Poor Rump. His mother died before giving him his full name. He has always been stuck with half a name and no destiny. He lives with his grandma in The Village on the Mountain. The villagers look for gold in the mines to send to the King (King Barf!). All of their rations come through the fat, greedy miller Oswald. This is a land where names have power, magic exists and pixies and gnomes are everywhere. Rump discovers his mother’s old spinning wheel and discovers he can spin straw into gold. The magic comes at a price and soon he finds himself in the power of the miller. When the king comes looking for the new gold, the miller claims his daughter spun it knowing that Rump would help her. Rump goes to the Kingdom and does help Opal, but at a huge cost. Because of the magic Rump can not give the gold away, he has to receive something for it. He is unable to bargain, he must accept any trade offered to him. When Opal offers her first born child Rump despairs, but he has to accept. He runs away to Yonder to find his mother’s family and to hopefully break the bargain. Alas, it is not to be. Rump has to find his true name in order to overcome the magical curse and be free.
I love fractured fairy tales. There is just something so enchanting about taking a story we all know and turning it on its head. The tales of Rumpelstiltskin are really not that detailed in explaining why things happen. Liesl Shurtliff simply fills in Rump’s backstory for us. She explains his actions and those of the other characters in the story. The miller becomes the true villain in this tale and Rump is simply a boy who has to find his destiny. I loved all the fantastical characters like the pixies, who are attracted to gold, the gnomes, who are messengers, and the trolls who don’t eat people! I thought this was a thoroughly creative and imaginative story and I loved it.
Auggie lives with her grandpa Gus who is a trash hauler. She and her friends who live on Serendipity Place love going with Gus to the junkyard and seeing what kinds of neat things they can find. They are all poor but proud. Auggie is starting a new school since her old school has been condemned. The school is bright and shiny and full of well-off kids, nothing like their old school. Mean girl Victoria starts tormenting Auggie on the first day and never lets up. She even steals Auggie’s best friend Lexie. Victoria’s father is on the House Beautification Committee and they come after Auggie’s neighborhood with a vengeance. Everyone tries to fix up their houses, but the committee just wants to condemn them all and build a community center. Auggie and Gus spend all the time working on their house. They find materials people no longer want and they turn them into art. Soon their yard is full of metal sculptures of all kinds. They have to figure out a way to stop the House Beautification Committee and save their neighborhood.
I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I loved Auggie and Gus’s relationship and the sense of community between the people who live on Serendipity Place. I didn’t quite understand the rationale for the story about Auggie’s mom, but it fit with the rest of the book. I did want the neighbors to figure out the committee’s plan a little bit sooner, but I really loved the end result. Victoria and her dad are pretty one-dimensional villains in this story, but then most villains are. I liked the lesson on how one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
James is going on vacation and Marvin is sad that he won’t be able to see his friend for a week. While James is gone Marvin and his cousin discover the fun that can be had in a pencil sharpener. It’s fun until James’s dad starts sharpening pencils. When James gets home Marvin is glad to hear that he was missed. This is a nice beginning chapter book. Short, easy chapters with great illustrations.
Maisie and Felix are off for another adventure through time. This time they are headed to Imperial Russia and the Romanovs. Before they leave they befriend Alex Andropov who is Russian and has hemophilia. Alex smuggles himself along through time and once he gets there he doesn’t want to leave. The three kids spend months with the Romanovs in 1911 traveling from one palace to another. They need to give Anastasia a Faberge egg and get a piece of advice. Unfortunately when they arrived the egg ended up in the Czarina’s possession. Then Alex wanted to destroy the egg so he wouldn’t have to go back to the present time. Felix is also enjoying his time in Russia and bonding with Anastasia. Whereas Maisie is feeling jealous and left out and just wants to get the mission done. There is a lot to figure out.
I still don’t really like this series. I find the kids pretty unlikeable and unrelatable. There are also instances where logic seems to be thrown out the window for no reason. For instance, why does Alex have to destroy the egg? To get back to the future he has to be touching either Maisie or Felix when they give the egg to Anastasia. So instead of trapping them in 1911 he could just not be around when they give her the egg. Seems pretty straight forward to me.
An enjoyable book. Main character Miranda starts the story off, telling how her neighbor and best friend Sal, quit hanging out with her, after he got punched, as the two were walking home. A number of other 6th graders enter her life, as space is opened up. These include AnneMarie, whose best friend Julia “broke up” with her. Collin joking fellow who’d always been in the background, Marcus the kid who hit Sal, and even Julia, AnneMarie’s long-time best friend. It also describes Miranda’s relationship with her Mother (single mom) and Mom’s boyfriend Richard. The heart of the story is how Miranda navigates her friendships. There is also a time travel mystery, as she receives notes from a person who has already seen the future. The question is who is doing the time travelling. All the clue are laid out for you, but I didn’t think it was obvious. Minor quibble – I didn’t think the explanation for Sal’s jerky behavior really made sense. But overall enjoyable!
In the quiet town of Magnolia, someone is a’ haunting, making people do awfully weird things. Eugene knows because he’s being haunted, too. His friend Sonny’s dad walked right off of a building and fell to his death, and then another friend’s dad crashed his car into a tree. The same “specter” that was haunting them is inside Eugene, talking to him, telling him to do crazy things! Along with the help of their friend (conveniently, the daughter of the town’s newspaper editor) Eugene and Sonny pledge to get to the bottom of the haunting. But not before uncovering a bigger mystery that will affect nearly every townsperson in sleepy little Magnolia…
In this riveting linked novel, rising romantic suspense star Burton deftly heightens the suspense that began in “Senseless.”
No Pity. Each skeleton is flawless—gleaming white and perfectly preserved, a testament to his skill. Every scrap of flesh has been removed to reveal the glistening bone beneath. And the collection is growing…
No Compassion. When bleached human bones are identified as belonging to a former patient of Dr. James Dixon, Detective Malcolm Kier suspects the worst. Dixon was recently acquitted of attempted murder, thanks to defense attorney Angie Carlson. But as the body count rises, Kier is convinced that Angie is now the target of a brutal, brilliant psychopath.
No Escape. Angie is no stranger to the dark side of human nature. But nothing has prepared her for the decades-long legacy of madness and murder about to be revealed—or a killer ready to claim her as his ultimate trophy…
So everyone is now back from the Congo and Kansas respectively and ready for their next adventure. Well Maisie and Felix are the Ziff twins are not included in this one. This time they are heading back to the Renaissance to meet Leonardo da Vinci. They end up with Sandro Botticelli to start out with (neither of the kids have heard of him) before they meet Leonardo. Again they do not ask his name for a few days (seriously what is wrong with these kids!?!). They meet the Medici family and attend carnival before completing their mission. Again the logic of these books just leaves a bit to be desired. Maisie is even more unlikeable in this one than she was the previous book and Felix doesn’t make that much of an impression. The one thing I do appreciate about the books in this series is the backmatter. Ann Hood gives the reader a very nice biography of the famous person we met in the book.
Maisie, Felix and the Ziff twins are sent back through time to the Congo to find the missing Amy Pickworth. They get chased separated and Maisie and Felix end up chased by gorillas and stalked by lions. They escape leaving the Ziffs to their fate. They end up with Amelia Earhart as a young girl before she falls in love with airplanes. Of course they don’t realize she is Amelia Earhart because she goes by Meelie and the kids spend a month with the family without asking their names (I’m serious here!). Finally they realize who she is and complete their mission.
So I haven’t read any of the other Treasure Chest books and wasn’t really familiar with the stories or how the time travel works in this series. Apparently, the family has been amassing treasures throughout time and storing them in a room called the Treasure Chest. In order to time travel you have to be a twin and find an object that will take you to the time and place you want to go. Once there you have to give the object to the person you are seeking after getting a lesson in order to go home. Seems a bit complicated and it really is if you never ask a person their name. Not my favorite mainly because I didn’t find Maisie or Felix that likeable and they just seemed a little on the dim side (I really can’t get over the fact that they stayed with Earhart for a month and never found out who they were staying with).
Anna is a twelve year old drama kid. She is currently starring as a dancing cranberry at the mall. Unfortunately, her parents are not getting along right now and need a little space. They decide to send Anna to Rosemont to stay with her grandma Mimi for a little while. Rosemont is getting ready for its famous flower festival which Mimi founded and runs. Anna jumps right in to life in Rosemont. She meets Taylor and Taylor’s horse Zoe and she gets a role as a dancing petunia at the local library. While at the library one day Anna notices a sad girl who seems to be in trouble. Anna can’t get the girl out of her mind and is determined to help her. She enlists the help of Mimi, the librarian, and the everyone she can think of including the librarian’s grandson Brad who works for Homeland Security. Anna spends her days helping with the festival, being a petunia at the library and trying to remember more details to help this mysterious girl.
