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Magical New England

by Alex S

Sunday kicked off our events year for the Kidsmith–and hey, welcome to the new year! We send our good thoughts and feelings to everyone embarking on it with us. We were visited by middle grade authors Dana Langer (Siren Sisters) and Monica Tesler (The Tundra Trials–book two of the Bounders series). Langer’s debut is about a girl who is horrified to be growing up, like her sisters, into the family legacy: being a siren. That’s right, the kind with scaly feet and beautiful voices who lure ships to their doom–in this case, off the coast of Maine.

This had me thinking of what a peculiarly rich landscape of fantasy for kids is set in New England. You might reach back for the classic oddities of Joan Aiken, whose fabulous Wolves of Willoughby Chase (featuring evil nursemaids and daring escapes) is followed by mystery-adventure sequels that jump continents to land in Boston and Nantucket. Jane Langton (whose little-read classics Diamond in the Window, The Astonishing Stereoscope, Time Bike, and The Fledgling take the magical object story Edward Eager was so fond of and makes it a little bit odder) set her books in Massachusetts. If you can get your hands on either of these series, I heartily recommend them.

More recently, here are some of my recommendations for New England with a touch of magic.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford - Milo is looking forward to a snug Christmas holiday at his parents’ coastal, smuggler-harboring in, but what he gets is a lot of unlooked-for guests, a fascinating game, shocking history, and maybe a little something supernatural.

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove - Although this book branches out to all over–and whenever–the characters are based in Boston, in a world where different geographic regions have split off into different time periods, and a girl’s cartographer uncle has been kidnapped.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman - In the woods of Maine is a bookshop that can think. An evil wizard owns it. Although Nick, when he shows up there as a runaway, doesn’t care for Smallbone much, he’s nothing compared to the were-coyote biker gang that lives in the same woods. And what is up with the weirdly perfect seaside town nearby?

Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan - It may not be likely that the nexus of the old Norse mythological universe is downtown Boston, but here we are. Riordan is always fun, and his Boston geography is so specific that you can practically go sightseeing while you read. Just let us know if you actually spot any terrifying wolves or fashionable dwarves, okay?

A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis - An alternate eighteenth century equipped with alchemy and mechanical marvels begins in Boston, where a budding young thief finds herself in the middle of a terrible plot–and finds that she, herself, holds a secret without her knowledge.

All of these close-to-home escapes will be perfect companions for the cold and snowy middle winter months. I know they’re what I’ve been reading!

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