Fiction reviews for older kids – magic and morality, beyond Marvel | Books for children: 8-12 years old


Jhe Marvel takeover of childhood often feels all-encompassing. Truly, however, Stan Lee’s stable has long embellished Norse and African mythos. Some new riff books on those riffs – parents might just sell them to a reluctant bookworm about their Marvel parallels.

Writer-illustrator Louis StowellIt’s awesome Loki: An Evil God’s Guide to Being Good (Walker Books, £7.99) imagines the Norse god portrayed in Tom Hiddleston’s Marvel films as a mischievous and petulant 11-year-old, banished to naughty Earth to atone for his misdeeds. Often laugh out loud, it’s an irreverent play through practical moral philosophy, like Netflix’s The Good Place with more sarcastic cartoon snakes. A talking diary chats with Loki throughout.

Next: Wakanda, setting of the Marvel movie Black Panther. Initially based in the American suburbs, Jamar J Perryit’s Cameron Battle and the Hidden Realms (Bloomsbury, £6.99) is an assured start featuring three friends who discover an ancient and powerful book.

Filled with lore, it’s also a portal to Chidani, a supernatural Igbo kingdom where, unbeknownst to young Cameron, the Battle family have been tasked with providing stability between the worlds and maintaining the broken Igbo heritage. by slavery. The fight has already cost his parents their lives. Along with his friends Zion and Aliyah, Cameron learns magical warrior moves and becomes entangled in a divine power struggle. Captivating and fast-paced, it’s also a novel that highlights acceptance and homosexuality through the emotional tenderness between preteens.

Multiverse? Ross Welfordalways excellent, own one. In youthe side world (HarperCollins, £6.99) features 12-year-old Willa, whose parents run a run-down campsite, and new friend Manny, an impulsive foster child recently arrived at school. War is imminent. As they track down an unknown creature in a sea cave during a full moon, they wake up in another version of their own lives, but somewhere else – Willa is Mina, her sister is a brother, her parents aren’t fighting. The war is over, the climatic catastrophe averted. Can they come back? Do they want to to come back?

“Old-fashioned pleasure”: Jummy at the river school by Sabine Adeyinka. Photography: Chicken House Books

There are also new iterations of other solid formulas. Sabine Adeyinka gives an exciting twist to the boarding school romance: Jummy at the river school (Chicken House, £6.99) is set in 1990s Nigeria. Scatty Jumoke yearns to attend a prestigious boarding school; she gets the grades, but has to leave behind her smart but economically disadvantaged friend Caro. Adeyinka’s early days are full of old-fashioned fun: late-night feasts and sporting escapades, plus crocodiles, minus cell phones. But justice is at the heart of this book. When Caro shows up, it’s to work as a maid for the haughty matron. It takes courage and creativity for Jummy to solve problems, and this book will have children salivating for Nigerian snacks such as puff puff and cheers.

Hannah Goldthe author of the first best-selling children’s hardback book of 2021, the last bear, is back with another lyrical soap opera about the solidarity between humans and animals. Get out of the bear, get in The lost whale (HarperCollins, £12.99), illustrated once again by the great Levi Pinfold.

By somehow repeating himself, Gold actually remains original – young Londoner Rio is banished to stay with a grandmother he barely knows in California when his mother is taken into care for mental health intervention. Scared, angry, Rio feels guilty for having (he thinks) let his mother down. Gold is fantastic about the angst of young carers – and the magnificence of large cetaceans, whose presence Rio can sense before anyone else, making it very useful on whale-watching excursions. But the whale he knows best, White Beak, seems to be crying out for help: what can he do?

Kelly Yang, author of
Kelly Yang, author of the “sensational” New from Here. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP

Finally a story that is just beginning to be told. american author Kelly Yang is better known for YA, but New from here (Simon & Schuster, £7.99) is a sensational mid-level book about a family disrupted, then healed, by the pandemic.

Knox Wei-Evans and his family are Asian Americans living in Hong Kong when a new virus is discovered in Wuhan. It will pass, says his dad, who has masks somewhere, some Sars. Soon, however, the three siblings and their mother are sent back to the United States to get by, bumpy – exactly what happened to Yang and his brood. The virus follows.

It’s a warm, sensitive, and deep family story, full of childish logic (garage sales discouraged, secret LinkedIn profiles), bitter sibling rivalry, Knox’s ADHD-born intensity, and… imperative to stand up to racism. Is essential reading to process what we have all been through.

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