I have always loved mythology. Maybe it’s because of the fantasy aspect, maybe it’s the “real world” mixed with the fantastical, maybe it’s the way some of these stories are supposed to explain in a nice neat fashion how the world operates. Whatever it is, growing up I devoured every piece of mythology I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, in the US that meant I was fairly limited to Greek mythology, with a smattering of Egyptian gods and Arthurian tales sprinkled on top. It was much more difficult to find tales from Asia or Africa (sans Egypt), or even Mesoamerica.
This is why I’ve been pleased to see the recent efforts of the imprint Rick Riordan Presents. Rick Riordan, for those who don’t know, is a best selling middle-grade author who made his mark with PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the first in a series of books that brought Greek mythology into present-day adventures. Riordan has since written other series involving Norse, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. Now, he has partnered with Disney Hyperion to shepherd a new batch of books based on mythologies from around the globe, written by #ownvoices authors. This effort to help make a more diverse variety of mythology available to younger readers fills me with delight, and I wanted to take a moment to spotlight the latest releases that will be hitting the shelves later this year.
THE FIRE KEEPER by J.C. Cervantes
Release Date: September 17th, 2019
This is the second book in THE STORM RUNNER series, based on Mayan mythology. In the first book, Zane Obispo is just trying to get through middle school, suffering through the name-calling he gets for having to walk with a cane because of only having one good leg. But eventually, Zane discovers he’s at the center of a Mayan prophecy involving gods and demons – and he’s actually descended from one of those gods. THE FIRE KEEPER will find Zane trying to balance his new magical powers and his role in the godly community, while adjusting to some drastic changes in his life that resulted from his first adventures.
RACE TO THE SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse
Release Date: October 15th, 2019
My favorite read from last year was TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse, a post-apocalyptic fantasy that pulled from Navajo folklore So when I heard that Roanhorse was writing a middle-grade adventure adventure as part of this program, I was beyond thrilled! Details are scarce at the moment, but expect a middle-grade heroine navigating a world of gods and monsters.
TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY by Kwame Mbalia
Release Date: January 2020
Kwame Mbalia is making his authorial debut next year, and I have to say that his premise has caught my attention. Sevnth-grader Tristan Strong will accidentally cause a breach into a world where “ancient African gods clash with gods of African-American legend.” The idea of an on-going conflict between two different black identities seems rife with possibility, and I look forward to seeing more details of this #ownvoices work.