Tag Archives: magic

Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire by John August

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August. February 6, 2018. Roaring Brook Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781626728141.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6.

As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves.

She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: “If I can see you, they can see you. You’re in danger. Be careful, Arlo Finch.”

Arlo Finch is a newcomer to Pine Mountain, Colorado, a tiny town of mystery and magic, but he’s already attracted the attention of dark and ancient forces. At first he thinks these increasingly strange and frightening occurrences are just part of being in Rangers, the mountain scouting troop where he learns how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods. But soon Arlo finds himself at the center of a dangerous adventure, where he faces obstacles that test the foundations of the Ranger’s Vow: Loyalty, Bravery, Kindness, and Truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language


Video Review


Booklist (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 5-8. Twelve-year-old Arlo Finch is new to small-town Pine Mountain, Colorado. Observant and inquisitive, he soon realizes that there is more to the town than meets the eye. Dark and magical forces surround the town, and it doesn’t take Arlo long to encounter these magical forces as they inexplicably try to harm him. With the help of new friends from an outdoor scouting group, the Rangers, Arlo learns how to use his new Rangers skills to fight off these magical forces. With nods to the Harry Potter series, accomplished screenwriter August artfully thrusts readers into a whole new world, right alongside Arlo. The many magical forces and creatures in this book are intriguing, especially because August firmly establishes them within the magical parameters of Arlo’s world. Arlo, meanwhile, is a lovable, inquisitive character, and as he wittingly subdues the magical creatures, the plot only becomes more dynamic. This is just the first volume in a new series, so readers won’t have to wait long to plunge back into the mysterious Long Woods.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A 12-year-old white boy finds out he’s special in a new middle-grade fantasy series.Arlo Finch has just arrived in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, atop the high peaks of Colorado. Times are tight, and Arlo, his sister, and their mother have moved into the crumbling family home with his taxidermist uncle. Arlo, who has one green eye and one brown, isn’t in Pine Mountain long before he makes friends with (the requisite girl and boy sidekicks) supersmart Indian-American doctors’ daughter Indra Srinivasaraghavan-Jones and Chinese-American STEM genius Henry Wu. When Arlo joins the Rangers, a mixed-gender scouting troop, he’s made privy to thunderclaps (literal hand-clapping that sounds like thunder) and snaplights (a snap of the fingers that creates illumination) along with traditional scouting tasks such as tying knots and pitching tents. As Arlo works toward earning his first rank—Squirrel—questions mount. What is the Wonder? What and where are the Long Woods, the Realm, and the Valley of Fire? How is Arlo connected to a long-lost girl only he can see? Who wants to kill him, and why? Arlo is a smart, likable boy, but his story adds little new to the genre. The mountain setting and eerie house filled with stuffed and mounted animals provide an evocative sense of place for Arlo’s adventure, but characters and plot feel too familiar, particularly a Goblet of Fire–like Ranger challenge. Atmospheric at best, formulaic at worst. (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

John August is a screenwriter whose credits include Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. He is also the creator of the Writer Emergency Pack, an educational storytelling school distributed to more than two thousand classrooms worldwide.

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, John now lives in Los Angeles with his family. Her website is johnaugust.com.

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Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron

Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron. December 5, 2017. Entangled: Teen, 340 p. ISBN: 9781633758285.  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.

Sequel to: Island of Exiles

Part of Series: The Ryogan Chronicles (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Strong sexual themes



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

Sea of Strangers on Amazon

Sea of Strangers on Goodreads

Sea of Strangers Publisher Page

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. October 3, 2017. First Second, 176 p. ISBN: 9781626720886.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 2.9.

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions―the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts


Book Trailer


Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 6-10. Priyanka is deeply curious about her mother’s past in India, but she won’t tell her daughter anything, not even Pri’s father’s name. Meanwhile, Pri finds a beautifully embroidered pashmina hidden in a closet, and when she puts it on, she’s transported to a fantastical version of India, full of colorful scenes, magical creatures, and delicious food, which only amplifies her desire to visit the country. A family crisis causes her mother to reconsider her stance, and soon Pri embarks on the journey she’s been dreaming about. Yet when she arrives in India, it’s nothing like the visions the pashmina has offered, but tracking down the garment’s origin helps illuminate both Pri’s relationship to India and her better grasp of her mother’s perspective. Chanani’s stylized cartoons shift from a palette of gray, black, and white when depicting Pri’s life in California to bold, vibrant color when the pashmina transports its wearer to a fantastical reality. Although some plot mechanics are a little murky, Chanani’s debut is a lively, engaging exploration of culture, heritage, and self-discovery.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
In this debut graphic novel, comics-loving teen Priyanka doesn’t know much about her mom’s old life in India–or about her dad (“that subject is permanently closed”). Then Pri finds a beautiful pashmina in an old suitcase. When she wears it, Pri has visions of a vibrant India, complete with talking animals and an ominous shadowy figure. When Pri travels to India herself, she solves the mystery of the shadowy figure and the pashmina’s origins (the goddess Shakti gave it the power to “allow women to see their choices”). Pri learns that even though the true India isn’t the enchanted land she envisioned, that doesn’t make it any less special: an aunt tells her, “Do not look at the dirt. Look at the people.” Pri also learns that she and her mother are crucially connected through their shared experiences with the pashmina. Chanani’s rounded figures give the illustrations accessibility, and colors are used to great emotional effect. Contemporary reality is shown in grayscale; the past in sepia hues; and Pri’s imagined India in rich colors that radiate off the pages. Priyanka is a realistically complex, sometimes moody character, with depth shown through her varied interests and inquisitive musings. Although the protagonist is in high school, younger readers (especially fans of Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11) will have no trouble reading up. elisa gall

About the Author

Nidhi Chanani is an artist and author and the owner of Everyday Love Art. Her debut graphic novel, Pashmina, releases in October 2017. She recently illustrated Misty – The Proud Cloud, a children’s book by Hugh Howey.

Nidhi was born in Calcutta and raised in suburban southern California. She creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too. In April of 2012 she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.

Nidhi dreams and draws every day with her husband, daughter and their two cats in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her website is www.everydayloveart.com

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Pashmina on Amazon

Pashmina on Goodreads

Pashmina Publisher Page

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams. October 31, 2017. Scholastic Press, 274 p. ISBN: 9780545259026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

It is strange enough that Odo and Eleanor have stumbled upon a sword in a dried-up river outside their village. It is even stranger that Odo is able to remove it from where it’s buried. And it’s REMARKABLY strange when the sword starts to talk.

Odo and Eleanor have unearthed Biter, a famous fighter from earlier times. By finding Biter, Odo instantly becomes a knight – a role he is exquisitely unsuited for. Eleanor, however, would make a PERFECT knight – but she’s not the one with the sword.

Finding Biter is only the start – boy, girl, and sword must soon go on a quest to save their kingdom from threats in both human and dragon form, in this new fantasy triumph from Garth Nix and Sean Williams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence



Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 3-5. Eleanor: bold, sharp, filled with dreams of adventure and knighthood. Odo: a little timid, a little unsure, not particularly fond of thinking about the future. But alas, when the two tweens stumble upon an enchanted sword, it’s Odo who cuts himself on it and is granted instant knighthood by the sword itself. The sword, whose name happens to be Biter, has no problem talking and fighting, although he does seem to be having a little trouble remembering his clearly illustrious past. At any rate, domineering Biter, reluctant knight Odo, and sullen squire Eleanor have a quest to complete if they want to save their kingdom—if they can figure out who they’re fighting. This first series installment is a true-blue errant-knight tale, complete with dragons, sassy enchanted objects, and a destiny that comes before anyone is ready. In this world, knighthood is given regardless of gender; it eludes Eleanor not because she’s a girl but because of bad timing. Hand to just about any middle-grader looking for a swashbuckling adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Two best friends with opposing appetites for adventure are thrust into a crucial quest by a gregarious sword. The once-hearty Silverrun River through Lenburh is steadily running ever lower. As diminutive, feisty Eleanor and her best friend, brawny, bumbling Odo, fish for eels in the muddy trickle, they unearth a sword. After Odo pricks his finger and subsequently bleeds on the blade, the heretofore-slumbering sword wakes up, proclaiming its name (in Gothic type) to be Hildebrand Shining Foebiter (Biter for short) and knighting Sir Odo. Eleanor, whose deceased mother was a knight, is at once thrilled by the enchanted sword and infuriated that she’s been designated squire. Assessing the river’s pathetic state, Biter pronounces their quest to unblock the river’s source. Eleanor is gung-ho, Odo is reluctant, Biter is persistent. The trio bid adieu to Lenburh’s bucolic boredom and head toward their fate—which could very well mean death by dragon. In this medievallike fantasy world, gender equality abounds. Like the bulk of medieval European art, however, this cast is white (with the liberal inclusion of female Sirs, it would seem that some black and brown characters could have been included, too). Written by a duo, the narrative is presented from both Eleanor’s and Odo’s perspectives, although this isn’t a he-said, she-said division by chapter; there is a more fluid back and forth. En garde for an implied sequel that is already too bloody far away. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

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.

#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–forty-two at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is a YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level. You can find some related short stories over at Lightspeed Magazine and elsewhere. Thanks for reading.

His website is www.twinmakerbooks.com/

Around the Web

Have Sword, Will Travel on Amazon

Have Sword, Will Travel on Goodreads

Have Sword, Will Travel on JLG

Have Sword, Will Travel Publisher Page

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi. October 31, 2017. Razorbill, 298 p. ISBN: 9780448493909.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Gore


Author Interview


Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Taj is an aki, a sin-eater. After Mages pull the sins out of people, he and his fellow aki fight those sins and, if they win, consume them, leaving only the tell-tale tattoos on their skin, the signs that mark them as outcasts. But when the supposedly pure King has Taj eat one of his sins, Taj is caught in a battle between the all-powerful members of the royal family over the true role of the aki and their powers. Onyebuchi crafts a compelling tale for his first novel, seamlessly blending fantasy, religion, political intrigue, and a touch of steampunk into a twisting tale of magic. Taj, who narrates the tale in present tense, is a great stand-in for teen readers, equal parts afraid, determined, cocky, smart, and clueless. As he moves out of the slums he knows and into a world of wealth and power, readers will discover whom he can trust and what the other characters truly want right along with him. Hand this intriguing fantasy to fans of Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch (2011).

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
Taj, the black teenage narrator of Onyebuchi’s debut, is an aki, or sin-eater—meaning that he literally consumes the exorcised transgressions of others, usually in the forms of inky-colored animal-shaped phantasms called inisisas that reappear as black tattoos on the akis’ “red skin, brown skin.” This really isn’t his most remarkable trait, however, even as he ingests greater and greater sins of the Kaya, the brown-skinned royal family ruling the land of Kos. What makes Taj extraordinary is the tensions he holds: his blasé awareness of his exalted status as the best aki, even as the townspeople both shun yet exploit him and his chosen family of sin-eaters; his adolescent swagger coupled with the big-brotherly protectiveness he has for the crew of akis and, as the story proceeds, his increasing responsibility to train them; his natural skepticism of the theology that guides Kos even as he performs the very act that allows the theology—and Kos itself—to exist. He must navigate these in the midst of a political plot, a burgeoning star-crossed love, and forgiveness for the sins he does not commit. “Epic” is an overused term to describe how magnificent someone or something is. Author Onyebuchi’s novel creates his in the good old-fashioned way: the slow, loving construction of the mundane and the miraculous, building a world that is both completely new and instantly recognizable. This tale moves beyond the boom-bang, boring theology of so many fantasies—and, in the process, creates, almost griotlike, a paean to an emerging black legend. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Beasts Made of Night is his debut.



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Beasts Made of Night on Amazon

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Beasts Made of Night Publisher Page

The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. October 10, 2017. First Second, 187 p. ISBN: 9781250158031.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0.

What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?

World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?

Sure, why not?

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Body humor



Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
Little sisters can’t save the day—or can they? When the nefarious Queen Cordelia takes over Caketown Castle in the Doughnut Kingdom, a hero is needed. Cucumber, a white rabbit with an orange pageboy and a penchant for learning, is chosen, however, he’d rather go to school as planned; indeed, his spunky little sister, Almond, seems better suited for the job. Unfortunately, the Dream Oracle rejects her: “Little sisters aren’t legendary heroes.” Despite parents and oracles, the siblings set out to prove that a hero need not be male. Over the course of their quest in the pastry-themed kingdom, the bunnies meet a silly assortment of similarly food-inspired characters, including a toothless gummy bear and three knights named Sir Bacon, Dame Lettuce, and Sir Tomato. Originally a webcomic created entirely in Photoshop, D.G.’s candy-colored charmer is imbued with a delightfully snarky humor, helping to offset the profusion of cuteness. Gender roles are explored, affirming the notion of staying true to oneself rather than capitulating to the expectations of others. The worldbuilding is cleverly conveyed in bright and dynamic illustrations. Although populated almost entirely by bunnies, they are diversely hued, ranging from light ivory tones to deep, warm browns. Playful aftermatter includes a Q-and-A with the characters, character bios, and a map. An auspicious series opener. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)

Publishers Weekly (September 11, 2017)
In this first volume in the Cucumber Quest series (originally published as a webcomic), Cucumber the rabbit’s plans to attend Puffington’s Academy for the Magical Gifted (and/or Incredibly Wealthy) are put on hold when the evil Queen Cordelia makes a play for world domination, forcing Cucumber to embark on a heroic quest instead. Cucumber’s younger sister, Almond, is much better suited to questing, but she is constantly underestimated by adults because of her age and gender (comments like “Little sisters aren’t legendary heroes” pop up often). Almond isn’t content to sit at home, of course, so she and Cucumber take on Queen Cordelia, facing off against foes like Sir Tomato, Dame Lettuce, and Sir Bacon as a team. Though Cucumber is ostensibly the central character, Almond steals the show. Comics artist D.G.’s cartooning aesthetic is soft, creamy, and colorful, with an inherent bubbliness that pairs well with the silliness of the story; the stakes don’t feel especially high. Overall, this is a light, charmingly illustrated adventure that successfully introduces Cucumber, Almond, and a humorous supporting cast while setting up future tales. Ages 8-12.

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Doughnut Kingdom on Amazon

The Doughnut Kingdom on Goodreads

The Doughnut Kingdom on JLG

The Doughnut Kingdom Publisher Page

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorarfor. October 3, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 477 p. ISBN: 9780670785612.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Sequel to: Akata Witch

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage drinking, Smoking, Language, Hazing, Bullying, Racial slur



Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. This highly anticipated sequel to Akata Witch (2011) begins a year after Sunny unearthed secrets pertaining to her heritage and joined the secret Leopard Society. Plagued by strange dreams, Sunny endeavors to increase her magical powers by studying with her demanding mentor, and she continues to grapple with secrets that lie within her peculiar and wondrous Nsibidi book. However, the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders and time is not a luxury she has. Soon, she must step into her destiny and fight a looming, apocalyptic battle. If she loses or isn’t up to the task, it will spell catastrophe for all. While the story’s beginning is a bit jarring and doesn’t immediately sweep you away, the feeling is fleeting. A few chapters in, the reader gets tangled up in Sunny’s journey in the most delicious of ways. The lush world and high-stakes plot are fun, imaginative, timely, and authentic. Sunny as a character is beautiful, strong, and resilient, and her host of friends and allies are well-drawn and compelling, adding to the magic of the story. Okorafor’s novel will ensnare readers and keep them turning pages until the very end to see if and how Sunny fulfills the tremendous destiny that awaits her.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Ekwensu, the supernatural “masquerade” whom Sunny and her coven defeated in the first installment in this contemporary Nigeria-set fantasy series (Akata Witch, rev. 5/11), is pushing back through into this world, and when she does, she ruthlessly rips Sunny’s spirit face away from her. Separated from their spirit faces, most Leopard People would die, but Sunny’s visions of a city of smoke guide her and her coven to a place in Lagos where the living world and the wilderness (the spirit world) coincide. There Sunny and her now-independent spirit face, the ancient spirit Anyanwu, can take on Ekwensu before she destroys the earth. Although the plot reaches its destination by a circuitous route, each episode works on its own, and the detours do eventually tie into the story arc. Sunny, who endures discrimination because of her albinism, grows stronger physically and emotionally in this volume, showing off new soccer skills and choosing to break Leopard Society rules for a greater purpose. Reader assumptions about Nigeria will be broadened by details showing, yes, traditional ceremonies but also flat-screen TVs, while the centuries-old (but-still-new-to-most-readers) West African mythological foundation will satisfy fans eager for more of Okorafor’s signature brand of magic. anita l. burkam

About the Author

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian American author of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults and a professor at the University at Buffalo, New York. Her works include Who Fears Death, the Binti novella trilogy, the Book of Phoenix, the Akata books and Lagoon. She is the winner of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards and her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker won the prestigious Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature.

She lives with her daughter Anyaugo and family in Illinois.  Her website is www.nnedi.com

Around the Web

Akata Warrior on Amazon

Akata Warrior on Goodreads

Akata Warrior on JLG

Akata Warrior Publisher Page

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. September 5, 2017. Flatiron Books, 375 p. ISBN: 9781250077738.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 920.

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale 

Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone―has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do―and who to be―to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything―unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol



Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Lynet has grown up in the shadow of her mother, Emilia, who died giving birth to her—or so she was told. In reality, she’s the product of dark magic: her heartbroken father asked a magician, Gregory, to make him a daughter out of snow in the image of his late wife, the queen. Lynet chafes under her father’s expectations that she emulate the mother she’s never known; instead, she idolizes her steely stepmother, Mina, who’s always treated Lynet with tenderness, despite believing that she’s incapable of love, thanks to the glass heart her father, Gregory, gave her as a child. Alternating between Lynet’s and Mina’s perspectives, Bashardoust gracefully illustrates their fraught relationships with their fathers and each other and builds captivating tension between love and ambition. Mina’s calculating efforts to gain power by marrying Lynet’s father are in sharp contrast to the tenderness she feels for Lynet, while Lynet’s reluctance to become queen transforms once she recognizes her own considerable power. Drawing from both Snow White and the Snow Queen, this beautifully wrought novel offers plenty of fairy tale wonder, but Bashardoust resists the most common tropes; instead, she tells a story where women save each other with their own ingenuity, bravery, and love, and power and compassion can exist hand in hand. Compellingly flawed characters, vivid world building, and pitch-perfect pacing make this utterly superb.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2017)
Magic, mother-daughter conflict, and the quest for self-identity are given a dark and fantastical treatment in this chilling feminist adaptation of the “Snow White” fairy tale.Bashardoust sets her debut novel in a kingdom cursed with eternal winter, which serves as a pointed metaphor for the physical beauty that is currency and curse for both Lynet, the beloved daughter of King Nicholas, and Mina, the neglected daughter of an infamous magician who eventually becomes Lynet’s “wicked” stepmother. The narrative, which alternates between the characters’ points of view, unites them with a mutual feeling of objectification. Both women are shaped and magically controlled by their fathers, who are also their creators, the insidiousness of which the story fully explores. Well-developed, strong female characters abound, from the tree-climbing Lynet (whose skin is olive-brown) and golden-brown Mina, a sympathetic survivalist queen, to a court surgeon and a royal ancestor whose maternal grief is powerful enough to eternally banish springtime from the northern kingdom. The author’s rich fantasy landscape incorporates the fairy tale’s traditional iconography while providing her with room to create a new story emphasizing the shallowness of a male-dominated society that places a ruinously high premium on beauty at the expense of female individuality. The decisive clash is between mother and daughter, but misogyny is the narrative’s true destructive force. A hauntingly evocative adaptation that stands on its own merits. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel.

Her website is www.melissabashardoust.com

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The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner

The Hush by Skye Melki-Wegner. June 6, 2017. Sky Pony Press, 378 p. ISBN: 9781510712485.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

In a world where music is magic, the echoes can kill you.

Chester has been traveling from village to village, searching for his kidnapped father. One night while fiddling to earn a few coins, he accidentally connects to the Song—the music that fuels every aspect of the world. It’s illegal to interact with the Song—only a licensed Songshaper may bend music to his will—and when Chester is caught, he’s sentenced to death.

But just before the axe is about to fall, someone in the crowd—a member of the infamous Nightfall Gang—stages a daring rescue, whisking Chester into the Hush, a shadowy nightmare mirror-world where Music can be deadly and Echoes can kill.

Susanna, captain of the Nightfall Gang has been watching Chester. She needs his special talent to pull off an elaborate plan. And she’ll risk everything to succeed. Even Chester’s life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Homophobia, Religious fanaticism


Book Trailer


Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 8-11. Music is the vehicle for magic in Chester’s world, where the elite are trained to be songshapers, who run society and guard against untrained magicians. Though of poor background, and therefore limited training, Chester possesses a strong natural connection to the Song, which eventually leads to his arrest for heresy. As he stands on the gallows, the killing blade moving toward his neck, the world suddenly stills and Chester is whisked away to become a member of the notorious Nightfall Gang, whose mission is a revenge-based strike at the heart of the Conservatorium. The Australian author’s world tends toward steampunk, although machinery is not the focus of this imaginative tale of loyalty and commitment. Additionally, conversation pertaining to environmental consequences arises toward the story’s end, part of a surprise twist about the book’s setting and the meaning of reality. At times the main character’s navel gazing is repetitive, but his angst is balanced by the lively members of the Nightfall Gang and a touch of romance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 1, 2017)
Chester Hays has been on the road for months, searching for his vanished father.The 17-year-old plays his fiddle in return for room and board, but one night at a Hamelin saloon, he’s caught tapping into the Song, the source of life in a world where Music is magic and only licensed Songshapers are allowed to connect to “the heartbeat of the world.” His punishment for committing this blasphemy: death. Fate intervenes when the ambiguously “tan” Chester is rescued from the chopping block by the infamous Nightfall Gang. There’s mercurial, burly, white cowboy Sam; white lesbian Dot, an inventive Songshaper; foppish, brown-skinned lady’s man Travis; and pale-skinned, trouser-wearing redhead Susannah, their headstrong captain. This group of teenage, Robin Hood–esque outlaws travels in their echoship through the Hush, a terrifying distorted parallel reality formed from excess Music and populated by deadly Echoes. The Nightfall Gang may hold the clues to Chester’s father’s disappearance, but the only way he’ll find out is to go along with a very dangerous plan that might cost Chester his life. The story is beautifully paced as it unfolds one tantalizing, shocking detail at a time. Masterfully drawn details are so crisp, so tangible, that readers will be surprised they can’t just reach out and touch this rich world. A steampunk-tinged fantasy adventure with plenty of breath-holding action. (Fantasy. 12-18)

About the Author

Skye Melki-Wegner has been a saleswoman, an English tutor, and a popcorn-wrangler. In addition to writing fiction, in her spare time she devours a ridiculous amount of caffeine and fantasy literature. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Her website is www.skyemelki-wegner.com

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The Hush on Amazon

The Hush on Goodreads

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The Hush Publisher Page

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older. September 12, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780545952828.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

Shadowhouse rising

Sierra and her friends love their new lives as shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast called the Hound of Light—an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The Deck tracks the players and powers of all the magical houses in the city, and when the real Hound begins to stalk Sierra through the streets, the shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Worlds in revolution

Sierra and Shadowhouse have been thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new—a struggle they didn’t want, but are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds…or else she could lose all the things that matter most.

Part of Series: The Shadowshaper Cipher (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racism, Confrontations with police



Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 8-11. With the same keen eye for the power of art and a sly commentary on the insidious nature of racism and white supremacy—as well as a deft handle on zippy teenage banter and cinematic pacing—Older delivers a fantastic follow-up to his best-selling Shadowshaper (2015), which not only intensifies the stakes of the first book but also expands the scope of his well-wrought, vivid world building. When Sierra receives a creepy card and a dire warning about coming conflict, at first she thinks nothing of it. But that card is part of the enigmatic Deck of Worlds, which reveals the four major houses locked in an age-old power struggle. Unbeknownst to Sierra, she and her shadowshapers are one of those houses, and other houses are in hot pursuit of their power. Older deepens the mythology of shadowshaping in this installment, subtly showcasing how cultural heritage, even the trauma of ancestors, can become a power to wield rather than a burden to bear, not to mention how the history of colonization bleeds into contemporary culture. Plenty of elements have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, but Older expertly integrates those moments into the wider story and keeps the narrative solidly on Sierra and her quest. The expanding cast of well-rounded characters, clearly choreographed action, and foreshadowing of installments to come will have fantasy fans eagerly awaiting more of this dynamic, smart series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Sierra and the shadowshapers are back in this sequel to Shadowshaper (2015).A few months after the close of Shadowshaper, Nuyorican Sierra Santiago has grown in her shadowshaping powers but feels overwhelmed by her new role as Lucera, head of Shadowhouse. One night in Prospect Park, a girl from school attempts to give Sierra a creepy playing card from the Deck of Worlds, warning Sierra that the Deck is in play again and the Sorrows (who tried to wipe out the shadowshapers in the last book) are out to get them once more. Meanwhile, Older paints a compelling picture of contemporary life for black and brown teens in cities: Afro-Latinx Sierra and her friends deal with police harassment and brutality, both on the streets of Bed-Stuy and at school, themes that feel especially timely and relevant. When Sierra learns the Sorrows want her to join them in order to complete their magic, she must take a dangerous chance in order to protect herself and those that she loves. Older excels at crafting teen dialogue that feels authentic, and props to everyone involved for not othering the Spanish language. This second volume features a tighter plot and smoother pacing than the first, and the ending will leave readers eagerly awaiting the further adventures of Sierra and her friends. Lit. (Urban fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the Young Adult series the Shadowshaper Cypher (Scholastic), the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series (Penguin), and the upcoming Middle Grade sci-fi adventure Flood City (Scholastic). He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and yes, the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.

His website is www.danieljoseolder.net

Around the Web

Shadowhouse Fall on Amazon

Shadowhouse Fall  on Goodreads

Shadowhouse Fall  on JLG

Shadowhouse Fall  Publisher Page