Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Prezzie List #3 - Tween/Mid School Books

On to some recs for the older readers (and adults who like to read kids books). For some of these, I'm also going by what I liked to read when I was a tween, in middle school. That's when I first got into Fantasy.

I've been steadily building up a library of more advanced books for my own kiddos to read, too. My daughter will be hitting these first, so I admit to a preference for strong female heroines, although most of these are ones my son would enjoy reading too (he totally ate up The Wizard of Oz - I know boys can read and enjoy books with girls as the main character).

The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

I am still reading this one to the kiddos, but it is good so far. It initially has hit me like a more modern and coherent "Alice in Wonderland-type". I tried reading Alice to the kiddo, but it was too odd for her to get into right now. This one was easier.

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

[I received an advance reader's copy for review from Amazon Vine.]

Kat's adventures begin with, "I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from impending ruin." I have to say that my inner child was hooked from the start.

Kat is the youngest of four children in early 1800s England. Her older sisters raised her after their mother died, so she is babied even more than most youngest siblings, to her ever growing consternation. Their older brother has squandered the family fortune and eldest sister Elissa is being groomed by Stepmama, a social climber and obligatory impediment to Kat's freedom, for marriage to the wealthy Sir Neville. Kat is tired of being told she can't do anything to help, so she goes looking through her mother's magic books and belongings and finds more than she bargained for. Country parties, sinister suitors, stuck up magicians, secret societies, lovestruck young adults, highwaymen, and it's up to Kat to sort it all out.

This was a really fun read. Historical purists will no doubt take issue with details and speech, but it's a kids book and I thought that the level of detail was enough to establish the setting, and just right for the age of the intended audience.

I'd recommend for kids reading at the 9-12 age range who love magic. I'd put this at about the level of the early Harry Potters.

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

One of my favorite books that I read in 2011.

13 year old Natalie Minks lives in the little town of Arcane, set at a crossroads, and the scene of many strange occurrences. Her mother is the undisputed source for all of the legends and stories about Arcane, from the crafty Jack, to the tale of how Old Tom Guyot beat the Devil in a guitar contest. Her father is the town bicycle mechanic, and Natalie is at home with all things mechanical.

Then a mysterious traveling medicine show comes to town, Natalie's mother is always tired but no one will tell her what is wrong, and she's starting to see strange things everywhere she goes. She also can't get the hang of her newest bike (a scandalous problem for the daughter of the bike mechanic). With the help of her friends and some of the strange denizens of Arcane, Natalie must get to the root of the problem before it's too late.

A very smart story. I loved every second.

Deals with the Devil, the power of stories and storytellers, and sheer determination run through this middle school read. I'd recommend it for girls and boys, kids and adults who like reading kid's books. It brought to mind some of my favorite books I read as a child, like Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Steampunk adventure. Loved it. So much fun. Modo (abandoned near Notre Dame) has a disfigured face and hunchback, but also has the power to shapeshift. As a baby, Mr. Socrates buys him from a traveling freak show and raises him, training him to be a future agent for a secretive English society. He grows up and finds himself investigating missing orphans, scientific experimentation, and threats against the country from an evil organization. And he has cool gadgets and a partner in fellow orphan Octavia. I'm not going to go into the details - had too much fun reading it to want to spoil Modo's adventures.

Modo is superhuman in his abilities, but his caring of others (despite Mr. Socrates' efforts to isolate him), his longing to be accepted, to be able to show his face and find his own family makes him endearing and relatable. There are enough unanswered questions to populate many more books (such as who Mr Socrates is really, where Modo came from, etc). Looking forward to the next one.

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