Let me start by saying this: Clemency Pogue will not be to everyone's taste. It is not appropriate for young children for whom parody, word play and sLet me start by saying this: Clemency Pogue will not be to everyone's taste. It is not appropriate for young children for whom parody, word play and some gross slapstick-esque humor will not yet hit their mark.
Clemency's parents tell all manner of stories. Clemency listens and absorbs them all. When her parents go off to work as usual one day Clemency occupies herself as usual with a trip into the forest where she becomes the victim of a sudden and persistently vicious attack by an evil fairy. Remembering her father's recent tale of Peter Pan, Clemency repeatedly shouts that she does NOT "believe in fairies." When the nasty little fairy drops lifeless into a gorge Clemency is relieved--at first.
The almost immediate appearance of a hilariously disgruntled hobgoblin named ChafesMeSo with the news that Clemency's actions have resulted in far-reaching deadly consequences throughout the fairy realm deflates Clem's breath of success. With admirable determination Clemency and ChafesMeSo set off on a journey to restore the balance and lives Clem accidentally destroyed.
One part magic and fantasy, one part belly-laugh adventure and one part 'do the right thing' Clemency Pogue made me laugh out loud and left me smiling. The fact that the consequences of Clem's actions resulted in both fortunate AND unfortunate circumstances in their own situations and settings adds a deeper and more interesting dimension to the plot.
Readers ages 9-12 will thoroughly enjoy Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer--probably for the same reasons it is inappropriate for younger readers. Adults--like myself--who appreciate and enjoy wicked parody and wordplay intertwined around a solid plot and characters(Think Roald Dahl tales like Matilda and The Witches.) will happily devour this short, easy read. ...more
The Castle Behind Thorns is a tender, profoundly relevant twist on a fairy and folk tale formula. After an argument with his father and a plea at a saThe Castle Behind Thorns is a tender, profoundly relevant twist on a fairy and folk tale formula. After an argument with his father and a plea at a saint's shrine for peace and understanding between them, Sand awakes in the fireplace of the Castle Behind Thorns.
Sand has grown up hearing the stories about the castle: how its inhabitants fled after an earthquake that tore the castle apart and the hedge of thorns grew up around the ruins. He quickly realizes as he explores the castle and grounds that whatever happened was NOT an earthquake, but a sundering of stupefying proportion. Sand knows an earthquake cannot rend an anvil in half.
When Sand attempts to bypass the thorns surrounding the castle he discovers they have a life force of their own...and they have NO intention of letting him pass through them into the outside world. Unsure how long he will be trapped within the thorns Sand, almost without realizing it, begins to mend the castle.
In the course of his explorations Sand unwittingly resurrects a former resident of the castle--Perrotte. Perrotte was murdered by her stepmother--who now rules the region with her daughter--in the castle as a young girl. She is, understandably confused at first, then angry as she remembers what happened to her.
At its heart The Castle Behind Thorns is a story about finding friendship and forgiveness and the bounty of joy those things can bring into our lives. The most moving and insightful passage for me is when Perrotte first genuinely tries to envision what forgiveness could mean for her:
What would it be like? To be free of the pain and grief she felt, the anger that welled in her every time she thought about the thing that had happened to her, the death she'd received, the years and people she had lost?
[...] What would it be like to remember the past without wanting to scream and to cry? Without feeling like a burden rested on her shoulders and her heart?
[...]Would life feel like it did when she stood shoulder to shoulder with Sand at the forge, creating the spherical astrolabe? Engrossing. Involving. Full of possibility and joy and friendship?
Anyone who has ever tried to forgive a painful wrong done to them by another hears her own heart in Perrotte's thoughts. The Castle Behind Thorns is a brilliant example of story at its finest. I LOVED IT! ...more
Nightingale's Nest is not simply a story; it is an experience. 12-year-old John is going to work with his father this summer. John's little sister, RaNightingale's Nest is not simply a story; it is an experience. 12-year-old John is going to work with his father this summer. John's little sister, Raelynn, died in a tree-climbing accident a year ago. John's family used all their available funds (including savings) to pay for Raelynn's funeral and burial. They have sold everything of value they own and are struggling now to pay rent each month.
As many surviving older siblings do, John feels guilty that he was not able to save his sister, 'catch' her as she fell from the oak tree. His mother is so lost in her grief that on her worst days she speaks as if Raelynn is still alive. His father is angry and frustrated, often using what little money he earns on beer instead of rent. John has cut himself off from his best friend next door--desperately missing him but too embarrassed to admit they can't alternate houses to watch baseball or play video games because they can no longer afford cable TV and have sold his gaming system. John hopes that by helping his father at work he can contribute much needed funds and somehow begin to make up for Raelynn's death and the disastrous state in which it has left his family.
While working with his father cutting trees in the yard of the wealthiest man in town John hears a voice, singing from the sycamore tree next door. John is both mesmerized by and concerned about Gayle from the moment he meets her. She is small and he sees red marks he suspects are from Gayle's foster mother and her son. He feels a fierce need to protect her.
