Jake and Lily Wambold are twins so inseparable that they can read each other’s thoughts. They can’t play hide and seek, because they always know whereJake and Lily Wambold are twins so inseparable that they can read each other’s thoughts. They can’t play hide and seek, because they always know where to find each other. But the summer they turn twelve, things begin to change. Jake makes some new friends and Lily feels abandoned and lost without her brother. At first she reacts in anger, but then her Poppy inspires her to find her ‘just Lily’ life. As Lily finds her own life, she learns more about herself and others. Jake, through his experiences on his own, learns about himself as well.
Told from the journal writings of both twins, Jake and Lily is a wonderful story of finding yourself and where you belong. Although the focus is on twins, it echoes the feelings most kids face through the tween years. With both a male and female protagonist, it is a perfect for tween boys and tween girls. Jake and Lily are likeable characters with believable experiences. Their story teaches the importance of relying on your family as well as yourself. ...more
Esperanza enjoys an indulged life on her family’s ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Surrounded by wealth and loving family, she has little understandinEsperanza enjoys an indulged life on her family’s ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Surrounded by wealth and loving family, she has little understanding of the servants and ranch hands around her. An unexpected tragedy robs Esperanza of her comfort and forces her and her Mama to flee to California. There they settle in a camp for migrant farm workers and are forced to endure the hard physical labor and financial struggles of their new position.
In a new land and a new life, Esperanza finds nothing familiar. She struggles to fulfill her required tasks in the midst of personal sorrow. While her new situation is hard, Esperanza learns valuable lessons. She learns about the importance of friendship and compassion as well as the strength that comes from facing and overcoming challenges. Her story is a powerful illustration of life as a migrant worker during the Great Depression. Although Esperanza Rising, describes difficult circumstances, it leaves readers with a sense of hope in the strength of the human spirit. ...more
Henry York has lived a sheltered childhood with no baseball, no T.V. and no soda. He longs for adventure, but when he goes to live with his Aunt DottyHenry York has lived a sheltered childhood with no baseball, no T.V. and no soda. He longs for adventure, but when he goes to live with his Aunt Dotty and Uncle Frank, he finds himself with more adventure than he can handle. Henry soon discovers a wall of mysterious cupboards hidden behind the plaster in his attic room. When he removes the plaster and opens some of the unlocked cupboard, strange things begin to happen. Henry and his cousin learn that the cupboards lead to different lands and places, some good and some bad.
As the story unfolds, so does the history of Henry and his family and their connection to the 100 cupboards. 100 Cupboards brings a Narnia-like story to a more modern setting. It is perfect for those who like to believe that magic lies just behind a cupboard door.
The story was entertaining enough for the intended audience and the writing flowed well. However, for a true Narnia fan, it felt a little like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe story, without the epic moral battle and deep symbolism. A little disappointed for a deeper reader, but interesting for kids....more
In late winter 1858, Early Whitcomb and his family were struggling to save their farm. After a dry year and poor harvest, their savings were barely enIn late winter 1858, Early Whitcomb and his family were struggling to save their farm. After a dry year and poor harvest, their savings were barely enough to pay the mortgage. Threats from the bank were becoming more severe and financial ruin seemed inevitable. About this time, the farmers began to hear rumors of gold found out West at Pike’s Peak. Early’s Uncle Jesse is caught up in the gold fever and is sure that digging for gold will solve all their problems.
When Jesse disappears, Early joins a wagon train to follow his uncle and join the rush for gold. This I Witness book gives a realistic look at the culture and struggles of emigrants and gold diggers in the Old West. Avi includes illustrations and photographs that help teach history as well as share an intriguing story. This series is great for kids interested in history, but who enjoy a story to bring it alive....more
When thirteen-year-old Mary Lou Finney is given the assignment to keep a summer journal, she has no idea her summer will be so eventful. First, her coWhen thirteen-year-old Mary Lou Finney is given the assignment to keep a summer journal, she has no idea her summer will be so eventful. First, her cousin Carl Ray comes to live with her family bringing all kinds of mystery with his silent and sad ways. Soon after, their neighbor has an unexpected heart attack. In the middle of that excitement, Mary Lou deals with her best friend having her first romance and Mary Lou encounters some unexpected romance of her own.
