Lord of Shadows

It’s a special day here at Knight Reader. Today, I celebrate my 827th post and my 9th year as a blogger. That’s right. Today is Knight Reader’s 9th blogoversary. That may not mean much to most people, but it’s kind of a big deal to me, especially considering that I think about hanging it up at least once a week.

Knight Reader has seen me through good times and bad: the births of my nieces, health scares, loss of friends and family, and the transition from a high school to an elementary school librarian. It’s been a constant, and, despite my sometimes conflicted feelings on keeping it going, it will likely remain a constant in my life. As long as people keep reading what I care to write, I’ll do my best to keep this blog around.


So…9 years. It seems fitting that my post today focuses on one of my absolute favorite authors/worlds. The second post I ever wrote was about how awesome Cassandra Clare was, and today’s post, my 827th, focuses on Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the second book of The Dark Artifices. As you may know, this series continues to explore the world of Shadowhunters, fierce warriors with angelic blood. There are many, many stories that precede this one, and I’ve listed those below (with available reviews) if you’d care to catch up. (Note: Feel free to completely ignore the movie and TV adaptations of these books. They are crap.)

Now, let’s move onto Lord of Shadows. If you’re not caught up, the rest of this post may be a bit spoilery, so be prepared.

Life is never exactly easy for Shadowhunters, but it appears to be especially difficult right now for those who live in the Los Angeles Institute. They thought they knew Malcolm Fade, warlock extraordinaire. They though they could trust him. They counted him as a friend. And he betrayed them. All this time, he was working against them, killing to further his own agenda. Now, Malcolm is dead, and this tight-knit group of Shadowhunters is dealing with the fallout.

Emma Carstairs is the fierce Shadowhunter who killed Malcolm Fade. She did what she had to do, and she’d do it again to protect those she loves, particularly the Blackthorn family. This family, especially her parabatai Julian, means everything to her, and she’ll do whatever is necessary to keep them safe…even if it means sacrificing her wants, her needs, her very life. At present, it means driving a wedge between herself and Julian. She knows that romantic love between parabatai is cursed, and she simply can’t put Julian, the backbone of his family, through something so horrific, no matter how much they might love each other.

As for Julian, he is tormented by his feelings for Emma, the distance she’s putting between them, as well as the all-consuming need to keep his family safe. Safe from the increasing number of sea demons around them, safe from the Centurions who’ve all but invaded the Institute, safe from the knowledge that their Uncle Arthur, the official head of the Institute, is going mad and Julian’s been running things since he was a boy of twelve. It’s a lot for Julian to take in, but he’ll do anything for his family…even something like journey into Faerieland, something expressly forbidden by the Clave (Shadowhunters’ governing body).

Mark Blackthorn, Julian’s half-faerie brother, has received news that his former lover, Kieran, is about to be killed by the Unseelie King (who also happens to be Kieran’s father). Mark is determined to rescue Kieran, but he will not make the journey alone. Julian, Emma, and Christina, a trusted friend, accompany him, and the quest is just as fraught with danger as they feared it would be. With the help of the Seelie Court, they make it out alive, but they’ve made a dangerous enemy in the Unseelie King…and a dangerous ally in the Seelie Queen.

Back home at the Los Angeles Institute, those remaining are dealing with their own fight. Certain members of the Centurion force are poised to take over the Institute in an effort to further their own hateful agenda. This band of zealots wants to exert power over all Downworlders, and they think taking down the Blackthorn family is the way to do it. While this extremist group, known as the Cohort, is plotting, the Institute residents are also dealing with the unexpected return of a figure they thought was gone…Malcolm Fade himself.

As it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to kill a warlock, and Malcolm isn’t as dead as they had hoped. He’s returned, bringing an army of demons with him, and he remains determined to complete what he was trying to do before his untimely demise. With the help of the Black Volume, he plans to raise Annabell Blackthorn from the dead, and he won’t let anything get in his way. Annabell, however, may have other ideas.

