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Let In the Magic

The CBC looks for a theme to spotlight in each month’s Hot Off the Press list so that we can alert parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and all children’s book enthusiasts to cool new offerings from our member publishers.

Everybody needs to escape every now and then, and what better way to do so than to climb into another universe—one where witches, wizards, spirits, and ghouls are the norm; adventures await around every corner; and magic abounds. Timeless fantasy classics such as Peter Pan; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; and A Wrinkle in Time mingle with newer gems such as the Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and His Dark Material series, all portals into strange, unusual, and wondrous worlds. 

July’s Hot Off the Press list adds some new and exciting titles to the fantasy family, encouraging readers of all ages to break the bonds of reality and explore the realm of the fantastical!

Afro Unicorn: The Land of Afronia, Vol. 1, by April Showers; illus. by Anthony Conley & Ronaldo Barata (Andrews McMeel Publishing) — BIPOC Characters and Creators, Animals, Fantasy, Friendships, ages 7-12.

Afronia is known for being bright and colorful, but what happens when a disgraced unicorn wants to take the color away? Join unicorn best friends Divine and Unique as they journey to save Afronia in this all-new, action-packed graphic novel that celebrates Black joy and beauty. 

Welcome to the mystical land of Afronia, where life is good and full of color. The Afro Unicorns can’t wait to celebrate the annual Festival of Crowns. But on the way to the festival, Divine and Unique come across Castle Monotonic, which is home to the mysterious Madame Imperious who wants to drain all the color from Afronia. Madame Imperious has already started draining the color from a young Afrosaurus. It’s up to Unique and Divine to save Afronia and the Afrosaurus. Otherwise, their magical land might be doomed . . . FOREVER!

This full-color graphic novel is great for young readers beginning their graphic novel journey and graphic novel enthusiasts alike. It also features a Dyslexia-friendly font.

Farrah Noorzad and the Ring of Fate, by Deeba Zargarpur (Random House Children’s Books / Labyrinth Road) — Fantasy, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Action / Adventure, Family / Community, ages 7-12.

A 12-year-old girl discovers her true jinn heritage when a birthday wish gone wrong traps her father in a magical ring, sending her on an epic quest to free him. This richly imagined fantasy series inspired by Persian mythology and Islamic lore is filled with action, magic, and self-discovery.

Farrah sees her father just one day every year—her birthday. But this year, her wish to bring them closer goes wildly awry when Farrah discovers she is a half-jinn…and her father is one of the seven great jinn kings. Her wish traps  her father inside a legendary ring, and the other six jinn kings will follow unless Farrah can rectify her mistake.

Pursued by menacing shadow jinn, Farrah’s quest takes her to a floating mountain range. Joined by Idris, the jinn boy whom she inadvertently freed from the ring, and her newly discovered half-brother, Yaseen, Farrah must find a way to navigate the mysteries and dangers of her new world in order to save her father and face the most devious jinn lord of all.

The Ghosts of Nameless Island: Vol. 1, by Carly Anne West; illus. by Teo Skaffa (Andrews McMeel Publishing) — Mystery / Thriller, Horror, Action / Adventure, Fantasy, ages 7-12.

Twelve-year-old Gus Greenburg can see ghosts; in fact, he uses this paranormal superpower to help them “go on.” But when Gus and his mom move into an old mansion on the mysterious and remote Nameless Island, he meets a ghost that’s set out to hurt him. Bestselling author Carly Anne West weaves a spooky and thrilling series opener in this spine-tingling tale about mystery, family, and all things paranormal.

After his dad goes missing and his mom is hired to restore an old building called the Rotham Manor, twelve-year-old Gus Greenburg and his mom move to a quaint, secluded island called Nameless. Gus was hoping for a new start on the island (despite throwing up on the boat ride there . . . twice), but a mysterious ghost has another idea. Throw in a mean kid who hides rats in the manor, two new friends, an eclectic island chef who’s competing to be on a reality TV show, and Gus’s power to talk to the dead . . . well, that’s a lot of chaos for one kid! 

Gus needs to find out the identity of the mysterious ghost – and fast – or else he might be doomed to the same lethal fate.

That is, if the island’s signature “Heavenly Hash” dish doesn’t get to him first.

Grief in the Fourth Dimension, by Jennifer Yu (Abrams Books / Amulet Books) — Fantasy, Death / Grief / Loss, Family / Community, Friendships, Teen.

Jennifer Yu’s Grief in the Fourth Dimension is a moving and unique speculative YA novel about the afterlife and the unexpected connections that can be made in death.

In life, high school classmates Caroline Davison and Kenny Zhou existed in separate universes—Caroline in one of softball practices and family dinners; Kenny in one of NASA photo books and late-night shifts at his parents’ Chinese restaurant.

But after their deaths, they find themselves thrown together as roommates in a mysterious white room—one that seems to exist outside of time and space, shows them their loved ones’ lives on a large hi-def TV, and grants their wishes with a sardonic sense of humor.

As Caroline and Kenny watch life continue to unfold back on Earth, they realize they can influence events through radio signals, psychic mediums, and electromagnetic interference. In their efforts to console their families, they also start to understand the tragic depth of how their lives and deaths were connected and how to help their families—and themselves—heal from the losses.

Griselda Snook’s Spectacular Books, by Barry Timms; illus. by Laura Borio (Tiger Tales Books) — Fantasy, Imagination / Play, Kindness / Generosity, ages 4-6.

When a young boy named Henry steps into Griselda Snook’s Halloween-themed bookstore, he’s certain that he won’t find a book that’s just right for him–or will he?

When Henry finds a key on the sidewalk and gives it to its owner, he follows her into a huge bookstore. Griselda Snook’s Spectacular Books, which features a vast array of Halloween-themed books and caters especially to Halloween characters, has books for every interest. Despite the variety in choices, Henry isn’t convinced that he’ll find anything for himself. Could a guest reader at the store, Magenta Screech, have the perfect book for Henry?

Juneberry Blue, by Candice Ransom (Peachtree) — Fantasy, Folklore / Fairytales / Myths, Family / Community, ages 7-12.

Taking inspiration from Sleeping Beauty and rural settings, this contemporary magical realism novel includes a mistaken destiny, a dying town, and a determined ghost cat.

Eleven-year-old Andie Jennings, of Morning Glory, Virginia (population: 8), is set to inherit a matrilineal gift on Test Day, and she plans to use it to bring her dad home for good from his long-haul trucking job. Except her gift doesn’t come.

Instead, Andie starts seeing and hearing unexplained things, and a see-through cat seems to be following her. Turns out, she didn’t fail Test Day. Her gift just isn’t what anyone expected. But Andie’s ability to communicate with the ghosts at the town’s shuttered Juneberry Blue factory may be the very thing that Morning Glory—and her own family—needs.

The Lost Souls of Benzaiten, by Kelly Murashige (Soho Press / Soho Teen) — Fantasy, Folklore / Fairytales / Myths, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Mental / Physical Health, Teen.

This heartfelt and quirky young adult fantasy debut follows a young outcast on a journey of transformation . . . into a robot vacuum cleaner.

A fresh twist on Japanese mythology that doubles as a deep, honest dive into mental health.

“I wish to become one of those round vacuum cleaner robots.” That’s what Machi prays for at the altar of Japanese goddess Benzaiten. Ever since her two best friends decided they want nothing to do with her, Machi hasn’t been able to speak. After months of online school and a carousel of therapists, she can no longer see the point of being human. She doesn’t expect Benzaiten to hear her prayer, much less offer a different prayer on Machi’s behalf—that Machi  discover the beauty of humanity, ultimately restoring her to her previous self.

Benzaiten is enamored with the human world and, as she’s the goddess of love, humanity is enamored right back. Being second-best once again isn’t helping Machi move past her trauma, and with each adventure they share, Machi is reminded of everything she’s lost. It isn’t until Machi starts interacting with the souls of the dead—which tends to happen around Benzaiten—that she starts to rediscover her place among the living.From an author to watch, The Lost Souls of Benzaiten is a highly original debut about the nature of happiness and the potential for healing.

The Reckoning of Roku (CHRONICLES OF THE AVATAR BOOK 5), by Randy Ribay (Abrams Books / Amulet Books) — Fantasy, Series, Action / Adventure, Folklore / Fairytales / Myths, Teen.

From National Book Award finalist Randy Ribay comes a gripping new chapter—starring Avatar Roku—in the New York Times bestselling Chronicles of the Avatar series, set in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.

Curse a world that would provide a friend only to snatch him away . . .

Roku never expected to be the Avatar. Even his best friend, Crown Prince Sozin of the Fire Nation, doubts the accuracy of the Fire Sages’ announcement. After all, Sozin is the strongest Firebender of their generation, while Roku struggles to grasp basic airbending principles—even after months of training under Sister Disha, his airbending master.

When Sozin requests the new Avatar’s aid in preventing the Earth Kingdom from claiming a remote Fire Nation island, it doesn’t surprise Roku that Sister Disha advises him to decline. Convinced the Earth King’s aggressive expansion of territory points to a more insidious agenda, Roku steals away with the help of an irritating young Airbender named Gyatso. As the reluctant companions delve deeper into their wayward mission, they realize the fog-shrouded island harbors a secret that could lead to catastrophe in the wrong hands.

Plagued by self-doubt but eager to confront the dangers ahead, Avatar Roku must learn where to place his trust and what it means to be a spirit of no nation . . . even if the lesson comes at a great personal cost.

