Category Archives: Children & Young Adults

Laura S. & William L. B. Wharton. The Mermaid’s Tale. Mt. Airy, NC: Broad Creek Press, 2014.

themermaid'stale“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit” ~ Helen Keller

Jock Avery is back, along with his new friends Lynna and Chip Woodward. During their first summer together, the trio solved the mystery of Monsters Below Longleaf Lake in Moore County, North Carolina. Now there is a new mystery to discover. Seven-year old Chip, from his dock, has spotted a mermaid in the lake while Lynna and Jock are having a sailboat race. Lynna’s boat almost hit her! Although he suspects that they will never believe him, Chip still can’t help but to tell his friends what he’s seen. Jock quickly expresses his disbelief but is silenced by Lynna who defends her brother. This calls for an investigation!

The trio decide to search the lake using a grid pattern just like underwater archeologists. They draw out a grid in order to mark every spot they search and what they find there. The mermaid quest brings up some problems like their inability to dive but so deep. Soon, there is a discussion of deep sea divers and scuba tanks. Lynna and Jock have a contest to see who can hold their breath the longest underwater while Lynna and Chip’s mom times the two. Lynna wins! This leads Jock to want to join the swim team in order to improve his underwater breathing.

The search for the mermaid continues full force when Jock catches a glimpse of her at night–he no longer doubts Chip’s claim. However, will the grownups ever believe? Will the trio be able to find the mermaid in the lake? Jock turns to his favorite adventurer, Sam Justice, and his underwater adventures for inspiration on how to look for the mermaid. While the kids have a mission, the adults are planning an adventure of their own. The parents have been invited to a grand opening event and everyone is going. What surprise could be waiting for Jock, Chip, and Lynna at the event?

Co-authored by novelist Laura S. Wharton and her son William, The Mermaid’s Tale is the second book in the Mystery at the Lake House Series. This chapter book is intended for children aged 9-12; it includes lots of information on swimming, diving, fishing, and the importance of taking care of our water environments. Also included are instructions on how to build an underwater viewer, used by Chip in the book, and two interviews: one with the mermaid and one with William. This book encourages kids to believe in themselves and not be so quick to doubt others.  This is a book that kids will find enjoyable as well as informative.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Moore, Mystery, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Wharton, Laura S., Wharton, William L. B.

Gwenda Bond. Blackwood. Long Island City, NY: Strange Chemistry, 2012.

BlackwoodBearing the brunt of a centuries-long family curse in a small town isn’t easy, especially if you’re a seventeen year-old girl. Miranda Blackwood has gotten used to being called a freak and being treated like something of a leper, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. The Blackwood family has lived on Roanoke Island since the times of the original Lost Colony. Locals consider Blackwoods bad luck. Miranda mostly keeps to herself. She doesn’t want to draw attention or give credit to the family folklore. She interns as a set and costume lackey at the Waterside Theater, which puts on productions of The Lost Colony for tourists visiting the island.

One ordinary night, on what seems like a routine performance, Miranda notices something strange while she watches the end of the show with the stage manager, Polly. She sees a life-sized, black ship that is careening toward the performers. Nobody, not the performers nor the audience members, notices the ship, except Miranda. She watches as the ship approaches the stage. At the last second, on impulse, Miranda leaps onto the stage to throw herself at the seven-year-old actress playing Virginia Dare. Too bad no one else present understands Miranda’s actions. What was meant as a virtuous, self-sacrifice on Miranda’s part is chalked up by the cast and crew as the typical Blackwood weirdness. After the show, the director chews out Miranda’s unprofessional actions, questioning whether or not Miranda should participate in future performances.

Miranda heads home, haunted by the embarrassment and the phantom ship. She lives outside of the picturesque part of Manteo with her father, her golden retriever named Sidekick, and her old yellow car (complete with a dashboard hula girl) that she affectionately calls Pineapple. Since her mother’s death several years prior, Miranda has taken care of her father. Over time, her father’s alcoholism has grown worse. His skin is so ruddy from drinking that his odd, snake-shaped birthmark is almost obscured. Miranda crashes on the couch so she can greet her father when he returns home intoxicated and help him into bed.

Morning comes and Miranda’s father never comes back home. Confused, and slightly concerned, Miranda goes looking for him. She finds the town huddled around the police station.  Police Chief Rawling reports that around 100 people on the island went missing overnight. People have inexplicably vanished; leaving without any sign of intentional abandonment. The official number is later finalized at 114, coincidentally the same number of people missing several hundred years ago in the Lost Colony. Shaken by the sudden mass disappearances, Rawling calls his seventeen-year old son, Phillips, home.