Forced to flee the LA Institute, the younger Blackthorn siblings, Kit Herondale, and their tutor portal to the London Institute. There, they eventually join up with Emma, Julian, Mark, Christina, and Kieran (along with a couple of other familiar faces). They’re dealing with enemies on many sides, but they know they must prevail. They may have to make deals that are untenable, fight those who seem to be unbeatable, and put aside their own complicated feelings. The important thing is that they stay alive, put an end to the dangerous sentiments against Downworlders, and avoid war with the Unseelie King. Unfortunately, all of those things are easier said that done.


I’m going to stop there before I give too much more away. I’ve probably spoiled a lot here, but there is so much more to this book than I could have possibly touched on in one blog post (unless I wanted to spend the rest of the day writing…which I don’t). Lord of Shadows is a 700-page whopper, and every page is packed with something important, exciting, mysterious, infuriating, revealing, and, at points, tragic. The stuff I’ve touched on above is only a fraction of the wonderfully twisted story contained within this book.

Anyone who reads Lord of Shadows (or any of the Shadowhunter books, really) will find parallels to the world we live in today. No, we’re not dealing with demons, warlocks, faeries, or anything like that–that I know of–but we are dealing with discrimination and hatred of anything seen as different or “other.” In this book, a small but vocal group of extremists want warlocks to register, werewolves to be rounded up and put in camps, vampires to have their blood supply monitored, and faeries, for the most part, to be completely wiped out. The Shadowhunters who sympathize with Downworlders are viewed as traitors. Sound familiar? Once again, fantasy shines a light on the horrific reality we’re facing today and gives a glimpse of the destruction we could see if we allow such hatred to flourish. It’s sobering, to say the least.

So…where do we go from Lord of Shadows? The third book of The Dark Artifices, The Queen of Air and Darkness, isn’t expected to be released until sometime in 2019. Given how Lord of Shadows ended, the wait for book three may very well drive me insane.

On a positive note, there is another Shadowhunter series being introduced a bit sooner. Chain of Gold, the first book of The Last Hours, should be out in 2018. This series is set in 1903, and it centers around the generation following the events of The Infernal Devices series. There’s also an adult series focusing on Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood, The Eldest Curses, on the horizon, as well as another YA series, The Wicked Powers, that will pick up at the end of The Dark Artifices. I know it’s a lot to take in, but this is nothing but good news if you’re a superfan of the Shadowhunter books.

For more information on Lord of Shadows and all things Shadowhunter, visit Cassie Clare’s website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’re not a fan already, I hope you come to love this world as much as I do!

Scarlett Undercover

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham, another nominee for the 17-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, is advertised as being perfect for fans of Veronica Mars. Well, I don’t know about that–given that I’ve never seen Veronica Mars–but it is an entertaining YA mystery which features an intelligent, brave, and snarky Muslim American heroine. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Scarlett, a brilliant teen who graduated early from high school, is a private detective in Las Almas. Following the deaths of both of her parents, Scarlett lives with her sister, Reem, a dedicated medical student. Both young women are trying to do right by their parents’ memories. For Reem, that means becoming a doctor. For Scarlett, that means helping others and trying to figure out who may have killed her father.

When young Gemma Archer seeks out Scarlett’s help, Scarlett is a little reluctant to take the case. How could she possibly prove that Gemma’s older brother, Oliver, was somehow involved in his friend’s suicide? But there’s something about Gemma’s concerns that draw Scarlett in, so she decides to investigate. She couldn’t possibly know that she would uncover a possible cult or a weird connection to her own family.

As Scarlett’s investigation continues, she realizes she’s close to uncovering some pretty dangerous secrets–secrets that people are willing to kill for. She’s being followed, and this case could be putting the people Scarlett cares about in harm’s way. So what does she do? Does she cut and run, or does she follow wherever the clues lead her? Well, Scarlett’s been accused of being stubborn in the past, and that hasn’t changed, so she’s in this for the long haul.

