Spirit Animals is the next series in Scholastic's multi-author, multi-platform, multimedia book series for middle graders, along with The 39 Clues a...moreSpirit Animals is the next series in Scholastic's multi-author, multi-platform, multimedia book series for middle graders, along with The 39 Clues and The Infinity Ring. I haven't had any experience with the other two series, so I don't know how this one holds up to those two, but when I saw this book available at ALA earlier this year, I thought I'd give it a chance.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by Brandon Mull's world building. He doesn't waste much time before we are thrown directly into the story and are given history to the character's world and mythology right away. In the world of Erdas, when a child turns 11, they are given Nectar to see if they can call a spirit animal to them. Not every child calls a spirit animal, and it is never known which animal they will call. The spirit animals become a companion to the child and they learn to work together, the child gaining some more than natural ability that is attributed to what their spirit animal is. When the animal is dormant, it becomes a tattoo on the person that it is bound to.
Four children from around the world (very deliberately multi-cultural, and very PC with 2 boys and 2 girls) each are given Nectar and they then each call one of the Four Fallen great animals of legend. It has been prophesied by a member of the Greencloaks (those in charge of protecting the Nectar and Erdas) that these four children were going to call on the great animals because their world is endangered as the Devourer, a great evil from the past, has also returned.
What follows from here is a fast paced adventure where the children must take on their first challenge and learn to work together with both themselves and their spirit animals. I really think this series will be a hit with both boys and girls, as Mull does a great job of portraying the kids in the book realistically, showing that kids can be smart and strong, but at that age, they still have insecurities to get over, and that it's OK to have those insecurities because their still young. I think the fantasy elements will go over well with kids, as they are portrayed as grand in scope, but not overwhelming, so I think a younger audience will really go for this.
I'll be picking up the next book to see how the continuing authors carry on with the groundwork that Mull has set. The next book in the series, which if the cover is anything to go on deals with the wolf spirit animals, is written by Maggie Steifvater, who is no stranger to wolf-based fiction with her Shiver Trilogy for young adults. That book will be released in January, 2014.
You can pick up a copy of Spirit Animals, Book 1: Wild Born by Brandon Mull from Scholastic on September 10, 2013, at your favorite bookstore!(less)
Neil Gaiman's latest, Fortunately, the Milk, is a goofy little tale of a father, a bottle of milk, some pirates, aliens, dinosaurs, vampires, and volc...moreNeil Gaiman's latest, Fortunately, the Milk, is a goofy little tale of a father, a bottle of milk, some pirates, aliens, dinosaurs, vampires, and volcano gods, all steeped together in the space-time continuum.
One morning, a brother and sister find themselves with no milk for their breakfast cereal, and their father, when realizing this means he also has no milk for his tea, decides to stop to the corner store for a bottle. When the father finally returns after making the children wait and wait, the story he has to tell of his adventures in keeping the bottle of milk safe for them is quite sensational, starting off with being abducted by aliens. What follows from there is an imaginative romp through space and time that is nothing but fun. There's nothing challenging here, and the story certainly doesn't take itself seriously. Skottie Young's stylized sketches throughout really highlight the story and add to the goofiness. He has a style that's uniquely all his own, and that style meshes with this story perfectly.
This would be a great book for a dad to read with his kids, but adults without children (like me) can enjoy it just as much. Recommended!(less)
I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned going into The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I've been mildly burnt out on YA recently, with many of the cu...more I'm not going to lie, I was a little concerned going into The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I've been mildly burnt out on YA recently, with many of the current reads seeming vaguely formulaic. The biggest thing that constantly bugged me was the inevitable love triangle between the heroine and the two (predictably) hot guys, one being the friend who may or may not be already involved with the heroine, and then the "bad" guy, who may or may not actually be bad, but is clearly out of the heroine's comfort zone. A fellow reader told me that Coldest Girl was not like that, yet when the book opens with our heroine, Tana, waking up after a party to find everyone in the house dead with the exception of her ex-boyfriend and another vampire, I immediately thought, "Sigh. Another love triangle. And so soon!" I trust my friend, though, so I persevered and continued on without setting the book down after the first couple of chapters, and I'm not disappointed I did.
Black constructs some nice world building around her vampires and what it takes to infect a person and turn them into a vampire. Instead of an instantaneous transformation, humans can come down with an infection, known as going Cold, and it is possible to fight off the infection and not turn. Yet, if an infected human drinks human blood, then they will turn into a vampire. In order to quarantine both those infected and turned, certain cities across the country are walled off (known then as Coldtowns) and those inside try to get by as best they can. Like most of Black's stories, this isn't a fairytale world. These Coldtowns are dirty, grungy, dangerous places with their own sense of glamour and beauty.
Tana proves to be a strong protagonist throughout, not generally needing help from others. This was refreshing, as is the fact that this is a stand alone story. Black seems to have intentionally tried to downplay anything that makes for a "typical" YA paranormal story these days: Trilogies. Strong, but not strong, female protagonists. The love triangle. All of these things are almost there, but she pulls back before toppling too far into that territory, and for that I'm thankful.
Black's writing again leaves me in a love/hate relationship. Her writing is solid and clear, yet it always leaves me wanting. I'm never quite sure what I want, but it always seems that whatever that "thing" is that will push me over the edge to simply loving her writing is always just out of reach for me. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is really good storytelling, and fans of her work shouldn't be disappointed and should be a good introduction for those not familiar with her work.(less)