Phillips Rawling thought he had escaped the island for good. Once he started hearing the voices, he made trouble to force his parents to send him away. Off the island, Phillips is normal, like any other teen, but on the island, he can’t shut out the voices of spirits. The clamor of the voices is enough to make him go crazy. He isn’t interested in returning home, but his father has already made arrangements. Police Chief Rawling doesn’t believe in supernatural occurrences and other fantastical nonsense, but something in his gut tells him that Phillips might be able to help. However, Phillips has his own agenda. If he’s forced to go back to Roanoke Island, then he’s bent on finding one person first: Miranda Blackwood. She’s a primary focus of the voices’ chatter, and none of it is any good.

Blackwood is novelist Gwenda Bond’s first young adult novel, published in 2012. In the interim, Bond has published another work, The Woken Gods, and her third novel, Girl on a Wire, is set to be released in October 2014. In Blackwood, Bond weaves together historical events (portrayed with fictionalized liberties), supernatural elements, and teen romance, all doused with a healthy dash of humor. The novel includes a concise summary of the Lost Colony to prime readers with background information before Bond’s story begins.  Bond infuses the original legend of the Lost Colony with quite a bit of imagination. Blackwood is perfect for readers on the look-out for an intelligent young adult novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Bond, Gwenda, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Trudy Krisher. Fallout. New York: Holiday House, 2006.

FalloutStarting high school can be an unnerving yet exciting experience, full of change. For Genevieve Hardcastle, a teen in the 1950s, starting high school is beyond intimidating. That feeling is made all the scarier by the fact that her only friend, Sally Redmond, has moved far away, up to New Jersey. Genevieve likes being a wallflower. Genevieve doesn’t want to be embarrassed, and attention is the surest route to embarrassment. Last year, Genevieve had a taste of gossip and backbiting when she helped Sally in her campaign for class secretary. After witnessing Janice’s smear tactics, the already shy and awkward Genevieve has become even more cautious. She aims not to stand out, lest Janice Neddeger or one of her sidekicks catch her in the crosshairs and single her out in front of everyone.

Her mother, Martha, wishes Genevieve was more of a “go-getter” kind of girl. Martha (a homemaker and president of the town of Easton’s Welcome Wagon) encourages Genevieve to make friends, but to no avail. Even if Genevieve wasn’t quiet, she blames her parents for making developing friendships a little difficult. Between the plastic-covered furniture, her mother’s over-eager, hyper-positive attitude, and her father’s suspicious lurking around the house, Genevieve observes that her family and its dysfunctions aren’t as wholesome as Ozzie and Harriet. Genevieve’s father, George, is a solemn actuary, obsessed with disaster and disaster preparations. He also hangs on Senator McCarthy’s every word.

The coastal town of Easton is used to its familiar, traditional ways. The locals, Genevieve included, know when to sense an impending hurricane and how to prepare, for instance. They’re pro-American and pro-atom, and anti-Red. But all that changes when a new family moves to town. The Wompers — Harry, Patricia, and Brenda — are from California, although from the way Easton folk receive them, it seems they might as well come from outer space. The townspeople of Easton are taken aback by the Wompers’ strange ideas and expressions – their belief in raw food, their decision to eliminate sugar from the drug store they purchased, their atheism, and, most of all, their challenge of the Civil Defense curriculum with claims that the atomic energy is dangerous.

The Wompers don’t fit the standard mold. Mrs. Womper is a physicist who gives little regard to dressing in the style of all the other housewives; she favors sandals over heels. Before they moved, Mr. Womper worked in Hollywood, in the film industry. Brenda is outspoken and brave. She isn’t afraid to question her fellow students, or even her teachers. The Wompers’ open-minded skepticism and differences are frowned upon by Easton, and by Genevieve’s parents. But the girls bond after Genevieve’s algebra teacher assigns Brenda as Genevieve’s tutor.  They’re a pair of opposites. Genevieve is mesmerized by Brenda’s straightforward bravery; she describes herself as a hermit crab, self-protective and scuttling out-of-sight. Brenda lives by a set of “Rules for Thinking,” to question any belief, whether seemingly true or false, with detachment. Her dogma prompts sensitive Genevieve to eventually challenge Brenda’s scientific view of the world.

Fallout is set against the political atmosphere of the Cold War and the constant threat of an atomic bomb scare, and the literal atmosphere of a coastal North Carolina town during the thick of hurricane season. Trudy Krisher wisely plays the political and meteorological atmospheres against the distress and distrust of new people and new ideas in a traditional small town. The novel develops Genevieve’s character believably. At the beginning of the novel she’s a shrinking violet. By the end she isn’t fearless, but she’s less afraid, and her awareness of the world and powers of introspection have been honed. While the book cover indicates that Fallout is marketed for young adults, Trudy Krisher’s novel is a thought-provoking read, perfect for the upcoming summer.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, Krisher, Trudy, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Diana L. Sharples. Running Lean. Grand Rapids, MI: Blink, 2013.

