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

Three graphic novels for dragon fans

Dragons have always been a popular subject in fantasy fiction, so their popularity in a visual medium like graphic novels makes complete sense: creators can let their illustrations soar, bringing these beautiful and exciting creatures to life. Here’s a potential graphic novel book bundle for you: three novels, three dragon stories; two are the first entries into new series.

Tidesong, by Wendy Xu, (Nov. 2021, Quill Tree), $21.99, ISBN: 9780062955807

Ages 8-12

This beautifully illustrated story is for the Studio Ghibli fans out there. Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother send her off to her curmudgeonly great-aunt and cousin, to prepare for the entrance exams to witch school. Sophie’s never met these relations, but there’s history between her grandmother and her sister, Sophie’s great-aunt, and the tension is there right from the beginning. Auntie Sage is younger and friendlier, but they won’t let her actually study spells; Great-Auntie seems to be from the Mr. Miyagi school of study, giving Sophie chores upon chores to do to build character. Frustrated, Sophie sneaks off and attempts magic on her own, only to get herself into trouble; a young water dragon named Lir rescues her, but loses his memory and his ability to morph back into his dragon form. Sophie has to choose between proving herself on her own, or leaning on Lir’s magic to pass her exams, but to do that, she interferes with Lir’s chance to get his memories and his dragon form back. The artwork is breathtaking, the colors gentle, flowing from one panel to the next. Inspired by Chinese mythology and the myth of water dragons, this story has a magical family history, stirrings of first romance, and an introspective heroine with an internal conflict. Back matter has an author’s note on the dragons of Chinese mythology and the “ecological backbone” of Tidesong, encouraging readers to to learn about and respect our oceans.

Tidesong was selected for the November Kids’ IndieNext list. Wendy Xu, the award-nominated co-creator of Mooncakes (2019), has an author webpage where you can read her online comics and see more of her artwork.

By the way, since Tidesong publishes in November, it’s not eligible for the 2021 CYBILS awards… but you can keep it in your CYBILS 2022 wish list!

 

City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm, by Jaimal Yogis/Illustrated by Vivian Truong, (Sept. 2021, Scholastic Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 9781338660425

Ages 8-12

This is the first book in a new graphic novel series, and I am all in for it. Grace is a middle schooler whose mother and stepfather move her to Hong Kong, where he works for a biotech company. Still grieving her father’s death from cancer three years before, she’s working on moving on and is happy that her mom has found happiness again, and her stepdad, Hank, seems like a good guy, even if it’s worthy of a little side-eye, knowing that he was her dad’s doctor at the time he died. Anyway. At a market, an old woman gives Sophie what looks like a lovely crystal egg, but when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers an adorable, blue water dragon hanging out in her bathroom! Sophie and her new group of friends are enchanted with the dragon, whom she names Nate after her father, but realize that the dragon’s power is more than a group of schoolkids can shoulder – especially when men in masks and suits start chasing them all around Hong Kong. Desperate to get Nate to safety and get to the bottom of who’s chasing them and why, Sophie is about to learn even more about Chinese mythology – and how it may not be all “fantasy” after all.

This is going to be an AMAZING new series. There’s action, a shadowy plot with far-reaching consequences, and a smart, likable group of characters on the run. Characters are multicultural, and Sophie is biracial (Asian and Caucasian). Throw in an adorable blue water dragon and eye-catching, colorful illustration with a manga influence, and this is a book I am booktalking to all my graphic novel readers (read: 99% of the kids at my library, and my own dragon-obsessed 9-year-old). Got Wings of Fire fans? They’re now City of Dragons fans, too. Trust me on this one.

Much thanks to Geo Librarian, who nominated City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm for the CYBILS; I hadn’t seen this one and would likely have missed out on it if it hadn’t been nominated!

 

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly: The Coldfire Curse, by Jordan Quinn/Illustrated by Glass House Graphics, (Feb. 2021, Little Simon), $9.99, ISBN: 9781534475007

Ages 6-10

I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this series, either; the Wrenly chapter books are popular with my library kids. Shout out to Little House of Reading for the nomination that put this into my hands. A graphic novel for slightly younger readers, but by no means too young for the 8-12 middle grade sweet spot, The Coldfire Curse is another great book to talk up to your Wings of Fire fans and your Chis D’Lacey Dragon Chronicles readers. Ruskin is a dragon, but he’s more of a pet to the Prince of Wrenly. He lives the good life, and has no idea what’s in store for him when Cinder, a dragon from Crestwood shows up to ask for help. A curse is running rampant through Crestwood and will threaten all dragons in Wrenly if Ruskin can’t help him. Ruskin is in, and the two head off on an adventure that will be nothing like he’s ever experienced, especially when he discovers that he’s the target of a nefarious plot. Why is a pampered pet dragon the center of intrigue? Only one way to find out!

