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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

Fridays Featuring Flintridge – Star Wars Reads Month

Catherine Linka shares her picks for ..

Star Wars Reads: Using the “Force”

Getting boys to read can be a challenge, but they can be lured in when a topic excites them. October is Star Wars Reads Month, and you can use the “Force” to encourage your child to read.

The youngest readers can choose from a large selection of DK READERS that offer four graded levels of reading and include stories about the original characters from the Star Wars movies and from the animated Clone Wars (by Simon Beecroft) series. Prices range from $3.99 in paperback to $14.99 in hardcover.

For kids in 3rd grade and up, check out THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA ($12.95, Abrams). This series of three novels by Tom Angleberger tells the story of Dwight, a 6th grade oddball whose Yoda finger puppet appears to tell the future when you put it on. Like DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, this series can engage even reluctant readers.

Boys often prefer non-fiction to fiction, and DK has a terrific series of books for kids 7-12 that feature Star Wars “facts” and details about the world. The latest book in this series is THE SECRET LIFE OF DROIDS ($12.99, Dorling Kindersley) by Jason Fry, with pages devoted to topics such as how C3PO has evolved over the years, why it is pointless to plead mercy with a battle droid, and how to choose a droid.

Another strategy to trick boys into reading is by giving them books with instructions. Two fun new books are DRAW STARS WARS: THE CLONE WARS ($16.95) from Klutz. This is perfect for fans 10 and under who want to learn how to draw their favorite characters. For 8 to adult, get a copy of  STAR WARS ORIGAMI ($16.95, Workman Publishing) by Chris Alexander. Step-by-step instructions are provided for 36 projects, including origami lightsabers, battleships and characters.

Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events.

A New Golden Age of Epic Fantasy Fiction Shines On

Seraphina ($17.99, Random House Book for Young Readers, ages 12 and up) is reviewed today by Jason Carpenter.

When George Lucas conceived of his Star Wars galaxy, he saw beyond the here and now of giving the people a rousing good yarn. He envisioned a mythology, a world logical and responsible only unto itself, with fantastical creatures that nonetheless felt of flesh and blood.  And like Tolkien before him and Rowling after, the devil- or the grip of imagination- is in the details. 

Rachel Hartman infuses her expansive new novel Seraphina– the saga of an uneasy alliance between mistrustful species (sound familiar?) and the young royal court’s musician who may end up being the key to ultimate harmony or lynchpin to inevitable war- with an eye for Joseph Campbell-like character and plot machinations and an adherence to a painstakingly created medieval alternaverse.

The oppositional species are, in this case, humans and dragons, and as Seraphina begins, a murder of a member of the royal court bearing the trademark savagery of a dragon attack threatens to derail the anniversary celebration of a historical, but tenuous, peace treaty between the two sides. In the midst of this pomp, Hartman also fully realizes the emergence of a young girl’s identity, the fiercely astute Seraphina, torturous as it may be to discover that her mother was a dragon. In a genre dominated by young empowered male principals, it’s  a wonderfully acute choice.

Seraphinas intended demographic, the young and young-at-heart, has proven they can handle the layered storylines, philosophical yearnings, and literal hundreds of major and minor characters that populate the modern fantasy epic. Indeed, Harry Potter’s enduring legacy may just be that it made digging intellectual sword and sorcery lit cool for a fresh generation of make-believers. This novel follows that template elegantly, and at over 450 pages with accompanying glossary, it’s weighty, as well.  The payoff- and it’s not the metaphoric allusions to our own world’s penchant for xenophobia- is in the small quirks of some strongly drawn supporting characters, particularly the reluctantly compassionate dragon mentor Orma, who cares for Seraphina in a way that his dragon demeanor would be loathe to reveal.

Seraphina does rise to rousing good yarn status, but its greatest triumph is in depicting grotesqueries that are anything but and a world that often doesn’t feel that far, far away after all.

Of Moths, Masks and Music

Guest reviewer Rachel Glade shares her take on this unique graphic novel.

On the planet Sirene, everyone wears masks and communicates through an array of musical instruments. Edwer Thissell, an ambassador to Sirene, has to adjust to the strange customs of this new planet while trying to solve a mystery of murder and mistaken identity. But how can he be sure who he’s dealing with when everyone hides behind a mask?

Based on the classic sci-fi short story by renowned author Jack Vance, The Moon Moth ($17.99, First Second Books, ages 14 and up), adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim, captures the intricate beauty of the original in the form of a graphic novel. Breathtakingly unique artwork combined with a fascinating plot make this book stand out among others. While the book contains dialogue and narrative, only the pictures tell the whole story. Though this can make the plot a bit difficult to follow at times, it really pushes the reader to pay attention to the pictures to figure out what’s going on; I found this particularly fun and engaging. Blending themes of foreign culture, social hierarchy, problem solving and courage, The Moon Moth packs a lot of big topics into a short story. This is a book that should be read many times to get the full meaning. Highly recommended for young adult readers.

Rachel Glade is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Geology. Though passionate about science, she is also an avid reader and writer. Rachel enjoys traveling and learning about foreign cultures, and has done science field work in Mongolia and Puerto Rico. Rachel loves books in almost any genre, including classic literature, science, and science fiction.

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