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A World Above The Sea

Continuing my summary of books by authors I met at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffehouse’s recent Mother Daughter Book Party, I’d like to tell you about an intriguing, engaging sci-fi trilogy by San Fernando Valley author Jenn Reese.

AboveWorldjacket-198x300A year ago Reese’s middle grade novel, Above World ($16.99, also available in paperback, Candlewick, ages 10 and up), was released and next month you can pick up the second in the trilogy called Mirage.

If the cover alone doesn’t pull you into Above World, the plucky main character Aluna certainly will. Aluna is a girl who lives underwater in a colony of mermaids.  Mermaids? I was hooked already. All around, in what had been a safe, thriving environment, her fellow citizens’ breathing shells are beginning to fail and Aluna, is determined to discover why. So, despite many obstacles that make this an action-packed adventure tale as well as a sci-fi story, Aluna is going to find a way to save her people. Her best friend, Hoku, a boy one year her junior and a “techie” will join Aluna on her quest Above World, or the land above the sea. The pairing of female and male protagonists make this an ideal read for both girls and boys.

What’s fascinating about this novel’s premise is that the Kampii (Mer people) were all once humans now living in the ocean because the population Above World was getting too high. Reese has cleverly imagined a water world that seems to make sense. Plus the book is filled with so many other types of interesting people, animals and fish such as the Shark people whose habitat is lower depths than Fish. Reese described them as “less cultured,” so they have more adaptations and are a danger to the Kampii. Because I attended the special bookstore event, I was thrilled to learn a little bit about what new characters will be introduced in Book 3, hint: think Greek mythological creature. I am confident readers will agree that here is so much to like and enjoy about Above World that thankfully the story does not end with Book 1!

-Ronna Mandel

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Sea of Dreams

Sea of Dreams by Dennis Nolan ($16.99, A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, ages 3-7) is one of those books you will want to share with your child at bedtime, talk about afterwards, and then watch as your little one drifts off to sleep with the beautiful images implanted in their head.

What I love most about Nolan’s book is that, without words, it speaks to children, touching on their vast imaginations and exploring awesome possibilities. The book begins with scenes, like a movie storyboard, of a young girl building a sandcastle at the beach. Then, as the sun sets, she reluctantly leaves it, knowing that the waves will wash all her hard work away.

A lone seagull appears as both witness and bridge as we cross over into a fantasy world. Dusk settles in, a light appears in a castle window and a menacing wave approaches. Readers follow a miniature family, first glimpsed through the turret window, escaping the sea ravaged sand palace aboard a boat. While it’s no surprise when a young boy falls from the boat, it’s magical when he’s rescued by seashorses, and delivered to mermaids. At last the boy is reunited with his family, arriving safely on an island. Much in the fashion of the film Ground Hog Day, a new day dawns, ushered in on the wings of the seagull, the girl once again returns to the beach and begins building another sandcastle in the knowing company of the bird.

SPOILER ALERT! Yes, a majestic castle is constructed and yes, the girl is hesitant to leave again as the high tide threatens, but I will not let you know whether or not the light comes back on. The fantastic artwork in Sea of Dreams beckons all readers to read on and join the adventure. I have a funny feeling that if I am ever on a beach as the sun sinks below the horizon, I will be looking for little people in sandcastles from now on!


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