Mr. King is the owner of several Dollar Chain stores and is often called 'The Emperor' by the townspeople. He has also heard Gayle sing in her tree next door. He sees that John has a connection with the little girl and offers him $500 (which he knows John's family needs) to convince Gayle to sing for him in his home recording studio so that he may have a recording of her voice to listen to always. John has an uneasy feeling about it, but reasons that it's harmless, the money will help his family and he will stay with Gayle the whole time.
John makes a series of decisions many a 12-year-old would make in his position as he tries to help assuage his parents' grief over Raelynn's death, make them proud of him, help alleviate their financial struggles and protect Gayle at the same time. Predictably, the consequences of these decisions spiral into a situation beyond John's capacity to cope. When, in the midst of anguishing over what to do about Gayle, his father's drinking and his mother's apparent loss of touch with reality John realizes that other people outside of his family are aware of both his parents' behavior it is too much for him:
The knot grew bigger as anger started to balloon in my stomach. I'd given up everything--even my best friend--to keep my family's secrets. And it turned out that maybe there hadn't been a secret to keep.
Based on Hans Christensen Andersen's The Nightingale, Nikki Loftin's modern reinterpretation Nightingale's Nest is both a brilliant tribute and an extraordinary story in its own right. Both John and Gayle draw the reader into their stories. as readers we,, in turn, almost without realizing it, takes Gayle and John into our hearts. And they will stay with there...even after we have finished reading Nightingale's Nest. ...more
There are many things I love about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. The description on the book jacket says:
In which young Ophelia rescues a magical boy
There are many things I love about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. The description on the book jacket says:
In which young Ophelia rescues a magical boy, battles the Snow Queen, and saves the world.
This is a perfect summary of the story. It is an extraordinary mingling of modern-day characters with the fairy tale of The Snow Queen. (Most people are now aware of The Snow Queen if they were not before due to Disney's movie Frozen. Frozen, however, departs from the original story in that their "Snow Queen" is not evil.)
In Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy Ophelia, her father and her sister Alice have arrived in what we are told only is "a foreign city." Ophelia's father has accepted a job as the curator of Battle: The Greatest Exhibition of Swords in the History of the World at the city's museum, hired by the strangely beautiful and intimidating Miss Kaminski--who dresses in glittering white. We find out that Ophelia's mother has died "exactly three months, seven days, and nine hours ago." When Ophelia, roaming about the museum, spies the Marvelous Boy through the keyhole of a room hidden away in the galleries she is shocked.
When he tells her he was chosen by the wizards to deliver a sword which will defeat the Snow Queen Ophelia does not believe him. When he cannot tell her his name because the wizards took it to protect him Ophelia does not believe him. Ophelia is a member of the Children's Science Society of Greater London and believes what she can see and hear and touch, in things which can be proven through experimentation and demonstration. Although Ophelia does not believe his fantastical tale of waiting hundreds of years, that the world is about to be destroyed and frozen forever, ghosts, misery birds and an evil Snow Queen, she does see that he is imprisoned and agrees to help him.
Ophelia's courage in facing monsters and magic while she struggles with the fact of her mother's death is inspiring and touching. The adventure itself is fast-paced; I often felt breathless, as if I was running through galleries from statues that became real and ghosts that wanted to steal my soul right along with Ophelia. When Alice, who used to laugh and play with her and now seems far away and separate from them in her own pain after their mother's death, falls under the spell of the museum curator, Miss Kaminski, Ophelia becomes first suspicious,then terrified of losing her sister.
Ophelia's present-day life is interwoven with memories of her mother's life and death and the tale of the Marvelous Boy. The museum is the perfect setting: spooky for children who know the truth and utterly everyday to adults who do not. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a must-read for anyone who enjoys adventure, mystery, magic or fairy tales. The timeless theme Good versus Evil where the only way for Good to triumph is through kindness and courage and the love from which they both grow brilliantly envelops the characters and the adventure itself. I read the book in two days--and I was mad when real life intruded and someone needed me to do something besides read!
Perfect for classroom and bedtime read-alouds! I loved Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy on many levels. For me it felt like a heart-healing balm in light of the daily bumps and bruises we take from life. Enjoy! ...more
I am torn about my review of Breadcrumbs. I feel as if I need to write two separate reviews because, unfortunately, this is actually two separate storI am torn about my review of Breadcrumbs. I feel as if I need to write two separate reviews because, unfortunately, this is actually two separate stories. As this is a local author and I have not yet read her other work (The Cronus Chronicles series) I was looking forward to reading this Lovelace nominee.
The first half of the story focuses on Hazel. Hazel is in 5th Grade a new school that functions very differently from her former one and where she has all but given up trying to "fit in." Her father has left Hazel and her mother, rarely calls or visits and is planning to marry and start a new life in another part of the city. Her best friend, Jack, lives next door and, although others may question whether or not a boy and girl can still be best friends at their age, they have no such concerns. They have similar interests in stories and fantasy, able to battle knights and dragons and visit Hogwarts and Harry Potter together without fear of judgment. When Hazel loses her father and Jack's mother is beset with a debilitating depression they are able to cope by supporting each other.
Hazel's voice describes her feelings with aching genuineness as Jack's behavior toward her seems to be changing and she feels herself losing the last real human contact that has helped her survive her recent struggles. Ursu has a chance here to weave a tale of the salvation of escape into stories and literature and when that escape can sometimes lead us to lose opportunities for human contacts and sense of belonging that ground us between the two.
Instead she defaults to her comfort zone by interspersing the fairy tale of The Snow Queen into Hazel's story when she reveals that Jack has had his eye pierced by a shard of a magic mirror and fallen prey to the White Witch (an almost direct copy of the character from the C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.) As soon as Hazel sets off into the Enchanted Woods to rescue Jack the story falls apart. The fairy tale characters and situations in the Woods are cliché and boring. If Hazel actually knows as much about fairy tales as we are led to believe originally she would never have fallen for any of the transparent evil fairy tale devices used by the other characters.
Having hazel throw out titles and characters from popular kids' series without any framework or connection is a half-hearted attempt that fails to show Hazel's dependence ON literature or its usefulness in navigating the real world. By using the second half of the book to make the fairy tale world the focus Ms. Ursu loses her opportunity to help Hazel and the reader learn to appreciate both the worlds of fantasy AND reality and to actively display the transformative power of the arts. In short, the first half of the book is well written and moving. As for the half in the fairy tale lands--too many authors have done a better job for this work to stand up. Instead read Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series (starting with A Tale Dark and Grimm) or Marissa Meyer's brilliant Lunar Chronicle series (beginning with Cinder) or the original fairy tales themselves. ...more
I usually refuse on principle to read books created in conjunction with the release of coordinated toys like the Ever After High dolls in the Barbie/M
I usually refuse on principle to read books created in conjunction with the release of coordinated toys like the Ever After High dolls in the Barbie/Monster High aisles of stores. Due to the fact that this particular series is authored by Shannon Hale (of Princess Academy, The Goose Girl and Rapunzel's Revenge fame) made me suspend that pet peeve of mine and I am glad I did.
The Storybook of Legends circles around Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen in Snow White) and Apple White (daughter of Snow White). They are both students at Ever After High (along with a myriad of other storybook characters like Cerise Hood, Briar Beauty, Madeleine Hatter, Daring Charming, etc.) and in this, their second year, they will sign the Storybook of Legends and commit themselves to reliving the fairy tales of their parents as those same characters. Raven isn't sure she wants to sign off on becoming the Evil Queen. As the day draws nearer she continues to alternately question and grieve the fact that she has no say in her own future. Apple White is looking forward to the opportunity to officially commit to the storyline she knows she was born to play out.
Milton Grimm, the Headmaster, clearly indicates that anyone who does NOT sign the Book will immediately poof! out of existence along with any other characters from that story. Apple observes Raven's reluctance to commit to her destiny and is terrified of losing her own Happily Ever After because Raven decided she doesn't want to be evil.
As expected, the story follows Raven's journey through Milton Grimm's increasingly suspicious predictions of doom and her own frustration at having no say in her own future. What I did NOT expect was the depth of the characters. One might expect Apple White's character to go the direction of Galinda in the Broadway adaptation of Wicked (superficial, snotty ,"mean girl"). And she does seem so at first. The difference is that both Raven and Apple have aspects of their personalities that are likeable, touching and genuine. Both Apple's and Raven's fear are palpable and reasonable and address both the fairy tale objectives of the plot AND the true nature of friendships, hopes and disappointments of growing up.
The biggest treat is really the character of Madeleine Hatter (daughter of Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter). She is kind and funny and delightfully silly with a hidden wisdom in her contributions. This book also does NOT suffer from the overly wordy descriptions that weaken both The Princess Academy and . The plot moves quickly to a wonderful crescendo, concluding in a way that satisfies the reader and still leaves her awaiting the storyline of the next book. It may not have as much appeal to younger male readers but this is a perfect independent reading choice for young girls almost to and just beginning the "tweens." It offers strong female role models for young girls as well as a good story. ...more
I am a little muddled about this story--mostly because I think the story itself doesn't know exactly what it is trying to be. The title indicates a vaI am a little muddled about this story--mostly because I think the story itself doesn't know exactly what it is trying to be. The title indicates a variation on the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hoodbut it's not a variation at all.
All of the elements, the characters and the plot progression of the original story remain the same. The differences are:(1) it is told from the perspective of the Big Bad Wolf; and (2) the Wolf claims the reason everything happened the way it did is because he was hungry and Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother reminded him of apples.
The two things that Ms Shaskan does do well is: (1)collaborate with illustrator Gerald Guerlais whose broad, rich reds, greens & browns save a blasé text with their smart and witty characterizations; and (2)include her sidebar Think About It at the conclusion, encouraging young readers to recreate those well-known and loved stories they have heard over and over again.
For this reason I might think about using it in a classroom discussing plot or character structure, setting, point of view, etc. As a stand-alone read, however, it does not have much to recommend it. If the fractured fairy tale from another character's point of view is really what you are looking for your best bet remains Jon Szieska's The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood....more