By Allen Dean Foster
Age Range: 9 – 15 years
Paperback: 354 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media Teen & Tween (February 16, 2016)
It came to my attention recently that my post about this fantastic new upper middle grade-young adult fantasy fiction book had not been received. To which I apologize! Both the head librarian and I agree that more books using great vocabulary, enchanting stories, and frankly a lack of romance need to be written. This marvelously imaginative tale written by a perennial favorite science fiction / fantasy author of mine showed up about two months ago on Netgalley. I was excited to read it, and I sat in our school chortling at clever turns of phrase, and fun action that managed to capture a fantastical quest but maintain a youthful exuberance I find lacking in a lot of this genre. I mean the kissing frog scene, or the snack cart where you tell the owner what you Wish to eat… Fantastic 🙂
Our heroes are a group of siblings three 12 year old young ladies, N/ice, Rose, and Amber, who are mostly here, and one 16 year old brother Simwan who mostly wishes he wasn’t. They have to use their Magic to recover the Truth that a malevolent Rat stole and took to New York. With them is their guardian/advisor, and overall funny mascot Pithfwid the cat, and assorted other non Ordinary creatures who help or hinder along the way. This is not a terribly deep or epic adventure, but it is a fun romp with a magical family with a backdrop of Ordinary people and Magic (non Ords) set in New England and New York.
I thought this was a wonderful short filled with funny characters with baffling to pronounce names. It isn’t a hard read, but it is one that most of the target age is going to enjoy. The best part is it is not a gender specific tale. The three sisters do tend to run together in my mind (apart from the sometimes here N/Ice) but I loved Simwan’ love hate relationship and fierce protective instinct for his sisters. In short I think our students would love this.
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for allowing me the chance to read this. This is a Netgalley eBook review.
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 5, 2016)
I am torn in this book. On the one hand it is a good solid second installment in an interesting steam-punk fantasy filled with magical robots, mythical creatures and a great bad guy. On the other hand some of the same problems I had with the first story are still here. Mr Grim is hard to relate to and our main character Grubb is as well. In fact the best characters are the supporting ones. Warrior Banshies, ninjas, spoilt faries and mad witches. The main character is a boy, but the strong female characters almost steal the story. The novel has an ever expanding cast of characters that collect a bit like the Oddita.
This story can drag a little and was hard for me to finish, which worries me about many of my younger readers. However, once I reached about the half-way mark the action picked up and it was interesting. This story wasn’t a hard read, and it is age appropriate in Lexile level, but it just didn’t grab me.
If someone asked for the second book we will buy it, but series are tricky things. They take up a lot of space on our shelves and unless it is wildly popular we tend not to carry many long running series preferring great stories that stand alone.
Parental Note: while the blood and gore is relatively ‘off screen’ Alistair takes on a bit of a darker role in this novel. He is Grubbs father and role model, but he does not make a very good one. In fact I wonder if Grubb is in more danger from Alastair than our Dark Prince. Some of that is explored, but given how abusive Grubbs childhood was, I kind of want better options for Grubb (and seriously, can he get a different name?)
The Blood Guard
By Carter Roy
Two Lions (June 9, 2015)
279 pgs (paperback)
What a fun adventure novel. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.
Ok, in the rush to get kids back into the swing of school I have fallen a bit behind in reviewing books, but when an announcement for book two of this series arrived in my inbox I decided I needed to read book one first. Fortunately it was available. So, downloaded and read it this afternoon, and what a fun story.
Evelyn is a boy without much free time. His Mom has him scheduled for every sort of class imaginable from frisbee to gymnastics to fencing classes. But when she shows up after school and guns their little car across the city, Evelyn is thrown into a world of kidnapped people, mad scientists, secret societies, sword fights, and a battle between the forces of good and evil. He will pick up several companions along the way in a race to DC to save his family.
This is a good solid adventure novel with a twist of magic and a whole lot of car chases. While the story can get a bit twisted in on itself and there are some gruesome moments, in a turn much like in George of the jungle “no one gets hurt, they just get really bad boo boos”. This is a great Junior Fiction novel appropriate for middle graders of the action adventure bent. I was not all together thrilled with the female character, but then I never liked over zealous rule enforcers. This novel should appeal to both boys and girls equally.
Parental Note: there are a lot actions by the characters which should cause catastrophic consequences if real world physics is applied. Treat this novel as a fantasy and you should be fine. There are several scenes that were gruesome until you realize many of the adults are immortal. The book does sort of hit the reader with death right at the beginning, even if it takes it back later and introduces the hilarious addition of trying to duct tape a head back on a body so it can grow back together. It is part of a series so expect a lot of world building and an open ended finale that leaves many questions unanswered.
A Curious Tale of the In-between
By Lauren DeStefano
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 1, 2015)
I received this book for free in return for an honest review from Bloomsbury via Netgalley. This is a good spooky, somewhat fanciful tale about a young girl who can talk to ghosts. Pram, our hero, is a young girl who came into the world in a most tragic way. She is raised by two aunts who run a nursing home at some time in the early turn of the century. She gets along fine playing games with the elderly residents and her ghostly friend by the lake. When social services decide Pram shouldn’t be homeschooled anymore she is forced to go to school and interact with children her own age. She befriends another lonely boy named Clarence. Together they take on a mysterious fortune teller in an effort to find the parents they both lost. And in the end discover their true worth.
There is a lot that is good about this story, and I did love the atmosphere of the tale. And the characters are marvelous. Interactions between Pram and the residents of the nursing home are charming. I believe that a lot of our kids who love ghost stories will enjoy this book. There are some very adult themes throughout and the story can be slow. About three-quarters of the way through I felt the story lost its way before collecting itself again towards the end, which is why I did not rate this book higher. But overall, a good story, and a fun read.
Parental Note which has some mild spoilers:
Pram’ mother commits suicide while she is pregnant with Pram, and that is how the story begins. It is a rough beginning for a junior fiction story, and depression and its effects run through this whole book. It is not a very cheerful or happy tale and I would not offer this to anyone who has lost a family member to suicide, or deals with severe depression. There are better books out there that discuss depression and suicide. And it is a rather grim tale, despite the “everything works out in the end” resolution. I am ok with tragedy, I am even ok with suicide in a children’ novel, but for a fantasy novel aimed at 3rd to 7th graders, I am worried that it starts with that and does not resolve the elephant in the room until the very end. There is a lot of death and end of life talk as well. So be aware of that.