The Misewa Saga by David A. Robertson Penguin Random House Canada/Puffin Books –The Barren Grounds (vol. 1) Publication Date: September 8, 2020 ISBN: 978-0735266100
–The Great Bear (vol. 2) Publication Date: September 28, 2021 ISBN: 978-0735266131
Indigenous foster kids Morgan and Eli have been separated from their families and placed with a white foster couple in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Both children feel alone and different from everyone around them at their new home and school, but Morgan and Eli have a secret. They can cross into another world — the land of Askí, where across the Barren Grounds they’ve befriended the talking animal villagers of Misewa. All Eli has to do is draw a picture, staple it to the wall of the attic, and he and Morgan can step into a fantasy land. During their first adventure in Askí, the two meet and befriend a fisher named Ochek, the sole remaining hunter of his starving village. Together, they embark on a weeks-long voyage to discover what has happened to the summer birds that are meant to keep the land alive. As they travel, Morgan begins to learn how to live on the land as her people do, and Eli flourishes with opportunities to share his knowledge. Many dangers await, and even if Morgan and Eli do return home, they must figure out how to explain their long absence.
My favorite movie of 2018 was Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled to see it, and Rami Malek, win awards, but, as interesting as Freddy Mercury’s story is, I find Queen guitarist Brian May’s story equally as interesting. Not only is he one of the world’s greatest guitarists, he built his own guitar and has a PhD in astrophysics. Although he is now in his 70s he still plays and recently released a new single, “New Horizons”, to celebrate the space probe of the same name as it flew past Ultima Thule, the farthest object in the solar system that a spacecraft has visited. Brian May might be described as a Renaissance Man and I wondered are there Renaissance Teens who might be inspired by these books I think reflect aspects of Brian May’s life?
I’m seeing more books about characters who have suffered the loss of a limb in the past few years. Despite this, all the characters have learned to cope really well. It makes me really grateful for what I have and makes me have more empathy for those who aren’t as fortunate. I’m seeing more realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities who are strong main characters and not secondary ones, maybe due to the diverse books trend.
It seems that there are a range of different types of books with characters lacking limbs. There are fantasies set in the past, science fiction books set in the future and realistic fiction often related to sports or the arts. And, fairy tale retellings, including two published recently based on Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, one of their less well-known tales.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is a lush fantasy that incorporates a number of fairy tales into her story of Rachelle who is forced to fight deadly creatures on behalf of the realm to atone for a reckless act. When the king forces her to guard his bastard son Armand, Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Armand isn’t a warrior like Rachelle because the forestborn that marked him cut off his hands (an homage to Grimm’s Girl Without Arms) but Armand is shrewd and uses his great intelligence to make up for it.
Stephanie Oakes’ The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly (2016 Morris Award Finalist and 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee) is unique in that it’s not a fantasy, nor is it SF, it is realistic fiction. The year isn’t specific, but it seems to me to take place in a relatively current time period but since the community is off the grid in a secluded area, it has a more historical feel. This story of one teen’s struggle to break away from the life she’s known in a cult since she was five is gritty and often hard to read but unforgettable. Minnow no longer believes in the Prophet after he announces that God told him to marry her. She dares to attempt to escape but is caught and punished for her disobedience – her hands are cut off. The Prophet even keeps Minnow’s skeletal remains of her hands on his mantel. Minnow tells her story of what happened to her in the cult before and after that horrific event to an FBI psychologist as she’s in juvenile detention on charges of seriously assaulting a mentally unstable young man.
Anyone familiar with Grimm’s story will notice that there are a number of elements that Oakes faithfully includes from Grimm’s original tale, although Oakes adds an even more shocking twist to her story. (For another version of Grimm’s Girl Without Hands, read Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (2012) and his commentary about why he dislikes this tale).
Today’s post is co-written by myself and Kenzie Moore. Kenzie is a student in her final semester of Syracuse University iSchool’s MLIS program, where she’s been focusing on teen services in between watching episodes of Teen Wolf and going to One Direction concerts. You can connect with her on Twitter.
It feels like every day we meet new tweens who are reading above their grade level and seeking recommendations. Cross-unders, or teen books with tween appeal, were well-covered in this 2013 Hub post from Erin Bush and Diane Colson. The YALSA Blog chimed in with reasons why these books are an important part of a teen collection serving reluctant and ELL teen readers as well as advanced tweens and younger teens. Knowing how frequently we search for titles to fit these diverse needs, Kenzie and I offer some additional cross-under suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie — 14-year-old Junior is going to do something he thought was impossible: he’s going to leave the Spokane Indian reservation where he lives. Not permanently or anything, but he deserves better than decades-old math books, and he’s mad about it. Mad enough to do something. Sherman Alexie’s highly-buzzed book deals with some complicated topics: bullying, racism, alcoholism, but it also deals with what it is like to find your own path to walk as a young person. That, combined with the humor in Junior’s voice and his drawings that pepper the pages, is going to make this a high-appeal book for readers just starting to dip their toes into the teen waters.Continue reading Cross-Unders Revisited: Great Teen Books for Tween Readers
I am a huge fan of mysteries, especially during the summer! I love a good page-turner that keeps me guessing until the very last page. A great thing about mysteries are that they also work well when they are blended with other genres. One of my newest favorite genre blends are historical fiction and mysteries! If you are also a fan, or have yet to explore this genre blend, check out some of the titles below to get you started!
Set in the summer of 1868, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is sent to live with his aunt and uncle where he uncovers two mysterious deaths that appear to be plague victims. However, Sherlock suspects that these deaths are not what they seem so he sets out to investigate and uncover the truth.
Based on the true story of the 1906 Gilette murder case, Maggie is working the summer at a nearby inn, when one of the guests drowns. Mysterious circumstances surround the death, including Maggie’s own involvement and interactions with the victim.
In Victorian London, Mary is saved from the gallows at the last minute and sent to a school where she is secretly trained to be a spy. She is eventually selected to work a case where she is undercover as a lady’s companion to investigate a wealthy merchant’s shady business dealings.
Steampunk, believe it or not, is a term that has been round since the late 1980s. It is usually defined as a sub-genre of science fiction and features a late 19th century or early 20th century setting, but with steam-powered and clockwork inventions and machines. Steampunk can also be identified as a sub-genre of speculative fiction and is often described as alternate history. Most steampunk novels are set in Victorian England or America, but are also known to be set in the Wild West of America.
Steampunk is often characterized by the setting of the story and inventions that are fantastical and magical. Steampunk uses a lot of visual descriptions, especially when it comes to the machinery and fashion. Oftentimes, a lot of description will go into how a machine works. Supernatural elements are typically included in a steampunk story. Steampunk plots are adventure-driven stories, where machines play the part of moving the adventure along. Since there is so much action packed into most steampunk novels, the pacing is usually fast.
The characters of steampunk novels are quirky and include inventors, mad scientists, or the like. Characters in steampunk novels also take on the punk mentality. Usually the main character or characters is individualistic often goes against the mainstream, and he or she may be fighting for a cause or movement. Many times the plot of a steampunk novel involves good vs. evil, where the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined. Continue reading Genre Guide: Steampunk for Teens
Welcome back! As I mentioned before, the television reboot of the My Little Pony franchise (Friendship Is Magic) has managed to find an older audience than one would expect. I am both a regular viewer and frequent reader of YA lit, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at what teen titles the ponies would read in their free time.
I have continued to select books featuring female protagonists, in keeping with many of the themes found in Friendship Is Magic.
Today, I am finishing up the main group of ponies with custom lists for Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.
Applejack is a strong farm pony who can often be found kicking apple trees to collect the fruit or performing other tasks around the orchard. She seems to prefer physical activities over dress-up, and is successful in tasks that would often be considered more traditional for a male. Because of this, I thought she may enjoy reading Miranda Kenneally’s books that feature female characters participating in sports that are often male-dominated. I think she would start with Racing Savannah because of the equestrian connection, but really Catching Jordan or Stealing Parker would be as appropriate.
I also think that she may be interested in Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. Now, Applejack may not be a debutante, but she certainly is southern (the whole Apple family has southern twangs!). Rebel Belle features a female lead, Harper, who is charged with protecting a male character. This reminds me of how often Applejack ends up having to save the day on her apple farm instead of leaving it to her older brother, who is larger in size and appears to be the physically stronger pony. Continue reading What Would They Read?: My Little Pony (Part Two)