31 Days, 31 Lists: 2021 Fantasy for Kids
Fantasy was my own first love when I was a kid. I’d make time for science fiction and, on occasion, realistic or historical fiction, but I was a fantasy girl at my core. My preferred book of choice? Those Apple paperbacks you could get through the Scholastic Book Fair that were all ghost stories (usually by Willo Davis Roberts, Betty Ren Wright, etc.). These days I read all kinds of books for kids, but I’ve a soft spot for the fantasies even now. Here’s a list of some that I saw this year, with somewhat arbitrary rules for what does or does not fall under the banner of the genre. If you’ve a kid that loves Fantasy today as much as I did then, some of these might fit the bill.
Picture Book Fantasy
Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest by Ole Könnecke, translated by Shelley Tanaka
[Previously Seen on the Translation List]
Do my eyes deceive me? Is that an Ole Könnecke book come to American shores once more? It’s been years, but I was such a huge Könnecke fan back, uh, 15 years ago. Seriously, if you haven’t read Anthony and the Girls then you’re missing out. What brings one of my favorite Germans back? A strange and gentle original fairy tale, of course. Translator Shelley Tanaka captures just the right voice with this story of a slightly bossy girl that must rescue her father and defeat a witch (not necessarily in that order). The simplicity of the lines here are key to the enjoyment. Ditto the witch with her distinctly Blue Meanie-esque mouth. Should you be looking for a new tale of a girl going into the woods and out of the woods and home before dark, this book has your number.
Inside the Suitcase by Clotilde Perrin, translated by Daniel Hahn
[Previously Seen on the Translation List]
I do truly believe that Clotilde Perrin elevates the lift-the-flap aspects of her titles to another level. In some books such flaps are novelty elements. For Perrin, they are integral to the plots themselves. For all its magical realism elements, however, this book is perhaps one of Perrin’s more realistic titles. A child packs a suitcase and embarks upon a journey. Along the way different elements from the suitcase are removed and used, while others are added to its contents. The flaps sometimes blend so seamlessly into the art that you have a hard time spotting them. Nonetheless, each one, like the songs in a musical, forwards the story. A lovely and strange little journey, gentler than anything Perrin’s done before.
Julia’s House Goes Home by Ben Hatke
No “best of” list at the end of the year is free from personal prejudice and preferences. We all know that. Committees are made of people and people are guided by their own internal weirdnesses. These 31 days, 31 lists are created by a committee of one: me. And I’m more than perfectly aware of my own weird likes and dislikes. Generally I at least make an effort to keep my own little odd desires out of the mix, but for this book? Yeah, no go. I love the “Julia” series in general, so now to find that #3 has come out AND that it’s in hot contention with #1 as the best of the trilogy (nothing against #2 but it suffers from classic second-in-a-trilogy syndrome), that’s a treat. In this book Julia’s house has served its purpose, providing space for more and more creatures that need a home. In search of a new place to park it, Julia spots the ideal spot in the distance. Then, tragedy strikes! The house tumbles away, throwing inhabitants hither and thither. Julia picks them up as well and new ones, promising each a place to live (“we’ll make room”) until it begins to dawn on her that she’s being unrealistic. The house was never THAT big, after all. I’m just gonna give away the ending here, because I think Hatke just sticks the landing on the trilogy so well. The house? When she finds it, it’s just rubble. But now she has a veritable city of creatures and they plunge forward, rebuilding. “They called it Julia’s Town.” I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING! I was highly amused, by the way, to see that the mermaid has somehow over the course of the books acquired a t-shirt. Guess her strategically placed hair wasn’t cutting it anymore. Ah well. A brilliant little book that stands on its own, even if you haven’t read its predecessors.
Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest by Phoebe Wahl
Shoot. SHOOT! There are too many books out in a given year. So how the HECK do I draw the appropriate bit of attention to this truly fantastic title? See, I liked Phoebe Wahl already. I liked her work on Sonya’s Chickens and The Blue House and all that. She just has this particularly great style that feels old-fashioned but, at least in the case of this book, utilizes digital illustration with “colored-pencil textures” (which is so cool). And now I have found my favorite Wahl. My hands down, without a doubt, stop the presses, favorite favorite Wahl. Little Witch Hazel is getting placed in this picture book section here, but it actually consists of four different stories. Each one follows Hazel through a different season, starting with the spring. In the first story she helps a baby owl. In the next she is seriously stressing out and needs to chill. In the third she deals with a spooky sound. In the fourth she gets caught in a snowstorm and is rescued by a familiar face. Each story also makes sure to tie itself significantly into its own season in some way. Now the book looks all classicy classic on the outset, but part of what I love about Wahl is that she’s such a wild card. Yeah, it’s about tiny people in the forest. But there’s also inside jokes about Noam Chomsky (at one point Hazel has to return a library book called “Who Rules the Woods” by Gnome Chomsky) as well as same sex couples, bearded fairies in dresses, breast-feeding, and even Hazel’s own unapologetically unshaven legs. Man. Wish I had some little kids to read this to. This book is marvelous.
The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld
[Previously Seen on the Funny Picture Books List]
When a childless king and queen seek kids of their own, they end up with a wooden robot and a girl made from a log. And when tragedy places the siblings in danger, they’ll do anything they can to keep one another from harm. This was a surprise. I read a lot of random books during my lunch break, and normally I have a sense of whether or not they’ve garnered much buzz. I hadn’t heard boo about this book initially, so admittedly my expectations may have been lowered. Then, lo and behold, I read it and discovered that Tom Gauld has an ear for fairytales that I haven’t encountered in a very long time. This is so sweet and so funny and so very perfect in terms of tone that I’m just stunned. Then I flipped the book over to discover blurbs by Neil Gaiman, Oliver Jeffers, Jillian Tamaki, Jon Klassen, and Carson Ellis. Clearly I was late to the party.
Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste, ill. Amber Ren
[Previously Seen on the Readaloud List]
“I’m looking for a jumbie. / I’m going to find a scary one.” If that little chant doesn’t conjure up memories of “We’re going on a bear hunt. / We’re gonna catch a big one,” then recheck your earholes. Tracey Baptiste, known far and wide for her marvelous middle grade Jumbies series, cranks the age level way down with the creation of this book. A little girl in the Caribbean is determined to find herself some jumbies at night. In spite of her mother’s warnings, she strides forth, confident she’ll find some. And she does find something, but each time she accuses a creature of being a jumbie, it comes up with a convincing (?) denial. At last, after collecting around five such creatures, it’s time to turn in and get some sleep (and maybe convince the girl’s mama that jumbies aren’t a myth along the way). I last saw Amber Ren when she debuted with that Mo Willems title Because. Here she does a nice job of keeping the scary factor to a low boil. There are monsters in these pages but there is hardly anything monstrous. With all the trappings of a classic readaloud, try this one in tandem with your Halloween or other spooky fare for a bit of a fun kick. Bear hunts have NOTHING on jumbie hunts, after all.
Magic Candies by Heena Baek, translated by Sophie Bowman
When Tong Tong purchases a bag of strange round candies, he discovers that each one allows him to hear the hidden speech of someone or some thing. Marvelous models bring this kooky story to life. Lemme cut off those objections at the pass. The people in this book aren’t attractive? Who cares! I love their imperfections. The book is weird? No question! Strange and original and wonderful. I love books that use models and photography and this South Korean import is skilled in that department. The only elements that leaves me a little uncertain is when our hero apparently is talking to his dead grandma. Not sure what to make of that one. But the rest of it is really fun. I particularly love the message behind the dad’s haranguing. And I’ll be sure to treat my couch nicer from now on.
New In Town by Kevin Cornell
In the little town of Puddletrunk, bridges have a nasty habits of getting eaten by termites. But when a clever repairman goes head to head with the town’s resident troll, it becomes clear that things aren’t always what they seem. I like a picture book that gives smart kid readers credit. I also like a picture book so chock full of details that you can’t help but read it over and over again. This book fulfills both of those needs, though I think I might have to read it ten or twenty times more to catch all the details in the margins. And as a special bonus you get the very rare unreliable narrator in a picture book. I cannot wait to read this one aloud. I suspect you could have a lot of fun with the bridge troll’s oily voice.
The Rapping Princess by Hannah Lee, ill. Allen Fatimaharan
[Previously Seen on the Rhyming Picture Books List]
I got charmed by this one, but let me be clear that if you didn’t see it firsthand you might think the premise was a bit too twee. In this book, Princess Shiloh discovers that while all the other princesses can sing like birds, she lacks the gift. This would be more depressing if she didn’t also discover that she has a keen talent for rapping. At first, she ignores her gift and pig-headedly tries to insist on singing. It’s only when she truly embraces her ability that she’s able to shine on her own. Remember when rapping was relatively young and a ton of picture books tried to (poorly) incorporate it into their storylines? This isn’t that. Naturally I loved the setting, the costumes and the message, but I was also happy to find that this book rhymes and scans with ease. There are a lot of books out there about finding your voice. Just be sure you take this one home since it has a little more pep, a little more zing, and a little more flair than the rest.
The Tiny Woman’s Coat by Joy Cowley, ill. Giselle Clarkson
[Previously Seen on the Readaloud List]
I got some serious Teeny Tiny Woman vibes (courtesy of Paul Galdone) off of this book, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes I think that half the reason fairies are so popular is that kids finally have someone smaller than they are to watch. The woman in this book isn’t a fairy. She’s just trying to get by and make herself a warm coat before the weather turns. Believe me, I know how she feels. This is an ideal book to read aloud in the fall season. Aside from the obvious autumnal details, there’s all kinds of sound effects that come up naturally as you go through the book. When the trees offer something as cloth it reads, “ ‘You can have our leaves,’ said the autumn trees. Rustle, rustle, rustle.” Joy Cowley’s been in the readaloud game for a while (Red-Eyed Tree Frog is still maybe my favorite of her books) and Giselle Clarkson’s art is just fantastic. This would pair beautifully with Little Witch Hazel by Phoebe Wahl. All told, this book is a small delight from start to finish.
Where’s the Dragon? by Leo Timmers, translated by James Brown
[Previously Seen on the Translations List]
If you were to sit down and read loads of picture books year after year from all kinds of wonderful places, you would start to get opinions. Opinions about people. Opinions about people like Leo Timmers. He sort of looks like a Belgian Mo Willems and his books are often somehow both cartoony and weirdly smooth and realistic. Metal gleams when Timmers paints it, but at the same time things get awfully goofy. In this book, three knights are sent by a fascinatingly off-screen king to find the dragon that terrorizes his dreams. Timmers manages two visual gags at once here. On the one hand, every time the small third knight approaches a silhouette that looks like a dragon, he reveals it to be something ridiculous but harmless. Meanwhile, his advance plunges the other two knights into darkness and they fall into increasingly wild and dangerous problems. Little wonder they all give up eventually and go home. Is there a twist? You betcher sweet britches there is. Translator James Brown not only turns this into English but does it in rhyme, which simply cannot have been easy. If you like Timmers (and who amongst us doesn’t?) better snap up his latest.
Fantasy for Older Readers
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
Men in Black meets Harry Potter! When Amari Peters discovers that her brother has nominated her to attend the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs she discovers powers she never knew she had. First and foremost, do NOT listen to the audiobook of this title. Whatever actor they hired, I found myself initially disliking the book thanks to her read (her terrible Irish accent alone is a crime against man). It was only when I read the book itself that it won me over. Amari’s a bit passive at the beginning and the end has a bit of the old deus ex machina to it, but there’s a lot of fun packed in these pages. It has some smart things to say about assumptions and though it piles the messaging on a bit thick, if you want something fun and fast, this is a darn good choice. Worth considering anyway.
Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens
What do you do when you’re a werewolf that can’t shift? When Olivia discovers that she and her mom come from a long line of werewolves, she also finds a family she never knew she had. But what’s hunting Artemis and her family? And will they be strong enough to survive? Here we go! An excellent vampires vs. werewolves story set entirely within the Black community. I found this one surprisingly gripping, particularly when it spoke about our heroine, Artemis, and her dad. Also, am I reading too much into this book or is the metaphor about killing vampires only creating more vampires a metaphor for the state of racism today? Maybe I’m seeing things that aren’t there, but I’m not so sure. What I am sure of is how confident creator Olivia Stephens is of her storytelling. This book works. A true comic book winner.
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity, ill. Christopher Baldwin
[Previously Seen on the Older Funny Books List]
Marketed as YA, I say bah to all of that. I’ve got a 5th grader in my home that loves anything with even a hint of romance, and this graphic novel is so perfectly mild that it more than suits the bill. Certainly someone who has read gothic romances will get more out of it, but I’m hoping that it proves to be a gateway drug to Jane Eyre and all the others. In this story, a girl with a deep and abiding love of all things gothic is accidentally transported to a small dimension straight out of one of her books. There’s a haunted mansion, a surly housekeeper, three brothers, and The Bile. The Bile, for the record, is the part that doesn’t fit. Suddenly she must aid the brothers in defeating The Bile, all while vacillating between Maiden and Heroine. The jokes in this book land with a solid frequency that I truly enjoyed. Loved the art style, the writing, and the weirdness. Just an all around good egg.
The Dragon Path by Ethan Young
All his life Prince Sing has been told that his people, The Wong Clan, have a destiny to return to the Old Lands. But when it turns out that Sing is part mystic, the lies of the past finally come to light. Calling all Avatar fans! It’s nice that we have a self-contained action/adventure graphic novel with a grandiose plot . . . and a giant, uni-kitty (which is apparently a theme in 2021). The visuals are very strong and it’s definitely a book to consider if you need an action book with a boy protagonist.
Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen
In Witch Agnes’s village of vegetable people, there’s little to fear. So when a vampire moves into a nearby castle, will timid Garlic have the guts to face him alone? Oh, what a sweetie. This is one cute comic, and no question. Garlic reminded me so much of my daughter (particularly when she’s in the middle of a freak out) and I loved how much backstory Paulsen was able to work in without having to load the book down with text and exposition. It’s exceedingly simple, beautifully illustrated (and colored), and well written. Plus, it’s got a non-binary carrot and who doesn’t like a good non-binary carrot?
The Girl From the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
Morgan Kwon should never have kissed that girl. Now she has a lovestruck selkie hanging around when all she wants to do is disappear. But maybe stepping out of her comfort zone is exactly what Morgan needs. You know what’s kind of strange? They always catalog Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel titles as YA when, honestly, I think they only do it because there’s romance in them. But as the mother of a 9-year-old girl, I know for a fact that some kids are REALLY into romance. Ostertag’s Witch Boy books are totally fine for older kids and I’d argue the same for this one. Yes, technically, the main character kisses a naked girl in the sea at the beginning but that girl is pretty darn covered up as far as I can tell. Plus it’s just a sweet story. Who doesn’t love a good selkie tale? LGBTQIA+ friendly and fun.
Long Lost by Jacqueline West
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
A middle-grade, ghostly mystery about two young sisters who move to a secretive, small town — the streets are quiet, the houses are old, and whispers echo in the corners. When younger sister Fiona seeks refuge in the town’s ancient library, she finds a book which tells the legend of a local girl who went missing nearly 100 years ago. Some say she died; others say a monster called the Snatcher got her. No one knows for sure, but Fiona is determined to finally give this story an ending. Talk about nicely atmospheric! And just get a look at that cover. Stunning. This is a smartly done fantasy/mystery with a strong, solid foundation in the main character’s relationship with her own sister. I liked the pacing, the clues, and I particularly liked the setting. West has really grown into her own over the years as a fantasy writer for kids. This will prove quite alluring to our fantasy fans.
Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca, ill. Chloe Dijon
Being the only girl on a new baseball team is tough enough, but Trish never expected to be playing alongside rival math prodigy Ben. Can the two become friends in spite of their competition or will it take a bit of magic? I am constantly on the lookout for sports sports sports! Trouble is, they’re actually rather hard to find. So to find a book that combines baseball, math, and Shakespeare in equal parts is rather amazing. Though I read Rajani’s previous companion book to this one (Midsummer’s Mayhem), I don’t think you need to have read it to appreciate this. And to confess, I’m a bit of a nerd about the math in books forwarding the plot and being good. This book incorporates it expertly. You can read my interview with Rajani about the book here.
My Own World by Mike Holmes
When Nathan finds a magical land where he can invent whatever he wants, he must make a decision. Stay in the real world with all its problems, or in his own world where he can control everything? Once in a while you need a comic that doesn’t feel like anything else out there. There are definitely some dark undertones to this story of a boy that finds his own magical world yet it’s so beautifully rendered by Mike Holmes. The more I go back to it and reread it, the more I see. There’s a lot of sadness to this title, but I think the ending contains a good hearty helping of joy as well. My daughter wasn’t keen on the art, but she’s more used to the Raina Telgemeier style of drawing anyway. My son liked it a lot. Just be prepared to have a long conversation about what cancer is.
No One Returns from the Enchanted Forest by Robin Robinson
Big sister Bix is scared of everything. Little sister Pella fears nothing. So when Pella runs straight into the Enchanted Forest (where no one ever returns) it’s up to Bix to put her fears aside, and save not just her sibling but the whole island as well. While on the one hand I don’t want to be all rah-rah-everything-First-Second-does-is-good, on the other hand, it’s almost true. This is a comic on the younger end of the scale (though not as young as some of the titles we’ve seen this year). With that in mind, it’s nice to see something gentle and lovely, with only the barest number of scary elements. Mostly, this is a book for the older siblings of the world. You know how your little brothers and sisters would essentially get away with murder while you were held accountable for every tiny thing? Robin Robinson has synthesized that feeling and turned it into a book. Light fantasy for folks who don’t mind a bit of knitting on their pages.
Pizazz by Sophy Henn
[Previously Seen on the Easy Book / Early Chapter Book List]
Being a superhero isn’t as much fun as it looks, particularly when you’re saddled with a superhero family and a power that is incredibly embarrassing. But what’s Pizazz to do when it’s up to her to save the day? Far and away the most British thing I’ve ever read published here in the States with (what seems to be) little to no editing on the Britishisms. Honestly, as I read this aloud to my daughter it became apparent that I needed to slip in an accent to read lines like, “Aunty Blaze sent him to the naughty step for a jolly good think”. All told, I found this little young superhero story charming.
The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Kate Milford, ill. Nicole Wong
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
Twelve guests, trapped at the Blue Vein Tavern by floodwaters, tell stories to pass the time. An infinitely clever tale of the crossover between storytelling and reality. I am happy to report that even though this book is set in the universe of Greenglass House it is not a sequel. There are neat little details for fans of Milford’s other books to pick up on, but they’re more like Easter eggs than anything else. The book itself is marvelously skilled. It starts out by feeling like a series of unrelated stories. Then, as it proceeds, the stories grow closer and closer together, and the people in the inn get more and more interesting. After I finished I had to go back and reread all the parts between the stories just to see what I’d missed (and I’d missed a lot). An ideal book for new and old fans of Milford alike.
Root Magic by Eden Royce
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
If any of you ever teach a course on How to Write a Great First Chapter, I hope you use this book as one of your examples. Eden Royce grips you with her writing and turn of phrase right at the start and that passage echoes so beautifully later in the last chapter as well. I would advise you NOT to listen to the audiobook, though, if only because the reading is a bit too slow for my tastes. Brought up to speed this book is a skilled mix of folklore and American history. I was a bit worried that the defeat of the villain would feel cheap if it was solved via magical means, but then Royce EARNS that ending. Color me seriously impressed.
Salt Magic by Hope Larson, ill. Rebecca Mock
Sticks in your brain, this one. Vonceil, twelve, is thrilled that her brother Elber came back in one piece from the war. Or did he? The effects of WWI have made him grow old before his time, and all he wants to do is settle in with his new wife. Vonceil had hoped that he’d find and marry an exotic French nurse, and when a fancy French woman arrives on the farm it looks like that dream was a reality. But the woman, Greda, is much more than simply a nurse. She’s a salt witch, and Elber’s betrayal and abandonment drive her to salt the only working well for miles. Now Vonceil is on a quest to stop the witch and reverse the curse. This is a western in a lot of ways, set in Oklahoma (but making no mention of the displaced Native American populations that had been living there). There’s a mystery at the heart of the comic as well, concerning the fate of a former lover of Greda’s. All told, the writing is a clever mix of post-war trauma, magic, and some smart thoughts about our expectations of others and ourselves. I think Mock really outdoes herself with the massive party sequences too. Worthy of Labyrinth (my highest praise). Just be ready for a bittersweet ending that may have some kids pondering more than they’d expect.
Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine
Purple-haired Willow is has zero interest in attending her dad’s old summer camp on a spooky island. That is, until she starts discovering the hidden creatures and forces that lurk in the dark. The second I brought this graphic novel home my kids zeroed in on it. They like comics already, but I hadn’t expected their keen eyes to start identifying artists. “This is the guy who draws the Animorph comics,” they told me. “Is it?” “Same noses” they declared, thoroughly satisfied with this explanation. Recognizable proboscises aside, this book certainly taps into a kind of Black Sand Beach vibe (if far less creepy). It’s not the most showy of the books, but it’s enjoyable in a way I think kids will like.
The Sprite and the Gardener by Rii Abrego and Joe Whitte, ill. Rii Abrego, lettered by Crank!
Definitely a book for the Tea Dragon Society fans out there. I dunno, I just found myself rather charmed by this book. It’s not a particularly complex story and the only true conflict appears to be internal (doubts, fears, worries, etc.). In it, a little garden sprite named Wisteria has just joined a crew of others like herself. In the old days they would have been the caretakers of nature, but since humans arrived they’ve done less and less of that. Curious, Wisteria discovers a neglected little garden and decides to help it along. In doing so she sparks something old and important, not just in herself, but in everyone around her. The art is incredibly stylized and interesting. There’s definitely a manga influence, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on as well. If you’re looking for something gentle to read to your kids, but you want something visually splendid as well, this is a good safe choice.
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
Bug’s house has always been haunted but it wasn’t until Uncle Rodrick died that things started to get weird. Is Rodrick trying to tell Bug something? And is it something Bug’s ready to hear? “Doll Bones meets a trans narrative.” That’s how this book was sold to me and, I gotta admit, it hooked me cause I like both of those things. If the name “Kyle Lukoff” sounds familiar then you may be thinking of his Max books and the Stonewall Award winning When Aidan Became a Brother. This book does go full on horror, but does have a couple deliciously creepy moments. The remarkable blending of haunting and trans discovery is expert. I really think Kyle’s tone here is pitch perfect. No one writes uncertainty better than he does. Plus, considering how many middle grade novels I read in a given year, I loved the moments where Bug would say stuff like, “If this were a book then . . .” and immediately zero in on some trope that I hate. Honestly, the best trans middle grade book I’ve ever read.
