Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Author Amanda Foody has successfully ventured from the YA books to middle grade fantasy with The Accidental Apprentice (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021). I’m excited to see there’s already a sequel planned in the Wilderlore series for next year.
Orphan Barclay Thorne is happy to be an apprentice to the village mushroom farmer. But when he is scared off the path into the Woods he meets a Lore Keeper looking for the same mushroom he needs. The girl is trying to bond with a Beast but it goes horribly wrong and Barclay is bonded with a Lufthund. Driven away from home, Barclay’s goal is to break the bond so he can return home. To do so he must journey to the city of the Lore Keepers who think these monsters are their friends and pets. But does he really fit with his rule-laden village?
Read about Amanda and her other books here. Enjoy several interviews with her about this book here and here.
The cover illustration is by Petur Antonsson–see more of his art here.
The first book I read in 2016 was appropriately a Christmas gift. It’s not technically a YA, however, the main character is 17, so I’m putting it in that category for my readers.
Uprooted (Del Rey, 2015) by Naomi Novik captured me from the opening sentence: “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.” This time Agnieszka and the whole village know that her best friend Kasia will be chosen since she is so special. And Agnieszka hates the wizard for that future action. It doesn’t matter that he protects them from the Wood. Or that this happens every ten years as payment. But Agnieszka is wrong about what will happen.
The book was hard to put down, and had believably scary monsters. This fantasy will stick with me and I’m hoping the author will write a sequel.
Naomi Novik is the author of another series, the Temeraire novels. I’ll have to check them out. Read more about the author and her books at her site.
Contemporary Fantasy or Magical Realism
Whatever you call it, I loved Drizzle (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010) by Kathleen Van Cleve. It reminds me a bit of Ingrid Law’s books–Savvy and Scumble.
11-year-old Polly lives on a farm where it always rains precisely at 1 pm on Mondays and tourists come to ride the giant umbrella. And that’s not the only thing odd about the farm and her family. You can imagine how things go at school. To top it off, Polly’s best friend is a chocolate rhubarb plant.
But then . . .
The rain stops. Polly’s brother gets ill. And they might lose the farm!
Polly’s a great kid. I was with her worrying, rooting for her, and even wanting to defend her.
I hope Kathleen is busy writing more imaginative fun stories. Here’s her website.
White Cat (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010) by Holly Black is the first book in a fascinating world of magic and mobsters.
17-year-old Cassell is living at Wallingford Preparatory to try to live a normal life. He’s the only nonmagic member in a family of workers. Dad is dead, Mom in jail and his brothers Philip and Barron exclude him, although they did protect him 3 years ago when . . . But I can’t tell you that!
Here are the great opening lines:
“I wake up barefoot, standing on cold slate tiles. Looking dizzily down. I suck in a breath of icy air.”
As you read on you discover those tiles are on a roof and there is no way for him to get down. *shudder* Talk about a nightmare! Humiliating for a teen boy to not only have to be rescued but for it to happen publicly in front of his peers? That’s worse.
In August 2009, I heard Holly Black speak at the LA SCBWI conference about how readers must be able to believe the fantastical world. As she said “the real stuff has to be really real” and she’s done this with this book.
Book Two, Red Glove, came out in 2011 and you’ll want to read it, too. The Curse Worker series has its own website where you can read about the books, watch a great trailer, and check out extras.
On Holly’s regular site, she’s got a “cover to be unveiled” picture of the third book, Black Heart. It’ll be exciting to see the reveal.
In Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer, author Laini Taylor has created a world of faeries, imps, devils, djinns that is as believable as it is complex.
Magpie Windwitch, a hundred-year-old faerie sprout, along with her band of faithful crows, has the job of recapturing the devils that humans have freed. She’s seen all kinds, but this newest snag isn’t like the others; it gives Mags the shivers. The seal on its bottle bears the mark of the Magruwen, the Djinn King, who dreamed the world into existence. Plus, this creature didn’t leave behind any of they typical devil signs. Her search for this new threat takes Magpie to new and dangerous places where she finds out who she really is.
On Laini’s website: www.lainitaylor.com she posts a quote by Albert Einstein: “If you want your children to be bright, read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be brilliant, read them even more fairy tales.” I’m suspecting Laini’s parents must have read her a lot of fairy tales!
Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer is Laini Taylor’s first book, and will be released in June. You won’t want to pass up this book, nor the full-of-magic sequels I’m hoping will follow.