The Ogress and the Orphans, by Kelly Barnhill – This is a children’s fantasy that seems very relevant to recent events, and it looks like that was done on purpose. The villain is a very Trumpish sort in many respects. Of course, there are a lot of real-life people with the same basic traits, but this one combines the lust for power and accolades with the strange simple-mindedness. It takes place in a town where the residents have become unfriendly and suspicious since the library was burned down by a dragon. This monster was defeated by a man who became a beloved local hero and was elected mayor. One resident who’s still friendly is an Ogress, but she prefers to do her good deeds out of sight, delivering gifts to people with the help of some crows. And there are some orphan children who are more aware of the changed atmosphere of the town than the adults are. Told in a way that jumps around a bit by a narrator that’s omniscient but doesn’t tell everything at once, it addresses some of people’s worst traits, but is ultimately hopeful, thanks to the titular characters. Barnhill introduces a lot of her own lore about dragons and ogres, and the twist with the dragon and the mayor was obvious to me from pretty early on, although maybe it wouldn’t be so much for kids. Not that this is in any way the main point of the story, but it is set up as kind of a mystery.
Super Mario Bros. Encyclopedia: The Official Guide to the First 30 Years: 1985-2015 – That’s a pretty lengthy title, isn’t it? I really wouldn’t say it’s an encyclopedia in the traditional sense, but more of an extensive guidebook. Not that that’s a bad thing for someone who spent a lot of time reading instruction booklets and Nintendo Power guides. It covers the games in the main Super Mario series, meaning platformers with Mario as the main protagonist. Spinoffs (and whatever the Mario games predating Super Mario Bros. are–spinons, maybe?) are briefly referenced, and there’s a list of every game in which Mario makes an appearance. The English edition was first published in 2018, but it doesn’t list any games from after 2016. There’s no mention of Odyssey, and there’s an ad near the beginning for the first Super Mario Maker. For each game, there’s an introduction, list of characters, power-ups, enemies, courses, and items, plus some extra trivia. Some of the information is taken directly from the original instructions, but there’s no reference to Birdo‘s gender confusion. There are a lot of screenshots, mostly small, but I guess that goes without saying. You’re not going to get a list of every obscure Shy Guy cameo like in the Super Mario Wiki, but it’s still pretty cool.
The two-page spread of the main characters has some fun depictions; I particularly like Bowser’s pose. It is presumably a mistake to identify Larry as the leader of the Koopalings; that’s usually Ludwig when it comes up at all.
Iphigenia in Aulis: The Age of Bronze Edition, by Euripides, adapted by Edward Einhorn, illustrated by Eric Shanower – I believe I first saw a mention of this not long after I listened to the Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby episodes about this play. And I know Edward and Eric from Oz fandom. The play is about Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia to Artemis so the Achaeans can get a good wind for sailing to Troy, at the behest of the prophet Kalchas. It hardly seems worthwhile even if if you don’t consider human sacrifice inherently immoral (and other Greek myths suggest that Zeus, at least, wasn’t a fan of it), but, as Einhorn discusses in the appendices, Euripides presents it as Agamemnon and Iphigenia being forced into it by a mob of people who don’t appear onstage. The pictures are taken from Eric’s Age of Bronze comic series, and are used to create a sort of play in book form.
Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows, by Tehlor Kay Mejia – The third and presumably final book in this series has Paola and her friends facing off against El Cucuy, a boogeyman from Mexican folklore, and his army of doppelgangers. There’s also quite a bit about Pao’s relationships with various people, and a revelation about her friend Dante’s grandmother that’s pretty similar to a twist in the Thursday Next books. It’s an enjoyable read with a lot of emotion along the way. It’s a coming of age sort of thing, you know?
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