Tag Archives: mythology

Rise of the Jumbies Review

MG-Baptiste-RiseoftheJumbiesRise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2017. 978-1616206659

Synopsis: Even though Corrine has tried to get on with her life after banishing Severine, her neighbors are still distrustful of her because she is half Jumbie. So when Corrine is blamed when the village’s children begin to go missing, she decides to seek the help of the mysterious Mama D’Leau, who sends Corrine and her friends on a journey across the ocean that will change them forever.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR and my husband thought it was a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Corrine doesn’t feel as strong and as brave as she was when the reader first meets her in The Jumbies because her world has been shaken, so it seems appropriate that the book begins with an earthquake. Corrine just wants people to trust her again, but the prejudices against Jumbies run deep in their village. Mama d’Leau seems to be Corrine’s chance at redemption, but the old Jumbie is crafty and seemingly unscrupulous: she offers to help Corrine and her friends if they will retrieve a stone that was lost to her. What the children see on their trek across the ocean is almost as eye opening as the realization that Corrine is half Jumbie. Baptiste’s broaching of the subject of slavery is a tough topic – something that was spoken about in the NPR interview – and it isn’t easy to present it to middle readers. Plus, it’s not exactly a topic that gets brought up in every day conversation. Yet, the way the story is constructed, Baptiste is able to show us the horrors of the slave trade without making things so ugly that it overshadows the rest of the plot, which is still full of the same magic and mythos as its predecessor. It’s a fantastic adventure that leaves room for even more Jumbies stories.

Other related materials: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor; Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okafor; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill


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The Jumbies Review

jumbies_1The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 978-1616204143

Synopsis: Corrine La Mer isn’t afraid of anything – until the day she meets Severine. Severine is charismatic and beautiful, but she’s also part of an ancient race that occupied the island from before men came: the Jumbies. When Severine reveals that she plans to rid the island of all humans, Corrine and her friends must find a way to stop the Jumbie before she drastically changes everything they know.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR about her second book Rise of the Jumbies and my husband thought it and Jumbies were a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Jumbies is a magical, supernatural tale that draws on the mythology of the Caribbean and features an array of creatures that are guaranteed to make one want to sleep with the lights on. Corrine, despite having heard some of the stories, doesn’t truly believe the Jumbies could be real until she meets Severine and she begins to work her way into Corrine’s life. She may not be afraid, but her ability to sense danger tells her that something is wrong. Her courage is truly tested as the story continues, giving the reader the sense that despite adversity, it is possible to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. We identify with Corrine, Dru, Malik, and Bouki because there are times when we are also afraid and unsure of ourselves; but it is our reliance on our friends that will get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Baptiste is a gifted story teller, transporting us to a tropical island whose culture is infused with magic and mysticism. The reader can almost feel the sea breezes and feel the sand between their toes. It’s a fast read that is bound to be liked by even those of us who aren’t overly fond of ghost stories.

Other related materials: Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Dark Prophecy Review

trials_of_apollo_2The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-1484746424

Synopsis: After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, so I was hoping the second would help me come around.

Why I finished it: Mkay, so, Apollo is still annoying. A little bit less annoying, but still annoying. He seems to have developed a little bit of a conscience, but he’s still just as self-centered and selfish as he was when we wasn’t an acne-plagued teenager. Riordan delves a little more into the mythology of the Hunters of Artemis, introducing the reader to Britomartis the goddess of nets and traps. We also get a glimpse at some of Apollo’s past mistakes – leaving his son Trophonius to die, killing Commodus after giving him his blessing – and it helps to fuel the plot. The cast of characters continues to grow, adding two former and a handful of current Hunters, Lityerses the son of Midas, and former emperor Commodus, who is bent on killing both Apollo and Meg. As the stakes continue to stack themselves against Apollo and Meg, it looks like it will take a miracle from the gods in order to save them. The plot is much more fast-paced than the previous book, and Riordan manages to up the ante for our heroes in a big way. I am happy to say that I have warmed up to this series a little bit more and I’m eager to see if Apollo succeeds in his mission.

Other related materials: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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Feature Presentation: Moana

uk_moanaMoana starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel Hall, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. – from IMDB

I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and myths being woven into our more modern tapestry. In a lot of ways, I feel like this puts us more in touch with the world at large and gives insight into where we came from, and perhaps more importantly, where we will go. There’s also something to be said about the message that while it might be uncomfortable to leave home/safe spaces/the familiar, we can achieve even more both personally and culturally when we stray off a beaten path. I’m reminded of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. In many respects, Moana is a well-behaved young lady: she desires to do what is best for her people and to follow the path that has been determined for her. And yet, she is still plagued by the classic dilemma of doing what is right by her family and doing what she feels is right for her, to help her become the woman she wants to be. Clearly her desire to get in touch with her voyager roots and venture beyond the island reef wins out, or this would have been a short movie. And like the Disney heroines before her, there’s a couple of musical numbers that assert her confidence in her decision to venture out on the ocean and the uncertainty of the success her journey may or may not bring. She still has moments of despair, but it is her stubbornness and quick wit that help her push through the obstacles that hinder her voyage. Despite the range of reactions to Moana, I feel like the film did a credit to the Polynesian culture and made it come even more alive for the viewer. I liked that native dialects were used in some of the songs and that the animators made trips through the islands in the South Pacific to do their research. It’s a coming-of-age story that encourages us once again to discover who we are inside and how we can share our purpose and passions with the world around us.

