Thursday, September 22, 2016

Paths and Portals by Gene Luen Yang - Blog Tour

Yang, Gene Luen. Paths and Portals (Secret Coders, 2). First Second (Macmillan), 2016. 96 pages. $10.99.  978-1-62672-0763.  

Affiliate Links: Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Cover Appeal: It's not as bright as other graphic novel series, the red is pretty faded looking. Kids who loved Secret Coders, 1 will definitely be looking for this but others will need a bit of convincing. 

Immediately After

WHAT??!! And the next book doesn't release until 2017??!! ARGH!

Paths and Portals picks up right where book 1 left off, with the answer to the code! We jump in with Eni (must be named for the ENIAC right?) and Hopper (Grace Hopper, computer programmer) are joined by Josh and start writing code using Logo. The coding will lead them to solve the mystery of Stately Academy. We know it involves Principal Dean, with the help of the rugby team, but what do they want?


The novel itself is two color - green and black. Because this is a graphic novel that is also teaching you programming, many of the pages have side by side panels of Hopper thinking and the robot turtle moving in accordance with her thoughts, which will help students "see" her thoughts in action.

There are also full-sized pages where students can write in their solutions to the given coding problem.

Don't miss more inside shots at Macmillan's Path and Portals page!


These books score on both the story and the coding activity. The activities are woven naturally into the book and will not push you out of the action. Each book in the series, so far, seem to stick to one narrative so they are straightforward. The books, however, are super short. You barely get into the story before you are left with a giant cliffhanger. This would not be so bad if the books were being released shortly after one another. With a count of less than 100 pages though, it seems unnecessary. I give this a 3.5 out of 4 copies. I would buy it for both my LS and MS libraries as well as the coding option classroom.

Want more Secret Coders? Check these places out!

A special short comic story featuring Eni, Hopper and Josh! Lost and Found (scroll down and don't miss any pages!)
Gene Yang online: Blog | Twitter | Secret Coders (lots of fun activities and programming!)
Mike Holmes' online: Blog | Twitter
Macmillan Gene Yang page.

Visit other great tour stops below!


August 31: Colby at Sharp Read
September 1: Jess at Reading Nook Reviews
September 2: Samantha at Forest of Words and Pages
September 5: Jennifer at YA Book Nerd
September 6: Maria at Maria's Mélange
September 7: Gigi at Late Bloomer's Book Blog
September 8: Jen at Starry Eyed Revue
September 9: Cheyenne at The Hollow Cupboards
September 12: Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings
September 13: April at Good Books and Good Wine
September 14: Cindy at Charting by the Stars
September 15: Erica at The Book Cellar
September 16: Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks
September 19: Asheley at Into the Hall of Books
September 20: Daphne at Gone Pecan
September 21Mary Ann at Great Kids Books
September 22: Kathy at The Brain Lair
September 23: Michelle & Leslie at Undeniably (Book) Nerdy
September 26Laurie at Reader Girls
September 27: Margie at Librarian's Quest
September 28Victoria at Art, Books, & Coffee
September 29Cee at The Novel Hermit
September 30: Amanda at Forever Young Adult

Monday, September 5, 2016

Playing for the Devil's Fire by Phillippe Diederich - Review

Playing for the Devil's Fire
by Phillippe Diederich
Cinco Punta Press
Audience: Middle School and above
Mexico City * Lucha Libra * Drugs * Poverty

"I guess that's what I always liked about these movies. They weren't about heroes with supernatural powers. They were about real people. They gave me the feeling that I too could be like..."

Fourteen year-old Liberio's, aka Boli, daily struggles include his love for the much older Ximena (19) and trying to pull together enough money to see one of his favorite luchadors, El Hijo del Santo, wrestle in the upcoming fair.

Mosca and Boli spend most of their afternoons in the plaza and around the City of Izayoc shining shoes and playing marbles. Then someone discovers the head of el profe Quintanilla and, not long after,  the body of Rocio Morales.  Troubles seemed to have arrived with the appearance of Joaquin Carrillo. Soon many of the stores in Izayoc start shutting down and people close to Boli start disappearing. Can Boli and, a down on his luck lucho libre, Chicano find out what's happening without putting themselves or anyone else in danger?

The mystery of Playing for the Devil's Fire sucks you in slowly. As Boli's fear for his life and those of his loved ones increases, so does the readers fear. You want to warn him. As the true motivations of the characters are revealed, Boli's innocence is threatened as he doesn't know who to trust. The love of money changes almost everyone but has a deep and dark influence over the law enforcement. No one is trying to help, believing they will be the next to lose their businesses or their lives.

There were a couple of times I wondered how old Boli and his sister were, based on their actions as well as the celebrities mentioned (Pancho Villa, El Chavo di ocho, and the calendar of Tania Rincon). Gaby is seventeen but doesn't go to school. She practically runs the bakery and enters into a contract.

Overall, it was an exciting window into another culture. Since there is a glossary in the back, Diederich doesn't stop the story to translate any words or phrases, many of which you can glean from context clues.  He lays out the varying levels of poverty and how each affects character. The ending is quick and leaves you wondering about Boli and his future.

About The Author

Phillippe Diederich is a Haitian-American writer. Born in the Dominican Republic, he was raised in Mexico City and Miami. His parents were kicked out of Haiti by the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier in 1963. He spent his youth listening to his parents and friends talking politics and nostalgically dreaming of the day they would return to Haiti. In 1980, the family moved to Miami, where they joined a community of exiles from all parts of Latin America—Cuba, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Like other children of exiles, Diederich grew up without his relatives—grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts. Diederich traveled repeatedly to Cuba as a photojournalist throughout the 1990s. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of South Florida and lives in Florida.

Blog Tour

August 31: Rich in Color review (
Sept 1: The Pirate Tree review & interview (
Sept 4: Guest Post for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves (
Sept 5: Review, The Brain Lair (
Sept 6: Rich in Color author interview (
September 7: Edi Campbell CrazyquiltEdi review (
September 8: Anastasia Suen, #KidLitBookoftheday (
September 9: Reading Through Life author highlight plus links to blog tour (
Sept 9: Guest Post, The Brain Lair (
September 12: Linda Washington ( )
September 13: Excerpt, Review, and Guest Post at Mom Read it (


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