Tuesday, April 02, 2024

The Lumbering Giants of Windy Pines and City of Wishes

Netz, Mo. The Lumbering Giants of Windy Pines
March 12, 2024 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jerry and her mother have struggled ever since the death of Jerry's father, and have moved around from inexpensive motel to inexpensive motel. Apartments are difficult because Jerry is in a wheelchair due to a degenerative genetic disorder. When the two land at the Slumbering Giant Motel (the "s" is on the blink, hence the title of the book), Jerry's mother tells her that this is a permanent stop. Working for Ms. Mavis at the hotel, with occasional jobs outside, is steady work that comes with a room. Jerry has had bad experiences with public school, so is happy to be home schooled, but her mother is very busy with the new job. Jerry has a small dragon named Paul to keep her company, although her mother views him as an imaginary friend. Luckily, there is another girl her age at the motel, Chapel Bell. The Bells lost their home in a fire, and are staying at the motel until they can find a new place to live. Chapel and Jerry strike up a friendship, and are soon drawn into the mystery of where Jerry's mother disappears to for so long. Jerry follows her mother's car's oil tracks into the woods, and discovers that the voices she has heard on the radio are real. The Windy Pines area has long suffered from strange disappearances in the woods, but Jerry and Chapel are able to find out more information about them that takes them in a surprising direction. What part of all of this does Ms. Mavis play? What is Jerry's mother doing in the woods? And how will Jerry and Chapel help keep the Lumbering Giant safe for everyone?
Strengths: The writing in this was particularly strong. Fast paced, well balanced, and appealing pell mell, I was swept along with the story and intrigued by the mystery. Jerry has a lot of agency for a 7th grader, and although I worried about her mother leaving her alone so much, younger readers will be glad that she has so much unsupervised time. Paul the dragon was interesting. It was good that Jerry had a friend to accompany on her adventures in the woods and was there to help out on occasion, although Jerry did quite well without help most of the time. I don't want to ruin the twists and turns in this one. 
Weaknesses: Something about the talking miniature dragon made this seem a little young. There's no good explanation for why I believe that there are demons in the woods but not a dragon in Jerry's pocket. 
What I really think: There are not too many books where characters who use wheelchairs get to have adventures, although this did remind me a little of Vaught's Super Max (2017). There's also Sumner's Roll With It series, Otis' At the Speed of Lies, Ghislain's A Bad Night for Bullies, John's Mascot, Stroker and Davidowitz's The Chance to Fly and several books with characters who are involved in wheelchair sports. It's good to see better representation across a variety of genres.

Soontornvat, Christina and Hong, Kevin. 
City of Wishes (Legends of Lotus Island #3)
March 5, 2024 by Scholastic Press
Public library copy

As the New Year's break approaches, Plum is excited to be spending the time with Cherry at Sam's house on Nakhon Island. Sam's mother, Lady Ubon, is quite possibly evil, but after all of the drama with Rella, seems to be trying to do her best work for the islands in her hoverbot lab. The big city is exciting, but the frequent tremors are concerning, as is the construction of luxury apartments, which means tearing down a lot of yam yam groves. The Guardians are called on to rescue people from apartment buildings when the tremors get worse, and they locate the source of these increasingly alarming tremors. There's a stone creature, called Master Render, who has been tunneling in the rock beneath the city in search of the yam yam trees. Since they are gone, he has decided to leave the island. While preparing for the New Year's party thrown by Lady Ubon, the group uncovers a plot by Councilor Yurn that might be behind the problems the island is facing, and might be concerning to Lotus Island as well. There's definitely another book after this one, since the children's fate is up in the air at the end of this book!
Strengths: I love Plum's power of making other people stronger; that's a super power all on it's own, but not one that gets a lot of attention. The trio get to practice the powers they are learning at school, and as always, are on top of the environmental challenges that arise. Rella makes another appearance, and I'm not entirely sure what to think about her. This uncertainly will have readers waiting eagerly for the next book! 
Weaknesses: I would have enjoyed more details about the city and Sam's house, but do appreciate that these books are nice and short. 
What I really think: This is a great series to have at both elementary schools, where it would be good to hand to second graders who think they want to read Harry Potter.  At middle school level, it's perfect for  readers who want to pick up some fantasy but don't want to commit years to a series. There are a lot of culturally connected fantasies out there, but Legends of Lotus Island stands out because of the shorter length and the environmental focus. Definitely purchasing the entire series. 

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