I’ve got two reviews for you today, both MG: one is sci-fi, and the other is a contemporary in verse. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Series: Dragon Pearl #1
Published by Rick Riordan Presents on January 15, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Source: NetGalley, The Publisher
Cover Artist: Vivienne To
My content rating: MG (Some minor violence)
To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.
When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.
This book was a fun adventure based on Korean mythology and set in space. Right there, I’m pretty much sold. When Min hears that her brother is being accused of being a traitor and defecting from the Space Force, she doesn’t believe it for a minute. She knows her brother would never do such a thing. So she sets off to try to prove the government wrong. The only problem is, she first reveals herself as a (much mistrusted) fox shapeshifter and assaults an official. Oops! So, she goes on the run in disguise.
I enjoyed the shapeshifting aspect of the story and the fact that Min takes on a few different personas throughout the book (and even turns into an inanimate object at one point). I also loved seeing the Korean culture and mythology represented. And I also appreciated that a nonbinary character was featured, without it being made a big deal of (it’s just a fact of life in their society that some people are nonbinary). A fun sense of adventure permeates the book, and the mystery of what happened to Min’s brother keeps you flipping the pages.
Since Min is a kid, she sometimes makes some less than stellar decisions, and at the end of the book I was still a bit confused about the final revelation about Min’s brother (View Spoiler »Did he willingly go along with the guy who turned out to be the bad guy or not? I felt like there was a bit of back and forth on that, which I never quite understood. « Hide Spoiler). But overall, this was a fun MG read that will appeal to kids who’d love to explore the universe!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan
Illustrator: Abigail Halpin
Published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House on April 12, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Verse
My content rating: MG (Hints of MG romance)
Laura Shovan’s engaging, big-hearted debut is a time capsule of one class’s poems during a transformative school year. Families change and new friendships form as these terrific kids grow up and move on in this whimsical novel-in-verse about finding your voice and making sure others hear it.
one year of poems,
one school set to close.
Two yellow bulldozers
ready to eat the building
in one greedy gulp.
But look out, bulldozers.
Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class
has plans for you.
They’re going to speak up
and work together
to save their school.
I loved this MG novel in verse! The book is written as a series of poems written by 18 students in an elementary classroom. Since the teacher assigned them to write poetry in their journals throughout the school year, this approach makes perfect sense. The kids often use the project to process their feelings about the fact that their school is scheduled to be demolished the following year to make room for a new grocery store. And, of course, there are plenty of poems that just have to do with their lives and how they relate to one another as well.
My favorite aspect of the book was how it featured so many different types of poetry. It would be fantastic to use in a classroom for this reason alone. I also loved that it showed kids standing up for what they believe in. The point of the book isn’t whether or not they get what they want (I won’t spoil the answer to that question) but what they learn about themselves and each other (and even their teacher) along the way. I loved that we got to see the complicated issue of whether or not the school should be closed from many different perspectives and that there was no clear-cut “right” answer. Again, the answer wasn’t the point.
I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in MG verse!