Sixteen-year-old Cimorene is tired of being a princess. She is fed up with embroidery lessons and etiquette and arranged marriages, and would much rather study magic and sword fighting and Latin. So when a talking frog suggests that she run away from home, that’s just what Cimorene does. Before long, she finds herself gainfully (albeit dangerously) employed as a dragon’s princess, sorting treasure and brushing up on her Latin and trying out spells to her heart’s content. But life in the Mountains of Morning isn’t all fun and games–obnoxious, dimwitted knights keep trying to rescue Cimorene, and evil wizards have been popping up all sorts of places they’re not supposed to be. Everyone knows wizards can’t be trusted; clearly, some sort of nefarious plot is afoot. With the assistance of an amusingly down-to-earth witch, a rather timid princess, and a stone prince, Cimorene must figure out what the wizards are up to, and stop them, before it’s too late. Continue reading →
Title: The Aviary
Author: Kathleen O’Dell
Genre: Historical Fiction (some Gothic/Fantasy elements)
Age Category: 8+
Historical Fiction: The Aviary
Clara Dooley leads a quiet, lonely life. A serious heart condition has kept her indoors for years, far away from other children who might excite her. Instead, she spends her days in the Glendoveer Mansion, where her mother works as a housekeeper for the frail (and ailing) Mrs. Glendoveer, an elderly widow who is still reeling from the sudden deaths of her five children decades before . . . and from the kidnapping of the sixth and youngest child, Elliot. Now all Mrs. Glendoveer has is a crumbling mansion filled with memories, and an aviary inhabited by a rather motley assortment of extremely long-lived birds. The birds scare Clara with their persistent screeching, and never more so than the fateful day when the mynah calls out to her and speaks one word: ‘Elliot.’ With that, Clara and her newfound (and secret) friend Daphne are off and running (so to speak) after the mystery of the Glendoveer children—the resolution of which may endanger Clara herself. Continue reading →
Title: The Cardturner
Author: Louis Sachar
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Age Category: 14+
Louis Sachar: The Cardturner
High school junior Alton Richards is gearing up for a bummer summer. Dumped by his girlfriend (for his best friend, no less), with no money and no job on the horizon, he is bullied by his parents into driving his ailing (and extremely wealthy) great uncle Lester to his bridge club. Alton’s parents are determined to stay on dear old Uncle Lester’s good side in case he kicks the bucket any time soon. Alton is more than just a chauffeur, though Continue reading →
Eighteen-year old Lucas Moore hasn’t had the best life. He and his mother live in a beat-up trailer in the aptly-named nowhere town of Perdition, Arizona, where she waits tables in a diner and he works as an auto mechanic—when he’s not out drinking or getting into a fight. He never finished high school. He’s never known his father. Continue reading →
It was just a bit of tapestry. A very old tapestry, tucked into a crate of old books that Tessa’s dad bought at an auction. But Tessa is fascinated. The image—a wild, beautiful unicorn—is so vivid . . . and so are her dreams. Then, when Tessa pulls a loose thread on the tapestry, her whole world starts to unravel. Will, a handsome—if haughty—young nobleman, has been yanked out of the sixteenth century and plopped down in her room in the middle of modern day Portland, Maine. His fate is somehow tied to the tapestry, and he needs Tessa’s help. Continue reading →
Sixteen-year-old Joey Crouch used to be fairly happy. He and his mother enjoyed life in Chicago. He had a best friend. He played the trumpet. He wasn’t popular, but he wasn’t so unpopular as to be a target for abuse by those higher up the social ladder. All in all, life wasn’t bad. Then one day, everything changed. His mother dies, and Joey is uprooted from his life in Chicago and sent to live in rural Iowa with a father he’s never met. Continue reading →
Title: The Death of Yorik Mortwell
Author: Stephen Messer (illustrated by Gris Grimly)
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy Books
Age Category: 9 years +
Fantasy Book: The Death of Yorik Mortwell
It’s not every day you come across a book where the hero dies in the first chapter. But in The Death of Yorik Mortwell, that’s exactly what happens to 12-year-old Yorik Mortwell, orphaned son of a gamekeeper at Ravenby Manor: he dies. Fortunately for the readers, Yorik does not pass quietly into the great beyond, but returns as a ghost.
Upon his return, he is greeted almost immediately by the spoiled and curiously powerful silver-haired Princess and her peculiar (and ailing) friend Erde, who live in an enchanted glade on the grounds. After briefly considering exacting vengeance on his killer, Yorik realizes that something dark and deadly is stalking the manor grounds and the house itself, while the Princess’s friend Erde seems to be wasting away into nothing. Yorik quickly loses his taste for revenge, and is consumed with concern for Erde and for his still-living younger sister Susan, a servant in the Ravenby House. He is determined to defeat the Dark Ones—but what are they? Where did they come from? Why are there so many? And what is one little ghost boy to do against such dark forces? Continue reading →
Title: One Moose, Twenty Mice
Author: Clare Beaton
Genre: Toddler board book (Counting book)
Age Category: Infant to 2 years
Summary: A Children’s Counting Book
Clare Beaton’s One Moose, Twenty Mice is a counting book to help with learning numbers for preschool. It begins with the following statement/question: “One moose, but where’s the cat?” Each subsequent page continues the pattern established on the first page. For example, the second and third pages say, “Two crabs, but where’s the cat?” and “Three ladybugs, but where’s the cat?” The pages continue counting up in the same way until the last page, which says, “Twenty mice, and here’s the cat!”
The illustrations are scenes of colorful stitched fabrics (mostly felt), ribbons, buttons, sequins, and beads that depict the numbers and animals mentioned in the text. Importantly, in each scene (except the last) the cat is hiding somewhere. In the last scene the cat is finally in full view, chasing twenty white mice! Continue reading →
Title: The Door in the Forest
Author: Roderick Townley
Genre: Middle-grade Fiction (Children’s fantasy novels)
Age Category: 8 years +
Children’s Fantasy Novel: The Door in the Forest
Daniel Crowley cannot tell a lie. For most of his life, this inability has been a fairly manageable annoyance. Now, as soldiers move into the small town of Everwood, it’s become downright dangerous. There’s a rebellion in the City, and the soldiers—especially the unsettling and erratic Captain Sloper—are determined to root out any sympathizers.
This is particularly bad news for Daniel’s friend Emily Byrdsong, a newcomer to Everwood and granddaughter of the town witch. There’s something mysterious about the Byrdsong family—Emily’s parents haven’t been seen since their arrest for participating in the rebellion, Grandma Byrdsong has a curious fondness for bubble baths, and they live in a house where the rules of time and space don’t seem to work quite the way they do in the rest of Everwood. Captain Sloper is suspicious of the Byrdsongs, and is determined to use Daniel’s honesty to expose them . . . and the rest of the town.
But the Byrdsongs aren’t the only mystery in Everwood. There is an island on the edge of town Continue reading →
Title: The Last Synapsid
Author: Timothy Mason
Genre: Middle-grade Fiction
Age Category: 9-12 years
Are you looking for a middle-grade novel with dinosaurs, time-travel, eco-responsibility, and Shakespeare for children? If so, The Last Synapsid by Timothy Mason may be what you are looking for!
Summary: The Last Synapsid
Life in Faith, Colorado is fairly uneventful for best friends Rob and Phoebe. That is, until one day they come across a prehistoric creature so old, he makes dinosaurs look modern—a plant-eating synapsid they affectionately dub ‘Sid.’ Sid’s on an epic journey through time . . . and he needs Rob and Phoebe’s help! Another synapsid—an aptly-named Gorgon, and much less amiable than the kind-hearted Sid—has stumbled into the modern era via a ‘time snag’ and refuses to return to his native time. If this carnivorous monster remains in the present, the course of evolution will be changed forever, and humankind (and all other mammals) will never come into existence. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger by the name of Jenkins has been lurking around town, and he seems bound and determined to use the synapsids’ time-traveling abilities for his own selfish ends—no matter the cost… Continue reading →
Summary: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
The Adventures of Tinitin: The Secret of the Unicorn opens with a news report that incidences of petty thievery are on the rise in London, and that the police are using their “best men to put a stop to this public scandal.” It turns out that London’s “finest” include Thomson and Thompson, two identical-looking and identically incompetent detectives who sport black suits and bowlers. On their patrol of the Old Street Market—during which both of their wallets are stolen—they bump into their friend Tintin (a brave, sharp reporter, the protagonist of the story) and his white fox terrier, Snowy. As Tintin buys a model ship for his friend Captain Haddock—a retired old salt who struggles (sometimes not too hard) with his taste for liquor—two men appear beside him and express interest in the ship he has just bought. They offer dueling bids, but Tintin refuses to sell it.
