Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Uncategorized

Tails and Tales Bundle: Thundercluck and Zeus the Mighty

Since I’ve been talking about Summer Reading and book bundles, I thought I’d start making some fun suggestions. For anyone doing the Tails and Tales theme, Thundercluck: Chicken of Thor by Paul Tillery IV and Meg Wittwer and the Zeus the Mighty series from Crispin Boyer fit the bill and have the shared mythological theme, too!

Thundercluck! Chicken of Thor: Recipe for Revenge, by Paul Tillery IV/Illustrated by Meg Wittwer, (Sept. 2020, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250619785

Ages 8-11

The second Thundercluck adventure is just as much fun as the first. Thundercluck and Brunhilde, the Valkyrie, find themselves on the outs with Odin, and head to Midgard (that’s us, Earth!) to match wits against three foes. Gorman the angry skull is back with two new fiends: Medda, a shape-shifting enchantress, and War-Tog, a warthog warrior that is too easily led into poor decisions. Thundercluck is a story of friendship being tested, and family secrets learned, but at its heart, it’s a story of learning to admit one’s mistakes. Black and white illustrations and a quickly-moving story makes this an excellent Summer Reading choice; you don’t need to have read the first book to jump on board, but the kids will want to.

Summer Reading ideas: Book bundle with the first Thundercluck and printables from the Thundercluck website; book bundle with Zeus the Mighty for a Tails and Tales spin on mythology; display with other mythology chapter books, like Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’s Thunder Girls seriesDon’t forget to have reference resources, like National Geographic’s Everything Mythology, available!

 

Zeus the Mighty: The Quest for the Golden Fleas (Book 1), by Crispin Boyer, (Oct. 2019, Under the Stars), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426335471

Ages 8-12

The first book in another fun series from National Geographic Kids and their fiction imprint, Under the Stars. Zeus the Mighty is a hamster who lives in Mount Olympus Pet Center with a variety of rescued animals, and heroines. Artie – short for Artemis, naturally – is the human the runs the Center and names her favorite rescues after Greek mythological heroes. The group all listen to a podcast, Greeking Out, that tells the stories of the Greek gods, but the animals take the stories to heart. Zeus believes he rules Mount Olympus, putting him at odds with Poseidon, the puffer fish who won’t give up control of his watery Atlantis and bristles at Zeus’s attempts to boss him around. Their first adventure is a quest for the Golden Fleas: a fun retelling of the tale of Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. The storytelling is light, there are cute black and white illustrations throughout, and a section on “The Truth Behind the Fiction” adds the perfect amount of nonfiction context to the story. Consider adding this to your shelves.

Summer Reading Ideas: Bundle with the second book in the series, The Maze of the Menacing Minotaur (the third book is out in August!) and add some printables from the Zeus the Mighty website. Display with other Greek mythology-flavored fiction, like Joan Holub and Suzanne William’s Goddess Girls and the Heroes in Training series, by Joan Holub, Suzanne Williams, and Tracey West. National Geographic has a great Weird But True book on Greek Mythology, too.

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Quick Takes: Thundercluck! and The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library

I did some more TBR-diving over the last few weeks, and have some more middle grade quick takes!

Thundercluck!, by Paul Tillery IV & Meg Wittwer, (Oct. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15228-3

Ages 8-12

How do you not check out a book that has the tagline, “Half moral. Half god. All natural chicken”? Thundercluck is about the valiant chicken of Thor. The story begins when Thor and the evil Under-Cook Gorman Bones fight as Thor defends his hen, Hennda, from the cooking pan. Thor hits Bones with lightning, but Hennda gets a jolt, causing her to lay a giant egg, which hatches and reveals a tiny chick with a horned helmet and little vest, and who shoots lightning from his beak. Behold, the birth of Thundercluck! Raised by Brunhilda, a young Valkyrie in Odin’s court, Thundercluck and Hennda are sent to Midgard (that’s Earth), to be kept safely hidden from vengeful Gorman Bones, but like every epic tale, the heroes return to do battle; it’s the Under-Cook versus the Valkyrie and her faithful chicken for the win!

