Recent and Not So Recent Reads

Hey. Let’s talk middle grade fiction books. And graphic novels. And maybe even a teen and adult book to boot. Underworlds, out of this world, and everything in between.

Below is a list with quick mentions and thoughts on some of the books I’ve read over the past few months. All come highly recommended.

Middle Grade Fiction:

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

Published: Feiwel & Friends (October 2012)

Recommended age: 10 & up

In a nutshell: September returns to fairyland in the squeal to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Benath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, except her return isn’t anything like the happy homecoming she imagined.  Her shadow, Halloween the Hallow Queen, has been ruling the underworld below fairyland, pulling below fairyland’s shadows and therefore it’s magic. To save fairyland (again), September has to go below to stop her. I had the privilege to hear Catherynne Valente read in person last month in Kansas City. She revealed the not-so-secret-secret of Fairyland’s destiny to be a five book series and the next book takes place on the moon. Moon yeti anyone? Rich, whimsical, and unlike anything I’ve ever read, this series is turning into my most loved fantasy series I’ve ever read. Very much looking forward to reading Ms. Valente’s next instllment. And the one after that. And the one after that.

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Published: HarperCollins (October 2012)

Recommended age: 8 & up

In a nutshell:  “Accompanied by an eccentric, human-sized rat, Liza embarks on a perilous quest through an underground realm to save her brother, Patrick, whose soul has been stolen by the evilest of creatures–the spider-like spindlers.” via WorldCat

Something I love about Lauren Oliver’s books, at least the middle grade fiction books I’ve read, is that they all have this cosmic, it’s a big universe out there feel. That there is so much more than we know or understand. That we all have this thing called a “soul” and it is a real thing. I was worried about reading The Spindlers right after The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because they have some very common themes (underworlds!), but they’re so very very different and The Spindlers was so quick to read, I didn’t even give my concern a second thought.

Graphic Novels:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Published: GRAPHIX (September 2012)

Recommended age: 10 & up

In a nutshell: Middle school student Callie finds she has just as much drama off the stage as on the stage. This theater loving girl has a knack for set design and finds friendship, heartbreak, and love all during the production of Moon Over the Missisippi. This book is so wonderful in so many ways. I never was in a play in middle school or high school, but I had friends who were and I never really understood the entirety of their world during the production of a play or musical. And in a way, I envied them. I don’t think anyone ever wants to go back to middle school, but I’m glad I did with Drama. Its charming and captures life at that age perfectly.

Rust: Visitor in the Field by Royden Lepp

Published: Archaia Entertainment (December 2011)

Recommended age: 8 & up

In a nutshell: Times are hard on the Taylor farm, but when Jet Jones crashes into their barn, it lifts the story into a whole another speed.  Older brother Roman Taylor helps repair Jet, but is weary of him. Rust has a depression era, dust bowl feel to it  but with ultra-futuristic elements that make reading it so mysterious. The only clue the reader soon learns is that the book takes place in a time just after an enormous war fought by robots on behalf of humans. After I finished I felt I had only read a short chapter from a very long, elaborate story. And I wanted more.

The next title in the series Rust: Secrets in the Cell is due out next month.


A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 2012)

Recommended age: 10 & up

In a nutshell: I had been looking forward to this book’s release since I first heard of it early this year. It is phenomenal…

What a challenge to take a beloved piece of children’s literature, a masterpiece,  and transform it into a different medium of equal beauty in it’s own rite. Bravo Hope Larson. I absolutely loved it.


Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale

Published: Amulet Books (August 2012)

Recommended age: 8 & up

In a nutshell: “Nathan Hale, the author’s historical namesake, was America’s first spy, a Revolutionary War hero who famously said ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before being hanged by the British. In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format.” via Worldcat

Both entertaining and educational? Yes, please and thank you. I always love it when I find a well constructed, historical graphic novel. I learn so much from them! I’ve been recommending this title as well as it’s follow up, Big Bad Ironclad to all the young history buffs who happen to walk through the library’s doors.


Teen & Adult:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: Scholastic Press (October 2011)

Recommended age: 14 & up

In a nutshell: “Nineteen-year-old returning champion Sean Kendrick competes against Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, both trying to keep hold of their dangerous water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.” via Worldcat

Orphan Puck enters the Scorpio Race not because of pride or because she is brave; she entered to survive. When the landlord of her family home sends a notice of eviction, she decides to enter the Scorpio Races in hopes to claim the large cash reward promised to the winner. Sean Kendrick, a stable hand of the most powerful man in town and past champion of the races, takes Puck under his wing and together they become friendly allies and more…

But the thing is, only one person can win the Scorpio Races and everyone has something at stake. For Puck and Sean, their entire lives are on the line.

The tone of the story is masterfully done. Maggie Stiefvater has truly left her characters, the race, and the water horses to the imagination of the reader. I’m hoping to make time to read her latest Raven Boys over the upcoming winter break. I’ve heard very, very good things about it!

Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine

Published: Europa Editions; Original edition (December 2011)

Recommended age: 18 & up

In a nutshell: I almost nearly peed myself several times while reading this book. Nancy Pearl recommended it as a must-read over the summer, and after listening to her NPR interview I placed a hold on a library copy that day. What a gem! A recent college graduate with a sense of entitlement and a laundry list of deadend jobs decides to adopt the classic Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Treasure Island, as her life manual and thereby “redesigns her life according to its core values: boldness, resolution, independence, and horn-blowing.” If you’re looking for a good laugh and aren’t afraid of a little crazy, this book is for you.

 What are you reading? Please share books you or your children have enjoyed in the comments below!

image source: Wrinkle in Time via LA Times


6 Responses to “Recent and Not So Recent Reads”

  1. Danzel B. says:

    I am reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland right now. I loved the first book so much, and I already feel that way about this one. I have a question: do you know any younger readers who have read them? I love them, but I wonder if they are the kind of “children’s books” that appeal more to grown-ups.

    • Rebecca says:

      I know a few kids that have listened to the audiobook and liked it, but I do agree with you. I feel like it’s written for an older audience or a very specific young reader. Let me know when you finish The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland… I’m interested in hearing what you think!

      • Danzel B. says:

        I finished it last night and posted about it today! I loved it. I thought the story was more focused this time, and I love the voice she uses as narrator. It’s magical. I still can’t imagine a child liking it as much as an adult, though.

        • Rebecca says:

          I loved it too! Can’t wait for the next one!! I think you bring up a really interesting point too. I might try and get one of my precocious young patrons to read it and see what their take is. I always enjoy seeing the difference/similarities between what kids like reading and what adults who read kids books enjoy reading.


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] series, I found myself as nervous about reading this most recent addition as I was the sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led Revels There. The first of the series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is […]

Leave A Comment