Festival Visiting Young Adult Authors

YA Author Review

Ross_THE-QUEENS-RISING.jpg
Queens Resistance.jpg

The Queen’s Rising: In this epic debut fantasy, inspired by Renaissance France, an outcast finds herself bound to a disgraced lord & entangled in his plot to overthrow the king.

Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion & to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, & knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true: she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—& restore the rightful queen, & her magic, to the throne.

With war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to: passion or blood.

The Queen’s Resistance: The newest chapter in Brienna’s story, just out this past March!

Why pick the series up? So many secrets! Ross creates such a rich world, one full of intrigue, surprises, the bonds of chosen family, & becoming who you were born to be. A perfect tapestry of a novel. The sequel does not disappoint!

Echo North: Echo Alkaev's safe & carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city & mysteriously disappears.

Believing her father is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf - the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. 

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, & something new & dark & strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, & a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear & Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf's enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, & Hal will be lost forever.

Why pick up? Magical in every sense, this book is perfect for bibliophiles & fans of fairy tale retellings. Meyer’s retelling follows in the vein of the master Robin McKinley, with it’s own kind of magic to boot. True love, betrayal, & the most amazing library of all time.

echo.jpg
Light.jpg

The Light Between Worlds: What happens when you return to the real world after being in a fantastical one like Narnia?

Six years ago, sisters Evelyn & Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange & beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.

Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, & Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair & the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

Walking the line between where fantasy & reality meet, this lyrical & magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss & healing, & what it means to find where you belong.

Why pick it up? Weymouth really captures the ache of needing to belong to a greater world. Perfect for those who wished for Narnia to be real as children (or, let’s be honest, yesterday). A lyrical portrayal of grief, sisterhood, & what it means to be home. Trigger warnings: Depression & suicide.

The Fiery Arrow small file.jpg
The Realms BeyondA.JPG
The Three Thrones - eBook.jpg

The Reinhold Chronicles: It's been twelve years since the volcano drove young Arliss & her clan from their island home. Now, things are changing in their newfound kingdom. Princess Arliss is almost sixteen. Her father, King Kenton, urges her to take more responsibility--& to find a young man to carry on the line. But Arliss begins to question the class boundaries that divide her city on a hill. When her father forbids her friendship with the young peasant swordsman, Philip, Arliss sets off on a defiant quest to the heart of the land. Little does she know that she will discover an evil more threatening & ancient than she could imagine--& a prophecy that speaks of a fiery arrow.

Why pick up the series? Headstrong princess out to have an adventure & prove herself all at once, while shenanigans & complications ensue. For the reader who loves action and vibrant prose.

Book Review: Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly’s newest release is a masterpiece that offers a glimpse of the world from a perspective we hope to see more of in kid lit!

 
song for a whale.jpg
 
 

Here’s the publisher’s summary:

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Adventure, loneliness, discovery, friendship: Song for a Whale holds so much between its pages.

Iris is an amazing protagonist. I love seeing the world through her eyes and seeing how she solves the problems she faces in ways that would never occur to me as a hearing person. The way that Iris’ empathy for Blue 55 moves her to action is an excellent display of her ingenuity. Sound is something many of us hear, but for Iris, it’s something she feels. She shows the reader how we, too, can feel sound, and all that is communicated through it, on a whole new level.

Her experiences of being deaf at a hearing school open the reader to a different perspective. How do we show respect to those we communicate with? Kelly shows the difficulties in communication barriers though conflicts with Nina, who is sure she has mastered sign language, and with one of Iris’ teachers, who refuses to see past Iris’ difference. How often do we think we’ve mastered a complex topic, like a language and a culture, from reading a single book instead of learning from those embedded in them, as Nina does? Or how often do we limit our view of another and belittle their abilities, like Iris’ teacher?

Iris’ family dynamics are another intriguing element. Kelly links Iris’ relationship with her grandparents to poetry. The sign poems, poems rhyming not with words but with sign shapes, that Iris and her grandfather create are beautiful and a realm of poetry that I’d not experienced before. And the shared but distancing gulf of grief between her and her grandmother after the death of her grandfather draws the reader into the narrative in relatable ways.