Thundercluck! is the first in a new series – the next book is due out in September – and is a win for your middle grade readers. There’s a lot of hilarious moments, some good Norse mythology, epic battles, and, at the heart of the book, is the story of an enduring friendship. Black and white illustrations throughout are adorable and will keep readers turning pages. There’s a Thundercluck! website that includes an award-winning short on Thundercluck!, which was author Paul Tillery IV’s MFA thesis. Give this one to your younger mythology fans – if they like Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams’s Thunder Girls series, they’ll love this one!

 

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library, by Linda Bailey/Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, (June 2017, Greenwillow Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-244093-8

Ages 8-12

Ferny Creek School Library has a beloved librarian who goes on maternity leave, and her awful replacement wants to get rid of the library and make way for a testing space! Meanwhile, Eddie, a tiny green bug with a passion for books, finds himself in the library as he searches for his Aunt Min, who was injured and can’t get out of the library. Together, the two bookworms – bookbugs? – cook up a Charlotte’s Web-type strategy to plead for the library to stay as is.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library is just adorable. The story, loaded with great book references, includes Eddie & Min’s “Bugliography” at the end; a nice listing of all the books mentioned, in one spot, and serves as a good readers’ advisory guide (and display guide). This is a love letter to libraries, particularly school libraries, which have had a really rough time of it these last few years. The heart of the story is the love for a school library, and its librarian, who makes the library a home for the kids at school, versus the mean Mrs. Visch, sister of the school’s superintendent, and testing enthusiast who sees books and reading as frivolous at best. Roller Girl’s Victoria Jamieson created adorable black and white illustrations, featured throughout the book, and really makes readers fall in love with Eddie, Min, and their quest to save the library. It’s a feel good story that book lovers will come to again and again, and reminded me of all the great memories I have from my first library and Mrs. Reale, my first school librarian, who always seemed to know what book to hand me when I needed it.

Posted in Fantasy, mythology, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The story of Midas, continued: A Touch of Gold

A Touch of Gold, by Annie Sullivan, (Aug. 2018, Blink YA), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-310-76635-3

Recommended for readers 12+

I mentioned A Touch of Gold in my Argos review last week, as part of my Go Greek! summer reading post. I was still reading it at the time, but I’m all done and dying to talk this one up. Let’s dive in!

We all know the story of King Midas, right? Has the ability to turn anything he touched to gold, which sounds pretty great at first, but try to eat a candy bar, or have a swig of water: see where I’m going? Literally everything he touched turned to gold, which was stressful enough, but when his daughter went to him and transformed into a golden statue, that was it. He begged the god Dionysus to take away the Golden Touch, but gods have a sense of humor – which is where A Touch of Gold begins.

You see, Midas needed to bathe everything he turned to gold in a nearby river. Being a loving dad, he grabbed Kora, his daughter, first. Once he saw she was okay, nothing else mattered. Except to Dionysus, who tends to be a stickler for playing by his rules. Midas didn’t bathe the other objects in the river, so Kora’s skin became gold. Not a statue again; more of a gold sheen, and Midas was condemned to keep the other gold objects nearby, or he’d be weakened to the point of death. Kora, now a teen, has been sheltered within the palace walls for most of her life; her father’s brother, Phaeus, taking on most of the day-to-day crown duties, while Midas grows weaker, needing more time close to his gold, to retain any energy. When someone sneaks in, kills a guard, and steals the gold, Kora must undertake the quest of a lifetime: find the gold and restore her father’s health. Along with her would-be suitor, Aris, and her cousin, Hettie, Kora sets out aboard a ship captained by Aris’ sometime friend, Royce. Kora quickly finds herself up against a superstitious and fearful crew, a bloodthirsty pirate who collects skulls, and someone working from within to bring harm to Kora and her family.

A Touch of Gold moves along at a good pace, building on an established story and adding new adventure, romance, and intrigue. Narrated by Kora, readers meet a heroine who is strong but vulnerable, smart but unsure, who undertakes her own heroine’s quest to grow into herself. She feels like an outcast; she’s treated like an outcast, until she believes in herself: a relatable character with a nice growth path. Readers may or may not see the villains coming, but A Touch of Gold is a good summer read that your Percy Jackson fans who are ready to take on something more will enjoy.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Teen, Tween Reads

Go Greek this Summer!

