Enjoying What Is: Paladin’s Grace and Iron Hearted Violet

It’s so easy to make things harder for ourselves by focusing on the way we think things should be, rather than the way things really are.  Here are two stories (Paladin’s Grace for adults, Iron Hearted Violet for kids) about characters learning to find their own strengths and appreciate the beauty of life just as it is.  

Paladin’s Grace by T. KingfisherPaladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. Argyll Productions, 2020. ISBN  978-1614505211. Read on Libby. 

T. Kingfisher is the pen name Ursula Vernon uses when she writes for adults.  Though I adore her Hamster Princess books and also Castle Hangnail, I had never read any of her adult books.  But this pandemic is making me a little more open to reading books I can only get easily in ebook format, and I’m so glad I found this one!  Continue reading

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The Chaos Curse by Sayantani DasGupta.

So far (as usual), I’m doing a better job of keeping up with reading than reviewing for my #CybilsReadDown challenge.  I have Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library to thank for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this again, though it came out at the beginning of March and is now generally available .  

The Chaos Curse by Sayantani DasGuptaThe Chaos Curse. Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Book 3 by Sayantani DasGupta. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1338355895. Audiobook on hoopla; ebook and audiobook on Libby. 

This book picks up right where the last book, Game of Stars, left off.  Kiran hopes she’s going to be celebrated as a hero for freeing Neel and outwitting her father, the serpent king Sesha.  Unfortunately… not so much.  Sesha is trying to take over the world, and Neel’s father the raja has run away. With crown prince Lal trapped in another dimension, that leaves Neel to be crowned raja.  Does he even want that, and will it change his relationship with Kiran? 

There’s not much time to ponder, as Sesha’s megalomania now involves merging all the stories of the world into one unified storyline.  That means that even in the Kingdom Beyond, familiar characters from Bengal legends that Kiran and her team meet keep flickering out and being overwritten by characters from the Brothers Grimm or other Western stories.  And why are there blue butterflies everywhere?

Even as Kiran worries that her friends will soon forget who they are in the face of this, Kiran sets off with the obnoxious and jokey bird Tuntuni and a new companion, an erudite and gender-neutral tiger named Bunty, through an intergalactic clothes dryer of a wormhole to rescue her friend Prince Lal.  But did the wormhole even take her to the right version of reality?  

As in previous books, the action is nonstop, there’s a great edge of humor, but also a lot of underlying deeper thoughts about prejudice and the importance of diversity.  Kiran has to come to terms with her own underlying prejudice against rakkhosh in general and Neel’s mother in particular, even though she has some good friends who are rakkhosh.  Action-driven books are, as I’ve said before, not my thing in general, but Kiranmala has won me over.  There’s enough snarky feminist and diversity-driven values, plus my general interest in world folk tales, to keep this a series I want to follow.  Also, my daughter is a big fan – she listened to it on hoopla as soon as it came out, and got partway through reading again in print – and she loves for us to be able to talk about the series. Give this, still, to fans of the Rick Riordan Presents books.  

 

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One Last Shot by John David Anderson Blog Tour

Today I’m honored to be part of the blog tour for John David Anderson’s latest book, ONE LAST SHOT.  Scroll all the way to the bottom for a giveaway of a signed hardcover copy and the other stops on the tour!

One Last Shot: May 2020 Blog Tour

About the book:

The beloved author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted returns with a humorous, heartwarming story of family, friendship, and miniature golf. Continue reading

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24 Asian-Pacific-American Heritage Books for Kids and Teens on Hoopla

For this week’s hoopla list, I’m featuring books to celebrate Asian-Pacific-American Heritage month.  While I did make a graphic with adult books for the library to use, I confess I made it just based on hoopla’s own list, where for the lists here, I searched hoopla for Asian- and Pacific-American authors I have read and enjoyed myself. I found some 2020 releases I’m really excited about in addition to older favorites!AsianHeritageKids

Asian-Pacific Heritage Titles for Kids on Hoopla

  • Dragon Egg Princess by Ellen Oh (ebook, audiobook) 2020 release
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (ebook; ebook and audiobook on Libby)
  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (ebook, audiobook) 
  • Lalani of the Distant Sea  by Erin Entrada Kelly (audiobook)
  • Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (ebook, audiobook)
  • The Thing about Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (audiobook)
  • Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence (audiobook) 2020 release
  • Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park (ebook)
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins (ebook)
  • A Single Shard  by Linda Sue Park (ebook) 
  • Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (ebook, audiobook)
  • Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins (ebook)

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Asian-Pacific Heritage Titles for Teens on Hoopla

  • Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian (audiobook)
  • Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai. (audiobook) 2019 release
  • The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (audiobook)
  • Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê (comic)
  • New Superman: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang (comic)
  • Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (audiobook)
  • Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee (ebook, audiobook)
  • Serpentine by Cindy Pon (ebook)
  • Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (ebook)
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (audiobook)
  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker. (comic)
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (audiobook)

For more Asian-Pacific-American titles, check out my Asian-American Graphic Novels 2019 list.

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Operatic and Diana: Princess of the Amazons

Here are two more graphic novels, one thoughtful Cybils finalist (read in print from the library and on my official Cybils TBR Readdown list) and one sprightly superhero comic read on hoopla, because I found it there and like Shannon and Dean Hale’s work in general.  

operaticOperatic by Kyo Maclear and Byron Eggenschwiler. Groundwood Books, 2019.
Charlotte Noguchi (aka Charlie) has friends, but never quite felt she fit in middle school.  This dreamy story follows Charlie as she wonders about the sensitive and much-teased boy who’s been missing from school for two weeks, and as the home room teachers plays all sorts of different music for the class as part of an assignment for them to find the music that truly expresses who that person is at that point in time.  Charlie discovers the opera singer Maria Callas, known for her passion rather than her perfection.  There are also explorations of what it might mean to be perceived as gay in middle school and how to be an ally.  It’s all illustrated in what looks to me like colored pencil, with a limited palette that shows what’s going on – the main storyline in gold and black, memories of when Luka was still in school in blue and black, and stories of Maria Callas in red and black.  The color shading work beautifully to convey emotion.  For kid testing, my daughter read it somewhat reluctantly, said she enjoyed it, but hasn’t gone back to it.  But this is very much a character study, and my daughter prefers more plot-driven books.  I thought it was beautiful.  

dianaprincessoftheamazonsDiana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrated by Victoria Ying. DC Comics, 2020. ISBN 978-1401291112. Read on Hoopla.
Young Diana lives on an island that’s paradise – baby cheetahs to find, oceans to jump into – but though she has many aunties, there are no other children on the island, and her mother the queen is often too busy to play with her.  Remembering that she herself was made out of clay, Diana makes a girl out of sand to be a playmate.  At first, she and Mona have lots of fun together and Diana is thrilled.  But as time goes on, Mona encourages her to do things that are increasingly disturbing – skipping class, stealing, and more – while at the same time forcing her to confront questions about whether Diana really is wanted and a true Amazon.  With clear line drawings and a soft but strong palette, this is full of appeal for young superhero fans.  It didn’t have quite the depth of Rapunzel’s Revenge, but hopefully if it’s a series, they’ll be able to put more in further volumes.  

 

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The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee

Here’s one from my official Cybils Awards TBR Read Down pile, one of the 2019 Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees.   

We’d just finished a family viewing of the Avatar series over many pizza Fridays when my daughter saw this at the library the last time she was there before it closed and insisted we check it out.  It tells the story of one of the Avatars that we see Ang interacting with, but about whom we didn’t have any information previously.  That means we’re learning a whole new set of characters.  

The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee with Avatar co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino. Amulet Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1419735042. Ebook on Libby.
Cover of Avatar: the Last Airbender: The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. YeeJianzhu and Kelsang were both part of the Avatar Kuruk’s team, so when he passes after a less-than-spectacular run as Avatar, they are on the hunt for the new one.  But none of the usual ways seem to be working…

A decade later, Kyoshi has grown up from the street kid who ran away halfway through Kelsang’s Avatar test and is now working as an assistant to Avatar-in-training Yun.  She’s still given a hard time by the farmer’s kids who remember the street kid she used to be, even though she lives in the grand estate that Jianzhu had built for the Earth Kingdom Avatar.  Yun is busy learning from all the bending experts, talking with sages and emissaries from around the world, displaying amazing diplomacy skills.  Someday soon, he should be able to actually bend more than earth, right?  He, Kyoshi, and his bodyguard Rangi, the daughter of Yun’s fire bending tutor, are a secretly tight trio of friends, being the same age, despite their different social roles.  

