This month, I read a mix of old and new books for kids.

Alien Nate

Alien Nate is a graphic novel by Calgary-based author/illustrator Dave Whamond. In 1977, Voyager 1 was launched into the cosmos with a golden record within it. The record contained information about life on Earth with the hopes that if an alien race found it, they would learn about our planet. This much is true. What we find out in Alien Nate is NASA scientists ordered pizza, accidentally leaving it on board. So when an alien ship from the Vega system discovered the satellite, they came to Earth not to discover more about the human race, but to get more pizza.

The story begins as Alien Nate crashes to Earth in the middle of winter where he is discovered by a young boy named Fazel, who helps Nate escape men in beige suits. The two become fast friends, with Nate learning about human culture through school.

There are lots of great bits in this book including when Nate suggests he wouldn’t fit in as he is purple.

Fazel replies: “When I first came to this country, I felt a bit like an alien, too. But don’t worry about it. The kids in my school come in all sorts of amazing colours.”

It’s not his skin colour that worries Fazel about Nate’s acceptance but his antenna, which he hides under his dad’s backup toupee.

Nate, who is always telling anyone who listens that Vegans (ha!) use 100 per cent of their brains, suggests humans should use more of theirs (apparently we only use 10 per cent of ours). He is also surprised with all the knowledge at human’s fingertips, we “spend most of your time watching cat videos.”

In the end Nate learns a lot about the ingenuity of humans and the importance of imagination and Fazel realizes people are more than they seem and he should have taught Nate about the importance of salad.

The book had some laughable moments. A fun read.

Alien Nate is published by Kids Can Press and retails for $15.99.

Front cover image of Maya and the Rising Dark, of a little black girl with a staff standing on top of a city.
My 11 year old really enjoyed this “action-packed middle grade” book.

Maya and the Rising Dark

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron is about 12-year-old Maya who realizes the stories her father tells her about her favourite Oya comics are actually real. Her father is the guardian of the veil, a layer between our world and the Dark, which is led by the Lord of Shadows, who wants to destroy not only Maya’s father, but the human world as well.

Maya, a godling who is half orisha and half human, and her two best friends, Frankie and Eli, leave their South Side Chicago neighbourhood to find her father, hopefully repair the veil, unlock their hidden powers and bring order back to Earth, preferably before Comic-Con, which Maya hopes to attend before summer’s out.

My 11 year old son really liked this book and has quoted it many times since finishing reading it a week or so ago. He liked the action, the fantasy parts, including the stories of the orisha and the powers the three kids discover on their quest to save Maya’s father. The story kept him interested enough that he didn’t want to read anything else until we finished it. He also kept asking for one more chapter.

I, however, found the book a bit slow and a lot frustrating. I realize the story wouldn’t be a story if Maya just sat at home like she was supposed to and waited for the adults – or in this case – the gods to do what needed to be done. I understand the desire to do whatever you can to save your father. I just found it unrealistic.

What 12 year old, who just discovered she belongs to this ancient, magical tribe, rushes headlong into the Dark and fights the Lord of Shadows with very little information and no knowledge of her magical powers that may or may even not exist? Is it bravery and courage or is it stupidity and arrogance? I appreciate bravery. I dislike arrogance. Usually I can suspend my disbelief while reading, but I had a hard time getting past Maya herself.

I just found her and her choices completely unrealistic and therefore had a more difficult time enjoying the book.

Maya and the Rising Dark comes out May 5 and is for kids 10 to 13. It retails for $24.99 and is by Raincoast Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books .

Front cover image of The Night Gardener with an old tree and a white silouette of a man with a watering can and a top hat.
The Night Gardener was sufficiently creepy and a fun, easy read.

The Night Gardener

I am a little late to The Night Gardener (Jonathan Auxier) party, starting and finishing this book this week.

I loved it. It was sufficiently creepy. It had great characters, including brother and sister Molly and Kip, two children who escape from an orphanage in England after fleeing Ireland and the famine with their parents. Their parents haven’t yet arrived and Molly is doing everything in her power to keep her younger brother, who is physically disabled, safe. The pair become servants at a crumbling English manor with the the Windsor family, which includes the Mr. And Mrs. Windsor and their two children Alistair and Penny.

“Soon, the children are confronted by a mysterious stranger – and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives.”

It was a quick read that held my attention throughout. I loved the idea of being careful of what you wish for and doing what is right. I am looking forward to reading this one to my 11 year old.

The Night Gardener is from Puffin Books and retails for $19.99.

A copy of these books were provided by Kids Can Press, PenguinBooks Canada
and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.