Book Review: “The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities”

The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities is essential reading for fans of the middle grade novels from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. This fall treat will be a treasured addition to fans, and for those who have yet to check out one of the many diverse books from the imprint, The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities is the perfect way to dip your toes into the waters of mythology tales.

I am not an avid reader of short story collections. (I know! I need to expand my reading habits) Having read all the anthology’s contributing authors’ previous works for the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, I wondered if the shorter tales would capture my interest. Are ten authors too much? It only took me a couple of pages into the book to realize that an anthology like this is an incredible medium of storytelling.

Millions of people cheer when all their favorite superheroes team up in film, so how could avid readers not enjoy a book with ten authors providing a variety of stories. I plunged into the book and was lost for days as I travelled through the different realms of mythology that the Rick Riordan Presents imprint has published.

J.C. Cervantes, Graci Kim, Roshani Chokshi, Sarwat Chadda, Rebecca Roanhorse, Kwame Mbalia, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Tehlor Kay Mejia, and Rick Riordan himself put their writing skills to the test with The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities.

Starting the book off, readers get to return to Culeco Academy in Miami with Carlos Hernandez’s wonderfully eccentric world of Sal and Gabi. Hernandez fills every page of his short tale with frenetic mirth that had me laughing throughout. I love Sal and Gabi. The world needs more tales from Culeco and starting this anthology with the witty words of Hernandez was a brilliant idea.

J.C. Cervantes brings readers back to The Storm Runner trilogy with her unique tale that places Zane and Brooks in peril. Cervantes concluded her trilogy of books with an explosive and heartfelt end, but for fans of this series they will celebrate getting one more adventure with Zane and Brooks.

Roshani Chokshi gives another layer to the intricate world of Aru Shah and her friends, while Graci Kim expands on the wonderful world of Riley Oh from The Last Fallen Star. Sarwat Chadda brings us back to the world of New York City with young Sikander Aziz and his never-ending toil of facing demons and cleaning up at his family’s deli.

We finally get to go back to the stars with Yoon Ha Lee and his tales from the Thousand Worlds.

Rebecca Roanhorse writes with such vivid detail in her story featuring Nizhoni Begay and the Navajo gods. Kwame Mbalia uses his contribution to help Gum Baby take center stage in a story without Tristan Strong.

What does Rick Riordan do to end this anthology? Does he revisit past characters giving readers a chance to jump back into the world of Percy Jackson? No! He takes a leap of faith and tries his hand in telling a tale of Celtic mythology.

After reading the last word of Riordan’s story, I reflected on why The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities is an important contribution to bookshelves. We get the standard action-packed hilarious stories that readers of all ages will connect with. Moreover, the continued storylines highlighting diverse mythologies from a variety of authors culminates in a book that allows authors to experiment.

What better way for writers to try something new in this short format. Gum Baby’s adventures in The Curse Carnival and Other Calamities would only get a couple of sentences of description in a Tristan Strong book and the same can be said for every other author’s contribution to the book. Authors are given a sense of freedom and a spark of creativity in their contributions to The Cursed Carnival and Other Contributions. Riordan shows this too by choosing a new area to explore with his Celtic story.

The book is targeted at Middle Grade readers, but anyone will find the stories to be thrilling. The world and readers need diverse stories that will highlight the world around us and show how unique and different we all are. The world is not one color nor one story. We are a composite of multiple generations of diverse languages, beliefs, and cultures. We need more books like this getting to our kids, (and adults), so that we don’t lose our way.

The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities hits bookstores on September 28th.  

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving