Siblings Zander, Kit and M.K. West have been on their own ever since their dad died while on an expedition. Their father was the famous explorer Alexander West with the Expedition Society. He was a map maker who helped map many of the New Lands when they were discovered. The New Lands opened up new resources for a world that had run out. People are no longer dependent on technology but have reverted to steam machines again. The Bureau of Newly Discovered Lands controls all the expeditions to and the wealth from the New Lands. They cleaned out the West house when the dad died and have been watching the kids. One day in the market Kit is handed a book from another explorer from his dad. He is told to keep it secret and it is a good thing because BNDL is at the house when he returns looking for it. The map is half a map to Drowned Man’s Canyon and a hidden treasure in gold. The kids head to Arizona to discover why their dad left them the map. They are helped along the way by another child of an explorer. They are followed by BNDL who wants to get their hands on the treasure. What they discover will change how they think of the world and their father.
This was a fun steampunk adventure story. I enjoyed the fact that it was all about maps and figuring out how to read them. Kit is the map expert in the group. Zander as the oldest likes to think he is the leader, but it is more Kit’s show than anything. M.K. was a delight; a tough girl who loves machines and tinkering with them. Their friend Sukey is a pilot and helps them escape the BNDL. I like the thought of undiscovered lands in our world but am not really sure how that would work. In the book it is because the Mueller Machines controlled the maps and they just didn’t show these lands, but you do wander how no one really noticed them. There is a lot of mystery about the dad and what he was really up to and whether he was part of a secret society of mapmakers. There is a lot of adventure as the kids make their way across the country pursued by BNDL and as they follow the map to the treasure. This is the beginning of a series so the ending leaves the story open for further adventures.
Sand has a fight with his father so he runs away and makes an offering at a shrine. The next thing he knows he is waking up in the sundered castle. Thirty years ago something happened at the castle that caused everything from the walls to the last apple to split. The castle was then surrounded by an impenetrable wall of thorns. Sand has no idea how he got in the castle, but once there he decides to use his skills as a blacksmith to start fixing things. He fixes everything from doors to buckets to spoons. He even puts things back to rights in the crypt beneath the chapel. Sand spends weeks alone in the castle working and trying to find enough food to get by. Then a girl appears; she is the same girl he put to rights in the crypt. Seems that Perrotte has been mended as well. She was once the daughter of the castle before she was murdered by her stepmother. Once Perrotte and Sand get past their surprise at the new circumstances, Perrotte helps Sand with the mending of the castle. They notice that the more they mend the lower the wall of thorns becomes. They are determined to find a way out of the castle and back to their lives.
This is a magical fairy tale with a twist. I really enjoyed Sand and Perrotte and how their relationship develops. Perrotte goes from being a snobby lady who looks down on humble Sand, to a warm human being who considers Sand her best friend and protector. I liked the discovery of Sand’s magic and why it came to be. I also enjoyed Perrotte’s tragic story of her past and how she came back to life. The one thing I thought was rushed was the ending though. We spend the majority of the book in the castle with Sand and Perrotte as they are working together and rebuilding the castle. Then in the last few chapters Perrotte’s stepmother comes with her army; then a peace is established; then they leave the castle. It is all very hurried and didn’t seem to fit the pace of the rest of the book. But as this is a fairy tale everyone lives happily ever after and all is well.
Tobias and Charlotte play one too many tricks on their nanny which causes their father to have to take action. He dumps them in front of Witherwood Reform School and leaves them. Witherwood is not like other schools. They seem to already know who Tobias and Charlotte are and there are many mysteries surrounding the school including its staff and students. It was built on top a mesa that was created by a meteor impact. The school has dangerous guardians on the grounds who attack intruders. The head of the school Mr. Withers has a hypnotic voice that causes the students to accept their place at the school with joy and contentment. Tobias and Charlotte want nothing more than to leave the evil school, but are soon under its spell like the other students.
This is a quirky, quirky book. Tobias and Charlotte seem like normal kids but they find themselves in anything but normal situations. Everything just keeps getting stranger and stranger the more you read of this book. This is the beginning of a series and the book reads more like a set up for that series than a series opener. There is no resolution of any kind at the end of the book and the reader is left with way more questions about what is going on then they like. Witherwood is bizarre to say the least and we don’t find out why or what purpose it is serving. I think my enjoyment of the book dipped a lot when I realized there was no good ending. The kids are in much the same position they were at the beginning of the book. I wanted more answers and don’t like the fact that I will have to wait until the next book to get them. Not sure I am interested enough to wait however.
I received this book from Netgalley.
