Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor has been called “the Nigerian Harry Potter.” That’s how I convinced Larrabee to read it, but the comparison doesn’t really capture what I liked most about this fantasy that draws from Nigerian folklore.
Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue is an American-born albino living with her parents and older brothers in Aba, Nigeria. The other kids at school bully her and call her a “stupid pale-faced akata witch” (which is extremely rude).
Then, she learns that she is a Leopard Person with magical abilities. Among the Leopards, being an albino, which she’s always considered a weakness, is a rare gift. As she’s initiated into this new world, she discovers that she and her three friends must stop the evil Black Hat Otokoto and the masquerade Ekwensu.
I loved the magical world of this book with its chittim (money that falls from the sky when you gain knowledge), juju knives, and spirit faces.
Although Larrabee read and enjoyed this book, I would recommend it mainly for kids 12 and older. It might be too intense for younger ones.
This book is the first in a series. The sequel, Akata Warrior, is already available, and a third book is planned.
Eleven-year-old Luke Parker is an expert on comic books and superheroes. That’s why it’s SO unfair that Zorbon the Decider chooses his older brother Zack to save two universes from the threat of Nemesis AND gives him six superpowers. Now Zack is Star Guy, and Luke is still just Luke.
It turns out that being a superhero’s younger brother is complicated, especially when the girl next door, Lara Lee, is intent on uncovering Star Guy’s secret identity. Things get even worse when Zack loses his powers and gets kidnapped by an unknown villain. It’s up to Luke, his friend Serge, and Lara to save him.
My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons is a clever, funny, fast-paced adventure. Some of the things I liked best about this book:
- The relationship between Luke and Zack: Luke keeps a list of all the things he can’t stand about his big brother. (Zack’s calling him “child” is #47). But he’s also fiercely loyal to him.
- Luke’s commentary on things: Luke is the narrator of the story, and he has an interesting way of looking at the world. For example, he describes Lara as “wild and fearless, rushing headlong into danger like a video game character who knows that even if she slips off the edge of the cliff, it’ll be OK because she’ll respawn, good as new.”
- The saving the two worlds part: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but anyone who likes superhero movies will enjoy the action scenes.
Larrabee’s Aunt Kay and Uncle Christian gave him this book. I have to say, it’s a perfect gift for a younger brother. He read it months ago and loved it. I’m just now reviewing it because he left it in his cubby until the last day of school…
There are three more books in the series so far. Larrabee has read the second one, My Gym Teacher Is an Alien Overlord, and recommends it too. And the next two are on his summer reading list.
If you had a choice between (a) admitting to three of your 7th grade classmates that you’d lied to impress them, or (b) lighting a cursed lamp that your mom had told you not to touch, what would you do?
Understandably, 12-year-old Aru lights the lamp— just for a moment. But in doing so, she releases the Sleeper, a demon who will summon Lord Shiva and bring about the end of time. Now her classmates and her mother are frozen, and she has just nine days to stop the Sleeper.
There is some good news for Aru. She learns that she is the reincarnation of one of the five Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, so she’s not alone. She’ll have the help of one of her divine siblings, a girl named Mini, and mentor in the form of a pigeon named Subala (or Boo for short). The bad news, though, is that their quest will take them into the Kingdom of Death, where they’ll have to obtain the celestial weapons before their showdown with the Sleeper.
This book was published under Disney-Hyperion’s new imprint, Rick Riordan Presents, and it will appeal to fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson, Carter and Sadie Kane, and Magnus Chase books. Like Riordan’s books, Aru Shah blends features of modern life and mythology. For example, Aru and her companions find the Night Bazaar of the Otherworld inside a Costco. It also has a good mix of high stakes action and humor (including funny chapter titles).
Larrabee and I both enjoyed it and are eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Feather of Truth
Crook and Flail
The Serpent’s Shadow
After Larrabee finished Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles trilogy, we took a trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. I highly recommend both!
The books, The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire, and The Serpent’s Shadow, make great summer reading books. They have action, danger, humor, and lots of ancient Egyptian gods. Carter and Sadie Kane take turns telling the stories. They’re brother and sister, descendants of powerful Egyptian magicians from the House of Life. Fans of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will like these books too.
It’s always satisfying to find connections between books and real life. Some of my favorites from our museum visit:
- “So that’s what a crook and flail look like!”
- “That must be Tawaret!”
- “Shabtis are real!”