That’s why he invites Kyoshi along as a witness when Jianzhu takes Yun on a diplomatic trip to broker a peace treaty with a pirate queen who’s been raiding up and down the coast.  But when things go wrong, Kyoshi’s massive bending skills are suddenly on display and she’s receiving a lot of unwanted attention.  And if people start to doubt that Yun is the Avatar, all the diplomatic work he’s worked so hard on will come undone.

I confess, I had a little trouble getting into this at the beginning – it felt a little slow, but things are having a harder time getting my attention in general these days, so it could just be me.  Once they visited the pirates, though, the pace picked up rapidly.  This turned into a compelling tale that made some tough choices that I really wasn’t expecting.  There is a sweet bit of romance and plenty of humor to balance it out.  Though of course we know from the beginning that Kyoshi will be the Avatar, her place isn’t yet won. I know her place, when she finally comes into it, will be hard-earned. I’m looking forward to  The Shadow of Kyoshi, due out in July.  

We have this in the teen department at the library, and there is a pretty high body count, so I’d use caution giving this to younger Avatar fans.  Hopefully soon I’ll  be able to review F.C. Yee’s The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, which I listened to in February.  If tales of an Asian-inspired mythic past sound appealing, I also recommend Serpentine and Sacrifice by Cindy Pon.

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16 Awesome Graphic Novels for Kids on Hoopla

In my on-going series trying to keep kids without access to physical libraries in books, here are some graphic novels that my kids and I enjoy that are available for download from hoopla through your library (if it subscribes to hoopla, of course.) Links to my reviews where available.

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Stand-alone Graphic Novels for Kids on Hoopla

  • Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden. Illustrated by Brenna Thummler
  • Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrated by Victoria Ying
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by P. Craig Russell
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • Sheets by Brenna Thummler

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Graphic Novel Series for Kids on Hoopla

  • Avatar: the Last Airbender by various authors
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • DC Superhero Girls by Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat
  • Emmie and Friends by Terri Libenson
  • Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson. Illustrated by Brooklyn Allen
  • Mouse Guard by David Petersen
  • Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale
  • Phoebe and her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

 

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The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett

For a brief couple of years, my town had a second-hand book and video game store.  We went in, jubilantly, when it opened, and I bought the second two books in this series, which was all they had.  I never quite got around to reading them, but our first quarantine purchases were the first book in this series (though it ended up being cheaper to purchase the one-volume edition) and Whales on Stilts, another missing first book, that one lent out years ago and never returned.  I have been deliberately reading Terry Pratchett’s prodigious work just one or two a year, saving them for hard times.  A pandemic definitely counts as time to pull out the comfort reads!  

This was in my Cybils Awards TBR ReadDown pile, though it’s old enough never to have been eligible for a Cybils Award.  

The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry PratchettThe Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins, 2003. 978-0060094935. Truckers originally published 1989; Diggers and Wings 1990.
Truckers opens with a discussion of nomes and the faster passage of time they experience.  Our hero is Masklin, the only remaining hunter and de facto leader of much-diminished nome colony.  Desperate to save the remaining nomes, he hatches a plan to hitch a ride on a truck and leads the whole group to the truck’s nest – a department store called Arnold Bros (est. 1905).  There they discover that the Store is home to a large nome population, one which worships Arnold Bros as a divine being and believes that the Outside is mythical.  The first nome they meet, though, Angalo, is agnostic and fascinated with trucks.  

The official leader of the outside nomes has with him a black box called the Thing, passed from generation to generation.  In the store, it suddenly comes to life and starts talking, telling stories of the nome’s past and warning of imminent danger.  But if the spiritual leader of the store nomes refuses to acknowledge the existence of the outside nomes because Outside is mythical, how can they pass on a warning?  And if the Store they worked so hard to get to isn’t a safe refuge after all, where on earth could they go? 

In Diggers, the nomes have indeed left the Store and are trying to survive in the wild, facing great hardships.  They think they might have a plan – and Grimma is left on her own, basically leading a group of nomes who don’t want to see her as a leader, both because she’s female and because outside nomes are still not fully accepted by the former store nomes.  Wings rewinds to cover basically the same time period from Masklin’s point of view as he goes off on a mission set by the Thing.  Will he make it back, and will the nomes ever find true safety? 

