Monday, March 08, 2021

MMGM- The Serpent's Nest and Waiting for a Warbler

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Henderson, Jason. The Serpent's Nest (Young Captain Nemo #3)
March 9th 2021 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's Thanksgiving, and Peter and Misty REALLY want to spend time with their families for the holiday, especially after their adventures in Young Captain Nemo and Quest for the NautilusGabriel, however, wants to take the Kekada (since the Obscure was damaged) and look for clues to activities he thinks might be tied to Maelstrom. The group is hanging out on the coast of Wales, at Cardiff Bay, preparing for the holiday, when they hear a distress call from the Tamerlaine, which is under attack from giant sea serpents! Luckily, another vessel comes out of the water, and Gabriel sees a girl on board who says that she will take care of it, The Tamerlaine is damaged, but the Kekada leaves it in good enough shape for the Coast Guard to handle. The girl turns out to be Cora Land, from Dinas Nautilus. This is a steampunkish, underwater community that the Nemos have long suspected existed. Cora's parents were killed, but she is being taken care of by Captain Ramoray, Nils and Minerva, who lead the population in the moveable, underwater city. Gabriel, Peter, and Misty are allowed to visit, and find out that the people of the city are raising the snakes, as well as Lodgers, in order to clean up the pollution in the ocean. Cora is enthralled by people on land, since she is never allowed to go there, and Gabriel finds the Nemo-inspired city interesting but unsettling. While Dinas Nautilus has every right to be concerned about the pollution in their environment, are the methods they are using working only to their own benefit? It's up to Gabriel and his friends to figure this out... and to get back to their families in time to have a great Thanksgiving meal. 
Strengths: Well, give me some pincher torpedoes and some killer serpents attacking a ship! What a great adventure, and Gabriel, Peter, and Misty work well as a team. There's plenty of action, but also some well developed intrigue, and a great environmental message as well. The world building of Dinas Nautilus is solid, with it's Victorian brass and ruffled collars. The villains emerge slowly, and have reasons why they think they are right, which is always the best way to develop complex villains. Cora and Gabriel get along well, since both have had very unique experiences growing up in the shadow of all thing Nemo. 
Weaknesses: I was a little surprised that Gabriel's mother and the school weren't mentioned much, although it was good to see his sister Nerissa. It also took me a while to realize that Dinas Nautilus was the piece of his family mystery for which Gabriel was searching-- I kept expecting them to head off somewhere besides the coast of Cardiff. 
What I really think: This, as well as Henderson's Alex van Helsing series, is hugely popular in my library. This is stated to be the last book in the series, although the ending does seem a bit more open. While I would like to know a little more about Cora, a three book series is perfect for middle grade, especially since it means that Mr. Henderson will have to find another topic with which to delight my readers!

Collard, Sneed B. III and Brooks, Thomas (illus.). Waiting for a Warbler
February 2nd 2021 by Tilbury House Publishers
Copy provided by the publisher 

Mr. Collard, a prolific writer whose books often have a scientific bent, is also an avid birder. He and his son have a blog, Father Son Birding, and the book Warblers and Woodpeckers is based on their adventures. 

In this book, illustrated in soft, nature tinted watercolors, we meet Owen and Nora, who are looking forward to seeing a cerulean warbler in their yard in the spring. They have made their yard an inviting place for the birds to visit, planting native trees and plants so that the birds will have enough insects to eat and places to stay. We also see the migration of the birds from the tropical forests to the US. When a storm threatens the Gulf of Mexico, the children worry that this might cause harm to many of the birds during their travels. Luckily, the cerulean warbler and other birds make it through, and Owen and Nora are able to observe them and take notes in their nature journals. End notes include information on birding, ways to help protect birds, and resource lists that include books and websites. 

Like his other excellent titles, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and SurvivalInsects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever, and Fire Birds, Mr. Collard uses his talents to combine fiction with lots of information about environmental issues. This picture book is for younger readers than most of his books, but still presents information in a way that is easy to grasp. I'm a big proponent of teaching children about nature from a very young age; I have a bee garden in my library and have worked with the local parks department to donate native trees to the park behind my house. It's good to see a picture book that espouses environmental responsibility in such an engaging way. 

Anderson, Jodi Lynn. The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches #1)
March 2nd 2021 by Aladdin
E ARC provided by Edleweiss Plus

Rosie has always taken care of herself and her mother in their house overlooking the coast of Maine. Her mother is very detached and doesn't always recognize her daughter, although she is able to keep up with her data entry job and bring in enough money that Rosie can order groceries and supplies for them online. Rosie has coped with the stress of this by writing stories, and also by hanging out with her supportive friend, Germ. Germ, however, is starting to develop older interests, and tells Rosie that her stories are childish. Rosie burns her stories, which leads to her, as well as Germ, developing the ability to see the ghosts that live in her house. One of these spirits seems especially threatening, but some are supportive. Ebb, the ghost of a young boy, has always watched out for Rosie. He takes her to meet Homer, who tells Rosie some information about her and her family that might account for the new threats. Rosie's mother was the last witch hunter, and the Memory Thief, a witch, has stolen her memory to try to stop her from hunting any more witches. Rosie now has these powers, but must find out on her own what she needs to do. The ghosts help, as does a book her mother had hidden. Rosie must create a magical item she can use as a weapon, delve into the mysterious past of her family, and find a way to save her mother as well as many of the ghosts who surround her. Even after all that, Rosie has angered another witch, the Time Witch, and will have to face off against her, with Germ by her side. 
Strengths: This reminded me a bit of Harrison's 13 Treasures, in that it had magic that turned out to be a bit darker than I was expecting. This is also a great friend story, and Rosie's desire to get back a mother she never really knew added another layer of interest. I did appreciate that Rosie soldiered on so bravely and never really complained. There are lots of fantasy books out there, but a lot of those have something indefinable about them that causes them to gather dust on my shelves. A lot of that is due to bad covers, and this cover is very appealing. There aren't as many books about witches as you would suspect, and the world is introduced in a way that make sense, and also makes sense of the bad situation in which Rosie has been living. I'll be very curious to read the next two books in the series.
Weaknesses: Germ was a great, outspoken character and a fantastic friend, so I felt especially bad that she was saddled with the nickname "Germ". This was also a bit on the long side, and had a very intricately drawn magical world that will be perfect for fantasy fans but made my head spin a bit. 
What I really think: Normally, I would pop this happily on my order list and not think twice about it. Faced with trying to replace books lost in the pandemic (some 400 titles, most likely), and knowing that fantasy is a harder and harder sell in my library, I may wait a bit to buy this title. It's more of an investment purchase (13 Treasures is ten years old but still fits a need), so worth buying. Would definitely buy for a public library or one where fantasy is super popular. I did enjoy it.


  1. Wow. Three reviews today. You have been busy. Waiting for a Warbler sounds particularly interesting to me. That cover is gorgeous and the story sounds interesting. Thanks for the post.

  2. I've seen kids holding copies of the Captain Nemo series and wasn't sure what it was all about. Thanks for answering all my questions I would have asked. I'll be tracking down a copy in hopes of a summertime read. Thanks for featuring on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

  3. What a great set of books! I generally don't gravitate toward fantasy, but I do tend to enjoy it when I read it—even so, it surprises me that your students don't enjoy fantasy that much. Waiting for a Warbler sounds excellent! Thanks for the great post!

  4. I am looking forward to reading Waiting for a Warbler. I have been contemplating learning more about the local birds in our area. We have lots of different habitats from desert to wetland. Your review has got me searching for a group to join. Thanks for the impetus.