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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis


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The Hammer of Thor Review

hammer_of_thorThe Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160922

Synopsis: How do you follow up almost starting Ragnarok? Well, in my case, you do it by hastening it. I know what you’re thinking: Magnus, how do you hasten the end of the world? Answer: Because Loki. The God of Mischief has something mischievous up his sleeve (metaphor, since he’s y’know, tied to a rock with poison being dripped in his face presumably not wearing much clothing) and he’s gotten not only my Uncle Randolph roped in, but he’s using his kids as pawns too. Which is bad news for Sam since she’s the one that seems to have the most to lose – even in a best case scenario.

Why I picked it up: I like wise-cracking teens and Norse Gods. Especially together.

Why I finished it: I mentioned in another review that Riordan’s books seem formulaic; while this one isn’t any different in terms of the formula department, Riordan has at least mixed it up a little for his readers by going a little bit more outside the box with his characters. They feel more rounded somehow, like even though they are involved in this supernatural world there is still the real world to contend with as well. The fluidity with which the real world relates to the supernatural seems much more urgent and apparent, perhaps because of the juxtaposition between Magnus and Sam. Magnus is dead, but can still cross over to the real world while Sam is still alive and can cross into the world of the dead. Sam still has family and school and everyday teen problems to deal with on top of whatever supernatural duties go along with being a Valkyrie, helping ground the reader even as we are rocketing among the Nine Worlds. Magnus’s wit and sarcasm add a certain spin to the dire situations in which our characters seem to find themselves, keeping the reader eager for the sort of tongue-in-cheek style that has defined the protagonist. I think it’s somewhat poignant that Riordan has introduced a gender fluid character to the cast – it shows he’s keeping with the times and getting in touch with his audience. Really I think what I got most out of this volume is the idea that we might not be able to change where we came from, but we can define who we are in a way that is true to ourselves and how we want the world to see us. We don’t all fit the labels that society wants to place on us – we need to be able to defend our identities and be comfortable in our own skins. We all need to have confidence in who we are and what we believe in, even if it might seem strange or hard to understand. And on the flip side, we need to be understanding and supportive of those around us, even if we don’t always agree with their point of view – that’s how I see it, in any case. It’s a surprisingly fast read considering the book is a hefty 480 pages and I’m eager to see what new adventure and danger Magnus and his friends will face when the third book comes out in the fall.

Other related materials: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3) by Rick Riordan;  Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath Review

kid_beowulf_1Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449475895

Synopsis: You’ve heard of the epic poem Beowulf. This is the story of what happens before Beowulf becomes the hero of Norse myth and song. This is the story of Beowulf and his brother Grendel before they became enemies. This is the story of how a king broke his word and tore his family and people apart. So forget everything you know or what you think you know about these characters and join them on new adventures before they became legend.

Why I picked it up: I’m sometimes leery of a reworking of the classics, but this one piqued my interest.

Why I finished it: This comic has a little bit of something for everyone: adventure, action, mystery, and more. It takes what we know about the classic poem and makes it into a much more universally understood story about the first European peoples, their thirst for power, and how desire can ruin even the best intentions. The story traces back to Beowulf’s grandfather, King Hrothgar (pronounced Roth-gar), who makes a deal with a dragon in order to gain power to rule. The first couple of chapters are pretty standard myth, really: betrayal, cheating, stealing, sleeping around, uneasy truces. It’s the last chapter that really has most of the meat to it, since that is when we meet young Beowulf and Grendel. Both are unaware of the other’s existence, both having lived their separate lives until they are both captured and offered as entertainment for the Heathobards (the clan at war with the Danes, the clan of their grandfather). Besides the apparent lesson of being careful what you wish for, there’s also an element of think before you act that runs through much of the story. Again, nothing we haven’t heard before, but something about the way Farjado is presenting the story makes it seem a little less in-your face. I’m loving the art in this comic as well – for being such a serious story, Farjadas has infused bursts of color to give it almost a jaunty, fun feeling that draws you in. It gives the characters a more figurative color and we feel more attached to them. I’m so excited for this series and I can’t wait to read more!

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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