Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate

Zargarpur, Deeba. Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate
July 2, 2024 by Labyrinth Road
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Because her parents weren't married when they had her, and this is considered less than optimal in Muslim culture, Farrah only sees her father once a year. He's a judge in the UAE, and her mother lives with her parents in Philadelphia. Farrah usually is fine with this, but when her father is visiting on her birthday, they have some squabbles when they are rock climbing at Wissahickon Valley Park. Farrah impulsively wishes that her fate would be rewritten and she would be a part of her father's world. A ring he has given her glows oddly, and before she knows it, her father is changing into a jinn with blue skin and disappears. Of course, no one believes her, and her mother and grandparents don't want to talk about it. There is some mention of leaving Philadelphia and living with an aunt in New York so that Farrah's father can't find her. Since some odd things have been happening to her, Farrah decides to run away to try to find her father. Instead, she is chased by creepy shadow jinn and helped by the mysterious Idris. He lets her know that she is part jinn, and offers to take her to the Qaf mountains to talk to the jinn kings who  might be able to help get her father back, since he is one of them. The two magically fly there, but their meeting with the kings doesn't go smoothly. One hundred years ago, there was a rule made that any part human jinn would be banished, and since Farrah's father is the judge, the kings don't want to accept Farrah at all. She eventually meets with Yaseen, whose father is another of the kinds, and he tells them that in order to revoke her wish, she'll need to travel to the Realm Beneath the Unseen and meet with Azar, an ancient jinn who made the ring. It's not as easy place to get to, but Yaseen is willing to help... because he's Farrah's half brother. He attends a school of magic for royal children, and uses his knowledge to try to make an amulet of protection so that they can travel to the realm beneath. Nothing goes right, and the trio ends up traveling back to Philadelphia to try to get help from Farrah's mother. Instead, they run into Farrah's best friend Arzu, who joins their quest. This takes them into the countryside near Lancaster, has them travel on a train, and sends them back into the magical world. There are secrets from Idris' past that come to light, and Farrah and Yaseen both struggle with their identities as well. Will they be able to free Farrah's father from the ring before figuring out how to deal with their jinn identities? 
Strengths: There are very few books that have characters that are Afghan American, and this is the first fantasy I have read that seems to involve Persian jinn. Farrah's parentage is interesting, and her desire to be closer to her father will resonate with many readers. Idris and Yaseen are interesting characters who bring an extra element of tension to the travels, and all of the complicated relationships and secrets will keep readers turning the pages. There's plenty of fun magical traveling, and an evil nemesis in Azar. This is the first book in a series. 
Weaknesses: Having the trio travel back to Philadelphia didn't seem to have much purpose other than to add Arzu to the group, and just made the quest more complicated. Perhaps Arzu could have run away with Farrah from the beginning. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who can't get enough magical adventures, like Steadman's Skandar and the Unicorn, or culturally connected fantasy quests like Brown's Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting or Villanueva Lulu Sinagtala and the City of Noble Warriors

Monday, July 22, 2024

MMGM- Grow Up, Luchy Zapata

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Alessandri, Alexa. Grow Up, Luchy Zapata.
July 23, 2024 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Luchy is very excited for the first day of sixth grade. She hasn't seen her best friend, Cami, all summer, because Cami has been visiting family in Colombia. The two not only share Colombian, heritage, but their families both come from the same area. Luchy's father came to the country when he was very small, however, and her mother was born in the US, so Luchy's Spanish is not very good. When she catches up with Cami before school, she's a little worried; Cami is suddenly concerned about what is "cool" to wear, and interested in boys. Luchy would rather wear her leggings and unicorn t shirt, and is NOT happy with the make up kit that Cami gives her for a birthday present. Cami has also taken to hanging out with another girl who is often mean to Luchy. The three try out for the school soccer team, and when Luchy can't find her cleats, she's afraid she won't get a spot. When she overheads Cami and Melissa talking about hiding her cleats, the war is on. Soon, Luchy is taking Cami's homework, and Cami takes her art portfolio with her entire biography project in it. Mateo, who is friends with both of them, doesn't want to take sides, but is more in Luchy's corner; the two play soccer, and Luchy is discomforted to feel that maybe Mateo is cute. Creating a scrapbook of happy memories for Cami doesn't help win her friend back, and Luchy isn't sure what to do, so she escalates the pranks that she plays on her former best friend. This doesn't work well for anyone. Will Luchy be able to come to some understanding of what Cami is going through so that the two can work together to save their friendship instead of tearing each other apart. 
Strengths: This had a good mix of family events and school activities, and it made the stakes a little higher that Luchy and Cami's families knew each other. Cami's parents are in the middle of divorcing, which certainly gives some insight into why she isn't willing to put up with Luchy's refusal to change a little. Mateo is a steadfast friend who also manages to keep Cami fairly happy. There are plenty of good details about Colombian culture (this is set in Miami), and some Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed that Luchy was involved in both soccer and in art. 
Weaknesses: Why is it always the tween who doesn't want to grow up that is the "good guy"? Until the sabotage started, Cami wasn't all that mean. Luchy was just so absolute in her feeling that Cami was in the wrong. Cami was just observing people around her and trying to keep up, and trying to help Luchy as well. This is a much better plan in order to be successful around other people.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Walker's Let's Pretend We Never Met, Rellihan's Not the Worst Friend in the World, or Lowe's The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman

Note to parents of 6th grade girls: You are not doing them any favors letting them wear cat ears and pink leggings to 6th grade. My daughters and I researched what the most nondescript clothes were to wear to middle school. Jeans and t shirts with minimal messages are always a good bet, but each school is different. No reason to paint a target on oneself. Fitting in is a skill that EVERYONE needs to learn.  I don't necessarily like wearing jeans to school, but it's what other teachers do. I wear mine with my jackets as a compromise, but if I always wear dresses or pleated skirts, they might think I'm stuck up or strange. Nothing wrong with some camoflage, Luchy! 

Sunday, July 21, 2024

The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown

Laird, Elizabeth. The Misunderstandings of Charity Brown
July 7, 2022 by Macmillan Children's Books 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 1955, Charity Brown has a difficult life. While she has a supportive mother and father, who are both heavily invested in the Lucasite religious movement and work as missionaries who rely on donations to fund their work and family, she has recently had a bout with polio that has kept her out of school for months and left her with lingering weaknesses in an arm and leg. Her two sisters, Hope and Faith, and brother, Ted, are much older, and busy with their own lives. When the family has a windfall, they are shocked to find that a church member has left his house and furnishings to them. Such a large house is hard to fund, but the parents also have some money from Mr. Brown's family that he hasn't touched because it was acquired through a distillery business, something upon which their strict religion frowns. The family moves, hoping to use the extra space for people in need. Charity, who has struggled in school with other students making fun of her "holy" ways, is hoping to make friends with a new neighbor girl, Rachel. Rachel's parents lived through the Holocaust, and don't trust many people, so are leery of the Browns. Charity, who very much wants to be devout, decides to be baptized, and struggles with her faith journey, since the way her parents live is not in sync with the families around them. She is tutored in French by Rachel's mother, and eventually makes peace with a girl at school who bullies her. And afterword explains that this is very much based on Ms. Laird's childhood, although the Lucasites are fictional. 
Strengths: How gorgeous is that cover? Like Kessler's Code Name Kingfisher, it's done in the style seen on the introductions to BBC shows like The Durrels in Corfu or All Creatures Great and Small. Charity's dress, socks and shoes, and braids are perfect! This reminded me so strongly of books like Sharp's Cluny Brown or Enright's The Saturdays, so Laird's grasp of Mid Century literature is very strong. This is a quiet but interesting story of one girl's difficulties growing up under somewhat unusual circumstances. Sadly, none of Laird's many novels seem to have made their way to the US. I'd love to take a look at Song of the Dolphin Boy
Weaknesses: This might be a hard sell for my students, given the particularly English setting (which I adored). I'd love to see something set in the US in 1955, with a young girl moving to a new suburb. I will keep this in mind if I have an increased number of readers wanting historical fiction or books set in England. 
What I really think: I enjoyed this tremendously, and it covers a period of time that has not gotten much attention. The aftermath of polio is also somewhat unusual; my mother had polio as a child, but thankfully only had a heart murmur because of it. This is a good choice for readers who need more post WWII books like Van Draanen's The Peach Rebellion or Frazier's Mighty Inside (also set in 1955), or Lasky's 2010 Chasing Orion (which also deals with polio). 

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Cartoon Saturday-- Wagnificent

Murguia, Bethanie. Wagnificent: The Adventures of Thunder and Sage
July 23, 2024 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Thunder, an exuberant young dog, knows that Sage is her pack. There's plenty of food, "treasures" (toys), and love in their household, and Thunder is usually obedient, since she loves to hang out with Sage. When Sage puts her in a wizard's robe and then gets distracted by making a phone call to get another "magical" robe which will be useful in hunting magical creatures like unicorns, Thunder is uncomfortable. Her inner wolf, in the guise of a gray wolf who talks to her, convinces her that she should embrace her innate wildness and rip the robe up. Sage is heartbroken, and Thunder feels bad. This "inner wolf" shows Thunder how to do any number of things that humans tend not to like; barking, chasing squirrels, and digging past a fence to run in the wild. While Sage is irritated by Thunder's behavior, when the dog is missing, Sage takes off into a nearby woods to look for her. Real wolves corner Sage, and of course Thunder comes to the rescue. Thunder learns that it's important to quiet her inner wolf to exist with her pack, and Sage realizes "you're my magical creature". 
Strengths: There are not that many realistic graphic novels that cover dogs, and Thunder was a great character. I enjoyed the information at the end about how dogs coevolved with humans, and the fact that the work of the great canine scientist Alexandra Horowitz is cited. Young dogs need a lot of training, and this could help children understand why they need to connect with their dogs, take them on walks, and introduce them to the rules of the pack. The use of Thunder's "inner wolf" is clever, and seeing the wolf talking to Thunder is amusing, but also makes the reasons for Thunder's behavior very clear. 
Weaknesses: This will be most successful for elementary school readers; Sage's interest in the magical robe and finding magical creatures will not resonate with 6th graders, who no longer believe as much in that sort of magic. This would be great in second or third grade, and for older elementary students who still like to role play Hunter's Warriors storylines. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for younger readers who enjoyed Lai's Pawcasso or 
Fairbairn and Assarasakorn's Paws books, or Ball's Clifford the Big Red Dog: The Movie (Graphic Novel)

Friday, July 19, 2024

Once Upon a Fever

Walker, Angharad. Once Upon a Fever
June 4, 2024 by Chicken House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Payton, who is 13, and her younger sister, Ani, 11, live with their father in King Jude's Hospital near Lundain. Their mother is ill with water fever, caused by her grief over the death of an infant son. She is in a sort of coma, and Payton desperately wants to cure her, since she feels her father's research isn't effective. The hospital is filled with methics, who are devoted to curing disease. Ever since The Turn, disease is thought to be caused by emotion and feelings. Payton is trying to get into a closed lab to get a medicine she thinks will cure her mother. Ani also explores the hospital, and runs into Kitt, who is suffering from "Midas fingers"; gold fingers caused by greed. She burns her hand on the door, and refuses to take her medicine, which is meant to keep her anger in check. She develops "spark breath" which makes her a danger, since she can set things on fire. When her blood is analyzed by visiting Methic Jenipher Blake from Queen Cleo's Hospital, the anger levels are dangerously high, and her father says he will send her to Queen Cleo's to be cured. Ani doesn't like this, and is determined to run away. Payton tries to stop her, but the two end up in an ambulans (sic) on their way into Lundain. The girls are separated. Ani runs into children who live in an office of a financier and tend the plants, as well as Estin, a "wilder" who introduces her to Heinrich and Tally. They live in Hyde Garden amongst the plants, and tell Ani it is okay to feel, she just needs to learn how to manage her feelings. Payton ends up with Methic Blake, and turns out to be a human gwaidmesur, who can read other's blood without machines. This could make her the most powerful Methic of her time, but she soon realizes that Blake is running evil experiments on people in the Observatory. Ani enjoys being with the Wilders, and her emotions are kept in check by exposure to nature. When Payton has the realization that her mother's disease could be cured by Ani's blood, the two return to confront their father but learn that the cure might not be as easy as it seems.
Strengths: This had a very strong dystopian feel to it, even though it also felt like a medical drama. Ani and Payton are interesting characters, and I love that they don't mind living in the hospital, even though it has narrowed their view of their world. When they get to Lundain, they are able to survive, and solve a mystery that the adults in their world didn't even know existed. Methic Blake is rather evil, and it's somewhat surprising that everyone goes along with her. The range of diseases that are portrayed are rather fascinating, but I suspect that some young readers might WANT to have an incendiary disease so they could breath fire and set things aflame! Definitely an unusual and innovative book.
Weaknesses: I felt like I needed some more back story. What is The Turn? When and how did diseases start being caused by feelings? This is set in an alternate London, and I felt like I was missing a lot of references. (Although I got "Prydein", thanks to Lloyd Alexander!)
What I really think: This has the same odd, quirky feel of this author's The Ash House  and would be a good choice for readers who want a book that leaves them guessing, like Ocker's The Black Slide, or allegorical tales like Malinenko's This Appearing House.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Creepening of Dogwood House

