Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Blog Tour: Broken Circle, by JL Powers and MA Powers

Broken Circle, by JL and MA Powers, (Oct. 2017, Akashic), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61775-580-4
Recommended for readers 12+

 

Fifteen year-old Adam Jones just wants to be a normal teen, but the chances aren’t looking so good. He’s got a monster chasing him in his sleep, and he can tell a person’s character by seeing what kind of shadow they cast. His dad is almost never around, his grandfather is a little nuts. He’s expected to take on the family business – but his father won’t tell him what that business is. Is he a mafioso? After a couple of incidents at school, his father makes the decision to send him to a special boarding school where he’ll learn how to be part of the family business – whatever that is. Adam arrives at the school to discover that he’s part of a special group of “soul guides”: grim reapers. They’re all around us; they’re from different clans, with different territories, and there are TONS of rivalries. No wonder Adam’s dad told him not to tell anyone where he’s from. If only that were the end of Adam’s problems, right? But he’s still got the monster chasing him, he’s got some strange characters stalking him, and he’s learning about himself and his family while having to keep it all a secret from his new friends AND the ones he left behind.

I LOVED Broken Circle. It’s a first-person narration by Adam, the main character, with periodic half chapters that fill in crucial backstory, told in third person through meetings of the synod: an assembly of Soul Guide leaders. Adam’s chapters are written with a wicked sense of humor – he’s 15, and just found out he’s a grim reaper, after all – and a deepening sense of pathos and fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of the things he discovers as he moves through the book. There’s a diversity of characters in the book as we meet soul guides from different cultures and ethnicities. You won’t want to put this one down: it’s Hogwarts for soul guides, with family rivalries and developing powers aplenty. The writing flows and the characters have a rich depth to them, even with their own secrets that we may or may not find out before this volume ends. Thank goodness it’s the first in a series; I have more to look forward to and so will you. Give this to your Gaiman fans, for sure; hand it to your Potterheads that are ready to meet a new group of friends. Give it to your readers that enjoy seeing life from a different point of view.

Watch this space: I’ve got a vlog entry from the authors!

J.L. POWERS is the award-winning author of three young adult novels, The Confessional, This Thing Called the Future, and Amina. She is also the editor of two collections of essays and author of a picture book, Colors of the Wind. She works as an editor/publicist for Cinco Puntos Press, and is founder and editor of the online blog, The Pirate Tree: Social Justice and Children’s Literature. She teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Skyline College in California’s Bay Area, served as a jurist for the 2014 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, and is launching Catalyst Press in 2017 to publish African writers. Broken Circle is her first novel written with her brother, M.A. Powers.

 

M.A. POWERS is J.L.’s “little” (but much taller) brother. He has a PhD in the oncological sciences from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He is currently a stay-at-home dad and lives in Maine. Broken Circle is his first novel written with his sister, J.L. Powers.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest: unbridled optimism!

bear_covThe Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest, by Oren Lavie/Illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch, (Oct. 2016, Black Sheep/Akashic), $17.95, ISBN: 9781617754906

Recommended for ages 4-8

A bear searches for himself, using clues he’s discovered scrawled on a note in his pocket: 1) I am a very nice bear; 2) I am a happy bear; and 3) Very handsome too. As he searches, he discovers more about the world around him, seeing things with a childlike sense of wonder that all readers will enjoy. Originally published in Germany, The Bear Who Wasn’t There is a debut picture book by composer and playwright Oren Lavie and illustrated by German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, both renowned for their crafts.

I adore this bear. He’s perpetually upbeat, excited to learn more about himself and ready to explore the world around him. He’s drawn with huge, wide eyes, eager to take in everything he sees, and his mouth is curved into big, happy red smile. He wanders through the Fabulous Forest and meets other creatures who help him on his quest for self-discovery: the Convenience Cow and the Lazy Lizard; the Penultimate Penguin, and the Turtle Taxi, all of whom guide him in some way. Bear is thrilled with everyone he meets; even the snappish Penguin. Lavie’s words are lyrical, beautifully curling themselves around the characters. I love the bantering between Bear and each character; it’s sweet and gentle, and shows kids how to respond to others, as is the case with the standoffish Penguin. Bear never loses his idealism, best seen when he counts flowers, deciding that the number is “beautiful”. When he’s told that “beautiful” isn’t a number, Bear has already moved on, thinking to himself, that it’s better to smell flowers than count them, and that “Flowers are more Beautiful than they are thirty-eight.”

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This is such a happy, sweet book to read to younger kids and to older, school-age kids. Kids see things in a different way; a more inspiring, upbeat way. Books like The Bear Who Wasn’t There are a great reminder to kids and adults that sometimes, it really is better to smell flowers than to count them.

Add this one to collections where animal books are popular. The Bear Who Wasn’t There has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

What was your Worst Breakfast?

worstbreakfastThe Worst Breakfast, by China Miéville/Illustrated by Zak Smith, (Oct. 2016, Black Sheep/Akashic), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1617754869

Recommended for ages 3-8

Two sisters sit down one morning to talk about the worst breakfast they’ve ever had. It gets progressively worse, from burnt toast, to unbaked, uncooked, unclean baked beans, a steaming, slick tomato hill oozing into rancid swill. Can it get worse? It has to get better… doesn’t it?

This book is just too much fun to read by yourself or a room full of kids, who will squeal with awful glee as the awful breakfast the two sisters describe gets grosser and grosser. Award-winning author China Miéville, best known for his fantasy and science fiction tales, is brilliant as he constructs a hilarious, rhyming tale, told as a conversation between two sisters remembering the worst breakfast ever made. Building on each other’s memory, the sisters one-upping each other and – illustrated in full repulsive glory by Zak Smith – create a mountain of food so terrifying and awful that you have no choice but to squeal and giggle uncontrollably at memories of terrible meals past. And then… a glimmer of hope? Maybe breakfast can be saved, after all.

I love this book. I hope Miéville and Smith have more stories to tell, because this will be a storytime mainstay for me. This would be great for a food storytime. Pair this one with Kate McMullan’s I Stink!, where a garbage truck narrates a stomach-churning alphabet of the “food” he eats on his shift. I’d also pair this with Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen for a surrealist story session; I was reminded of Sendak’s book often as I read The Worst Breakfast. I enjoyed the back and forth between the sisters, and the different British-American references, like the differences in the pronunciation of words  like tomato and bravado: “You can’t rhyme TOMATO and BRAVADO!” “I can if we’re English. Almost. Tu-MAH-toe, bruh-VAH-doe.” I love the pictures that Miéville paints with his words and Zak Smith’s wild interpretations that give the words life on the page.

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This is a fun tale that’s sure to get the kids interacting during a storytime. If you’ve got readers who enjoy gross humor – and who doesn’t? – this will build their vocabularies and make them howl with disgusted delight. The Worst Breakfast has received a starred review from Kirkus.