The Boon family is moving yet again. The father has decided they are going to start making cigars and moves the family to the country. The house is a ramshackle place with the front door in the back and no porch. There is a lot of room for the big family though and the girls christen it Nine Open Arms for how wide the place is. Sisters Fing, Muulke and Jess love having their own room and not sharing with their four brothers, grandmother and father, but they don’t like that there is no running water or that there appears to be a tombstone in the cellar. They also live right across the road from the cemetery where they get their water. While their father and brothers are trying to figure out the cigar business, the girls are trying to discover the secrets of Nine Open Arms.
The story goes between the Boon family in the 1930s and the story of Nienevee and Charley Bottletop in the 1860s. The family learns about the story of the house from Oma Mei and her crocodile, a suitcase filled with pictures from which Oma Mei tells her stories. This book is translated from the Dutch original and for the most part the translation works rather well. I loved the quirkiness of the story and the timeless feel of it. I don’t think this is a book that every reader will appreciate though. I am not sure if it is the story itself or the fact that it was originally written in another language for another culture, but there were things that didn’t always come through how I imagine the author intended. Of course, since he wasn’t writing for an American reader, it might be exactly how he intended. There was just something so charming about this story that I really enjoyed even if there were hiccups in the telling of it.
This book in the series weaves the three sibling dragons more closely together. Auron accepts a “protectorate” within Naff’s kingdom. Wistala acts as queen consort, since Nilrasha lost her wings (in battle in the previous book). There is far more politics in this book than in the others (which I personally do not enjoy). Plus ome of the political machinations left me
grousing for example “come on, its obvious who tried to assassinate you!!” The ending is a little bleaker than other volumes – to be fair, this title has been described as a bridge book.
The best part of the book was the minor twist at the very end of the book.
Birdie is the bogler’s apprentice. She helps Alfred the bogler by luring bogles out into the open with her singing and then Alfred kills them. Bogles are monsters who like to eat children so it takes a child to lure them out. Alfred and Birdie help all kinds of people throughout Victorian London. Birdie loves what she does even if she is sometimes afraid. Alfred and Birdie don’t have a lot but they have a room and food and each other. One day they are hired by Mrs. Eames who wants to learn more about bogles. She is a scholar and is appalled that Alfred puts Birdie’s life in danger. She keeps sticking her nose in and offering all kinds of suggestions on their work. Birdie and Alfred don’t really appreciate her help until they discover Dr. Morton. Dr. Morton wants to summon bogles and gain control over them. He has been sacrificing children to obtain his demon bogle. When our heroes interfere in his plans he comes after them. Birdie, Alfred, Mrs. Eames and their friends must work together to stop the evil Dr. Morton.
I really enjoyed this book, but I am not sure I will read the rest of the series. I liked the uniqueness of the story and the characters. Birdie and Alfred were fantastic. Victorian London is sometimes a hard sell with young readers and there is a bit of vocabulary in this book that could be challenging to that age group. However, if they stick with it I think they will enjoy it.
Time has stopped in Anorev. Everyone is either a robot or a child; there are no adults. There is no night or bedtime or chores or anything one would expect. Then 312 Dapper Men descend from the sky. They are here to set things right and to restart time. One of the Dapper Men enlists the help of a boy named Ayden and a robot girl named Zoe. They need to do something with the robot angel in the harbor in order to make things they way they should be. I actually wanted more from this story than I got. There isn’t a lot of explanation as to why time stopped, what happened to the adults, who the Dapper Men are, etc. The story itself is pretty sparse. The artwork is gorgeous however. It brings life to the story where the words do not. This is an interesting steampunk fairy tale fantasy but just needed a bit more.
In the walled, dystopian city-state of Quill, each year brings the Purge, when children turning thirteen are sorted into two groups. The Wanteds are allowed to stay in Quill, and continue training at the university. The Unwanteds, those displaying any sort of artistic creativity, are taken from Quill to the Lake of Boiling Oil, as a death sentence for their transgressions. When Alex Stowe is taken with other Unwanteds to their fate, they instead discover their salvation- the Lake of Boiling Oil is a front for Artime, a magic refuge and school, where the artistic talents of the Unwanteds become spells capable of amazing things, including the inevitable defense of Artime when the High Priest Justine of Quill discovers the ruse.
At first, the similarities to Harry Potter were distracting, and I found some of the magical artistic powers and creatures to be a bit silly. As the story progressed, though, I was drawn in a little more with each chapter. By the end, I was enjoying it all, and wanting to continue to the next book. I just needed to keep the intended audience in mind, and let fantasy be wild. This Mark Twain Award winner is a great beginning for a creative series.
GiGi (Galileo Galilei) and her big sister DiDi (Delta Dawn) have moved from South Carolina to Long Island after DiDi won a million dollars. Their mom died when GiGi was a baby and DiDi has been taking care of her. She doesn’t want GiGi to be like her, never finishing school and a hairdresser, so she pushes GiGi to do well in school and has enrolled her in a prestigious prep school. GiGi decides this is the perfect time to reinvent herself so she changes her name to Leia and decides to make friends. She starts out by tripping over cute boy Trip and immediately becomes part of the popular crowd. She also becomes enemies with mean girl Mace. The only thing GiGi and DiDi have from their momma is a recipe book full of very unhealthy recipes. They know she was also Delta Dawn and a hairdresser and that she loved Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow lipstick. This is the story of GiGi’s new life in Long Island, how she discovered who she really is, and how she came to find out what really happened in her past.
This book is full of recipes which might interest some young readers; however, I found I just skipped them whenever they popped up. I would never make any of them so I wasn’t really interested in finding out what was in a twinkie pie. I did like GiGi’s story even if she wasn’t always the most likeable character. Mace is portrayed as the mean girl, but she actually turns out to be fairly nice. GiGi however is horrible to both her sister and Mace throughout the story. The revelations about GiGi’s past aren’t that surprising, but I think kids will find them interesting. This is a book that is going to appeal more to girls than to boys.
I received this book from Netgalley.
This is the fifth and final book in the Joey Pigza series and the first I have read. Joey’s mother is suffering from postpartum depression and decides to check herself into the hospital. She pulls Joey out of school to take care of his baby brother. The dad had plastic surgery that ruined his face, ran off and is now stalking the family and wants to kidnap the baby. Joey’s blind girlfriend Olivia arrives after being suspended from blind school and moves in with Joey and baby Carter. Joey cleans up the roach-infested house, takes care of Carter, does the grocery shopping and is basically the man of the house.
This is a fairly dark book for one aimed at the middle grade reader. Joey has to deal with a lot of things he shouldn’t have to and there is no parental or adult support. I had a hard time believing that he would be able to leave school like he did or that there would be no social services involvement with the family. Both the parents seem like horrible people and truly bad parents. The mom hides Joey’s medication and undercuts his self-esteem at every chance. The dad has basically abandoned the family but wants to start over with the perfect baby. He too is not very nice to Joey. I am not sure how many kids would be able to relate to this story and I am not sure how many fans it will find outside of the Joey Pigza ones. However, I did find there were lots of funny parts to the story and Olivia in particular was a hoot.
Cecily and Jeremy are evacuated to the country with their mother before the London Blitz. They take refuge with their uncle Peregrine in Herron Hall. On the way they adopt an evacuee named May to stay with them for the duration of the war. Fourteen-year-old Jeremy is not happy to be evacuated. He believes he is old enough to contribute to the war and to stay in London with his father. He is angry at being stuck in the country. Twelve-year-old Cecily is a selfish, bossy girl who wants things her way. She wants May to be her pet and follow orders but May has a mind of her own. The girls explore the countryside and discover the ruins of Snow Castle. There are two mysterious boys at the castle who intrigue and frighten the girls by turns. In the evening, Peregrine tells the children the story of a duke who wants to become king and must take care of the two princes in his way.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I think one of my issues was the fact that none of the children were really that likeable. Cecily in particular is completely unlikeable. May was the only one that had a decent personality and she wasn’t that developed. I really enjoyed Uncle Peregrine however and really wanted more of him. As an adult reader, I knew immediately who the story Peregrine tells is about. It is clearly meant to be the story of Richard III and the princes in the tower even though they are never identified by name. I liked the story, but didn’t buy the connection to Snow Castle. I guess as long as the truth is unknown any speculation as to the fate of the princes is valid, but I just felt this was a stretch. I didn’t feel like the two boys at the ruins really added anything to the story and the story could have been just as good if not better without them.
Gilly lives with her family in their shoe. Her father is the shoemaker who invented the glass slipper. But now the princesses have given glass slipper production to the fairies and Gilly’s family isn’t doing so well. She steals things to provide her family with food and the occasional gift. When she is finally caught she is sent to Fairy Tale Reform School (FTRS). FTRS is run by reformed villains like Cinderella’s stepmother, Red Riding Hood’s wolf, Ariel’s sea witch and Snow White’s evil queen. Gilly meets a lot of other fairy tale delinquents at the school and finds that not everything is as reformed as it seems.
I enjoy reading fractured fairy tales and it seems like they are a trend in children’s literature right now. I like the twist of the villains being reformed and trying to reform others in Calonita’s take on the fairy tale world. There were plenty of twists and turns to this story to make it interesting. It is the beginning of a series and opens up a lot of possibilities for future books. The fairy tale world is full of interesting characters and tales and there is no end to the new twists you can come up with.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Corinne lives on an island with her fisherman father. Her mother died when she was a baby. The island is a special one with a forest filled with Jumbies. Jumbies are creatures that can harm you if you come in contact with them. The villagers stay away from the forest and the jumbies and have lived together for many years. One day Corinne ventures into the forest to retrieve a necklace that belonged to her mother and is followed out by Severine. Severine is the queen of the jumbies and it turns out the sister of Corinne’s mother. Severine wants a family and decides she is going to take Corinne and her father. When that doesn’t work out for her she decides to retake the island from the humans. Corinne teams up with her friends to stop Severine and save their home.
The Jumbies is an interesting fairy tale based off island myths. Baptiste used the stories of jumbies from her childhood to craft a modern fairy tale. The jumbies are just scary enough but not too scary to intrigue young readers. The chapters are nice and short and make you want to keep reading. The characters were well developed and interesting. I liked the Severine’s motivations were actually revealed and she wasn’t just a one-dimensional character like so many villains.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
One day in the middle of taking a math test Ava discovers that if she writes out a question her pencil will give her the answer. This is super helpful with the math test so Ava and her friend Sophie experiment to see what else the magic pencil can help them with. This results in some amusing things like who likes who and when boots are going on sale. It also reveals deeper information like the fact that Ava’s mom is sick and her grandpa is going to die. Ava is a really anxious kid who has anxiety about all kinds of things ranging from tests to jazz band tryouts to school field trips to her parents getting divorced. This anxiety keeps her withdrawn and stops her from participating fully in life. With the help of the pencil Ava conquers some of her anxiety and starts coming out of her shell.
I didn’t like this book nearly as much as I have enjoyed Messner’s other books. I’m not sure I really buy the explanation of how the pencil came to be magical in the first place. It seemed a little too convenient. I did really like the interactions with Ava and her grandparents however. I thought all the scenes at the nursing home where her grandpa lived were very touching and sweet. While it doesn’t quite reach the excellence of Capture the Flag, I am sure this book will be a hit with fans of Kate Messner.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
This is a companion book to Elijah of Buxton and takes place several years after the events of that book. Red and Benji are two boys who live around Buxton. Red is an Irish lad who lives with his father and grandmother. Father is a judge and grandmother is a irritable racist who hates pretty much everyone and everything. Benji is a black boy who wants to be a newspaper man. He writes headlines for the big events in his life and even gets an apprenticeship at a newspaper. The two independently meet the Madman of Piney Woods who is a hermit living in the woods. Benji and Red meet about half-way through the book and become friends despite the differences in their backgrounds.
It took me a long time to read this book. It was pretty slow going and I just didn’t find it that interesting. I wanted to like it more. I enjoyed Benji and Red, but found their just wasn’t enough going on in the book to keep me reading. For being the title of the book the Madman didn’t play nearly as big a role as I thought he would. I also wasn’t sure how this tied to Elijah of Buxton except the setting until the very end when Elijah was introduced again. There is a lot of good historical information in this book and as always Curtis’ writing is wonderful. I just wasn’t feeling this book however.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Oh how I hate a cliffhanger! Mainly because I don’t have the next book on hand to immediately start reading. I have wanted to read The Last Wild ever since I heard about it and it did not disappoint.
Kester is a boy who has been taken from his home and imprisoned in Spectrum Hall. He is unable to speak ever since his mom died several years ago. He hasn’t heard from his dad in the six years he has been in Spectrum Hall. Kester’s world is one in which there was a plague that destroyed all the animals and the food of the world. The people of the island where he lives are confined into four cities and the island is controlled by the powerful Factorium. One ordinary day in Spectrum Hall Kester discovers he can hear animals. First it is a cockroach and then pigeons. They break Kester out and take him to the last wild. There he meets the last stag and many other animals that have survived the plague. Unfortunately, they are in danger because the plague has reached the last wild. Their only hope is Kester and finding a cure. Kester sets off with the stag, cockroach, pigeons and a courageous wolf-pup to the city to find his father and a cure. Along the way he is joined by other animals and Polly, who has lived in the quarantine zone with her parents until they disappeared. They are chased by the evil henchmen of the Factorium who wants to destroy all animals no matter if they are sick or not. Kester has to find his courage and his voice in order to succeed.
It isn’t often that you read a book where the main character cannot talk. While Kester can talk to the animals, he is unable to communicate with the people he meets. This leads to some pretty interesting situations. As much as I liked Kester and Polly, it was really the animals who were the stars of this story. There is the only white pigeon who repeats everything the gray pigeons say only in a different order and often with completely different and hilarious meanings. There is the brave wolf-pup who is super courageous and let’s everyone know about his bravery. There is the cockroach named “General” who seems to sleep more than most put still claims to be the leader. There is the mouse who has a dance for every occasion. And finally the majestic stag who saves them time and again. The book is a mix of fantasy and dystopian and road novel mixed with coming of age. I loved every page of it!
The year is 1821, and Celeste is a mouse living a harrowing life at Oakley Plantation in Louisiana. John James Audubon is staying at the home, as well, using it as a base and studio as he hunts and poses birds for his life study paintings. Accompanying the artist is a teenage helper, Joseph. He also is a budding artist, but one with a far gentler approach. Celeste’s growing friendship with the boy provides her with opportunities to explore the world around the plantation, and the chance to meet other animals living there.
Celeste is a gentle, loving protagonist with a skill for weaving baskets. Her adventures are quite short, but seem just about right for the intended middle reader audience. The novel is heavily illustrated with beautiful pencil sketches by the author, and combine well with the narrative. Audubon’s flawed methods are shown for what they are, yet Cole doesn’t diminish the importance of the works of art to the study of birds. Enjoyable.
This is the sequel to Dying to Meet You. An evil idiot, Dick Tater, throws Seymour into an orphanage, I.B.Grumpy into an insane asylum, when he finds that Seymour is being raised without his parents, and that I. B. Grumpy believes in ghosts. He also bans Halloween and has people burn books about ghosts. Maybe, the initial charm has worn off a bit. I liked th
is 2nd book, but Not as much as the first.
Beatrix is left on a tram in Amsterdam when her mother is pulled off by the Nazis. She is taken in by older brothers Hans and Lars who operate the tram. They claim she is their niece and take her into their home. Together with their elderly neighbor Mrs. Vos they risk their lives to protect the little girl. Another neighbor Lieve helps teach Beatrix catechism so she can pass as Catholic. Hans and Lars do their best to make Beatrix a part of their family and love her dearly. The new family survives the deprivations and starvation of the war until they are finally liberated.
There is something about holocaust stories that always tug at my heart. This is a wonderful little story about two brothers who saved a young girl. I loved the humor of the two old bachelors trying to figure out how to handle having a little girl in their midst. Mrs. Vos was an awesome character as well, full of take-charge attitude and good sense. This book would serve as a good introduction to the deprivations suffered during war. The horrible things that happened are hinted at but not explicitly shown. War is horrible and that comes through loud and clear without a lot of terrible details that might scare young readers.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Molly and Kip are headed to their deaths. At least that is what everyone keeps telling them. They have taken a job at the Windsor estate in the “sour woods”. It is a place the locals refuse to enter and has a bad history. But Molly and Kip are desperate. They had to flee Ireland because of the potato famine and their parents are no longer with them. They are not prepared for what the find at Windsor. It is an island with a big creepy house with a dark tree growing beside and into it. The Windsor family looks worn down and everything in the house has a sickly air about it. Soon they discover the reason. The mysterious Night Gardener, who cares for the tree, enters the house every night and visits the sleepers. He collects their nightmares to feed to the tree. It also turns out the tree has the power to grant your heart’s desire. The payment is only a little bit of your soul. Molly soon becomes bound to the tree as much as the Windsors. Her heart’s desire? Letters from her parents. Seems Molly hasn’t told Kip the truth about what happened to them and doesn’t want to accept the truth herself. She has been making up stories about their travels and the letters help her continue the deception. Before too long they realize that more than their health and souls are in danger from the Night Gardener. It seems he eventually needs more to feed the tree. They have to find a way to escape his clutches and perhaps save the Windsor family too.
This book was super creepy. So creepy I wanted to turn away from it at times, but really couldn’t put it down. I love the concept of the Night Gardener who collects the sweat of your nightmares to water the tree that gives you your heart’s desire. The question of whether what you wish for is really what you need is an interesting one and plays out so very well. I also loved the whole bit about the difference between stories and lies. Molly is a wonderful storyteller and the kids meet the local storyteller Hester on their travels to the estate. The conclusion they come to is that stories give you the courage to face things whereas lies help you hide from them. There is so much to love about this book and I can’t recommend it more. I loved it!