Through the voice of Mary Lou, Creech effectively captures the emotions and events of a interesting but archetypal tween summer. She captures the chaos of a house full of kids with a new teen caught in the middle. Also, she includes some profound life lessons about family, friends, and growing up.
In enjoy Sharon Creech as a writer, but honestly, she captured the tween mentality so well that it annoyed me to death. I am just glad I don't have to relive that age. ...more
Life in Elizabethan England is hard, but Will Sparrow believes it is hardest for him. Left by his mother, sold by his father, and threatened to be solLife in Elizabethan England is hard, but Will Sparrow believes it is hardest for him. Left by his mother, sold by his father, and threatened to be sold again, young Will takes to the road. He vows to “care only for [himself] and for nothing but [his] belly.” However, caring for himself is harder than he expected. Will continually trusts the wrong people and consistently finds trouble. When he eventually joins up with a traveling fair group of “oddities and prodigies,” Will learns important life lessons. He learns that appearances can be deceiving and friendship is found in unexpected places.
In Will Sparrow’s Road, Karen Cushman presents a well-researched and thorough picture of Elizabethan towns, cities, and fairs. She includes her list of sources, her basis for several characters, and recommendations for further reading at the end of the book. Her descriptions and history are accurate and her characters and story are delightful. While the setting is firmly fixed in history, Will’s growth and development is universal. Most readers can relate to the lesson that beauty never guarantees goodness and strangeness isn’t always bad. This book targets middle grade readers, but could entertain a wide variety of ages.
Also, this is another great audio book read by Katherine Kelgren.
The son of two attorneys, Theodore Boone knows every lawyer, judge, and police officer in his small town. He also knows more about the law than any thThe son of two attorneys, Theodore Boone knows every lawyer, judge, and police officer in his small town. He also knows more about the law than any thirteen year old and is the first choice for kids (and even some adults) seeking legal advice. However, when Theo learns of an unknown witness for the town’s current murder trial, he finds even his legal knowledge has limits. How does he make sure the truth is known without endangering the witness who trusts him for advice?
John Grisham does a good job of presenting an exciting legal dilemma and intriguing story, while giving young readers some instruction on how the legal system works. He shows the reality of the courtroom without making it boring. I also like the character of Theo Boone, because he is a smart boy who isn’t afraid to ask adults for help when he doesn’t know the answers. This book is a great introduction to courtroom law and always remains age appropriate. ...more
When six-year-old Sarah helps an old witch on Halloween, she is given a secret, magical reward. The witch turns her costume fairy wand into a real, wiWhen six-year-old Sarah helps an old witch on Halloween, she is given a secret, magical reward. The witch turns her costume fairy wand into a real, wish-granting wand. Unaware of her magic power, Sarah makes wish after wish, creating chaos through her neighborhood. Will the witch be able to fix her mistake before Halloween is ruined for everyone?
Witch’s Wishes is a perfect family read for the Halloween season. It has witches, flying brooms, and magic, but nothing too scary for even the youngest listeners. I read this to my four, six, and ten-year-old kids and everyone found something to enjoy. ...more
Stosh has the unique ability to travel through time using only a baseball card. He holds a card from the year he wants to visit, and suddenly he is thStosh has the unique ability to travel through time using only a baseball card. He holds a card from the year he wants to visit, and suddenly he is there. In Roberto & Me, Stosh travels to 1969 to meet baseball star and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. His goal is to warn Roberto not to take the tragic plane flight that cut his life so short. However, Stosh soon learns changing the future is more difficult than he expected.
