I finally picked this one up after having several 5th grade students recommended it to me. It was better than I expected, but not really my kind of boI finally picked this one up after having several 5th grade students recommended it to me. It was better than I expected, but not really my kind of book.
Thomas finds himself in "The Glade," a community of teenage boys living in some isolated place, surrounded by a huge maze, with no memory of where he came from. The boys are surviving by sharing the responsibilities for growing crops, raising animals, etc., but the most prestigious job is to be a runner. Runners spend their days in the maze, charting the ever-changing path and searching for a way out of this situation. Except they've been at it for 2 years and there doesn't seem to be a way out. Thomas at first doesn't know where he is or what's going on, but slowly he realizes this place seems familiar. He can't wait to become a runner and get in the maze. Other boys aren't so sure about him though--some remember him from "before" and don't seem to like what they remember. When it becomes clear that life in the Glade can't continue as it's been for much longer, Thomas finds himself an unwitting leader, with the responsibility of dozens of lives on his shoulders. Can he save himself and his friends?...more
A deliciously creepy story of a cursed family and two orphaned children who get mixed up in their plight. Molly is a storyteller and a protective bigA deliciously creepy story of a cursed family and two orphaned children who get mixed up in their plight. Molly is a storyteller and a protective big sister to Kip, a brave boy born with a lame leg. In search of work, they find reluctant employment in the dilapidated mansion of the Windsor family. It is clear immediately that something isn't right here--the family is pallid and sickly, there is a monstrous tree growing into the side of the house, and the household is plagued by nightmares and nightly visits from a mysterious figure (the Night Gardener). But leaving isn't so simple--there is something other worldly and something that speaks to their worldly desires that keeps them tied to this house. Woven with the magic of stories, this is at once chilling and compelling, and sometimes even funny. Recommended for 4th-7th graders who enjoy a good ghostly story....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
A creepy, dark tale about a mysterious orphanage in a town where everyone is "perfect." Those who aren't perfect have a tendency to go missing and areA creepy, dark tale about a mysterious orphanage in a town where everyone is "perfect." Those who aren't perfect have a tendency to go missing and are soon forgotten. When Victoria, straight-A student and perfectly proper, takes outcast Lawrence under her wing, she does so not in order to have a friend but in order to help him become more "normal." Then Lawrence goes missing and Victoria finds herself the only person in town who notices that something is wrong. She uncovers the sinister secrets of the old Cavendish Home at the end of the road and tries to undo the damage caused by its proprietor, Mrs. Cavendish.
This book was inventive and unique, but had a very slow start--you're halfway through the book before anything really happens. The slow pace is contrasted by a quick ending, but it would have been more effective to pace the novel more evenly. It will lose a lot of readers early on because of the lack of action and minimal suspense in the first 100-150 pages. The author may have been trying to set the scene, but it could have been done in less than half the time. The first half seems to hint at something creepy going on, but less observant readers may not realize what they're getting into until it's too late--the imagery in this book is extremely disturbing. It makes it difficult to recommend to kids--it's best suited for 5th and 6th graders, but the reader will have to have a high tolerance for scary stuff but also the stamina to get through all of the scene-setting. While I'm glad I read this, I did not like it as much as I expected to....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