I recently read the most recent book in Leah Cypess’ “Sisters Ever After” series. This clever MG fantasy series upends fairytales by re-centering the story on a previously-unknown sibling of the tale’s original protagonist. The main character of The Piper’s Promise is Clare, the little sister that Cypess invents for the infamous Pied Piper, who she names Tom.
The Pied Piper fairytale runs something like this: The Pied Piper draws all the rats from Hamelin with his magic flute, and then, when the town withholds the promised payment, draws all of Hamelin’s children away, never to be seen again. The classic tale invites questions–where did the Piper get the flute? And what did he do with all those children? Cypess delights in unfolding her answers to these questions slowly, drawing us both into the time-slipped Faerie Realms and into layers of backstory and intrigue.
Readers who relish the factions and intrigue of Tui T. Sutherland’s popular Wings of Fire series will find much to enjoy in Cypess’s underground faerie realm, where the lean cast of fae characters nonetheless manages to run the gamut of shifting allegiances, high stakes, and betrayal. The focus, however, is on the bond between Tom and Clare, as Clare moves from a young girl reliant on her brother to a courageous heroine who must choose between her Fae upbringing and her humanity. Clare’s steadfast belief in her brother’s essential humanity propels her to unravel the truth behind his seemingly cruel actions.
I found this to be an imaginative retelling of the Pied Piper tale that wraps the essence of sibling love in faerie magic, with a side of nearly-grown-up politics and intrigue. Well worth the read for fantasy readers aged 9-12, especially fans of anything faerie; like the others in the series, it may especially appeal to little sisters.
The next book in the “Sisters Ever After” series, The Last Rose, will be out in early December.
Fantasy’s been having a boom, fueled by everyone’s desire to read something that has absolutely nothing to do with COVID, politics, war, elections, police brutality, or anything else remotely recalling the past year. Well, forget fantasy. MG is where it’s at. In particular, Gordon Korman’s MG. His lightweight, warm writing is the perfect escape from the pandemic.
I recently picked up Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer’s 2019 book To Night Owl, From Dogfish. I’m a sucker for alternative formats, and this epistolary novel is told entirely in the form of e-mails between two middle-school girls.
I loved the queer-family representation in this MG book: both girls are in single-parent families headed by a gay father.
I’m perenially catching up on my reading, and just finished Kacen Callender’s 2020 MG debut, Hurricane Child. It was a thoroughly engrossing read. Set in the US Virgin Islands, it delivered a multisensory immersion into the life of a lonely 12-year-old. The main character, Caroline, is friendless and motherless. Her isolation nurtures her unique spirit. Caroline’s not quite like anyone else on the inside, and knows it. She sees spirits, and falls in love with an equally unusual girl.
The book’s structure feels a little messy, but in a way that works. Middle school is messy. For example, Caroline’s questions around her ability to see spirits are left unresolved. But that’s OK. No one’s finished figuring themselves out at 12.
This past Tuesday, I took in a webinar with Frances Gilbert, cheerfully titled “I’ll Acquire Your Book If You Make Me Laugh: Writing Humorous Picture Books”. Frances Gilbert is both an editor at Doubleday Young Readers and the author of several really funny picture books.
In the GOOD NEWS DEPT: I’m grateful and honored to have received recommender grants from @ONArtsCouncil to support my in-progress MG fantasy novel, SON OF SUPERTHIEF. Thank you to the OAC, and to the recommenders who gave my project their vote of confidence.
I have a story in the Young Explorers’ Adventure Guide, Volume 6, which is now available on Amazon. YEAG is a fantastic anthology series packed with fun SF for middle-grade explorers of the universe. Plus, I’m sharing a TOC with Nancy Kress! Woot!
My story, “Kori and Nori Go Out For T. A. C. O.s”, features two adventurous child-droids on a mission. I promise outrageous puns, post-apocalyptic adventure, and maybe even a TACO at the end.
If you have any elementary-aged science-fiction readers in your life, the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is stuffed with new worlds and new adventures written for kids. Or, as the Kickstarter put it, “24 more amazing science fiction stories for girls, boys and robots of all ages.”