Children Of Blood And Bone

34728667

When I heard of Tomi Adeyemi’s forthcoming trilogy based on Yoruba religion I was immediately hooked. For those who don’t know, the complex system of beliefs and deities while originating (and still practised) in West Africa spread to the new world with the slave trade, becoming syncretised with other beliefs into religions such as Santeria and Candomble. The dedication and spirituality required to hold on to one’s beliefs when transported as a slave with literally nothing–no texts, no ritual objects, few elders– is incredible.

And Children of Blood and Bone did not disappoint. Adeyemi’s book weaves the existing religion into a new story, one where magi or magicians were once prevalent in Orisha (the name of the land, also of some forms of the religion and its deities). But following strife between magi and non-magi, the ruling king ordered all magi older than thirteen to be killed, thus eradicating magic.

Zelie is one of the magi, her white hair making this obvious. Her mother, who died in the King’s ethnic cleansing, was a Reaper, but Zelie has no magic powers–until at  market, she bumps into Amari, a princess on the run.

Amari has stolen a scroll given to her father the king, to destroy. The scroll promises to bring magic back to Orisha and Zelie is determined to protect it from the King’s guards–even if it means she’s saddled with a princess to protect too.

The pace is thrilling, with dramatic action-filled sequences as Zelie and Amari, joined by Zelie’s brother and pursued by Amari’s brother Inan, the heir to the throne, make their way to a hidden temple, collecting various artefacts required for a ceremony to restore magic to Orisha once and for all.

Zelie has doubts about the powers unleashed by the return of magic–will it really be a force for good? I really liked these hesitations and how she considers the consequences of her actions. Zelie is a strong, loving and vulnerable girl at the same time as being a magician. Amari and Inan, the other point-of-view characters we follow are also well-portrayed, particularly Inan and his character’s moral twists and turns.

An awesome book that fully deserves all the praise heaped upon it.

Did anyone say Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games meets Black Panther yet?

Because if not, I’m going to call it. 11+

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not So Stories

35894420

Kipling is a curious figure, English as afternoon tea but also deeply Indian, unsurprising given that he spent half of his first 24 years there and wrote of Mumbai:

Mother of Cities to me,

For I was born in her gate

Between the palms and the sea

Where the world-end steamers wait.

He had a deep attachment to India, more for the country  than for the colonised or ‘new-caught sullen peoples, half devil and half child.’ Kipling wrote of his ayah and other servants telling him stories and the influence of animal tales from ancient India (the Jataka Tales and the Panchatantra) is clearly seen in the style of the collection of children’s fables known as the Just-So stories.

Not So Stories retell and interprets the original premise in a number of inventive ways.

Few remember now that Kipling was awarded a Nobel, in the presentation speech it was said of him that ‘He has undoubtedly done more than any other writer of pure literature to draw tighter the bonds of union between England and her colonies.’

The time seems right for a reworking of Kipling and this collection, though not for children, would be great for adolescents beginning to reevaluate the English history they’ve been taught, particularly with regard to the relationship with ‘her colonies’

There is a South-east and East Asian emphasis with marvellous tales like The Tree of Wishes, The Man Who Played With the Crab and the astonishing Serpent, Crocodile, Tiger. My favourite tale, The Cat Who Walked By Himself is exquisitely and devastatingly retold here as The Cat Who Walked By Herself.

A fabulous and thought-provoking collection. Jeanette Ng discusses other reclaimed classics here

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Parker Inheritance

35238085

 

I was really looking forward to The Parker Inheritance as myself (and my kid) both loved The Great Greene Heist & sequel. And The Parker Inheritance completely surpassed our expectations. The story of Candice, 12, who is returning with her mother to live in her dead grandma’s house in the small town of Lambert for a summer while their home is being renovated, it begins in time-honoured mystery fashion with a letter in the attic. The letter has been left by Candice’s grandma, and in it are a series of clues leading to a treasure–worth $40 million, with 10% going to the finder.

What kid wouldn’t be intrigued by an opener like that?

But there’s a whole lot more to The Parker Inheritance. First of all, Candice’s grandma was sacked and had to leave town after her own fruitless search for the treasure led her to dig up a tennis court…

Second, both Candice, whose parents are divorcing, and Brandon, the kid across the street who joins Candice in the hunt are struggling with issues of their own.

Third, the story of how the mysterious benefactor, James Parker, came to leave the treasure is one involving racial segregation, prejudice and tragedy in Lambert–the very town the kids are living in. The Westing Game (which I haven’t read but will seek out) is referenced in the book, but the book that came to mind was Holes by Louis Sachar. Johnson unfolds the past and makes it come to life with the same skill. The family drama is handled deftly, the mystery is engaging and it’s all wrapped up beautifully. A fabulous book 10+

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Night Diary

9780735228511

 

The Night Diary is the beautifully told story of twelve-year-old Nisha. Nisha’s mother died giving birth to her and her twin brother Amil. They both live with their doctor father. Nisha. Nisha relies on Kazi, their cook and Dadi their grandmother for affection as their father is always so busy. When Nisha receives a diary for her twelfth birthday she begins to write to her dead mother. But the year is 1947, India’s Partition looms and Nisha and her family are Hindu (though her mother was Muslim) and living in what is soon to be Pakistan.

