Every year I participate in the Cybils Awards, I read books more quickly than I can review them. Here are a couple of the books I’d wanted to share with you since the fall.
Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo.
Read from library copy.
In the Appalachian town of Howler’s Hollow, the women of two magical families, the McGills and the Hearns, have been rivals for generations. Delpha McGill has been secretly learning magic from her mother’s spell book, but isn’t sure of her skills. Meanwhile, Katybird Hearn, who is intersex, has magic welling up inside her, making her hands glow and even hurt with magic she doesn’t know how to use. Still, she’s not sure that the magic will see her as enough of a girl to let her use it properly. When Delpha and Katybird clash, everything goes wrong – a walking outhouse and a graveyard of witch grannies come back to life just for starters- both girls will have to work together to find a solution. Other memorable characters included Tyler, a geeky, overenthusiastic weredog with two mamas, and Katybird’s pet racoon, Pudge. While there’s no racial diversity, there’s a range of LGBTQ and economic experiences, with some good friendship building wrapped up in the over-the-top magic.
Cinders and Sparrows
by Stefan Bachmann. Read by Justine Eyre.
Greenwillow Books, 2020.
Print ISBN 978-0062289957. Audio ASIN B07YN584DZ.
Listened to audiobook on Libby.
I hadn’t read any Stefan Bachmann since The Peculiar back in 2013, so I was very happy to see this. 12-year-old orphan Zita is shocked when she inherits Blackbird Castle. She quickly finds out, though, that all is not well. Her family is frozen in the dining room, and the guardian who is supposed to be teaching her to use her magical powers considers yelling good teaching. While she befriends the only two servants, Minifer and Bram, they must keep this secret from the guardian and the pair are clearly magically prevented from telling her anything useful. (All the human characters here read as white.) She also gains the companionship of a raven and a ghost dog. As the house gives her clues and she starts to regain foggy memories of her kidnapping as a very young child, she becomes more and more convinced that whoever cursed the rest of her family is after her as well. There are numerous monsters, both new and familiar, including triggles, fangores, and ghosts galore. This doesn’t feel like it breaks terribly new ground, but it was well done fantasy with a classic gothic feel. I really enjoyed the audiobook, read with a British accent and with beautiful classical interludes reflecting the mood of that part of the book.