Scarlett is growing closer to solving this whole sordid mess, but what could it mean for her faith and her future? What ancient evil could be unleashed if she doesn’t succeed? Will she be able to solve this mystery and keep her loved ones safe? Answer these questions and many more when you read Scarlett Undercover.


While Scarlett Undercover kept my interest, this book was not without its flaws. Allow me to highlight just a couple.

The book didn’t provide a ton of background information before jumping right into the action. I actually wondered if the copy of the book I was reading was missing a prologue or something. I’m not a fan of books that begin in medias res, and that’s what this book felt like. It would have been nice, in my opinion, to get the full story of how Scarlett came to be a teenage private detective before the major part of the story started.

Another issue I have with Scarlett Undercover is the lack of character development. We know a fair amount about Scarlett since she’s the protagonist, but what about all of the secondary characters? Scarlett has a sister, a love interest, a helpful cop, a guardian angel, and so many other people in her life. I’d like more information on all of these people, but I especially want to know more about Scarlett’s relationship with her sister, how she met Decker and how their feelings for each other grew over time, and even her early family life with her parents. And that’s not touching on a lot of the other players in this mystery. We don’t even get to know a ton about the villains, and that is a tragedy.

Even with those faults (and a few others that I haven’t addressed), I do love that this book features a Muslim American heroine. I think readers of all faiths (or no faith) will find they have a lot in common with Scarlett, whether or not they happen to be Muslim…or a teenage girl who solves crimes. Maybe those commonalities could be starting points for finding common ground in areas other than YA literature. One can hope.

To learn more about Scarlett Undercover, visit author Jennifer Latham’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and Facebook.

Denton Little’s Deathdate

What would you do if you knew the exact date of your death? I like to think I’d do all the stuff I was too scared, inhibited, or lazy to do normally, but I know myself well enough to realize that’s probably not how things would play out. The more likely scenario is that I would read as much as possible and take lots of naps. Know thyself, my friends.

I say all that to introduce my latest read, Denton Little’s Deathdate. In this morbidly funny book, our title character ponders what to do before he kicks the bucket. As a matter of fact, most people in the world deal with this big question. Thanks to an “advance” in medical technology, everyone knows his/her deathdate. They don’t know the exact minute or how they’re going to die, but the date appears to be set in stone. For seventeen-year-old Denton Little, that date is just a couple days away, and he’s got a lot to process before the big day.

Two days before his deathdate, Denton Little wakes up in a strange bed with his very first (and possibly last) hangover. Why is he in his best friend’s sister’s bed? He remembers flashes of the previous night, but most of it is a blur. Did something awesome happen with Veronica, or did he embarrass himself completely…or both?

Eventually, Denton Little manages to piece together some semblance of last night’s events, but he’s got other things to worry about today. For one thing, he has to get ready for his funeral. Oh joy. A night for everyone to say how sorry they are that he’ll no longer be with them. A night in which he has to make a speech and dole out hugs to relatives, friends, and treasured acquaintances. Denton can hardly wait.

Another thing worrying Denton in his last hours is the weird purple rash that is spreading all over his body. Did his activities with Veronica give him some sort of disease, or is it something else? Whatever it is, his entire body is turning purple, and it seems that he’s spreading this unknown virus to anyone he–ahem–shares saliva with. (There are a couple more people on that list than there should be, especially considering that Denton has a girlfriend whose name is most definitely not Veronica.)

To make things even more confusing for Denton, a weird guy shows up at his funeral, claims to have information about Denton’s mother, a woman who died shortly after giving birth to Denton, and warns Denton to beware of government officials. What could this guy want now, and how could this make any difference to Denton when he’s only got hours to live? And what could the government have to do with Denton or his mother? It’s quite the puzzle, and Denton’s running out of time to solve it.

