Loved everything about this incredible story, especially the fact that my son begged to finish it as we read a little together over the period of a feLoved everything about this incredible story, especially the fact that my son begged to finish it as we read a little together over the period of a few weeks. Cece Bell was already a favorite author of our family's but this cemented her as someone we will look for year after year. Beautifully done! ...more
Short and sweet: Thoroughly enjoyed this story! Love the concept of letter writing as the format and the issues the characters br*Review coming soon!*
Short and sweet: Thoroughly enjoyed this story! Love the concept of letter writing as the format and the issues the characters brought forward. Very very powerful book and would definitely be a great book in the classroom to start up discussion I think....more
Short and Sweet: Powerful storytelling filled with adventure and heart. A fairytale for all ages!
Full Review Originally Posted at There's A Book: An aShort and Sweet: Powerful storytelling filled with adventure and heart. A fairytale for all ages!
Full Review Originally Posted at There's A Book: An adventurous princess trapped by the bounds placed upon her by her title is freed to become the person she’d always dreamed about, but is the cost too high? Princess Meriel’s father, the King, returns from a recent trip with a new wife at his side. With her brothers and father entranced by the new Queen it’s up to Meriel to dispel the mystery surrounding Lady Orianna and prevent a disaster from befalling not only her family but the kingdom she loves.
My first experience reading Diane Zahler’s work came with her book A True Princess and I absolutely loved it. Well, I’m not sure it’s possible but I think I may have enjoyed Princess of the Wild Swans even more. Zahler has a way with words that pull her characters off the page and into reality. In both books I was astounded at this not only because it’s done so seamlessly, but also because it’s done in a relatively short span of pages. In quite a few instances readers tend to think of middle grade fiction as being “easier” or “more basic”, but that’s not the case at all and in the case of Diane Zahler’s writing you’d be sorely mistaken for thinking that. Yes, the story is shorter and the action fast paced, but the depth you’d expect within the pages of a young adult or perhaps an adult novel is clearly there within these pages. There’s no “easier” about it, Princess of the Wild Swans is simply excellent storytelling that readers young and old will be enchanted by.
Princess of the Wild Swans is based loosely on the story told by Hans Christian Anderson called The Wild Swans. Now, I’d actually never heard this fairytale before and if you haven’t before I’m not sure I’d suggest reading it before reading Zahler’s book. Not that they are the same, because they aren’t much at all, it’s just that I’m the type that doesn’t like spoilers of any sort. It did lay a nice foundation for a story I appreciate even more than the classic it’s based off of.
Again, as she did with A True Princess, Zahler creates a world and characters that you’re instantly taken in by. Within pages you are irritated with Meriel’s behavior, eager to see her become the adventurer she longs for and concerned for her family’s well-being. It’s amazing because if you’d asked me only two pages in if I was going to like Meriel I would have said no, but ask me on page ten and I would have given you a completely different answer. She was feisty but warm and kind. Her friends Riona and Liam only made her a better person and their willingness to help her became a trait she soon acquired herself. It wasn’t merely the characters but the depth of the story, from a world with witches and royalty to fairies and a magical lake, it all created an entire portrait that felt alive as you read through it’s pages.
Diane Zahler knows how to write a classic fairytale that readers today will immediately fall in love with. Princess of the Wild Swans is filled with stunningly realistic characters, an exciting adventure and mystery as well as lessons to be learned. Princess Meriel is a princess I’d be excited to have my children look up to and am eager to share with them, as her heart and passion rest with the welfare of those around her. Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler is a story I thoroughly enjoyed and one I’d highly recommend to other readers who love a brilliant fairytale retelling or simply an excellent story....more
Galloping into the air much like the horses she later trained, Beryl Clutterbuck Markham was a young women coming of age in a time not prepared for heGalloping into the air much like the horses she later trained, Beryl Clutterbuck Markham was a young women coming of age in a time not prepared for her vivaciousness. Growing up the only daughter of a successful farmer and horse trainer, Beryl turned to the native Nandi people in her East African home to teach her discipline and survival. Every day was an adventure filled with lions, leopards, a “step-mother”, a governess and eventually school in the city. Beryl grew from each of her experiences to become a woman revered by many, but her youth was filled with not only skepticism but danger at every turn.
