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 Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Legends of Olympus by Alane Adams: Go Questing!

I just finished both Legends of Olympus books by Alane Adams, who you may know from the Legends of Orkney series. If you have Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan readers in your library or your family, this is the next series to hand them. Let’s take a look.

Eye of Zeus, by Alane Adams, (April 2020, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630288

Ages 9-13

In the first book in the Legends of Olympus series, we meet Phoebe Katz, foundling. She was discovered by her social worker, Carl, as an infant, in a basket at a bus stop, and she’s been through a series of foster homes and schools since. Now 11 years old, she’s the ne’er do well at school, sticking with her two friends, Damian and Angie, to get through the days. But Phoebe learns that she’s not like the other kids – it’s not being a foster kid that sets her apart, either. Maybe it’s that giant statue of Atlas in New York’s Rockefeller Center, that starts talking to her, that gives her the clue? Phoebe has just learned that she’s a daughter of Zeus, king of the Greek gods, and more: she’s the twin sister to Perseus, slayer of Medusa. Being the daughter of THE head of the Greek gods brings trouble, though, especially when she learns that a prophecy claims she will destroy Olympus. Only a quest to collect six talismans from Greek monsters will fix everything, so Phoebe, Angie, and Damian are off to Ancient Greece to set things right. An exciting adventure through Greek mythology, with smart, likable characters kids will cheer for. There are interesting conversations to be had about friendship, loyalty, and found families, all topics kids will relate to. Black and white illustrations add to the interest.

 

The Medusa Quest, by Alane Adams, (April 2021, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630752

Ages 9-13

This is the second book in the Legends of Olympus series. Things have been looking up for Phoebe, but don’t get too comfortable! The three friends learn that their last visit to Ancient Greece has messed up mythology, and if they don’t go back to fix things, there’s going to be BIG TROUBLE. When they arrive back in Ancient Greece, Phoebe learns that her twin brother, Perseus, is in big danger of being turned to stone by the Gorgon, Medusa, so Damien and Angie join the quest to help Hercules get his confidence back and save Perseus. They have some help, from their friends, the Pegasuses and Phoebe’s half-sister, the goddess Athena, and they’re going to need it! The action is absolutely ramped up in this sequel, and the characters have grown from their experiences in the first book. There’s a strong emphasis on family and found family, and some particularly strong emotions running through the last quarter of the story. A sequel worth reading.

Author Alane Adams’s website has a wealth of information about her books, including book club kits and readalong videos.

 

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 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, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Nico Bravo and the Hounds of Hades – graphic mythology gone wild!

Nico Bravo and the Hounds of Hades, by Mike Cavallaro, (April 2019, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626727519

Ages 8-12

This fun new graphic novel adventure is perfect for mythology fans. Vulcan is a kid working at Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop, serving all the gods’ and goddesses’ needs. He works with a sphinx named Lula and Buck, a unicorn with PTSD, and things are fine and dandy until Eowulf – descendant of Beowulf himself – targets a monster for slaying, to keep the family name going. The problem? The monster happens to be Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld! If Cerberus isn’t there to guard the gates, there’s about to be a whole lot of dead folks invading our world. Nico has to get it together and stop Eowulf from bringing on a zombie apocalypse!

I like Mike Cavallaro’s storytelling. He’s great at worldbuilding – something I discovered when I read his fencing graphic novels, Foiled and Curses! Foiled Again, where he created a side-world filled with fantasy and myth. There are mythological references throughout the book that kids will recognize, and some possibly new ones to draw more readers in. Have your Rick Riordan books ready, and your mythological reference books on hand – you’ve got great display possibilities! The cartoon art reminds me of popular animation on TV, with book expressive eyes, colorful artwork, and fantastically cool monsters and beasts for everyone to enjoy. There’s a lot of mythology available, and kids love reading about it – I hope we get some more adventures with Nico Bravo soon!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Aru Shah and the End of Time: Rick Riordan Presents with a strong debut!

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, (March 2018, Disney Book Group), $16.99, ISBN: 9781368012355

Recommended for readers 8-12

Rick Riordan introduces his new imprint with Aru Shah and the End of Time, author Roshani Chokshi’s adventure through Indian mythology.

Aru Shah is a 12-year-old Indian girl who has a hard time fitting in at school, so she… embellishes the truth… to keep up with her wealthy classmates. The thing is, they all know she lies, and she’s become a target of derision over it. She lives with her archaeologist mother in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, and tells her friends that there’s a cursed lamp in the exhibits. Naturally, they show up, demanding her to prove it. Ignoring her mother’s advice to never touch the lamp, Aru lights it and unwittingly releases The Sleeper – an ancient demon – who’s going to awaken the Shiva, the god of destruction, if Aru can’t make things right in time. After discovering that Aru is the reincarnation of one of the legendary heroes, the Pandava brothers, she sets off on a mythological adventure where she’ll learn more about herself and her mother than she could ever have imagined.

 

I was so excited to read Aru Shah, especially after finishing Sayantani Dasgupta’s brilliant The Serpent’s Secret a couple of weeks ago. Indian mythology is an area I’ve never read much about, and it’s time that was remedied. Aru is on a quest to save her family and friends, and she’s not alone: she’s got a Pandava sister she meets on the way, and a disgraced god-turned-pigeon to guide her as she seeks out the weapons that will stop the Seeker. There’s great world-building, with humor and a sense of wonder as Aru meets gods and goddesses she thought existed only in myth; the character development is great for people unfamiliar with Indian mythology, as each god, goddess, and demon gets enough of an explanation to keep readers in the story. There’s a glossary at the end to help readers with the origin tales of Indian myths featured in the book.

You know who to give this to: the Percy Jackson/Kane Chronicles/Magnus Chase/Riordan readers who love world mythology; the kids who read Serpent’s Secret and wanted more? Now you can give them Aru Shah and tell them that Rick Riordan Presents has Mayan and Korean mythology coming up next. Aru Shah and the End of Time has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus.

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, 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 many 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 Sarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

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

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.