A Tour of Worlds 2018 — Younger Worlds

Worlds for every purpose and audience! Earths designed to entice and entrance any eye! And here, as I take you on a whirlwind review of the worlds I toured this last year, let’s turn our own all-seeing orbs to that cluster of planets designed for younger tourists, especially of the teen variety, though some are designed for those a little younger. Oh, ma’am! Don’t turn to go! Don’t you know? Older folk love touring these worlds! Haven’t you ever visited the Disney galaxy since you left your school days behind? Far, far behind by the deepness of your wrinkles and the sternness of your frown? Yes! You, too, may enjoy these little slices of other worlds!

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Alas, no cover is found at Amazon! What a world, when even Amazon cannot deliver a simple cover! 

The Dragon’s Handbook by bashful Barbara Rinkoff delighted me with its simple story. Here’s a world where an average kid (for 1966, when this world was trotted out from the publisher to meet the public) finds the dragon’s handbook. The dragon comes to find her handbook, and the kid holds onto it. He’ll return it only if the dragon teaches him how to deal with a bully. Hilarity ensues. You want to take your kids to this world. The tour may be short, but well, well worth your time.

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What kind of stories do ghosts tell? Thirteen Chairs by dazzling Dave Shelton takes us to a room with thirteen chairs. Jack was dared to go to the room where the ghosts gather… and they have a chair just for him. We hear the stories. The stories vary in quality from incredibly predictable to genuinely creepy. Ma’am, perhaps this world is not for you. I can tell you are of a fragile disposition, and I would not want to alarm you.

You, kid? The one with the adventurous smile? Try it out. Trust me. Just don’t tell your parents, and I won’t tell them either, got it?

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Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I could tell you about the world introduced in The Changeling Sea by piratical Patricia A. McKillip. I remember being entranced by the prose and embraced by the story itself, much the way the world of The Last Unicorn held me tight. But, alas, I can tell you no more than my grateful remembrance of the world. I can read the back of the book as well as anyone, but I simply do not recall my visit other than that impression of contented wonderment. Perhaps you wish to have that feeling, ma’am? Imagine what your wrinkles would do if you were contented?

Ah, there she goes. No refunds, ma’am!

Now, where were we? Ah, yes. More worlds aimed at the younger among us! Shall we move along, then?

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Emilie & the Hollow World by ‘mazing Martha Wells takes you on a tour of, well, a hollow world! Look, kid, not every title needs to be mysterious! Emilie runs away from home and winds up on an adventure with a notable cast of characters to the inside of the earth! Ladies and gentlemen, this is a fun romp, and a sequel is already released to you if you feel the desire to visit the world again! This felt like a return to the best of the pulp novels, but slightly cleaned of the greasy grime that particular parents might feel children don’t need. Children, of course, know far better!

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Now, this is a world you need to visit! The League of Seven by the arresting Alan Gratz takes us to a planet where electricity must not be used! Only a few people know why: Electricity awakens the ancient monsters buried deep under the planet’s crust! Every age a League of Seven rises to fight the beasts, but this time the beasts got smart and destroyed the League before it could form! One of the few survivors, young Archie Dent, seeks to fight the monsters because only he knows how! Here’s a world of great creativity, a steampunk saga in a world where Europe has been cut off for hundreds of years. Yes, my friends, find this world and tour it yourself. It’s fun with great characters, and worth your two bits.

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I am Private First Class Daniel Christopher Wright. I am seventeen years old. And I fired the shot that ended the United States of America.” This is how you’re greeted when you tour the world introduced in Divided We Fall by true Trent Reedy. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you like your worlds full of teens being teens but also surrounded by political divide, this world is for you! I couldn’t escape the pull of the setting and finished my tour in only two days. Usually I spend more time in a world than that! I find this world frightfully realistic, and hope it doesn’t visit my little plane of existence!

Yes, son. Plane.

Because I fly.

Be quiet, kid, you bother me.

***

Kid, I can change your world. Just pretend you’re someone else. The entire planet shifts, and you have experienced a new reality! But what if, what if you found out you were an NPC in a MMORPG? What if you found out you didn’t matter? Then, you might be visiting the world of Saga by clever Conor Kostick! It’s a sequel to the first visit to this world, Epic. Clever writing that truly will draw any one of you in! I suggest you look into it.

Or are you scared? Does it frighten you? To think you might just be another program? Not important?

Even unimportant people can change the worlds, kid. Maybe you’re the one who will change this very Midway! (But you need a tall, tall hat first.)

***

Course, maybe I’m wrong, kid. After all, we can’t all be the chosen one. Not everyone’s the main character in a world built just to tell their story. And that’s the idea of the world you’ll visit in The Rest of Us Just Live Here by persistent Patrick Ness. There are kids at the high school that are main characters. They’re always involved in vampire love triangles or wizard duels. But Mikey just wants to graduate before they blow up the school. Again.

I loved the concept of this world, and the tour kept me going at a pretty good pace. Something didn’t quite connect with me, so your mileage might vary. I wanted to see more interaction between the story of this world and the bigger plot going on in the background. But what do I know?

Also, kid, I should check your ID before you dive into this one. There’s some sex stuff I don’t think you’re ready for yet.

Oh, really? I think this ID is fake, kid.

Don’t make me call the constable down on you. Again.

Yeah, that was me. Wanna make something of it?

***

The last two worlds I visited this year that round up the younger cluster of planets were both created by the never-tiring Neal Shusterman.

