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May 18, 2017

Two Great Fantasy Novels for Kids to Read this Summer

by MK French

The school is winding down and soon kids will be home under foot. Did you know that children can lose up to a grade level of reading skills during the summer? Teachers often have to spend much of the first quarter of the new school reteaching material students have forgotten. Reading during the summer helps maintain a child's skills. Here are a couple of books that will keep your kids entertained and help prevent the summer slide.

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free books were provided for honest review.

Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) by April Daniels

January 2017; Diversion; 9781682300688
ebook, print (280 pages); fantasy, YA
Danny Tozer just wanted to be a girl but had been born in a boy's body. But when the superhero Dreadnought died in front of her and transferred his powers to her, it also transferred her body into her ideal one: a female body. Now she can fly, is strong, and can finally help others the way she wants to. But her father is transphobic and wants to "cure" her, her best friend suddenly wanted to date her, the superhero league in her city is arguing if she even belongs, and the cyborg villain that killed Dreadnought is still out there. At least Danny found a new friend in Calamity, another superhero in training.

It's great to see such a positive character in this role. Danny is genuinely a caring person that happens to be trans, and this isn't the driving force of her character. There are diverse side characters, and even those characters that aren't meant to be sympathetic are still fairly well drawn and described. It was interesting to see superhero politics, an underworld of "gray capes" for those who had powers and didn't want to be superheroes, and how the ordinary people dealt with this kind of reality. While the blurb for the book specifically mentioned the best friend that wanted to date her, that part of the book was over fairly quickly and didn't get mentioned again. Once Danny got her powers, there was less focus on high school and more on the actual powers, her friendship with Calamity and the interactions with her parents. It makes sense, but peer groups are also an important part of a teenager's life. It would have been good to see a little more of her high school, how she interacted with kids and navigated through some of her other friendships. Danny was on her own a lot, which is a sad truth for many transgender kids.

For those who need warnings, though, there are transphobic and misogynistic slurs used against Danny, and some from Danny toward Greywytch, one of the superheroes in New Port City that finds transgender women insulting to women in general. There is also a sequence in the beginning with medical procedures done, some of which was without Danny's consent. The fight sequences are very well described and adds to the quick pace of the novel. This is a great first book for Ms. Daniels, and I look forward to the rest of the series.

Buy Dreadnought: Nemesis at Amazon

The King of Average by Gary Schwartz

The King of Average
October 2015; 9780997586077
ebook, print (228 pages); fantasy, YA
James is a fairly average child and is determined to be the most average child that ever lived. His mother frequently tells him that he's the worst thing that ever happened to her, so he wants to be perfectly average. This brings him to the attention of Scapegoat, who brings him to Mayor Culpa so that he can be the new King of Average... if he can find out what happened to the prior King. Complete with Optimist and Pessimist, James sets out on a journey to discover the prior King and discovers more about himself than he thought he could.

There are some very adult jokes and themes throughout the book, even though it's aimed at middle grades. It's heartbreaking to see how little James's mother cares for his feelings, and how self-centered she is when interacting with him. That kind of casual pain is juxtaposed with the puns and how James interacts with other characters. The common fear of being good for nothing is very deftly explored here, and it is a theme that will resonate with readers no matter their age. My own eight-year-old daughter was delighted to read this book and was very engaged in James's journey. She needed help pronouncing the words and didn't understand all of the wordplay, but she understood very well James's drive to prove himself worthy. She was as proud of him as I was and eager to keep reading. Gary Schwartz did a great job getting into the mind of James and the other children and making the journey not only believable but one that we learn from as well.

Buy The King of Average at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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