Candlemaking is hot, stinky work, but Scholastica helps her father render the tallow and twist the wicks and dip the candles until they’re just right. Her loving stepmother can’t have children or bend down with her leg brace, so Tick has worked with Papa since she was tiny.
This year Tick is old enough to mold the Agnus Dei charms for travelers’ safety, using pricy beeswax and expensive paints. The charms sell well at the Stourbridge Fair, and Papa can’t see well enough now to paint their fine details.
So why does Papa think he needs an apprentice?!
Tick doesn’t care that Henry’s father and Papa are friends – how will an inexperienced boy help make enough candles to sell to get them through the bitter winter?
If only she can get some beeswax and make the charms… If only she can find a way to Stourbridge Fair… If only she can be sure that Papa still loves her enough…
There are joys among the hardships of living in medieval England, and Tick just wants to do the job that makes her happy!
Her best friends try to help, but Marjan is sleepwalking through life since Dad was killed by who-knows-what recently in their California home. She’s trying to juggle sophomore classes and Dad’s struggling vet practice and her anger and grief.
Wait, her Pakistani father didn’t just treat dogs, cats, and birds – he was a veterinarian for creatures out of myth and legend?! And “the work” is Marjan’s now, because she’s inherited his gift of knowing precisely how to care for them, wherever in the world they are.
People who live with these amazing creatures contact Marjan through the secretive Tea Shop group. Off she goes to see a griffon in England reaching the end of its very long life, an incontinent house gnome a few hours from home.
Into Dad’s vet office comes a young woman named Malloryn, a self-taught witch whose grey fox is ill. She’ll stay with Marjan for the mythic nine-tailed fox‘s lengthy treatment, maybe disperse the house’s gloom and bad aura.
Um, this ultra-rich Horatio guy isn’t collecting mythic creatures to appreciate them, like Malloryn loves Zorro or cute Sebastian’s family loves the griffon who chose his family generations ago. There’s something dark about Horatio, and Marjan wants to stay far away from his underground menagerie of faerie and stone giant and deadly manticore – every Persian tale her father told her, come to life.
Tea Shop believes that magical creatures’ contentment influences the overall good for humanity. As many creatures have disappeared lately, things are worsening in the world – and they want to find the missing.
Horatio keeps requesting her help with his creatures – can she safely stay away? Dad was preparing for a trip to Ithaca, New York, when he was killed – will Marjan find any answers there about his death? Sebastian wants to help her – what can two teenagers do against age-old problems?
“Once there was, once there was not…” Tales told by her father punctuate the action and peril – read the first chapter here free on the publisher’s website.
What’s your favorite mythic creature? **kmm
Book info: Once There Was / Kiyash Monsef. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Two families into one. An old house large enough for all. Enough love to go around?
Abi had been an only, cherished by Dad Theo and Granny Grace after Mum died when she was a baby.
Now the 11 year old is a middle, squished between 13-year-old Max and grubby hands 6-year-old Louis when Dad marries Polly, and they move into her small house.
The blended family searches and searches for another house to rent, finally deciding on an old, tall house covered with ivy – and room enough for everyone!
With Polly and Theo working more hours to afford the house, Esme is hired to bring Louis home from school, and Max is enraged that his best friend Danny tells everyone that the 18-year-old French art student is his “babysitter” now.
Abi is happy to get back to escaping into books in her own room – so vivid, so real that she can feel the ocean spray in her face as she reads Kon-Tiki.
It isn’t ‘a nowl’ that Louis hears in the ivy, but an invisible friend, a cat-shaped being named Iffen who races up the vines to sleep in his room, who sharpens his mighty claws on the bedside mat, who is hungry.
Could Max finally calm down around Esme? Is Iffen listen getting larger? How can Abi see Iffen?!
Perhaps, perhaps the old house’s magic can help their many-parts family become whole.
Did you have an imaginary childhood friend? **kmm
Book info: The Time of Green Magic / Hilary McKay. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020, paperback 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Gentleman thief Arsene Lupin is the prime suspect in the disappearance of a blue diamond, leading famous English detective Herlock Sholmes and his assistant Wilson to Paris. Can they catch this master of disguise and recover the jewels?
People in their British town look at her in 2025 and just see voluminous hair, not Onyeka the person…
When the middle-schooler saves her best friend from drowning at the swimming pool – with her hair – Mum finally admits that Onyeka is a Solari with psychokinetic superpowers inherited from her missing father, whose enemies chased Mum and Onyeka out of Nigeria.
Her uncontrolled powers are making her dreadfully sick, so back to the world’s tech capital of Lagos they go, so Onyeka can learn how to harness her Ike at the Academy of the Sun, and Mum can search for her father.
The Solari come to the Academy as children and secretly train to use their powers for the good of their country, so Onyeka is already behind her age-mates. Is that why her roommate Adanna is so grumpy at her?
Holographic rooms, AI teachers, physical training so each Solari can master their own type of Ike – Enhancer, Emitter, Transformer, or Psionic – and someday become Protectors. Hassan and Niyi become her friends as she tries to learn fast.
But Onyeka gets sicker every time she uses her Ike, Mum is suddenly out of contact, and Rogues with Ike powers attack the Academy!