Joan Bauer does a good job writing these types of books. They have strong female lead characters who kids can identify with. Anna is smart and determined and dedicated. Things don’t always work out for her but she does the best she can with what she has. Human trafficking is a pretty dark subject but it is handled with a gentle touch in this book. It is a good introduction of the subject to kids who have probably not heard about it before. I like the fact that the case wasn’t solved like magic but through investigation and determination. Tell Me is a good read and another winner for Bauer.
Theodora Tenpenny is not having a good summer. Her grandfather Jack died in a freak accident and she is left caring for her reclusive mother and their aging house. When Jack was alive they were just scraping by with his salary from the Museum of Modern Art, but now they have no income and very little left to live on. She makes due with food from her garden and treasures she finds around New York. Jack was an artist and when he died told Theo to look for a treasure under the egg. Their is a painting of an egg in the house and Theo is obsessed with finding the treasure. One day she spills alcohol on the painting and finds another painting underneath. This painting looks old and probably stolen. Theo spends the rest of the summer trying to figure out if the painting is really a lost Raphael and how Jack ended up with it. She finds help throughout the city from a variety of people including the daughter of two actors, a priest, a fun librarian, and a guy selling nuts on the street. Turns out the painting has an amazing back story.
I have become kind of obsessed with the Nazi art looting of Europe and the Monuments Men story in the last year or so. This book really brought that obsession to life in a wonderful middle grade novel. I loved Theo and her determination and resilience. She is a fabulous character who is stuck at the beginning of the novel. Throughout the book she becomes more and more unstuck as she meets wonderful, helpful people around the city and realizes she is not alone. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact that the mystery of the painting was believable. So many mysteries for kids take a huge leap of faith on the part of the reader and this one did not. Sure there was a huge coincidence at the end, but the rest of it made sense. I highly recommend this one. Loved it!
Masha and Sunny are back in their second adventure. This time it is a trip to the science fair where it turns out Masha is Sunny’s project. The project involves red dye exploding all over Masha and observing how people treat her once she looks different. Masha of course is not happy about this at all. The day ends up with Masha sneaking through the school and meeting Batman and Robin, Masha and Sunny taking the wrong bus home and ending up at a graveyard, Masha getting lost in the graveyard and falling into an open grave, and of course Sunny winning the science fair. I really enjoy these stories. While you do have to suspend a bit of belief to believe a six-year-old could accomplish everything Sunny does the interaction between Masha and Sunny are very true to life. Little sisters can be annoying but you do love and support them…even if they spray you with red dye!
Susan Marcus is leaving New York and heading to St. Louis, Missouri. It is 1943 and the family is moving so her dad can start a new job. Living in St. Louis is much different than New York. Susan has a hard time accepting the Jim Crow laws of Missouri. She doesn’t like the fact that her new friend Loretta can’t go to the movies, the swimming pool or to restaurants just because she is black. Susan, Loretta and Marlene concoct a plan to fight Jim Crow when they realize that public transportation is not segregated.
I like the fact that this book is set in Missouri and it was interesting to read about the Jim Crow laws that affected this state. Most historical fiction dealing with this time period is set in the South not the Midwest so this is a new and different perspective. I think Susan’s confusion over the difference between New York and St. Louis came off completely realistic. I am sure there were a lot of kids who didn’t really see color if they didn’t grow up being told to notice it. It is a nice message for kids today. However, I did have a couple of issues with this book. There is a lot packed into this very short novel, yet strangely not enough. A lot of the book is taken up with the Jim Crow laws and the issues facing people who are not white. Very little is actually mentioned about the war and the rationing and how this affects every day life. There are a few instances, but you would have thought it would have more of an impact on the characters. I also truly hate the cover of this book and think it will turn kids off. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but we all do and this one looks too old fashioned for kids today.
This is a very nice beginning chapter book that teaches kids about Eastern philosophy without them even really knowing it. Isabel is the best bunjitsu bunny and each chapter of this little book teaches a different lesson. While each chapter is about Isabel they are all independent stories and don’t need to be read in order. Isabel is a wise bunny who shares many lessons she has learned through bunjitsu with the readers and the other characters in the book. It is a nice lesson on sharing and thinking of others and doing your best. Lots of white space and illustrations and short chapters so even the youngest readers can handle this one.
Ashara is a place ruled by magic. The powerful kasiri wield the magic and have all the power. The magicless halani are relegated to subservient positions and living in slums. Marah Levi is a 14 year old halani girl who dreams of a better life. She wants to study music in secondary school, but she also has a passion for books and languages. It is through her love of obscure languages that she meets Azariah a kasiri boy who also enjoys languages. Together they start exploring ancient books in a forgotten language. All the while a plague starts ravaging their city. The plague turns people’s eyes black and kills them. So far no cure has been found and the powerful kasiri government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Marah and Azariah stumble upon the cure and the cause of the plague in the book they are studying. Together they set out to create the cure and save those they love.
This is an interesting book. Because it is set in another land with magic it is able to make quite a few comments on racism and elitist governments. It is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade book. The kasiri are the minority in Ashara, but wield all the power over the halani. Anytime the halani try to stand up for themselves they are labeled subversive and either killed or sent to prison. It is very reminiscent of some places and periods of history in our own world. I enjoyed the story and the quest Marah and Azariah take in order to figure out the cure for the black eyes plague but at times I felt the story almost took a backseat to the political/social commentary. I am sure a lot of that message will go over the heads of the intended readers so I wish the story would have been just a bit stronger.
This is the third book in the Time Warp Trio series. While enjoying a western on television, Fred, Joe, and Sam are transported back to the old west after reciting a spell. Based on knowledge from their previous time travel adventures, they know the only way they can get back to current day is by locating their magical book in the Wild West. They have some close calls with a flood, stampedes, and almost get scalped! They manage to survive by finding the book and using a Time Freezer spell to get themselves out of a dangerous situation and back to the present day.
I don’t read many juvenile books but I thought this was cute and had good illustrations.
Mike is always getting in trouble, not because he is a bad kid but because he just can’t sit still. The first week of school he is sent to the principal’s office twice! He and new girl Nora have to spend every afternoon together this year too. Nora is smart and good at everything. One day they find The White Rabbit magic shop and Mike discovers he is good at something too. Mr. Zerlin challenges Mike and Nora to a riddle and only Mike can figure it out. Mr. Zerlin teaches Mike a magic trick. Soon Mike is learning tricks on his own and doing great. He still isn’t doing that well at school, but the magic gives him the strength to stand up to bully Jackson.
This is a fun book that I am sure kids will enjoy whether they like magic or not. I do wish there was a bit more resolution to the story though. It seems to end abruptly which I guess is to get the reader interested in the next book in the series. I also think Mike’s problems could have been handled better by his parents. They are present during the book but don’t seem to take a lot of interest in Mike. It does have a good message about finding what you are good at and standing up to bullies.
Esther’s mom is extremely superstitious. Any little thing can be bad or good luck. Esther never knows when she is going to do something wrong and it seems like her mom doesn’t love her like she does the other kids or like other moms love their kids. Esther never gets hugs and kisses or “I love yous”. She is always trying to think of ways to earn her mom’s love. It is the height of the Depression and things are not looking good in Chicago. When Esther’s dad loses his job, the family decides to buy a farm in Wisconsin and start over. Esther loves the farm and all the animals. She has made a new friend and likes the community. However, her new friend has a mole on her face which to Esther’s mom means she has been marked. She tells Esther they can’t be friends anymore. Esther can’t obey her mom in this as Bethany is her best friend and so very nice. Esther wonders if her mom could be wrong for once about the signs.
This is a nice story about a girl living in the 1930s depression. I liked the story of surviving on less and learning to appreciate what you have. I think the heart of the story is really Esther trying to understand her mom and learning to live with the restrictions her mom’s superstitions place on the family. It is a gentle and slower story than many that are written today; more heart than action.
Only a child can find the way to bring Saint George back to the play.
The Boy works for the Magician, and he wants more than anything to learn magic. But the Magician always says, “Not yet, Boy. Not till the time is right.” So the Boy has to be content with polishing the Magician’s wand, taking care of the rabbits the Magician pulls out of hats, and doing his favorite job: operating the puppets for the play Saint George and the Dragon, which the Magician always performs as part of his act.
Until one day the Saint George puppet disappears, and the angry Magician hurls the Boy into the strange Land of Story to find Saint George. His quest is full of adventures with oddly familiar people, from the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe to the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever.