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The Younglings: Fire & Magic

The Youngling gang of supernaturals is back in the second installment of Helena M. Craggs’ series. This time Quinn and his friends are more experienced, more determined, and have even more troubled spirits to clean up after. A wannabe vampire on the loose, stalkerish witches and the pressure cooker of first years of college mean that their break from the supernatural realm has well and truly come to an end.

The Younglings: Fire & Magic picks up from where it left off, continuing the journey of first loves, sexuality, friendship, loyalty and familial unity. The ongoing guidance of demon nanny Mrs. D was the feel-good stability and wisdom that can often lack in the young adult genre.

Narrated predominantly from Quinn’s perspective Helena M. Craggs has done well to maintain his humorous and charismatic character. The addition of storytelling from multiple perspectives created the perfect amount of angst to keep the reader feverishly turning pages and builds upon the logic and reason of characters the reader has already had the opportunity to understand.

The natural progression of the original characters truly shines through in this second installment. Eve and Quinn have matured immensely; tougher and more direct, they set the tone of the novel to be logical and infallible, genuinely growing into the ruling roles so heavily focused on in book one. An outstanding friendship dynamic with purposeful powers and personalities, Craggs has taken her time to evolve relationships through real-life themes young adults face. The romantic subplot solidified this novels place in the workings of a brilliant young adult read.

The Younglings: Fire & Magic is a lighthearted paranormal fantasy that takes young adult readers on an action-filled adventure. The supernatural characters are engaging and will have readers hooked from the start.

Pages: 340 | ASIN : B09YHMTV4Z

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SOS Champion Captain

There isn’t much Nora can’t do–and do well. She’s her school’s captain, and if there is a prize offered or medal to be won, she has claimed it for her own. So when she and her classmates find out about the newest competition to build a model pirate ship, she just knows this will be another easy win for her. However, Nora soon learns this is to be a group project, something she is not comfortable with, as she is not the one in control of everything. So will this be the one competition Nora actually can’t win? Or will she be able to pull it together for the sake of her group members?

SOS Champion Captain, by children’s author Cameron Stelzer, is one in a series of the School of Scallywags books. Nora, champion of virtually everything, is the main character and is in for a difficult lesson on how to treat others. She is used to being recognized as the best in all she does, and when things don’t go her way, and she loses her temper, the group project suffers. Nora must learn about acceptance, tolerance, and unity in order for her group to be able to finish building the pirate ship. This is a common issue for many children, they feel their worth is tied to their achievements. Learning teamwork is hard and this entertaining book teaches kids the value of working together.

My third graders are going to love this book–our class theme is pirates, and Nora and her crew fit right in! I love that Nora and the other characters struggle with some of the same issues as my students–the strong love of hot chips and the stress of group projects. Stelzer’s characters are undoubtedly relatable for young readers, and the fantasy setting of the School of Scallywags is sure to draw readers in from the first pages.

SOS Champion Captain is a captivating children’s book for those kids in the second to fifth-grade reading levels. Nora and the other members of the School of Scallywags will delight readers with their relatable feelings and life lessons. This book will make a great addition to both school and classroom libraries.

Pages: 98 | ISBN : 0645133132

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How Do We Live With Our Mortality?

Author Interview William Loizeaux

Into the Wind follows a young boy who, while fixing up a sailboat, befriends his elderly neighbor. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When I was a boy, I had a feisty, independent, widowed and elderly aunt who was an artist and loved sailing.  As she aged, she didn’t seem to mellow or retire or relax, but seemed to come even more alive, to throw herself with increasing energy at what she loved, even as that became more difficult.  She painted with a trembling, arthritic hand.  Some weeks before she died, she managed—in a wheelchair!—to get herself into a small boat and, with the help of someone who held the rudder, sail through some rough weather.  That was the germ of Into the Wind

Was there anything from your own life that you incorporated into Rusty’s and Hazel’s relationship?

Yes.  There is a certain amount of my relationship with my aunt in Rusty’s relationship with Hazel.  Like Hazel, my aunt was odd and demanding—you might even say cantankerous.  We rubbed each other the wrong way.  But she took an interest in me, and slowly I took an interest in her and came to appreciate her quirky sense of humor, the challenges she faced and the wisdom she had as an aging woman who mostly got around in a wheelchair.  We became unlikely friends.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The main theme was intergeneration friendship.  How could that happen between a boy with his life ahead of him and a woman near the end of hers?   What might connect them?  What might each of them gain from that connection?  

