Podcast Transcript 99. Recommendations for Young Readers - Part I

Here is a text transcript of Podcast 99. Recommendations for Young Readers – Part I. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on! 

This podcast transcript was painstakingly crafted from locally sourced, free-range alphabet letters by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.

 Here are the books we discuss:

The Wind in the Willows Brer Rabbit The Secret Garden Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

The Year of the Dog The Year of the Rat Wonder The One and Only Ivan

The School of Good and Evil How to Train Your Dragon - Spirit Animals Magic Treehouse

The Ordinary Princess Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C Wrede The Legend of Zelda books The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

The Amulet graphic novels Garfield comics Diary of a Wimpy Kid Captain Underpants

Ranger’s Apprentice The Brotherband Chronicles The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann The Warriors series by Erin Hunter

Sonic the Hedgehog graphic novels Hiro’s Quest series Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series Alex Rider graphic novels

Pokemon books! hoot Carl Hiaasen flush Carl Hiaasen Tortall series by Tamora Pierce

Sherwood Smith’s “Wren” books (Wren to the Rescue is the first) The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong The Boxcar Children The Little House on the Prairie series

The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson Harry Potter The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Spiderwick Chronicles

The Mysterious Benedict Society The Mysterious Benedict Society Percy jackson series Kane Chronicles

Junie B Jones The Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey Dingo by Charles DeLint

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes The Pit Dragon Trilogy by Jane Yolen


Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and with me is Jane Litte and all of you! This is part 1 of our multipart episode series of young reader recommendations. So many of you called in and wrote in with suggestions of books for young readers that your children or the young people in your life have enjoyed, and it’s so awesome! And there’s so many of them, this will probably be at least two, possibly three podcasts. Yay!

The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. I’m betting you know who this is. This is the Peatbog Faeries, and I’m betting you know which track, because, well, it’s awesome, and many of you own Peatbog music.

And now a word, or words, from our sponsor. Don’t miss New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton’s latest edition to the Play by Play series, Straddling the Line, on sale now from Berkley.

I’ll have information in the podcast entry about that book, and I will also link to as many of the books that we mention in this podcast as I can. Some of our recommendations are for entire series, so I will link to the first book, but don’t worry, if you’re trying to write this down while something else, then that might be dangerous. You can find all of the links to all of the books we talk about in the podcast entry. So don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

And now, one of the most expensive podcasts in the history of the world, because, dude, I probably will buy half of these books. On with the podcast!


Sarah: If I remember correctly, you ha-, you, you were reading to your daughter from a really young age. Not when you were young, when she was young.

Jane Litte: Right. We, we would read every night.

Sarah: Did you read her chapter books or did you read her picture books? Like, what did you read to her?

Jane: Well, when she was a baby and she couldn’t understand anything, I would read aloud my own books, because –


Jane: – I read somewhere that they are just listening to the sound of your voice. They don’t understand the words, and so you might as well read something that will entertain yourself, but –

Sarah: [Laughs]

Jane: So that was, like, for the first six or seven months, and then when I felt like she was getting close to maybe when she would start talking or something, I started reading to her younger books, like The Toad in the Hollow.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: Those kind of classics. Brer Rabbit. And then when she was a little older, maybe three or four, I started reading some classics to her. And I, I mean, honestly, I don’t know how much she understood, but I had to read something that would keep me moderately entertained.

Sarah: Yeah, I totally understand what you mean.

Jane: So I read to her, I remember when she was, like, four, I read to her The Secret Garden, and then I also read this book, which I really loved, called Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and also Grace Lin’s contemporary works, which are The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat. And I really loved Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and I, I’ve given that book out as gifts to friends of mine.

Sarah: Yeah, you gave us a copy.

Jane: Yeah. Actually, Angie James didn’t like it. She, I think she rated it, like, a 3 star on Goodreads.

Sarah: Is she off your gift list now?


Jane: No, but I, you know, moved her to the edge of the circle of trust. No – [Laughs]

Sarah: Of course, of course.


Jane: But Grace Lin is this Chinese-American author/illustrator, and her books The Year of the Rat and The Year of the Dog are kind of autobiographical. They’re about a young Chinese-American girl going to school, she’s a middle schooler, and how she deals with balancing her culture, her desire to be an author/illustrator, which her uncle calls the cold door – I loved that description – because it’s a very difficult path to be a, to, to grow up and decide you’re going to make a living being an author/illustrator of children’s books. [Laughs]

Sarah: Yeah, you don’t say.

Jane: So then, when we were finished with that, I found that she had written this kind of fantasy parable story, and illustrated it, about a young girl who is very poor. Her family subsists on one rice bowl a day, and her father tells all these stories, and her mother is angry at her father, and – for filling her daughter with all these fanciful imaginations. So one day, the daughter decides after she hears a, a story from her father about the Old Man on the Moon who can change your fortune. So she sets off to find the Old Man of the Moon so she can change the fortune for her family. Along the way she meets a young boy who is kind of a, an orphan, and she meets a dragon who can’t fly, and goes through all these different adventures. In the meantime, she meets people along the way who tell her stories about this wise man who had a son who wanted to be wealthy, and so he married someone and became kind of a governor, what you might think of as a, like a mayor of a town or something like that. And he turned out to be kind of an evil, overbearing guy, and you just get a little snippet of this fa-, fable as you go along from each one of the characters that she meets, and then it kind of all comes together at the end, until you’re not sure if the story that she’s hearing is part of her own story or if it’s a fable from time way past, but the story, the, the dragon who can’t fly wants to, has his own journey, and – it’s just kind of a story about learning to become content with your place in life, as well as making your own fortune. You know, you always wonder through the story, is she going to meet the Old Man of the Moon? When she gets there, what will she ask for? And whether the change of fortune that she asks for, will that result in a happy ending for her? So that is one of my favorite children’s books. There’s a sequel out that my daughter has read, but I have not, and she liked it, but she said it wasn’t as good as Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

My daughter’s a big fan of reading the Newberry award winners, and as far as award-winning books go, I do think that that prize picks some pretty extraordinary books. We haven’t read a bad book from that. Although one of them we did read, and it was a little boring, but it was real interesting, ‘cause it was set in the medieval period, and it was about a midwife’s apprentice, and so –

Sarah: Oh!

Jane: – from that aspect, it was kind of interesting, ‘cause it talked about superstition as it related to people getting sick and just things that were happening in their world, and I thought that the, the historical aspect of it was pretty neat. But one of the books that we really enjoyed was Wonder, and I don’t know the name of, I don’t know how to pronounce the last name of the author. Are you fami- ?

Sarah: Pa-, Palacio.

Jane: Palacio. So, have you read that story?

Sarah: I have not read it. My, my older son had said that he wanted to read it soon, but he’s at camp right now, so I said I would wait until he got home and we could read it together.

Jane: August suffers from facial – and I can’t even remember, it’s been a while since I read it, but there’s a name for the disorder that he has, but basically, his, his facial features are reor-, are organized in a way that is very unusual.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: He has an older sister and two very loving parents, and they, he’s gone to a special school all of his life, and they want to enroll him in public middle school, because I think they’ve been encouraged to do that to kind of acclimate him to being out in society more. Most of the time, he would wear this helmet that would disguise his features, and he chose to wear the helmet because he wouldn’t be looked at and pointed at so forth. One of the things that August says is that Halloween is his favorite holiday because everybody wears a mask. Wearing a mask or helmet isn’t unusual.

Sarah: Right.

Jane: And he, his whole goal in life, I mean, the biggest thing that he would ever want is just to be treated like any other kid.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: You’re not being pointed out for being unusual and – so that’s, I thought that that was a really great book in terms of teaching kids about acceptance, you know.

Sarah: And empathy and how other people feel.

Jane: Right, and, and we talked about how – I, I remember reading another book later where a character was in a wheelchair, and the brother never said, when he was introducing him, wouldn’t say his char-, his brother was in a wheelchair, and then when they introduced him, the wheelchair-bound brother later, a friend got really angry, and I, and Lily and I talked about that, and we, and I said, do you remember when August said, I don’t want to be known as the guy, the kid the strange features –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – you know, maybe that’s, the brother was trying to treat him like just any other kid –

Sarah: Right.

