The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George. Bloomsbury, 2018.
Anthea has been raised as an unwanted orphan, shuttled from relative to relative. (This is just the first chapter, but it was so painful for my daughter, a big fan of the author’s Tuesdays at the Castle series, that she gave up at this point, which is a shame. When a final aunt tires of her, she’s sent past the Wall to Scotland-like Leana, once an independent kingdom. There she discovers that they still have horses – in fact, her uncle’s Last Farm is raising them! Anthea is horrified, as she was told that horses spread a plague to the other side of the wall. She is also horrified by the cultures shock of girls wearing trousers for riding, and of boys and girls talking freely together. But one of the great horses, Florian, remembers her from her time at the Last Farm as a very young child, and is determined to to make her remember. Things take a turn for the dramatic as Anthea changes her mind about the horses and finds that she may well have put them in danger. With a touch of magic, mystery, and growing adventure, this a great start to a new series for horse-loving kids.
The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm. Read by Georgette Perna. Listening Library/Random House, 2018.
The story of Ellie and her best friend Raj from The Fourteenth Goldfish continues, beginning with a riff on how her parents tried and failed for years to get her to like mushrooms. She now has a cat she loves, Lucas (trigger alert for pet death here!). Her grandfather Melvin shows up unexpectedly, still in the body of a fourteen-year-old. He’s grumpy and has old-man clothes and stinky socks, refusing to wash his own laundry and eating everything in sight. Naturally, that makes him very hard to live with, especially for Elli’s mother. Ellie and her grandfather start doing experiments with regeneration in fruit flies, while Ellie and Raj try dating, which turns extremely awkward. In a rare positive depiction of senior romance, Melvin starts falling for the new, older librarian at Ellie’s school. If he can stop looking like a high schooler, he might even have a chance with her! With mild science fiction mixed with real life and plenty of humor, this one that appeals to a broad range of kids. Bonus points for talks about the importance of boys and girls being able to be just friends, despite the cultural pressure that pushes towards romance.