Ready to move on from Percy Jackson? (Just kidding, you’re never ready to move on from Percy Jackson.) I’ve got a new book for you:

Argos, by Ralph Hardy, (March 2018, Harper) $6.99, ISBN: 9780062396792
Recommended for readers 9-12

Set in the world of the Greek classic, The Odyssey, by Homer, Argos tells the story of Odysseus’s 20-year trip home after the Trojan War, through the eyes of his beloved dog, who waited for him. Argos is a strong, loyal dog who protects his master’s home and family and tells readers all about his beloved Odysseus, the awful suitors who pursue Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, night after night, and Telemachos, Odysseus’ young son, who grows to manhood throughout the story.

Narrated from Argos’ point of view, we get the full story of The Odyssey through reports Argos gleans from animals – primarily birds – who have encountered the hero and his crew on their ill-fated journey home. We also walk with Argos as he hunts those who would do his family ill – wolves and men alike. He has his own fame on the island Ithaka, too: he’s known as the Boar Slayer after being found as the sole surviving pup in his litter, gnawing on the body of a dead boar who slaughtered his family. We read along as he falls in love and experiences heartbreak, and we read his frustration and sadness as he ages and fears dying, leaving no one to protect his human family, and never laying eyes on his master again. If you’ve read The Odyssey, you know what’s coming; if you haven’t, this is an excellent entry point to the Greek classics. Argos is a noble and wonderfully fleshed-out character, given a history of his own that Homer would likely be proud of. Perfect for animal fiction fans and fans of Greek mythology and adventure books. I’m going to booktalk this one to my many, many Percy fans this week!

 

Next up will be a YA novel I’m currently reading, also set in Ancient Greece, so I’ll just give a quick summation here: Annie Sullivan’s A Touch of Gold tells the story of King Midas’ daughter, Kora. Turned into gold by her father, she remembers dying and coming back to life when the curse was broken, but the gods have an interesting sense of humor. Her skin is gold, and she has secret powers whenever she’s near gold. She lives, sheltered from society, to escape the looks and whispers of curses, and to avoid coming into contact with gold, until her father falls ill and she’s the only one who can save him. So far, I’m enjoying this novel, but I’ll report back when I’m finished with it, soon enough. It’s not due out until August, so you have time: go read Argos! It’s great for tweens and teens alike. Display and booktalk with The Illiad and The Odyssey: there are versions available for young readers. Ask kids if they think the gods are any different between these books and the Riordan universe. See what you learn!

A Touch of Gold, by Annie Sullivan, (Aug. 2018, Blink YA), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-310-76635-3

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Put The Serpent’s Secret at the TOP of your TBR.

The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1), by Sayantani Dasgupta, (Feb. 2018, Scholastic), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1338185706

Recommended for readers 9-12

Kiranmala is an ordinary 12 year-old girl, living in New Jersey, with her totally embarrassing parents who keep calling her “Princess” and telling her stories about Indian mythology: so annoying. The thing is, they’re not telling stories. Kiranmala is a real Indian princess, she’s from a secret fantasy world, and she’s a totally awesome demon slayer. And she discovers all of this when she gets home from school, on her 12th birthday, to find her parents gone and a gross, slobbering, rhyming rakkhosh demon coming for her. While she’s trying to figure out what is going on, two princes show up to help out, bring her back to the secret world where she’s from, and help her rescue her parents. Oh, and save the world. No pressure.

This book is un-put-downable. Sayantani Dasgupta packs so much action into this story, yet gives us wonderful character development and a fabulous introduction to Indian mythology (black and white illustrations throughout help). Seriously! I tweeted at NatGeo Kids while I was reading The Serpent’s Secret, because I think it’s high time we got an Indian Mythology compendium to join their Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Mythology volumes. Rhyming demons? Talking birds? They have flying horses, too? There’s so much I need to know here! To be fair, Ms. Dasgupta does give us a bit of an introduction at the end of the book, but with all these wonderful Southeast Asian books hitting shelves (looking at you, Aru Shah and the End of Time), it’s time to join the party. There is a wealth of rich storytelling that readers are gaining access to; let’s give them the context, the origins, of these stories.

I know I’m gushing, but I’m not even sorry. Kiran is a fun, sarcastic, tween heroine, and she’s surrounded by a hilarious, exciting, and straight up gross cast of characters. And this is only the first book of a new series? Sign me up. I want more! Give this to any of your fantasy fans; especially those Rick Riordan readers who have already demonstrated their love of Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Roman mythologies. Give this to the kids in your library who want heroes and heroines who look like them. Give this to the kids in your library who need to understand that there are heroes and heroines who don’t look like them.

The Serpent’s Secret has starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal.

Sayantani Dasgupta has an author website and a list of appearances and events.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Hermes: The next Olympian graphic novel!

Hermes (Olympians, Volume 10), by George O’Connor, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626725256

Recommended for readers 9-12

The 10th volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians series brings out the trickster. No, not Loki; the other trickster. Hermes – the winged feet guy? – is the god of tricksters and thieves, animal husbandry, trade and merchants, sleep, contests and athletes, astronomy, language, and he happens to also be a guide for the dead. From his humble beginnings as an infant who had a penchant for cattle rustling (he’s the god of that, too) to his adventures with his son, Pan, O’Connor provides a nice overview of Hermes, framed as a series of stories told by a character who is not exactly what he seems. There are additional mythological figure biographies, a bibliography, footnotes, and discussion questions. The Olympians collection is a good graphic novel go-to series for kids’ collections; they’re a good additional resource for research reports, and kids enjoy reading about the Olympians. I display my set with my Percy Jackson books, and it generates a lot of interest, especially when you booktalk the series as the basis for Percy Jackson. (Nothing about Mount Olympus being at the top of the Empire State Building in O’Connor, but who knows, right?)

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, mythology, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Illustrated/Graphic Novel Rundown

Phew! I may have overextended myself just an eensy bit with  my own summer reading list, but it was all worth it. There are some great books out this Fall. Here’s a quick rundown of some graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction out this month (and one from June… it was a busy summer!).

    

Heretics!: The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, by Steven & Ben Nadler, (June 2017, Princeton University Press), $22.95, ISBN: 9780691168692 / Ages 16+

This nonfiction graphic novel tells the story of the 17th-century thinkers – Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Newton, and more – who fundamentally changed the way mankind saw society and ourselves. These philosophers and scientists challenged the church’s authority to prove that Earth was not the center of the universe; that kings were not divinely chosen to rule; that neither God nor nature makes choices: sometimes, things just happen. Period. The reader-friendly, cartoony drawings, combined with simple explanatory text helps readers understand the scandalous nature of these thinkers. Booktalk and display with the Action Philosophers collection.

 

    

Greek Myths: Three Heroic Tales, by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden/Illustrated by Carole Henaff, (Sept. 2017, Confident Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9781782853497 / Ages 8-12

Three of the most famous Greek myths: Demeter and Persephone, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Eurydice – get the illustrated treatment here. Award-winning French illustrator Carole Hénaff uses a palette of deep and bright colors to create beautiful illustrations that would be as beautiful in a frame as they are in this book.

Water Memory, by Mathieu Reynes/Illustrated by Valerie Vernay, (Sept. 2017, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781941302439 / Ages 13+

I love a good, spooky story, and if it’s a good, spooky graphic novel that I can share with my library kiddos, even better. Marion’s mom inherited an old family house. It’s got a private beach and overlooks the ocean. It’s too good to be true, right? Right. Marion discovers some strange rock carvings and that a chilling local legend may be coming to life. The artwork is beautiful, and the translation from the original French to English is seamless.

    
Little Pierrot Vol 1: Get the Moon, by Alberto Varanda, (Sept. 2017, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781941302590 Ages / 4-8
This is the first in a new graphic novel series, translated from French, and perfect for young readers. Little Pierrot is a little boy with a big imagination. He and his snail buddy – Mr. Snail, naturally – have surreal adventures and end their day together, like best buddies do. Give this to your TOON Books readers; it’s got a similar look and feel. The artwork is sweet and whimsical, and kids will identify with Pierrot in terms of imagination and having a best buddy at one’s side, whether it’s a snail, a dog, or a stuffed plush. Booktalk with Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield, who never likes to be without his teddy bear, Pooky.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle School, mythology, Tween Reads

Loki’s daughter has her say in The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child, by Francesca Simon, (June 2017, Faber & Faber), $11.95, ISBN: 9780571330270

Recommended for ages 12+

Being the daughter of a giantess and the god of mischief is hard enough, but being born as a half-corpse on top of it? No wonder Hel, daughter of Loki and Angrboda, has a chip on her shoulder. Her older brothers are a snake and a wolf, her half-brothers are human – but they’re jerks, and her father’s no prize, whether or not he’s a Marvel and Tumblr heartthrob in another universe.

