Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mythology-Based Fantasy/Adventure Series for Tweens & Teens

Mythology-Based Fantasy/Adventure for Tweens & Teens

Looking for something similar to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series?  Give these a try:

The most obvious choice is Riordan's second series, Heroes of Olympus.  The story continues from the first series, but with a twist.  This series takes on the Roman interpretation of the gods of Olympus and introduces new demi-gods born from the gods' Roman identities who have their own camp named Camp Jupiter.  Percy and his friends are in this series as well.

If you've already read the second series and love all the characters, then good news!  The first book of a third series called The Hidden Oracle will be released on May 3, 2016!  The Trials of Apollo series will follow the life of Apollo after being kicked out of Olympus and made mortal by Zeus and will feature most of the characters from the first two series.

In addition to the Percy Jackson novels, there are also all the companion books, non-fiction mythology books, and graphic novel versions that Rick Riordan has published as well.

Riordan also has a relatively new series based on Norse mythology, with a loose connection to Percy Jackson.  The first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Sword Of Summer, was released last fall.  This series features young Magnus Chase, the cousin of Annabeth Chase, who discovers he is the son of the Norse god, Frey.  The second book of the series, The Hammer of Thor, is due to be released in October, 2016.

And that brings us to the remaining Riordan series, The Kane Chronicles, based in Egyptian mythology.  This series features Sadie and Carter Kane, descendants of pharaohs, who have been raised apart but discover they must unite to battle the evil god Set and save the world.  

Now, moving on to other authors, we have Kate O'Hearn's Pegasus series. This is another fantasy/adventure in which a seemingly ordinary tween/teen finds out they have a connection to the gods, in this case the Roman gods of Olympus.  The series begins with an injured Pegasus crashing onto the roof of Emily's apartment in The Flame Of Olympus, changing her life forever and putting her in the middle of a battle to save Olympus.

Red Sun is the first book of new author Alane Adams' series, The Legends of Orkney, based on Norse mythology.  In the first book, young Sam Baron's normal life takes a strange turn as he discovers his mother is a witch, his missing father is a descendant of Odin, and he must return to the magical realm of Orkney to stop it's destruction by the curse of the red sun.  This is a little shorter and a little darker than Riordan's The Sword of Summer, and does not have the same character and plot development or humor.  The second book, Kalifus Rising, is due out in September of 2016.

The Blackwell Pages by K. L. Armstrong and M. A. Marr is another adventure series based in Norse mythology featuring young teens that are descendants of the gods; Matt Thorsen is a descendant of Thor, while Fen and Laurie Brekke are descended from Loki.  The difference in this series is that most of characters know all along that they are the descendants of the gods and that they have special powers, they just don't expect to be called up to unite and work together to save the world from destruction in Ragnarok.  I find this series to be more similar to Riordan's style than the Orkney series by Adams.  Another unique thing about this series is that there are illustrations, which might make it more appealing to reluctant readers.  The first book is titled Loki's Wolves.

Kate O'Hearn also has a series based in Norse mythology called Valkyrie, the story of young Freya, who does not look forward to turning 14 and beginning her duties as a Valkyrie, or Battle Maiden, reaper of the souls of the brave who die in battle.  On her first mission, a dying soldier who's last words send her to earth on a dangerous quest, where she learns what it is to be human.

The following are not as similar in style and plot to Percy Jackson as the series listed above, but also involve mythology, fantasy, and adventure:

The Cronus Chronicles series by Anne Ursu - Greek mythology
The Fire Thief trilogy by Terry Deary - Greek mythology
Pandora series by Carolyn Hennesy - Greek mythology
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs - Greek mythology (for teens)
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman - Norse mythology

And remember, to read more about the original mythologies, try the non-fiction section at your public library in the 291's & 292's.

Some additional fantasy/adventure novels and series that are not classical mythology, but have to do with mysticism, legends, myths, and other worlds that fans of mythology-based fiction might also enjoy are:

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
The Colussus Rises by Peter Lerangis
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
The Akhenaten Adventure byP. B. Kerr
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers
The Unwanteds Lisa McMann
Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Middleworld by J & P Voelkel
City of Fire by Laurence Yep

I'll be doing a follow-up list of mythology-based fiction for younger readers next, so stay tuned...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Today At The Desk....

Today it was unusually busy at the desk.  Lots of families in and out and lots of questions, plus 3 different middle school classes.  The school groups were each in and out in 15 minutes, but it was a flurry of activity while they were here!  Hustling to select a book, then rushing to check out, and of course several of them didn't have their cards so I had to look them up.  Invariable, at least half of those also had accounts that had expired so I then had to renew them before they could check out.  But, I still managed to get them all checked-out in the few minutes they had.  Fortunately, the school groups all came through and were gone before things got really busy with other patrons.

After the school kids left, families started coming in and I ended up having a few reference questions.  One young girl was interested in learning American Sign Language, so I helped find some beginner books on ASL, and told that we also had DVD's, and that you can find videos online that show you how.  Then her sister decided she wanted to learn some Spanish, so I helped her find some Spanish vocabulary and conversation books. 

Later a kindergarten teacher came in looking for books about photosynthesis, and surprisingly, we didn't have any.  I really thought we would have at least one, but no.  So I looked through all the general plant books and found a couple that had some information about photosynthesis that would work for what she needed.  Then I had a daycare worker who wanted to find some traditional folk tales and nursery rhymes, and I helped him locate them and select the versions that were most appropriate for preschool-aged children.

I also had some patrons who needed reader's advisory, one looking for something similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and another looking for a new series for a child who enjoyed Junie B. Jones.  I suggested Big Nate for the first, and Clementine or Judy Moody for the latter.  One of the students also needed some help selecting a fantasy for her required school reading, and I showed her a few different ones, and she ended up choosing one of Tamora Pierce's books.

Along with all of this, I had several patrons with simple directional or informational questions, a card renewal, several checkouts, pulled all the materials for holds or transfer, straightened up the shelves after the school groups blew through, and still managed to find time in between to cut out some things for storytime! 

I much prefer busy days like this!  For one, the time passes faster, but I really do enjoy interacting with patrons and helping people find the information and books they need.  I find it not only gratifying to be able to help so many people, but energizing as well. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

How It Went Down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. October 21, 2014. Henry Holt and Co. 336 pages. Ages: Teen & Up

Tariq Johnson, a black teenager, was on his was on his way back after running to the store to pick up a few things for his mother, and a candy bar for his little sister.  But he never made it home.  Instead, a car pulled up, and a white man jumped out and shot him twice, the second shot after Tariq already lay on the ground bleeding.

In the aftermath, there are many unanswered questions:  Did Tariq have a gun?  Why did the shooter stop in the first place? Was Tariq in a gang?  Was it racially motivated?  Everyone tells a different version of the events of that day, and seemed to know a different side of Tariq Johnson.  Will anyone ever know the truth of exactly how it went down?  

My Thoughts 
This story is told from the points of view of many different characters, constantly switching back and forth, so it can be confusing and hard to keep up with, and slightly annoying.  I think it would have been better if some of the characters had been left out; for example the whole sub-plot of the ongoing flirtation between Kimberly and the opportunistic "minister" with political aspirations Alabaster Sloan, who seems to be an amalgam of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson,  just seems like a distraction from the main question, which is what really happened when Tariq was killed.  It also turned me off a little that the story was so obviously based on the Treyvon Martin case; I would rather see a little more originality.

This book did do a good job of illustrating how nearly impossible it is to ever know what really happened in a case like this.  Although there may be many witnesses, they will each have a different version of what happened, and they may all believe they are telling the truth.  The problem is, we all perceive things slightly differently, based on our own experiences and prejudices.  For example, when the shopkeeper called "Stop, T", the white bystander sees a black kid in a hoodie rushing off with an armload of goods, and thinks he hears "Stop, thief!", when in reality the shopkeeper just wanted to give Tariq the change he left behind.  It also showed how hard it is for kids to resist the pull of the gangs, although I don't think those of us who grew up in different circumstances can ever really understand that.

Although I did think the myriad points of view and sub-plots was a bit confusing and excessive, I did like the story of Jannica, and how Tariq's death ended up being a turning point for her, helping her realize she wanted something more than that kind of life, and giving her the courage to break it off with her gang-banger boyfriend.

I would recommend this book for class discussions, book clubs, or anyone who wants to read something serious and thought-provoking that might make them question their own beliefs and face their own prejudices, and look at things from another perspective.  Fans of All American Boys by Jason Reynolds or Monster by Walter Dean Myers would probably enjoy this book as well.

Other Books By This Author
Kekla Magoon is the author of several young adult novels, including the award-winning The Rock and the River, as well as non-fiction books on historical subjects.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Another Day At The Desk....

This week was spring break, which usually means we're busier.  Because the weather was rainy, we didn't have quite as many people as I would normally expect, but it was steadily busy most of the shift.

Almost right away there was a near disaster that I just barely caught in time to avert.  I was straightening up in an area near the the single-stall family restroom and I kept hearing the water running for a long time.  Finally, I went over and knocked on the door, then found it was unlocked.  I opened it to find the water in the sink running full blast, and the sink full to the very top, about to overflow!   Thank goodness I caught it in the nick of time before it overflowed and flooded the floor.  I don't know if it was done maliciously or not, but sometimes kids are just tall enough to push the handles back, turning the water on, but then can't reach far enough to pull them back to turn the water off.

I also got the chance to see one of our semi-regular families; they also use one of the branches closer to where they live.  When I first met them, they had two kids who were big Pete the Cat fans, so every time I saw them I would let them know about any new Pete the Cat books we had gotten in.  At the time they were expecting a third child, and that little baby bump is now an active 2-year old who has also become a Pete the Cat fan, so they were there to get some books for him, but couldn't find them since they had been re-cataloged in the last year after the creative team of Dean and Litwin unfortunately parted ways, and Dean retained all rights to the character of Pete that he created.  So the books are now shelved under Dean rather than Litwin, so I showed them where they were with a brief explanation.  

I love being able to get to know these young families and see the kids grow up; that is probably my favorite part of working at the library.  It's so neat to get to know them as babies and toddlers and watch them grow as they graduate from board books to picture books, then to see them start reading by themselves.  It's always a little sad when they graduate from Storytime to kindergarten, but then we get to see how they blossom when they start school.  We may not see them as often after that, but when we do they have plenty to tell us about school and new friends.  Then as they get older there are school projects and papers to help with, and the challenges of reader's advisory and finding things they haven't read yet and keeping up with their changing interests. I haven't worked at the library long enough to see the kids I've met grow up to bring their own children to storytime, but I hope to!