Monday's Muse, 18th Edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): World at Large by Modest Mouse.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth.

In Tolstoy's original story a tsar asks three questions (What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?), and he finds the answers when he unknowingly saves his enemy. Muth's gentler, simpler version is closer to a fable about a boy and his animal friends. Beautiful, playful watercolor paintings show Nikolai with heron Sonya, monkey Gogol, and dog Pushkin on the shore. The animals can't really answer the big questions so Nikolai hikes into the mountains to consult wise old turtle Leo--and while Nikolai is there, he saves a panda and her child in a roaring storm, finding his answers. Muth's large-size pictures are open and beautiful. Some of the soft-toned landscapes are like Japanese paintings, with sharply defined characters against blurry views of water, mountain, and sky. Children will want to talk about the questions and answers, though a version closer to Tolstoy's original would have been more compelling: What if you saved someone who was trying to harm you? --Hazel Rochman, Booklist.

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards.

Historical fiction can be a hard sell, but this gem of a novel-in-verse is indeed worth selling. It is set against the backdrop of a Gilded Age playground for society's upper crust, the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club of Pennsylvania's Lake Conemaugh. The cross-class romance between Celestia, daughter of a wealthy businessman and his obedient society wife, and Peter, summer help and son of a miner from the valley below, is absorbing. It is, however, not the entirety of this rich tale of a real-life natural disaster, the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The flood lies in wait throughout the narrative as allusions are made to the weakness of the dam miles above the working-class shantytowns below. After an unfortunate family situation separates Celestia and Peter the summer of their meeting, she returns to the lake for the summer of 1889 ready to disavow her family and find her beloved. Readers will cheer for this young couple to beat the odds together, and they'll tear through the pages as the tension and drama of the approaching flood rise, oblivious to the exhaustive research and attention to historical detail beneath. This book's ability to wear so many hats—heart-tugging romance, nail-biting suspense novel, and social commentary (it is ripe for discussion about wealth and class in America or society's response to natural disaster) more than earns it a place on the shelves of all libraries serving teens.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT

The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma.

Johnny Turnbull has spent all of his 12 years aboard the seed-ship Renaissance en route to the Rings of Orbis. Due to a mechanical problem, the adults on the spaceship perished long before Johnny and the other young passengers were born (they were stored as embryos and raised by the ship's computer). When they arrive on Orbis 1, the orphans quickly learn that they will be forced to work for the Guarantors (alien businessmen) in order to pay off their dead parents' debt for their passage. Johnny is immediately identified as the first human softwire, someone with the ability to enter and manipulate a computer with his mind. Because of his gift, he is a prime suspect when the central computer of Orbis 1 begins to malfunction. He must prove his innocence and solve the mystery of the mechanical failures before time runs out. The author deftly introduces the futuristic setting without getting bogged down in long and detailed descriptive passages, and the brisk plot will keep the interest of reluctant readers. Although a few of the secondary characters are not fully developed, Johnny and his sister are well drawn, and the scenes between the two are skillfully crafted. The first in a planned quartet, this book is a good selection for science-fiction fans.–Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX, School Library Journal.

Triskellion by Will Peterson.

Fourteen-year-old twins Rachel and Adam, fresh from Manhattan, arrive in a sleepy English village to spend the summer with their grandmother, away from their divorcing parents. On the surface, Triskellion seems like a charming place, but that perception quickly changes as they are thrown into the middle of a complicated power struggle involving local folklore and history, recent family scandals, and archaeological fever. The twins, who can communicate telepathically, begin to share dreams of a maiden, who looks like Rachel, and a knight, who looks like Gabriel, a mysteriously attractive boy who keeps leading them into trouble, but saving them as well. Ultimately, everything hinges on the search for the three blades of the Triskellion, an ancient artifact that involves a local beekeeper/amateur archaeologist; the fanatical son of the village leader and his followers; and the cast and crew of Treasure Hunters, a popular reality show. There's a fair amount of violence, but nothing gratuitous. Mysteries abound, and explanations are sometimes a little murky (what exactly is Gabriel?), but these questions may be resolved in the further installments of the planned trilogy. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there's plenty of adventure, dark and creepy atmosphere, and a touch of the paranormal. Recommend this to fans of Neil Gaiman and Neal Shusterman.—Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library, School Library Journal.


Margo Berendsen said...

So how many of these books do you actually read? Triskellion sounds right up my ally.

Heather Zundel said...

I have read four from these lists, but trust me, a lot more are tantalizing me than just those. :)