The heart-rending story of the build-up of communal violence, their eventual flight from their home and escape to Jodhpur as refugees unfolds through Nisha’s diary entries, along with her sadness about her dead mother and her worries about her twin who is bullied by schoolmates and belittled by their father. Nisha’s delicate voice is realistically somewhat older than her years given her life and the story ends on a note of hope. A fabulous introduction to Indian and colonial history and a warm tale of family surviving against the odds. 10+

Interview with the author here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Serpent’s Secret

32618983

The Serpent’s Secret is the story of Kiranmala, an ordinary kid whose kind parents run a convenience store in New Jersey.

Like all parents, they’re a little weird: her father is freaked out by snakes and has dug a large and muddy trench around the house to keep them at bay, her mother insists on Kiran dressing as a princess every single Halloween and won’t allow curtains in her bedroom so she can ‘bathe in moonlight.’

Pretty common stuff for a third culture immigrant kid, right?

But when Kiran comes home from school to find her parents gone, a gigantic ugly demon destroying her house and two handsome princes on winged horses here to rescue her…

Things are about to change.

We’re whisked off on a winged horse through magical cities, mountains of illusions Rajah’s palaces and the (pretty disgusting) land of the demons or rahkoshs that Kiran, with the help of Princes Neel and Lal, must defeat to get her parents (and herself) home. And what a wild ride it is…

The book I’d liken this rollicking fantasy to most is Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Dasgupta has a similar love for wordplay, puns and rhymes which punctuate the text. But the real world elements, humour and feuding friendship Kiran forms with Prince Neel also bring Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books to mind. I loved all the Indian folktale elements Dasgupta interwove with the (admittedly convoluted) plotline–as a non-Bengali, these were unfamiliar to me. I adored Kiran’s story so much I looked up the original with this link! (Academic journal but free to register for access.)

Wonderful that the journal article begins:

‘This is a transcript of a Bengali folk tale that was once very popular. With Kiranmala now in real danger of being vanquished by Harry Potter, I recorded the tale as it was told by a young, urban woman to her six-year old son’

Well thanks to The Serpent’s Secret, Kiranmala strikes back! Take that Harry!

Fantasy adventure fans of 8+ will loooove this book.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Poet X

33294200

The Poet X is an amazing book that cleverly explores the verse-novel form. I love poetry and verse-novels both, but this could convert a non-believer. Xiomara Batista and her twin Xavier live with their mother and father who are immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

Their mother works two jobs, goes to Mass every day and keeps a strict eye on Xiomara, who is not allowed to date. Their father is around without really being there for them and only a kind teacher Ms. Galiano, who runs the poetry club, and Aman, a boy Xiomara is attracted to, give Xiomara any happiness.

But as her relationship with Aman and her interest in slam poetry burgeon, Xiomara and her religious mother are heading for conflict. Xiomara’s name means ‘one who is ready for war’ and Xiomara finds a voice to fight for what she believes in.

The poetry here is fluent and expressive, with vivid descriptions of Xiomara’s neighbourhood, friends, church and school and the narrative unfolding naturally through verse. I especially loved the poem Xiomara writes for her mother in both Spanish and English:

Tu silencio amuebla una casa oscura.

Pero aun a riego de  quemarse,

la mariposa nocturna siempre busca la luz

 

Your silence furnishes a dark house

But even at risk of burning

the moth always seeks the light

Acevedo is a star of slam poetry herself and you can find many videos of her performing on YouTube.

Here she is with AfroLatina

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Starfish

29456598

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is an immersive, compelling account of the coming of age of seventeen old Kiko. Kiko’s Japanese father and white American mother are divorced and her mother is toxic to the point of being emotionally abusive.

Her creepy uncle also sexually assaulted her as a child, though her mother refuses to believe this. Kiko survives her household (her brothers don’t communicate much) with the help of her best friend and her art, despite her limiting social anxiety.

When her old childhood buddy, Jamie, visits town for graduation and they reconnect, he offers her an escape–a chance to visit him in California. Here Kiko is befriended by an older Japanese artist, Hiroshi, and his family and begins to realise how wonderful her life might be away from her awful mother.

So much to relate to here. This is a lovely book for those who have endured being ‘different’ from the standards of beauty around them, survived critical parenting, anxiety and self-doubt and made it out the other side.

More importantly, it’s an essential book for those teens who haven’t made it out–yet.

I loved the references to Japanese mythology, Kiko’s artworks and how things are left (realistically) somewhat unresolved at the end with regard to Kiko and her mother.

(The book also reminded me of how much I enjoyed  Gadget Girl, by Suzanne Kamata, a story about Aiko, a teen girl with a Japanese father and artist mother who has cerebral palsy and draws manga featuring Gadget Girl, her superhero alter ego.)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment