fuse a classic coming-of-age love story with the contemporary world of nerd culture, cons, and coding camp, that will melt the hearts of readers.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A clash of perspectives sparks this romantic comedy about two first-generation Indian-American teens whose parents set an arranged-marriage plan in motion, but it backfires big time—or maybe not? In the alternating voices of her two protagonists, Menon explores themes of culture and identity with insight and warmth. Seamlessly integrating Hindi language, she deftly captures the personalities of two seemingly opposite 18-year-olds from different parts of California and also from very different places regarding life choices and expectations. Insomnia Con, a competitive six-week summer program at San Francisco State focused on app development, is where this compelling, cinematic, and sometimes-madcap narrative unfolds. Dimple Shah lives and breathes coding and has what she thinks is a winning and potentially lifesaving concept. She chafes under her mother’s preoccupation with the Ideal Indian Husband and wants to be respected for her intellect and talent. Rishi Patel believes in destiny, tradition, and the “rich fabric of history,” arriving in San Francisco with his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. He plans to study computer science and engineering at MIT. But what about his passion for comic-book art? They are assigned to work together and sparks fly, but Dimple holds back. Readers will be caught up as Rishi and Dimple navigate their ever changing, swoonworthy connection, which plays out as the app competition and complicated social scene intensify. Heartwarming, empathetic, and often hilarious—a delightful read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Sandhya Menon, a New York Times and national Indie bestselling author writes books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). She lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Her website is www.sandhyamenon.com.

Around the Web

When Dimple Met Rishi on Amazon

When Dimple Met Rishi  on Goodreads

When Dimple Met Rishi  on JLG

When Dimple Met Rishi  Publisher Page

Restart by Gordon Korman

Restart by Gordon Korman. May 30, 2017. Scholastic Press, 243 p. ISBN: 9781338053777.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 730.

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Recovering after a fall, Chase regains consciousness in a hospital bed surrounded by complete strangers—including his mother and brother. After he returns to school, he struggles to regain what amnesia has erased, but what he learns isn’t reassuring. His two old buddies from the football team are bullies. The kids he wants to hang out with now, like those in the video club, were often their victims, and they’re understandably wary of the new Chase. If he regains his memory, will he become the jerk he was before? Chapter by chapter, the very readable first-person narration shifts among seven students, giving readers access to many points of view. Their reactions to the changes in Chase’s outlook vary according to their personalities and their prior relationships with him. The characters are well drawn, and the scenes in which Chase befriends an elderly veteran at an assisted facility are nicely integrated into the novel. A talented storyteller, Korman shows bullying, regret, and forgiveness from various perspectives and leaves readers with ideas to ponder.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Will a bully always be a bully? That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default. Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

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.

Around the Web

Restart on Amazon

Restart on Goodreads

Restart on JLG

Restart Publisher Page

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain

Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain. March7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 352 p. ISBN: 9781481488754.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Part of Series: Chloe Snow’s Diary

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 8-10. As if starting high school wasn’t daunting enough, Chloe Snow has to do it without her free-spirited writer mother—who bolted to Mexico to find her “muse”—and alongside her religious best friend, Hannah, and Hannah’s judgmental, picture-perfect family. Fortunately, Chloe has a caring dad; a new best friend, Tristan; and the lead in the school’s musical! In the spirit of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series, Chloe’s daily diary serves as the book’s format. Encompassing an overwhelming majority of Chloe’s record is her obsession with Mac, a senior boy with a girlfriend and Chloe’s secret hookup. Chloe, Hannah, and Tristan all have intense relationships with senior boys, which, aside from seeming a little improbable, starts to become how they define themselves. But despite Chloe’s dominating obsession with Mac, and the book’s abrupt ending, Chloe is refreshingly honest and unfiltered about very real issues facing high-school students: unsteady family dynamics, drinking at parties, balancing old and new friends, and the stigma of slut shaming.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The chronicles of Chloe Snow’s journey from self-absorbed high school freshman to slightly less self-absorbed sophomore.Fourteen-year-old Chloe is technology-addicted and obsessed with getting her first kiss. Her mom has trotted off to Mexico for four months to write, leaving Chloe and her dad behind, which she first presents with nonchalance in her diary. Many of Chloe’s relationships begin to change around the time she unexpectedly gets the lead in the school musical. It becomes clear that her mom is not coming back as promised. She becomes increasingly distant from her best friend in favor of a new one, and she develops a naively close relationship with a senior boy who has a girlfriend, which ultimately brings on a painful barrage of cyberbullying. When Chloe is forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about her parents’ relationship, she is startled into seeing her own behavior more clearly as well. The narrative is told through Chloe’s diary, immersing readers in her singular perspective, though a few long passages are much too detailed to be credible as diary entries. What feels like token diversity among minor characters and Chloe’s passing acknowledgment of her own privilege as a straight, white, middle-class girl come across as superficial, though accurately reflective of life in many mostly white communities like hers. Awkwardness, drama, and a pinch of burgeoning self-awareness. (Fiction. 12-15)

About the Author

Emma Chastain is a graduate of Barnard College and the creative writing MFA program at Boston University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

 

Around the Web

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Amazon

Confessions of a High School Disaster on Goodreads

Confessions of a High School Disaster on JLG

Confessions of a High School Disaster Publisher Page

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies

Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies. November 1, 2016. Katherine Tegen Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062369888.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.1; Lexile: 730.

From the acclaimed author of The Lemonade War comes a new book starring two smart girls determined to liven up their town—one epic prank at a time.

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change.

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

Part of Series: Nothing but Trouble (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-7. Two things happen to Maggie the morning seventh grade begins. First, she meets Lena, the new girl who will become her best friend. Next, a practical joke fills the middle-school hallway with happy chaos: tennis balls bouncing, toy cars zooming, helium balloons floating upward, and a toy mouse parachuting down. Soon, “The mouse is in the house!” becomes the students’ rallying cry as the autocratic new principal tries and fails to stop an escalating series of hacks. That’s hack in the MIT sense: to carry out elaborate, creative pranks with precision, secrecy, and flair. Best known for The Lemonade War (2007) and its sequels, Davies brings the same strong sense of narrative along with a well-drawn, small-town setting and a number of believable, sometimes quirky characters. Throughout the book, Lena’s artistic outlook complements Maggie’s engineering bent. An appended activities section includes such related features as “Why Maggie Loves Sir Isaac Newton” and “How to Make a Dada Poem.” A flying start for a new series.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Sixth-grader and budding engineer Maggie Gallagher occupies her fertile mind and connects to the father who survives only in her head by planning and executing elaborate pranks at school. Maggie’s father pulled notorious pranks while in college at MIT. He died before she was born, leaving only a box of notebooks describing his hacks in meticulous detail. She re-creates them at Odawahaka Middle School using money earned from secretly selling her grandfather’s vintage car parts on the internet. Maggie dreams of nothing more than leaving her dysfunctional family and getting out of her dying small town until dadaist new student Lena Polachev chooses her as a friend. Together they become an unstoppable force against the school’s new dictatorial principal. The story is full of stylish and satisfying pranks, some chronicled step by step and others simply mentioned. Toy cars spill out of lockers, ping-pong balls rain down on the principal, school banners are reworded. Where Wildcats ruled, the Mouse is in the house, and what was simply funny becomes a revolution bringing much-needed change to a depressed, evidently all-white community. A vividly realized present-day setting, distinctive, believable characters, subversive humor, and a satisfying ending give this title solid kid appeal. With plenty of threads to hang sequels from, this series opener will make readers roar for more. (activities) (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Jacqueline Davies is the talented author of both novels and picture books. Jacqueline lives in Needham, Massachusetts, with her three children.  She enjoys reading, travel, swimming, going to the movies, and hanging out with her friends.

Her website is www.jacquelinedavies.net.

Around the Web

Nothing but Trouble on Amazon

Nothing but Trouble on Goodreads

Nothing but Trouble on JLG

Nothing but Trouble Publisher Page

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson. November 1, 2016. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 288 p. ISBN: 9781492638025.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 800.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Arthur Bean is ready to have the best year any eighth grader has ever had. The awesome zombie movie he’s writing with BFF Robbie Zack is definitely going to be a blockbuster. He even has a girlfriend. Yes, that’s right, a GIRLFRIEND! With everything lined up so nicely, he’s sure his teachers will start to appreciate his true genius this year.

Except for the little problem of the movie camera Arthur and Robbie “borrowed” to film their upcoming blockbuster movie. And then Arthur’s girlfriend gets jealous of his friendship with Kennedy. And there’s the actual co-writing, producing, and directing of their film…Drama is definitely on the menu for this year. Arthur would just prefer it stay confined to his script.

Sequel to: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

Part of Series: The Arthur Bean Stories

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Stealing

 

About the Author

Stacey Matson has worked in a theatre program on Parliament Hill and written theatre pieces for the Glenbow Museum and for the All-Nations Theatre in Calgary. She earned her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia. A debut novelist, Stacey lives in Vancouver, BC.

Her website is www.staceymatson.com.

Around the Web

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on Amazon

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on Goodreads

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius on JLG

Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius 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 Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix: A Novel by Nathan Hill. August 30, 2016. Knopf, 640 p. ISBN: 9781101946619.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores—with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness—the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol; Criminal culture; Description of sexual abuse

 