Our mortality is another theme, something that children from eight to twelve are beginning to grapple with.  By then they may have lost a loved pet or, worse, a relative.  How do we think about that?  How do we live with our mortality?  Maybe Hazel shows Rusty a way.  Sadly, life comes to an end, but it can be filled, like Hazel’s, with curiosity, fun, humor, generosity, growth, energy, friendship, love, wonder, and meaning—all of which might be passed from one generation to another.  I hope that’s what readers feel and understand when they finish Into the Wind.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I write books for children and adults, and I’m usually working one or the other, or sometimes both.  At the moment, I have an adult nonfiction draft on my screen and parts of a children’s story in a folder on the side of my desk.  When might they be available?  I don’t know, as I haven’t finished them yet.  Sometime soon.  Fingers crossed.  Information about my previous books is available on my website.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A character-driven novel about the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an elderly woman. The old woman badgers the boy into taking her sailing, but when the weather turns bad, it becomes a wild sail. It becomes the last trip before she goes into the hospital where she dies: but not before the two of them share memories of their last sail together. Hazel helps build the boy’s confidence during a tough time in his home life. Both moving and joyful, Into the Wind is a poignant story about loss and love in a boy’s life, and the surprising and sustaining bonds that can grow between the old and young.

Bringing Dark History Into the Light

Steve Zimcosky Author Interview

Hanging Cloud follows a PI that tries to find a missing man and ends up uncovering a multigenerational conspiracy that leads to threats on his own life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

In the past I had read about the government’s attempt at assimilating Native Americans into a lot of the urban areas in the United States. When I did the research I found out what their real intent was and felt that it needed to be shared, so I created a way to use it as part of the plot in the story. Many people have no idea that this even took place back in the 1950s. As it states in the book the whole intent was to get the Native Americans off their reservations so they could sell the land and also the hope of having them intermarry so they could just eliminate all Native Americans. It’s a part of our history that is kind of kept in the dark.

Tom Sipowicz is a great detective that captures the interest of readers. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted someone who had grown up with adversity in school but had a wonderful family life. He found his calling by being a Military Policeman and later a Cleveland Police Officer and then a detective. His martial arts training keeps him in shape and the character building that comes along with that training is invaluable to him both as a police detective and a private investigator. He’s the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back but not someone you would want to cross.

How did you decide on using the Native American Community as a focus for your novel?

A while back I had read an article about a man who grew up in a very loving family, had a great education and career. He later found out that he was adopted and that he was a Native American. For some reason, the article had popped into my head when I was looking to start another book and I thought that would be a great plot for a story.

What kind of research did you have to do to make sure you were accurately portraying the Native American culture?

My research involved checking out various websites and double-checking everything that I found to make sure it was as accurate as possible. A few years back I had met some Native Americans through another person and learned quite a bit from them as well. That helped me in writing the book and trying to keep it as close to reality as possible. The Native American Community has a lot to offer if people would just listen to them when they speak about their lives and what goes on in their communities. Their way of looking at the world makes sense.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Website

When the father of a local sports legend disappears the Polish Dragon P. I. and his partner Suzie are hired to find him. What they discover is the father’s true identity on his birth certificate and they also uncover a heinous crime that was perpetrated against the Native American Community.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins

A Calf Named Brian Higgins, written by Kristen Ball, is a child-friendly story that addresses serious and interesting topics, including poverty, different cultures, friendship, mourning death, and personal development. The story follows Hannah Higgins, a typical grumpy teenager from suburban New York who is dragged to the plains of rural Kenya to visit her Uncle, Brian Higgins, while he is there doing charity work. Leaving behind her comfortable American lifestyle for one that is drastically less comfortable poses many challenges that Hannah needs to overcome, such as limited access to fresh water. By spending time with the local people and being immersed in the culture, she slowly understands why her Uncle loves Sauri so much.

This story answers a couple of important questions. How would a typical white teenager react to going into rural Africa? And what does it take for that teenager to change their perspective on their life? Ball tackles both of these questions in a way that is simple enough for children to understand but sophisticated enough for all ages to appreciate. This is a story of personal growth. Hannah goes from a naive and unworldly teenager to an individual who begins to value her life, others around her, and opportunities wholeheartedly.

Ball’s debut novel was written based on her experiences of being the first westerner to live in Sauri, the Kenyan village where her story is set. Therefore the book touches on many of her first-hand experiences, enabling her to paint a far more vivid and authentic landscape of an environment many Westerners (especially children) are likely not to be familiar with. Ball’s spin on the story’s events helps to give the story a more genuine and sincere feel. The reader is not being presented with a shallow story from someone with limited knowledge of these complex topics. Still, they’re experiencing the insight of someone who lived under these circumstances.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is a fantastic novel to introduce children to heavy and challenging topics, such as poverty or entitlement, in a simple and engaging way. It’s essential for children to be exposed to several cultures and walks of life, and reading this novel with them and discussing it would be a great starting point.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B07DNKC7G4

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Into the Wind

Into the Wind by William Loizeaux is a children’s story about how an unlikely friendship develops between a young boy and an older woman in a wheelchair. It takes place during a difficult summer for both on the island where they live. After Rusty’s mother is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility on the mainland for depression, Rusty’s neighbor gives him an old sailboat that he works on repairing and learning how to sail. Hazel is a widow whose family lives far away on the west coast, and she hires Rusty to do odd jobs around the house for her to earn a bit of money. As they spend time together, the two find that they share an unexpected connection. 

