Monday, May 30, 2011

MMGM -- The Bartimaeus Trilogy

Middle-Grade novels are coming up in the world!  Last year, when I was lucky enough to attend BEA as a bookseller, I got the chance to sit in on the YA Editors' Buzz Panel. This year, according to PW, not only was there a YA Buzz panel, but there was also, for the first time, a Middle-Grade Buzz Panel! Check out the fantastic Fall 2011 MG books previewed there.

And in the same issue of PW's Children's Bookshelf, I read that YA authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong will collaborate on a new MG trilogy about three 12-year-olds descended from Norse gods who have to stop the impending apocalypse.  Sounds cool, no?  Book one is scheduled for spring 2013 and I can't wait!

Clearly, MG is the new YA.  Publishers must have been reading all of our MMGM blogs! (heh heh) 

Now onto today's MMGM recommendation:

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud  (published by Disney-Hyperion, and I'd say it's fine for ages 10 to 14, although some websites say young adult and some websites say 9 to 12!)

Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand (originally published in hardcover in 2003)

And I have to admit I like that original cover better than this newer cover:

I think that's supposed to be Bartimaeus, but, man, it's a tough sell.   That's one scary-looking creature!

Book Two:  The Golem's Eye (2004)

Book Three:  Ptolemy's Gate (2005)

All are available in paperback, of course, and as a three-book paperback boxed set (pubbed Sept 2010).  To see all the cool foreign covers, visit the author's website. 

Source:  hardcovers purchased from the store where I work!

In the first book, Nathaniel is an eleven-year-old magician's apprentice. Teased by a nasty magician named Simon Lovelace, Nathaniel (who thinks he knows magic) wants revenge.  So he calls up an ancient djinni named Bartimaeus, but then he can't control him! Nathaniel sends Bartimaeus to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand and finds himself caught up in a web of magic, intrigue and murder.

As the trilogy progresses, Nathaniel grows up.  In Book Two, he's 14 and learning more and more magic.  Now a clay golem is wreaking havoc on London. Nathaniel and Bartimaeus must figure out the source of its power.

In Book Three, Nathaniel turns 17 and takes a job at Parliament.  Britain's at war, London's under attack, and the commoners are rebelling. To top it off, Bartimaeus is growing weak from spending too much time in the human world.  Nathaniel's longtime rival, Kitty, has been quietly working on a project to dissolve the hostility between humans and djinn. Will Nathaniel help her?  And will he realize what he's doing to Bartimaeus before it's too late?

Why I liked it:
Set in an alternative London (magicians run Parliament), this is a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a trilogy.  The writing is brilliant, imaginative, and rich in detail. Chapters about Nathaniel are written in third person, interspersed with first-person chapters from Bartimaeus's point of view.  And trust me:  Bartimaeus has all the funniest lines (anyone remember the genie voiced by Robin Williams in Disney's Aladdin?  That was who I pictured as I read this).  But these books are not all fun and games.  In fact, the ending of the trilogy is pretty intense. On the whole, this three-book set is definitely worth owning.  Filled with action, adventure, and magic, The Bartimaeus Trilogy would be enjoyed by fans of Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter.

Note that there is a new prequel to the trilogy, Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon (Hyperion, Nov 10, 2010) but I haven't read it.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.  Go see what she's up to.

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso

Has anyone read any of these books?  What did you think?  And if not, what middle grade marvels have you read recently?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- The Friendship Doll -- and WINNERS announcement

First, I need to announce the winners in my Grey Griffins Giveaway!

The winner of the signed hardcover copy of The Brimstone Key is:

Deb Marshall

The winner of the signed hardcover copy of The Relic Hunters is:

Lenny Lee

YAY!  Congrats to the winners! Email me your addresses (JoanneRFritz AT gmail DOT com) so I can mail your prizes out to you!  And thanks so much to everyone for entering.  If you didn't win, never fear, there will be more giveaways in the future.  My bookshelves are overloaded.

Second, to anyone who reads my blog in Google Reader: my apologies for that "extra" Grey Griffins post that, um, mysteriously got posted on Friday night.  Silly me.  Still trying to figure out a way to schedule comments to be turned off at 11:59 pm without having to stay up that late  (Note to Blogger coders: we  need this kinda thing!).  Of course it didn't occur to me that if I SCHEDULED comments to be turned off, I was SCHEDULING a whole spankin' new post.  Duh.

Third, let's get to today's MMGM post.  (And it's about time! Whew!)

The Friendship Doll, by Kirby Larson (Delacorte Press, May 10, 2011, for ages 8 to 12).

