Ok, so I have been a bit lax on my posting. I have been so busy reading books for the Cybils, I have not been writing about books, but I am going to remedy that now. If you know a middle grade reader who is into science fiction and fantasy, all of these books are good reads.
The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris This one is a nice retelling of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." It has some good messages about honor and honesty but is not off-puttingly moralistic.
The Flint Heartby Katherine and John Paterson In ancient times an evil man has a magical flint heart made that will harden his heart and bring him power. 100s of years after his death the heart is found and wreaks havoc in the human and faery worlds.
**Both of these books are for younger readers. 3rd - 5th grade I would imagine.**
Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier More birds in this one as major characters, but a really interesting metaphor with Peter's eyes. Peter is blind and therefore has excellent hearing and touch senses, but he finds sets of eyes that give him special powers. This serves to remind us all about needing to see the world from different perspectives sometimes. Aside from the messages it is a rollicking good adventure story. It would appeal to fans of Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord.
The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty This was an odd book and it took me awhile to decide if I liked it or not. It takes place in NYC of the early 1900s, but not a NYC we know. Instead it takes place in a world where people with magical ability are commonplace, but must keep their magic in check as not all forms of magic are legal. This is where Sacha, the main character, comes in. He has the ability to tell if someone, who may not be known to the authorities, has magical abilities. He is therefore recruited by the police to become an apprentice inquisitor. The story has great detail about New York of this time as well as various ethnicities and social classes which each have their own type of magic. But once Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini come in I was less charmed. This is a book with high interest for fantasy lovers, maybe boys especially, but I did not love it.
Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby Solveig is the king's daughter who finds she has great storytelling ability. This however is not the focus of the story, though her abilities become increasing relevant as the tale progresses. Solveig and her beautiful older sister Asa and her younger brother Harald have been sent away while their father the king is immersed in a war. They anticipate returning home until their father's berserker warriors are sent to them for added protection. When the enemy king arrives to carry Asa away as his wife, Solveig must leave her middle child insecurities behind and become a leader and storyteller. It is really a wonderful story with much more depth and detail than this would indicate. This ended up being one we put on our short list.
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy This book is chock full of historical details to temper the magic. It takes place in London where Janie and her TV writer parents have just moved to avoid the House Un-American Activities Committee. Janie becomes friends with Ben whose father is not a modern apothecary, but rather someone who protects and practices the old ways. Together they endeavor to stop Russian nuclear activity and other nefarious goings-ons. Interesting story with superb historical detail.
Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac Bruchac writes a great deal using his Native American background. This time he turns instead to his Czech roots and comes up with a wonderful piece of traditional folklore that he has adapted for this story.
The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin This is an interesting adventure in which the main characters find their way into a painting where there are layers of life going on beyond what is seen by visitors to the museum where it hangs. An interesting concept that is reasonably well done. I wish there had been a little less going on that was better developed, but ultimately it was a good adventure.
The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud I listened to this book and fell in love with Simon Jones' voice. I also found myself seriously charmed by djinni Bartimaeus. This is the 4th book in the series, but unlike the other three, it takes place in Bartimaeus' past with King Solomon in Jerusalem. I think therefore this novel can be read alone, but may be enhanced by having read the other three, which I have plans to do. Bartimaeus is arrogant and sarcastic and clever, three of my favorite qualities. In this story he tries to gain his own freedom from the evil magician Khaba while simultaneously trying to help Asmina steal the ring for her Queen. A fun and quick read that I really enjoyed.
The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse As an adult familiar with the Beowulf story I really enjoyed how this story took off from the adventures of Beowulf. Rune is a young man when the dragon who is responsible for King Beowulf's death terrorizes the land. Young readers will experience this story now and someday in a high school English class will remember and feel more comfortable with the Old English poem from already knowing some of the plot points.
Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout When the boy wakes up he finds himself alone with a droid whose mission is to protect him. Awakened from a deep sleep in an ark the boy must find other arks in order to restart the human population. This is an interesting take on a world destroyed by humans leaving a legacy for other creatures and a new group of humans to fix. There a some overtones of Wall-E here.
The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer In a world in which all but a few people have disappeared, a group of young teens struggles to discover what has happened and how to get everyone back. This one has overtones of Lord of the Flies.
The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley When she is only six, Molly is sent away from home to serve in the household of the king of Westria. Molly's magical abilities show themselves when she polishes a silver bowl that gives her the ability to see visions of the past and future. Molly finds herself helping the royal family break the curse that has plagued them for generations.
Aliens on Vacation by Clete Smith "Scrub" visits his grandmother in her home where she runs a hotel for aliens on vacation on Earth. Much hilarity and high jinks ensue as "Scrub" adjusts to this strange place while trying to maintain relationships with kids who have no idea what is going on with all of the strange visitors to their town.