Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Dragon Waking measures friendship against power

dragon-wakingThe Dragon Waking, by Grayson Towler, (Aug. 2016, Albert Whitman & Company), $14.99, ISBN: 9780807517048

Recommended for ages 9-12

Thirteen year-old Rose Gallagher has a new friend, who just happens to be a dragon she names Jade. Jade can change her shape, taking on the form of a young teen girl, just like Rose; she can also take Rose soaring across the skies in her natural form. Jade is searching for a special rock that she calls the Harbinger but she’s not the only one. The Harbinger has the power to awaken all the dragons in our world from their 65 million year-old nap, and Rose and Jade are in a race to find the rock first.

Dragons soar and battle in the skies over Las Vegas, making this a fun fantasy tale for dragon lovers. The story takes place in our own world, imbuing our own planet with some magic of its own, rather than creating a fantastic new setting. Prehistory gets an amusing tweak as we learn that dinosaurs and dragons roamed the earth together at one point, and we have the longtime battle of good vs. evil, compassion and friendship versus a lust for power. The ending leaves the possibility of a sequel open. Readers can get a free extra chapter from the author’s website – don’t miss it!

The Dragon Waking is a good additional purchase for fantasy collections and dragon fans.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood is SO MUCH FUN – can we get a series?

18378827Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood, by Varsha Bajaj, (2014, Albert Whitman & Co.) $16.99, ISBN: 978-0807563632

Recommended for ages 9-14

Abby Spencer has been raised by a single mom for all over 13 years, and it’s been fine – until a health scare sends her to her mom, asking questions about her dad. She finds out that her father – a college romance of her mom’s – lives in Mumbai, India, and he’s a Bollywood heartthrob! When she finally gets in touch with her dad, he sends for her – for a kid who wanted some excitement out of life, even this may be over the top!

I LOVED this book from the first page. Told in the first person, I loved the way the author gave Abby her voice. She is a fun, excitable teen who loves her family and feels conflicted about her feelings for the father she only just met over Skype. I love the way the author gives readers an eye-opening view of India, from the overwhelming spectacle of Bollywood to the families that live in squalor. Her descriptions, told through a 13 year-old’s voice, were spot-on and evoked a range of reactions for me: joy, uncertainty, sympathy, even frustration. This is one of those books that I want to buy five copies of and hand them to kids in my library, yelling, “READ THIS AND TALK TO ME ABOUT IT!”

#WeNeedDiverseBooks? You’re darn right we do, and with a biracial lead character who heads to India to see her dad on a Bollywood set, we’ve got a great one, right here. Ms. Bajaj, PLEASE tell me we’re going to see more adventures with Abby, her family, and her friends!

This book is a Cybils Middle Grade Fiction first round nominee, and I’m thrilled to have shortlisted it.