Join Denton as he and his friends try to piece together what’s going on around them. What’s up with the weird purple rash? What does Denton’s mom have to do with his deathdate? And is there a way for Denton to cheat death when no one else has managed to? It’s a mystery…


Here’s a major spoiler if you’re still reading this post: Denton lives. I don’t feel too bad about revealing that since there is a second book to look forward to. The title itself could be considered spoilery to those who haven’t done their homework. It’s Denton Little’s Still Not Dead, and it was released in February. Given that book one ended on a pretty large cliffhanger, I’m hoping to make time to read book two as soon as possible.

Denton Little’s Deathdate is a nominee for the 2017-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. Often, titles on this list are appropriate for middle grade readers. In my opinion, this is not one of those titles. Denton Little’s Deathdate is an awesome book, but I don’t think it’s a good fit for tweens and younger teens. It has a fair amount of sexy times and innuendo, alcohol and drug use, and irreverent humor (which is my favorite part of the book), and all of those things combined make it more suited to a mature teen audience. Before you recommend this book to younger teens, read it for yourself. You likely know best which of your readers are ready for a book like this and which aren’t.

To learn more about Denton Little’s Deathdate, visit author Lance Rubin’s cool, fun website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and Instagram. For an extra bit of fun, check out the video below featuring Lance Rubin singing a lovely song about Denton Little’s Deathdate. The song alone makes me want to read everything this guy cares to write. Enjoy!

One for Sorrow

A month from today, Mary Downing Hahn’s newest spooky story, One for Sorrow, hits the shelves. It’s pretty well-known that I’m a wuss, so I figured this book would likely freak me out. I didn’t, however, expect it to scare the crap out of me–so much so that I couldn’t read it when it was dark outside. I don’t know how most young readers will respond to the book (the target audience is 4th-6th grade according to Booklist), but I found it to be absolutely terrifying. That’s probably all I need to say to make sure it flies off my library shelves (if I make the decision to purchase it).

The year is 1918. America is involved in a world war, and an influenza epidemic has gripped many communities. Annie Browne and her family have just moved to town. She is the new girl at school, and she’s nervous about making friends.

Someone claims Annie as a best friend almost immediately, but Annie’s not so sure she truly wants to be friends with Elsie, a strange, violent, and manipulative girl who won’t let Annie play or befriend the other girls at school. Annie’s a bit scared of Elsie, and she’s not sure how to free herself from her “friend’s” clutches.

Eventually, when Elsie’s out of school for a couple of days, Annie gets her chance to befriend some other girls and escape Elsie’s influence. Annie even joins her new friends in mocking Elsie. She feels a little guilty about making Elsie miserable, but she doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize her friendship with the other girls. Besides, Elsie brings a lot of this negative attention on herself.

While Annie and her new friends are tormenting Elsie, the horrible Spanish Influenza has hit their town. Dozens of people are dying each day. Schools and businesses close, and people are taking all the precautions they can to keep from getting sick.

One of Annie’s friends, Rosie, gets the bright idea to take advantage of the situation. She comes up with a plan to visit all the homes with black wreaths on the door, pretend to know the deceased, and load up on all of the cookies, candy, and cakes left for the mourners to eat. As for Annie, she does not want to see any dead bodies, but she goes along with Rosie’s morbid plan. (It’s hard to say no to Rosie.) Things are going okay with this whole scheme…until they recognize a girl lying in a coffin. It’s Elsie, Annie’s former “best friend” and the target of the girls’ relentless teasing.

Annie feels horrible about Elsie’s death, and she wonders if she and her friends may have had something to do with it. Annie’s feelings only intensify when she realizes that Elsie hasn’t gone very far. Her ghost has returned and is determined to make Annie her eternal best friend…or else.

Annie doesn’t know where to turn. Elsie, the very definition of a vengeful spirit, is turning everyone against Annie, making her say and do things she would never normally do, and convincing her friends, her teachers, and even her parents that Annie is going crazy. If Elsie doesn’t cross over soon, Annie’s entire world will be upended.

