October 20, 2017

Magnus ChaseE and The Gods of Asgard:  Ship of the Dead, Book 3 by Rick Riordan

I loved returning to the adventures of Magnus Chase and his friends.  They’re all back:  Hearthstone the elf, and Blitz the dwarf are foremost as almost lifelong friends who looked out for him when he was homeless on the streets of Boston.  We also get to return to Samirah the Valkyrie, Thomas Jefferson, Jr., and Alex, a friend and demigod. not to mention updates on Annabeth, and Percy Jackson.  And old enemies like Loki, who is at the heart of this adventure.

Lots of excitement, tension, and great battles as Magnus and his friends try to put off Ragnorak and get Loki back in chains. Naglfar, Loki’s Ship of the dead, is particularly creepy, with lots of zombies, giants, and random undead creatures.

As usual, snappy dialogue, delicious humor,  and complex characters make the novel an engaging read, for adults as well as teens and tweens. The character of Alex is particularly fascinating, with the concept of being gender fluid.  We get more of the various characters’ back stories, and a chance to look closer at Magnus’ own inner demons.  Maybe Riordan’s best yet.  Enjoy!

And if you are new to this series, you have such a treat in store for you. But best to start with the two earlier books:    Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard:  The Sword of Summer, Book 1, and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard:  The Hammer of Thor. 



October 14, 2017

Fairy Tale Reform School Series by Jen Calonita

Middle school readers have a lot to appreciate this fall, with engaging series like Fairy Tale Reform School.  Readers are treated to a mix of characters–some heroes of the tales, like Cinderella, and some created based on fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  Add in the fun of talking mirrors, spells and magic, and throw in a few ogres and fairies and you have a reading hit worthy of binging.

Flunked  The first book of the series introduces us to the world of Enchantasia and highlights the plight of Gilly, who lives in a shoe with her parents and multiple siblings. In order to survive, she steals small items and some food from the richer residents of the kingdom. When she is arrested for the third time, she is sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School, a detention center for juveniles run by none other than Cinderella’s wicked step-mother and a host of other famous (and supposedly reformed) fairy tale bad-guys. Many have made amends and truly turned over a new leaf, like the Big Bad Wolf who is now Professor Wolfington, a popular teacher despite his bulging muscles and wolfish grin.  Fast-paced and fun, this series is a holiday treat for tweens. And you’ll want to follow up with Charmed, and Tricked, the next books in the series.

BLISS BAKERY Trilogy by Kathryn Littlewood: Cooking and Magic for Middle Readers

October 6, 2017

Cooking and magic are big cross-overs in our family.  Reading Harry Potter?  Time for pumpkin pasties or treacle tart (Harry’s favorite). If you’re a Mary Poppins fan (the original literary one, we mean), you’ll want to bake gingerbread stars.  Conjuring up  smells and tastes is  such a delightful way to immerse ourselves in the literary worlds we are inhabiting–especially when they are steeped in magic.  That’s one of the reasons we were drawn to the Bliss Bakery Trilogy: a delightful reading experience for young readers who appreciate the joys of cooking and magic.  Who wouldn’t want a special leather-bound volume to cook from with enchanting recipes like “Singing Gingersnaps”  “Truth Cookies?”  If this makes you hungry for more, read on. . .

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

The series begins with Bliss, and highlights Rosemary Bliss and her family who possess the amazing and magical Bliss Cookery Booke–never to be used when the parents are out of town.  What happens when a mysterious stranger  (“Aunt Lil”) rides into town on a motorcycle and whips up delicious meals for the family while the folks are away?  Rose and her siblings decide it would be fun to try out just a recipe or two from the forbidden cookbook.  It turns out there is lots of magic and mishaps to undo with hilarious results at every turn. Adventure and magic, wit and engaging writing, and a special sweetness makes this a series to fall in love with, even without Love Muffins. And you can extend the pleasure  by digging into A Dash of Magic and Bite-Sized Magic.  Great reading for the fall, or anytime of the year.


ALL’S FAIRE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL by Victoria Jamieson: Another Great New Tween Graphic Novel to Recommend

September 29, 2017

All’s Faire In Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

We loved Jamieson’s first graphic novel, Roller Girl, and have been eagerly anticipating her newest book.  Now we can confirm that her fans will not be disappointed.  Imogene (Impy)  is a terrific character, and readers can empathize with her as she meets the challenges of middle school, growing up, and dealing with a range of emotions. The weaving in of the Renaissance Faire is a wonderful device to help carry the plot, too.  Drama, action, lots of humor, and lovely artwork.  Tweens will love it–and I recommend that the adults in their life read it as well.  Great for discussion and family sharing.


THE AUTHENTICS by Abdi Nazemian: Recommended New Read for Teens

September 22, 2017

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Daria is a young teen, proud of her Iranian-American heritage and fast friends with her gang who call themselves “The Authentics”  because of their commitment to continuing to be real, not fake. There are problems, of course; there is no love lost between Daria and her former best friend who leads a clique of girls that Daria calls “the Nose Jobs.”  But life continues to get more complicated, as research into her past for a school project uncovers secrets.  Daria is a delightful and believable protagonists.  She worries about her appearance, wonders what her first kiss will be like, and struggles to find her niche among her friends.  What I really loved was the the range of cultures, including:insights into the contemporary high school social world, Daria’s gay brother’s marriage and excitement about becoming a parent; mother-daughter dynamics and family relationships, and her Iranian-American world as well.  At the heart of the book is a journey of self-discovery, told with humor, insight, and sincerity.  Highly recommended!


September 16, 2017

The World is Not a Rectangle:  A Portrait of Zaha Zahdid by Jeanette Winter

It is with a great deal of enthusiasm that we recommend Jeanette Winter’s latest contribution to the world of non-fiction picture books.  We have loved her previous biographies like The Librarian of Basra, My Name is Georgia, and Nasreen’s Secret School, to name a few favorites.  Winter chooses such fascinating people to research and write about, and brings to her readers important stories of people from around the world.  Zaha Zahdid may be my all-time favorite Winter picture book (so far, at least). Zahdid’s vision of architecture and designs is creative, unconventional, and courageous.  Growing up in Iraq, she was always fascinated by the patterns in nature–both the breath-taking landscapes and heart-breaking ruins that surrounded her.  Studying architecture in London gave her the foundation she need to make her visions a reality.  She has created buildings around the world based on the shapes and patterns of nature.   She designed museums, opera houses–even a ski jump!  Her conviction in her work and her dedication to her vision prevailed despite discrimination as a woman, as well as against her Muslim faith.  The illustrations are bold and clear and work perfectly with the simple and elegant text.  You can’t ask for a better role model–or book–to share with kids.


September 9, 2017

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

You gotta love a boy who is so space-obsessed that he names his dog Carl Sagan.  Eleven-year-old Alex is a truly endearing character in so many ways.  As you can guess, his hero is the real life Carl Sagan, and the novel is a reporting of Alex and his dog’s journey to launch his golden iPod into space the way his hero Carl Sagan  launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to LA, with many stops in between, Alex records his views of life on Earth to explain to other life forms. He meets incredible and often lost people in his journey, and as readers, we learn about Alex’s part as the adventure unfolds.  Magical and surprisingly optimistic. An important addition to bookshelves of tweens, early adolescents, and the adults who share books with them.