Who’s this Dr. Naomi who worked with her father at their research lab? Has the Academy director taught them honestly about how the Solari came to be? Will Onyeka survive to her birthday next month?
Fast-paced, heart-stopping adventure in this debut novel, followed by book 2 in the series: Onyeka and the Rise of the Rebels (more info here) on 30 May 2023, same day as the paperback edition of book 1 in the USA.
What superpower would you choose? **kmm
Book info: Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun (Onyeka, book 1) / Tọlá Okogwu. Margaret K. McElderry Books, hardcover 2022, paperback 2023. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Ever-searching for her banished mother, Ren is a collector of deceased souls. The near-immortal teen travels from England to Japan on her quest, encountering mortals and magical creatures. Who’s on her side? Can she escape the rest?
During his month-long quest on land, Crest must decide whether to return to the sea as a mer or live as a human. Meeting lifeguard Sean is eye-opening for the non-binary mer. As their relationship grows, Crest and Sean consider what their future might be.
The School That Escaped the Nazis: The True Story of the Schoolteacher Who Defied Hitler (free Sora download 5/12-17/23) by Deborah Cadbury | Read by Julie Teal Published by Hachette Audio
In the early 1930s, principal Anna Essinger was dismayed by the Nazis’ increasing power and decided to move her entire school and its students from Germany to England. Despite challenges and peril, “Tante Anna” saved many children who otherwise would have been imprisoned or worse.
School is stifling. The woods are freedom. Friends make everything better.
Dan really wonders why kids have to go to school – square tables in square rooms, the same information for everyone. He and best pal Maxie would rather be in Cogan’s Wood, free to climb trees and imagine.
In the middle of their UK spring term, 11-year-old George arrives at Dan’s primary school, accompanied by a lady who’s always taking notes.
Very solemn face, knows lots of facts, has really great handwriting – George seems very, very different from the other kids.
Whether George is an alien or a robot or whatever, Dan’s whole class quickly grows fond of him, and he becomes a great favorite of the littlest kids on the playground.
When George doesn’t come back to school soon after he and Miss Crystal visit Daniel’s house, the whole school is sad and a bit worried.
Oh, he will be back on Friday? Hooray! Oh, what have Miss Crystal and those men done to their friend George? Oh, Dan and his classmates have to free him (with help from Dan’s mum)!
Enjoy Marta Altes’ illustrations as this brand new boy finds his way into Dan’s real world, changing them all along the way.
Which newcomer has brightened your life? **kmm
Book info: Brand New Boy / David Almond; illustrated by Marta Altes. Candlewick Press, 2022. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
Resisting South Africa’s colonial government, everyday working-class people stood up for basic rights, often risking their lives during the first half of the 20th century.
Six key court cases involving these “rebels and revolutionaries” set the stage for South Africa’s notorious apartheid policy:
“Until the Ship Sails” – For decades, Asian men brought to work in Transvaal faced tight restrictions of “the Black Act” – in 1908, Gandhi urged them to resist non-violently. How long would the hundreds arrested be detained aboard old ships?
“In the Shadow of a High Stone Wall” – Striking against unjust working conditions in 1911 put Irish emigrants in a wretched prison. Without bail money, they were denied access to their lawyers. Would their 1912 lawsuit for unfair treatment keep other poor South Africans from the same fate?
“Come Gallows Grim” – Companies and gold mines began hiring low-paid Black workers after World War I, leading to riots by displaced white workers who saw the government as allied with mine owners. Death and destruction during martial law in 1922, many captured, including Taffy Long. Two trials, calls for clemency, fears of more riots. When would the shadow of the hangman’s noose leave South Africa?
“The Widow of Marsbastad” – In a 1956 township without running water, they tell stories about 1925 when an old law was suddenly applied to Black women, requiring them to carry a Night Pass while delivering laundry to white customers or be arrested on the spot! Brave women volunteered go out at night to challenge this new restriction. Would the outcome of their cases affect Pass Laws proposed later under apartheid?
“A House Divided” – A land-use dispute in the 1920s pits two factions of the Bafokeng people against one another – the hereditary chief with inconsistent decisions and his councillors who see their tribe’s bankruptcy ahead. Both sides appeal to different departments of the colonial South African government. Will unwritten tribal laws prevail and send dissenters into exile from their homelands?
“Here I Cross to the Other Side” – Tuma leaves Besotho to work in the gold mines during World War II, toiling far underground, with an angry white bossman, too little food, not enough safety precautions. Enduring the same brutal conditions for 20 years led to his father’s early death during Tuma’s first contract time. Why are white mineworkers protected by a union, while Black workers are paid less and forbidden to talk about organizing? Strike!
This stunning graphic novel combines deep research with the visual works of South African artists Liz Clarke, Dada Khanyisa, Mark Modimola, Saaid Rahbeeni, The Trantraal Brothers, and Tumi Mamabola. Each chapter is followed by intriguing historical documents from legal archives and photos of key participants in each case.
Where do you resist injustice today? **kmm
Book info: All Rise: Resistance and Rebellion in South Africa 1910-1948 – a Graphic History / Richard Conyngham; illustrated by Liz Clarke, Dada Khanyisa, Mark Modimola, Saaid Rahbeeni, The Trantraal Brothers, Tumi Mamabola. Published by Catalyst Press, 2021. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.
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