Thursday, April 14, 2016

New middle grade fiction

I've been rooting around in the Netgalley closet looking for something new to read.  I had to kick a few to the curb (nothing more disappointing than opening a new book and finding ZERO magic on the pages), but I'm back on a roll again.  Here are some of the good ones I've been reading.

The first one is called "The Distance to Home" by Jenn Bishop.  It's about a girl named Quinnen who really loves to play baseball.  She has imposed a baseball moratorium on herself because her sister was killed in a car accident the year before and Quinnen feels she bears some responsibility for her death.  Frankly, I'm a little tired of stories about kids who are dealing with the death of someone they care about, however, my students just lap this stuff up so while I'm a bit over it, they seem to want more, so ok.  Here we go.  The people helping Quinn through this are her parents (who Quinn worries liked her sister better), some semi-pro baseball players that live in her town (she's a BIG fan) and her best friend, Casey.  I thought it was well written and suspenseful enough to keep me reading.  I think the kids are going to like this one.  Here's a link to Jen's website, where there's lots more information about her and her book.  

This second one is a magical mystery.  It's called "Knights of the Borrowed Dark" by Dave Rudden.  Mr. Rudden says in the intro notes that he "enjoys cats, adventure and being cruel to fictional children."  It also says this is his first book and after reading this one, I sincerely hope it's not his last. This one is about a boy named Denzien who was left at an orphanage when he was about two years old.  He feels especially at a loss because not only does he only have the vaguest memory of his mother, he doesn't even know his parents' names.  Just after his 13th birthday, a man comes to take him away to an aunt he's never heard of.  Denzien is a bit skeptical but the man seems nice enough and it's better than staying at the orphanage.  However, as they are going back to his aunt's house, they are attacked.  It turns out, Denzien is part of a group of magical caretakers or soldiers that are charged with keeping the peace.  Denzien's aunt is less than forthcoming about his past but Denzien learns a lot about his powers and the history of the Order.  I liked this story a lot.  There are some VERY scary parts (in a good way) and a very satisfying mystery.  I think the kids are going to like this one a lot.  Here's a book trailer for the book.

And here's the author reading from the book. 

The last one is also fantasy fiction and this one has pirates AND magicians.  It's called "The Voyage to the Magical North" by Claire Fayers.   The main character is a girl named Brine.  She was found in an abandoned boat as a infant and has been working for a local magician.  The magician has an apprentice, Peter, who is about the same age as Brine.  Neither of them are filled with love for the magician so when he comes home with a big bombshell-he wants Peter to marry a local girl and for Brine to go and live with and serve  another villager.  Both of them think this is a bad idea, so they set out and are almost immediately captured by pirates.  These pirates never tell the truth so it makes conversation with them a bit tricky.  The pirates decide to go to get supplies (and sell Brine and Peter), a surprise villain turns up and things get even more thrilling.  This story is funny and scary (evil fish birds... yikes.  The stuff nightmares are made of.) and has some great moments of self-realization.  This one would be great paired with one like "Violet and the Mean and Rotten Pirates" by Richard Hamilton. I really liked it a lot.  

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