The author has an engaging writing style that will draw readers into the story. The main character is relatable and believable, with a sometimes humorous point of view. This heartwarming story takes place on an island, and the author’s descriptions of the boats and water paint a vivid picture of the quaint tourist town where Rusty and his family lived. I could easily imagine the smell of the sea and the sound of the seagulls as they flew over the boats tied to the dock as though I was experiencing what Rusty did in the story.

I learned a lot of interesting things about sailing while reading this book, and I liked that various sailing terms were explained organically throughout the story for readers who are not familiar with sailboats. The author also includes a glossary of nautical terms at the end of the book. Watching the friendship between Rusty and Hazel is magical. Two people so different, in different stages of life, can find common ground and connect on a deep emotional level. They are both going through some challenging moments in their lives, and spending time with each other helped them cope.

This memorable book includes illustrations by Laura Jacobsen. They are done in shades of gray, like pencil drawings. They really add to the story as they are sparsely used and added to key moments in the story. My favorite was the image of Rusty pushing Hazel through the park with cards clipped to her wheelchair wheels. The innocence and simplicity of the scene remind readers to hold onto the small moments in life.

Into the Wind is a middle grades level chapter book. This emotional story deals with friendship, compassion, death, and grief. It is a wonderful story to help kids learn about love and loss and about the importance of treasuring the moments you have with people.

Pages: 138 | ASIN : B08PDGZRXS

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The Impossible Girl

Ava Marie Jones doesn’t know anything about her past. That is until she falls through a tree. Ava finds herself in a whole new world with creatures from all types of fairytales. She soon realizes that she belongs here. She fits in! Or so she thought. She is soon dubbed The Impossible Girl because she was never registered at birth. Author Ashley White has us follow Ava as she navigates through this new realm and school. Will she learn more about her family? Will she test the limits of her powers?

The Impossible Girl will have readers enchanted! It has a feel to it similar to books by J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. The story pulls readers in from the very beginning and keeps them engaged throughout the whole novel.

This magical novel starts with a long prologue, readers will find this information imperative as they start reading chapter one. The story has a great flow to it, combining action and dialogue seamlessly. The author has a way with descriptive language. The details that went into her world building will have readers envisioning the city under the tree as clearly as if they were walking there themselves.

Ava’s character is well thought out. She is taking everything she learns in stride. Ashley White has given her a strong and distinct personality that readers will be able to relate to. Ava is shy, but she is starting to come out of her shell. Her friend Duncan is an interesting character. He seems very nice and caring. However, he is a pleaser. Duncan wants to please and impress his father. He follows the rules. Can he be trusted in the future? We shall see. Ava’s friend Tara seems to be an open book and is filled with all kinds of useful knowledge. She is also a very caring friend. Always aware of her friend’s feelings. Colin is another friend of Ava’s. He is shy in the beginning but is very brave by the end. I look forward to seeing his character progress in future novels.

The Impossible Girl is a children’s and teen fantasy novel that will take readers on an adventure as a young girl discovers her true identity. With magic and mystery readers of all ages will want to follow along as Ava discovers what makes her unique.

Pages: 314 | ASIN : B09SNG2MJB

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The Younglings

Destined to be Keepers – the Protector of innocents in the mortal realm, Quinn and his team of supernatural friends must safeguard their town of Portaville from all the mystical energies that come their way. When a teacher’s heart is torn out of their chest and students start to go missing, the friends combine forces to reinstate the safety of those closest to them. With their freshly discovered powers, the teens can sense something isn’t all that it’s made out to be. All it takes is Mrs. D – Quin’s demon nanny – to confirm their suspicions and their plan to stop the murderer begins. All while Quinn is coming to terms with the fact that he is the demon king’s son!

Author Helena Craggs expertly crafts a brilliant young adult novel and navigates the reader through first loves, sexuality, friendship, and familial unity. Readers will find the characters in the story to be entertaining, full of personality, typical teenage moods, and dedication to their cause. In addition, the author injects humor in the story which lightens the mood of some of the darker drama that they face, and the twists and turns of the storyline as they discover more information about the town, paranormal activities, and themselves, making this an unpredictable urban fantasy novel.

Craggs has done well to create realistic characters and an easy-to-follow storyline with enough action to keep readers engaged. There is a character for everyone to relate to with demons, angels, ghosts, witches, magic, and teenagers. I enjoyed reading about Quin’s character especially as we followed him on his emotional journey of discovering his own powers and learning the truth about his family.

The Younglings: Shadows & Magic is a fast-paced, jam-packed paranormal fantasy novel that is perfect for younger readers looking to be taken on a fantastical journey that is filled with supernatural beings and teen angst.

Pages: 401 | AISN : B09C6JLDQW

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