Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Taken/ The Hollow Boy

Iserles, Inbali. The Taken (Foxcraft#1)
September 29th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Isla is a young fox who lives with her brother Pirie, mother, father, and Greatma in the Graylands, aka The Great Snarl.  When someone invades their den, Isla goes on the run and must survive on her own. Luckily, she meets Siffrin, who has been sent by the fox Elders to find Pirie. He teaches Isla about Foxcraft, the magic that foxes have, such as wa'akkir, which is the ability to shape shift. The two try to locate Isla's family, but have to escape the evil Karka and her skulk, as well as the dangers of the deathway, Manglers, and Snatchers. The two work well together and Isla learns a lot, but she also discovers that Siffrin hasn't been entirely truthful with her. This is supposed to be a trilogy.
Strengths: Do you have readers that love the Warriors series? Then purchase this immediately. Like Tui Sutherland's who writes the Dragonet series, Iserles is one of the authors who writes as Erin Hunter, and Isla's world has some of the same facets of the Warriors' world. I liked that this dealt with one major character rather than lots and lots of foxes, and the magic was interesting. Foxes don't appear too often in middle grade fiction, but they are intriguing creatures. (Saw one run right across my porch this summer!)
Weaknesses: I personally am not a fan of books from animals' perspectives, so reading about Manglers (cars), etc. was hard. This was easier for me than Warriors, though!
What I really think: This will make some 6th graders who has read all of the Warriors books very, very, very happy!

24397043Stroud, Jonathan. The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Compant #3)
September 15th 2015 by Disney-Hyperion

Lockwood and Company are very overworked, and it is starting to become unhygienic at home and dangerous on the job. The trio don't have enough time to work together on cases, and they are tired and more prone to dangerous mistakes. Enter Holly Munro, late of another detecting firm, who could be useful in the field but doesn't have much experience, so she is in charge of tidying, food supplies, and deciding which cases are the most important. It's a good thing, too, because there is a huge block of disturbances going on in Chelsea, and agents from other firms are being killed. DEPRAC isn't too concerned about finding the source of the infestation, but are more concerned with public relations. George, now that he has the time, goes into deep research mode to uncover possible patterns, links, and history that might be leading to such a large amount of activity. He finally pins the center down to the Aickmere Brothers Department store, and all four are involved in a horrific battle against a poltergeist and other evil forces.
Strengths: I greatly enjoy the office chit chat and descriptions. Holly adds to the difficult dynamic between Lucy and Lockwood, which hopefully sets up a romance in the next book. The skull seems like it has some secrets for Lucy, and I hope those are revealed soon as well.
Weaknesses: The story line with Lockwood's sister, and Lucy poking her nose into her room, is wearying. Lockwood as the Hollow Boy-- don't know where that is going, but isn't very interesting.
What I really think: As much as I like these, and I really, REALLY do, four or five books for a series is plenty. I would rather have more scary stand alone books from Stroud.

Mlynowski, Myracle and Jenkins. Upside-Down Magic.
September 29th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Nory's father is the principal of Sage Academy, the premier school for magic that her brother and sister attend. When Nory auditions for a spot, her "wonky" magic leads to her cute black kitten turning into something that the admission board does not appreciate. She gets sent to live with her Aunt Margo, and attends the local school, but in the Upside-Down Magic unit with other children whose magic doesn't work quite right. She makes friends with Elliot, whose fire making skills often turn things into ice, and he helps her out when she turns into a Skunkephant in the school cafeteria. When Nory is given a book about hos she can put her wonky magic "in a box" and therefore control it, she and Elliot have a lot more success at their magic turning out the way they expect, and they petition the principal to get out of Ms. Starr's "special" class. When another student tries to harm a member of their class, Nory and Elliot's unusual abilities save the day. Is it enough for them to embrace rather than reject their own differences?
Strengths: For elementary school students, this is a good way to approach diversity and the acceptance of others who are not just like themselves without getting into dicey territory. Easier to discuss differences in magical ability rather than race or religion (And yes, it can be a problem. We've had parents complain that the 8th grade teachers were teaching about slavery. No idea.) As for actual diversity, I did love this questions from Elliot: "Why are you black when your aunt's white?" "My dad's black. My mom was white."(page 52, E ARC) All that needs to be said. Perfect. Fans of Mlynowski's fairy tale series will like this.
Weaknesses: This is VERY preachy, and the prose reads a bit woodenly, as if the authors are trying to tone down their usual style for younger readers. Nory's father is alarmingly uncaring.
What I really think: Ultimately, a little too young for my readers.


  1. "I would rather have more scary stand alone books from Stroud." That would be great.

  2. Stand alone, more books, yep all those things.

  3. I haven't read any of these, but it was great to hear your thoughts. Upside Down Magic sounds like it might be a good fit for my library. Also, I am happy to learn that I have a new series to recommend to my Warriors fans. Thanks for sharing!