Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Bunches of Fantasy Books

Students at other schools must be much more interested in reading fantasy books. They must sell, or there wouldn't be so many published. I read a ton of fantasy, buy ones that are particularly good and... they sit on the shelf. I make displays. I book talk them. And still, it's just a fraction of my readers who pick them up. This is not true of horror and ghost stories, and I can usually place a good adventure science fiction book, but most of the time, it's hard. Conversely, all of my students seem to want sports books, and there are very, very few of those. Personally, I like fantasy and don't care much for sports books (although I am quite an expert on them!), so it's not me imposing my personal tastes on my collection. If I did, it would be all vintage teen YA and historical fiction! What are some of the trends in your students' reading?

Writing this on the work day after winter break; going right now to do one display of fantasy novels and one of historical fiction just to prove to myself that I'm not just imagining the fact that my students are a little more reluctant to pick up these books. 

McCarthy, Cory. Under Pressure (B.E.S.T. World #2)
February 1st 2023 by HarperCollins US
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Grayson, Leo, Jayla and Ace all meet at school in the B.E.S.T. program in Ace Takes Flight. There's even more intrigue now! Grayson wakes up with a new body aug (body augmentation-- the augmentations are widespread but somewhat contentious technology)  but he's at the bottom of the ocean. The other three are adrift in the sea with their hoverpod inoperable. Jayla is picked up by her family, who still want to control all of her actions, and Leo and Ace are picked up by Stern and Rosa. They are taken to Atlantis, which appears to be a stronghold of the Resistance. They think that Jayla's family has her hidden somewhere and try to find her, which they eventually do. Leo, who is in a wheelchair, is interested in the Sherlock mind aug, but there is a mystery surrounding it tied to Bixonics and to Grayson Bix. The three head back to the Tower of Power (their school) and need to chose an aug track. They are told that the Sherlock aug has been discontinued because no onw qualified for it, but Coach Vaughn tells Leo they (Leo uses they/them pronouns. All students at the school have their pronouns listed and use them regularly.)can try for the aug if he can teach Ace to fly. Eventually, the friends are tracked about ready for augs, but can they save Bixonics and humanity? This is a purported trilogy, so we'll have to wait for book three.

This reminded me a bit of the Voyagers series that starts with Project Alpha and is written by a variety of middle grade authors, with a dash of the undersea adventure and Atlantis connections of Riordan's Daughter of the Deep. There's a threat from an amorphous source that the kids must figure out and hunt down, difficulties they must overcome, and places to which they must travel. 

The different augmentations are fascinating, and of course there have to be some problems with them. But really, who wouldn't want super vision or intelligence? The characters are diverse and well developed, and have a good working relationship, even if they are occasionally at odds. There's just the right level of conflict to keep the characters motivated and moving forward. 

The school and the augmentation track decisions will resonate with readers who like "academy" books. The older the teachers are, the more suspect they seem; Rose and Stern are teens, so Leo and Ace trust them a bit more. The covers of both of the books are great. 
Readers who enjoyed Kraatz's Space Runners: The Moon Platoon, Fry's Jupiter Pirates, Landers' Blastaway or Levy's Seventh Grade vs. the Galaxy series will enjoy B.E.S.T. World. This is also a great choice for undersea adventure fans, who liked O'Hearn's Atlantis, Lerangis' The Colossus Rises, or Jason Henderson's absolutely fabulous Young Captain Nemo.

Since I have all of those books, and couldn't get my students interested in the ARC of Ace Takes Flight, I will pass this book on to my public library. Also, every time I read Tower of Power, I thought about.  evangelist Robert Schuller and his Crystal Cathedral and Hour of Power show, which is not what the kids in this book are really talking about! 

Perry, Jamar J. Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials
(Cameron Battle #2)
February 28th 2023 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

After his adventures in Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdom, Cameron goes against his grandmother's wishes and returns to Chidani to try to save his mother with Aliyah and his best friend and crush, Zion. While he doesn't acchieve everything he hopes, he does wrap up his search in a satisfactory way. This feels like the end of the series, but I could be wrong. The first book in this series is popular in my library, so I'll definitely be buying this second volume, and it was good to see the LGBTQIA+ representation more clearly, with Cameron and Zion finally embracing the true nature of their relationship.  