You don’t need to be familiar with the Wrenly chapter books to fall in love with this series; a love of dragons and adventure is all you’ll need. Vibrant colors, an epic storyline, and adorable characters that will alternately delight you and break your heart make this essential dragon reading.

There are five Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly graphic novels out right now, with a sixth one coming at the end of November. Update your order carts!

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Summer Fun: Escape Room Books

Now that I’m back in the library, I’m trying to think of ways to keep the kids engaged while we have no in-person programming. Enter Escape Room books! My Kiddo and I discovered some fun ones online, like this Dog Man one, but I want to be able to give the kids something to think over while they’re here. Luckily for me, Schiffer Books sent over some escape room books, and I’m thinking these may be my next project.

The Escape Game series by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur, and illustrated by El Gunto, consists of four books right now. They don’t need to be read or played in order; each book has instructions and the story: you’re a member of a time traveling agency called Spatial-Temporal Agency Y. As a high-risk mission specialist, you and your robot companion, Dooz, are sent into different time periods to head off horrible disasters. Together with Dooz, you have to figure out the clues to advance through the adventure and save the day. You can get hints in a different section of the book, and check your answers against Dooz’s “validation grid” – and yes, you can look at the answers, if you really, really need to. Let’s take a look at the adventures!

Escape Game Adventure: The Last Dragon, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Jan. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764358951

Ages 7-12

We’re going further back in time in this adventure: heading to the 12th century, our mission is to save the last dragon egg, currently in the clutches of an evil king, who wants to make it into a dragon egg omelet! Recover the egg and get it to safety while escaping the castle before the king finds out you’re even there, all while learning about the Middle Ages, magic, and dragons. Perfect for fantasy fans that want to have their own fun adventure; kids will be able to save a wizard, put pieces together to create a coat of arms, and choose the right invisibility potion so you won’t be seen. Use Dooz’s clues – they’re your best way of figuring out what you need to advance! Have pictures of eggs for participants to decorate and take home – or wizard hat crafts available; all you need is a piece of construction paper to roll into a cone, and some stickers or gems and glue!

Have fun with these books, extend the activities into programs if you can, and handouts if you aren’t able to yet. There are so many fun ideas to have with this book as a jumping-off point: make your own coat of arms, have a magic wand workshop (I’m pulling from my old Harry Potter party ideas); decorate with Time Machine clip art.

 

Escape Game Adventure: Trapped in Space, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Oct. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360312

Ages 7-12

You and Dooz are being sent to the year 3144 to rescue a crew of astronauts from the planet Vacumy, who have not responded to messages for 24 hours. They’re some of the most intelligent scientists in the universe, and in danger from the evil inhabitants of the star, Hyena, so you need to intervene and find out if the crew is safe, fast! Solving puzzles and logic riddles, you and Dooz will complete your mission and learn about space thanks to helpful callout boxes. The Validation Grid is a fun way of checking your answers without spoilers: follow the page number and your suggested puzzle answer; if you see a thumbs up, you’re good: proceed! If there’s a thumbs down, go back to the drawing board. The artwork is kid-friendly, with big-eyed, friendly robots and aliens, and fun, challenging puzzles that will get your readers thinking and playing with solutions to advance.

Jumping-off activities: we just had an entire Summer Reading program about space two years ago! You know there are oodles of space-related fun activities to be found! Let readers color in their own aliens, or have some craft supplies around so they can make their own.

 

Escape Game Adventure: The Mad Hacker, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764358968

Ages 7-12

All right, in this adventure, you and Dooz are going to the year 2394 to stop a mad hacker named Snarf from releasing a computer virus that will paralyze all the world’s computers! You need to localize and destroy the virus by hacking Snarf’s computers, and then escape from his compound before he finds out what you’re doing there. Solve problems, save the world, and learn about computers thanks to callout boxes. The story is not linear: solving problems will help you jump easily around the book, taking you further into Snarf’s compound and closer to destroying the virus! The answer key is illustrated and step-by-step, but you don’t want to do that, do you? You want to solve these along with your kiddos! Choose from a number of keys to break down the languages of different drones you encounter, take apart a riddle to find the right door to Snarf’s lair, and cut the right cable to unlock the doors and escape. Time yourself and see if you’ve improved your escape time!