The Unfinished Corner by Dani Colman, illustrated by Rachel “Tuna” Petrovicz, colored by Whitney Cogar, lettered by Jim Campbell, designed by Bones Leopard, and edited by Rebecca Taylor
Not since Barry Deutsch’s “Hereville” series (Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, etc.) have I encountered a graphic novel with such a singular Jewish focus. But where Hereville limits itself to an Orthodox community, The Unfinished Corner takes a wider view. I admire big wide swings. It means that the creators are trying for something beyond the boring. And while I don’t think every aspect of this book necessarily works (I’m still a bit confused about why the makeover challenge ends the way that it does) this book manages to work in Lilith, the Golem, the Holocaust, ishim, demons, and blooming Creation itself (howsoever you choose to define it). It is PACKED with definitions, but doesn’t dwell on anything that might be unfamiliar to some readers. Honestly, I was shocked there wasn’t any backmatter, until I realized that the footnotes in the book (and the explanations in the text itself) did all the heavy lifting. It’s definitely one of those stories that leap from place to place, plotline to plotline, and are never dull. Nothing here sags. There’s even a bit of character development for spice, if that’s your bag. And in an era when we’re starting to get so many comics that some of them just run together, this book’s a notable and noteworthy exception. Welcome on any graphic novel shelf.
So, I’m the kind of Rob Harrell fan that gets all pissy when I see trailers for Rumble, because it’s too loosely based on his book Monster On the Hill and has changed ALL the things. Except the monster part. That’s there. I also, like the rest of the world, enjoyed his middle grade novel Wink when it came out. So it pretty much stands to reason that I would probably enjoy this Batpig outing. Is it silly? Yes. Is it really silly? Oh yes. And there are great jokes and Harrell’s magnificent style and a true love of delicious biscuits. I don’t know that there’s a whole lot that I can say about it that you can’t already get from the cover (pig in cape = flying pig with superpowers). All I’ll say is that if you’re looking for a comic that just fun with a low gross-out index and plenty of gags that actually land, here’s your winner winner piggie dinner.
The Wild Huntsboys by Martin Stewart
Set in a futuristic England at war, three boys find themselves in danger when they anger the fairies and must battle enemies on every side. I just regret it took me this long to read this book. After reading a lot of “meh” fantasies this year, I needed a book with great writing that was funny and smart. This book fits the bill. Few authors could successfully meld dystopia with fairies in a middle grade title, but Mr. Stewart manages it. I highly recommend that you listen to the audiobook as well. Right from the get-go you’ll enjoy the reader. He has to do a wide range of accents and rarely disappoints. We’re going to need some fun fantasies on our shelves and this gets my vote.
The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold
[Previously Seen on the Middle Grade Novels List]
I HIGHLY recommend that you check out this book’s audiobook. Arnold reads it herself and when she gets to the part where Gabrielle gives up her accent, she stops reading in an accent as well. It’s subtle and smart. Loved the telling overall. Pairs nicely with Root Magic, but from an entirely different angle.
Interested in previous years’ fantasy lists? Then just look here:
And here’s what else we have happening this month:
December 1 – Great Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Funny Picture Books
December 7 – CaldeNotts
December 8 – Picture Book Reprints
December 9 – Math Books for Kids
December 10 – Books with a Message
December 11 – Fabulous Photography
December 12 – Wordless Picture Books
December 13 – Translated Titles
December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales
December 15 – Unconventional Children’s Books
December 16 – Middle Grade Novels
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books & Early Chapter Books
December 19 – Older Funny Books
December 20 – Science Fiction Books
December 21 – Fantasy Books
December 22 – Informational Fiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Autobiographies *NEW TOPIC!*
December 26 – Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers
December 28 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 29 – Best Audiobooks for Kids
December 30 – Comics & Graphic Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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