Set on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia, Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel The Girl from the Sea revolves around the life of fifteen-year-old Morgan Kwon.  Morgan likes to keep her life tucked neatly into boxes, but she finds that plan unraveling when she meets Keltie. Keltie brings a sort of wild, chaotic, fairy-tale magic to Morgan’s otherwise grounded life. Keltie is a selkie, a seal who transforms into a human to walk on land for a period of time.  It is Morgan’s kiss that provides the magic for the transformation. But Morgan wants to keep that part of her life hidden from her friends Serena, Lizzie,Read More →

Young readers looking for a good ghost story with adventure and history stirred in will find it in Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab.  In this third volume in the City of Ghosts series, Schwab features twelve-year-old Cassidy Blake whose parents are the Inspecters: World-traveling, ghost-hunting, paranormal investigators. As they travel the world to produce film accounts of their findings, Cassidy tags along from Paris to Edinburgh and beyond.  This episode has the family filming in New Orleans, a place where color, style, and sound collide; a place of contradictions. Although Cassidy has always had a brain that doodles, helping to show her things thatRead More →

When Alder Madigan and Oak Carson first meet as next door neighbors in a Los Angeles, California, neighborhood, the two fifth graders decide they don’t like one another. Complicating any chance at a friendship is the mystery of their mothers’ dislike for one another. However, as time and coincidences transpire, the two accept that change is hard and that sometimes, one thing—like anger or a tree—has to end to make room for something else. Furthermore, the universe appears to have other plans. Those realizations—in the midst of a kitten coincidence, an apparition of a house that isn’t there inhabited by Mort the opossum, and theRead More →

A descendent of the Sun god, twelve-year-old Cecelia Rios grew up hearing the legends of the criaturas. Of all the legends, she likes Coyote’s the best. How was she to know that some day their stories would intertwine? Cece has soft eyes and a compassionate heart, but in the desert of Tierra del Sol, criaturas are dangerous and must be destroyed. In order to survive, according to Mamá, weakness invites death, so she tells her daughter: “You cannot let your tears make you more water than fire” (9). But Cece has a soul of water, not of fire—so she rescues Tzizimitl, a criatura the townspeopleRead More →

Set in North Carolina, The Mending Summer by Ali Standish tells the story of twelve-year-old Georgia Collins whose heart is breaking as she struggles to put her Humpty Dumpty family back together. Pursuing their own dreams, her mother is studying long hours for a degree in biology so that she can work in a lab, and her accountant father moonlights as a piano player who comes home transformed by alcohol into the Shadow Man, no longer the Daddy she knows and loves. To protect Georgia from the fighting and the shame and to give herself more study time, Mama arranges for her daughter to summer inRead More →

Set in the marshes of South Carolina, Root Magic by Eden Royce tells the story of James (Jay) and Jezabel (Jez) Turner—eleven year old twins whose grandmother has just passed. The marsh is a place of fascination, fun, and fear for Jez, who almost loses her life there to a haint. Root Magic is Eden Royce’s way of paying tribute to her African American roots.  In an author’s note, Royce explains that although rootwork is not a religion, it is a spiritual and magical practice whose traditions are passed down in families. Rootwork, along with many of the African American food traditions, is one ofRead More →

Inspired by West African folklore, Roseanne A. Brown writes an action-packed tale infused with magical twists, family secrets, and cultural diversity.  Her debut YA novel, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin features Karina Alahari and Malik Hilali—two protagonists on a trajectory to self-discovery and potential destruction. Running and unraveling riddles are what Malik does best, although he is also prone to panic attacks, dreaming, and wandering alone.  Having been beaten as a child for discussing his hallucinations, creating illusions, and communicating with supernatural beings called the grim folk, Malik’s powers have taken more from him than they have given. Karina, on the other hand, isRead More →

Given the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world, Katharyn Blair‘s novel Unchosen is eerily relevant. Fans of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mercedes Lackey, and Brandon Sanderson will also cheer for the strong female characters and appreciate the engaging and action-packed story. In Blair’s dystopia, someone has knowingly or inadvertently unleashed the Crimson, a virus-like curse that causes the end of the world as we know it. Rather than wearing face masks, people wear blindfolds because looking into the wrong eyes is a death sentence. When infected, a person’s irises turn from their natural color to purple and then to red. That individual has only oneRead More →

With Cinders & Sparrows, Stefan Bachmann has written a gothic novel for middle grade readers. Given the genre, his book incorporates ghosts, spirits, hauntings, misty woods, gloomy environs, enchanted chambers and staircases, talking trees and a marble bust who claims to be a prince. The novel’s plot revolves around twelve-year-old Zita Brydgeborn and her discovery that she is not an orphan after all but a member of the Brydgeborn family of witches and the heiress to Blackbird Castle. With Mrs. Cantanker as her teacher, Zita receives all sorts of training—some of it oddly questionable. Still, according to Mrs. Cantanker, “A true Blackbird is graced withRead More →