Posts Tagged fantasy

Black MG Magic

I firmly believe that it’s important to stand together against racism, and I’ve been making an effort to feature more black characters in my book talks and displays. Many of the book lists that I’ve come across featuring black protagonists have been full of great contemporary, realistic stories that deal with the experience of growing up black in America but haven’t had a lot of fantasy, sci-fi, or horror. So, here is a list of some of my favorite fantastical, magical, and spooky middle-grade stories featuring black heroes and heroines.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky Cover

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia- This upper middle grade follows seventh-grader Tristan Strong who accidentally rips a hole into a parallel world where West African gods and African American folk heroes battle iron monsters. To return home, Tristan must help the heroes find Anansi, who can heal the rift that he’s created between the worlds.

 

The Jumbies Cober

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste- Eleven year old Corrine doesn’t believe in jumbies, evil shape-shifting creatures that are said to live in the woods near her home, but when her father begins acting strangely following the arrival of the beautiful lady Severine, Corrine begins to suspect that Severine might actually be a jumbie and that she and her father are in danger.

 

Gloom Town Cover

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith- To help his struggling single mom, twelve-year-old Rory gets a job as a valet for the mysterious Lord Foxglove, but he soon discovers that the eerie goings-on at Foxglove Manor will put the whole town in danger, and it’s up to Rory and his best friend Izzy to stop them.

 

 

Bayou Magic Cover

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes- When ten-year-old Maddy visits her grandmother in Bon Temps, LA, she discovers that she can summon fireflies and see mermaids, and when disaster rocks Maddy’s family, her magical gifts are the only things that can save her beloved bayou.

 

 

Dragons in a Bag coverDragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott- Nine-year-old Jaxon discovers a package of dragons when staying with a relative for the afternoon. “Ma”, the mean old lady, who raised his mother tries to return the dragons to their magical realm, but a transporter accident strands her, leaving the dragons in Zaxon’s care.

 

 

Forgotten Girl Cover

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown- Iris and her best friend Daniel are playing in the woods behind her house when they discover the abandoned grave of a girl named Avery who died when she was near Iris’s age. Shortly after the discovery, Iris begins having nightmares about a ghost girl in the woods.

 

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer cover

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles- On the last day of summer vacation, Otto and Sheed Alston accidentally freeze time in their small Virginia town. Now, they’ll need all their bravery and smarts to defeat the villainous Mr. Flux and save the day.

 

 

Shadows of Sherwood cover

Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon- In this futuristic Rbin Hood retelling, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley flees to the forest following the disappearance of her parents. She bands together with a ragtag group of orphans and embarks on a mission to find her parents and stop the tyrannical Governor Crown.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets Interview and Giveaway

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgHi Mixed-Up Filers!

Today, I have the privilege to be talking to both Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, whose graphic novel, Zatanna and the House of Secrets,  is available now from DC Comics.

Hi Matthew and Yoshi. Thank you for joining us today.

My first question is for both of you. Can you tell us a little bit about Zatanna and the House of Secrets?

Matthew: Zatanna and the House of Secrets is about a normal tween girl, Zatanna, who discovers that just about nothing in her life is what it appears to be – not her dad, not the house she grew up in, not even the family pet rabbit. There are magical secrets afoot, and more to Zatanna than she ever imagined!

YoshiIt’s a story of a girl growing up and trying to figure out her identity as the world and people around her change—figuratively and literally! And of course, lots of magic

Matthew, you’re books are, for the most part, a mix of fantasy and superheros. So, Zatanna’s story seems like a natural fit for you. Did you choose the character?

Matthew: I did. When this opportunity to work with DC came along, they asked me to pitch them three or four characters I’d like to write. Zatanna was a no-brainer, because she’s never been your typical superhero. She’s a magician! The story of how she became a magician – how she discovered her powers – was such a joy to conjure up (see what I did there?)

Not gonna lie, Zatanna is one of my favorite DC characters, and my go-to for cosplay. Yoshi, I love the new character design. I’m already planning on rocking this as my next cosplay. How did you approach the character design?

Yoshi: Yes! Zatanna is one of my absolute favorites too! Zatanna’s fully grown costume is over the top and confident, so it was fun to work backwards and consider what her pre-evolution outfits would be. Maybe some vintage finds, maybe her dad’s old shirts – she has a style but has yet to nail down her look. I really wanted to capture that transition.

One of the things that I really liked about this story is how it explored the relationship between Zatanna and her father and the idea that our parents aren’t always the heroes we expect them to be. Matthew, was that something that you wanted to focus on early on?

Matthew: Definitely. Middle school is hard for a lot of reasons, but one of the toughest aspects of it is that push/pull between still needing your parents tremendously, while at the same time feeling like you need to separate yourself in some ways. So, we took fantasy and did what the genre does best – we externalized that conflict. At its heart, this is a very family focused story about the mistakes we make both as kids and adults. And how we deal with them.

Another thing that I particularly loved was that the House of Secrets is like a character itself in the story. So, another question for both of you: How did you approach the world-building?