Source:  advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):  I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of Bunny, bent on revenge; Lois, with her head in the clouds; Willie Mae, who not only awakened my heart, but broke it; and Lucy, a friend so dear, not even war could part us. I have put this tale to paper because from those 58 Friendship Dolls only 45 remain. I know that someone who chooses this book is capable of solving the mystery of the missing sisters. Perhaps that someone is you.

Why I liked it:  Okay, I have to admit I was put off at first by the idea of the doll telling the story.  I was afraid it would be coy.  But the doll's few brief monologues actually serve as a clever framework to hold together four quite different stories (told in third person) about four very different girls during the Great Depression, Bunny in New York in 1927, Lois in Illinois in 1933, Willie Mae in Kentucky in 1937 and Lucy, who travels from Oklahoma to Oregon in 1939, as her Dad searches for work.  And in the space of 30 or 40 pages for each girl, Kirby Larson manages to bring them fully to life. The writing is clear and concise and the details are wonderful.  These are painless history lessons disguised as entertaining stories about four girls who are each touched in some way by their encounter with Miss Kanagawa.  I had never heard of these Friendship Dolls before, so I definitely learned something! 

Warning:  Not all of these stories end happily, but there is enough sweetness to balance the sadness.  If you liked Moon Over Manifest, or Kirby Larson's own previous book, the Newbery honor-winning Hattie Big Sky, you would enjoy this.

What middle grade historical novels have YOU read and loved?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Go visit KM Walton's blog -- NOW!

Okay, isn't this the coolest cover you've ever seen?  Go visit Some Things I Think, the fun blog of author K.M. Walton, also known as Kate, whose YA debut novel CRACKED comes out March 6, 2012 from Simon Pulse.  She has a fantastic contest going on to celebrate the cover reveal.   If you're not already following her, you should!  (And not just because she lives in my hometown and I know her!)

YAY for local authors who make it big!  Yay for Kate!  Yay for CRACKED.   I cannot wait to read this.

Based on the cover alone, wouldn't you buy this book?


And don't forget my own Grey Griffins Giveaway, also known as the Whew-I-Finally-Reached-100-Followers-Man-It's-About-Time Giveaway, which ends at 11:59 pm EDT on Friday May 20, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- Grey Griffins Giveaway!

(Ooo, I like the alliteration in that title!)

Thanks to Shannon Whitney Messenger, who raved about them in this post from last year, I discovered The Grey Griffins by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis.  And I especially love their new series, The Clockwork Chronicles.  

Book 1, The Brimstone Key is now out in paperback!  Book 2, The Relic Hunters just pubbed in hardcover, both from Little, Brown, for ages 8 to 12.

Source: advanced reading copies from the publisher

Synopsis of Brimstone Key (from the publisher):  

A brand new adventure starring The Grey Griffins!

Max---the leader
Natalia---the brains
Ernie---the changeling
Harley---the muscle

A year ago, the Grey Griffins were just regular kids from Avalon, Minnesota. That was before they learned about the existence of evil fairies, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. Now they are monster-hunters, celebrated heroes, and allies to the legendary Templar knights---but even heroes have to go to school. When the Griffins enroll at Iron Bridge Academy, a school to train young recruits in the fight against the forces of evil, they find themselves at the center of a whole new adventure. The Clockwork King, a Templar foe from days past, has returned to finish the plan he set in motion decades ago. A plot to steal the souls of changelings---humans infused with fairy blood and supernatural abilities---in order to power his army of clockwork war machines. In The Brimstone Key, authors Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis deftly blend the mystical wonder of steampunk with magic and adventure to create an action-packed thrill ride.

Why I liked it:   It's fun! Nonstop action and adventure with four great characters who always have each other's backs.  I love the world that Derek Benz and Jon Lewis have created, filled with magic and high-tech gadgetry.  I'm a sucker for books about kids with special talents attending a prestigious academy, and no, this is definitely not Harry Potter!  The steampunk element really ratchets up the excitement. And there are plenty of sly inside jokes, like when Ernie has to report to Sendak Hall.  So clever.  My hat's off to Derek and Jon.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
UPDATE: adding Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso

And now for the Giveaway!

As a bookseller, I often get to meet really cool people. Derek and Jon stopped by the bookstore recently, and since, uh, there weren't many customers (it was kind of a last minute stop for them), they talked to me and another bookseller for a while and then both got busy signing stock and sprucing up my display in their own unique way.  Thanks, guys!

While Jon was busy drawing this poster for the bookstore...

Our unique table display, thanks to Jon and Derek!

Enlarged to show the detail of Max Sumner and Sprig!

...Derek concentrated on drawing original illustrations next to the half title pages in The Brimstone Key and The Relic Hunters

And because of their visit, I'm excited to offer a
fantastic giveaway this week.

One SIGNED hardcover copy of The Brimstone Key goes to one lucky winner.  