Running LeanCrazy Stacey bubble butt.
Never keeps her big mouth shut.
Chubbikins, Chubbikins.
How much does she weigh?

Voices from Stacey Varnell’s childhood still haunt her, even into high school. Stacey struggles to see herself as she is now, a pretty, talented teen. As a child, Stacey’s overprotective parents focused an unrelenting eye on her due to her health problems and a series of heart surgeries. Stacey’s mother forbade her to exert herself physically and she kept Stacey indoors, fearful of her health and fragility. Classmates taunted Stacey about her weight. Their teasing sparked Stacey’s obsession with dieting and calories. No matter how much weight Stacey drops though, she sees a chubby version of herself staring back in the mirror. Surprisingly, Stacey’s helicopter parents don’t seem to notice her compulsive habits (she’s a master at shuffling food around her plate), and her friend Zoe reinforces Stacey’s dangerous behavior.

The only person who seems to notice is Stacey’s boyfriend, Calvin Greenlee. Eight months ago, he and Stacey became smitten with each other; she was the new city girl who had just relocated with her family to the country. Over the course of several months, their courtship developed slowly – first a youth event at Calvin’s church, then Homecoming. When Calvin’s brother Michael died in Afghanistan, Stacey supported Calvin through his pain. He felt as if Stacey understood his grief naturally, unlike any of his other friends. In spite of Stacey’s artistic temperament, she’s consistent. She is always there for Calvin. Lately, however, her behavior has started to alarm Calvin. Stacey complains of dizziness and she looks sickly. He doesn’t like or trust her friend Zoe, and the feeling is mutual. Zoe badmouths Calvin to Stacey, calling him a “farm boy” and other insults. Stacey and Calvin’s relationship grows tenser as Stacey’s mental and physical health deteriorates.

Calvin’s other main devotion is his vintage Yamaha Enduro motorcycle that has seen better days. He loves his bike. His friends, the ugly duckling turned swan, Tyler, and the tomboyish Flannery enjoy motorcycles and outdoor activities. Stacey’s insecurities cause her to suspect that Flannery dislikes her. She fears that Flannery and Calvin’s friendship will develop into a more serious relationship. Stacey sees flirtations where Calvin insists there are none. Ironically, as much Stacey feels left out, Calvin feels equally shut out when he tries to express his concern about her health. Stacey isn’t sure how to communicate her problems to Calvin.

After Stacey becomes more erratic, Calvin seeks his friends’ advice. Observing Stacey closely and piecing together all the evidence, Calvin stumbles upon the truth. He feels daunted by Stacey’s eating disorder, a disorder that she won’t even admit to. Some web research shows Calvin that they aren’t the only couple out there battling this problem, but it doesn’t give him any clear answers or the promise for a cure. Calvin tries to encourage Stacey to eat better and reassure her flagging sense of self-worth. He tells her that she’s smart and beautiful, and the single object of his affections.

Despite Calvin’s well-meaning attempts, Stacey can’t shut out her obsessive thoughts about her appearance or stop her harmful actions. Her past has fueled her poor self-esteem and distorted self-image. All she wants is to hang on to Calvin, but Stacey’s fixation on thinness, perfection, and control threaten their relationship, and even worse, her life. Will Calvin be able to rescue Stacey from her internal torment, or will he lose her just like his brother?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Sharples, Diana L.

Sheila Turnage. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. New York: Kathy Dawson Books, 2014.

The Ghosts of Tupelo LandingA laugh floated down the stairway, secret and low. My heart jumped. So did Dale. “Steady, Dale,” I said, my voice shaking. “Don’t leap to conclusions. A good detective starts with the obvious and works toward the strange.”

Sixth grade is about to start, and scrappy orphan Mo LoBeau is convinced that the Desperado Detective Agency needs a new case to crack. Since the Agency (comprised of Mo, her friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III, and his dog, Queen Elizabeth) successfully solved a murder, they’ve only been hired on for two lost pet cases. Mo wants something ground-breaking to rev up business and make a name for Dale and herself as sixth grade sleuths. Luckily, she doesn’t have to wait for long–a new case is right about to fall into her lap.