Jane: – ‘cause the, the wheelchair doesn’t define him, and I feel like her having read that story, Wonder, gave her some insight as to other people with, who have differences from her, whether physically or mentally or whatnot, so that she can understand that the, the important thing is to not treat them differently. Treat them as you would anybody else, because they are just anybody else –

Sarah: Right.

Jane: – just their, their outsides or the way they move their legs or they way they talk might seem different to you, but inside, everybody is the same. And so I did feel like Wonder was really good in that regard, and it showed everybody’s reaction to it. You know, his older sister’s struggle, the parents’ struggle. There’s this really sweet moment with the father, because the, his, Wonder’s helmet gets lost and he can’t find it, and later on, his father – this is a spoiler alert; you should turn your –

Sarah: Headphones off?

Jane: – headphones off – so, his father admits toward the end of the book that he hid the helmet, and August is confused by this, and his father said, I just wanted to see your sweet face, and I could never see it when you wore your helmet.

Sarah: Aw.

Jane: So that was really sweet. And then, I love the book The One and Only Ivan.

Sarah: I have not read that one.

Jane: Oh, my God, you should read – I think your kids would love this book. It’s a younger book, but I feel like the themes in this story are kind of universal, and the writing, just from a technical aspect, is extraordinary. Ivan is a gorilla, and he’s –

Sarah: Oh, is this the one where he’s a gorilla and he’s been kept in a circus and – ?

Jane: In a mall.

Sarah: In a mall, and he, he agree-, he decides he’s going to help a baby elephant escape?

Jane: Yes.

Sarah: Yes, it was on sale on Kindle or something –

Jane: Yes.

Sarah: – and, and I bought it for my son, and he said he was reading it and that it was really, really good, but he didn’t like to read it before he went to sleep ‘cause it was upsetting.

Jane: It’s kind of a sad story. Yes, I agree, but it, ultimately, there’s a happy ending. But what is extraordinary is it’s told only in Ivan’s point of view, and so his whole frame of reference is, you know, memories that he had when he was out in the jungle or wherever he was captured –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – the, the, the mall, and then what little TV he watches. And so the use of how his, the descriptive words, how he describes things, what colors he draws, the references he draws, are all from this limited scope, but they all make sense, and it’s really amazing, I felt, the author’s ability to draw the picture of Ivan’s world from his point of view. And it’s just a really charming story.

We read a lot of books with animals, ‘cause my daughter is a huge animal fan. Strangely, we got an advanced reader copy of The School for Good and Evil. I, I don’t know how we got this book, but we started reading it together. It’s a middle-grade, younger YA book. It’s about two girls who are captured and put into two different schools. One’s the school for good, and one’s the school for evil, and the pretty girl gets stuck in the school of evil, and the “ugly” girl gets stuck in the school for good, and the girl in the evil school is convinced she’s in the wrong school, ‘cause she’s beautiful, so she should be in the school of good –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – where everyone’s beautiful and everything is beautiful, and they study things about flowers and whatever. I thought that the, there were some problematic aspects of the portrayal of good people being this exterior, you know, being beautiful on the exterior, and these “bad” people being warty and hook nosed and whatever, but the author tries to justify this by asserting that your true colors come out and transform your exterior, so if you’re ugly on the inside, you’ll be ugly on the outside, and if you’re beautiful on the inside, you’ll be beautiful on the outside, but I still thought it was just a little too much emphasis on external features.

Sarah: Right, ‘cause in the end, what is being most influenced and what is the important change is still the external.

Jane: Right. Although, I think the id-, the concept behind The School for Good and Evil is that everybody has a little good and everybody has a little evil in them –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – and it’s all about what you foster –

Sarah: Right.

Jane: – and what you focus on that determines whether you’ll go one way or the other way. And the, the, there’s this thing called the Storian, this magical pen that writes the story of your life, and the idea is everybody had accepted whatever story the Storian wrote, but these two girls fight against that to write their own outcome. And then the thing that I liked about it for my daughter is that it’s really, the focus is really on the friendship between the two girls, and the, the boy in the story, the, the hero, Prince Tristan –

Sarah: [Laughs] Tristan?

Jane: Yes.

