We'll Never Be Royals

“I'm going to marry Prince William! I'll get all Kate Middleton's cute coats!”
            ― Claudia Gray, A Thousand Pieces of You

If you want to read something completely fantastical, something that could never happen in real life, read The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. It’s the story of a young, American college student, Bex, who goes to England to study abroad and ends up marrying the British Prince. (How many college girls have swooned at that thought!) As a former English major and all-around Anglophile, this is the alternative history that I’ve been waiting for.

The Royal Family in the book is loosely based on the current Royal Family. The Queen, much like Elizabeth II, is always in control and always gets the last word. The Prince in question is obviously the stand-in for Prince William and his red-headed, mischief-making brother for Prince Harry. The Prince’s father is distant (though I’d like to imagine that Prince Charles isn’t as unkind as his literary substitute in this book). The depiction of the Prince’s mother is handled tastefully. (I’ll make you read it to find out what the authors did with this delicate situation.)

I enjoyed watching Bex develop in her relationship with Prince Nicholas from girl-next-door to keep-it-a-secret girlfriend to hide-from-the-paparazzi fiancé. It gave me a new respect for Kate and how she deals with the cameras with such aplomb. With all the craziness that Bex has to deal with once she comes into the paparazzi’s crosshairs, it makes me wonder: If the truth can be crazier than fiction, what must poor Kate go through that we never even hear about?

Fellow royal watchers might also like Kate: The Future Queen by Katie Nicholl, Someday My Prince Will Come: True Adventures of a Wannabe Princess by Jerramy Sage Fine, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, and The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne.


New Year, New School: Great Choices for the Upper Elementary Set

It’s back-to-school time!  If you haven’t returned to the classroom already, you will very soon.  Here are some intermediate fiction suggestions for children in grades 4-6 to make the school year even more fun.  In each book, the main character is starting a new school.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
In 2015, with this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, author Cece Bell earned Newbery Honors and an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.  Bell relates her personal experience as a deaf child in first grade joining a classroom of children without hearing issues.  She wears a hearing aid strapped to her chest which opens up her auditory world, but makes her feel awkward socially and hampers her quest to find a true friend.  Interestingly, the hearing aid also allows her to hear her teacher’s conversations wherever she is in the school.  This becomes Cece’s “superpower”, and as a result she dubs herself “El Deafo”.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
In this graphic novel, Roan is just starting middle school.  His application to pilot school was rejected and instead he has accepted a surprising invitation to attend the mysterious Jedi Academy, where he finds he’s the oldest student.  Apart from Yoda, many of the characters in this new series are entirely unrelated to the cast of the Star Wars films, but are equally intriguing.  Much more than a take-off of a popular franchise, this novel/comic diary tackles some important school-age issues, such as friendship, bullying and perseverance.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The experiences that eleven-year-old Ellie encounters as she starts middle school include more than just friendships ending and beginning, awkwardness and discovering new academic interests.  She also gets to know her grandfather, Melvin, who has figured out how to reverse the aging process and is now a thirteen-year-old enrolled at Ellie’s school.  This unique novel is a wonderful blend of fantasy and realistic fiction and exhibits an enthusiasm for science that should inspire any reader.  We also offer this book in compact disc and eBook formats.

The New Kid by Mavis Jukes
This novel is also about starting a new school, but with the added challenges of doing this in the middle of the school year and switching from an intimate private school to a large public school.  Eight-year-old Carson has just moved with his dad to northern California, leaving behind his grandparents and familiar places and faces.  Although at first not completely comfortable in his new surroundings, the love of his father and the acceptance of his classmates smooths the transition.  Author Jukes shows true empathy for Carson’s experience settling into a new environment and tells her tale with humor and understanding.


This Is Character Building

“Anyone who has grown up in Delhi knows it's horrible.” – Upamanyu Chatterjee

Idha, the narrator of Deepti Kapoor’s A Bad Character, is seventeen when her mother dies. Her father, who has been away working in Singapore, comes back to India for the funeral, but goes right back to Singapore afterward—without Idha. She is sent to live with an aunty in New Delhi, whose main goal is to get her married. But Idha is humored and allowed to go to college. They even give her a car. Somehow, this is not enough. She is not looking for the college-husband-kids progression. This is what leads her to the “bad character” in the title. She never gives his name and much of his life remains a mystery to us. But what we do know is that he shows her parts of the city and parts of herself that she had previously only guessed at.

She is in a café in Khan Market, avoiding the “indestructible” Delhi heat, safe in the air conditioning.
Safe until she looks up and finds him staring at her. She, however, is not completely innocent. She says, “But in the café I’m looking up at him. I am pretty and he is ugly. And the secret is this turns me on.” He takes her, literally and figuratively, on a ride through the city. Delhi, itself, is like a character—dark, menacing, dangerous. Delhi is “no place for a woman in the dark unless she has a man and a car or a car and a gun,” she says.

I enjoyed how the novel is a Bildungsroman, but also has dark undertones. Growing up and learning about the world is not always easy and sometimes there is more at stake. If you like Kapoor’s book, you might also enjoy reading Green Girl by Kate Zambreno and A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride.


California Young Reader Medal Nominee Part III

I have been dragging my feet on writing a review about this book. I really wanted to love it. It is nominated for the California Young Reader Medal, it has great reviews, it is a New York Times bestseller, and the kids rave about it. It has everything going for it – adventure, suspense, a believable magical world, a plucky heroine and a determined hero. The author, Colin Meloy, is the lead singer and songwriter of the popular indie folk rock band The Decemberists, and the illustrator is the amazing Carson Ellis. I took the book home full of excitement and eagerness to start reading. And then I just couldn’t get into it. I am not a lover of fantastical worlds, and Wildwood is nothing if not fantastical. I did try. I made it halfway, and then had to skip to the last chapter, to read what turned out to be a rather satisfying ending.

Prue McKeel lives an ordinary life in Portland. Until the day her baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows and taken into the “Impassable Wilderness” – the impenetrable forest world called Wildwood on the outskirts of Portland. Prue and her friend Curtis set out to rescue her brother. On the way, they get separated and the book follows their stories alternating chapter by chapter. There are magical creatures, warring armies, dark magic, and a battle for the survival of Wildwood itself. 

The story does wrap up nicely with lots of room for a sequel. Actually, there has been not just one sequel, but two. Wildwood continues to entrance readers of all ages. I do encourage you to read this book. There is a reason it is so popular and is nominated for the California Young Reader Medal Award. It just didn’t resonate with me. So give it a go and let me know what you think.


Read to the Rhythm - Older Teen Music Themed Books

This year's "Read to the Rhythm" music themed summer reading program is nearly over. But the music themed fun doesn't have to end; this list of older teen music themed books will guarantee great reads all year long.