So goes the story of Francesca Simon’s The Monstrous Child. Narrated by Hel herself, it’s Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for the middle school set. We read about her anger at Odin’s casting her into Niffelheim to rule over the dead, and the pain of her unrequited love for Baldr, the most beautiful of the Norse gods. We discover her friendship with a frost giant, condemned to oversee the bridge to Hel’s realm, and the despair that leads her to consider a role in Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods.

I loved this book. As a fan of Norse myth and YA, I enjoyed seeing the myths from Hel’s perspective: an outcast, literally cast away from her family; forced to make her way on her own. She suffers loneliness, the pain of loving someone unavailable, and the desire for revenge. This is a perfect addition to middle school libraries, and a great way to connect ancient myths to contemporary YA. Hel’s voice is clear and strong; supporting characters also have defined personalities and the dialogue – both Hel’s internal dialogue and the dialogue between characters, particularly between Hel and Loki, is delicious.

Francesca Simon has delved into Greek and Norse myth in the past. While I’m not sure if her books The Sleeping Army and The Lost Gods are part of The Monstrous Child‘s Universe, as they take place on Midgard (Earth), I’m still going to add them to my collection to stand next to Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, because the kids at my library read any and all things fictional myth. The Monstrous Child stands on its own as a solid work of Norse myth and middle school-level fiction. Younger readers will be familiar with Ms. Simon’s Horrid Henry intermediate series.

Originally released in hardcover in May 2016, The Monstrous Child‘s paperback release is due out in a few short weeks. You can grab a copy from your library right now!

Posted in Fantasy, mythology, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Myth of the Minotaur? That’s BULL.

Bull, by David Elliott, (March 2017, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544610606

Recommended for ages 13+

You may know the myth of Theseus, the Minotaur, and the Labryinth, but I guarantee you’ve never read it like this. Told in verse, with each character’s voice using its own poetric form, from sonnets and stanzas to split couplets.  Poseidon acts as a kind of narrator, boastful and smug, laying out the lay of the land for readers: how Minos wouldn’t sacrifice a bull to him, so he decided to take it out on his wife and son. We have Minos, who’s not winning any father of the year awards; poor, insane Queen Pasiphae, who loves her baby boy and loses her mind when he’s taken from her; Ariadne, Minos’ daughter who just wants to take her brother, Asterion – the Minotaur – away from the hell he’s living, Daedalus, the engineer of the labyrinth, and last but never least, Asterion, the voice of the Minotaur himself.

There are inevitable Hamilton comparisons to be made, and this is a good thing: it’s a modern, compulsively readable, update of the classic myth, full of dark humor, angst, and betrayal. Elliott fleshes out the story by giving his take on the characters’ internal dialogue; most notably, Asterion’s growing despair and rage, also depicted by the progressively darker pages on which his dialogue runs. I’d love to see this staged, and I’m sure many, many high school and college students will, too.

Bull received (well-deserved) starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Language and situations may give some more conservative readers pause, but it is a Greek myth, after all.

Author David Elliott’s webpage has more information about the author and his books, plus information about author visits. There is also a link to Mr. Elliott’s Pinterest page, where readers can find more links to information about the players in Bull and their mythology.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

The story of Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt

artemis_1Artemis, by George O’Connor, (Olympians #9), (Jan. 2017, First Second), $9.99, ISBN: 9781626725225

Recommended for ages 8-12

The latest in George O’Connor’s graphic novel series on the Olympians gives readers the origin of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, nature, archery, wild animals, young women, and sudden death (yes, you read that right). Like a lot of gods and goddesses, Artemis and her twin brother, Apollo, were born when Zeus introduced himself to Leto, daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Artemis assisted with her brother’s birth, despite being only 9 days old, and when the family was invited to live on Mount Olympus, was protective of her mother, who, for obvious reasons, wasn’t really in Hera’s favor.

 

I love this series because it really utilizes the graphic novel format to bring these myths back to life. When I was a kid, I had history and mythological comics that breathed life into their stories, splashing the pages with the color and action that infused them. O’Connor’s Olympians series is good, solid story-telling that brings mythology back to kids and adults alike. Put these books out with your Rick Riordan books; your Greek mythology nonfiction books (D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths is brilliant and often used in schools), and, for readers who are ready for them, Gillian Cross and Neil Packer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

artemis_2