Sarah: Okay. [Laughs]

Jane: In-, inten-, I’m sure the author intended to name him the very stereotypical prince name, because he serves as kind of this almost comedic relief. I mean, he’s almost useless in the book. Like, he’s clearly there only as a prop for the girls –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – and it has a very Frozen-like ending, and this book came out before the movie, so I, you know, I don’t think that the author copied them at all. It just had a very similar ending.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: So I liked that. And we read that for her book club.

Sarah: Oh, that’s right, you have a mother-daughter book club.

Jane: Right! I read about this on Scholastic’s website. We picked, the first book was a Scholastic book, but it was bad, so then we’ve gone away from them.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Jane: It was a really great idea, Scholastic! Your book selection, not so much. Well, for one thing, because it’s a, it’s a mother-daughter book club, so it’s six girls, six moms, we are trying to pick books that are female centric, you know, that –

Sarah: Yeah.

Jane: – that portray women or girls as the heroes of their own story –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – and so it’s hard. [Laughs]

Sarah: Yeah. I can see that.

Jane: Now, books I haven’t read that my daughter loves include the How to Train Your Dragon series, which is, like, up to 12 now. My daughter loves those books. She loves the Spirit Animals series. These are all middle-grade books.

Sarah: Right. She’s in four-, fifth grade? Fourth?

Jane: She’s in fifth. She finished the Harry Potter series. She thought those were tremendous, and now she’s reading a Garth Nix book because, randomly, somebody sent it to me in the mail, and so she started to read that.

Sarah: How is she liking it?

Jane: She likes every book. She’s actually writing a review right now of a book that was sent to us, ‘cause I’ve, I told her, if you write reviews, they’ll send you more books.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Jane: And she’s really intrigued by this.

Sarah: [Laughs more] So you are teaching her the fine, fine art of blogging for books.

Jane: Right!


Sarah: Now we have fully confessed our evil; everyone listening now knows. [Laughs]

Jane: But she likes everything, so I was trying to encourage her last night to be more critical, and she, she had some critiques of it, and then I asked her what grade she was going to give, and she’s like, well, I’m going to give it an A, and I said, but you had all these problems with it. You can’t give everything an A, and she’s like, well, why not?


Sarah: Oh, yeah.

Jane: So, finally, after some talking, she agreed to give it a B –

Sarah: Oh!

Jane: – but I think that may be the lowest grade she ever gives any book.

Sarah: I think it’s really hard for kids to reach a point where they feel like they can criticize something that a grownup has done, you know?

Jane: I don’t know; she seems to be fine with criticizing me all the time.

Sarah: Oh, yeah, that’s different. You’re her mom. [Laughs] It’s a totally different thing. [Laughs] You’re the first authority she challenges. I know that my, my older son, who is going into third grade – no, God Almighty! – he’s going into fourth! Holy shit! Anyway, he’ll be nine, and he’s going into fourth, and I have to take a moment and cry. Jesus, fourth grade! He, he doesn’t like to say negative things in specifics. He’ll just say, well, I didn’t like that one part, but I really like this other part, and he’ll go into detail, but he doesn’t like to talk about what he didn’t like. Is she going to start another blog? Wasn’t she blogging for a class?

Jane: Well, she, they did these reviews when they were in the third grade. They didn’t do that last year.

Sarah: Ah.

Jane: No, I mean I’ll post them on Dear Author. The, we posted the review she did of The School for Good and Evil, and there’s a lot of commenters who have kids or who have nieces –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – or nephews. I mean, I feel like our focus is definitely girl oriented, ‘cause those are the types of books that I’m trying to encourage her to read, although she loves animals, like I said, so her other favorite series is the Ga’Hoole series –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Jane: – which I think has 30-some books, and she’s at, like, 12.

Sarah: Did she ever get into Magic School House? No, Magic Tree House.

Jane: You know, she read several and then stopped. She, and she had no desire to continue.

Sarah: They, they don’t seem to develop.

Jane: I think that parent’s like them more than kids like them. But from a kid’s point of view, I think that’s just boring. It may be too didactic; I don’t know.

Sarah: I read one of them out loud to my younger son, who is going to be seven. He, just this year, this past year in school, sort of clicked with reading, like, he understood all the words in a sentence, as opposed to just two or three, but he loves to be read to. Even though he’s reading along with me, he really enjoys being read to. He really loves audiobooks. So I read one of the Magic Tree House books, and it’s a, it’s all, it’s all plot. There’s no real character development. There is a lesson to be learned and wrong to be righted, and these two kids are going to go some places with some other people, and there’s some sort of latent attraction between the, one of the character, the, the characters who are not related to each other are, are attracted to other people in the book who make regular appearances. But when we read the next one, none of that was there. It was all the same, so I think he was also getting bored with the fact that the characters don’t seem to change very much. And he likes it when people learn something or grow or, or in some way figure out something that they didn’t know before the, the beginning of the book. I think you’re right, though, the Magic Tree House series seems to be more popular with parents than with kids in, in a lot of cases. Although I do know one kid who loves them, but I also think it’s the fact that he likes to collect them, and he goes to used bookstores to find them all, so he has them all in order. It’s like an accomplishment. I think it’s as much about assembling them in order on the shelf as it is about reading them.


Sarah: And now, because you guys are so awesome, it is time for some of your email. Some, because we have so much, this is probably going to be at least two, possibly three podcasts. But I have a feeling no one’s complaining, because I don’t have a problem with finding books for my kids and going shopping. I think it’s kind of fun!

Our first email is from Kim, and Kim writes:

Dear Sarah and Jane,

Before I get to the books for young readers, I need to tell you how much I love your podcast. I have only started listening but have been a long-time reader of both your sites. You have introduced me to a number of new authors and cost me a small fortune in books. I couldn’t be happier. Also, I’m now the proud owner of a number of new CDs, including Peatbog Faeries and Caravan Palace.

Sarah: That’s so awesome! Okay, here we go, get ready. Hold onto your wallets.

I have two young boys, one is nine and the other is six.

Sarah: We need to set up a play date.

My nine year old reads way above his reading level, ninth grade reading level, and he’s just starting the fourth grade in the fall. It has always been a challenge to find books that are both age appropriate and at his reading level. Also, finding books for boys has its own challenge. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I do want to recommend a resource for the finding books that will appeal to boys. It is called guysread.com. I have found books from that site on more than one occasion. Most of the recommendations are books my older son has read or is reading independently. We still mostly read to my younger son, but he’s starting to read some of these on his own.

On to the recommendation. My first recommendation is the Harry Potter series, of course. Between Kindergarten and first grade, my oldest was terribly bored with reading. He could read at a third grade level, but the books available at his school library did not keep him interested. We decided to read the first couple of books together and ended up reading the whole series together over about two years. They taught him that books could transport you. I owe them for turning both of my boys into readers.

Sarah: I do not think you are the only parent who has said that. I definitely have thought that myself.

My boys really love fantasy-type books, probably since their first love of reading came from Harry Potter. One series they really love is The Spiderwick Chronicles. There are a few movies that go along with the series. The series is actually two series, Spiderwick Chronicles and Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles. They also love the Unfortunate Series of Events books. Again, there are movies to go with those. My oldest son is currently reading, re-reading [S: Excuse me] the Mysterious Benedict Society series. These are very long, and my younger son is not as into these because of his shorter attention span. Along the same lines as the Mysterious Benedict Society is the Secret series of books. The first book is The Name of this Book Is Secret. They aren’t as long, and the boys find them very funny. They are just starting to read the Artemis Fowl series, a favorite of mine, and they are enjoying it a lot. My older son is reading this series aloud to my younger son.

Sarah: Oh, Kim, my, my ovaries just exploded from cute!

Both boys really love the My Weird School and My Weirder School books. There are a bazillion of these. They are appropriate for younger readers. As a family, we have a few things the kids really enjoy beyond Harry. We read a few of the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Treasure Island, and The Wizard of Oz. My oldest son is really into Rick Riordan’s books, the Percy Jackson series, the Olympians series, and the Kane Chronicles series. These are too mature for my younger son, but he does enjoy the Percy Jackson movies. He just doesn’t get the mythology. My son’s teacher loved that he had read the Kane Chronicles because he was able to add so much to their discussion on ancient Egypt. She assures me that much of the mythology was very accurate. He also enjoys the Time Warp Trio series and, and the Roald Dahl books. So do I. He loves the 39 Clues books and read all of the ones he could get his hands on.

My youngest son enjoys the Junie B. Jones books. There was some controversy over these books at the school. She does things that are rude and uses the word stupid. I don’t find that problematic, as her actions are not condoned, but many parents did. So, they’re not for everyone. He is also really into the Frog and Toad books right now. He’s starting to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. His older brother liked them a lot too, but now considers them a bit young. Whatever. My youngest son also loves some of the early reader books that are Lego books, Ninjago, Superheroes, et cetera. He’s also enjoying a few of the Minecraft novellas. He loves the game, and his greatest love is graphic novels. They have really helped with his reading, because each small bit is illustrated, so he learns a lot of new vocabulary through context.

I could keep going on and on. We are a family of readers. If you have trouble finding any of these, please let me know. I was going to include links, but the email was going to be way too long for that. Thank you again for your wonderful podcast.

Sarah: No worries, Kim! The linking part is my job, and it’s fun, so don’t worry. Those are all totally awesome recommendations, and what’s interesting is that my sons line up very closely with hers in terms of their reading experience and their reading interests, and the, all of the early readers involving Lego, Ninjago, Superheroes, Superman, Power Rangers, more Power Rangers, the third incarnation of Power Rangers, we have borrowed those from the library so many times, like, we might as well get a free copy. He loves those, my younger son does. So thank you for your email, Kim. This is really awesome.

This next message is from Christine. Christine writes:

This is a timely topic for me, since I just spent a day paring down my kids’ bookshelves. Because my daughter has dust allergies and we live in a tiny house, I only wanted to keep their favorites. No more hanging onto books that one person in the family loved in the hopes that someone else will pick it up someday. In no particular order, here are some of the books I kept for my 12½-year-old daughter: Hoot and Flush by Carl Hiaasen; the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz; Tamora Pierce’s books, particularly the Tortall series – the Circle of Magic books didn’t really captivate her; Sherwood Smith’s Wren books – Wren to the Rescue is the first; Kelley Armstrong’s YA series; The Boxcar Children; some Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys; the Little House on the Prairie series; the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson; Harry Potter; and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also, my daughter reads and writes a ton of fanfiction.

Sarah: Your, your daughter sounds totally awesome.

And now for my 10-year-old son: He loves the Legend of Zelda books; the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; the Amulet graphic novels; Garfield comics; Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Captain Underpants; John Flanagan’s series, Ranger’s Apprentice and the Brotherband Chronicles; the Unwanteds series by McMann; the Warriors series by Erin Hunter; Sonic the Hedgehog graphic novels; Hiro’s Quest; Secret Agent Jack Stalwart; Alex Rider graphic novels; Pokémon books, and science-y dinosaur books. Both kids love all of Rick Riordan’s books.

My kids and I have similar tastes and sensibilities, not counting my son’s obsession with Pokémon, which I will never understand…

Sarah: Oh, Christine, join the club.

…but they didn’t end up liking almost any of the books that were my absolute favorites as a kid. Most of the books we enjoy in common are by authors I read as an adult when I was sitting in the fantasy section of the library, supposedly writing my dissertation, Tamora Pierce, Rick Riordan, John Flanagan, and J. K. Rowling. I’ve helped with purchasing new books for the library at my son’s elementary school for the past few years and with inventorying the collection before summer break. It seems like most of the books were published more than, say, 10 years ago. They just languish on the shelves. The books that circulate the most are the series my son reads, records books like the Guinness Book of World Records, and graphic novels. Seriously, it seems like kids will read almost anything if it’s in graphic novel format. We’ve added lots of nonfiction graphic novels – it’s weird that that’s a thing – to the collection over the last five years, and they’ve gobbled them up, even if they’re about, like, flu pandemic or something.

Thanks so much for all the great podcasts. I can’t wait for school to start again so I can listen to them in the car on the way to pick up the kids.

Sarah: Christine, thank you so much writing that letter. That’s completely awesome, and I totally agree with so many of your suggestions. I also have that same experience of wondering when the library collection at my son’s school was last curated, and I know during a budget crisis recently, all of the librarians were let go and replaced with some of the part-time teaching aides, who may or may not be well versed in collections. Last year, the summer reading list was about 60% books that were out of print and more than 45 years old, and all of us were kind of like, whaaaat? But I think that’s being addressed now. Maybe I should volunteer, because you know what, we need more graphic novels about flu pandemic, because I would totally read that! That’s awesome!

And our last email is actually a voicemail from Isis:

Hi, Sarah and Jane! This is Isis from Ithaca, New York. I’m calling ‘cause I just listened to the new podcast with Nico and Zoe, and first of all I wanted to say I listen to you guys now on Stitcher, and I’m actually really enjoying it. It seems to work way better than the podcast app, so I’m definitely digging that. And then you were asking about books for younger readers. Unfortunately, the only recommendations that I have are books that are apparently geared specifically towards girls, since we’re trying to indoctrinate an entire generation, I don’t know how useful that’s going to be, but I would definitely recommend The Ordinary Princess, the author of which I can’t remember, but it’s one of these topsy-turvy fairy tale kind of stories, only it was written way past when we were first starting out with those topsy-turvy fairy, fairy tales. It’s a princess who doesn’t look anything like the other princesses and decides to go and have adventures and seek her fortune and becomes a, a kitchen maid in a castle far away, and so on and so forth. That one’s really good.

Another that I would recommend is the entire series of Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede that starts with Dealing with Dragons and goes on from there. They all have happy ending, which is, and they’ve all got relationships building in them, so that’s what I would define as a romance. I would definitely check those out.

I love the podcast. Keep it going. Thanks, guys! Bye!

Sarah: I kind of want to read the Patricia Wrede Dragon series now. Have you read that? Was it really good? Should I read it, ‘cause, yeah, I want to read that now. ‘Cause I really like Magic Chocolate Pot. If there’s dragons, I’m totally on board!

We have time for one more! Yes, yes, we do! One more email. You guys ready? We have one more. This is a really expensive set of podcasts, isn’t it? I, I feel like I should apologize. This email is from Claire, and Claire writes:

Hello, Sarah and Jane!

First off, I just listened to the podcast with Zoe and Nico and wanted to say thank you for interviewing them. Zoe Archer is one of my most favorite recent author discoveries. I love the way she blends action and adventure with romance and writes historicals that take place outside of the ballroom, because otherwise you would think England was just one massive row of ballrooms set end to end across the isle. [S: Good point.] I love her steampunk series with Nico – ah, Fletcher – and I can’t wait to see what she writes as Eva Leigh. Thank you as well for letting Nico talk more about his Demon Rock series. I’d looked at the books before, but I had never picked one up. Hearing him give a little summary about the world and the characters was really informative, and now I’ve got all of them on hold at my local library.

Now that I’ve gotten that bit of fangirling out of the way, on to the email subject. These are a mix of books I read as a young reader, so late ‘90s to early 2000s when I was in high school. Or these are books who are by authors I love and have continued to read, even though now I feel a little awkward in the teen section at Barnes & Noble. I was/am a big fantasy and sci-fi fan, so hopefully these will pique the interest of some nerdy younglings today.

The Daughter of the Lioness duology by Tamora Pierce follows Aly, who is the daughter of Alanna from the Lioness series. I read this as an adult but with a heavy dose of nostalgia for the Lioness and Immortals series. Aly wants to be a spy, like her father, and gets kidnapped and sold as a slave on the Copper Isles. The Trickster god interferes, and high jinks ensue, but of course, along with plotting a rebellion and a love interest who started life as a crow. The romance is a little more pronounced in the second book, but nothing should be too objectionable. Pierce’s Beka Cooper series is also quite good, set in Tortall’s past, when women could be knights. It follows a young girl in training to become a cop. But I also haven’t read the last book yet, despite having it on my shelf for 2+ years.

Chalice by Robin McKinley is a beautiful story that somewhat defies description. It has all of McKinley’s wonderful writing and characters, but it is slower paced than “kids today” might like. Set in a medieval-ish world populated by magic and many small [S: duckies? duchies, dew-cheese, doucheys, many small doucheys! I’ve never actually said that word out loud. My bad, everybody.] It’s the story of Mirasol, a new Chalice, green witch, and councilor, all rolled together with a beekeeper – like you do – and the new master of the land, pulled back from his training as a fire priest, who isn’t quite human anymore. Though there is barely any romance and little violence, I would say this is better for an older teen or a very mature young one. There are a lot of nuances, and as I said, the slow pacing may put some readers off.

For the complete opposite of Chalice, I’d like to recommend the Croak series by Gina Damico. Full disclosure: Gina is a former coworker and friend of mine, but these are really good books. Croak follows the story of Lex, a rebellious high schooler who finds out she’s a Grim Reaper while spending the summer with her Uncle Mort in upstate New York in what turns out to be a town full of Grims. The mythology and culture of Grims is fascinating. Jellyfish are involved, and there is a boatload of action, witty banter, practical jokes between Lex and her corps of fellow trainees. There’s a realistically awkward first kiss between Lex and Driggs, her erstwhile partner and roommate at Uncle Mort’s, and the romance continues through the trilogy. Be advised that the second book ends on a bit of a trick cliffhanger, so make sure you have ready access to the third. [S: Oh, thank you for that warning.]

And now that my descriptive powers have evaporated for the day, I will close with a list of some other titles: The Weetzie Bat series by Francesca Lia Block, the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, Dingo by Charles DeLint, the Enchanted Forest chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and the Pit Dragon trilogy by Jane Lowen [S: Yolen, excuse me, Jane Yolen]. Sorry for the tome that this email turned into. My wallet may curse you for the excellent podcast and blog, but my imagination is very thankful to have found the Bitchery.

Sarah: Oh, that’s a good list. If anyone who’s listening has young people that like fantasy, that’s like, oh, a good six to eight months’ worth of reading.

And that brings us to the end of this episode. But you know what I have? Bucket loads of recommendations to come. I have a lot of email and voicemail, ‘cause all of you are so awesome! Plus, I have my recommendations from my conversation with Jane.

If you would like to share yours, if having listened to all of these books has made you think of more other books to recommend, that’s good! You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com. You can also leave us a voicemail, which is awesome, at 1-201-371-DBSA. Don’t forget to give us your name and where you’re calling from when we include your message in an upcoming podcast.

And now, a word from our sponsors. Yay! This week’s podcast is brought to you by Berkley. Don’t miss New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton’s latest addition to the Play by Play series, Straddling the Line, on sale now. And you know why else you shouldn’t miss Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series? Because the covers are works of fleapin’ art. Seriously, you should go see them; they’re gorgeous. I don’t know, like, seriously, what, what is she doing in her basement with sacrifices on a really tasteful altar. I have no idea, but her covers are awesome. For that reason alone, you should go take a look, ‘cause they’re amazing! And that’s totally not part of the sponsorship; I’m just telling you they’re – yeah. Wow. Anyway.

The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater. This is “Room 215” by the Peatbog Faeries, and of course I have links to purchase Peatbog Faeries music if you haven’t already, although I think that many of you have, which is awesome!

Next week’s podcast is more young reader recommendations. I bet you knew that. And if you’d like to share some, the doors are still open. You should totally email or call us.

But in the meantime, Jane and I and everyone else who is calling and writing in wish you the very best of reading, and thank you for listening.

[fun music]


General Bitching...

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  1. 1
    Tam says:

    ‘The Ordinary Princess’ is by M.M. Kaye, and it’s utterly lovely. The seventh princess, Amethyst, is cursed to be ordinary by her crotchety godmother, and grows up with brown hair, freckles and a predilection for climbing trees. I think the author illustrated it herself – I remember the illustrations being lovely – and the romance is just perfect, even for eight year olds.

  2. 2
    EC Spurlock says:

    Just as a point of interest, The One and Only Ivan is actually a true story, and the gorilla Ivan became one of the, basically founding fathers of Zoo Atlanta, one of the first animal stars and the zoo’s mascot. He was named after a former mayor of Atlanta and after he passed away a couple of years ago they erected a bronze statue of him at the zoo in his memory.

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