We also found an oversized Senet game, scarab amulets, hieroglyphs, a panel depicting the judging of a soul with the feather of truth, a replica of the Rosetta Stone, and statues of many Egyptian gods who make an appearance in the books. It felt like a treasure hunt.
If you like mythical creatures, such as griffins, unicorns, and kelpies, then you’ll love The Menagerie by the sister writing team of Tui and Kari Sutherland. It’s a fast-paced and funny fantasy whodunit—a perfect summer vacation read. Larrabee discovered this one and insisted that I read it.
Seventh grader Logan Wilde has just moved with his dad to Xanadu, Wyoming, and he hasn’t really made any friends yet. One day, his classmate Zoe Kahn seems upset. She tells him that she’s lost her dog, but she refuses his offer to help.
When he gets home from school, Logan finds a griffin cub under his bed. Communicating telepathically, the cub tells him that (1) his name is Squorp, (2) he’s very hungry, and (3) he and his siblings ran away from a place called the Menagerie.
Logan puts two and two together and realizes that Squorp is the missing “dog.” When he tries to return him, he learns that Zoe and her family are the guardians of a top secret collection of mythical creatures. Now, he must help them recover the other five griffins before the authorities discover they’re missing. In addition, he and Zoe must figure out who released the griffin cubs and why.
One word of warning: The Menagerie is the first book in a trilogy, and each book ends with a cliffhanger that makes it necessary to read the next one right away. So, before you start the first book, make sure that you find copies of Dragon on Trial and Krakens and Lies too.
BOB by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead is a charming story about an almost 11-year-old girl and a small, green creature named Bob.
When Livy goes to visit her grandmother in Australia, she finds Bob in the closet. She’d forgotten all about him, but he’s been waiting for her since she last visited five years ago. He doesn’t remember how he got there, and he’s counting on her to help him find his way home.
The story is told from both Bob’s and Livy’s point of view as they try to solve the mystery of his presence on her grandmother’s farm. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t say what kind of creature Bob actually is or where he’s from. You’ll just have to read the book!
Some of the things I liked best about this book are:
- Bob: Every kid should have a funny, thoughtful friend like Bob. He wears Livy’s old chicken PJs with some extra feathers taped on, he likes licorice and Legos, and he reads the dictionary.
- The Old Livy and the New Livy: Livy’s story starts like this:
“I feel bad that I can’t remember anything about Gran Nicholas’s house. On the table in her kitchen Gran has lined up three things I do not remember:
1. A green stuffed elephant in overalls.
2. A net bag full of black chess pieces.
3. A clunky old tape recorder.
‘You loved these things when you were here before,’ Gran Nicholas tells me.
But I don’t remember any of it.”
Livy’s grown up now–almost 11–different but still the same. And with Bob’s help, she rediscovers something about her fearless, fun-loving 5-year-old self.
- The Australian setting: From the drought-stricken farm to the chicken coop to Livy’s bedroom, the setting is vivid and interesting.
- These lines (from Bob’s point of view): “All the things I choose to put in my head are what makes me, me. I plan to choose wisely.”
BOB is a quick, easy read that would make a perfect first summer reading book. Larrabee has heard me talk about it so much that he’s been asking when he can read the book about the green creature. He recently read and enjoyed Wendy Mass’s Pi in the Sky.
Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. It was published at the beginning of the month and is available in bookstores now.
We’re a baseball-loving family, so I always have an eye out for books about the game. I recently made a lucky find at the library: Soar by Joan Bauer. Like its protagonist, twelve-year-old Jeremiah, this book is funny, profound, quirky, and inspiring all at the same time.
Jeremiah loves baseball. He can’t play, though, because he’s recovering from a heart transplant. He even has to get his doctor’s approval to accompany his adoptive father on a two month consulting job.
Their temporary new home, Hillcrest, Ohio, is known for its championship baseball team. But when the high school coach is embroiled in a steroids scandal, the middle school is ready to abandon its baseball team. Jeremiah doesn’t want to see the kids or the town give up on baseball, so he steps up to coach the team.
I read this book first and recommended to Larrabee. He was skeptical, but he agreed to take a chance on it and ended up a big fan.
This book is all about baseball, and yet it’s not just about baseball. Jeremiah also watches eagle cams, interacts with his dad’s robots, and befriends a neighborhood dog, among other adventures. It raises important issues, such as winning in youth sports, without being preachy. Instead, it’s a fun book about a lovable group of kids playing a great game.