Eric Carle's Dream Snow
Olive The Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold
I'm tempted to buy them all!
You can also find some really interesting points about the themes and main conflicts of the novel here.
I love Robin McKinley's fairytale adaptations (as far as I'm concerned, Beauty is a must read and the Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword deserved the recognition that they got), so I was willing to read Dragonhaven, even though it did not sound like my kind of a book. I mean, a novel about dragons in a contemporary world, no thanks, but if anyone could pull it off, it would be Robin McKinley. Unfortunately, it lacked the magical sense that captivated me in McKinley's other novels. I kept waiting to get into the story, but I never did.
14 year-old Jake grows up the son of the head of a national park designed to protect two hundred of the world's remaining dragons. On his first solo hike through the park, Jake finds a dying dragon, next to the poacher who fatally wounded her and was torched to death by the dragon in return. Even more shocking, the dragon had just given birth and only one of her dragonlets was left alive. It was clear to Jake that the dragonlet wouldn't last much longer on its own so he took it into his care even though it's a felony to help save a dragon. Jake's mother died when he was twelve so he sympathizes with the dragonlet and can't bear to let it die. He struggles home and begins the dangerous process of trying to raise a dragon, which he has to keep secret from the tourists visiting the park. The death of the poacher brought an uproar from the public against the dragons and Jake knows that if he's discovered, the park would be shut down.
It sounds exciting when you read it in one paragraph, but try 342 pages and then tell me what you think. It would have been so much better if it had been edited into a shorter novel.
It seems odd that this books is classified as a children's book at all. Jake's young in the beginning, but he's 25 at the end of the book. The last third of the novel takes place much later and seems incongruent with the rest of the story. There's a lot of language and some references to sex that surprised me. Jake is clearly an adult dealing with adult issues like whether or not he should have kids, and I don't think many kids would feel any connection to his problems.
I have much higher hopes for Chalice, McKinley's new novel just released this month. It sounds more in line with The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, and is already receiving rave reviews.
Mibs Beaumont anxiously awaits her 13th birthday because in the Beaumont family, that's when your savvy strikes. Her brother fish caused a hurricane on his 13th birthday, which was why they had to move to Kansaska/Nebrasas (the border between Kansas and Nebraska) while Fish learned to "scumble" (control) his power over water and the weather and Mibs' brother Rocket learned to scumble his electric current savvy.
There are all sort of savvies; Mibs Grandpa creates land and ended up creating Idaho on his 13th birthday. Her mom's savvy was being perfect. Some people had a small savvy that they weren't even aware of so they could do things like make the best jam or never get splashed by mud. Mibs hoped her savvy would be something cool like x-ray vision or the gift of flight until her dad gets in an awful car accident and ends up in the hospital in a comma.
The morning of her birthday Mibs starts the day sure that her savvy is something that will wake her papa up and save his life, if only she could get to the hospital a few hours drive away. Unfortunately, Miss Rosemary, the preacher's wife left in charge of the Beaumont children while oldest brother Rocket and their Mother are at the hospital, has other plans. She drags Mibs to a makeshift party at the church, where all of Mibs despised classmates are forced to attend.
When Mibs spots that the pink-bible salesman's bus at the church is from the same town she's trying to get to, she decides it's fate and sneaks aboard, followed by the preacher's son, Will Junior, who supports her crazy idea; Rocket, who feels responsible for Mibs; and Will's sister Bobbi who doesn't want to miss out on any trouble caused; along with Mibs younger brother Samson who was hiding on the bus.
By the time the bus driver discovers the kids, he decides he cannot turn back and still make his deliveries, so he heads on, IN THE WRONG DIRECTION! It turns out Mibs and her travel companions are in for much more of an adventure than they bargained for.
Truthfully, the storyline about the magical savvies didn't really appeal to me much, but I picked up Savvy anyway based on others' recommendations, and Ingrid Law's writing just reeled me in. Her characters were wacky, but their relationships with each other seemed powerful and real and I worried about what would happen to each of them.
Ingrid Law said, "When I started Savvy, I wanted to create a different kind of magic—one that called to mind the feel of a modern American tall-tale. I wanted to break away from the traditional tales about magic and find roots in the soil around me. What would magic look like if it sprang up in the small towns of America? And what in the world would it be called if I didn't want to call that distinctive know-how magic?"
I wouldn't quite call Savvy a tall-tale, but I could see the Beaumont family in a tall-tale of their own. It turns out that Ingrid actually did write a tall-tale explaining how the Beaumont family got their savvy and you can read it here.
The official Savvy website also provides a link to a teacher's guide to Savvy with some great discussion questions like:
The movie is slated for 2011 so we're sure to be hearing more about Savvy from Walden Media.
Two simple ideas, but hopefully that will get you thinking about your own book collections.
With a title like Princess Ben, you might expect this story to be about a tomboy sort of princess, but it's not. Ben is just short for Princess Benevolence, but Ben is highly unusual in other ways. Her parents shielded her from court life and training as a princess and allowed her to have a simple childhood (that was maybe just a little too relaxed). After eating herself sick and catching a chill at her fifteenth birthday party, Ben is forced to stay home during the ceremonial, semi-annual visit to her grandfathers grave. Her parents and her uncle, the King of Montagne, carry on without her.
That evening, she receives terrible news that her mother and uncle were murdered at the grave and her Father has gone missing. After extensive searches, her Father cannot be found and Ben is left as a charge of her Aunt Sofia, the Queen of Montagne. Sofia has never approved of Ben's upbringing and immediately puts Ben on a strict diet to counteract her chubby frame and forces her to begin new lessons on being proper royalty as Ben is now officially set to inherit the throne as soon as she is deemed worthy.
Queen Sofia is cold and makes it very clear that she thinks little of Ben and would happily marry her off. When she discovers that Ben has been sneaking food behind her back in order not starve, she forces Ben to live in a small inhospitable tower that can only be reached through the Queen's chambers. Ben is truly miserable until she discovers a magic chamber with a spell book and beings magical training. Soon she's sneaking about the castle through secret passages by night and snoozing through her lessons by day.
Ben pays little attention to the fact that her kingdom is being threatened by a neighboring kingdom Drachensbett, until she learns that her aunt hopes to create peace by marrying her off to the prince of Drachensbett. The plan quickly goes awry when the prince dislikes sulky Ben and the king of Drachensbett declares Ben will never be fit to be queen and the kingdom should be turned over to him. Ben is left desperate for a way to help save her kingdom.
The story is told first person and I enjoyed Ben's narrative voice. I did have a few problem with the book, the first being that this is another one of those books where the princess is transformed into a much thinner beauty before she is accepted by all and happy with herself. The second is that magic plays a large part of Ben's life and is completely left behind and it doesn't seem to be a sacrifice for her.
Overall, I'd still highly recommend this book. It especially appealed to me because it's a fairytale where no one is all good or bad, we see faults and strengths of all of the well-developed characters. And rare is the princess story where the Princess realizes that much of her predicament is due to her own foibles, and she has to fix them herself. Be sure to share this one with any princess lover that you know!
From the publisher:
A terrible storm is raging, and ten-year-old Dinah is huddled by candlelight with her brother, sister, and cousin Gage, who is telling a very unusual tale. It’s the story of What-the-Dickens, a newly hatched orphan creature who finds he has an attraction to teeth, a crush on a cat named McCavity, and a penchant for getting into trouble. One day he happens upon a feisty girl skibberee who is working as an Agent of Change — trading coins for teeth — and learns that there is a dutiful tribe of skibbereen (call them tooth fairies) to which he hopes to belong. As his tale of discovery unfolds, however, both What-the-Dickens and Dinah come to see that the world is both richer and less sure than they ever imagined.
This books has me baffled. The story-within-the story about What-The-Dickens, the rogue tooth fairy, is more or less what I would expect from Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked; an imaginative interpretation of the tooth fairy (or fairies in this case) like we've never heard before. I have a few issues with it, which you'll her more about, but overall, the tooth fairy part of the novel I can handle. The realistic fiction part of the story has me so confused. Maguire goes out of his way to make readers aware that Dinah's parents are religious fanatics. From the first page we read:
"They kept themselves apart — literally. The Ormsbys sequestered themselves in a scrappy bungalow perched at the uphill end of the canyon, where the unpaved county road petered out into ridge rubble and scrub pine.
The Ormsbys weren’t rural castaways nor survivalists — nothing like that. They were trying the experiment of living by gospel standards, and they hoped to be surer of their faith tomorrow than they’d been yesterday.
A decent task and, around here, a lonely one. The Ormsby family made its home a citadel against the alluring nearby world of the Internet, the malls, the cable networks, and other such temptations.
The Ormsby parents called these attractions slick. They sighed and worried: dangerous. They feared cunning snares and delusions. Dinah Ormsby wished she could study such matters close-up and decide for herself.
Dinah and her big brother, Zeke, were homeschooled. This, they were frequently reminded, kept them safe, made them strong, and preserved their goodness. . . From the Ormsby’s bunker, high above the threat of contamination by modern life, [Dinah] could still love the world."
The books continues to make references to their zealous behavior, but in the end, it never plays into the story or comes to any end. And if the parents sequestered their family away from society, wouldn't you expect them to have supplies stockpiled? How did the children get left with an inept babysitter with only two jars of carrot baby food and a can of tuna fish in their whole home?
And I'm not sure what to make of the major storm that seems to have destroyed much of the United States? I guess it gives Gage plenty of time to tell What-The-Dickens' story to his charges, but couldn't that have been framed some other way if the storm seemed to have no other purpose in the story and hasn't even come to an end, by the novel's close?
And as long as I'm venting, at one point our story is interrupted by police officers/rescue workers who reiterate that it is not safe for the children to be at home and force them to evacuate to a shelter and Gage condones Dinah and Zeke's sneaky way of disobeying in order to remain in their dangerous home. Why? Seriously, why? There are never any consequences for their lies and they didn't bring any news about their parents. Why didn't Maguire just leave that out? The whole family story just doesn't make any sense to me.
Now as for What-the-Dickens' story, it starts out very slow. I wasn't surprised to read many reviews that said it was dull and they wanted to quit reading as What-the-Dickens dithers around trying to figure out what he is and what he should do. The story really picks up once he meets Pepper, and the Skibbereen society was fascinating. Again I felt like the plot failed me when the many problems with the Skibbereen society are revealed and none of them are resolved or even openly objected to (for example only senior members are deemed worthy of receiving a name, everyone bluntly tells What-the-Dickens he's a worthless idiot and feel free to mock Pepper liberally, and the leader of Pepper's colony is a bully).
All in all, it was a confusing read that I think most children will struggle to get into until about mid-novel.
Wow, the people at Harper Teen are doing their jobs because I cannot think of a more appropriate title for this book than Wicked Lovely.
High Schooler, Aislinn, has been keeping a secret her entire life. Just like her mom and her grandmother, she can see and hear faeries; magical beings the same size as humans who roam the Earth wreaking havoc unbeknownst to us. Aislinn fears what would happen to her if the secretive faeries knew she could see them so she panics when two faeries begin following her. She soon learns that one of her stalkers is Keenan the Summer King. He's convinced that Aislinn is his queen and will stop at nothing to convince her to join him
Aislinn finds solice in her best friend Seth's home. As her fear grows, she finally decides to trust in Seth's friendship and confide in him. Together they try to find a way to save Aislinn from the faeries.
Now let's be blunt, there are way too many references to sex, drinking, and drugs for me to ever recommend this to a teenager without fearing their parents might come after me, and yet, I could not stop reading! I could not relate to Aislinn because I found nothing about tattooed, pierced, sexually active Seth sexy. I mean really, it's supposed to be a romantic gesture that he went out and got tested for STDs just in case their relationship ever lead to anything (what about all of the other girls)? I know, I'm getting preachy and that's why I don't do much YA lit these days.
I thought the faery side of the story wouldn't appeal to me, but that's exactly what pulled me in. There was something Twilightesque about the way Marr changed all the beliefs I had about the faery world and made me care so much about what happened to them. There are actually A LOT of Twilight parallels here (the mythical creatures explained in a fresh way, the way our heroine should be threatened by the mythical creatures but becomes comfortable around them, the polar opposite boys dueling for our heroine's affection, the debate whether our heroine should become one of the mythical creatures . . .).
While it was sort of a guilty pleasure for me and not the sort of book I would normally recommend, Twilight fans looking for something new will enjoy this book and beg Marr for a sequel.