One SIGNED hardcover copy of The Relic Hunters goes to ANOTHER lucky winner.  

These aren't merely signed by both authors.  They're decorated with original art by Derek Benz. They look like this:

Grey Griffins The Clockwork Chronicles Book 1: The Brimstone Key

Grey Griffins The Clockwork Chronicles 2: The Relic Hunters

All you have to do to enter is:

1) Be a follower 
2) Comment on this post

That's it!  Easy, right?  This giveaway is open internationally and will end at 11:59 pm EDT on Friday May 20, 2011.  I'll let randomizer pick two lucky winners. 

UPDATE: This giveaway is now CLOSED.  I'll announce the winners on Monday May 23.

*and don't worry -- you're not taking my copies.  I have THIS:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Libba Bray does it again!

Coming May 24, 2011 from Scholastic, Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, for ages 13 and up.

Source:  advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Survival. Of the fittest.

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program—or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan—or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of the non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

Why I liked it:  It's hysterical.  We're talking laugh-out-loud funny!  Even the footnotes are hilarious.  It's also the most quotable YA book I've read in years.  And dang it all, I can't quote from the ARC.  But while I was reading it a month ago, I was constantly stopping to snort and giggle and then I'd read a passage out loud to the grouch my husband, who, let's just say, doesn't read young adult.

And he laughed.

Seriously.  This book manages to parody everything you can think of about modern culture.  Beauty pageants, of course.  But also boy bands, those awful Bratz dolls, make-up commercials, exfoliating products, sex changes, Lost, big corporations, airlines, secret arms deals, reality shows, you name it.  The only thing I wonder is if a 13-year-old would find it as funny as I did.  Most of the humor is pretty dark and sophisticated. 

Libba Bray's a genius.  She manages to juggle a huge cast of characters and yet you remember who each one is.  And you find yourself involved in what happens to these girls and whether they can survive.  But mostly you find yourself laughing.

Has anyone read this yet?  

If not, what funny young adult novels have you loved?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- The Shadow Children Sequence

Remember The Shadow Children Sequence, by Margaret Peterson Haddix?

Among the Hidden, 1998

Among the Imposters, 2001

Among the Betrayed, 2002

Among the Barons, 2003

Among the Brave, 2004

Among the Enemy, 2005

Among the Free, 2006

Note that these books should be read in order, starting with Among the Hidden, hardcover published 1998, paperback March 2000, Simon & Schuster (for ages 8 to 12, though it may be more appropriate for 10 to 14 due to intense situations and issues raised).

I love all seven of these books, but to keep this short I'll just talk about the first one, Among the Hidden.

Source:  paperback purchased from the store where I work!

Synopsis (from the publisher):
Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. 

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows -- does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?

Why I liked it:  Thrilling and suspenseful, these books were dystopian long before it became a buzzword.  The worldbuilding is masterfully done.  The characters seem real (and you'll find yourself rooting for them from the beginning). 

Although these books have been out for years, they're among my favorite middle grade novels of all time.  Haddix has a newer series now, but I often steer customers toward these instead.  Compelling?  You bet!  Once you start reading, you won't be able to stop.  In fact, you'll find yourself racing through these books to find out what happens.  

I read the first two books before I started working at the bookstore.  Back then I was reading them with my kids.  Books 3 through 7 pubbed since I came to the store.  I devoured each one as soon as it appeared.  You lucky people who haven't read them before can now read one right after the other without having to wait.

What's your favorite, most compelling middle grade read?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog

UPDATE:  Sheri Larsen talks about The Samantha Granger Experiment and has an author interview AND a  giveaway on her blog. 

And Michael Gettel-Gilmartin joins the MMGM community in his blog, Middle Grade Mafioso.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

KO's I Dig Reading Challenge Update

Last year, I posted this mid-year post about how many books I'd read.

This year, I'm doing things a little differently.

Some of you may remember that in March, after the disaster in Japan, I blogged about KO's I Dig Reading Challenge.   It's never too late to join.  There's no pressure. 

After you sign up on her blog,

         1. Just keep a list of how many books you read each month 
          2. Pledge to give a certain amount per book to charity 

The beauty of it is that YOU decide how much to give per book.  A penny per book, a dollar per book,  two dollars, whatever you can afford.  And if you're uncomfortable talking about money, you don't have to tell us how much you gave. You can keep that to yourself.

To recap the year in books and donations so far:

In January, I read:

1. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate -- Jacqueline Kelly
2. Words in the Dust -- Trent Reedy
3. Darkest Mercy -- Melissa Marr
4. Ship Breaker -- Paolo Bacigalupi
5. Cliff Hanger: Mysteries in Our National Parks -- Gloria Skurzynski
6. Season of Secrets -- Sally Nichols
7. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu -- Wendy Wan-Long Shang
8. An Abundance of Katherines -- John Green
9. All You Get is Me -- Yvonne Prinz
10. Drought -- Pam Bachorz
11. See What I See -- Gloria Whelan

I didn't actually join KO's challenge until February, but I'd already given money to my local fire company, and it was enough to cover those 11 books.