Tintin takes the model home, where Snowy accidentally breaks the mast. Never mind: Tintin easily repairs it. When Tintin shows the ship to Captain Haddock, the Captain notices that the ship is a scale model of the Unicorn, the ship sailed by his distant relative Sir Francis Haddock. However, soon after the model is stolen from Tintin’s apartment, which is ransacked in the process. In the wake of the break-in, Continue reading →
Johnson’s Seeds of Change traces the story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.
As a young girl, Wangari grew up in rural Kenya where she learned a deep appreciation and respect for the natural environment. The great mugumo trees earned a special place in her heart: they provided a home for monkeys, birds, and geckos; tasty fruit for humans and elephants; and a shady resting place for Wangari’s Kikuyu ancestors. Continue reading →
Title: The Storm Before Atlanta
Author: Karen Schwabach
Genre: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
Age Category: 9 – 12 years
Children’s Book about the Civil War: The Storm Before Atlanta
The Storm Before Atlanta is a children’s book about the Civil War. The book opens in 1863, with the Northern and Southern United States locked in conflict. Eleven year old Jeremy DeGroot is determined to die gloriously for his country as a drummer boy in the Union Army, believing that this will have him immortalized as a hero. After a few long train rides and some quick thinking, Jeremy finds himself marching into battle with the 107th New York Volunteer Infantry, and thinks he’s achieved his life’s ambition. However, Jeremy quickly learns that the real life of a soldier bears little resemblance to the songs of glorious battle and valiant death that originally inspired him.
The Storm Before Atlanta also introduces us to Dulcie, a young escaped slave who is determined to find herself as part of a Union army regiment. In doing this, Dulcie hopes to gain her freedom and eventually locate her mother and father, whom she hasn’t seen in years. Alongside these two protagonists we also meet Charlie, a Confederate soldier who wears the uniform of an enemy, but acts like a friend. But Charlie also carries a closely guarded secret, one that will affect Jeremy and Dulcie profoundly. Continue reading →
Today I finish my series on Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy with a summary and review of the much anticipated, and much hyped book for teens, Mockingjay. In this Mockingjay summary and review I will discuss the ending of the book/series in the last section of this post (I can’t resist, given some of the controversy in the blogosphere), so if you don’t want to spoil it, skip that part. I will not give away anything important in the “Summary” or plot synopsis, so those parts are safe.
Mockingjay: Summary of Review
Mockingjay is a stunning finish to an amazing trilogy. I loved every minute of it, and so will most teens. Collins masterfully brings resolution to the central tensions and conflicts of the story, including the struggle between the Districts and the Capitol, and the love triangle between Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and Gale Hawthorne. However, since the over-arching theme of the series is war, the close of the trilogy is appropriately untidy—indeed tragic—in certain ways. Such untidiness helps to communicate what I take to be Collins’s central message: there can be hope and joy on the other side of war, but never a complete return to the way things were. War changes things. Permanently. Continue reading →
ZooBorns is a non-fiction picture book portrait gallery of roughly 100 baby animals born in zoos and aquariums around the world. Each “zooborn” is featured with several photos, and basic biographical information—name (if the baby has one), species, location of the zoo or aquarium where it lives, date of birth, and the conservation status of its species (e.g., extinct in the wild, endangered, critically endangered, threatened, etc.).
Along with the basic data, the book provides information and anecdotes about each animal, sometimes including part of the story of the particular baby animal in the photos (e.g., if it was rescued, what its personality is like, what it likes to do, etc.), and interesting facts about the species. In particular, the book highlights connections between zoo breeding programs and efforts to conserve threatened or endangered animal populations. Continue reading →