Bizarre, a bit twisted, and unexpected. I think it's the kind of book that leaves readers wondering (great for book discussions) and reminds me of TheBizarre, a bit twisted, and unexpected. I think it's the kind of book that leaves readers wondering (great for book discussions) and reminds me of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs for older readers. I can see this being a book that readers have very strong opinions about and am curious about who will love it and who will hate it....more
Definitely the best book I've read this year. Gorgeous language, with a narration style that reminded me of The Book Thief. I may have to find some moDefinitely the best book I've read this year. Gorgeous language, with a narration style that reminded me of The Book Thief. I may have to find some more Gregory Maguire books to try, as this is my first!
It's the early 1900s in tsarist Russia when we meet Elena, struggling to survive in the tiny village of Miersk with her dying mother and two older brothers. When both brothers are taken from home, she doesn't know how she will be able to help her mother, much less feed herself. For the first time in memory, a train rumbles through Miersk, carrying the wealthy Miss Sophia and her great-grand-niece, Ekaterina. While the train is being repaired, the two girls meet; though similar in age and appearance, don't really connect. Their worlds are so different they hardly know how to even be curious about the other. Then Elena and Ekaterina (Cat) accidentally switch places. Thus begins a magical adventure featuring Baba Yaga (wow, one of the most enjoyable characters I've ever read), the Firebird, Zmey Azdaja, an imprisoned talking cat named Mewster, Tsar Nicolas II and his godson, a magical Faberge egg, and several matryoshkas. The plot is wholly enjoyable, but it's the characters that really make this story. Cat--clever and brave in her dealings with Baba Yaga; Elena--scared but bold as she attempts to stand in for Ekaterina, in hopes that she'll be able to meet the tsar and negotiate her brother's release from the army and ultimately save her mother; Baba Yaga--worldly in this very Russo-centric setting, appearing batty to her companions as she references pop culture from a century into the future and possesses items like vinyl records and "drinking the Kool-Aid," her manic speeches and attitude had me laughing in wonder at what her companions must have been thinking. There also seemed to be some environmentalism woven in--a whimsically real, mythological interpretation of the cause of climate change.
This is one of those books that is sophisticated in its language and development, but with content that makes it suitable for pretty much all ages. Thank you, Mr. Maguire, for writing one of these rare books to satisfy strong, young readers!...more
A beautiful, complex, story woven of Norwegian history, folklore, legend, and memoir. Astri is sold to the Goatman, a horrible master who abuses her aA beautiful, complex, story woven of Norwegian history, folklore, legend, and memoir. Astri is sold to the Goatman, a horrible master who abuses her and works her to the bone. (There is one particularly frightening scene where it seems he might sexually assault her--this might have hit me harder as an adult than it would a younger person whose mind might not see where this was potentially leading...? He also speaks of marrying her, though she's only 13 years old.) Astri discovers the Goatman has another working for him--a mute, deformed girl she nicknames Spinning Girl because she is kept locked away, spinning wool into beautiful yarn. Finally, Astri works up the courage and means to escape, bringing Spinning Girl along and rescuing her little sister along the way. They are off to America, a land of miracles and freedom, where their father immigrated and is working to afford to send for them.
Along the way, Astri weaves in Norwegian folktales and superstitions that parallel her own story. (I want to read the many stories I'm not yet familiar with in their entirety!) She also confronts a great number of moral dilemmas--how to stay true to herself while working under a cruel master, whether it's ever okay to steal, injure, lie, use "spells," etc. (spoiler: she does plenty of all of these things), who to trust and whether she can be considered trustworthy, and how to make amends and seek forgiveness. The sense of Christianity interwoven with Pagan beliefs/magic/superstitions, as it was in rural Europe for hundreds of years, rings authentic throughout the novel. Though initially confusing as Astri bounces back and forth between telling snippets and (often unfamiliar to me) folktales and narrating her own story, once I got accustomed to the style (and became more familiar with the tales of "Soria Moria" and "White Bear King") I enjoyed hearing the reality mixed with the fantasy. But it might have helped that I have read a lot of folktales!
The Author's Note includes information about the folktales, superstitions, and history of this time period (mid 1800s) and helps explain elements of the story in more depth. I would have appreciated footnotes directing me to the Author's Note embedded in the story, but I suppose that's pretty unusual for children's fiction. It's clear that Preus researched thoroughly for this novel and that it holds personal significance to her. I truly enjoyed it!...more
The newest character, Cress (modeled on Rapunzel), is a Lunar Shell, kept in a satellite for most of her life and attended to by the thaumaturge SybilThe newest character, Cress (modeled on Rapunzel), is a Lunar Shell, kept in a satellite for most of her life and attended to by the thaumaturge Sybil (pardon my spelling of some of these names--I listened to the audiobook). She is a highly skilled hacker and also happens to be infatuated with Captain Carswell Thorn, who is currently piloting his ship, the Rampion, with Cinder and company aboard. When Cinder comes to rescue Cress, chaos breaks loose, resulting in the group (Thorn, Cress, Scarlett, Wolf, Cinder, and Iko) being split up and in more trouble than before. Lots of action, suspense, and hints of romance, this will not disappoint fans of the series (but it's important to have read the first two books, Cinder and Scarlet) before reading this one. We also get a hint into the next protagonist, modeled after Snow White! ...more
This one stole my heart. It is honest and beautiful in the way of the best folktales, reaching to the core of fear, love, friendship, wonder, and thosThis one stole my heart. It is honest and beautiful in the way of the best folktales, reaching to the core of fear, love, friendship, wonder, and those complex emotions of childhood and growing up. The nameless narrator revisits his hometown, where he rediscovers long-buried memories of his shocking, terrifying, and wonder-full childhood. Though the childhood story is captivating and deliciously told, the perspective from an adult looking back at nearly-forgotten memories and just barely managing to hold onto any of what he just relived. ...more
This whimsical fantasy adventure is set in modern-day Miami and draws upon a collection of folktales including The Seven Swans, The Firebird, and TheThis whimsical fantasy adventure is set in modern-day Miami and draws upon a collection of folktales including The Seven Swans, The Firebird, and The Elves & the Shoemaker. Johnny, a working-class teen who helps his mom run their family's shoe repair shop out of a glitzy hotel, has dreams of being a famous shoe designer. When a princess comes to stay at the hotel, he hopes to catch her eye or to at least get to meet her. Before Johnny knows it, the princess convinces him to go on a quest to rescue her enchanted brother. This is a fun read and inspired me to read or re-read some lesser-known folktales that were tied in with this story's plot. A good summer vacation book for anyone who likes modern day fantasy with a bit of humor and just a touch of romance thrown in....more