Song for a Whale is excellent for those who love fixing things, for those who love adventure, for those who feel they are often misunderstood, for those who long for that special connection between kindred spirits.

Book Review: What Is Given from the Heart

Patricia C. McKissack’s final book is a harmony of thoughtfulness and feeling that speaks to the resilience of children.

 
what is given from the heart.jpg
 

Here is the publisher’s summary:

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. 

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack–with stunning illustrations by Harrison–delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

I was first struck by the illustrations of this book. Harrison’s use of collage works brilliantly. Each page is filled with bittersweet texture that not only appeals to kids, but also nods to nostalgia. Fabrics, papers, and photograph snippets all serve as vehicles back in time for older readers and sources of wonder for younger readers. Harrison’s colors and patterns beg us to turn the page, if only to see what the next visual will convey. The diversity of media used in the illustrations also serves McKissack’s story - give to those in a variety of situations, with a variety of backgrounds. Give to those who are trying to piece together a world from scraps.

McKissack is unflinching from the first page. A note to parents: this book contains some heavy material, but McKissack handles it with grace and nuance while maintaining accessibility. While this is a story about some pretty painful things that happen in the life of a child, this isn’t one of those books that are about-kids-but-for-adults. No, this is a story for children, and James Otis’s intelligent, matter-of-fact voice allows it to move seamlessly from childlike curiosity to tough truths of life and back again.

The story also breaks down what it means to give “from the heart,” a phrase adults often present to children and then leave floating in their brains as a complete abstraction. The reader follows James Otis as he tries to think of anything he might give to a girl who lost her home in a fire. We see his careful choosing process and his doubling back, his excitement and his second guessing. We see him learn from Mama’s actions and explanations that to give from the heart is to give thoughtfully and sincerely.

What is Given from the Heart is a story that trusts its child readers to accompany James Otis on his quest for a heartfelt gift. It trusts kids to match its intelligence. How fantastic, to teach children that both emotion and logic exist side by side in the act of giving!

As always, happy reading!

Untitled design (1).jpg

Book Review: Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up

The newest Lola Dutch book, out January 15, 2019, celebrates the sincere grandeur of a child’s imagination with charming characters and lovely illustrations.

 
Lola Dutch.jpeg
 
 

Here is a summary from the publisher:

Lola Dutch is always bursting with grand plans--so of course she has many ideas for what she wants to be when she grows up!

She could be a magnificent performer . . . 
or a daring inventor . . . 
or a brilliant botanist . . . 
there are exciting ideas all around! But Lola is too excited--she wants to try EVERYTHING. How will she ever decide what she is destined to become?

The curious and creative Lola Dutch is inspired to imagine every way to explore the wonder of her world. And she doesn't have to wait until she grows up!

Just like the Wright’s first Lola book, Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up is bursting with energy and imagination. The characters readers fell in love with in book one are back, and while the enthusiasm is the same, book two avoids feeling redundant or monotonous. The Wrights manage to create a fresh adventure without losing any of their signature charm.

Much like Lola herself, Sarah Jane Wright’s illustrations don’t shy away from being colorful and grandiose. She mixes minimalism and maximalism with expert fluidity. The important parts of Lola’s imagination are highlighted with bright, eclectic patterns and fearless detail, while the backgrounds remain gracefully airy, a canvas for everything Lola can dream up.

This brings me to perhaps the best thing about both the Lola Dutch books: they provide a space to celebrate the sincerity and grandeur of a child’s imagination. Lola Dutch may be a little bit much, but the story never tries to reign her in, and her friends - Bear, Gator, Pig, and Crane - are up for whatever adventures Lola comes up with next, loving her all the while.

If this book sounds as adorable to you as it does to us, good news! Author and illustrator team Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright will be at The Story Shop on January 16 at 6:00 p.m. for a fantastic party and book signing in honor of the release of Lola Dutch: When I Grow Up! You won’t want to miss it - join in the fun by registering here:

And as always, happy reading!