Is there any way for Annie to rid herself of Elsie for good, or will she forever be the focus of Elsie’s rage? Read One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn to find out!


One for Sorrow is a great fit for middle grade readers. I’m on the fence right now about recommending it to upper elementary readers. I’ll do a bit more research and read other reviews before I decide whether or not to place it in my elementary school library. If you’d like to weigh in on this, please let me know what you think in the comments.

In addition to being an excellent scary story, One for Sorrow teaches readers about the horrors of the flu epidemic of 1918 as well as providing a cautionary tale about bullying. Now, I’m not saying bullies will be haunted by the ghosts of those they tormented or anything, but it’s clear that there was bad behavior on all sides here. Elsie was horrible to Annie and the other girls in school, but did that mean the other girls should have been equally horrible? No, it did not. I think the lesson here is that you never know what someone else is going through, and a little kindness goes a long way.

If you’d like to read this gripping novel for yourself, One for Sorrow will be available on July 18th. It’s definitely a page-turner that will be hard to put down. For more information on this book and others by Mary Downing Hahn, visit the author’s website.

Bayou Magic

As I continue making my way through the nominees for the 2017-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, I have to commend the SCCBA committee on this list. I’ve read sixteen of the twenty titles so far, and there’s not a stinker in the bunch. Even the book with the dog on the cover–something that I usually avoid–is good. Many of my young readers will have a tough time choosing their favorite nominee when we vote in February. (Click here if you’d like to see a promo video for the SCCBA titles.)

I tell you all of that to introduce my latest read, another SCCBA nominee, Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. This book is a spell-binding, compelling read that takes place in the Louisiana bayou in the summer of 2010, right around the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The story revolves around Maddy, a young girl learning about her heritage, what it means to be a friend, and the magic that lives within her.

Like her older sisters before her, Maddy is spending the summer with her grandmother in Bayou Bon Temps. There will be no phones, no Internet, no television, no air conditioning. Just Maddy, her grandmère, and a rather simple life on the bayou. Maddy soon learns, however, that her summer here will be anything but simple.

Grandmère sees something in Maddy that her sisters didn’t possess. Maddy has a love for the bayou, its mysteries, and its people. She’s in touch with the magic of her ancestors, those who traveled from Africa in the most horrible of circumstances.

Grandmère teaches Maddy to read the signs around her, and soon Maddy can call fireflies, sense when danger is coming, and perhaps even communicate with an ancient mermaid. Maddy is the only one who can see this strange being, known as Mami Wata, so can she possibly be real? Both Grandmère and Maddy’s new best friend, Bear, seem to think so. Sometimes a person just needs to have a bit of faith.

As Maddy becomes more sure of her newfound abilities, she realizes that something bad is headed for the bayou. She can’t stop the event–a catastrophic oil spill–from happening, but maybe she can do something about the impact of the spill on the bayou.

Calling on her mermaid friend, Mami Wata, Maddy uses her magical heritage and everything Grandmère has taught her to protect Bayou Bon Temps and all who call it home. Will it be enough? Will this disaster touch this place and its people in some other way? Whatever happens, can Maddy be a true friend and hero in both good times and bad?


Bayou Magic is an enthralling book that showcases the beauty of a simple life, exploring nature with friends, finding solace in silence, and getting to know the people and environment around you. (I must admit that I’m okay with the silence part, but I’m usually not one for getting to know nature or other people. Also, I’d probably go crazy without WiFi.) It also emphasizes spending time with elders, learning from them, and respecting one’s cultural traditions.

If I have one issue with this book, it’s that the ending feels a little rushed. Maddy’s journey back home from her bayou summer is rather abrupt. I’d like to know more about what happens between the book’s major culminating event and Maddy’s trip back to New Orleans. All in all, though, that’s a rather minor complaint for what is otherwise an excellent book.

Bayou Magic is a wonderful work of magical realism, but this story is also about courage, friendship, family, faith, protecting the environment, and honoring one’s culture. All of these things combine to make a truly magical book. I hope my students agree.

Bayou Magic is a great fit for upper elementary and middle grade readers. It’s accessible and easy-to-read, and it features a dynamic African-American protagonist, something we need much more of in children’s literature.

If you’d like more information on Bayou Magic or other works by Jewell Parker Rhodes, please visit her website, Facebook, or Twitter. You may also want to check out the awesome book trailer for Bayou Magic below. Enjoy!

Now I Rise

Notice: You MUST read And I Darken, the first book in Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga, before proceeding with this post. You’ve been warned.

If it’s not readily apparent, I recently finished reading Now I Rise, the sequel to And I Darken. This series focuses on Lada and Radu Dracul, the children of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Dracula. Like I mentioned in the post on book one, this series presents an alternate history of this family. Vlad is not the brutal leader of legend here…but his daughter is.

In And I Darken, Lada and Radu were dealing with their complicated feelings for each other, their circumstances, and the new sultan, Mehmed. In Now I Rise, the complications continue. Lada has left Mehmed’s side to reclaim the throne of Wallachia. Radu, on the other hand, has stayed with Mehmed, and that presents its own set of difficulties.

Lada Dracul is determined to be Prince of Wallachia. It does not matter that she is a woman. She’s the rightful ruler, and she will take what’s hers, by force if necessary. And it looks like force–and lots of it–are necessary. In her quest to rule, she strikes down anyone who gets in her way. She forges alliances that make her sick. She betrays those close to her. All of this to get her closer to the Wallachian throne. Yet even as she is on the cusp of achieving her goal, she misses her brother, Radu, and even Mehmed.

Lada knows that Radu’s silver tongue and gift of diplomacy would get her closer to the throne. As for Mehmed, her feelings for him are a bit more complex. She misses how he makes her feel, but, at the same time, she refuses to place her future in a man’s hands. Also, she doesn’t fully trust Mehmed. He has seemingly thwarted her grab for power, and Lada knows he will do anything–including betray her–to further his own ends. She both loathes and respects that about him. After all, has she not done the same?

As for Radu, he remains completely loyal to Mehmed and the sultan’s desire to conquer Constantinople. Radu does whatever he can to further the Ottoman cause, and, when Mehmed asks Radu to become a spy within Constantinople’s walls, he reluctantly agrees. While Radu does not wish to be parted from Mehmed, he will do as Mehmed asks even as he ignores his sister’s plea for help in her endeavors. Radu knows his feelings for Mehmed will likely never be returned, but he will continue to prove his love and loyalty to Mehmed…no matter what it costs.

While in Constantinople, Radu becomes more and more conflicted. Even as he’s relaying information to the Ottomans, he’s growing closer to those fighting for Emperor Constantine. How can he betray these people who have taken him in, shown him kindness, and trusted him? But how can he turn his back on Mehmed, who he loves more than all others? He’s given up nearly everything for Mehmed, but is he willing to give up his very soul so that Mehmed can conquer a city that seems to be dying anyway?

Both Radu and Lada Dracul are wrestling with questions of loyalty, love, faith, and sacrifice. What are each of them willing to do to achieve their goals? What will they find themselves capable of? Betrayal? Murder? And what will be lost along the way?


Everything I said about And I Darken also applies to Now I Rise. I don’t feel like writing all that again, so read the end of my post on And I Darken to get my full take on both of these books. In short, though, these books raise all sorts of questions on what a person is willing to do to serve their own ends, how love makes a person both strong and weak, what it means to be feminine, and how women who do not subscribe to societal expectations are viewed. And that barely even touches on the religious and historical aspects of the book. It’s a lot to take in, and all of this stuff makes both And I Darken and Now I Rise as sumptuous as two decadent pieces of dark chocolate.

So…how does Now I Rise differ from And I Darken? Well, we get to know both Lada and Radu a bit more. These two characters get more complex with each page, and I’m sure that will continue in the next book. The biggest difference, though, is the elevated brutality. Radu is in the middle of a war zone, and he both witnesses and commits atrocities true to what is happening around him. Lada, in her quest for power, cuts down anyone in her path and leaves a trail of bodies behind her. There’s nothing pretty, delicate, or civilized about her path to the Wallachian throne. She’s vicious, brutal, and without mercy. She has to demonstrate to all that she is no pushover, and she’s not shy about shedding blood to prove her point.

In case you’re wondering, I would recommend both And I Darken and Now I Rise to a mature teen or adult audience. I doubt most middle grade readers are developmentally ready for books like these. They deal with political maneuvering, sexuality, betrayal, and the horrors of war, and I think reading and discussing these issues require a certain level of maturity. You may have a different take, but I urge you to read the books yourself before you make that determination.

Now I Rise will be released on June 27th. The third book in The Conqueror’s Saga should be out next summer. To learn more about And I Darken and Now I Rise, visit the series’ official website.

Full Cicada Moon

It’s my first Monday of summer break, and I’m continuing to make my way through the nominees for the 2017-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. (My job never really stops, does it?) My latest read is one that I devoured in about a day. It’s Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, and it’s both a novel in verse and a work of historical fiction. Neither of those categories are my typical favorites, but I absolutely loved this book, and I look forward to sharing it with my students in the coming year.

This moving book takes a look at one girl’s life over the course of one year, beginning on January 1, 1969, and a big move from California to Vermont. Relocating from one coast to another is a lot to handle; when you’re a half-black, half-Japanese girl moving to a mostly white area, it’s even more difficult.

Our protagonist, Mimi, reflects on the move, the attitudes of people around her, her own dreams, and what she’s willing to do to achieve them in this wonderful novel that will hopefully inspire readers to stand up for themselves and do whatever they can to be the change they want to see in the world.


Mimi dreams of becoming an astronaut one day. She loves studying science…even when people tell her that’s nothing something girls should be interested in. Mimi doesn’t care what other people think. She’s determined to go to space someday, just like the brave astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission.

The people at her school in Vermont don’t know what to make of Mimi. For one thing, they’ve never really encountered someone with her cultural background. For another, they don’t know what to think of a girl who likes science and wants to take shop class instead of home ec. Mimi doesn’t see what the big deal is on either count. What does it matter what color her skin is? Why should that make people dislike her before they even know her? And why do girls have to learn to sew and cook? Why can’t they learn to use tools and build things? None of this makes sense to Mimi–and it sometimes gives her a sick feeling in her stomach–but she’s not going to let any of it stop her.

Eventually, Mimi makes a couple of close friends who like her just the way she is, friends who support her efforts to change things. They may not always understand Mimi or their own privilege, but they’re willing to do what they can to help their friend. Those friendships, while helping Mimi to feel like she fits in her new town, also help give her courage to stand up for her rights.

Things may not change overnight, but Mimi is determined to do what’s right. In the process, she may just change the attitudes of those around her. Maybe, once people–adults and kids–get to know Mimi and her family, they’ll realize that they’re not so different after all.


Many readers will be able to see themselves in the character of Mimi, regardless of their racial backgrounds, but biracial readers may especially relate to Mimi. Mimi celebrates both her Japanese and African-American cultural traditions, all while trying to fit into a mostly white town. Mimi handles everything thrown at her with grace, tenacity, and courage, even when it would be much easier to respond in anger. In my opinion, she inspires others–both the characters in this book and those who read it–to do the same.

Full Cicada Moon is a powerful read that celebrates the things that make us different as well as those that bring us together. I cannot recommend it highly enough for any libraries that serve upper elementary, middle grade, and even teen readers. For more information on this wonderful book, visit author Marilyn Hilton’s website. You may also want to follow the author on Twitter.