With Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month almost upon us, here are two up-and-coming releases for your adventurous mid dle-grade readers! Momo Arashima actually can see a fox wearing pants and dancing in the school yard. MisaSugiura’s, “Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind” is a witty, fast-paced adventure that skillfully immerses the reader in Japanese mythology. Momo encounters a murderous shikome, a ghost crab army and talking mice, all while having genuine conversations about middle school social dynamics. Hey, even popular kids have feelings, and those popular kids may grow to realize that others have feelings too. With the same pacing and narrative style as “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief,” Sugiura keeps the reader engaged with a cliffhanger per punchy chapter. The trio of main characters gel together throughout their journey without losing any of those youthful imperfections that make them so charming.
In “Lei and the Fire Goddess,” by Malia Maunakea, Anna Leilani Kama’ehu is garnering folktales from her grandmother, or Tutu. While spending summer vacation in Hawaii, Anna/Lei straddles two cultures and two names to her increasing frustration. But then Tutu’s folktales come to life. Author Maunakea excels at depicting Anna’s fascinating dive into her own mythological heritage interspersed with a middle schooler’s vocabulary of pop-culture references (including a cheeky nod to Disney’s Moana). Completing tasks in and around a mystical volcano, learning hula, and entertaining a “mo’o,” Anna races to pacify the goddess Pele and rescue her friend, and along the way centers herself inside her family’s stories.
For those young readers interested in myth and still finding a sense of self, these two books will be both good entertainment and good examples. Let me know what you think of the books! Drop me a line @dorothy.megan and tag @atx_family with your reading updates.
Dorothy Bennett is a writer and artist in Austin, TX where she runs a creative agency with her husband.