Posted in Middle School, mythology, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Mythic Gifting: Across the Rainbow Bridge

Across the Rainbow Bridge: Stories of Norse Gods and Humans, by Kevin Crossley-Holland/Illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love, (Dec. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536217711

Ages 10+

Here’s another great gift idea / end of year budget purchase for your collections. Do you have Percy Jackson/Magnus Chase/mythology fans in your circle, whether in work or life? Know a teen who devoured Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or a tween who loves Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants? This is the book to have on hand when they ask what to read next. Across the Rainbow Bridge is a companion to 2017’s Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, and includes five more stories from a master storyteller and artist. Loki matches wits with a troll in “The Troll and the Trickster”;  a miserly ghost isn’t ready to let go of his money just yet in Skarp’s Ghost; a girl named Inga catches the goddess Frigg’s attention in “Blue of Blue”; Odin goes wandering yet again in “Your Life or My Life”, and “The Gift of Poetry” is bestowed on a young boy… but nothing comes without strings attached. Jeffrey Alan Love’s moody, stark two-color illustrations make brilliant use of shadows and contrast, adding to the mythic storytelling. A must for your mythology collections.

Kevin Crossley-Holland is a Carnegie Medal–winning author with a gift for myth and legend. Other retellings include Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland, illustrated by Frances Castle, and Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love, among many others. Jeffrey Alan Love is a Kate Greenway Award nominee (for Across the Rainbow Bridge) and received the 2019 Dutch Zilveren Penseel (Silver Brush) Award for Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist, and the 2018 British Fantasy Award for Best Artist.

Across the Rainbow Bridge: Stories of Norse Gods and Humans has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Connection, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.
Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Witches of Orkney Super-Post!

‘Morning, all! I’ve been digging deeply into Alane Adams’s Witches of Orkney series, courtesy of SparkPress, and… WOW. I read the Legends of Olympus books earlier this year, so when Spark offered me the full Orkney set to get caught up in time for the newest book, The Mermaid Queen, I went for it. The big feedback: great reads for your fantasy readers; good crossover for your Rick Riordan readers. Let’s get into each book, shall we?

The Blue Witch, (Witches of Orkney #1), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2018, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943006779

Ages 8-12

Abigail Tarkana is a 9-year-old witch with a big problem: her magic is different, and that’s not exactly prized at her school, the Tarkana Witch Academy. While everyone else’s witchfire is green, hers is blue, which could mark her as a traitor, which targets her for even more bullying than she’s already putting up with. Together with her friend, Hugo, they will strip away the secrets of Abigail’s past, including the identity of her parents. Is she the daughter of a notorious coven traitor? Abigail and Hugo confront monsters on a quest into the Netherworld that test both their powers. Rich with Norse mythology, Alane Adams excels at worldbuilding and character development. Black and white illustrations throughout help give readers extra context and keep interest high. There’s action and intrigue with solid fantasy storytelling, and the characters are kid-friendly. Themes of friendship, protecting and supporting one another, and teamwork run strong.

An excellent choice for book groups, you can touch on Norse mythology and its presence in the series. Alane Adams offers free book club kits on her author website for all of her series, including maps, posters, and challenges. Offer as a readalike to Riordan fans who loved the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, or Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr’s Blackwood Pages series, and have nonfiction like NatGeo Kids’ Treasury of Norse Mythology or Mathias Nordvig’s Norse Mythology for Kids available. Readers are going to devour this series.

The Blue Witch received multiple awards, including the 2020 IPPY Awards Bronze Winner in Cover Design, and Moonbeam’s Gold Medal in Pre-Teen Fiction/Fantasy.

 

The Rubicus Prophecy, (Witches of Orkney #2), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2019, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943006984

Ages 8-12

The second book in the Witches of Orkney series ratchets up the action. Abigail is back at Tarkana Witch Academy and studying for her classes. She’s still dealing with Endera, her bully, and to make matters worse, Endera’s mother is one of Abigail’s teachers. Hugo, meanwhile, is hearing rumors about war and a prophecy that sounds uncomfortably similar to Abigail and her abilities. There’s even more action in this installment, including visits from the Norse gods, and draugars – zombies! – to be read. Illustrator Jonathan Stroh returns, creating exciting, spooky black and grey artwork that adds to the mood of the book. Readers can pick up the story without having read The Blue Witch, but I’d let them know taht they’re going to miss quite a bit of exposition if they do: story arcs continue here that were set up in the first book, after all, and established characters took an entire book to develop. This is a good series to give to readers who are ready for slightly grittier storytelling, as Ms. Adams reminds us that the Vikings didn’t worship the Norse gods for their gentle natures. (And hello, zombies.) Not overly gruesome, but something to keep in mind for readers who may need a heads-up.

Alane Adams has a gift for fantasy storytelling, and loads the book with adventure, humor, and magic elements. Giving her stories a background in Norse myth gives it the “Riordan Appeal” that lets me start off a strong booktalk, because in my readers advisory elevator pitches, I have to move fast: I’m competing with Minecraft and Roblox on our library computers, after all!

