First, a small pat on the back to myself for slowly but surely catching up on my reading backlog.
Second, a huge pat on the back to everyone involved with Rick Riordan Presents, an imprint that showcases fantastic middle-grade fiction based on world mythologies. The representation is gloriously diverse and fascinatingly educational. I love mythology myself, but when I was growing up the only stories really accessible to me were the standard Greco-Roman. Sure, there were some Norse, but nowhere near as well explained as Greek — I’m still learning some of the Norse tales today! And as for the rest of the world’s mythologies? Nearly inaccessible, up to and including my own.
But now we have RRP, which presents entire books out of mythologies world-wide (with slight modifications, ofc) for readers of all ages. Younger me would have read these non-stop. Older me is just so glad to be able to share these with my kids, and so grateful that young people have this kind of thing available in their lives.
As of this writing, there are almost two dozen RRP books in print, covering a vast array of the world’s mythos. The Cursed Carnival And Other Calamities is essentially an introduction to several of those series, incorporating legends from almost all of the continents, giving readers a bite-sized idea of what the full books have to offer. The stories are overall very strong examples of fantasy/sci-fi writing for middle-grade, with perhaps my favorite being Yoon Ha Lee’s The Initiation, which continues the very cool space story begun in Dragon Pearl, following Min and Jun as they’re sent off to train as agents.
The Gum Baby Files by Kwame Mbalia took me a moment to get into (as I hadn’t realized that Gum Baby was so small!) but was a really good, really relevant look at how West African mythology interacts with contemporary Black American issues and history. Roshani Chokshi’s Beware The Grove Of True Love is a bittersweet introduction to the perils of adult romance. Gracie Kim’s My Night At The Gifted Carnival, where a non-magical girl adopted into a magical family visits a fantastical carnival with her sister and runs into bigger trouble than ever anticipated, was also a favorite (tho even as a strong proponent of empathy, I disagreed with the amount of sympathy shown for the bad guy.) I also really enjoyed the way that certain characters from the first short story, Carlos Hernandez’ Calamity Juice, made brief cameos in several of the subsequent.
Overall, this is a really great book to give to any young fantasy/sci-fi fan, or any mythology fan of any age, especially as it serves as a launchpad into exploring at least nine other already existing novels and series. And with holiday season upon us, books like these are the perfect gift for bibliophiles, young or old: great on their own, but also a perfect sampler of other amazing books to explore.
The Cursed Carnival And Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes compiled by Rick Riordan was published September 28 2021 by Rick Riordan Presents and is available from all good booksellers, including