Sunday, November 15, 2020

More Wonderful Debut MG Novels from #the21ders! for #IMWAYR

 Hi Everyone!

It's been a couple of bizarre weeks here in the US, with the votes finally counted, and the outgoing president refusing to concede to the newly-elected (and rightfully-elected) one! 

I handle the anxiety by reading, as usual. I decided to join #IMWAYR, hosted, as far as I can tell by Book Date! And I just found out there's one for Kidlit at Unleashing Readers! Yes, I know it's Sunday, but hey, most people won't read this post until tomorrow, right?

Here's my second installment of reviews of upcoming debut novels by my fellow MG 21ders. These are books I've been privileged to read already (usually via e-arcs from the publisher and Edelweiss+ or Netgalley).  In case you missed it, my last review post is here.

You're in for more treats, as all of these MG novels are most impressive! And... all of these wonderful books are available for pre-order! I've included links to the publishers (just click on each title), and also links to Bookshop this time (if available). When you order from Bookshop it helps Indie bookstores everywhere. Thank you!

The Gilded Girl by Alyssa Colman (April 6, 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)

What a delightful tale! This is a fantasy reimagining of A Little Princess, but even if you're not familiar with that classic, you'll still enjoy this gorgeously-written, fast-paced story set in 1890s New York City, instead of England. The main characters are Emma, a rich girl, and Izzy, a servant at the academy where Emma's wealthy father enrolls her to learn how to kindle her magic. In the impressive world Colman has created, children must learn to kindle their magic at the age of 12, before it snuffs out at age 13. But only the rich can afford to pay for this education.

Compelling and fast-paced, this is a joy to read. The author has created a fully-realized magical world, with clever details, the perfect villain, loyal friends, and social commentaries that are timely today. Plus, BEST. OPENING. LINE. EVER!

Order from Bookshop

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar: The Chronicles of Astranthia # 1,  by Payal Doshi (May 2021, Mango and Marigold Press)

A compelling MG fantasy adventure, with gorgeous, evocative language and highly-imaginative elements. Rea and her twin brother Rohan are about to turn 12 in Darjeeling, India. They live with their mother (Amma) and grandmother (Bajai) and life is sometimes difficult. Amma and Bajai seem to pay more attention to Rohan, and Rea is jealous. On the night of their 12th birthday, their mother and grandmother warn them to stay in the house, but Rohan slips out to meet his friends, and Rea follows him, along with her friend Leela. Then Rohan goes missing and Rea and Leela search for him. With advice from a fortune teller, they enter another world, Astranthia, a place of magic, flowers, and fairy folk. Queen Razya is deliciously evil, the perfect villain, right up there with Maleficent. If you enjoy portal fantasies, you will love this imaginative tale.

Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler (January 12, 2021, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)

A beautifully-written and moving story about a young girl's grief for her father, a famous artist, who died a year ago. He was known mostly for his asterisms, paintings of made-up constellations, one which represented himself and one his wife. He had planned to paint one of Georgia, but then he died. 

When Georgia's mother starts putting together a retrospective exhibit on Georgia's dad for the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, she brings home stacks of papers. Georgia finds a previously-unknown sketch of herself at age 10, and discovers something amazing on the back. Around this same time, she gets into a fight with her best friend, Theo. He urges her to enter an art contest for students, the one he's entering. But Georgia is no longer sure if she wants to be an artist like her dad. She's no longer sure of anything.

This touching story of Georgia's twelfth year, and the compelling MG voice, will draw you in from the first page. The art mystery itself will intrigue you. Art, Science and Astronomy all come together in this brilliant contemporary novel.  

Thanks, a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 11, 2021, Amulet Books/Abrams)

I love this novel! 

Told in alternating first person points of view, this delightful story of Brian and Ezra, two boys turning thirteen and learning to navigate the often-confusing world of adolescence, will pull you in from the first page. When you reach the inciting incident (quite early on), you'll be hooked until you finish reading! No spoilers here, though.

Many one-sentence paragraphs help make the pace lightning-fast. I read this in two days, which is some kind of miraculous record for me. Especially since I was reading the e-ARC on my laptop. (No, I don't own a Kindle!)

The most diverse cast I've seen in many years of reading MG, and it's all handled in a smart, sophisticated way. Brian's social anxiety (which he calls his Super Awkward Weirdness Syndrome) comes across perfectly, and the way Ezra learns to accept his own nature is endearing. The humor, especially in the dialogue, is wonderful! Chad Lucas is a writer to watch out for. I can't wait to read whatever he writes next!

Up next for me, two more debut 2021 MG novels, An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke, and The Nightmare Thief by Nicole Lesperance. 

What have you read lately?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A First Look at Some 2021 MG Debut Novels

Hi, everyone!

In an effort to avoid reading the news, listening to the news, and getting stressed out over the election here in the U.S. as well as the surging Covid cases (all over the world AND here), I've decided to resurrect my sadly-neglected little blog about books!

And the best use for this blog right now is to support and promote the first group of my fellow MG 21ders! (My own debut MG novel, EVERYWHERE BLUE, arrives June 1, 2021 from Holiday House. No cover yet. Sigh. It'll be revealed in January. For now, here's the Goodreads link.)

As a 21der, I have the honor and privilege of reading as many ARCs of the 21ders' books as I can. I won't be able to read all of them in a year or two -- there are 50 of us MG debut authors alone, and twice as many YA debut authors!

Please support these wonderful authors and consider pre-ordering their books from Bookshop, Indiebound, or your local Indie bookstore, or if you insist, from B&N or Amazon. You can even order direct from the publisher! I'm including the publisher links here.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE by Christina Li, HarperCollins, January 12, 2021

Told in alternating points of view, this lovely story of two very different 12-year-olds who become friends will resonate with you. Ro, grieving for her dead father, loves science and wants to build a rocket. Benji loves comic books and wants to find his father, who left his family a long time ago.

A quietly beautiful story about connections. The characters feel so real to me!  Ro and Benji will linger in my mind for quite a while. I love their growing friendship and the way they help each other through some tough times.  (I  actually posted about this book in September)

ALONE by Megan E. Freeman,  Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, January 12, 2021

A compelling novel in verse about 12-year-old Maddie, who is left behind when her town is mysteriously evacuated overnight. How she learns to survive makes for a fascinating read. In fact, I read this in one day. The verse format is perfect for this intensely emotional story, with absorbing details about Maddie's life on her own, accompanied only by a neighbor's dog.

TAKE BACK THE BLOCK by Chrystal D. Giles, Random House Children's Books, January 26, 2021

Fast-paced and exciting story about one boy's growing awareness of social justice. I'm so impressed by the voice in this novel! Twelve-year-old Wes feels like a real boy to me, with real worries about his friends and his neighborhood. His growth, from someone in the beginning who cares most about his shoes and clothes and video games, to a socially-aware and strong leader among his neighbors and classmates, is phenomenal! The writing style is highly accessible, and middle-grade readers will learn about gentrification and social injustice without even realizing they're learning. A powerful, timely read.

A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON by Kate Albus, Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, Feb 2, 2021

Orphaned siblings join other evacuees from London during World War II, and seek a home in the country. They deal with bullies in their first billet, and overcrowded conditions in their second. But they manage to handle it all because they find solace in the local library.

I fell in love with this novel from the very first page. What a delightful story! William, Edmund, and Anna will steal your heart, and you'll find yourself racing to finish to learn if they find a forever home (and if it's the one you hope!). But at the same time, you'll want to slow down and savor this book, because it's such a wonderful read and filled with so many gorgeous, and very quotable, lines. (But since I read an e-arc, I'm not supposed to quote from it!)

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Next time: I'll be discussing THE GILDED GIRL by Alyssa Colman, REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR by Payal Doshi, MANY POINTS OF ME by Caroline Gertler, and THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE by Chad Lucas. 

It's lovely to have so much to read when I'm trying to escape from the world right now! How are you handling these unprecedented times? Stay safe, everyone!