 

Witch Wars, (Witches of Orkney #3), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2020, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684630639

Ages 8-12

We’re two books in now, and the third book, Witch Wars, starts off with the Asgardian prologue we’ve grown accustomed to, which will set the tone for the story within, which leads into Tarkana, present day, where Abigail is beating herself up over the disasters from The Rubicus Prophecy. Now, Orkney is speeding toward war, an ancient power has been restored, and Hugo and Abigail set off to Jotunheim – land of the Frost and Rock Giants – to track down Thor and convince him to give them his hammer, Mjolnir, to help them set things right. No problem, right? Meanwhile, Endera and her friends are on Abigail’s trail, believing they’ll find proof that Abigail is truly a traitor, and their former friend Robert Barconian arrives on the scene with an army of dwarves to stop Abigail and Hugo. The characters are maturing and growing into themselves in this third book; Abigail, in particular, considers the fallout of her actions and has to contend with guilt and grief, while Hugo steps up to be the support that she needs as she works through some complex emotions. More gods and characters from Norse mythology make appearances, and the intrigue runs high. The action keeps readers turning pages, and the dialogue moves at an excellent pace. This series starts off strong and, three books in, maintains its forward motion.

 

 

The Mermaid Queen, (Witches of Orkney #4), by Alane Adams, (Oct. 2021, SparkPress), $12.95, ISBN: 9781684631131

The latest book in the saga, The Mermaid Queen, starts off with a major moment of foreboding in the Asgardian prologue. From there, we see that Abigail has fallen into a depression after putting her trust in the wrong ally during the events of Witch Wars. Capricorn, the mermaid queen, betrayed Abigail and her friends and unleashed Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent, and now Abigail and Hugo must cross the seas to find Odin and warn him that Jormungand is coming for him, and find a way to return the serpent to his underwater cell. Abigail discovers that her powers on their own aren’t enough, and may have to risk tapping into her dark magic. But can you use dark magic, even for a good cause, without being affected? It’s a choice she has to make. Big choices and the truth that life isn’t always black and white; good and evil, are the big themes here – perfect for a growing and maturing tween reader who is confronting similar quandaries (maybe no Midgard Serpent, but some moments sure feel as intimidating as one) in their own lives.

The Witches of Orkney series is the prequel to the Legends of Orkney series, so you can read this before you dig into Legends, and go straight through, or you can read Legends first, and then pick up Witches and get deeper context for events and characters in Legends. Either way, I really suggest you read the novels in order, so you can have a cohesive understanding of each series as it unfolds. It’s an excellent series that’s sure to have high interest. If you are new to Alane Adams’s universe, ask your big readers to give them a shot and get feedback before buying a set; I think it’s a purchase well made.

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, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

LOKI YA IS HERE!

Loki: Where Mischief Lies, by Mackenzi Lee, (Sept. 2019, Disney Book Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368022262

Ages 12+

Disclaimer: I am a rabid Marvel and Loki fangirl. When I heard that Loki was getting his own YA novel, I shrieked just a little bit, and camped out on NetGalley and Edelweiss until the DRC gloriously appeared. In short, I’ve been really, really, flipping excited for this book! So let’s get the show on the road.

Loki is Thor’s younger brother, and still hoping that his father, Odin, will see that he’s just as capable of heroism – and possibly, the throne of Asgard – as his older, golden brother. He and his best friend, the sorceress-in-training Amora, find themselves in deep trouble when they accidentally destroy a powerful artifact. Amora takes the blame for Loki and finds herself banished to Earth; essentially a death sentence for a magical being, because her powers will wither and die slowly. Fast forward some years later, and Loki is sent to Earth to investigate a series of murders in Victorian London. He joins forces with a watchdog organization that believes otherworldly magic is involved in the murders. Dare Loki hope that Amora is still alive and in London? And if she is… is she connected to the murders? Our (well, my) favorite son of Asgard is at a crossroads in this first adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Where Mischief Lies. Mackenzi Lee has given us a delightful mix of Marvel/Tom Hiddleston Loki with a sprinkling of gender-fluid Norse myth Loki. He prefers high-heeled boots, sees Midgardian (Earth) society and its concern with binary sexuality and relationships ridiculous, and he’s got a wonderfully snarky way of interacting with people, especially those he sees as below him, which is… basically, everyone. He is also a vulnerable, often fragile, young man coming into his powers and frustrated by the lack of attention from his father, who prizes only traditional masculinity and strength rather than magic and wisdom. You can see Loki’s trajectory from this story to Earth’s favorite villain in years to come.

The writing is page-turning, with witty dialogue, a creepy whodunit, and slow-burn heartache throughout. My head spun a little bit as I tried to connect the dots from myth Loki to present-day Loki (What about Sigyn? His monstrous children? That whole situation with the cave and the venom?), but Mackenzi Lee deftly maneuvers around these questions with an interesting explanation that works for me.

I’m a fan of Mackenzi Lee’s God of Mischief. I’m looking forward to seeing who else she takes on in the Marvel Universe. A solid must-add to collections.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

More Thunder Girls! This time, it’s Sif story… and Loki’s in trouble again.

Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures (Thunder Girls #2), by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams/Illustrated by Pernille Ørum, (Oct. 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481496438

Ages 8-12

The Thunder Girls are back! I loved the first Norse take on Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ middle grade mythology series, Freya and the Magic Jewel, so I was psyched to see another book hitting shelves so soon – and so were my library kids, who continue to gobble up the Greek counterpart to this series, Goddess Girls. Freya and the Magic Jewel was a hit, and I fully expect to have Sif and the Dwarf’s Treasures clear the shelves shortly after it arrives.

Sif, Goddess of the Harvest, has been toying with going public with her prophetic abilities. She’s a bit of a seer, but she doesn’t like to talk about it, ever since she had a mishap in second grade that cost her a friend. But messages in her Runes class come true when Loki – that troublemaker! – cuts off her hair in a prank that has horrible consequences for Midgard (that’s us, folks)! Sif’s ability to affect the harvest on Midgard lies in her beautiful, flaxen hair; without it, the crops begin withering and dying, giving the giants a big advantage. Sif demands that Loki fix the mess he caused, sending him to the dwarfs – skilled blacksmiths – to craft new hair for her. But with Loki, it’s never that easy – he’s going to attempt to play one set of dwarfs against the other, and chances of it backfiring on him? About 100%.

This is a fun, kid-friendly retelling of some of Norse mythology’s Loki- and Sif-related tales: Loki cutting Sif’s hair and journeying to the dwarfs to craft golden gifts; Loki’s getting into trouble with the dwarfs, and the origin of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Set in Asgard Academy, fantastic Norse myth references abound and are made fun for middle graders. “Head” Librarian Mimir is a bouncing head that loves to bob around in fountains and finds an amusing way to repurpose Sif’s shorn locks; Frigga continues knitting on a scale that would make Mrs. Weasley cringe; and the warring Norse friezes in the Asgard cafeteria have a nightly food fight that takes no prisoners.

Way too much fun for middle grade readers who love a fun take on their mythology. Talk this series up with Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Grimmtastic Girls, Goddess Girls, and Heroes in Training. Joan Holub’s website has links to printable activities for Goddess Girls and Heroes in Training. Suzanne Williams’ website has Goddess Girls downloadable goodies and quizzes.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Make Way for the Thunder Girls!

Freya and the Magic Jewel (Thunder Girls, #1), by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams, (May 2018, Aladdin), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4814-964-07

Recommended for readers 8-12

I LOOOOVE Joan Holub’s books, from board books to middle grade novels; I read ’em as often as I can and I love every single one of them. When I saw that the Goddess Girls team of Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams were starting a new series on the ladies of Norse mythology, I needed a moment to collect myself. And when I received a review copy from the author herself, I needed a few more moments. Okay, I took another moment. Let’s begin.

Freya is the 11-year-old goddess of love and beauty, happily living on Vanaheim: one of the nine worlds in Norse myth. When she and her twin brother, Frey, are summoned, by Odin, to Asgard to attend Asgard Academy as part of a new initiative to open relations between the nine worlds, Freya is skeptical. Her people have been at war with Asgard, and besides, she has it made at Vanaheim Junior High! But Odin is the king of Asgard, and she’s got to go, so she and Frey head out. Things go wrong from the start when her beloved jewel, Brising, falls from the Bifrost bridge. That jewel is what helps her see the future, and that also happens to be what Odin wants her to help him with! She also runs afoul of Angerboda, a bullying frost giantess, right off the bat. Freya has her work cut out for her, but she’ll learn – with the help of some new friends – that magic can be found in the wildest places.

I love, love, LOVED this book. Not strong on Norse mythology? You don’t need to be; you learn exactly what you need to within the pages of this book. Readers will meet characters whose names are practically household at this point, like Thor, Loki, Odin, and Frigga (thanks, Marvel!). Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams know their mythology and make the Norse tales readable for middle graders (the story of how that wall around Asgard was built is refreshingly kid safe, for starters) and put the same sense of fun into Thunder Girls that they put into Goddess Girls. There’s adventure, friendship, and enough mischief to keep readers happily turning pages. Display and booktalk with (what else?) Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books, KL Armstrong and MA Marr’s Blackwell Pages trilogy, and NatGeo’s Norse Mythology treasury. (Have some copies of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology around for parents, too.)

Joan Holub has amazing printables on her author website, including Goddess Girls and its companion series, Heroes in Training, bookmarks. Suzanne Williams has a reader’s theatre script for one of the Goddess Girls stories, fun quizzes and downloadable stickers at her website. The next Thunder Girls book is out in October, featuring Sif, so I’ll be counting days until then.

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!