Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: The Wells Bequest

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my top ten list of middle grade and YA time travel novels. (Really there were eleven, but I figured no one would notice.) I just finished a new one that definitely belongs on the list. The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman is a companion book to her delightful 2010 middle grade novel, The Grimm Legacy. But the stories stand alone, so there's no need to read them in order.

The Wells in the title refers, of course, to H. G. Wells, and the plot centers around the time machine from his 1895 novella, The Time Machine. Leo and his crush, Jaya, have to travel back in time to the NYC of 1895. There, they attend a lecture at The Electric Club and meet Nikola Tesla and Samuel Clemens (who were, in fact, friends) and attempt to stop an ancestor of Leo's nemesis, Simon, from stealing the plans for Tesla's death ray. I'm not going to summarize any more of the plot, because I don't think I can explain it coherently, but it's a fun story, full of action, humor, young love, sci-fi allusions, and science references. Just read it.

Want to know more? Here's an excellent review from Charlotte's Library.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mermaid Books For Girls

Summer is here at last, and we're all looking for the perfect beach (or poolside) read. And what could be better than MERMAIDS? Here are some great mer-novels for middle grade readers.

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on

Liz Kessler captures the magic and mystery of mermaids in her popular middle grade series. Isn't Emily Windsnap the most perfect mermaid name you've ever heard?
The Tail of Emily Windsnap 
Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep
Emily Windsnap and the Castle in the Mist
Emily Windsnap and the Siren's Secret
Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun

Helene Boudreau's delightful Real Mermaid series is just right for tween
and young teen girls who like fantasy mixed with light romance:
Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings
Real Mermaids Don't Hold Their Breath
Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels
Real Mermaids Don't Sell Sea Shells (coming in February 2014)

Alice Hoffman, one of my all-time favorite novelists, combines mermaids with her unique brand of magical realism in two standalone stories for young readers:

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, coauthors of the beloved Peter and the Starcatchers series, turn their yarnspinning skills to mermaids in Escape from the Carnivale. The result is a fast-paced read with humor and suspense (and Peter Pan isn't even in it). Boys will enjoy this one, too.

And a few more titles to check out:

The Fish in Room 11 by Heather Dyer - This one has a boy main character, and will appeal to younger middle grade readers.

Ingo by Helen Dunmore - I haven't read this one yet, but it looks captivating! The story takes place off the coast of Cornwall.

The Forbidden Sea by Sheila NielsonThe author provides some great resources on her blog, including a discussion guide, deleted scenes which give insight into the revision process, and a book list (see below).

Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotsen - How can you go wrong with a novel that opens like this: "Kidnapping children is not a good idea. All the same, sometimes it has to be done." This quirky story, published in 1999, will appeal to those who like Roald Dahl. It's written in an old-fashioned, tongue-in-cheek, third person omniscient style, and is filled with mythical sea creatures, dangerously flawed adults, more than a little violence, and some truly outrageous solutions to problems. Boys and girls will both enjoy this fast-paced adventure.

If you just can't get enough mermaid stories, Sheila Nielson's blog includes a lengthy list of Mermaid Books For All Ages

And Ed's Mermaid Page has still more!

Have a happy, splashy, mermaid-filled summer! If you've ever seen a mermaid (or if you know of any other wonderful mermaid tales), please tell us about it in the comments. 

And be sure to stop by Shannon Messenger's blog for this weeks' list of Middle Grade Monday reviews.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 10 MG/YA Time Travel

I always enjoy Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and it's usually quite a challenge to come up with ten books that fit the theme. This week's topic, Books Featuring Travel, is the exception--it's almost too easy, because there's so much fiction that involves travel. A few favorites that come to mind are Walk Two Moons, Sway, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Mr. Mysterious and Company, The Hobbit, Travels With Charley, The Historian, The Bean Trees, and The Incredible Journey (which I read on a long car trip when I was about ten.)

Just to make it more fun, I'm going to share my TOP TEN TIME TRAVEL NOVELS. As usual, I'll give my list a kid lit twist, focusing on middle grade and YA. Some of these are reviewed elsewhere on my blog--just click on the asterisk to go to my review.

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister
by Jenny Nimmo

Ruby Red 
by Kerstin Geir 

by Kate Saunders 

by Rebecca Stead 

by Penelope Farmer 

by Philippa Pearce 

by Annie Barrows 

by Laurel Snyder 

by Ransom Riggs

by Madeleine L’Engle

by Wendy Mass