Time and Time Again, by Chatham Greenfield (Bloomsbury / Bloomsbury YA) — Romance, Disabilities, LGBTQIA+, Fantasy, Teen.

In this debut YA speculative romance perfect for fans of Rachael Lippincott, two queer, disabled, Jewish teens find themselves stuck in a time loop–and falling love.

Phoebe Mendel’s day is never ending–literally.

On August 6th, she woke up to find herself stuck in a time loop. And for nearly a month of August 6ths since, Phoebe has relived the same day: pancakes with Mom in the morning, Scrabble with Dad in the afternoon, and constant research into how to reach tomorrow and make it to her appointment with a doctor who may actually take her IBS seriously. Everything is exactly, agonizingly the same.

That is, until the most mundane car crash ever sends Phoebe’s childhood crush Jess crashing into the time loop.

Now also stuck, Jess convinces Phoebe to break out of her routine and take advantage of their consequence-free days to have fun. From splurging on concert tickets, to enacting (mostly) harmless revenge, to all-night road trips, Jess pulls Phoebe further and further out of her comfort zone—and deeper in love with them. But the more Phoebe falls for Jess, the more she worries about what’s on the other side of the time loop. What if Jess is only giving her the time of day because they’re trapped with no other options? What if Phoebe’s new doctor dismisses her chronic pain? And perhaps worst of all: What if she never gets the chance to find out?

Vampirita and the Angry Mob (Book 1), by Mariana Llanos; illus. by Laura Brenlla (Benchmark Education / Reycraft Books) — Immigrant Experience, Friendships, Places / Travel, Fantasy, ages 7-12.

Ever since Vampirita left her home in Lima, Peru for Sunny City, California, her life has been dull and gloomy—and not the chilly air, moldy tombstones, and scurrying cockroaches kind of gloomy. There’s not a single creaky floorboard in her new house; no one at school eats cricket and worm empanadas; and the next-door neighbors, August and Molly, are annoyingly nice. All her mom wants is for them to blend in, but Vampirita would give anything to be back in Peru digging tombs with her abuevampiritos. With help from reluctant friends, she hatches a plan to get her family chased out of town pitchforks-and-torches style. Will her scheme work, or will she find some spookiness in Sunny City?

A Whisper of Curses, by J. Elle (Bloomsbury / Bloomsbury Children’s) — Fantasy, BIPOC Characters and Creators, Friendships, Family / Community, ages 7-12.

New York Times bestselling author J. Elle continues her magical middle grade series with our favorite witches from Park Row Magick Academy!

In the world between realms, anything can happen . . .

The new Park Row Magic Academy construction is underway, and Kyana is searching for magic activities to fill the school break. When she visits the building for supplies, she’s grabbed by an Available spirit! Even though she’s able to slip its grasp, something is wrong-she can’t stop crying and laughing uncontrollably. Is she cursed?

Then Ashley shares an invitation to a camp for magical learning. Ash thinks that whatever curse is messing with Kyana, Dr. Minzy, a famous teacher there, will know how to fix it.

But once they reach the secret campsite, the magical portal suddenly collapses—they’re trapped! Ash is almost sure Availables are involved. With the camp in chaos, Kyana still under the mysterious curse, and Russ broadcasting everything to the MagickNet, Ashley must choose: Say something about what she suspects, or mind her business and trust Dr. Minzy? Are the Availables up to something nefarious, and can Kyana, Ashley, and Russ figure out what’s going on and save them all?In this adventurous sequel to A Taste of Magic, the young city wizards must navigate a mystery in the wilderness, decide how to speak up, and be the heroes they need.

Wicked Marigold, by Caroline Carlson (Candlewick Press) — Fantasy, Social Emotional Learning, Action / Adventure, Friendships, ages 7-12.

Princess Marigold—who hadn’t yet been born when the remarkable Princess Rosalind was kidnapped—is eleven when the unthinkable happens: her older sister escapes her captivity and comes home. Marigold has always known she’s not as good, sweet, or kind as the sister everyone adores, but amid the celebration of Rosalind’s return, Marigold realizes something new: if Princess Rosalind is good, then Princess Marigold must be wicked. And there’s no place for wickedness in the kingdom. When Marigold tries to find a new place for herself in an evil wizard’s fortress, though, the results are disastrous. Before she’s even learned to cackle or scowl properly, she gets tangled up in a magical plot to ruin all the Cacophonous Kingdoms. Is Marigold too wicked to make things right? Or can she—with the help of a kitchen boy, a well-dressed imp, and a grumpy blob of glop—find her own way to restore peace? This endearing fantasy will have princess and anti-princess fans alike chuckling and cheering.

For more great book suggestions, be sure to check out the full July Hot Off the Press list!

List compiled by CBC’s resident book connoisseur, Brooke Pisarsky. Check out other Hot Off the Press Spotlight book lists on our blog.

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