Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Storm Runner, Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond

34966353Cervantes, J.C. The Storm Runner
September 18th 2018 by Rick Riordan Presents

ARC provided by the publisher

Zane Opisbo lives in New Mexico near a volcano, and has very supportive neighbors in Mrs. Cab and Mr. Ortiz. He also has a fantastic uncle, Hondo, who is young and fun. Zane struggles a bit with a deformed leg that kids at school make fun of, and he wishes he knew something about his father, but his mother won't give him any information. When something crashes into the volcano and a mysterious girl, Brooks, shows up at school, Zane's life gets complicated. It turns out that his leg problems are due to the fact that his father was a Mayan god, so the demon Ah-Puch has come looking for Zane. Unfortunately, after Brooks is injured and Zane's dog, Rosie dies, Zane pledges himself to Ah-Puch as a soldier of death! This is never a good idea, and Zane has to work with Mrs. Cab (who turns out to be a Mayan Seer), Brooks (who is a shape shifting nawal), his uncle Hondo and a variety of mythological creatures like Jazz, a giant, in order to prevent Ah-Puch from destroying the world. During all of the travels and fighting, Zane finds out secrets about himself and his lineage, as well as details about the ancient Mayan prophecy that his actions have set in motion.
Strengths: A lot of readers ask for myth-based fantasies like The Lightning Thief, and up until recently, it was somewhat difficult to find them. There were a couple of other Greek mythology books, and a few Norse, but not much else. That's why it's so exciting to see the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, as well as titles like Aru Shah and the End of Time. The Storm Runner follows the basic Riordan formula of a child who needs to save the world, an amusing round of travel in order to do this, and secrets being revealed to the protagonist in order to make this possible. However, this has its own flavor, and I very much enjoyed Zane's life, and especially his uncle Hondo. I wish more stories had a trusted adult accompanying the main character. Not a parent, necessarily, but someone a bit more fun. This story had humor, lots of action and adventure, and tons of characters from Mayan mythology. Thankfully, there is a list in the back with descriptions.

Actually, the thing that thrilled me most was that this was an exciting mythologically based fantasy book that was a standalone! There are a lot of children who want to read books like The Lightning Thief but look at long series and just are not ready for that kind of commitment!
Weaknesses: I felt that Zane's mother didn't have a large enough role in this; I just really wanted to know more about her. Also, Zane should have known better not to pledge himself to Ah-Puch. Anyone who has read anything about demons knows you don't do this, even for your dog. But, it was to save Rosie, so what else could he do?
What I really think: Will definitely purchase. In fact, am debating biking the ARC over to one of my student's houses on spring break. (Yep. Got a little carried away reading this one early!) Is it a good thing or a bad thing that this student's parents wouldn't even think this is creepy?

Brallier, Max and Holgate, Douglas. Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond (#4)
September 18th 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Copy provided by the publisher

Jack and his friends have managed to survive the monster apocalypse so far, and are looking forward to winter and Christmas. For Jack, the apocalypse is more fun than his regular life, since he had been in foster care and didn't have a lot of friends at school. He also gets to hang out all the time with his buddy-crush, June, as well as Quint and Dirk. They are constantly trying to upgrade their arsenal, even though some of their projects, like the Sled-Shot, don't end as well as they hope! When the sight another human, they are momentarily hopeful, but it turns out to be the Villainess, who takes Jack's beloved Louisville Slicer and is ready to turn the entire world over to the evil forces of REZZOCH. With lots of explosions, monster slaying, and high jinks, Jack and his friends have to figure out how to defeat her and survive another day.
Strengths: There's always a need for a good apocalypse tale, and if involves monsters and copious illustrations, so much the better. For readers who aren't quite ready for all the detail of Higson's The Enemy and who are still enjoying Kloepfer's Zombie Chasers, this is a great choice. The chidlren work well together, the world building is solid (there's a map!), and the level of goofiness is just right for upper elementary and middle school students.
Weaknesses: Paper over board covers are becoming my least favorite thing ever. If I had the capability, I would color photocopy the cover and put it under mylar. You'd be surprised at how much better books with mylar covers last! Reinforcing books with tape or adhesive covers just peels and gets messy.
What I really think: My students will be thrilled to have this, and it's like whole wheat, fruit juice sweetened Pop Tarts-- a tiny bit more nutritional value than most graphic novels.

There is a Netflix series coming out soon for people who can bring themselves to pay for television. I just can't. That's what commercials are for!
Ms. Yingling

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