Generally speaking I’m not a huge reader of historical fiction, particularly fictional stories based in reality. What I’ve loved about book reviewing has been the opportunity to stretch myself and discover something I never knew existed or that I would not normally have given a second glance. Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl was one of those such books. Initially, the thought of a middle grade novel about a young girl growing up in Africa based on the true events of Beryl Clutterbuck Markham’s life simply didn’t grab me. What I’ve discovered though is that not only was I wrong, but that I would have missed out greatly on Michaela MacColl’s writing had I passed this novel by.
Beryl was a young wild girl and were it not for her father’s concern for her future well-being as well as that of the reputation of their family she may have grown up as one of the Nandi she so loved. Her adventures of lion hunting and leaping in the air above her own head were the things most young children only dream & read about. What was fascinating was Beryl’s headstrong behavior with nearly everyone she came in contact with. It was this determination and no-nonsense sincerity that finally landed her in the cockpit of an airplane ride across the Atlantic in 1936. The story is actually told in alternating parts between her youth (around age eleven) and her adulthood centering around her actual trip. As I read both the pieces of her life slowly fell into place and it became an incredible adventure I thoroughly enjoyed.
Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl isn’t only a story about a young girl with a strong personality, but it’s a coming of age adventure most middle grade readers will thoroughly enjoy. Beryl Clutterbuck Markham’s life was an adventure a minute. She ran to the African tribe of the Nandi, had a terrible governess who beat her so much that she had to escape, she chased down and hunted wild animals, trained gorgeous horses and eventually landed in the pilot seat of a small plane. Her life inspired many and will continue to through the wonderful words of Michaela MacColl. As I said, historical fiction is not normally my cup of tea, but in the case of Pomise the Night I’m grateful I made an exception because I truly would have missed out on so much.
Short: First completed read of 2012 and it's going to be hard to live up to it. This was incredible!
Review: After inheriting a newspaper empire, thirteeShort: First completed read of 2012 and it's going to be hard to live up to it. This was incredible!
Review: After inheriting a newspaper empire, thirteen year old Penelope Tredwell does what any inquisitive thirteen year old would do…she goes into the family business, incognito. Writing under the name Montgomery Flinch, no one in the greater London area has any idea that their recent reading obsession comes by way of Penelope herself. Her tales of terror and mystery have a larger audience than almost any publication and it grows daily. When Montgomery Flinch’s presence is requested at a local insane asylum, Bedlam, Penny sees this as her next big story. Little does Penny know but within the walls of Bedlam she may discover more than she bargained for and it may leave her as mad as the residents she finds herself intrigued with.
Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge was my first completed read of 2012 and I’m having a hard time finding anything that holds a candle to it’s brilliance. For a middle grade fiction novel from a debut author this was completely unexpected. Twelve Minutes to Midnight was the first middle grade novel since reading Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky that I felt truly tackled the more inquisitive and thrill seeking minds of young readers. This will be the perfect read for young readers who may be looking to young adult books, but are not quite ready for the “relationship” aspects found in that genre. Not only that, but I’m positive they won’t be able to put Twelve Minutes to Midnight down until they discover what’s behind the creepy occurrences at Bedlam.
Not only is Twelve Minutes to Midnight perfect for young readers, but truly anyone who is looking for an extremely well written thrilling mystery. Initially I was drawn to the story because of the setting. Yes, I’m completely enthralled with stories that involve Victorian Britain coupled with a bit of mystery. Because of that I think steampunk fans will thoroughly enjoy this story. Obviously the setting, including the incorporation of an insane asylum, lends itself to the creepiness factor and I will fully admit to be terrified a few times during my nighttime readings. It was fantastic!
Each of the characters in the story were wonderful, especially the leading lady. Penny was the perfect inquisitive thirteen year old. The time in which she was growing up wasn’t one in which many female authors were looked kindly upon and women in general certainly didn’t have much business being involved in the affairs of typically male roles. So to have Penny assert herself as the editor in chief, writer and many other positions at the Penny Dreadful was something of a stretch for her, but it was handled perfectly. Penny was obstinate at times, but also knew when to step back. Of course she still managed to get herself as well as her good friend, Alfie, into quite a bit of trouble while snooping around for her stories. It also must be said that the actor Penny hires to “play the part” of Montgomery Flinch is perfect! His cowardice and neediness is so contrary to the role he’s playing that you can’t help but be annoyed and laugh all at the same time. It also creates the perfect conflict when they Penny and Monty make an appearance at Bedlam. All of these characters as well as the occasional appearance of a famous author here and there (Sir Conan Doyle for one) make for a marvelous cast that have you flipping the pages until the very end.
Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge is my first “must-read” of 2012 and will continue to be one that other middle grade novels will be held up against. Christopher Edge has proven that he not only knows how to enthrall young and old readers alike, but that he also has an incredible ability to capture a time period so perfectly that readers will become lost within it’s pages. Penelope Tredwell is a character to be reckoned with. Her courage and determination often lead her into sticky situations but her inquisitive nature always leads her to the answers she’s searching for. Twelve Minutes to Midnight is a mystery that has readers guessing all the way to the last page and is filled with just enough creepiness to make the story one that’s best read during the day…or night depending on which you prefer. I’ll be eagerly anticipating and hoping for another installment in Penny’s story, but until then Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge may just need another read through!
In a family of three girls the news of an addition to the family comes with mixed feelings. When Anna discovers her new cousin Tania is coming from RuIn a family of three girls the news of an addition to the family comes with mixed feelings. When Anna discovers her new cousin Tania is coming from Russia to spend the year with their family she’s thrilled, though their shared age seems to be the only similarity as of yet. Anna’s sisters find Tania’s quietness and the food she hides odd and instantly dislike her, but Anna quickly accepts her by offering her a new doll she created specifically for Tania. With the addition of Tania the last thing the family needs is a pet, but it may be just the thing to bring Tania out of her shell and potentially solve another problem altogether.
Charming. Absolutely charming and beautiful storytelling are found within the pages of The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Generally speaking I’m not incredibly fond of historically based novels & books for one reason or another, but this story was written so well that I couldn’t help but be taken in by the lovely Anna. Her parents are recent immigrants to the US and have found a way to provide for themselves by creating and selling a line of dolls to companies like FAO Schwartz. For a ten or eleven year old girl I can think of no better place to be than in a family that has a never ending supply of dolls to create and play with, making it the perfect setting for the intended audience.
Obviously Anna’s family is frugal though and the story isn’t simply about the dolls and the doll shop, but about their cousin Tania and the cats that accompany her arrival. Anna was so welcoming to her cousin and it was wonderful to read about not only her desire to make her feel at home but her thoughts about her two sister’s feelings about Tania. It’s the perfect message for a young reader, one of welcoming and comforting those who may be in need of a friend. In addition to Tania the compassion Anna shows toward a family of cats is heartwarming and in the end turns out to help not only the cats but Tania as well.
It would be a shame to fail to note the historical and religious aspects of the story in my review because both were handled incredibly well. In both cases they were so well written that they became more a part of the fabric of the story than an over-arching theme making it accessible for all varieties of readers. Anna and her family are of Jewish descent and there is even a short story about the history of Chanukah, but I never felt as though it was a boring history lesson or preachy in any way. Instead the story and the background shared throughout work to enhance Anna’s character and her family making it all the more enjoyable.
The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough is delightful historically based middle grade fiction novel. Not only would educators benefit from sharing it with their students, but young readers will thoroughly fall in love with Anna and her charm. Though it’s the second in the series it easily stands alone, but those who haven’t read the first will be clamoring to get their hands on Anna’s first story as well. The Cats in the Doll Shop is a story about kindness, acceptance, giving and friendship all told through the eyes of one delightful young girl who welcomes all with open arms.
Can You Survive: Jack London’s Call of the Wild takes a classic piece of literature and turns it into an adventure not only for the characters, but thCan You Survive: Jack London’s Call of the Wild takes a classic piece of literature and turns it into an adventure not only for the characters, but the reader. As you follow along Buck, the part St. Bernard and part Scotch shepherd dog, you are taken into the cold often brutal world of the Alaskan wilderness. As you make choices you decide whether Buck will live or die as he comes up against foes that include other dogs, man, wolves and a variety of other forces of nature. Will you and Buck make it to the end to answer the call of the wild? Only your choices can decide both of your fates. Can You Survive: Jack London’s Call of the Wild is an adventure for readers everywhere.
It’s been almost a year since my last “Choose Your Own Path” read when I read Lost in the Wild also by Ryan Jacobson and I was just as eager to read this one as I was his previous story. This one, obviously based on the classic novel by Jack London, was in my opinion much much more interesting. It did take a couple of chapters before I was really engrossed in the story, but after that I was excited to see how I’d be able to help Buck on his journey across Alaska. Perhaps because I’m not normally an “adventure” reader the original book didn’t hold much appeal to me, but this new take on it actually gave me something to look forward to as I turned the pages by providing me the opportunity to interact with the story.
Author Ryan Jacobson has yet again created a thoroughly engrossing “Choose Your Own Adventure” style story that is not only exciting and entertaining, but very well written. Can You Survive: Jack London’s Call of the Wild is the story of a dog named Buck who struggles to survive against the threats found in the Alaskan wilderness and his only hope is you as the reader. This would certainly be a book I’d recommend to reluctant readers, especially those who love a good adventure or the outdoors. In addition, I’d also recommend this as a companion read with the classic for teachers and students alike as opposed to something like Cliff Notes; it could easily ignite an interest in the story without handing readers all of the details at once. Can You Survive: Jack London’s Call of the Wild by Ryan Jacobson is the first in a new series of “Choose Your Path” books that are sure to be huge hits with young readers everywhere.
As the youngest member of a crew of astronauts headed to the planet Mars you have a lot to prove. Not only will you be faced with keeping your crew alAs the youngest member of a crew of astronauts headed to the planet Mars you have a lot to prove. Not only will you be faced with keeping your crew alive, but potentially aiding in the continued survival of the human race that will soon be colonizing the red planet. You will have to read up on the many conditions of space travel as well as the environmental aspects of Mars in hopes that you will survive to return home to planet earth as a successful adventurer and astronaut.
It seems as though I’m making up for lost time with my recent reads of the “choose-your-own-adventure” style books. In the past two years I’ve read a minimum of two a year and sometimes more. As an adult I find them incredibly fun though obviously not my first choice for my personal reading I can absolutely see how they appeal to young readers. If I had been exposed to these type of books as a ten (or so) year old I’m positive I would have devoured as many as I could have gotten my hands on. Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure #2: Mars! is no exception to this and I’m thoroughly excited to share the series with my own kiddos, my son especially.
So, what exactly about Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure #2: Mars! in particular do I think would appeal to my son specifically? Without a doubt I know the non-fiction aspects of the story would grab him right away. At some point they may appeal to my daughter as well, but her interest in non-fiction type material has yet to emerge. My son on the other hand is constantly on the lookout for new bits of information to devour and this would be perfect. In the back of Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure #2: Mars! there is a helpful “Expedition File” that includes information about everything from the way to determine north and south while on Mars by the stars to how to survive a dust storm to the types of robotic machines and more. It’s fantastic! With the addition of the story you determine by making certain choices this is easily a book that could be read over and over and over again for hours of reading fun.
Adventures in space and an outcome determined by the reader, the edition of Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure #2: Mars! by David Borgenicht is sure to be a hit with young readers who love learning. Having myself only read a couple of the choose-your-own-adventure type books I can only judge them based on my limited exposure to them and husband’s experiences reading them in his youth. But having said that I’d easily say this would be a top choice among today’s versions of the chose-your-own-adventure books! Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure #2: Mars! was captivating as well as educational and each of the scenarios you are placed in require more than simply guessing which way to go. I’d highly recommend this as well as the other books in this series by Chronicle Books to young adventure seekers who love a little bit of fun learning mixed with their reading!
Ivy and Bean are at it again, but this time it’s all in the name of cheese. Well, maybe not cheese, but definitely the delightfully fun and very versaIvy and Bean are at it again, but this time it’s all in the name of cheese. Well, maybe not cheese, but definitely the delightfully fun and very versatile red wax wrapper around the outside of low-fat Belldeloon cheese in a special just-for-you serving size. Everyone at school has them with their lunch except for Ivy and Bean, but they’re on a mission. After Bean’s dad suggests a neighborhood newspaper the girls set out to discover exactly what goes on in the lives of their neighbors, even if that means peeking in a few windows.
This has got to be one of my absolute favorite chapter book series ever! Annie Barrows understands kids so completely well that it has me second guessing her age; certainly she must still be ten years old? That’s probably not true, but what is true is the fact that each one of the Ivy and Bean books will have you in stitches while remembering either your own childhood or imagining your own children doing some of the whacky things that kids just do. Not only adults love this series, but kiddos absolutely relate even at a very very young age. This was the first book in the series that I’ve read with my daughter and at only two and a half she loved every minute of it.
In this edition of Ivy and Bean, Non News is Good News, the pair are on a mission to get that waxy stuff around the outside of certain cheeses. At first they start off by simply asking their parents who both tell them no and advise them they need to buy their own. One of my favorite scenes was when Ivy tries to tell her mom to get the cheese for her while she’s sleeping. I couldn’t help but imagine the Turkeybird and Littlebug doing that at Ivy’s age, it’s hilarious! Eventually the girls discover that they could actually make money by working (even if that’s not their original intention). Their newspaper, The Flipping Pancake, comes together after snooping around the neighborhood in search of the next great news story. At the end of it all, though Ivy and Bean’s neighbors may be a little put out by their “dirty laundry” being shared it’s certain that the pair learns a little bit about the importance of earning something through hard work.
No News is Good News is absolutely right. Ivy and Bean, on their mission for cheese, discover that maybe the lives of their neighbors are better left behind closed doors and windows. Fortunately though they also discover that hard work does pay off when they are finally able to enjoy their delicious low-fat Belldeloon cheese in a special just-for you serving size and the pliable wax that surrounds it. This is a series I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and one I’m eager to read through with both my kiddos as they continue to grow up and do the hilarious things that only kids do. Annie Barrows coupled with Sophie Blackall’s fantastic illustrations make for one of the most superb children’s book series out there.
When everyone in the world seems to misunderstand you and life is harder than it should how do you handle the abandonment of one of the only ones whoWhen everyone in the world seems to misunderstand you and life is harder than it should how do you handle the abandonment of one of the only ones who supported you. Margie goes after her. One afternoon after a particularly hard day at school, that includes her little sister teasing her relentlessly, Margie comes home to a note on their chicken decorated fridge “I HAVE TO GO”. Without the support of her father and with her sister tagging behind her she borrows her dad’s prized truck and begins to search. What she discovers makes her own “The Map of Me” come to life.
How many times can I say this? Middle school and that in between time is hard. It’s one of those time periods I’m not looking forward to for my own kiddos. I yearn for them to have every bit the opposite experience as Margie did in The Map of Me. Hopefully with any luck they will feel that I’m someone they can depend on to support them and make home a place a refuge for them. In the very best outcome I’d hope they know how very proud I am and how much I value them for what they contribute to everyone they know. Unfortunately for Margie, she just didn’t have that or so she believed.
Can you even imagine having a genius nine year old sister join you during that time? A sister who points out every fault and mishap hoping that it will only make her look better, because she is obviously still only a nine year old emotionally speaking. In addition to this it’s obvious from the few pages you see Margie’s parents interact that there’s obviously something not quite right. Her entire world is wrapped up in three people who she believes wish that she didn’t exist or at least that she’d be better or different. Who hasn’t felt like that to a certain extent, especially during that age in life? It’s this reason above all others that I feel young readers will connect with Margie instantly, because she “gets” them.
Margie’s mission to find the mother that abandoned her is nothing short of an adventure filled with page after page of self-realization. With every turn and place they encounter she questions who she is and why she’s doing it. Her journey to discover who she is makes Margie’s character so real. It’s not a typical story where she goes from point A to point C and suddenly she’s discovered who she is, but it’s timed perfectly.
Life is hard enough as a sixth grader to not have to deal with a genius sister and parents who don’t seem to need each other any longer. When Margie’s mom disappears one day her journey to find her leads her to her own personal discoveries about who she is and just what she wants her own “Map of Me” to be made up of. Tami Lewis Brown tells a perfectly timed fast past read that middle grade readers everywhere will connect with instantly. The Map of Me is a story about a girl who fades into the background until she has to take action and what happens from then on out is nothing short of an adventure.