The novel opens the day of the auction of The Old Tupelo Inn, which creates big buzz around the small town of Tupelo Landing (population now 147, following the past summer’s murder). Just about everyone in the town is at the auction, including Mo, Dale and one of Mo’s caretakers, Miss Lana, the owner of the local diner and Old Hollywood aficionado. Miss Lana has her heart set on an umbrella stand, but after an unfriendly woman from out of town (dubbed “Rat Face,” by Mo) makes a move to buy the Inn, Miss Lana hastily outbids her and by accident becomes the new owner of The Old Tupelo Inn along with the partial contents of the property and some very serious fine print.

According to the fine print, the inn is haunted by a ghost. Mo, and Dale after plenty of coaxing, set out to identify the ghost. Their mission couldn’t have come at a better time. A few days later, Miss Retzyl, their new teacher, tells the class that as part of the 250th anniversary of Tupelo Landing, she wants each student to interview a town elder. Mo’s arch-enemy Anna Celeste Simpson (aka Attila) somewhat unfairly claims Mo’s adoptive grandmother and the richest and nicest old person in town, Miss Lacy Thornton.

But Mo is ready to one-up Attila. She names the unidentified ghost of The Old Tupelo Inn as her interview subject. To Mo, “there ain’t nobody older than dead.” If she and Dale can determine the ghost’s identity, then they’re sure to have the best report and earn themselves a little extra credit in the process. Finding a ghost and convincing it to reveal who it is and why it’s haunting the inn isn’t an open-and-shut case however. Meanwhile, the presence of a new boy called Harm Crenshaw in Mo’s class irks Mo almost as much as living in Tupelo Landing irks Harm. He informs everyone he meets that he is only temporarily staying in Tupelo Landing until his brother Flick (a confirmed, good-for-nothing punk) can collect him to return to Greensboro. And Miss Lacy signs on to bankroll Miss Lana’s staggering bid for the ramshackle Old Tupelo Inn, yet it surfaces that Miss Lacy might not be as rich as everyone believes her to be. Could Miss Lana and Miss Lacy’s ownership of the inn be in jeopardy?

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is novelist Shelia Turnage’s second Mo LoBeau mystery. Turnage creates a magical setting in the fictional Tupelo Landing — it’s a wacky, charming small town. Outrageously spunky and spirited Mo has a lively voice and her narration makes the pages turn quickly. Don’t let the young adult packaging stop you from picking up Turnage’s follow-up to Three Times Lucky. With Mo as your guide, Tupelo Landing is quite an entertaining place to pass some time. Click here to read a blog post on the first novel in the series, Three Times Lucky.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Turnage, Sheila

Shelia P. Moses. The Sittin’ Up. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.

The Sittin' UpStanbury “Bean” Jones Jr. is excited to take part in his first “sittin’ up.” Now that he’s twelve, his parents agree that he’s old enough to be a part of the custom. A “sittin’ up” is equivalent to a wake. Novelist Shelia P. Moses explains in an author’s note that this tradition occurred in the town of Rich Square, North Carolina because after embalming, the undertaker would not keep the bodies of deceased black townspeople, so they were taken home the night before the funeral. The ritual of bringing the body home was phased out over time, however, the ritual of gathering of family and friends to honor the deceased remained.  A “sittin’ up,” according to Moses, is held for the sake of living, to comfort those left behind and suffering from the loss of loved ones.

The year is 1940, and the people of Low Meadows are still struggling with the economic fallout of the Great Depression. The novel opens with Bro. Wiley on his death bed. At the ripe old age of about 100, Bro. Wiley is at peace that his death is drawing near. He is ready to join his forebears in the so-called “Slave Grave.” That sentiment is not shared with the rest of the community. News of Bro. Wiley’s passing weighs heavy with grief and sadness.

Although Bean is interested in the prospect of participating in his first “sittin’ up,” he feels regret that Bro. Wiley had to die. The novel focuses upon the process of preparing for Bro. Wiley’s sittin’ up. What should normally be a routine custom though goes awry with an impending storm that threatens to disrupt arrangements for the sittin’ up. No matter the forecast, Bro Wiley’s sittin’ up ends up being a transformative experience for Bean and the rest of Low Meadows.

Moses’ story is driven by characters, their culture, and a strong sense of place. She covers plenty of ground in 226 pages. The Sittin’ Up addresses a number of small-scale community dynamics from the local outcasts like the town drunk, Real Kill, and Florenza, a flirty bootlegger who is busy making sweet eyes at Reverend Hornbuckle, to tensions between Bean’s father Stanbury and his lazy, lying brother-in-law, Uncle Goat. The novel touches upon historical elements like the enduring effects of the Great Depression and the economic and social environment of sharecropping. Moses also creates additional tension with the town school teacher, Mr. Creecy, who refuses to excuse his students, and Mr. Thomas Wiley, the landowner who wants the children to stay home and harvest crops. Racial tensions between whites and blacks are featured.

Moses balances death and tragedy with life and new beginnings, and she explores the close bond between Bean and his friend Martha Rose “Pole” Cofield, and Bean’s maturation as a young adult. Moses includes an author note at the conclusion of the book, referenced at the beginning of this post. Read it first (there aren’t any spoilers) because it gives great context to the novel and it shows Moses’ personal experience as a native of Rich Square, North Carolina. In 2008, UNC-TV featured Moses on a half-hour Bookwatch segment. Read past blog posts on Moses’ work here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Children & Young Adults, Coastal Plain, Historical, Moses, Shelia P., Northampton

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Marilee Haynes. a.k.a. Genius. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2013.

a.k.a. GeniusHow can somebody who can’t even open a locker be called a genius? Well, Einstein couldn’t tie his shoes. So maybe Gabe Carpenter really is a genius. In any event, his IQ test results peg him as exceptionally bright.  However, Gabe isn’t sure that he wants to be labeled as some kind of child prodigy. To Gabe, middle school is about blending in and his survival strategy is to go unnoticed. If you blend in, then you can avoid the gossip mill. Unfortunately for Gabe, now that his sister Sabrina spilled the news, it’s going to be impossible for him to fly under the radar.

As if being the central subject for hallway taunts wasn’t enough, Gabe’s newfound status as resident genius jeopardizes his relationship with Maya, his second-best friend. Maya wears “the smartest student at St. Jude Middle School” label with pride and she’s not pleased to see Gabe steal that title away from her. Gabe’s teachers and parents have raised their expectations too. Getting Bs on tests isn’t acceptable any longer. Now that Gabe is a certified genius, his parents loan him out to tutor other St. Jude’s students, which wouldn’t so be difficult if Gabe didn’t have to tutor his crush, Becca. Teaching math while feeling tongue-tied isn’t easy, even for a genius.

The school also enrolled Gabe in a special extracurricular class for gifted students. Only six students in at St. Jude’s can take the class.  Maya, his former second-best friend, and Linc (short for Lincoln Jefferson Truman, thanks to a pair of overly ambitious parents), his best friend, are in the Greater Achieving Students class as well. Rachel, the cutest girl at St. Jude’s, Ty, the basketball star, and Cameron, wise-cracking smart talker round out the remainder of the Greater Achieving Students.

Sister Stephanie, or Sister Stevie as she prefers to be called, instructs the course. She explains that the class will focus on science and literature primarily and there will be no grades. The goal for the program is to enrich the selected students’ minds rather than quantify their intelligence like the rest of their classes. Principal Dooley and Sister Stevie decided that the Greater Achieving Students should participate in a state-wide competition that will pit them against middle schools all across North Carolina. Sister Stevie insists that the students work as a team to beat the reigning champion, Overton Prep. But getting six different personalities to collaborate is no simple task. Can the Greater Achieving Students at St. Jude’s pull it off? Or will tensions, like over Gabe’s genius, get in the way?

Marilee Haynes writes convincing from the perspective of a seventh-grade boy. She covers all the bases: girls, social acceptance, bodily functions, friendship, and pizza. Her lively characters and funny situations make a.k.a Genuis a playful and zippy read. But Haynes packs some substance into the book through a bit of family tragedy and the notion that a student is more than a grade or a label.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Haynes, Marilee

Emma Carlson Berne. Under Pressure. Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2013.

under pressureThe title, Under Pressure, nicely sums up Elise Heisel’s life–or maybe just how she sees it. Elise comes from a family of UNC Tar Heels. Four generations of her family have gone to UNC and made good.  Her dad was president of the student body in his senior year, and her mother was a star player on the women’s rugby team.

Elise dreams of going to UNC and playing for the university’s women’s soccer team.  She is an excellent ball handler on the soccer field, but when Elise compares herself to her teammates, she thinks that she lacks stamina and power.  When her high school coach announces that a UNC scout is coming in two weeks to check out the team, Elise goes into a panic.  What can she do to make herself stand out? Elise succumbs to the lure of performance enhancing drugs. When they seem to loose their edge, she decides that it must be because she is carrying too much weight.  In just two weeks, Elise jeopardizes her health, her friendships, and her dream of playing for Carolina.

Under Pressure is a realistic portrayal of how quickly a teen can get in trouble, and the ways family and friends–consciously and unconsciously–affirm or denigrate a girl’s sense of self-worth.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Berne, Emma Carlson, Children & Young Adults