From the Publisher:
Fans of Rick Riordan will lose themselves in the exciting world of Chidani--where the last descendant must fight to save the world!

After his first adventure as the Descendant, Cameron can't sit through seventh grade classes. Especially when his mother is still trapped in Chidani and his father is still missing. But he encounters a particularly nasty bully in his new school, and it doesn't take long for Cameron and his trusty friends Zion and Aliyah to realize that the troubles of Chidani won't stay away for long.

With the Book to guide them, Cameron and his crew end up transported to Chidani sooner than anticipated--and the gods and goddesses they encounter don't intend to make Cameron's journey easy. Can he finally outwit and outlast the villainous god set on destroying their worlds?

Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this middle-grade fantasy celebrates the triumphs and challenges of a boy finding his path to greatness.

Randall, Julian. Pilar Ramirez and the Curse of San Zenon(Pilar Ramirez #2)
February 28th 2023 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

From the Publisher:
The Land of Stories meets Dominican culture and mythology come to life in Julian Randall's Pilar Ramirez and the Curse of San Zenon, the action-packed fantasy duology finale—for fans of the Tristan Strong series and Amari and the Night Brothers.

After being magically transported to the mythical island of Zafa and rescuing her long captive cousin Natasha, Pilar is back in Chicago . . . and hiding the shocking truths about Zafa and Natasha being alive. So, when she and her family are invited on a trip to Santo Domingo, Pilar welcomes the distraction and the chance to see the Dominican Republic for the first time.

But when Ciguapa and close friend Carmen magically appears in the DR searching for help, Pilar is soon on the hunt for the escaped demon El Baca and his mysterious new ally. Now, with a cursed storm gathering over the island to resurrect an ancient enemy, Pilar will have to harness her newfound bruja powers if she has any hope of saving her own world, Zafa, and most importantly her family before the clock runs out and ushers in a new era of evil.

Alessandri, Alexandra. The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía
February 21st 2023 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

Do appreciate the different cover style on this one, and the Colombian representation.

From the Publisher:
Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte.

Twelve-year-old Valentina wants to focus on drawing the real world around her and hopefully get into art school in Bogotá one day, but Papi has spent his life studying Colombia’s legendary creatures and searching for proof of their existence. So when Papi hears that a patasola—a vampire woman with one leg—has been sighted in the Andes, Valentina and her younger brother Julián get dragged along on another magical creature hunt.

While they’re in the Andes, a powerful earthquake hits. Valentina and Julián fall through the earth…and find an alternate Colombia where, to Valentina’s shock, all the legends are real.

To get home, Valentina and Julián must make a treacherous journey to reach this land’s ruler: the madremonte, mother and protector of the earth. She controls the only portal back to the human world—but she absolutely hates humans, and she’ll do anything to defend her land.

Marr, Melissa. The Hidden Dragon. 
February 14th 2023 by Nancy Paulsen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

For some reason, sea-faring books, along with circus books, are an even harder sell than fantasy, even though I loved Jacques' Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and Schultz's Hook's Revenge

From the Publisher:

A sea-faring girl and her friends take on pirates and grown-ups, and bond with dragons, as they work to make the world a better place, in this spellbinding fantasy by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr.

Otter (short for Ottilie) is a girl who is most comfortable on her family's ship, the Tempest, where she and her fathers collect the dragon hides that protect the queen's guards. But all is not well in the kingdom, and it's not clear if the queen is to blame. The streets are full of homeless kids, and now one of them, a street-smart boy called London, has stowed away on the Tempest. He befriends Otter, and soon they realize that the fate of the kingdom needs to be in the hands of the kids. For in every tight spot--during pirate attacks and navigating the magical land of the Netherwhere, where they get ship-wrecked--it is the quick-witted kids who save the day. As they work to fight injustice and protect the defenseless, they earn the respect of the realm's most magical creatures--dragons and gargoyles--who all bond together as a force for good. Melissa Marr spins another fabulous fantasy, centered on family and friends, and introduces readers to the most splendid magical creatures.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer at Book Den had a post today about a favorite genre of middle grade kids. I am terrified of scary books, but I agree with her that this is a very popular genre with kids.