Book Review: How Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 12.55.05 PMHow Oscar Indigo Broke the Universe (And Put It Back Together Again) by David Teague is a light-hearted fantasy about a boy who isn’t very good at baseball and a watch that can stop time.

Oscar Indigo has more team spirit than anyone else on the East Mt. Etna Wildcats, but he’s never gotten a hit. Then, in the final inning of the championship game, the team’s best player is injured and Oscar is the only player left on the  bench. The coach puts him in to hit with two outs, a runner on first base, and his team trailing by one run.

The situation seems hopeless, but Oscar has a special watch in his pocket. When he’s down to his last strike, he uses the watch to freeze the time while he places his ball just over the outfield fence. The Wildcats win and Oscar is a hero.

But it turns out that hitting the game-winning home run is not as satisfying when you know it’s fake. And, to make matters worse, the universe is now out of whack. Oscar will need to figure out a way to give the universe its 19 seconds back and beat the West Mt. Etna Yankees fair and square if he wants to fix what he’s broken.

Larrabee and I both enjoyed this one. It’s a good read for the boys–and girls–of summer.

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Book Review: Akata Witch

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 3.26.11 PMAkata 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.

Book Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 10.39.01 AMIf 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.

Book Review: The Menagerie

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 12.04.26 PMIf 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.

Book Review: The Language of Spells

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 2.07.52 PMThe Language of Spells by Garret Weyr is a wonderful book. It reads like a modern fairy tale. Ironic, really, because it’s the story of a dragon who hates Once upon a time stories.

Benevolentia Gaudium, the dragon known as Grisha, is born in the Black Forest in 1803, the last year that any dragon is born. As a young dragon, he is captured by a sorcerer and imprisoned in a teapot. By the time he’s released from the spell, World War II is over and the world of magic has largely disappeared. All of the dragons are summoned to Vienna, but many disappear, and no one but Grisha seems to remember them. Then, he befriends an unusual girl, Anna Marguerite, or Maggie for short. Together, they set off on a quest to find and save the missing dragons.

Some of the things I like about this book:

  • Maggie and Grisha’s relationship. I love stories about friendship and this is a special one. Listen to the way Maggie describes her friend Grisha: “The dragon had a way of seeing clearly, taking her side, and yet empathizing with everyone involved… When she was with him, she felt like her best self, and when she wasn’t with him she looked forward to seeing him.”
  • The magic. As Grisha explains, magic demands its exact price. It’s simple to practice, but you have to give up what you most love,
  • The dragons. This book is full of interesting tidbits about dragons. Did you know that they can scale up and down in size? And that they need very little sleep?
  • The juxtaposition of magical beings and real history. For example, Grisha, when in teapot form, spends time in the pocket of the Emperor Franz Joseph.
  • The ending. It’s bittersweet but fitting.

Thank you to Chronicle Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is June 26.

Book Review: Wings of Fire

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Hopefully the birthday boy will take time out from reading Wings of Fire to eat some cake!

In honor of Larrabee’s 9th birthday, I decided to read and review the first book in the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland: The Dragonet Prophesy.

Larrabee is a big fan of this epic dragon saga. He devoured the first eight books in the past few months, and he’s eagerly waiting for the next two. He talks all the time about the characteristics of the different types of dragons: MudWings, SeaWings, SandWings, SkyWings, IceWings, RainWings, and NightWings.

I figured I’d borrow The Dragonet Prophesy so I could see what all the fuss was about… Well, now I’m hooked. I’m still a little behind Larrabee, having only read the first five books, but I can see what he likes about them.

Clay, Tsunami, Glory, Starflight, and Sunny are the Dragonets of Destiny. These young dragons from five different tribes have been raised in a secret cave by the Talons of Peace in the hope that they will grow up to fulfill the prophesy and end the war raging in Pyrrhia. The trouble is that no one can tell them how they are meant to do it.

Three things I like about these books:

  • The dragon characters. Each book is told from the point of view of a different dragon, each of whom has a distinct personality. Larrabee often laughed out loud at the humorous banter among the dragonets.
  • The prophesy. I’ve written before about how much I like an intriguing prophesy that comes true in unexpected ways.
  • The action. These stories are action-packed as the dragonets try stay one step ahead of all the dragons who want to capture and control them. I’ll warn you, though, that these stories are not for the faint of heart. The dragons fight to the death. But kids who’ve enjoyed the Warriors or Shark Wars series will like these books too.

 

Book Review: The Boy From Tomorrow

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 2.24.55 PMThe Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis is a time travel story with a twist. Josie and Alec are both twelve years old. They both live at 444 Sparrow Street in the same small New York town. They communicate with each other all the time, but they’ve never met in person.

The reason: Alec lives in 2015, while Josie lives in 1915. They originally make contact through a ouija board belonging to Josie’s mother, a famous psychic medium, and they find a good friend in each other just when they need one the most.

I loved this book and read it in one sitting. I enjoy time travel stories and historical fiction, and this books has aspects of both.

Like the best time travel stories, The Boy from Tomorrow is intricately plotted with present events affecting past events. For example, Alec finds a letter from Josie hidden in his house and tells her about it, causing her to write the letter in the first place… Also, although Josie and Alec never travel to each other’s times, the books has fun time travel moments in which they get glimpses into each other’s worlds. For instance, Alec can use the internet to find New York Times headlines from 1915 (“magic” to Josie and “just technology” to Alec).

Like the best historical fiction, this book brings a past era to life. My favorite parts were the scenes featuring Josie, her little sister Cassie, and her tutor in 1915 New York.

Thank you to Amberjack Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is May 8.