Matthew: The House of Secrets has been around in DC Comics lore for a long, long time. It’s been interpreted and reinterpreted in a many different ways, so I kind of took that meta-fact and applied it to the house in our story. Our House of Secrets has been passed down from Caretaker to Caretaker for centuries, and each one left their mark. Poor Yoshi then had to being all that to life on the page (btw, she knocked it out of the park)

Yoshi: Matthew had the idea that the House of Secrets had been passed through many different owners in different parts of the world and different eras. I absolutely loved that, and I personally relish any opportunity to kit-bash multiple cultural influences. Plus those huge stylistic changes really gave the impression of a magical unpredictable house—one you were just dying to run around yourself!

We see Teekl throughout the illustrations before we’re ever introduced to the character. Yoshi, was this an easter egg or is Teekl spying on the Zataras?

Yoshi: I was hoping someone would notice! And yes, Teekl is definitely a warning that Klarion and his mother are nearby, not that Zatanna understands that at the time. Its an Easter egg that’s fun on the reread.

Are there any other easter eggs that fans should keep an eye out for?

Matthew: Oh yeah! Yoshi’s art has a ton of clever hints and nods, but if you want to look for one in particular that might excite old school DC fans, pay special attention to the stone busts and portraits throughout the house to get a glimpse of the house’s original “caretakers”.

Yoshi: There are a few visual Easter Eggs for those who are familiar with the DC universe. I won’t give anything away, but definitely check out the school dance. Also, those in the know will recognize the Witch Queen’s assistants for what they are.

Speaking of fans, I’m going to geek out for a little bit here. In DC canon, Zatanna was the caretaker of the House of Mystery, which is similar to, the House of Secrets. Can we expect to see another story featuring the House of Mystery, perhaps a different caretaker?

Matthew: Huh. That’s a great idea! 😉

Is there anything else about the story that either of you would like to share?

Matthew: It’s really, really good!

What’s the best piece of creative advice that both of you have received and would like to pass on to other writers and artists?

Matthew: For writers, read more than you write – but write a lot.

Yoshi: Breaks are important to creative flow, and pursue a creative process that brings you joy.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

Matthew: I tried to break into comics as a writer before I became a published novelist.

Yoshi: I’m allergic to coconut.

What are you working on next?

Matthew: I’m finishing up a novel for older readers and am working on a couple of kids comics projects that I’m really excited about.

Yoshi: Something else with DC!

How can people follow you on social media?

Matthew: On twitter I’m at @mattcodywrites. I tweet rarely but always respond!

Yoshi: Twitter @yoshisquared. Insta @yoshiyoshitani  Website Yoshiyoshitani.com

Thank you so much for the interview!

Zatanna and the House of Secrets is out now, and here at The Mixed-Up Files, we’re giving away a copy. Enter our giveaway below.

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The winner will be contacted  via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US/Canada only) to receive the book.

Diversity in MG Lit #14 Girl-centered Sci Fi and Fantasy

In the last several months I’ve seen a crop of solid Sci Fi and Fantasy titles with diverse girl characters. Ever since I stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia with Lucy Pevencie, I have loved girl-centric fantasy and sci fi. Especially when it featured a familiar mythology or sacred story. So I’m so pleased to see fantastical stories based in a much broader group of tales. None of these books are a definitive or scholarly reproduction of their originating myths. Please look to non-fiction sources for instruction about originating myths.  Enjoy these books for the gems they are, hewn from the stone of a rich mythological tradition.
The Jumbie Gods Revenge by Tracy Baptiste
    When an out-of-season hurricane sweeps through Corinne’s seaside village, she believes Mama D’Leau, the powerful jumbie who rules the ocean, has caused the hurricane. But Corinne discovers the storms were caused by the angry god Huracan. Corinne races against time to find out what has angered Huracan and try to fix it before her island home is destroyed forever. The Jumbie God’s Revenge blends Caribbean and West African tales to present powerful themes of community and heroism and adventure.
Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss
    When a deadly mythie attacks Lintang’s village the same day the infamous Captain Shafira visits her island, Lintang gets her chance. She defends her village with bravery and earns her a place on the pirate queen’s ship. When Lintang discovers her best friend has stowed away she must choose. Telling Captain Shafira betrays her friend, but keeping the secret risks everything.
Love Sugar Magic: A mixture of mischief by Anna Meriano 
Leo Logroño of Rose Hill, Texas, wants to become a full-fledged bruja like the rest of her family. But she hasn’t discovered the true nature of her magical abilities. That isn’t the only bit of trouble in her life: Her family’s baking heirlooms have begun to go missing, and a new bakery called Honeybees has opened across town, threatening to run Amor y Azúcar right out of business.
Spirit Hunters: The Island of Monsters, by Ellen Oh
 For fans of scary stories, Spirit Hunters is a high-stakes middle grade mystery series. It features Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother.
Game of Stars, by Sayantani DasGupta
    When the Demon Queen shows up in her bedroom, surrounded by evil-looking bees, 12-year-old Kiranmala is uninterested. After all, it’s been four months since she last heard from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond, the alternate dimension where she was born as an Indian princess. But after a call to action over an interdimensional television station and a visit with some all-seeing birds, Kiran decides that she has to once again return to her homeland, where society is fraying, a reality show is taking over, and her friends are in danger.
Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee
    Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. 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 is 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. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.
Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
    Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her. When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters.
These are just some of the terrific new and diverse titles out there. Please mention any I’ve missed in the comments. -Rosanne Parry