In February, I read:
12. Cloaked -- Alex Flinn
13.The Wonder of Charlie Anne -- Kimberly Newton Fusco
14. Tending to Grace -- Kimberly Newton Fusco
15. The Last Sacrifice -- Richelle Mead
16. What Happened to Goodbye -- Sarah Dessen
17. Awaken -- Katie Kacvinsky
18. Strings Attached -- Judy Blundell
19. Like Mandarin -- Kirsten Hubbard
20. Small as an Elephant -- Jennifer Richard Jacobson
21. Wither -- Lauren DeStefano
22. Turtle in Paradise -- Jennifer Holm

For those eleven books, I gave to the Alondra Hernandez fund (victim of a brain aneurysm rupture).

In March, I read:
23. The Trouble with Chickens -- Doreen Cronin
24. That Girl Lucy Moon -- Timberlake
25. Warp Speed -- Lisa Yee
26. Desires of the Dead -- Kimberly Derting
27. Out of the Dust -- Karen Hesse
28. Flip -- Martyn Bedford
29. The Great Hamster Massacre -- Katie Davies
30. The Last Little Blue Envelope -- Maureen Johnson
31. Sparrow Road -- Sheila O'Connor
32. Divergent -- Veronica Roth
33. Flutter -- Erin Moulton
34. The Resisters -- Eric Nylund

For those twelve books, I gave to Shelterbox for Japan.

In April, I read:
35. My Not-So-Still Life -- Liz Gallagher
36. You'll Like it Here (Everybody Does) -- Ruth White
37. Beauty Queens -- Libba Bray
38. Tighter -- Adele Griffin
39. A Tale of Two Castles -- Gail Carson Levine
40. Daddy Long Legs -- Jean Webster
41. The Lemonade Crime -- Jacqueline Davies
42. The Penderwicks at Point Mouette -- Jeanne Birdsall
43. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda -- Tom Angleberger

So I only read 9 books in April (I was, um, kinda busy getting my parents moved).  But I gave to one of my favorite charities, Smile Train.  Since I have a relative who was born with a cleft palate, I understand how life-changing this operation can be.

In short, I'm still keeping a list (as I've done since 2002) of what books I read.  But now I'm doing some good with that list. If you haven't followed KO at The Insect Collector yet, get on over there.  And join the I Dig Reading Challenge.

How many books have you read so far this year?  Which one was the most compelling?  (I'd have to say Divergent!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

Welcome to all my new followers!  Glad you're here.  And now on to today's MMGM: 

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf,  May 10, 2011, for ages 8 to 12)

Source: advance reader's copy from publisher. 

Synopsis: It's summertime, and while Dad, Iantha and little Ben are in England, the girls (along with their friend Jeffrey) are heading for a cottage in Maine with Aunt Claire.  All the girls, that is, except Rosalind (the oldest), who's going to New Jersey with a friend.  It will be the first time the Penderwicks have been split up.  Will Skye be able to handle being OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick)?  Will she remember Rosalind's careful instructions about Batty?  Will she be able to prevent disaster?

Why I liked it:  Jeanne Birdsall is truly in touch with her own childhood.  She's excellent at getting inside girls' heads, from the oldest to the youngest, even though it's written in third person.  Also, this third volume of the series takes place in Maine and I love Maine! 

The Penderwicks may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I find these books charming.  Each one has a warm, old-fashioned quality.  Nobody's texting or using a computer.  They're outdoors and they're interacting.  They're playing soccer or walking to the park or climbing on rocks.  They meet a new neighbor who's a musician like Jeffrey.  Jane tries to write a book about falling in love.  Skye tries to keep everyone from getting hurt.  Batty learns she has musical talent.

It helps if you've read the first two Penderwicks books, but it's not essential. This volume concentrates on Skye and, to a lesser extent, Jane.  Rosalind gets the first and last chapters. But don't worry: Batty has her moment in the spotlight and it's a fun one.  And their friend Jeffrey plays an important role.  There's a coincidence involving Jeffrey which is a bit hard to believe, but it certainly didn't ruin the book for me.

All in all, a fun read and a lovely book for summer.

What do you think?  Have you read any of The Penderwicks?  Do you like them or not?

Have you read any other marvelous middle grade books this week?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.

Other regulars:

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Ben Langhinrichs at My Comfy Chair
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy

Check out these other MMGM posts:
Anita Laydon Miller
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles 
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau