In the world of kid lit, this August has been a great time for fantasy; we’re even lucky enough to see not one, but two Star Wars book releases. On top of that, with llamas, Greek mythology and time travel, kids who want to squeeze out a little more summer escapism should have no problem.
Of course, every good fantasy book makes us think about our own reality. Sprinkled in amongst all the fantasy are also a few thought-provoking, timely topics like bullying, standardized testing, loneliness and preserving the past.
In the fifth installment in the delightfully quirky Origami Yoda series, kids turn to Origami Yoda for help when their middle school cancels all of their favorite classes (including art, music and LEGO) to make more time for standardized testing training. Along the way, kids will learn how to make origami Jabbas and Ewoks. A great story with a topical message, a fun craft, and Ewoks? No wonder this series is explosively popular.
The beginning of school is a bittersweet time for parents, especially those sending kids to a new school for the first time. We all want to fortify our kids as much as possible against the big bad world, and one way to do that is to start the conversation about things they may encounter with a great kids’ book. Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama is a consistently excellent series that aims to arm kids with ways to handle a variety of situations with grace, including the perennial problem of bullying. Interesting illustrations and a compelling story help carry the important lessons home. Plus, llamas.
The Enchantress Returns is the second of the Land of Stories series by author Chris Colfer of Glee fame. This installment is being critically heralded as an improvement on the first, which in itself was very well-received. In The Enchantress Returns, the twin protagonists must defy their grandma to return to the Land of Stories to save their kidnapped mother. Colfer’s uniquely witty style makes these fairytales an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable update on the genre.
This beautifully illustrated debut book by Aaron Becker may be wordless, but is an exercise in visual literacy nonetheless. The book begins when a girl draws a door into a fantasy world and manages to escape her sepia-tone loneliness. With her red marker, she colors herself a magical world. Sit with kids and flip through the pages, allowing them the freedom to tell you the story of Journey. Ask them to notice something new each time, and you’ll have an amazing new insight into your child’s world of imagination.
The Greek Goddesses series puts a modern spin on Greek mythology, easily reeling in girl readers with its portrayal of gods and goddesses as tweens attending Mount Olympus Academy. The main characters of the series are Athena, Persephone, Aphrodite and Artemis, with Zeus as the Academy’s principal. Persephone the Daring retells the story of Orpheus, who is portrayed here as a rock god. To Hades’ dismay, all the girls swoon for Orpheus, but he only has eyes for his lost Eurydice. This series is a sneaky way to get some classics into your tween’s reading diet.
Through the comics, journal entries, letters and doodles of a first year Jedi Academy Padawan named Roan, kids will learn that even those with high Midichlorian counts aren’t immune to the agony of the awkward middle school years. Jeffrey Brown is also the bestselling author of Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess and Darth Vader and Son.
When Simon Grant makes friends with Professor Moira Ananke and starts digging around in the dusty tomes at her museum, he discovers her secret: she’s a time traveler. She agrees to take him on as an apprentice, and thus begins his first adventure into the past. He finds himself in Yorkshire, England, right in the middle of the town’s search for answers regarding the murder most foul of Thomas Becket. As an engaging look at real historical events, this series promises to give kids more than just a way to kill long summer afternoons.