3.5 stars A baby is set adrift in the Elizabeth Islands in the 1920s. Why? The answer is revealed slowly, and Crow isn't sure what her adoptive father3.5 stars A baby is set adrift in the Elizabeth Islands in the 1920s. Why? The answer is revealed slowly, and Crow isn't sure what her adoptive father knows about it. (view spoiler)[She thinks she might've been born on a leper colony. (hide spoiler)]
Luminous prose, quietly endearing characters, and sobering history. I loved so much of this beautiful middle grade book, and yet I'm mixed about one major subplot, much as I was with FOX HOLLOW. I think the story is engrossing enough--and frankly, more powerful without it. But it says something about the beguiling nature of the author's writing that I only needed to see her name to know that I wanted to read this. Jorjeana Marie's narration is just perfect for this story, too.
2.5 stars Some nicely creepy moments, and along the lines of what I'd hoped for from Welcome to the Dark House--sort of a mad funhouse type of caper.2.5 stars Some nicely creepy moments, and along the lines of what I'd hoped for from Welcome to the Dark House--sort of a mad funhouse type of caper.
But the four kids' stories start running into each other and don't really go anywhere (I think it would have been better to cut down on the number of kids or to explore the stories more deeply), and the creep/tension aren't pushed far enough. The style of the black and white photographs and the set-up make it feel a bit like a very facile, slick middle grade version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Nearly downrated the star rating because it was also annoying that the book ends abruptly, and apparently there's a sequel. No need for either. With more development, this could have been a perfectly good horror book on its own....more
A story that's readable and sweet, but ultimately on the slight side for me.
Positives: I loved the narrative voice and the charming illustrations, wA story that's readable and sweet, but ultimately on the slight side for me.
Positives: I loved the narrative voice and the charming illustrations, which reminded me of TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING (and also illustrated several characters as POC, though they're not specifically referred to as such); realistic handling of difficult subjects, especially the mom who abandoned Gertie and Gertie's conflicted feeling about her dad's job on an oil rig; non-nuclear family unit (Gertie lives with her aunt, and her dad is away for his job for long stretches of time); and best of all, the familiar outrages and embarrassments of being in school, including unfair treatment, fixating on another kid who always seems to get her way, not being able to help yourself from doing something wrong, and feeling betrayed by a friend. And Gertie herself, who is not afraid of resuscitating frogs, is just delightful.
Less successful: I was willing to believe in Gertie's unlikely quest to win over her estranged mom, but somehow that never came together convincingly for me until near the end with the play. (Although again, I appreciated how that played out.) Like all kids, Gertie was also selfish at times, but unlike the competitive scenario with Jean, she also rarely listened to Junior, and I don't think that was followed through very well--that is, I don't think she really noticed it. (The Mary Sue lesson was, as expected, a solid one, however.) And although I liked the writing style and dialogue, I think the book and characters start strong but don't finish with as much humor or wisdom or heart as they had the potential to.
So, a quick and enjoyable read, but not something I'd be likely to read again. But I'd check out another book by this author down the road.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Audiobook PS: I listened to about 30 minutes of the audio version and the style of narration was a little too zany for me. But don't let me stop you--I do a lot of audiobook listening at night before bed and generally prefer things a little less exaggerated. I'd guess this is a probably a good audiobook to listen to on a road trip/ or with kids....more
I was initially suspicious when I saw there was a new Pooh book. But then I saw the photo that proved that Christopher Milne had a stuffed penguin asI was initially suspicious when I saw there was a new Pooh book. But then I saw the photo that proved that Christopher Milne had a stuffed penguin as well, which helped to inspire one of the stories!
Sampled the audio, had trouble with the strident, stylized narration that starts it off--is it Katherine Kellgren or Cassandra Campbell? (Both listedSampled the audio, had trouble with the strident, stylized narration that starts it off--is it Katherine Kellgren or Cassandra Campbell? (Both listed as voice actors.) Not sure. :(
Might try to find this as a print book sometime....more
Well, this was utterly delightful! Tricky cannibals, a ball of nightmares that follows you around, and many more strange and wonderful inhabitants. ThWell, this was utterly delightful! Tricky cannibals, a ball of nightmares that follows you around, and many more strange and wonderful inhabitants. This short but rich book is written with masterful style, and manages to make its characters endearing without being maudlin--and without trying too hard for sentimentality and quirkiness. And it's funny! In a very sly, deadpan way, particularly in the first story which cleverly implies the origins of the phrase "an arm and a leg."
Closest thing I've read in modern lit to Grimm's fairy tales--complete with macabre events and the occasional thoughtful morality tale. This is an author whose writing style is sophisticated and shows great restraint, and one who trusts in his readers--no matter their age--to follow along.
Audio Notes: LOVED the audio version narrated by the incomparable Simon Callow, whose plummy voice pronounces the delicious words with utmost care. I very much liked his different voices as well, and special applause for voicing young female characters with sympathy and appreciation.
Those who enjoyed the Harry Potter audio versions (Jim Dale or Stephen Fry) should definitely pick this one up, as I think the stories are similarly appealing and this voice performance is even better.
An audio version was provided by the publisher for review. ...more