Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Frostblood--Shelf Awareness Pro

YA Review: Frostblood

Frostblood by Elly Blake (Little, Brown, $17.99 hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780316273251, January 10, 2017)

Elly Blake's Frostblood Saga series debut is an exciting fantasy of polar opposites in which darkness vies with light, and ice with fire.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby Otrera is a Fireblood from a remote mountain village, born with the ability to conjure "a river of heat"--and even fire--from "the well of flame [she'd] found in [her] deepest self." Her skin is unusually hot, and she has to be careful not to ignite things when her temper gets the best of her. Unfortunately, she lives in a land where the ruling class of Frostbloods wields ice, "a power in complete opposition" to Ruby's. The Frostbloods, under the reign of ruthless, tyrannical King Rasmus--the Frost King--have all but killed off the Firebloods they despise. Ruby's very existence endangers her village.

Ruby desperately wants to learn more about her gift, but with her grandmother gone, there is no one left to teach her properly. Before she can practice enough to gain any measure of control, the Frost King's soldiers discover and capture her. They kill her mother, destroy her village, and lock Ruby in Blackcreek Prison, where the cruel, drunken Frostblood guards throw buckets of freezing water on her, merely to watch her hot skin hiss and steam.

When a pair of Frostbloods breaks into the prison and offers Ruby sanctuary, eventual freedom and the chance to avenge her mother's death by killing the Frost King, she warily accepts. According to Brother Thistle, who runs an abbey dedicated to the god of the north wind Fors, and Arcus, the mysterious, hooded young man who lives there, Ruby may well be "the most powerful Fireblood left in the kingdom." Arcus and Brother Thistle begin training Ruby to master her gift so she can complete her task. In the process, Ruby and Arcus's teasing banter starts to heat up. The sparks that fly between them may not be unexpected, but they are fun to witness, especially as Ruby keeps glimpsing the handsome features of the "conceited icicle" beneath his ever-present hood, and his nicknames for her ("Lady Firebrand, "Thorn in My Backside," "my raging inferno") begin to escalate.

Their plan is abruptly accelerated when Ruby is betrayed by a monk, captured by Rasmus's soldiers and taken to the king's palace, where she begins to learn the true depths of the Frost King's cruelty. Forced to fight in his arena for the court's amusement, Ruby wonders whether she is the peacemaking "child of light" from an old prophecy, or rather a tool of the darkness.

At its core, Frostblood is the story of a young woman's struggle to understand herself, her power and her role in a world that loathes her. Ruby's first-person voice is powerful and passionate, and readers will want to know what's next for her in the Frostblood Saga. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI. 

Shelf Talker: This teen love story, wittily narrated by Love herself, follows a high school senior and bona fide Romantic through a series of amorous entanglements.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December Recommendations


I continue to enjoy the most excellent JACKABY series, by William Ritter. The title character, Mr. R. F. Jackaby, is a detective and a Seer of supernatural beings. In book three, called GHOSTLY ECHOES, narrator Abigail Rook and her boss, Jackaby, are investigating the decade-old murder case of their landlady, Jenny Cavanaugh, who is now a ghost. This world contains beings of all sorts, from vampires to chameleomorphs to Abigail’s half-man, half-hound boyfriend, Charlie. (YA)

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE, by Adam Gidwitz, is a loose adaptation of the Joan of Arc story, told by multiple narrators in the style of The Canterbury Tales for kids. It features Jeanne, a peasant girl who has visions of the future (and a resurrected dog), William, a young monk with extraordinary strength, and Jacob, a Jewish boy who is a miraculous healer. This clever, engaging tale is also populated by good monks, bad monks, King Louis IX of France, an angel, and a farting dragon. It’s an excellent read!! (MG)

HEARTLESS, by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles), is a prequel to Alice in Wonderland, telling the backstory of the Queen of Hearts. Catherine is a noble young lady, who has caught the eye of the King of Hearts, but all she wants is to open a bakery, where she can sell her delectable treats to the kingdom. When she meets the mysterious and sexy Jester, things get even more complicated. Fun and absurdist, as it should be. (YA)

Picture books:

OWL SEES OWL, by Laura Godwin, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey, is a sweet, spare reverso poem, accompanied by rich illustrations of a young owl's nighttime flight. It’s a cozy read, and a literary treat.

THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES, by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Erin Stead, tells the story of the gentle man who watches the waves. He is tasked with opening any bottle found at sea, and making sure to deliver it. He loves his job, but wonders if he will ever receive a message himself. Stead perfectly evokes the dreamy text with her signature woodblock print, oil pastel, and pencil art.

And, finally, VIRGINIA WOLF by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is a fantastically creative take on depression, inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell. One day, young Virginia wakes feeling wolfish. Her older sister tries to make everything better, but nothing works until Virginia growls that she wants to fly to Bloomsbury, a perfect place to defy the doldrums. Art is the answer!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon--Shelf Awareness

MG Review: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann, trans. by David Henry Wilson (North South, $19.95 hardcover, 128p., ages 6-9, 9780735842625)

Armstrong is the inventive, lavishly illustrated history of a 1950s-era New York City mouse who is fascinated by the moon, a companion book to German author-illustrator Torben Kuhlmann's Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse.

Every night, this little mouse gazes through his "iron tube full of glass lenses" at the starry sky. Though the other mice believe the moon is made of cheese ("as yellow as Gouda, then as white as Camembert"), the little mouse tries hard to convince them it's actually stone. When he receives a mysterious, "mouse-sized" invitation to the Smithsonian, he hops on a train to Washington, D.C. In a basement underneath galleries of "human inventions," the little mouse discovers artifacts of the long-forgotten history of mouse aviation and vows to be the first mouse on the moon. So, on July 21, 1969, when the first humans walked on the surface of the moon, one extraordinary little mouse had already beaten them there! A whimsical take on space-travel history. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI.

Discover: German author-illustrator Torben Kuhlmann's richly imagined drawings distinguish this inspiring story of a mouse inventor on a mission to the moon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December's Book of the Month--Raymie Nightingale

December’s Book of the Month is RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE, by the astonishing Kate DiCamillo. How does she do it: write book after strong book, all different, and all worthwhile?

Raymie Clarke is determined to learn how to twirl a baton. She’s got to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, so her father will read about her in the newspaper, leave the dental hygienist he ran off with, and come back home. But even though baton twirling lessons do not go as planned, Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante (daughter of the famous Flying Elefantes) and Beverly Tapinski (lock picker extraordinaire). Louisiana dubs them the Three Rancheros, “bound to each other through thick and thin.” Despite Beverly’s rather persistent grumbling, good-deed-doing ensues (sort of), as well as lots of adventures and insights into the human condition. Ramie’s soul expands and contracts as she considers such existential questions as the meaning of life, and the role of story.

There is not one misplaced or casual word in this book. Each statement is elegantly crafted and contributes to the whole. It’s been said that each chapter of Because of Winn-Dixie could stand alone as a short story—while reading RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE, I felt like the entire novel was a short story. Everything single thing is important, and circles back around. It’s funny, and it’s wry, and it’s chock full of wisdom that will likely go over the heads of many readers who are enjoying the darkly zany plot line. But maybe they will find it again, maybe even years later and, looking through, be amazed at all that’s packed in here.

Have you read RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE? What do you think?