First, I visited Everfound, the third tour of the Skinjacker world. Kids stuck between life and death battle it out. Man, there’s so many neat concepts in this world and the characters grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go. However, in my opinion, Shusterman didn’t quite stick the landing. Take it from a showman, when you promise a world, you must deliver! Nevertheless, I was quite glad to have visited and wrapped up this last visit. Shusterman’s worlds always haunt me, and I never regret the time I spend there.

I was far more fascinated by the world of Scythe. You see, on this world, no one ever dies unless a Scythe finds you. It’s their job to “thin the herd” so to speak. And when two teens are brought on as apprentices, well, we get an inside look in how the world works… and how it’s all about to fall apart. You need to visit this world. Shusterman always figures out how to make his worlds tick and tock inside your noggin, and this is an excellent example of his excellence in excelling exaltation.

Don’t try to figure it out. A showman doesn’t always make sense, just to make a point.

No, don’t try to figure that out either.

Just trust me. Scythe. A world worth your visit.

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Well, that’s it for the worlds I visited that were aimed at younger visitors. But sir, madame, you should know that I visited worlds aimed at adults as well! Perhaps you’d like to join me for those tours as well? Next time – and trust me, I won’t raise the price of my tourist tales a dime! And besides, my charming Bride visited a few younger worlds herself. Read on… 

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Welcome back, my dears. I see the glamour of our little company has drawn you into our midst once again. Another tour, you say? Well of course. There is much magic yet to be seen. Much to explore.

Here, a few we will just skirt by, I think. For there are so many. So, so many.

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First The 10pm Question. Not a bad little place to stop and explore, but perhaps not one of our most popular either. For 10pm questions are never easy. And the answers even less so. But perhaps another day you would visit Frankie and his mother there and see whether the two are so much alike now.

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But step onward with me past The Dreamer here. Yes, a wonderful name. Though perhaps you know him better as Pablo Neruda. No? Still, we here call him simply The Dreamer. He would be happy to share his story with you some night, his worlds which sway and flow like water.

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Past one more tent, one more world. Once again an intriguing name, I agree. See you in the Cosmos. Though, truth be told, Alex’s world was far more real, more down to earth than such a moniker would infer. For, you see, Alex can only dream of traveling among the cosmos, only wish upon the stars so far away. It is not, however, a world without hope. So as I said, perhaps another time you may like to visit here.

***

But tonight, dear gentlefolk, I wish to share with you a certain kind of magic. Enchantments for the young, and young at heart.

Ah, this is a wonderful world, colorful and bright. Open only to a few. But perhaps there are some Stravagante among you tonight. Someone holding a beloved trinket? Wearing a trademark scarf perhaps? Small clues you might look for if your eyes are sharp. For it is little things like these which enable the Stravagante to travel between worlds. And Bellezza City of Masks is truly a sight to see. Intrigue and magic abound there. Indeed, some find they never want to leave.

***

Or, perhaps you wish to stay just a mite closer to home. A bit closer to the people you know? Well, let me introduce you to Martina, Nick, Farhsad, and Cookie. Quite ordinary. At least upon first glance. But I assure you, there is magic to be found here as well. Odd magic; seemingly incomplete magic. These four are The Mighty Odds. Each of them with just enough magic of their own to throw life….a little sideways. Super strong thumbs, color-changing eyes, and the like. As I said, it pushes life just a little sideways. An incomplete magic. But humorous and relatable for all that.

***

Here, a world at once like our own, and at the same time quite alien. A world where the stresses and challenges of life have indeed made Monsters of Men. Really, this world is hard to explain…without ruining its wonderful surprises that is. It is a world full of noise, full of voices. A world longing for quiet and unity. But in all honesty I would suggest stepping back. Step back to where this world first began; back to when its magic was new and unknown. Step back and pick up The Knife of Never Letting Go so that you may walk in the world as it is formed and let its magic grow around you. For that is truly the only way to make sense of the noise and bring harmony to the multitude of voices.

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Well, I see I have lost a few of you among the tents already, off exploring the magic of other worlds. Let’s see if we can find something to charm the rest of you.

Perhaps this world: It starts with hard concrete walls and chalky painted waterfalls. Dim and lonely. But don’t let that dissuade you. By the end of the journey the world will be filled with light, immersed in greenery and joy. The One and Only Ivan imagines that kind of world, that kind of life for himself and Ruby. And perhaps, with his bright paint pots, he can create enough magic to someday make it real.

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Next, a truly fantastical world. Full of creatures one can only find in the imagination, magic that can only be conjured in your dreams. In this realm, from one end to the other, Eva Nine searches for WondLa. Through the Wandering Forest, among the streets and citizens of Lacus, and finally past the stone lions to her destination. What is WondLa, you ask? You will have to visit Eva Nine’s world yourself to find out, for that is part of the magic. And do not worry if this world seems “too big” for you. You will find it filled with wonderful illustrations to guide you along. While there is certainly danger lurking behind you and captors to ellude, the romance of this world and this adventure will surely draw you on to the end.

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One last stop on tonight’s tour, my dears. And what a Wonder this one is as well. This is Auggie’s world. And the magic found here is a magic we too can create. Each of us, in our own little part of our own little world. It is a simple magic but a powerful one. I suggest you visit Auggie and see for yourself how it’s done.

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And with that, sadly, I must leave you. Dawn is drawing near; the magic of the night wears thin. But come again, for the sweep of my dress holds some enchantments yet, some realms yet to be traveled and enjoyed.

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