Royce, Eden. The Creepening of Dogwood House
July 30, 2024 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

 Roderick and his mother, Layla, a bank accoutns manager, had a comfortable life and were very close until her untimely death in a car accident. Unable to locate any relatives, the authorities put him in an orphanage, where he is at least taken good care of by Ms. Penny, who understands the depths of his grief and lets him help her in the kitchen. When his Aunt Angela is finally found, she rushes home from her extended honeymoon with her new husband, Erik. Both are involved with refurbishing old properties, so it's not a big surprise when they tell Roddie that they will be moving into Layla and Angela's childhood home in South Carolina, not far from where Roddie had been living. The house has been rented since the death of the grandparents, and is in rough condition. It's liveable, but there's a lot of work to be done. Roddie is clearly struggling, but his aunt and new uncle strike a good balance with being glad to be with him, and being sad about the reasons for this. Dogwood House, so called because of the dogwood trees that used to be growing nearby, was built by Roddie's great-great-great grandfather, and there are some surprises that show up in the renovation, like the grandmother's porcelain jewelry box. There's a persistent, fetid smell, but this is dismissed as part and parcel of the damp climate and the poor condition of the house. Roddie throws himself in to renovating, even stripping the wallpaper from his room. There are creepy things in the house which are not made less creepy by Angela's attempts to embrace the family's hoodoo past. She gives Roddie a bowl to use to burn any hair that comes out in his comb, saying that there was a belief that spirits could control you if they have some of your hair. Roddie's hair has been neglected since his mother's death, since she would braid it for him. Layla always had a very short hair cut, and Angela has locs, so Roddie tries to condition and style his hair by himself, although Angela does offer to help. When Roddie starts getting headaches, he starts to worry that the family lore about the Bridgeweaver, an evil spirit who is taking people's hair and using it for malevolent purposes, might be real. Will he be able to harness his mother's spirit of "keep pushing through the darkness" to save his new home and family from destruction?
Strengths: If I were a tween who had read a lot of books, I would be utterly terrified of moving. New homes are ALWAYS haunted, from Wright's 1984 Ghosts Beneath Our Feet to Sutherland's The Nightmare Night Door and several K.R. Alexander titles. This had a bit of a spin to it, with the hoodoo surrounding the hair, and the family backstory about previous hauntings that caused the house to be abandoned to renters. Angela and Erik are fantastic relatives who step up to take care of Roddie and are so sensitive to his needs. The build up to the Bridgeweaver is well done; it took me a while to figure out why there were so many details about hair, but it all paid off. Roddie's grief is realistically portrayed, and I did appreciate that he had been in counseling. This is on trend with the idea that you can't get rid of bad memories without getting rid of good ones as well. 
Weaknesses: I wish that the mother hadn't been killed, but it does at least forward the plot. It seems more likely that Roddie would have gone into foster care, but maybe there are still orphanages in the South. The hair in the wallpaper grossed me out, but that's more of a more of a "me" thing that should play well with students. 
What I really think: This is a great choice for readers who enjoyed Royce's Conjure Island or Root Magic, or other books involving Southern US creepy folklore like Smith's Hoodoo or Bourne's Nightmare Island. This was creepy enough that I will buy a copy. 

I read this in March; I've read 43 books so far and am only buying two of them. Don't know what's going on in middle grade right now, but hoping for more appealing titles soon!
Ms. Yingling

Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Conklin, Melanie. Crushed
July 16, 2024 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sophie Valentine lives in New York City, where her father and grandmother run a book store and her mother is a doctor. She and her best friend, Eve, attend MS477, a magnet school, but Eve has been absent since Thanksgiving without much of an explanation, only that she may have tried to hurt herself. Coming back after winter break is difficult, especially when Eve doesn't meet her at their usual spot. Eve has spent a lot of time with the "Crash Crew", a group of students who do ill advised YouTube challenges, and Sophie suspects that this, along with her crush on the obnoxious Chaz, had something to do with her absence. When Sophie has a panic attack in the hallway, one of the Crew posts it to social media, and she is mortified. She's had panic attacks before, but doesn't want to tell anyone. Away from school, there is some stress as the bookstore needs some renovations that are hard to afford on the heels of the pandemic. One of the fire code violations that needs to be addressed is changing the "wall of love" where people can leave notes; it's because of this wall that Sophie's grandparents met, so her grandmother is very protective of it. When Sophie sees Eve participating in other challenges, like climbing milk cartons behind a store, she alerts the school when Eve gets hurt, and Eve is furious. This further strains their relationship, although Sophie does find an ally in Stewart, a girl in her gym class who used to be part of the Crew but now thinks they are jerks. She is very helpful to Sophie when she has a panic attack. Sophie's class is doing a mock murder investigation, and Sophie starts using the techniques from class to try to figure out what is going on with Eve. There turns out to be a lot, and when a lot of harassment is uncovered, Eve finally has to go to her mother and grandmother for advice. Will she and some of the other girls who are tired of the boorish behavior of Chaz and the Crew be able to change the school culture?
Strengths: Conklin has a trigger warning for harassment and self harm at the beginning, which is helpful. Like Dee's Maybe He Just Likes You, this is an interesting look at how middle school students try to deal with their own problems, and are often unable to do so without some help. Sophie's panic attacks, which started during the pandemic, are realistically portrayed, and are something that we see more and more in schools. The fact that Eve and Sophie's individual problems are causing rifts in their friendship is true to life, but it was good to see Sophie make a new friend in Stewart. The bookstore was delightful, and Gram was a well developed character. She was a good mix of not wanting to change (she takes years to clean out the closet of her deceased husband) and being able to help Sophie navigate current issues. The mother is also a good character, and I love the matter of fact way she deals with Sophie's problems. Young readers will relate to the Crash Crew, and hopefully be appalled at the amount of damages caused by YouTube stunts in the school. Only time will tell whether or not these stunts will ever seem dated. 
Weaknesses: I'm surprised that the girls didn't call out the harassment right away. My mother, born in 1934, taught me to never put up with anything from anyone. There was a lot of casual, daily sexual harassment, complete with inappropriate jokes in the 1970s: just watch the television show from 1978, On Our Own, to see this is action. I passed this on to my own daughters. Since today's mothers were raised when there was less of this, do today's girls not get this lesson delivered as often as it once was? Or is it the effects of social media that are making this (and everything) worse?
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed New York City based problem novels like Mackler's Not If I Can Help It  or Stead's Goodbye, Stranger

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Fantasy Round Up

Back in 2016, a Very Famous Author took exception to my comment that my students weren't reading a lot of historical fiction and reached out to the board of the Cybils Awards to try to have me removed as the organizer of the realistic fiction division. Of course, at the time, I apologized profusely, amended my post, and made nice with this author so I could keep my position and not get scorched on social media. 

Today, I think I would say, very nicely, "Bite me".

I'm usually VERY polite with my reviews. I could be snarky... oh, boy, could I be snarky. But that's not nice. I blog so that other librarians and teachers know a little bit about the books. Books that aren't right for my students might be perfect for their students. If you read the blog frequently, you know the tells when I'm not buying a book, but they aren't anything an author could quote on social media as something mean I have said. 

Since 2016, I have not reviewed or bought any of this author's books, although I've read a few. They were never all that popular with my students, so I feel good about this choice. But... the nerve. Does it help anyone if I don't report what actual middle grade readers are reading? I didn't say "This book sucks. Nobody reads historical fiction. Why is it even published?" No. I said that MY students weren't reading a lot of it, so if I purchased it, it wouldn't be a good use of my limited budget. 

So, when I say that my students are  not reading a lot of the fabulous culturally connected books that are being published, this doesn't mean that NO ONE should buy them. It just means that I may not. I do buy SOME fantasy ever year, and to make sure that I get the books that will appeal most to my students who do read fantasy, I try to at least look at most of the books. That's my job.

There will probably be more fantasy round ups in the future, and I hope they help people who do need to buy more fantasy books than I need to. 

Khan, M. T. Amir and the Jinn Princess
July 23, 2024 by Little Brown Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Amir Rafiq is a possible heir to his Baba's (father) brick making fortune in Lahore, Pakistan... if his father doesn't favor his older brother Ashar or sister Alishba. It's possible he might, because Amir is rather entitled and spoiled, and has been getting in trouble in school and not doing well in classes ever since the disappearance of his mother nearly a year ago. He takes some comfort in his father's mother, Dadi (who never liked his mother), although he is rarely allowed to spend time with his mother's mother, Nani. When Dadi arranges a marriage for Baba, Amir is understandably upset. He also isn't thrilled with the fact that he has to spend the summer out at the family farm. When local residents protest the expansion of the brick factory, which is going to demolish a lot of a forest, Amir is interest but appalled to find out that factory workers have been going missing in a fashion very similar to his mother. He's brought home a cat that followed him on his way from school, and is very surprised to find that it isn't, in fact, a cat. It's Shamsa, a jinn who is glad that Amir gave her sweets, and wants to help him prove that his destiny isn't set in stone. Before he knows it, the two are sneaking past the family guards, getting on the jinn train, and traveling to the Kagra Kingdom. Once there, Shamsa has another surprise; she is actually the 14th jinn princess, and is entering a competition to hopefully become heir to the throne. This will involve contests in physicality, artistry, and diplomacy, but if Amir helps her with the contest, she will help him find his mother. Since she's not in the human world, it seems likely that she has slipped through a portal and is stuck in the jinn world. Amir is a big help in the competitions, but when he is looking for his mother, he finds out some alarming truths about the Rafiq brick company. Not only are workers treated horribly, but the role that the company (as well as Shamsa's main competitor, her sister Golnaz) is not something that Amir can support. Can the two work together to insure a better future for both worlds? And will Amir be able to find out what has become of his mother?
Strengths: Khan constructs excellent fantasies that are easy to remember and involve some novel elements, which is very rare in middle grade fantasy. Instead of a quest, we have a competition to be a jinn heir, with different competitions that aren't related to a magical school. Amir and Shamsa's relationship is interesting, and while they do help each other out, there's also some obfuscation that causes tension. The tie between the human business of Rafiq's bricks and the jinn world is very interesting, and the inclusion of the treatment of workers was fascinating. Amir, who is not the most pleasant character at the beginning of the book, does have his eyes opened to the way other people have to live, and the challenges that they face, and this makes him a better person.
Weaknesses: It was not necessary to kill off Amir's mother to involve him in the jinn world. I'm may buy this book, since I enjoyed it, but I'm just not sure I have the readers for it. There are so many fantasy books, and I have hundreds and hundreds gathering dust on my shelves. Khan at least writes stand alones instead of series, which does make this one a good one to purchase.
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed this author's Nura and the Immortal Palace, or other fantasy adventures that address environmental and social issues, like Smith's Where the Black Flowers Bloom, Ryan's Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs, or Young's The Healer of the Water Monster.

Elle, J. A Whisper of Curses (Park Row Magic Academy #2)
July 9, 2024 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

This is a worthy sequel to the first book, A Taste of Magic, which has circulated well in my  library with students who like to read about magical schoolsThe Park Row Magick Academy is deep in renovations that were funded by Kyana's winning baking competition, but things go wrong with the Availables, and Kyana manifests some odd symptoms. Will Dr. Minzy, of Minzy Industrial have the answer to the odd occurrneces? I can see one more book in the series to address how everyone settles back into the school when renovations are completed. 

Okogwu,Tọlá. Onyeka and the Heroes of the Dawn (Onyeka  #3)
May 14, 2024 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Onyeka and four other students from the Academy of the Sun are on their way to London in the supersonic jet Gyrfalcon to retrieve a boy who is a Solari. Tobi's parents are dead, and he's with foster parents in Bristol, but when Onyeka, Adanna, Hassan, Zahrah, and Niyi arrive, they have to hunt him down, since people have broken into the house and attacked the adults. They get him back to Nigeria, where he enjoys being with Onyeka and her family. Onyeka's father is a bit demanding, and when he wants her to take more responsibility, she fights back, but eventually takes the test to become an Olori. When Nigeria's solar technology is failing, she is called in to help, but wants to quit after she messes up. It also upsets her that Tobi will be leaving her family to go into foster care elsewhere. When she finds out that Laamu-Ezeoba has evil plans for Tobi, she has to look within herself to harness her powers rather than giving in to her self-doubt. 

This could be the end to the series, but there also could be another book. Trilogies are perfect, so I'm okay if Okogwu moves on to writing different series. My students don't usually want to commit to more than three books; it takes an entire quarter for them to read a trilogy, and if readers start a series in 6th grade as it's being published, they may age out of a longer series before it is completed. 

Monday, July 15, 2024

MMGM- Mind Over Monsters

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Uhrig, Betsy. Mind Over Monsters
July 16, 2024 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lena is anxious enough that the school decides to let her get out of homeroom to participate in a pilot meditation program, since the school has paid for an app (called De-Stress-O-Rama) invented by a former student. Lena sort of hopes her parents will say no, but when her older brother Spike chimes in that it would be a good idea to help her manage stress, Lena finds herself hanging out with counselour "Call Me Barb" and six other students who all have their own quirks. Since Lena is having a hard time with her best friend, Gina (who now wants to go by "Regina" and has "turned pretty"), getting out of homeroom doesn't seem like the worst idea. Lena starts noticing that after the meditations, sometime there are residual objects left on the yoga mats; bits of glass, feathers, etc. These all seem odd and cold, and Lena keeps a small collection of them. The app seems to be helping her anxiety, and providing her with some coping mechanisms. When the group encounters a "blob" in the gym that seems to grow on the ceiling then flings itself to the floor before fleeing when one of the younger members chases it, they think they are having a group hallucination, but are pleased at how they all handled it. The app is rolled out to the whole school, and even Regina and her crush Jared talk about it. It's too expensive for the school to pay for the third step, but the kids in Lena's group like it so much they think about asking for it as a gift, even though they've identified subliminal messages in the sounds that tell people that the app is helping and that they need to continue. There are some good moments in Lena's life, like getting to know Kenni, who understands her anxiety, and finding out that her mother's own history with anxiety is why she is so hard on Lena. Will Lena and the "Worriers" be able to overcome their fears and the interdimensional blobs threatening Cranberry Bog Middle School? Who knew lacrosse sticks could be so helpful?
Strengths: This is on trend with the current ideas about anxiety among tweens, and the whole idea of a mediation app is not at all far fetched; my school had "advisory" last year, and there have been a lot of lessons on breathing and managing stress. I liked that even though she was anxious, Lena was involved in Climate Change Club and ceramic lessons at the art museum, and had a very supportive family, although she doesn't appreciate her mother's "crackpot" solutions to her worries. The group of diverse students come together to work against obstacles, and have some real affection for each other. The problems that Lena has with Regina as she grows further from her friend will resonate with many young readers. The monsters being associated with an app about controlling one's fears is definitely fresh and innovative! Uhrig writes with a lot of humor, which will keep readers turning the pages. 
Weaknesses: Even though the students are in middle school, this might appeal more to elementary students. Monsters are tricky in middle school, and this cover is on the young side, with the Margaret Keane style eyes.  My middle school students who want monster fighting books prefer them to be grosser and more violent, like Killick's sick and squelchy Dread Detention
What I really think: The  monsters will draw in readers who enjoyed Wishingrad's Between Monsters and Marvels, Sparrow's Little Apocalypse or Ballarini's A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting, but this is essentially a book about anxiety along the lines of Machias' Flight + Fight, Khan's Drawing Deena, and Dilloway's Five Thing About Ava Andrews.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Youth Group

In middle school and high school, I was very involved in the Methodist Youth Fellowship group at a United Methodist Church. It met every Sunday evening for an hour, and I went every week. I think at one point, I might have been the corresponding secretary, which meant that I wrote letters to other youth groups? It's all kind of fuzzy. There were a number of people from my school who went there, and it was something I looked forward to. There were retreats, Bake-a-thons, Christmas plays, service projects, and, oh yeah, some religious stuff. 

Had it involved fighting demons, I would have been even more interested! 

Morris, Jordan and McCurdy, Bowen (illus.). Youth Group
July 16, 2024 by First Second
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kay's parents are divorced, and she doesn't see her father very much, since he's bought a jet ski and recently been possessed by a demon. Kay isn't his biggest fan, but it hurts when he doesn't even answer her phone calls. Her mother is trying to make new connections, and asks Kay to go to church with her. Kay isn't thrilled with the cheesy youth group, run by young adults Meg and Cortland, who work with the bearded minister who likes to tell dad jokes and quote The Pina Colada song in the worship service. When Kay runs into the three in the woods trying to perform an exocism on Cortland's roommate, she finds out that the youth group fights demons. Not only that, but other religious groups in the area (Catholics, a Jewish Temple, and even Wiccans) fight them as well, although the groups tend not to get along very well. Kay turns out to be a "Blight", which is someone whom demons are not able to possess, but because of this, the demons are out to get her, since if they have the blood of a Blight, they can walk the Earth in their true demonic forms instead of having to possess a host. While Kay thinks that Meg is a bit overly cheery, and is a little alarmed at Cortland's past, she is enjoying training to fight demons. Meg arranges a party for the other groups so they can combine forces, and it's somewhat successful. Some of the groups even have Blights of their own. When the minister meets a horrible end, and the demonic forces are becoming a bigger and bigger threat, will Kay and her new friends be able to fight them and keep California safe before heading off to college in New York City?

This is more of a young adult book, with lots of mentions of drugs and alchohol, but isn't too bad as far as language and other activities. I wish more time had been spent on Kay's family, because the difficulties with her father make her desire to fit in with a group all the more compelling, even if it isn't exactly the group she would have chosen. Her mother was an interesting character. The illustrations are appealing, and fighting demons is always an intriguing premise for a book. 

I have very few students who are involved in youth groups, and I wonder if they might have more traditional views that would frown on reading about demons, so the audience for this could be tricky. It's more likely to hit the mark with disaffected youth like Kay, who like to wear all black and dream about leaving home for greener pastures, which are always wherever they are not currently. It's a good choice for high schools where graphic novels are popular. 

Ms. Yingling

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Jasmine Toguchi, Bridge Builder and Magnolia Wu Unfolds if All

Florence, Debbi Michiko and Vukovic, Elizabet (illus.).
Jasmine Toguchi, Bridge Builder (#7)
July 11, 2023 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jasmine is excited to be visiting Japan; after a few days visiting with her grandmother in the city, the family is on their way to stay with her grandmothers sister in rural Kabo. It's a gorgeous area, and Jasmine is amazed at how quiet and empty the nearby beach is. She hopes to get out and explore with her older sister Sophie. After a long ride, though, Sophie is hot and tired, and NOT happy with the bugs in the area of the frog in the bathroom. That just makes it more exciting for Jasmine. Sophie has been a little nicer to her, calling her "Squirt" again, but doesn't want to ride on a teeter totter (she's afraid of heights), run around on the beach (too hot and sweaty), or go exploring to trap cicadas (bugs, igh!). Her mother is busy visiting with relatives and reminiscing, and the conversation is often in Japanese, making it hard for Jasmine to follow. There is an Obon festival coming up, but the adults work on setting up and don't want Jasmine involved. Jasmine gets into a little trouble, climbing a tree and breaking a branch when she is told not too, but her mother is very understanding, especially since she did something similar herself when she was younger. The festival goes well, and Jasmine and Sophie are able to spend some time together. It's not a perfect vacation, but Jasmine is able to make good memories even though she misses home. 
Strengths: I'm a big fan of seeing what daily life is like in other parts of the world, so getting to take a virtual trip to rural Japan was a big treat. Florence has a nice note in the back that explains that this is based on what Kabo was like when she was a child, and that it's even smaller now, but getting a glimpse at the local celebrations, the beach, and a visit with family was very fun. The illustrations are charming as well. 
Weaknesses: I'm going to have to go back and read Jasmine Toguchi, Peace-Maker, where the family is visiting in Hiroshima, since there are mentions of the grandmother's house there and I feel like I missed a lot by not reading all of the books. These are a bit young for my students, but I like them personally. 
What I really think: I would love to see Florence put ALL of her energy writing middle grade books like This is How I Roll, Sweet and Sour, and Keep it Together, Keiko Carter, but this is a fantastic series for elementary school students who enjoyed Sheth's Nina Soni, Potter's Piper Green, or Brown's Lola Levine books.

Miller, Chanel. Magnolia Wu Unfolds it All
April 23, 2024 by Philomel Books
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Magnolia is ten, and spends most of her days at the Bing Qi Ling Bubbles Laundromat that her parents run. Her only friend has moved away, and she has little interest in making new ones, even though it means that her birthday party will be a little sad. Her mother has a friend, Mrs. Lam, who works nearby as a dance instructor, and she brings her daughter Iris to hang out with Magnolia. Iris has just moved from California, and thinks it is better than New York, so Magnolia sets out to show her all of the interesting things about the neighborhood. Magnolia has a bulletin board at the laundry filled with single socks, and after an angry customer is mean to her mother and derides the board, Magnolia decides that she should investigate and try to return the socks to their owners, with Iris' help. The two start to ask questions, and talk to a lot of neighborhood business owners, running errands for them as they look for clues as to who might belong to the socks. They track down yarn at the Knitty Bitty shop, which leads them to Alan, who also plays piano. They stop by a pizza parlor and bookstore, and meet Jessica, who plays soccer and is rather lonely. When there is grafitti in the neighborhood that says "Go home!", Iris is sad, so Magnolia tries to recreate a California beach with cat litter. After finding the home of the final sock, which smells like coconut, the two girls are friends, and feel closer to their neighborhood. 
Strengths: This had a bit of a vintage feel to it, with Magnolia having some Harriet the Spy (Fitzhugh) or A Girl Called Al (Greene) vibes. Living in suburbia, I am enthralled by vibrant city landscapes, but I also find it hard to believe that they really exist! Magnolia and Iris are allowed a fair amount of freedom to wander about and meet people, which is delightful. There are plentiful page decorations, which is something I would like to see more in middle grade literature. 
Weaknesses: The illustrations are a bit odd, and Magnolia and Iris have many philosophical discussions with the people in their neighborhood that seem a bit deeper than conversations ten year olds usually have. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for younger readers who like books that center around neighborhoods, like Vivat's Meet Me on Mercer Street, LaCoer and Albert's The Apartment House on Poppy Hill, or Finnegan's Sunny Parker is Here to Stay
Ms. Yingling

Friday, July 12, 2024

Guy Friday- Bodega Cats: Picture Purrfect

Burgos, Hilda Eunice. and Faison, Siara (illus.) Bodega Cats: Picture Purrfect
July 23, 2024 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Miguel lives in Washington Heights, New York City, where his parents run a bodega. He's not particularly happy; he just had a birthday, and his Mami and Papi got him gifts that reflect their interests, not his own. He thought that by asking for a dog, he might get the art supplies he requested, but they think art is a waste of time. Being an engineer is a much better plan, so they encourage math and science related pursuits. When he plucks and adorable and helpless kitten from the street, his parents let him feed it, and when his great uncle, Tio Diego, encourages them, the cat is allowed to stay at the store. We hear from Lolo as well; life on the streets is hard, and the food and comfort that Miguel provides is very welcome. Lolo is alarmed when Miguel leaves, but is invested in catching mice and "protecting" the bodega. Customers warm to the cat, feeding him small tidbits of their purchases. Miguel really wants to attend the art club at his school, which meets on Tuesdays, but his parents claim they need him to help at the store. His cousin Yesenia encourages him to come, but he can't bring himself to engage in yet another battle with them. Another cat shows up, whom the mother names Preciosa, and Lolo is not pleased with the new interloper. Miguel manages to fool his parents into signing a permission slip which they think is for a robotics club, and goes to art club, where his teacher is pleased with his drawings. We also see some of his comic books included in the story. When there is a field trip to a museum, Miguel again practices some subterfuge; he is supposed to stay with Tio Diego in his apartment, to help out since the older man has broken his arm, but instead he tells Tio he has to go back to the bodega to help. On his way to the museum, with Lolo in tow, he sees Preciosa being menaced by other cats in the park. Preciosa, who is pregnant, is injured, and the art teacher calls the vet.  Miguel stays with her until help arrives. Unfortunately, during this time, Tio Diego manages to set his toaster on fire, and while he is safe, Miguel's ruse is uncovered. Will Miguel be able to make his parents see the value of his artistic abilities?
Strengths: This is a great choice for younger middle grade readers who are navigating how to follow their own dreams despite getting pushback from parents. I loved that Miguel had responsibilities in the store even though he was only in fifth grade. His care for Lolo is also nice to see, and Lolo's opinions are expressed in appropriately cat like ways. Seeing Miguel's extended family working together, and his parents both being involved in his life, was refreshing as well. The bodega is an interesting setting to someone from the suburbs, and I could have used more scenes set there. Maybe we'll see that in the sequel, Just Kitten Around, out January 21, 2025. 
Weaknesses: Miguel expresses his displeasure in his parents' decision in less than optimal ways, although I was glad to see him working hard and not complaining to try to convince them of the validity of his interests. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed the graphic novels Doodles from the Boogie Down or Art Club, or books narrated in part from a cat's point of view like Eldredge's Nimbus or Lloyd's Haven: A Small Cat's Big Adventure.

Remember, as a former (and very bitter) Latin teacher, I am not a huge fan of following dreams that will not necessarily lead to remunerative employment. It just leads to disappointment. I'm glad that Miguel acknowledges that he might have to have another job, but can still pursue art as a hobby. 

Ms. Yingling

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Old Willis Place

Hahn, Mary Downing. The Old Wills Place 
Graphic novel adapted by Scott Peterson; 
Meredith Laxton and Sienna Haralson (Illustrators) 
July 16, 2024 by Clarion Books 
E ARC provided by Netgalley

**Spoilers, if you haven't read the 2004 original.**

Diana and Georgie are intrigued when yet another caretaker moves into the trailer on the old Wills place. The remote property has been derelict for years, ever since Lilian Willis died and the county took ownership of it. Diana would like to have a friend, but Georgie reminds her of the "rules" that they have to follow after a horrible thing happened. Diana and Georgie's father died, and their mother worked for Mrs. Willis, who was very mean to everyone, especially the children. Lissa, the caretaker's daughter. lost her mother when she was very young, and has lived a peripatetic lifestyle with her writer father, who used to teach but now takes small jobs to keep the two financially afloat while he tries to write. Lissa writes in her diary about the creepy things that people say happen at the house, but doesn't quite believe them. When her bike is stolen and ruined, even though the property is fenced and no one should have been able to get in, and she hears weird noises, she starts to doubt herself. Diana is so curious that she breaks into Lissa's room while she is sleeping, and Georgie steals Tedward, the stuffed bear Lissa's mother had given her. This is alarming, but Lissa eventually agrees to meet Diana. Diana and Georgie live in an abandoned shack, never wear shoes, and look like feral children, but never seem to be cold or hungry. Having scared Lissa with her appearance once, she cleans up and finds old clothes of Mrs. Willis' that aren't rags. Lissa is less scared of her, and the two become somewhat reluctant friends. There are questions, of course, but Diana tells Lissa and her father that their family lives across the highway in a new housing development. When Lissa breaks the rules and goes into the house because she wants to see a ghost, she unleashes Mrs. Willis' ghost. Once this happens, the true nature of Diana and Georgie's existence is revealed, and the new friends must work together to rectify the situations of the past. 
Strengths: There are several other graphic novel adaptations of Hahn's work (Took, All the Lovely Bad Ones, Wait Till Helen Comes), and there are still lots of fans for her creepy, violent ghost stories. The artwork is nicely atmospheric, and Diana and Georgie's feral lifestyle is captured well. Lissa makes very typical tween decisions, not all of which are good, and this leads to some of the problems. It's good to address these problems, of course, since they have existed for a very long time. Astute readers will pick up on the clues that tell us how long this has been. This has a nicely formulaic feel to it (although not as formulaic as Betty Ren Wright's work) that makes it somewhat less scary. 
Weaknesses: This is really a rather disturbing book. The mystery of Diana and Georgie is (highlight for spoilers) that they were locked in a basement room by Mrs. Willis when they irritated her, and the old lady then suffered a stroke and the children died in the room. No one ever questioned Mrs. Willis, and she was never punished. Lissa informs her father and the police, and the decades old bodies are removed from the house. 
What I really think: I'm not sure that my graphic novel readers will read the diary entries, which are just text. I don't have a copy of the original book to compare them to, but assume they are pretty much copied from the novel. I might buy a copy anyway, since there aren't that many creepy graphic novels, but this wasn't my favorite, since the ick factor was pretty high. I don't think I would put it in an elementary school library. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Quince Project

Parra, Jessica. The Quince Project
May 28, 2024 by Wednesday Books
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Castillo Torres is bound and determined to earn her Happily Ever After; going to college to study event planning after an internship with the famous Mandy Whitmore. She's planned lots of things; events at school, and some parties, after her older sister Po's quinceañera ended in disaster. Of course, part of the reason for the disaster was that their mother had recently passed away. This has had a huge effect on her family; Po is drifting through her last year in high school, working at a restaurant, and not doing the college planning that Cas would like her to, their Dad is working a lot and playing video games when he is home, instead of cooking dinner and talking to the girls, and Cas has thrown herself into her party planning and her future. She's worried about the internship, but when she and Po are at DisneyWorld (which was their mother's favorite place), they run into prominent social media influencer Paulina. Cas hints that she is actually an intern with Mandy already, and manages to get Paulina to hire her to plan her deconstructed quinceañera. Po has a huge crush on Paulina, so is glad to help her sister out. When Cas meets cute lifeguard Javier, she also lets him believe she is working with Mandy, and he gets roped into being the chambelán. Paulina has quite the vision for her celebration, including the fact that it's not actually going to be a party; it's all about posting the planning on her social media! Desperate to have the party on her resume, Cas goes along with it, planning dances with light sabers and working on unusual clothing choices. Her relationship with Javier gets closer and closer, and the two eventually share a kiss... and manage to knock over an ice sculpture. Party planning in not easy, but Cas sees it as a way to give everyone the happy ending that she doesn't feel her mother got. When she eventually gets an interview with Mandy, she gets the internship, but this means that Paulina and Javier find out that she lied to them. After an emotional argument with Po, Cas sees some problems with the way she has dealt with her mother's death. Will she be able to keep her internship, reconcile with Javier, get Po off to college, and help her family heal?

Cas' desire to go to college in order to study event planning was good to see, although I'm not entirely sure that having an internship or a huge social media presence would really be necessary. She is not only building her own resume, but trying to get Po to work on her own. Still, this is better to see than high school students who have no plans at all! Even though Cas is very driven, she does have a very sweet relationship with Javier, and their ups and downs are easily evened out. 

There are lots of good details about the fictional Mateo Beach High School, and fans of Disney and Star Wars will appreciate all of the shout outs. Readers who are fascinated with social media will wish that they could follow Paulinaland.

It was good to see that even though the characters in the book were over 15, this book would be suitable for readers younger than that age who are perhaps looking forward to their own quinceañera and want a taste of all of the drama and pagentry that goes along with this milestone celebration. There are some excellent books from the point of view of the celebrant, like Osa's Cuba 15, Greene's Chasing the Jaguar, Fajardo's Miss Quinces, and Adler's Sweet 15,  but also some books where younger characters have older relatives who are planning celebrations, like Lopez' Lucky Luna and Howard's Pugs and Kisses that give good details about all of the planning. 

This was more of a young adult length, and there was a lot of repetition. Cas spends a vast amount of time thinking about her mother's death, and we hear about the quinceañera disaster and Javier's lavendar scented shampoo a few too many times. I might but this for a high school library, but will pass for middle school. 

Ms. Yingling

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

The Pale Queen

Aldridge, Ethan M. The Pale Queen
June 25, 2024 by Quill Tree
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Agatha is a young girl in a small village in approximately 1880. (The setting of the book reminds me of the television series Lark Rise to Candleford, with carriages and hearth fires, but also girls trying to have more opportunies, so that's my best guess). She is working as a tutor to young Peter Garcia, but would love to be able to study astronomy at the university, but her family is too poor. The Garcias treat her well, even if Peter is a bit squirrely, but she would love to leave the small town and see more of the world. Local boy Claude, whose family runs the prosperous town store, won't stop bothering her, which adds to her irritation. She has seen a wolf lingering around town, and when she steps on an odd nest and breaks it, she has an even creepier experience. The Lady of the Hills introduces herself, and has the same yellow eyes as the wolf. Not only that, but she fastens a bracelet around Agatha's wrist and tells her to meet her in the middle of the night. Agatha's parents tell her it is a hag stone, which could be valuable but also is attached to dark magic. Sure enough, in the middle of the night, the bracelet wakes Agatha up and forces her out into the woods. There, she meets the Lady, as well as Hyacinth, her minion, who attaches himself to Agatha. The two have to watch and guard a rare plant, which is almost damaged by strange bugs. Agatha doesn't really want to talk to the Lady, but is oddly in her thrall. When she mentions Claude to the Lady, he is quickly turned into a pig my the Lady's spells. While that wasn't exactly what Agatha had wanted, she doesn't argue too strenuously about it. A Garcia cousin, Heather, shows up. She is studying literature, and Agatha is entranced by her knowledge and kindness. The two spend lots of time together, but Agatha is also bound more and more to the Lady and her all night escapades, and Hyacinth is living in a small space in her house, keeping an eye on her. When the Lady sees that Agatha would rather spend time with Heather, she freezes all of the Garcias. It's not easy to extricate herself from the Lady's evil plans, but Agatha manages to do so. In the end, Ms. Garcia agrees to fund Agatha's studies at the Dulac Academy with Heather, and the two set off for the big city. But are they really leaving the Lady behind? 
Strengths: Aldridge's illustrations are always lovely, and this captures the Victorian era well. He also does a good creepy setting, so the Lady is quite disturbing, as are her minions and monsters. Another reviewer compared Hyacinth to the characters in Henson and Oz's 1982 The Dark Crystal, and while I've never seen the movie, the likeness is certainly there. Young readers who like LGBTQIA+ romances will find Agatha and Heather's new relationship to be very sweet, and the fact that they are able to go out into the larger world and study together very satisfying. There's plenty of dealing with the dark arts, although Agatha is eventually able to free herself. Readers who liked Aldridge's creepy novel Deephaven will be glad to be able to have a graphic novel where they can see pictures of all the characters. 
Weaknesses: It seemed a little surprising that Agatha didn't know right away that the Lady was nothing but evil, and allowed herself to get caught in her thrall. Claude wasn't nice, but he also wasn't horrible enough to have to spend the rest of his life as a pig; when Agatha and Heather head out of town in a carriage, he is shown in the background! 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like Zhou's Atana and the Firebird or Ostertag's The Girl From the Sea. It reminded me a little bit of Jones' Need, with its evil fairies, except that Agatha didn't fight against the Lady quite soon enough!