Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle School

Odd Gods – Mythic Middle School can be Heck!

Odd Gods: Misfit Myths from Mount Olympus Middle School, by David Slavin & Daniel Weitzman/Illustrated by Adam J.B. Lane, (May 2019, HarperCollins), $13.99, ISBN: 9780062839534

Ages 7-11

This mythological mashup is straight-up hilarious. Oddonis is the son of Zeus and Freya, the Nordic goddess of love. You’d think he was set, right? NOPE. He’s got a weird chin, messy hair, a third nipple, and he’s nothing like his twin brother… Adonis. Yup, THAT Adonis. Adonis, who had six-pack abs as a baby! How does that even happen? Narrated by Oddonis, Odd Gods is the story of the Odds – the not-quite godly gods – as they navigate the halls of Mount Olympus Middle School, and of Oddonis’ attempt to wrest respect from his brother and his father when he runs against Adonis for class president.

Odd Gods has a snarky bent to the narration – think Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid – with a strong undercurrent of frustration. These are the kids that have been discounted from the very beginning. We have Mathena, goddess of math and… poultry. She loves math; she breathes it, lives it, loves it, to her classmate’s ridicule. There’s also the duck and chicken following her around; that can’t help. There’s Germes, god of sniffling and snot, who can often be found hanging out in a dumpster. Don’t forget Puneous, the smallest god of them all, and Oddonis’s best friend… Gaseous. Gaseous, who can clear a room or send a group of gods flying. Together, this group of misfits will take on the established group of Mean Gods and prove, for once and for all, that there’s room on Olympus for everyone.

Absolute fun, with black and white drawings throughout that directly contribute to the story’s flow. Hand this to your Jedi Academy readers and see how they think the two schools would do in a match-up. Heroes in Training and Goddess Girls readers will love this one, too.

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

Pashmina is an Indian-American girl’s journey of self-discovery

Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626720879

Recommended for ages 12+

Priyanka is an Indian-American young woman, living with her single mom, in California. She’s got so┬ámany questions: Why did her mother leave India to raise her daughter in the States? What’s India like? Why doesn’t she ever talk about India? And the big question: Who’s her father, and why hasn’t she ever met him? For Priyanka’s mom, though, the topic of India is closed. She will only say that things were different for women in India, and that’s that. Left with her questions, and feeling emotional after her uncle – her only father figure – becomes a new dad, Priyanka stumbles across one of her mother’s old suitcases, containing a beautiful pashmina shawl. She wraps it around herself and is transported to a magical, beautiful place: India. She also meets two guides: Kanta, an elephant, and Mayur, a peacock, who show her a breathtaking India. Priyanka gets the feeling she may not be getting the whole story – especially when the two guides keep shooing away a mysterious shadow that lurks by them – but she’s determined to find out more about her heritage and her birth.

Priya gets the opportunity when her aunt calls to reconnect with her estranged sister. She’s pregnant, and Priya’s mom agrees to let her fly to India to spend time with her. Thrilled, Priya embarks on a journey that will provide more answers than she expected, and learn more about her mother – and herself.

Pashmina is brilliant, bold, and beautiful storytelling. It’s the story of a child walking the line between two cultures, and it’s a story about the search for identity. It’s also a powerful story of feminism; the goddess Shakti guiding women to choose their own paths and the women who are brave enough to answer the call. Nidhi Chanani creates breathtaking, colorful vistas within the pashmina’s world, making Priya’s everyday black-and-white world even more stark and humdrum. This is a must-add to graphic novel collections, particularly for middle schoolers and teens. Booktalk and display with Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Na Liu’s Little White Duck, and┬áSarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

See more of Nidhi Chanani’s art at her website.

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Middle School, mythology, Tween Reads

Pandora Gets Jealous, by Carolyn Hennesy (Bloomsbury, 2008)

Recommended for ages 10-13

Get ready for Mean Girls meets Clash of the Titans.

Pandora – Pandy to her friends – has no idea what to bring to school for her project on the gods’ presence in their lives. If she brings the piece of her dad, Atlas’, liver again, she’s totally going to fail. When she stumbles across a locked box hidden away, she knows she should not bring it. Her dad told her that she should never open it. But it would be perfect. When the mean girls at school tease her and tell her that the box is worthless, it somehow ends up being opened, and the seven evils escape into the world, and poor Hope ends up being locked in the box.

Zeus and Hera charge Pandora with tracking down and recapturing all of the evils she released in six phases of the moon, or else. Pandy sets off with her two best friends, Alcie and Iole, and a little stealth help from Olympus. Her first stop: Delphi, to recapture Envy.

Pandora Gets Jealous is the first in Ms. Hennesy’s Pandora series; each book features the evil that she and her friends must recapture. Aimed at girls, the writing starts off light, with Pandora appearing almost vapid, but the story becomes intense very quickly. The solid mythology in the book is a great way to bring these stories to a younger, female audience that may still see Greek mythology as something geared toward boys despite there being gods AND goddesses on Olympus. Like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Ms. Hennesy makes Greek mythology contemporary for a new audience.

The author, actress Carolyn Hennesy, has a Pandora-focused website with a wealth of additional content on the series including teachers’ guides, book synopses, and a discussion forum.