Untitled design (1).jpg

Book Review: Small Spaces

Katherine Arden takes readers on an eerie journey full of chills and cheers -

and your garden-variety scarecrow army.

91JlLdCq3ZL.jpg

Publisher’s Summary

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn't think--she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man," a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn't have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver's warning. As the trio head out into the woods--bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them--the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small." 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Review

Small Spaces is fantastically creepy. This, in part, is due to the book’s vivid atmosphere. It was 90+ degrees outside while I was reading it, and every sentence surrounded me with the chill of mid-autumn. I frequently found myself stumbling outside into the Georgia sun, only to wonder where all the Halloween costumes and apple cider were.

In addition to being transportive, the book features a cast of likable and interesting characters. Too often, stories that begin in a school setting lean too far into social tropes. (Don’t get me wrong - this is not exclusively a middle-grades problem.) While this can provide writers of fantastical books room to move quickly through more “mundane” bits of plot, it can also unnecessarily flatten characters.

Arden doesn’t do this. From the very beginning, her characters defy the tropes I expected them to fit. Fierce Ollie stands up for new girl Coco, who has an eccentric and dainty reputation. Brian, the handsome athlete who accompanies Ollie and Coco into the woods, is kind and helpful throughout the journey. We see three kids who run in very different circles develop a deep understanding for one another.

And this is just the main trio. There are many exciting twists regarding good guys and bad guys. Some characters, perhaps more interestingly, turn out to be neutral.

The world Arden builds around this story is high-stakes and eerie, just unexplored enough to keep a grasp on readers’ interests. Spooky cornfields, old farms, and journals of those long dead all pitch in to create Arden’s masterpiece of an atmosphere.

Naturally, scarecrow armies come next.

The brilliance of the scarecrows is that they’re not just spooky space-fillers. Small Spaces deals with pretty heavy ideas like death, grief, and family, ideas that call into question what it means to be a human interacting with other humans, ideas that might seem scary and monstrous to kids (and really, everyone). When themes like this are set against strange, humanoid, inanimate-but-animate monsters, well . . . no spoilers, but it goes to interesting places.

And ultimately, those places are optimistic. Small Spaces is about adventure and fantasy and creepy autumn ambiance, but it’s also about the role we can play in our own grief. We don’t have to remain imprisoned by our emotions, so long as we are determined to love, in the same way that our diverse protagonists insist on loving each other. Love can bring us out of grief, and maybe - just maybe - save us from armies of super-spooky, semi-sentient scarecrows.

Get your copy from our online store here:

Happy reading!

Untitled design (8).jpg

Book Review: The Green Ember

My place beside you
My blood for yours
Till the Green Ember rises
or the end of the world

green ember.jpg

Where are the all books about heroic acts and brave deeds? Why have we stopped feeding our children stories of brave knights and daring princesses? Few tales have been produced since the days of Tolkien, Lewis, & MacDonald that reveal the endurance of the human (or rabbit) spirit, tales that demonstrate the strength that always arises from a fallen people and a broken nation.

In S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember, I am shown a world that is broken and in need of mending. A world where many are fighting for a freedom which only their parents once knew. The book opens with brother and sister, Heather and Picket, playing a sweet game in the meadow, but events quickly unfold, and Heather and Picket are entangled in a fight for a world - a warren - that they barely knew existed. Their bravery is tested and their loyalties questioned.

Author S.D. Smith takes Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings, two enthralling tales of bravery and triumph, and weaves them into a single masterpiece that is an entity all its own. Smith has given us a tale that will make us cry, cheer, and fist pump when events turn and battles are won. The Green Ember is such a refreshing story where the outcome is not straightforward. The story constantly tugs between good and evil and who will triumph. Your heart will soar one moment and shatter the next. Though there are times when darkness seems to envelop the world, no matter how much light is snuffed out, there is always a faint ember glowing in the depths.

For those who have not yet ventured into the marvelous world of S.D. Smith, you are missing a tale, a community, and a practice that isn’t appreciated anymore in this world . . . chivalry, bravery, acts of mercy and of love.

Read, marvel, and most importantly . . . hope.

Untitled design (3).jpg