The UE Book Club (Distance Learning Edition) – Fantasy and Folklore

This month the Upper Elementary Book Club is alive and well in our distance learning program. Upper Elementary students will meet today to discuss one of four books from the fantasy genre. Each novel draws from characters and tales found in folklore and mythology from around the world. Each book is also the beginning of a series—perfect for all of our binge-readers!

The Serpent’s Secret is the first in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series by Sayantani DasGupta. The series follows the adventures of 12-year-old Kiran, an Indian-American girl, whose parents have always told her crazy stories about magical worlds and creatures—they’ve even told her she’s a princess! She has never believed them, but on the morning of her birthday, she wakes up to find her parents have vanished and a terrifying demon is after her. Kiran suddenly finds herself in another dimension, where she is, in fact, a heroic princess on a mission to rescue her parents and save New Jersey. DasGupta weaves characters and tales inspired by traditional Bengali folklore into this wildly adventurous story.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is the first in a series by Kwame Mbalia that follows the life and heroic adventures of seventh-grader Tristan Strong. After his best friend, Eddie, dies in a bus accident, Tristan is sent to stay with his grandparents to help him cope with his grief. On his first night there, the only thing Tristan has left of Eddie, his journal of folk tales, is stolen by a doll-looking creature. Tristan chases the creature into the mysterious woods and finally catches it. He struggles to get the journal back, accidentally punches a tree, and opens a passageway to another world. In this new dimension, Tristan meets John Henry and other characters from African-American folklore, as well as several West African deities. Tristan joins forces with the inhabitants of this magical place to seal the hole between the two dimensions and save the world.

Aru Shah and the End of Time is the first book in the Pandava Series by Roshani Chokshi. Aru lives with her mother in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. She lies to impress and fit in with the kids at school, whose lives seem much more exciting than her own. When three of her classmates come to the museum and dare Aru to light the Lamp of Bharata, to prove her claim that is cursed, she does it, believing she will be caught in her lie and humiliated. Instead the lamp releases a demon, and her classmates and mother become frozen in time. In order to stop the demon and restart time, Aru turns to the Hindu legend told in the Mahabarata. She sets out alone on a quest into the Kingdom of Death.


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the start of a four-book series by Grace Lin, based on traditional Chinese stories Lin heard as a child. Lin tells the story of Minli, a young girl who lives with her family in the valley of Fruitless Mountain. Her village and family are impoverished and unable to farm the land they live on. Minli, inspired by a magical goldfish and the folk tales her father tells her, sets out to change her family’s fortune by finding the Old Man in the Moon. Early in her voyage, she meets Dragon, a flightless dragon, and they continue the adventure together. The book follows Minli and Dragon’s heroic quest from village to village, as they solve riddles, face danger and meet wonderful characters along the way.