This book and the other baseball card adventure books are great for young sports enthusiasts. They include baseball facts, but also a glimpse of life in different time periods. The stories are written with enough variety and conflict that even non-baseball lovers can enjoy them. Roberto & Me was a success with my ten-year-old daughter who has never watched a game of baseball in her life. ...more
The streets of cities in the American Industrial Era are filled with hardship and struggles, especially for young people saddled with heavy responsibiThe streets of cities in the American Industrial Era are filled with hardship and struggles, especially for young people saddled with heavy responsibilities. Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician, forced to use his talent to support a cruel master. Hannah, a maid in a fancy hotel, is the sole supporter of her family of five. Frederick is an apprenticed clockmaker struggling to create something amazing. Their situations are all different, but they are drawn together through a series of adventures.
As these three build friendships, they learn to rely on each other to get through their individual trials. Together, they learn about life, compassion, and loyalty. Their story is exciting and heartwarming as they face failures and triumphs. Kirby creates an interesting picture of an America touched with magic, perfect for readers seeking reality with a little fantasy. ...more
Once again, Sharon Creech uses poetic writing and endearing characters to create a heartwarming story. Naomi Deane and Lizzie Scatterding are two orphOnce again, Sharon Creech uses poetic writing and endearing characters to create a heartwarming story. Naomi Deane and Lizzie Scatterding are two orphan girls living in the town of Blackbird Tree. One summer day, a mysterious boy falls from a tree and into their lives. With the appearance of the ‘Finn boy,’ unexpected happenings and curious surprises begin to occur. Through these events and a wide variety of characters, Creech shares a tale that illustrates how ‘a delicate cobweb link[s] us all.’
The Great Unexpected is a story of coming of age and finding your place in the world. It also teaches the power of kindness and the importance of forgiveness. Creech’s characters are intriguing, quirky, but also very real. The story is a mystery whose resolution shows the interconnectedness of the world. Creech’s intended audience is tween readers, but I think her story can reach younger and older readers, too. It is a good book for reading aloud in a family with a variety of ages.
It really deserves 4.5 stars for the beauty of her writing....more
I was immediately captivated by the title Al Capone Does My Shirts. However, while the title is an excellent fit for the story, it led me to expect anI was immediately captivated by the title Al Capone Does My Shirts. However, while the title is an excellent fit for the story, it led me to expect an entirely different type of book. I expected kids mixed up with gangsters or some other sort of hilarity. Instead, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a much deeper and more profound work of historical fiction placed against the backdrop of the Depression and Alcatraz. This book was assigned to my ten-year-old daughter and I think she can appreciate it, but readers of her age would need a background on Alcatraz, Al Capone, and the culture of the time period.
Moose Flanigan and his family move to the island of Alcatraz where his father works double shifts as an electrician and prison guard. They make the move in an attempt to earn enough to send his mentally handicapped sister Natalie to a special school in San Francisco. When that plan fails, Moose is overwhelmed with the responsibility of watching his sister. At the same time, he struggles to make new friends and avoid involvement in the troublesome schemes of the prison warden’s daughter.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is an interesting story based on the lives of families who lived and worked on Alcatraz during its operation. It also deals with the trials of mental disabilities and the way it affects families. The book is written with compassion, sensitivity and great insight, but would be a good one to discuss with young readers as they read.
Also, I listened to the audio book of this one. The reader was not great and I think the book would be more enjoyable read....more
When Jon Whitcroft continues to make life difficult for his mother’s new boyfriend (The Beard), he is sent to boarding school in Salisbury. Jon is detWhen Jon Whitcroft continues to make life difficult for his mother’s new boyfriend (The Beard), he is sent to boarding school in Salisbury. Jon is determined to hate the school and everyone in it, but soon finds himself in greater trouble than holding on to his bad attitude. Soon after he arrives, Jon begins seeing ghosts—ghosts who call him by his mother’s maiden name and openly state their goal to kill him.
Ella Littlejohn hears Jon’s stories of ghosts and convinces him to call on the ghost of William Longspee, a knight supposedly devoted to helping the weak. Together, Ella and Jon meet Longspee and their adventures begin. They learn about courage, loyalty, and friendship among ghosts and humans alike.
Although the premise for this story seems dark, the ghosts are more comical than frightening. William Longspee is a hero to be admired and Jon and Ella’s friendship with him is delightful to read about. Funke writes beautifully as usual and the version I read included lovely illustrations, bringing back memories of my own visit to Salisbury Cathedral. ...more
As a family, we listened to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart on a long road trip. Usually we need breaks from our audio books, but this story enterAs a family, we listened to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart on a long road trip. Usually we need breaks from our audio books, but this story entertained all ages from four to thirty-seven so well that we listened to the last four hours straight through. It is a good family book, either for listening or reading out loud.(We listened to the recording by John Curless. Apparently there is another audio book out there).
Tom’s six older brothers are all adventurers in the Land of Stories. They go on exciting missions and return home to share their tales with the world, but Tom stays home with his mother. When his brothers fail to come home in time for Tom’s twelfth birthday, both Tom and his mother fear that something has gone terribly wrong. Soon, Tom receives his own mission from the Story Bureau. He must enter the Land of Stories and discover the fate of his older brothers. As he journeys on his mission, Tom creates his own story and finds that he is an adventurer with as much courage and determination as his brothers.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart is an entertaining story of magic and adventure. With elements of multiple well-known fairy tales, it contains familiarity with some wonderful twists. The excitement and action keeps older readers interested, but nothing is too dark and frightening for younger readers. ...more
I didn’t have high expectations when I started this book (I teased Michael that you can't expect much from a Utah State graduate), but I was pleasantlI didn’t have high expectations when I started this book (I teased Michael that you can't expect much from a Utah State graduate), but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of the better crafted stories I have read in a while, with action as well as depth and meaning. Solveig is the middle daughter of a Nordic king and considers herself without value to her father. She and her older sister, and younger brother are sent to a freezing fortress at the base of a glacier to be kept safe during a war with a neighboring nobleman.
Trapped for the winter with only a few servants, restless warriors and a dwindling food supply, Solveig finds herself struggling to keep peace in their camp. When acts of treachery begin to surface, the peace is threatened even more. Solveig finds hidden talents as she trains with the king’s skald, or storyteller. She learns the power of words to soothe heartache, engender courage, and even save lives.
Although this story of a young girl is set in an ancient, frozen landscape, Solveig’s story resonates with youth of all ages and circumstances who are searching for their own place in life. The action is captivating, but the life lessons are powerful for teens of all ages. ...more
E.D. Applewhite is the only non-artist in a family and extended family of extreme artists. Together they live in a country inn turned artist compoundE.D. Applewhite is the only non-artist in a family and extended family of extreme artists. Together they live in a country inn turned artist compound and ‘creative academy.’ When Jake Semple, juvenile delinquent and school burner, is invited to join the creative academy, E.D. is sure she wants out of her family. However, soon her father’s local production of The Sound of Music is threatened and all the skills of the Applewhite Creative Academy are required to save the day. In the process, E.D. learns she has some valuable abilities that can help her artist family. Jake learns he might not be as bad as he thought, and everyone learns to work together. This is a marvelous story of creative genius, eccentricity and teamwork. It celebrates the beauty of hard work and individuality with some wonderfully heartwarming and real characters. I recommend it as a great family read aloud or one for all different ages to enjoy on their own. ...more
Goldie lives in a world where children are safe-guarded treasures. They are literally guarded and chained to their Blessed Guardians until they reachGoldie lives in a world where children are safe-guarded treasures. They are literally guarded and chained to their Blessed Guardians until they reach the age of Separation. Instead of feeling protected, Goldie chafes at these restrictions and longs for freedom. When her day of Separation is interrupted by a bomb threat, Goldie escapes and is branded as a runaway. She soon finds a strange group of rebels in the city museum. As she learns the Museum’s secrets, Goldie learns of the danger threatening her city from inside and out.
When catastrophe and dictatorship threaten the city, it is up to Goldie and her new friends to teach people the value of thinking for oneself. Danger teaches the strength and independence necessary for a thriving community and city. This story is filled with intrigue and adventure, but also holds valuable lessons about self-discovery and independence. It is a good read for young readers who enjoy adventure of the Harry Potter level, but without the same darkness. ...more
The wizard is on summer holiday from running his wizard boarding school, but no one is willing to let him relax. He keeps getting called on rescue misThe wizard is on summer holiday from running his wizard boarding school, but no one is willing to let him relax. He keeps getting called on rescue missions that begin like traditional fairy tales, but end with an unexpected twist. He goes to rescue a princess who refuses to be rescued from her dragon. One town has a problem with teenage unicorns getting drunk on fermented fruit. In the midst of all these adventures, all the wizard wants to do is save his summer garden from rabbits.
Wizard at Work is full of entertaining and funny stories for all young children with extra subtle humor to please their parents. This is a good read aloud with younger children, but also a great book for middle readers. There is something to appeal to all ages and genders. ...more
Two sets of twins is quite the novelty, but Miri feels left out. She is the one twinless child in the middle of those two sets and she can’t seem to fTwo sets of twins is quite the novelty, but Miri feels left out. She is the one twinless child in the middle of those two sets and she can’t seem to find her place. When Miri’s family moves into a mysterious old house, Miri finds herself magically transported to 1935. There she meets Molly, a mistreated orphan girl and the other half Miri has always missed. Together, Molly and Miri learn about magic and friendship as they experience an adventure of their own.
This story is perfect for young readers who enjoy a little bit of history along with a little magic. There is some danger and action, but the overall feeling is light and hopeful. The characters learn about the importance of loyalty, family, and love as well as the excitement that comes when helping a friend.
This was a fun one for mother/daughter book group--nothing profound and no great writing, but a fun little girl story....more
It is March 1775 in Boston and tension is high. England has passed the Intolerable Acts and filled the city with soldiers. Daniel and his family are fIt is March 1775 in Boston and tension is high. England has passed the Intolerable Acts and filled the city with soldiers. Daniel and his family are forced to serve the Redcoat soldiers living in their tavern, but they must hide that their real loyalty lies with the Patriots. When the war begins, Daniel’s father leaves to fight with the Patriots. Daniel is afraid, but tries to hide his fear as he spies on British soldiers. His bravery is tested when he learns some important information about upcoming battles. Will he be able to get to his father and the other Patriots in time?
This book is an interesting look at a significant part of American history. Calkhoven keeps the pace of the story perfect for young readers, revealing the harsh side of war while keeping descriptions and facts appropriate. My only complaint is that young readers without a lot of historical background, might be a little lost to the overall picture of the war. Calkhoven includes a timeline in the back of the book, but I think a brief summary of the Revolutionary War would be helpful before reading. If you are giving this book to someone young, it would be a good idea to point out the timeline and maybe give some explanation of the Revolutionary War. That would help to make the reading informative as well as entertaining.
This series includes several other books about boys during other significant wars in history. It is a good series for learning about the role of children in our nation’s history. ...more
At the end of The Search for WondLa, Eva Nine has survived journeys through alien territories and being pursued by an alien hunter. She has learned leAt the end of The Search for WondLa, Eva Nine has survived journeys through alien territories and being pursued by an alien hunter. She has learned lessons and is full of hope when she is rescued by her first fellow human. A Hero for WondLa brings Eva to the human city of New Attica where she soon learns that good and evil are everywhere. As Eva struggles to learn who to trust and strives to eliminate prejudice, she learns more about herself and her amazing talent to love and understand all creatures.
Tony DiTerlizzi has created a wonderful world both visually and poetically in his WondLa books. The alien creatures and futuristic world have a Star Wars type feel with a little Wizard of Oz thrown in. Eva Nine is an innocent, yet powerful heroine. In this book, Eva continues to mature and so does the story. Evil threatens more closely and Eva’s goodness continues to fight that evil. This is a captivating book for younger readers with the beautiful pictures and engaging story. However, DiTerlizzi includes a certain depth that lends appeal to older readers as well. ...more
When World War II threatens the people of London, Tally’s father and her aunts insist that she attend a boarding school in the country. Tally does notWhen World War II threatens the people of London, Tally’s father and her aunts insist that she attend a boarding school in the country. Tally does not want to leave her family and go to a stuffy boarding school, but she is soon caught in the spell of Delderton. This is a boarding school where children are encouraged to ‘find themselves and be themselves.’ No one is forced to wear uniforms or even attend class.