Offer to let readers take the books and have – if you have the budget – small pads for them to work out the riddles, or just have extra paper on hand for them. Explain what a hackathon is – a collaborative event where computer programmers get together to work on a project – and tell them that The Mad Hacker Adventure is a kind of hackathon for them, collaborating to destroy the virus and save the world! You can always make cool certificates to hand out when they’ve completed the adventure.

 

Escape Game Adventure: Operation Pizza, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360305

Ages 7-12

Heading back to Naples, Italy in 1889, your mission this time is to preserve pizza history. A chef is due to present his new creation – a margherita pizza – to the royal family, but he’s about to be murdered by his cold-blooded rival, unless you and Dooz can save the day. Enter the bad guy’s restaurant, find the poisoned food, and replace it with an identical dish you prepare, and escape before they can find out you’ve been there. Is there a more important mission than to preserve the sanctity of pizza? Learn all about pizza thanks to fact boxes throughout. Use menus to help you navigate the ingredients you need to make an identical dessert that won’t kill our pizza inventor; locate the poisoned dessert so you can dispose of it, and figure out how to get out of a locked bathroom before you can get caught!

I’ve done a bunch of pizza programs in the past, and they’re always popular. Make your own pizza crafts couldn’t be easier, and you can make them grab and go: put a small paper plate, and cut-up construction paper shapes for toppings, like sausage, peppers, cheese, sauce, and mushrooms, into a plastic or paper bag, and you’ve got a craft kids will love.

If you’re going to invest in these for your library, be forewarned: they’re going to get marked up. Consider for your games reference collection if you don’t have the budget to replace them. I’m thinking of introducing the adventure to my library kids, a few puzzles at a time, by leaving the book at reference and collecting answers each day (I have a LOT of prizes in my prize drawer, for incentive). Give the Escape Game series a shot!

 

Pirates Escape Game : A High Seas Mystery, by Eric Nieudan/Illustrated by Margot Briquet, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764360084
Ages 8-12

Okay, last one up, and it’s a good one: a pirate escape game! You’re a sailor who wakes up and discovers you’re the only one left on a ship that’s been adrift in the high seas. No captain. No crew. No memory of anything that’s happened. You have to explore the ship and find clues to discover what happened, solving logic puzzles, breaking codes, and figuring out word puzzles and riddles. Unlock a padlocked pantry; find a mysterious note in the surgeon’s cabin; decipher recipes, with the help of a separate clue book and your own wits. The book is not linear – you’ll be jumping back and forth as solving different puzzles takes you to different pages – and includes brain busters for every type of skill. Pirate fans are going to love it, and you know you can enhance a pirate day! Make eyepatches, mustaches, and pirate hats as either grab-and-go or in-house crafts!

Escape Room Games don’t have to be relegated to online or in a room – see how these work out for you with your kids and teens. We’ve all had to get more creative in the last year and a half; let’s keep adapting.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Magic for All! The Gilded Girl fights for magical equality

The Gilded Girl, by Alyssa Colman, (Apr. 2021, Farrar Straus Giroux), $16.99, ISBN: 9780374313937

Ages 8-12

This middle grade book about magic feels like it’s set in JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them-era New York, and has such a strong social class storyline that makes it so relevant today. Magic exists in the world, but it’s been co-opted by the wealthy. When magical winds blow, you either “kindle” – take on the magic that manifests itself with the winds, or “snuff” – have your magic snuffed out, leaving you with no gifts. The wealthy have warped the entire idea that magic must run free, and the process has become more and more precarious as magic is limited, cornered, controlled. Izzy is a 12-year-old girl working as a maid in a prestigious school for magic run by the awful social climber Miss Posterity. She has plans to kindle on her own and leave Miss Posterity, to seek her younger sister who was taken from her when her parents died. Emma is a 12-year-old girl with a wealthy father who enrolls as a student with Miss Posterity. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake upends Emma’s life, but bonds her with Izzy as the two plan to free themselves from Miss Posterity’s crushing yoke. With the help of a house dragon (in the form of a cat) and some friends on the inside and outside of Miss Posterity’s, the two may just start a revolution. The story is a journey for both Emma and Izzy; Emma begins as a child of privilege who learns big lessons when the tables turn. Izzy learns how to let her guard down and rely on people other than herself. It’s a study in friendship, in social class, and social change; having the recent immigrants living in New York City tenements in an area called “The Tarnish” is like reading a fantasy version of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives. The house dragon, in the form of a cat, is a wonderful addition to the story and injects some levity and cuteness into the storyline. (My own house dragon, Tiger, was not amused at being found out.)