The characters are recognizably Pratchett, especially including the outspoken Grimma, close friends with Masklin who still calls him out whenever he does anything particularly boneheaded and flat-out ignores the store nomes telling her that girl’s brains will melt if they try to read, becoming the first and best of the outside nome readers.  Granny Morkie always knows best and finds a way to make that happen, even while telling the men who think they’re in charge that they are of course in charge.  There are words of wisdom that felt classic Pratchett and which I wish I had marked to share with you.  Fans of the Wee Free Men will also enjoy seeing very different small people, though this series is less popular and harder to find on Libby than his Discworld books and more recent middle grade to young adult offerings.  

 

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Graphic Novel Ghosts: Sheets and Lola

Sheets by Brenna ThummlerSheets by Brenna Thummler. Lion Forge Comics, 2018. ISBN 978-1941302675. Read on hoopla.
13-year-old Marjorie Glatt has been running a small laundromat by herself ever since her mother died, while going to school and caring for her younger brother.  Her father has been too depressed to take on any of this.  Marjorie is teased by the other kids at school and tormented at the laundromat by the creepy Mr. Saubertuck, who lets himself in even when it’s closed to clean it and to put up flyers for the yoga resort he’s planning to open in the space.  Meanwhile, Wendell is a kid in ghost training in a nearby town where ghosts are supposed to learn how to follow the rules to keep their sheets.  He comes up with outrageous stories to explain his death, but his fear of washing his sheet tells us that there’s something more going on.  

This is a mostly sad story, but it’s leavened by some humor – the villain is so over-the-top he’s hilarious, and the ghosts in sheets with their accessories are also funny.  The art is more angular and colorful in the regular world, as opposed to the softer lines and colors used in the ghost world. This will appeal to kids who love ghost stories, though I preferred the author’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.  

Lola: A Ghost Story by J. Torres & Elbert OrLola: A Ghost Story by J. Torres & Elbert Or. Oni Press, 2009. 978-1934964330. Available on hoopla.
Jesse going back to the Philippines for his Lola’s funeral – older cousin Maritess – Filipino legends and monsters (some sounding similar to those in The Jumbies) – slow realization that there is a ghost present – twist at the end that made L insist that I read it so we could talk about it: scary end to a not-scary ghost story. 4/19/20

Jesse is going back to the Philippines from Canada for his Lola’s funeral.  He can see ghosts and monsters, and there are many more of them in the Philippines, related to the stories his Lola told him.  As he’s going around with his older cousin Maritess, the reader slowly comes to realize that one of the people we’ve been seeing is a ghost.  Though the ghost isn’t scary, the folk tales, some of them about monsters that sound very similar to those in The Jumbies, are.  It’s beautifully illustrated in soft sepia tones with crisp lines. It has a scary, cliff-hanger  end that didn’t quite jibe with the rest of the story and had my daughter insisting that I read it right away so we could talk about it.  She’s read it at least once a day for the last week, another high compliment.  

Our copy of this was a gift from Raina Telgemeier at A2CAF one glorious year when she gave every kid at her keynote a graphic by a creator of color, and it seems a very happy accident that we wound up with one to connect my kids with stories of their heritage.

 

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Young Blerds: SLAY and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich

Here are two more books from my Cybils TBR Read Down pile.  As the partner of someone who was usually one of just a few people of color at the local sci-fi conventions, I was so happy to see two books for young nerds of color like his younger self!

cover of My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi ZoboiMy Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi. Read by the author. Dutton/ Listening Library, 2019. ISBN 978-0399187353 ASIN B07W4X7LDY. Listened on Libby.
It’s 1984, and 12-year-old Ebony-Grace is flying alone from Huntsville, Alabama, where her grandfather works as one of the Negro engineers for NASA, to stay with her father in Harlem.  Ebony-Grace works hard to overcome her airsickness so that she can play out her role as Cadette E. Grace Starfleet of the Starship Uhura, from the ongoing story shared with her grandfather. Ebony-Grace has her eyes on the stars and dreams of going to Space Camp and being the first kid in space.  So when she gets to Harlem, with its loud noises, graffiti, and kids doing what looks like a “breaking bones dance”, she’s certain she’s landed on the foreign planet of No Joke City.  Her former friend Bianca is dancing with a crew called the Nine Flavas, who call Ebony-Grace an ice cream sandwich because of her open nerdiness and lack of “flava.” Continue reading

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