Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing...moreLucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving she learns her father is missing, and rumor has it he's gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that's ravaging the forests of Saarthe. Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and a rather stubborn boy maned Pete follow William Darrington's trail to the deadly woods on Devil's Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn't reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all.
Dreamwood is a mysterious and magical adventure into the forest, a quite possibly dangerous journey for a young girl searching for her missing father and her newfound friend.
I rather like Lucy as a main character. She's head-strong, determined, intelligent, and she doesn't believe in giving up or turning back. She trusts her father. She has faith in what he believes, in what they both believe about ghosts and spirits. When she hears that he's gone missing she does worry about him, like most children would worry about their remaining parent, and she decides to find him. Even though there is the possibility that she won't find him, or that he's died during this search of his, she continues on. Lucy must see this journey through the forest to the Devil's Thumb to the end. She has her worries, her fears, but she continues on.
The forests of Saarthe are rather haunting and magical. Lucy and Pete know to watch themselves as they search for Lucy's father and the long-lost dreamwood. They know the stories, they know ghosts could be lurking in the shadows. The setting is rather crisp and clear, the images of the faces in the trees and the sticks and mud under their boots are well-described by Mackey's prose. With all the nature, all the stories and ghosts and possible magic, I wondered if this book is meant to be a commentary on the relationship between nature and industry, how the landscape changes as technology comes in. Loggers, electricity. They're at odds with the Lupine and their roots.
In some ways I think this book is a growing period for Lucy. She has strength and character at the start, but over the course of the book she gains more. She faces down a forest that tries to get rid of her. She slowly gains a friend, one who sees beyond the ghost and spirit talk she's so interested in. She refuses to give up on her father. I would certainly recommend this to those looking for a new standalone middle grade book with historical and fantasy elements grounded by a very intelligent heroine.(less)
Best friends and 7th graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they w...moreBest friends and 7th graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward). At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets. But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something, and they’re determined to find out what it is. Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?
The Wig in the Window is an entertaining and exciting mystery, complete with two inquisitive girls and some curious secrets newly discovered in their quiet neighbourhood. Both girls are ready to put their spy skills to the test and uncover the truth, but they uncover something far more complicated than they expected and they'll have to work quickly in order to bust everything out into the open.
Sophie and Grace are smart girls, curious girls, girls who speculate and hope to discover the hidden truths behind their neighbours' strange actions. Of course, sometimes it's just their imaginations getting the best of them, but this time it isn't. This time it's something big, something with secret codes and a car that wanders around constantly. This time they've hit it big and it's time to get to work. But spying and uncovering mysteries isn't always fun and games, sometimes real life gets in the way.
Because of the first person point of view, the reader gets more of Sophie than of Grace. At times, Sophie appears to have more reservations than Grace, she wants to be more cautious, she wants to do things a bit differently than Grace. Grace seems to be Sophie's only friend. Sophie's varied interests, including those in tai chi and fung shui, make me wonder if Sophie is trying to be someone else, if she's trying to appear interesting. It's like she doesn't think she's interesting enough on her own.
Friendship is a big part of this book. Sophie and Grace have to stick together, have to work together, or else the big secret they're hoping to expose about Dr. Agford is going to fade away in the night. But they both have their own personalities, their own lives away from each other, their own way of going about life. They're bound to clash and argue, but can they get past it? Will their friendship survive?
This book plays on the dream that almost every kid has had, and that's the dream of exposing the weird secrets of his or her neighbours. Behind closed doors, behind drawn curtains, kids just know there's something going on next door or down the street. And then they can investigate to their heart's content. But what if they end up in over their heads? What are they going to do next?
This is a mystery filled with twists and turns and a danger that begs to be revealed. I can only hope for more.(less)
Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism....moreZach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing. And stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll, who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity.
Doll Bones is a curious, haunting, and moving look at growing up, an inventive and complicated story of a boy at a crossroads with the desire to keep having fun with his friends and the pressure put on him by his father to act his age. This book looks at those tough decisions we faced as children when we were told by adults to stop playing childish games, and whether or not you can grow up and keep having fun with your friends at the same time.
Zach is pushed into a difficult situation, both by his father and by his own feelings of shame. Playing with Poppy and Alice, creating new worlds filled with adventure and intrigue and pirates, those are the best moments of his life. But playing with dolls and action figures is for little kids, in the mind of his father, and it's time Zach grows up and focuses on what twelve-year-old boys should focus on: homework and sports. The dynamic between Zach, Alice, and Poppy was very interesting, they all had their roles to play, their times to speak up. Their dangerous risks to take.
Growing up, moving on. It's not something any kid looks forward to when they realize it's on the horizon. When it comes to playing with toys, dolls, and action figures, how old is too old? Must we follow the recommended age printed on the side of the box? When are you supposed to grow up and leave fun behind?
A big part of this book is imagination, how children can create anything out of nothing, how boundaries don't exist and everything is possible. How the word "no" doesn't have a place of its own anymore. The imagination of a child is a wondrous thing, filled with possibility.
This book highlights so many important and unique things about being a kid that adults either forget or take for granted. When you're a kid, anything is possible. You can do anything, be anyone. You can go anywhere you want while never leaving the side of the road. It's moments like those that should be remembered and encouraged, and books like this that remind us that, as kids, the entire world was our playground.(less)
Thirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco to confess her love for...moreThirteen-year-old best friends Stephen and Marco attempt a go-for-broke heist to break into the high school prom and get Marco to confess her love for (and hopefully steal the heart of) Benji, the adorable exchange student and bass player of the prom band. Of course, things don't always go as planned, and every heist has its share of hijinks.
Marco Impossible is an adventure of epic proportions, at least from Marco and Stephen's point of view. It won't be an easy adventure, and there might be times when they want to give up, but this is one of those life-changing adventures they won't ever regret if they follow it through to the end.
Stephen and Marco are two best friends, different in the ways that work, Marco plans the schemes and Stephen records everything. They work well off each other, Stephen as the cautious sidekick with Marco as the sometimes fearless sometimes battered wildly creative leader who desperately wants to confess his love before it's too late. An awesome pair with their own set of problems.
They're on a mission, a very important mission, like two detectives who never believe they could be in over their heads at any point (well, Stephen thinks they're in over their heads, Marco's too focused on the goal). But what would they do if they happen to end up involved in something sinister?
What I enjoy most about Hannah's books is they're about people, people with big flaws, big hearts, big problems, big dreams, big plans. Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, questioning. Even fishboy. It's about people, it's people that matter. And Hannah writes about people in such a wonderful way.
Like any Hannah Moskowitz book, reading this was an unexpected surprise. Her books are always honest, always emotional, often brutal, and always heartfelt. This is something more sweeter than Teeth, her most recent YA novel, but it is by no means any less complicated for its characters.(less)
Liesl lives in an attic bedroom, locked away by her stepmother.He only friends are mice and shadows, until a ghost appears from the darkness. Po comes...moreLiesl lives in an attic bedroom, locked away by her stepmother.He only friends are mice and shadows, until a ghost appears from the darkness. Po comes from the Other Side, where the dead go. Both are lonely, but together they are less lonely. The same night, the alchemist's assistant, Will, accidentally mixes up a box with the world's most powerful magic with one that isn't as extraordinary. Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and the three of them end up on a remarkable journey.
This book was magical and hauntingly sweet and sorrow-filled. It was a journey through life and death, through truth and lies, through a dangerous world to fins the one place you can call home.
After reading the book, I found the title a little misleading. Yes, it's about Liesl and Po, but it's also about Will. It's Will that continues the book after Liesl and Po's first meeting, even though he has no idea what he's done until it's too late.
The trip Liesl and Po and Will make is so daunting, so dangerous (but they don't know that). All Liesl cares about it her father, about seeing him again, making everything right, escaping the attic. Once she's out in the world, nothing will ever keep her locked away again.
The illustrations were wonderful, they added to the story, giving the characters more life. Like snapshots into their journey. I can't talk about this book without mentioning the artwork.
When reading this book, I wondered whether or not it could be called middle grade or not. Considering the story, the characters, the journey, yes. Considering that it's 300 pages long and hardcover, I'm curious if some kids will see it and think it's too big or too long. However, I do see this as a book parents can read with their kids. If you've got any 8 to 12 year olds in your life, get this book and read it with them.
A change of pace from the author's previous novels, Liesl & Po proved to be just as magical and moving. A welcome addition to the huge crop of historical fantasy (it has a vague historical feel to it, dusty from coal and wood fires) middle grade books with ghosts and magic.(less)
Kat Stephenson is precocious and, yes, incorrigible. Her 'desperate to climb the social ladder' stepmother is often at her wit's end, but she is her m...moreKat Stephenson is precocious and, yes, incorrigible. Her 'desperate to climb the social ladder' stepmother is often at her wit's end, but she is her mother's daughter, the mother who worked magic as a Guardian but was expelled from a mysterious Order. After somehow finding her way into a grand hall, some older Order members find Kat's ready to turn everything inside out. What they also don't expect is Kat's determination to do whatever it takes magic-wise to help her siblings Elissa, Angeline, and Charles, even if it includes becoming a highwayman.
This book was all kinds of magical and fantastical. Kat is perfect, not uncaring but strong, both in will and in spirit. Very clearly a girl who grew up with her older sisters telling her their memories of their mother instead of having memories of her own. Elissa is practical, Angeline is working magic on her own, and Charles... well, we don't see a lot of Charles, but we do find out he's hopeless.
The little twists and turns and surprises and magic bits were tons of fun. Nothing really seems to go right for Kat. Her stepmother's close to heartless, her father rarely stands up to her stepmother (they're his kids, not hers, after all), Elissa won't listen to reason and follow her heart, Angeline won't listen to Kat and share their mother's magic books, and Mr. Gregson and Lady Fotherington won't listen like only adults can and try to bend Kat to their will. Life really sucks for Kat. It isn't until everything comes out in the open, everything and anything and all the secrets people wanted to stay secret, that Kat finally has the ability to make everything work.
If I was younger and read this book, I would've loved it even more. I love the Regency England setting, I adore that time period, and I love that Stephanie Burgis has created a world that is so believable even with the weaving in of magic. It just makes Kat's England more sparkly, more unpredictable and fun.
I'm not sure if this book would be classified as middle grade or YA. It reads like a YA novel, seems to be about as long, but Kat is twelve years old. Maybe older middle grade/younger young adult.
Kat is full of incorrigible charm, making her an ideal narrator. Readers will enjoy her unique take on her surroundings, will admire her desire to rescue her siblings while being the youngest, and will cheer when she, against all odds, saves the day.(less)