Great fantasy for middle graders; if you’re a New York history fan like I am, you can talk for days about the implications of magic being kept out of the literal hands of immigrants and the poor and how the wealthy warped the natural flow of magic by making it unattainable except to the privileged. Must-read! Enjoy a discussion guide (spoilers in some of the questions, look at your own risk) courtesy of the publisher.

Posted in lift-the-flap, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Happy Belated Easter!

Hi all!

I’ve lapsed a little in my posts, and I apologize. I’ve had some health wackiness going on that’s left me a little run down, but I’m fine, honest. Today, I’m starting off with two Easter books – yes, Easter was yesterday (tonight, actually, as I write this), but there’s still Greek Easter in May! So add this adorable book to your basket – and crack your eggs and make a wish.

Dragon’s Easter Egg Hunt, by Priddy Books US, (Dec. 2020, Priddy Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781684491278

Ages 1-3

It’s an Easter Egg Hunt, and your kiddos are invited! Dragon has seven magical eggs to hide for Easter: can you help him out? Die-cut eggs are easy to pop out, and lift the flaps throughout the book instruct kids where to hide different eggs, and reveal fun fairies, unicorns, and other fun reveals. Colorful and playful, the book lets keep play with color and encourages hand-eye coordination and matching skills practice – different eggs go to different spreads – while letting them explore again and again. The flaps, eggs, and pages are sturdy and will hold up nicely. If you’re keeping a copy for your library, plan to make some backup eggs! Adorable and fun for all the littles!

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Ellie’s Dragon and childhood magic

Ellie’s Dragon, by Bob Graham, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211139

Ages 3-7

Little Ellie discovers a tiny dragon atop an egg carton while at the grocery store with her mother, and immediately takes him home and names him Scratch. Ellie’s mother doesn’t see him, nor does her teacher, but all her friends do. As Ellie gets older, her relationship with Dragon begins to change: she’s paying less attention to him, more interested in birthday parties and music, and he begins fading away. A bittersweet story about the magic of childhood and growing up, Ellie’s Dragon is a good reminder to us grownups not to let the spark of magic fade as we grow up, and a reassurance to kids that they are absolutely clued in to moments that adults overlook. Award-winning author and illustrator Bob Graham tells a magical story, accompanied by his dreamy watercolors; Scratch is a tiny green dragon with bits of yellow and pink; his wings gently flap and he gives off a little plume of smoke. Ellie leads him along on a leash, attracting the attention of kids everywhere she goes, and Scratch lovingly indulges them, eating birthday candles and snuggling with them at naptime. You’ll ache when you see Scratch left behind as Ellie grows up and away from him, but don’t worry – our childhood friends don’t fade away; they move on to someone else who needs them. A gentle story for kiddos moving up from toddlerhood to preschoool and Kindergarten. Remind your Kiddos to always look for their dragons and unicorns, and to keep their everyday magic close.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Katie O’Neill follows up The Tea Dragon Society with The Tea Dragon Festival

The Tea Dragon Festival, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2019, Oni Press), $21.99, ISBN: 978-1-62010-655-6

Ages 8-12

The Tea Dragon Festival takes place in the universe introduced in the Eisner-winning The Tea Dragon Society (2017) and is a prequel of sorts, featuring two characters from the first book. Taking place in a mountain village called Silverleaf, Tea Dragons are small dragons that live with the villagers; the villagers care for them, even pamper them, and harvest tea leaves that the dragons grow on their bodies. Each dragon is named for the teas they produce: we’ve previously met Jasmine, Roobios, and Chamomile, and The Tea Dragon Festival debuts some additional dragons: Fennel, Marshmallow, and Mountain Chamomile.

A girl named Rinn goes into the woods to gather ingredients and discovers a real dragon, fast asleep. Upon waking, Aedhan – the dragon – explains that he was sent to protect Silverleaf, but dozed off. But he’s ready for the barley tea celebrations at the next Tea Dragon Festival! The only problem is… the barley tea celebration happened 80 years ago. To lift Aedhan’s spirits, Rinn brings him back to the village and introduces him to everyone, including her Uncle Erik and his companion, Hesekiel, who previous Tea Dragon readers will remember. The couple are younger here, and are still in their bounty hunting days; they deduce that the bounty they are hunting – a mysterious forest creature who can put people to sleep for decades. While Erik and Hesekiel seek out the bounty, Rinn includes Aedhan in festival preparations, and endears him to the village – and vice versa.

This is just a lovely, uplifting story. Katie O’Neill once again gives us a world where diverse characters live and work together in harmony; we have fluid gender identities and diverse characters, even diverse species, living among one another in peace. It’s a visually beautiful story, with verdant forest colors and lush landscapes. Aedhan is a shape-shifting dragon who looks stunning, majestic, in flight and shifts into a softer, humanoid form to interact with the Silverleaf inhabitants. Back matter includes a note about tea dragons and dragons, and an Alpine Tea Dragon Handbook, introducing three new tea dragons from the story. A wonderful fantasy that will make readers happy.

The Tea Dragon Society webpage has a cast of characters, an almanac of tea dragons, and the tea dragon webcomic! Add to your friendly list of links for kids!

Katie O’Neill is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning graphic novelist. Visit her webpage for more about her books and illustration.

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

The team-up I’ve been waiting for: Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl!

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, (Sept. 2019, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250191731

Ages 8-12

The latest Ben Hatke graphic novel brings together two of his best series: Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack. It’s a team-up he teased in 2017’s Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, and I have been waiting patiently for two years to find out what was going to happen.

After Zita and her friends arrive from their space-hopping adventures, Jack and his family have been housing and feeding the group. Lily, Jack’s neighbor, who helped him fight the giants and rescue Maddy, his sister, is on edge, though. Is she jealous of Zita, or is there something more to it? Meanwhile, the giants are growing stronger and getting ready to invade above-ground: the gate between worlds is growing weaker, and they’re ready to use it to their advantage. Zita, Jack, Lily, and Maddy have to get ready to battle once more.

I’ve been a fan of Ben Hatke since 2012, when I first read Zita the Spacegirl. I love Hatke’s art, I love his storytelling and world-building, and I love sharing his books with the kids at my libraries. Hatke is a great storyteller, giving each of his characters a rich backstory and exciting quest. He also weaves the fantastic with the everyday, giving us robots, dragons, giants, goblins alongside a terrified mother, the complexity of navigating tween friendships, and the frustration of being “ordinary”.

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl is a wonderful chapter in the Zita/Jack saga. Is it the end? Well… you just have to pick it up and read it for yourself. Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Get ready for summer with Rosie the Dragon, her friend, Charlie, and a giveaway!

Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves, by Lauren H. Kerstein/Illustrated by Nate Wragg, (June 2019, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542042925

Ages 4-8

A boy and his dragon have fun and practice pool safety at a local pool. Charlie is a boy of color who has a pet dragon named Rosie. They’ve stayed up all night, preparing for this (Rosie’s last pool outing didn’t turn out so well), and they’re ready. They arrive at the pool, read the rules, and get in the pool, but it’s still tough for Rosie! Dragons aren’t great at sharing, and fingers tend to look really tasty to a hungry dragon. Finally, the two start having fun, blowing bubbles, giving rides around the pool to the other kids, and swimming across the pool. Rosie even manages a cannonball before Charlie realizes that she’s eaten the very snack that gives her wicked dragon breath: Oh No! Clear the pool!

How cute is this story about pool safety? Rosie is remarkably similar to toddlers and preschoolers that I know, between her fear of the water and reluctance to share. Kids will see themselves in this story, either as Rosie or Charlie, and there are great, teachable moments about being safe around the water. Reading the rules is a great way to help kids gain awareness of being safe at the pool, for starters, and reminding kids that running at the pool is a great way to get hurt or hurt someone else. Silly moments like the bubble blowing, flutter kicks that cause a tidal wave, and – reminiscent of Dragons Love Tacos – the skunk candy that brings on wicked dragon’s breath just make this an absolutely hilarious, light summer read-aloud. Nate Wragg’s digital artwork is bright, colorful, and adorable, with a big, friendly-faced, red dragon and her human friend and foil. The bold font makes this an easy read-aloud, and the kids I read it to at my Saturday storytime fell in love with Rosie and her antics. Have a dragon puppet? Put it on let Rosie come to life for the kids. A fun book for a summer circle time!

