Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – Katie Zhao, Author of The Dragon Warrior, On Embracing Our Inner Dragons

Our Friend is Here: Asian Heritage Month. A discussion with Katie Zhao! author of the dragon warrior, on embracing our inner dragons. illustration of xiaolong the axolotl, holding her arms out wide as if showing off something, with katie as a red chinese dragon holding a staff.

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

I think one of the most powerful things about children’s literature is being told that, no matter how small you may be, you hold immense power to do good and amazing things. Growing up, the books I read were very formative to me. Whenever I wasn’t sure on what to do or how I wanted to navigate social situations – intermediate (middle) school is no joke! – I turned to literary characters and wondered what they would have done.

Read More »

Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Julie Abe, Author of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch; On Japanese Influences and Writing Empowering Stories

Our Friend is here, asian heritage month edition. author interview with julie abe, author of eva evergreen, semi-magical witch. on japanese influences and writing empowering stories. illustration depicts xiaolong the axolotl with her arms wide and showing off julie as a shiba inu, wearing a turquoise yukata and holding a wand and an onigiri

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

I’ll say this time and time again, because I firmly and strongly believe it: middle-grade literature is such an exciting and transformative space right now. From the wealth of diverse stories coming out in middle-grade to the wonderful and empowering stories that center on children from a diversity of backgrounds, middle-grade is delivering some of the coolest and best stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Earlier last year, I had the utmost pleasure and fortune of crossing paths with Julie Abe. When her book was announced, I was delighted. Japanese-inspired fantasy! About a twelve year old girl facing the possibility of losing her magic forever! And witches!

Read More »

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu – A Genre-Blending Tale of Music, Magic, and Quiet, Defiant Feminism

kingdomback_skye

Summary:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

Skye’s review:

My favorite kind of books are the ones that take you completely by surprise. The ones where you don’t realise you’re in too deep until you surface for air and it’s already somehow already the next day. The ones that make you, per the good old YA adage, exhale a breath you didn’t realise you were holding—and friends, the experience of reading this book was both the exhilaration of the dive and the clean, desperate breath of air that always follows after.

The Kingdom of Back returns us to the childhood of the Mozart siblings, both on the precipice of greatness in the world of music. We know one of these names, of course: history remembers and cherishes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But his elder sister, fondly nicknamed Nannerl, is an unknown figure, lost to obscurity. What if I told you that she too was a child prodigy on the harpsichord, that she also dreamt of greatness and legacies? What if, frustrated by a world that refuses to recognise her talent, she makes a dark deal with a faery princeling to realise her ambitions?

These are the questions that Marie Lu invites us to explore in this book, and the questions that kept me rapt until the final measure of the story concluded in a triumphant finale.

Read More »

Author Interview: Magic, Writing & Durians; A Conversation With Christina Soontornvat, Author of MG Thai-inspired Fantasy, A WISH IN THE DARK

christinasoontornvat_banner

The air is woody and crisp as you step into the Pond. You’re up early today, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the morning breeze. Closer in, you notice Sprout’s little plant bobbing up and down behind a bush, glowing faintly. You smile, and make your way towards them to say hello.

As you grow closer, you notice a stream of water that wasn’t there in all your visits to the Pond. The small, shallow river gurgles cheerfully, seemingly connecting the Pond to streams beyond. You notice something else too, by the spot where Sprout is sitting: something luminous in the water, reflecting the light of the morning sun.  Sprout notices you as you curiously walk forward, and waves an enthusiastic hello.

“Good morning, friend! Have you eaten your breakfast?”

carpAs you affirm their question, the light in the river pokes its head out of the water. It’s a carp! Its iridescent scales seem to glitter a hundred different colors at once.

“Friend, this is Christina!” Sprout introduces. “She’s visiting the Pond today to tell us all about her new book, A Wish in the Dark. I had the opportunity of reading it just before it was published, and it’s become one of my favorite stories! It was about so many things—about mangoes, and revolutions, and light, while still being a fun adventure through a world filled with magic. Will you come and listen to us for a while?”

Well, how could you refuse a carp that glitters? You settle down next to Sprout, and prepare yourself to listen to Sprout and Christina discuss this wonderful new book.

Welcome back to the Pond, friends! Today is a special, special day here for all of us, because this is my first author interview here at the Pond (and also in my blogging career)!

Sprout the sparrow, wearing an agender-coloured cape (dark grey, grey, white, green, white, grey) with a little green sapling on their head.I was very blessedly sent a digital ARC of A Wish in the Dark by Candlewick Press earlier this year, and though I had only a passing interest in the story when I found the book on Goodreads, I ended up reading the whole book in one sitting after I read the first chapter! It was such a brilliant middle-grade adventure with so much to say about important, complex topics like revolution and justice. I genuinely hope that more readers consider picking it up, because it completely stole my heart!

I’m so honored to have Christina here with us at the Pond today, and hope you enjoy the interview ahead of us: Christina’s responses are an absolute delight to read. But first, let me tell you what A Wish in the Dark is all about, too!

Read More »

Book Review: The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – Perhaps The Most Satisfying Ending of a Series I Have Read – Ever

The Iron Will of Genie Lo. F.C. Yee.

Blurb:

Genie Lo thought she was busy last year, juggling her academic career with protecting the Bay Area from demons. But now, as the Heaven-appointed Guardian of California, she’s responsible for the well-being of all yaoguai and spirits on Earth. Even the ones who interrupt her long-weekend visit to a prestigious college, bearing terrible news about a cosmos-threatening force of destruction in a nearby alternate dimension.

The goddess Guanyin and Genie’s boyfriend, Quentin Sun Wukong, do their best to help, but it’s really the Jade Emperor who’s supposed to handle crises of this magnitude. Unfortunately for Genie and the rest of existence, he’s gone AWOL. Fed up with the Jade Emperor’s negligence, Genie spots an opportunity to change the system for the better by undertaking a quest that spans multiple planes of reality along with an adventuring party of quarrelsome Chinese gods. But when faced with true danger, Genie and her friends realize that what will save the universe this time isn’t strength, but sacrifice.

CW’s review:

In case you don’t know, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee is an incredible book about a girl named Genie Lo, who discovers that she’s the reincarnation of a powerful celestial weapon. This book, after so many years, remains to be one of my favourite books of all time.

Read More »