If you have a fear of wasps, this book will terrify you. If you don't have a fear of wasps, this book will still terrify you because you'll have develIf you have a fear of wasps, this book will terrify you. If you don't have a fear of wasps, this book will still terrify you because you'll have developed a fear of wasps. Quite possibly the scariest middle grade book I've ever read....more
‘Lionel already understood. He could make the chickens lay eggs and he could reason with the most stubborn of foxes. But he had learned years ago tha‘Lionel already understood. He could make the chickens lay eggs and he could reason with the most stubborn of foxes. But he had learned years ago that humans were more dangerous than the things that stalked about the wilderness.’
Lionel may be a wild boy and Marybeth may be a nice girl, but these two 9-year-olds are one another’s only friends in a world where they have no one else. Lionel and Marybeth, along with six other orphans, live in the care of widowed Mrs. Mannerd who more than has her hands full. Much of their free time is spent traversing the woods surrounding the house where Lionel especially feels most at home due to the fact that he himself feels more animal than human. He likes to feed the wild animals from his hand and refuses to eat at the dinner time, preferring instead to eat beneath it. Marybeth is a perfectly normal little girl that manages to soothe the rougher edges of Lionel’s wildness. During one of their excursions in the wilderness, Lionel tells Marybeth of a blue fox that he’s currently trying to get to trust him, but to no avail. When Marybeth spots the blue creature from her bedroom window one night, she rushes to get a look at it only to find that it’s not a fox at all but something that ends up possessing and changing Marybeth.
This was such an endearing tale of friendship that will touch hearts of all ages. Lionel and Marybeth are the unlikeliest of duos, however, their friendship becomes vital to both of them. Their friendship helps Lionel to reacquaint himself with his emotions and come to terms with his loneliness at the orphanage which Marybeth also deals with similar feelings of isolation. When Marybeth is no longer Marybeth, having been inhabited by the ghost, it’s up to Lionel to take charge like he’s never had to before in order to help his friend solve the mystery of who this ghost is. The mystery and paranormal aspects were curious yet left me with more than a few questions (unlikely to be a problem with the appropriate age group) but the real story here is the friendship and the lesson in mortality.
The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart is yet another unexpectedly sinister Middle grade adventure from DeStefano. The bleak undertones are paired well with a message of hope and a mystery that will keep any reader in this age group speculating. Lauren DeStefano has definitely found her niche in the Middle Grade genre.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘There is no labyrinth as treacherous as that with neither paths nor walls.’
When seven-year-old Anna is placed in the company of a neighbor while
‘There is no labyrinth as treacherous as that with neither paths nor walls.’
When seven-year-old Anna is placed in the company of a neighbor while her father attends to some business, she never thought that would be the last she would see of him. The year is 1939 during the very beginning of World War II and the Germans are beginning their round up of scholars and Anna’s father is a professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Unsure what to do, Anna turns to a mysterious stranger she names Swallow Man after he displays his proficiency with languages including the ability to speak to birds. Intrigued by this man, Anna begins to follow him and the two stay together, walking across Poland, for many years.
“A riverbank goes wherever the riverbank does. […] I’ll be the riverbank and you be the river.”
During this duo’s travels, the Swallow Man teaches Anna many lessons, cultivating her ability to survive with or without him. The two that bear repeating most: “To be found is to be gone forever,” and “One can’t be found as long as one keeps moving.” And keep hidden and moving they do. Within this short novel, years pass and it becomes more and more difficult to continue to survive in a world that has transformed around them, blanketing them in war. Throughout their time together, the Swallow Man persists in fascinating Anna with his perpetual crypticness and continues to keep the reader curious about the circumstances which brought him to this point.
‘It was very difficult for her to take her attention away from the thin man, even for a moment. Somewhere, tickling the back of her brain, she felt a certainty that if she wasn’t constantly watching this fellow, she would miss whole miracles, whole wonders – things that he let fall incidentally off himself as other men might shed dandruff.’
There was something supremely enchanting about this well-written story. It combined the heartrending historical aspects of The Book Thief with the magical realism of The Snow Child. Unfortunately, Savit built up a mesmerizing tale of survival only to lose steam and fizzle out at the end. The hazy inscrutability that is cast over this story leads to the magical feeling of mysteriousness but by the end I was expecting that haze to clear and it never did. (view spoiler)[There was one particular moment where the haze somewhat cleared and the magic dispelled: when Anna, in an attempt to obtain the medicine the Swallow Man required, agreed to remove her clothes for the pharmacist since she didn’t have any money. He didn’t physically assault her but just the act of being naked for the first time in front of a stranger was a horrifying experience for Anna and a horrible experience to have to read about. It left a terrible taste in my mouth about the whole thing and felt like a poorly placed piece attempting to shock the reader when the story has been nothing but demure up until that point. (hide spoiler)]
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘The thing is, a person gets so few chances to really fix something, to make it right. When one of those opportunities comes along, you can’t overthi‘The thing is, a person gets so few chances to really fix something, to make it right. When one of those opportunities comes along, you can’t overthink it. You’ve got to grab hold of it and cling to it with all your might, no matter how cray cray it might seem.’
When Suzy’s mom sits her down to tell her that her former best-friend Franny has died in a drowning accident, the only reason she gives her is that “sometimes things just happen”. Former best-friend or not, Suzy fails to accept this simplistic verdict. The duo had been friends since they were five, but Franny found a new group of girls to hang out with when they went into Middle School leaving Suzy all by herself. So in addition to basically losing Franny a second time, Suzy is struggling to come to terms with her parents divorce as well. Deciding that her words are of little consequence, she decides one day to no longer speak. During a school field trip, she watches a jellyfish float through its watery cage, and it suddenly comes to her that she knows exactly how Franny died.
“That’s what science is,” she explained. “It’s learning what others have discovered about the world, and then – when you bump up against a question that no one has ever answered before – figuring out how to get the answer you need."
The Thing About Jellyfish bounces back and forth in time, slowly unfolding the story on how Franny became the former best-friend. It’s a melancholy tale and you can’t help feeling for the poor girl. She’s never stopped caring for Franny though, and once she’s gone, Suzy feels that after some time has passed she’s the only one that still seems to care about her or even consider her death to be mysterious. This quickly leads her into a scientific research adventure into jellyfish from around the world, and most especially the Irukandji jellyfish. Through Suzy’s research we learn that the sting of an Irukandji can cause muscle cramps which could essentially lead to drowning. At only a few centimeters long and almost completely transparent, Suzy believes it’s up to her to prove that Franny’s death wasn’t something that just happened.
‘There’s no single right way to say goodbye to someone you love. But the most important thing is that you keep some part of them inside you.’
The Thing About Jellyfish is a poignant story about coming to terms with your grief while the world around you continues like nothing has changed. The protagonist may only be twelve-years-old, however, her sentimental experience is something that will be easily understood and acknowledged by readers of all ages....more
Continuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is exContinuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is experienced solely in pictures and begins in 1776 on a ship named the Kraken. After a massive storm, there is only a single survivor: Billy Marvel. The pictures tell of his story, how he came to be connected to the Royal Theatre in London, and how subsequent generations became well-known actors with their own story to tell. The visually impressive illustrated story continues for over 400 pages and ends with an air of mystery.
Flashing forward to the 1990s, we’re introduced to Joseph Jervis who has just ran away from boarding school to go in search of his Uncle Albert. Joseph’s parents are the absent sort and he’s hoping to find a family, a place to call home. Finding his Uncle ends up being a letdown seeing as he wants to immediately send Joseph back to where he belongs and doesn’t show any interest in getting to know each other. Joseph takes comfort in his Uncle’s old house that’s filled with history and a certain story that Joseph desperately wants to uncover. While the story of Joseph is an intriguing one, what’s more intriguing is how his story and that of Billy Marvel’s, two seemingly isolated stories, could possibly be connected. The connection slowly begins to piece together, flowering into a beautifully simplistic story about love and family.
I really adored this story; it even managed to elicit some teary-eyed feels. I loved the combination of pictures/words and was most impressed that Selznick managed to make his words-only storytelling just as mentally visual as his illustrations-only story. This charmingly simplistic story won me over completely and I definitely intend on picking up all of Selznick’s other works.
Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story. ...more
“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there,“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, both dark and bright, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Biltmore Estate is large enough to have kept a secret for over a decade: deep within its basement lives a man and his daughter, named Serafina. Serafina’s father is in charge of the buildings maintenance but he would be tossed out in a heartbeat if it were discovered he also resided there. And Serafina is a whole different matter. Curious about the world around her and of her own past, she’s no longer able to keep herself confined to the basement, especially when she witnesses the murder of a young girl. Her body was never discovered and by the following morning another child was missing. Serafina is determined to help these people find their lost children, even if it means disclosing her secret.
Beatty created a most mysterious girl with Serafina, who is described as having golden eyes and strangely enough, four toes instead of the normal five. Those differences only add to the air of mystery surrounding her and keep you wondering what it is that makes her so special. She’s a girl with a good heart and a kind soul that you can’t help but admire. Befriending the owner’s of Biltmore’s nephew, Braeden, makes this story even more charming. The two quickly hit it off, despite their obvious differences in social class, and they both team up convinced that they’re going to be able to find these children. Through her friendship, Serafina starts seeing the world through a new set of eyes, only seen before through the pages of books. She sees the good in the world but because of the man in the black cloak, she’s also uncovering the bad as well.
‘She was beginning to see how difficult it was to determine who was good and who was bad, who she could trust and who she had to watch out for. Every person was a hero in his own mind, fighting for what he thought was right, or just fighting to survive another day, but no one thought they were evil.’
Serafina possesses a definite horror, but isn’t quite as terrifying as it is charming. The unique heroine is definitely the spotlight of this tale with her most uncommon story of her life and how she came to reside in the Biltmore Estate basement. While some parts of the book did seem to creep along very slowly and some aspects weren’t left sufficiently explained, it was still ultimately a satisfying supernatural tale of mystery that will no doubt delight children and adults alike.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more