With the friends Tally meets, she organizes a group to attend an international folk dancing festival in the country of Bergania (fictional). At the festival, Tally meets and befriends the crown prince of Bergania. Their friendship becomes very important when the Nazis kill Bergania’s king and Tally and her friends must save Prince Karil. This story is filled with adventure as well as strong messages about the importance of trust in friendship. It is perfect for tween readers and older.
My only complaint with the book is the fictional country of Bergania. Ibbotson holds to the culture and feel of the World War II era, but the fictional country takes away from the historical fiction aspect. The story is still entertaining and well told, but not to be counted on as pure historical fiction. ...more
When Fer saves a strange dog from an attack by wolves, she is introduced to an amazing new realm. It is a world where she finally feels she belongs, bWhen Fer saves a strange dog from an attack by wolves, she is introduced to an amazing new realm. It is a world where she finally feels she belongs, but also feels terribly wrong. When Fer saves Rook, she also opens the Way to a fairy realm. In this new land, she meets strange creatures and experiences enchanting adventures. Fer soon learns the Lady of the Land is no true lady, but one who has used evil to perpetuate her power. In the end, it is up to Fer to make things right and bring true magic to the land. This magical adventure is full of suspense and fantastical creatures. It is a good read for lovers of fairies and fairy tales. However, it also reveals dark magic and a few less than peaceful scenes. It might be a little too dark for young readers, but is good for pre-tween readers. ...more
Sammy Keyes amuses herself by observing the world outside her Gram’s apartment through binoculars. Her sightings are common until one day Sammy witnesSammy Keyes amuses herself by observing the world outside her Gram’s apartment through binoculars. Her sightings are common until one day Sammy witnesses a burglary in the Heavenly Hotel across the street. When she tries to report her findings, no one wants to listen to a middle schooler turned sleuth. However, the burglar is on to Sammy and she has to use her wits to solve the crime and prove her evidence.
This modern-day Nancy Drew has the same deductive brain, but a little more sass. Sammy’s adventures are complex enough for middle school readers, but harmless enough for younger children, too. This first book in the series and the others that follow are great entertainment for clue seekers with a skill for deduction. ...more
Waiting for the Magic was a tender, read aloud hit in our house. My 4 and 5-year-old boys loved the talking pets that only some family members could hWaiting for the Magic was a tender, read aloud hit in our house. My 4 and 5-year-old boys loved the talking pets that only some family members could hear. My 9-year-old envied the fact that the family adopted all four dogs and one cat available from the animal shelter. My husband and I enjoyed the loving resolution between a struggling husband and wife. The kids mostly missed the tension of the father moving out temporarily, but they caught the idea of pets bringing hope and healing to a family. Maybe this book struck a chord with us because we’ve recently experienced the magical healing and overcoming of disappointment that a new pet can bring.
Things aren’t right in William’s family. His father has left and his mother says his father is ‘flawed.’ Four-year-old Elinor doesn’t understand what is wrong, but she is the first to realize the magic their five new pets bring. Four loveable dogs and one very patient cat help William, Elinor, and their parents recognize the magic and power of love. This is a sweet story for all ages and a good one to read as a family. ...more
Zilpha Keatley Snyder writes great stories for readers between 8 and tween. Her stories feature strong, child heroes having fast-paced and intriguingZilpha Keatley Snyder writes great stories for readers between 8 and tween. Her stories feature strong, child heroes having fast-paced and intriguing adventures. However, she keeps the stories appropriate for young audiences in subject and content. Another great thing about Snyder is the number of books she has written. If you enjoy one, there are many more to choose.
In William S. and the Great Escape, William Baggett is a precocious and creative kid trapped in rotten family. With an angry and lazy father, mean stepmother, and a seemingly innumerable group of bullying older siblings, William longs for escape. His plans are altered when some of the older kids flush his younger sister Jancy’s pet guinea pig down the toilet. At that point, she insists that they and the two youngest Baggetts hit the road. Their escape is filled with adventures and close calls as four neglected kids try to find a better home. ...more
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde. I grabbed it on a whim, because we needed another read aloud book foI was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde. I grabbed it on a whim, because we needed another read aloud book for my 4 and 5 year old boys. As it turned out, they were hooked along with me, my husband, and my 9-year-old daughter. My boys have a problem with intense conflict, so a lot of the books they like are a little slow. However, this book was gentle enough for them and interesting enough for me. They missed some of the interpersonal conflict between 5th graders, but it didn’t take away from the story.
On her way to school, Amy Prochenko is approached by a dog on the run, but not just any dog. Sherlock is a lab experiment who escaped from the university lab when he overheard the head scientist talking about dissecting his brain. Amy has many adventures and finds herself making new friends as she strives to keep Sherlock safe. A funny and light story about an incredible dog and a fast thinking girl. This one is great for all ages. ...more
“Beware the whited sepulcher,” are the last words of advice Elodie hears from her mother when leaving home for a ten year apprenticeship. This charge“Beware the whited sepulcher,” are the last words of advice Elodie hears from her mother when leaving home for a ten year apprenticeship. This charge to trust only those who deserve trust becomes quite a challenge as Elodie begins her adventure in the town of Two Castles. A dragon detective, a shape-shifting ogre, a handsome cat trainer, a flighty princess, and a greedy king…these are just some of the characters Elodie must decide are kind, cruel, honest or false.
Through this engaging, fairy tale-like mystery, Gail Carson Levine teaches the principle that appearance can be deceiving and friendship is often found in unlikely places. Elodie is a straightforward and strong girl learning to find her place in an unfamiliar world. A Tale of Two Castles is an engaging story that is light enough for a young audience, but interesting enough for adults. Good for independent readers or a read aloud for younger kids. ...more
In the midst of the Great Depression, Abilene Tucker’s father sends her to live in the town of his youth, Manifest, Kansas. Abilene immediately beginsIn the midst of the Great Depression, Abilene Tucker’s father sends her to live in the town of his youth, Manifest, Kansas. Abilene immediately begins searching for stories of her father or signs of his time in the town. Although she is disappointed in her search for her father’s stories, Abilene finds that Manifest is full of secrets and a past that many choose to keep hidden. Through the stories of Miss Sadie, the town’s Hungarian diviner, old newspaper articles, and a collection of old letters, Abilene pieces together that secret past. In the process of revealing and sharing that story, Abilene helps the citizens of Manifest heal and grow closer together. She also helps her father and herself.
Clare Vanderpool’s clever story gives insights into both the World War I time period and the Great Depression. She introduces a strong heroine and an endearing town, filled with intriguing characters and mystery. This is an interesting story for mature child readers (9 or older) and is a good introduction into important times in American history. This book also teaches good lessons about the power of community and the importance of accepting differences. ...more
When a bookish dragon settles on the hill near his home, Kenny is anxious to investigate. He is made a little nervous by Grahame’s size at first meetiWhen a bookish dragon settles on the hill near his home, Kenny is anxious to investigate. He is made a little nervous by Grahame’s size at first meeting, but soon the two are best friends. However, the citizens of the nearby town aren’t so anxious to make friends with a dragon. The problem grows when Kenny realizes George, another of his close friends, has been ordered to exterminate Grahame. Soon it will take all of Kenny’s brains and strength of character to save his newest friend from the prejudice of the villagers.
This sweet story of friendship and loyalty is great for a variety of ages. Tony DiTerlizzi is an excellent illustrator as well as author and his pictures add to the marvelous story. I read this out loud with my 3, 5, and 9 year olds and they all enjoyed this story. This isn’t an easy reader, but with the frequent pictures it is a good transition from easy chapter books to some more complex reading. ...more