Author Interviews

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
Growing up in a small, watchful Iowa town, Faye endures her brooding Norwegian immigrant father’s frightening ghost stories, especially one about a spirit known as the nix, which can haunt a family for eons. This is the kernel from which Hill’s accomplished, many-limbed debut novel germinates. Cartwheeling among multiple narrators, it spins the galvanizing stories of three generations derailed in unexpected ways by WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War. Faye inflicts the chilling tale of the nix on her hypersensitive son, Samuel, and then abandons him and his father. Twenty-three years later, in 2011, Samuel, a failed writer and English professor so disheartened by his cell-phone-addicted students and litigation-phobic administration that he routinely retreats into a multiplayer video game, is dragged back into the real world when his long-estranged mother is arrested for assaulting a right-wing presidential candidate. This precipitates a leap back to 1968 and Faye’s wounding experiences during the infamous Democratic convention in Chicago. As more subplots build, including the mesmerizing tale of young Samuel’s relationships with twins fearless Bishop and violin prodigy Bethany, Hill takes aim at hypocrisy, greed, misogyny, addiction, and vengeance with edgy humor and deep empathy in a whiplashing mix of literary artistry and compulsive readability. Place Hill’s engrossing, skewering, and preternaturally timely tale beside the novels of Tom Wolfe, John Irving, Donna Tartt, and Michael Chabon.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2016)
Sparkling, sweeping debut novel that takes in a large swath of recent American history and pop culture and turns them on their sides.The reader will be forgiven for a certain sinking feeling on knowing that the protagonist of Hill’s long yarn is–yes–a writer, and worse, a writer teaching at a college, though far happier playing online role-playing games involving elves and orcs and such than doling out wisdom on the classics of Western literature. Samuel Andresen-Anderson–there’s a reason for that doubled-up last name–owes his publisher a manuscript, and now the publisher is backing out with the excuse, “Primarily, you’re not famous anymore,” and suing to get back the advance in the bargain. What’s a fellow to do? Well, it just happens that Samuel’s mother, who has been absent for decades, having apparently run off in the hippie days to follow her bliss, is back on the scene, having become famous herself for chucking a rock at a rising right-wing demagogue, the virulent Gov. Sheldon Packer. Hill opens by running through the permutations of journalism that promote her from back to front page, with a run of ever more breathless headlines until a “clever copywriter” arrives at the sobriquet “Packer Attacker,” “which is promptly adopted by all the networks and incorporated into the special logos they make for the coverage.” Where did mom run off to? Why? What has she been up to? Andresen-Anderson is too busy asking questions to feel too sorry for what his editor calls “your total failure to become a famous writer.” There are hints of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys as Hill, by way of his narrative lead, wrestles alternately converging and fugitive stories onto the page, stories that range from the fjords of Norway to the streets of “Czechago” in the heady summer of 1968. There are also hints of Pynchon, though, as Hill gently lampoons advertising culture, publishing, academia, politics, and everything in between. A grand entertainment, smart and well-paced, and a book that promises good work to come.

About the Author

Nathan Hill’s short fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including The Iowa Review, AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, and Fiction, where he was awarded the annual Fiction Prize. A native Iowan, he lives with his wife in Naples, Florida. The Nix is his first novel.

His website is nathanhill.net.

Teacher Resources

The Nix Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Nix on Amazon

The Nix on JLG

The Nix on Goodreads

 

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen. October 25, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781101940419.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 740.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain…

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody…

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 4-7. Sixth grade is tough, especially when you’re new and spend your afternoons with the “oldies” at Brookside, a memory care facility. Lincoln’s ma, having recently escaped an abusive boyfriend, takes a job as a caregiver at Brookside. At school, Lincoln hides his love of writing stories, his thick Southern accent, and, most important, his Brookside connection. Lincoln thinks all the Brookside oldies are crazy, but as he gets to know them, he realizes he’s seeing the illogical, heartbreaking effects of dementia. Humorous dialogue and a swift plot, occasionally dragged down by contrived situations, anchor this realistic story. Lincoln is a delightful narrator, prone to daydreaming about stories. He has a strong, supportive relationship with his mother, although his ability to bounce back after living in an abusive situation seems unrealistic. Aging and dying with dignity are lightly touched upon, but never quite as deeply as one would hope. This book is a good place to start a classroom discussion on intergenerational relationships and the effects of memory loss.

Publishers Weekly Annex (October 17, 2016)
Eleven-year-old Lincoln has several secrets: the stories he writes in his notebook, his cross-country move with his mother to escape her abusive boyfriend, and the home for people with memory loss and dementia where his mother works (and where Lincoln hangs out after school). Lincoln, who thinks of the residents as “the crazies,” is mortified at the thought of his classmates discovering where he spends his time-he’s already an outcast and a bullying target. But one outspoken classmate, the memorably named Kandi Kane, takes a persistent interest in him and as Lincoln gets to know the group home’s residents better, he begins to see that he isn’t the only one with secrets and stories. Van Draanen (the Sammy Keyes series) effectively portrays the frustrations of aging and memory loss through a mix of humor, sharp-eyed observations, and the compassion of Lincoln’s mother and her colleagues. Lincoln is relatable in his flaws and insecurities, and the story’s supporting characters are equally well-developed. It’s a moving coming-of-age story about creating new and unexpected connections. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown.

About the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes mystery series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ and became a Warner Brothers feature film in 2010.

Her other stand-alone titles include The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, Runaway, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Swear to Howdy, and The Running Dream which was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.

Van Draanen has also created two four-book series for younger readers. The Shredderman books feature a boy who deals with a bully and received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit,” and The Gecko & Sticky books, which are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers.

A classroom teacher for fifteen years, Van Draanen is married to Mark Huntley Parsons, also an author, and they have two sons.

Her website is www.wendelinvand.com.

Around the Web

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on Amazon

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on JLG

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on Goodreads