Want a chance to win your own copy of Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves? Try your luck with this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Tween Reads

Keira Gillett wraps up Aleks Mickelsen’s trilogy with the Eighth Fox Throne War

Aleks Mickelsen and the Eighth Fox Throne War, by Keira Gillett/Illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan/maps by Kaitlin Statz, (May 2019, self-published), $14.99, ISBN: 9781942750123

Ages 10+

The second trilogy in Keira Gillett’s Zaria Fierce series is loaded with the epic battles, dragon fights, and complex relationships that have defined the series, but most important, the friendship between the core characters: Aleks, Zaria, Christoffer, Geirr, and Filip, the original group of friends from Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, have been through a lot together: kidnapping by trolls; magical fantasy worlds and the discovery that Zaria and Aleks are royalty within this magical realm; fantastic beasts (who always seem to know where to find them), and epic battles, just to name a few. In this last Aleks Mickelsen adventure, Fritjof, the chaos dragon, is still causing trouble in Niffelheim, and Aleks and his friends – the original gang, plus stag lord Henrik, Airi the raven, Aleks’s fey sister, Nori – are ready to take him down. If they can get through the army of dwarf ravagers on their trail and past the warring fey courts, that is.

Aleks continues to grow as a character in the Eighth Fox Throne War. Ever conflicted over whether to embrace his fey gifts or abandon them to remain human, he makes decisions based on the good of a people who don’t want him: he’s a changeling, and is on the receiving end of a lot of prejudice and anger. The fact that he’s king isn’t helping. There’s intrigue and war on a previously untold level here, so upper middle graders and middle schoolers are more the target audience for this series. The characters have grown up, are experiencing first love (Filip and Zaria, now Aleks and Saskia, a Winter Court fey and love interest), and are in fights for their lives and the lives of both Niffleheim and the modern world.

Relationships are at the heart of every Keira Gillett fantasy, and that’s what makes these books so good. The high fantasy aspects – the dragons, the epic conflicts, the grandiose ceremonies – they’re brilliant, but the emotion, the investment in these characters and their ties to one another, is what makes it all come together. Eoghan Kerrigan’s artwork is as fantastic as ever, bringing Keira Gillett’s incredible creatures and characters to life ; Kaitlin Statz’s maps help readers place themselves in the story.

Aleks Mickelsen and the Eighth Fox Throne War is a strong conclusion to another character arc in the Zaria Fierce series. Give this series to your high fantasy fans and watch them ask for more. (Ahem… nudge your Magnus Chase readers to explore this one!)

Author Keira Gillett is having a virtual book launch party on May 23 from 10:30-midnight! Put on your pajamas and join for a book reading, trivia, bingo, and a Q&A session!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Big Nate meets Medieval Times: Max and the Midknights

Max and the Midknights, by Lincoln Peirce, (Jan. 2019, Crown Books for Young Readers), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93109-7

Ages 8-12

From the creator of Big Nate comes Max and the Midknights, a story about Max, a troubadour in training who really wants to be a knight; a mean king, and a group of kids determined to make things right. Throw in a magic sword and a bumbling magician, and you have Max and the Midknights, a clever blending of graphic novel and middle grade novel. Max and Uncle Budrick visit Budrick’s childhood home in the kingdom of Byjovia, only to discover that the kind King Conrad is missing and presumed dead, and his awful brother, King Gastley, is on the throne. The villagers all seem cruel and distant, and routinely rounded up and thrown in Gastley’s dungeons. Max and new friends Kevyn, Millie, and Simon, hatch a plant to save Budrick and have some exciting adventures on the way, including some interesting background on Max, epic poetry, dragons, and haunted forests.

The book is loaded with humor, very likable characters, and adventure. Big Nate fans will be happy to see Nate show up in the book’s very beginning: Max and the Midknights is his book report. I loved spending time with Max and friends, and I’m hoping to see another installment soon. Put this right up there with Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney (both of whom blurbed Max), and Jeffrey Brown’s books. This could be the book that gets your reluctant reader to embrace fantasy fiction!