Monday, March 27, 2017
I'm giving fantasy a try! Not typically my favorite, but my students love it, so I have to try and embrace it. This week I read Time Stoppers by Carrie Jones.
Annie Nobody is exactly as her name describes- a nobody. She is bounced from one horrible foster home to the next. She has no friends or family and desperately seeks to be loved. Unlike Annie, Jamie Alexander DOES have a family, but they treat him terribly. He has threadbare clothing, barely enough to eat and often has the sneaking suspicion that his family doesn't quite love him the way they should. Luckily for both of these children, it's quickly revealed that they are indeed in the wrong places and they were both born to do great things like save the world! They were stolen from the lives they were meant to live and with the help of a brave dwarf named Eva, they are returned to the magical town of Aurora. There they discover a new world of fantastic creatures (ghosts, dwarves, elves, wizards etc..) and Annie and Jamie are cherished and loved as they have always wished.
As Aurora is attacked, they, along with some new friends, must bravely fight the forces of evil and learn to navigate a magical new world.
As I always write- I'm not a fantasy lover, so it takes a pretty special book to hold my interest. From the first chapters I was invested in Annie and Jamie's sad stories, and I rooted for them to find a place where they belonged. There is a good bit a humor in this book, and I enjoyed being introduced to a colorful cast of fantastic characters. It was satisfying to read both of the main characters evolution from scared children to brave heroes.
I think young fantasy lovers will enjoy this because the story moved quickly and it was easy to read. My only criticism would be that I never found out who or what stole Annie when she was a baby. I was hoping for a resolution to that lingering question but perhaps it will be answered in the sequel!
Siren Sisters by Dana Langer is a really neat story. Sirens seem to be the new craze replacing vampires and zombies. They are fascinating creatures, and I'm excited that there is middle grade novel exploring the myth.
Lolly is a twelve year old girl with three gorgeous sisters. Like typical siblings, they go to school, work in the family diner and care for each other when they aren't doing the bidding of the Sea Witch and using their voices to crash boats into the shore. That's right- they are SIRENS! Lolly (against her will) is set to become a siren and join her sisters on her thirteenth birthday but she fights fiercely against the magic that would make it so. She simply can't understand how her sisters could destroy ships and risk lives. Why would they agree to become sirens? To make matters worse, one of the head townsmen, discovers the sisters' magic and makes it his personal mission to destroy them. Lolly and her best friend Jason have to rescue her sisters and break the siren curse before Lolly's transformation.
This story is really interesting. The back story and history of the Sea Witch and sirens woven into the story is engaging. Aside from the magic, Lolly's evolving friendship with Jason is sweet and very typical of a twelve year old girl. It's hard enough for her to be a pre-teen, but scales growing on her feet when all she wants to do is wear sandals to the school dance is the worst!
As she and Jason scramble to rescue the sisters, a secret is revealed that I NEVER SAW COMING! It's very unique and proves that love between siblings is a bond that can't be broken. Lolly is a likable and brave and a character that I think my students will enjoy getting to know.
Monday, March 6, 2017
As I written many times before, I love finding books that I haven't heard a lot about out there in the library blogosphere . I always feel like I'm making a rare wonderful discovery! The two books I read this week haven't really been on my radar through any of the library feeds I follow, but they should be!
A couple of years ago I read Please Ignore Vera Dietz and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've been following Amy Sarig King ever since. She didn't disappoint with Me and Marvin Gardens. It was a refreshingly original plot and I think boys will really be fond of it. It's the story of an 11- year- old boy named Obe who lives on his family farm in Pennsylvania. Years ago, his family owned thousands of acres of land but because of a mistake his grandfather made, the land had to be sold and Obe's family has only one small patch left. Obe fiercely protects this patch from the pollution that the new housing developments are bringing to his precious creek. One day while patrolling, he finds a creature that he can't identify (probably because it's the only one of its kind). It's part boar, part dog and part scaly, slimy mess! To top it off, this strange new animal ONLY eats plastic. Obe names his new lovable pet Marvin Gardens (after his father's obsession with Monopoly) and has to find a way to keep the animal safe from neighborhood bullies and others who might try to take Marvin away. Unfortunately for Obe, Marvin's "droppings" become toxic waste and the entire development becomes curious about what's leaving the mess behind. Out of options, Obe turns to his favorite Science teacher for help as to how to protect his land and Marvin.
This story reminded me a little of Hoot by Carl Hiassen with its strong focus on protecting the environment, but I think it's easier for kids to read than Hoot . Along with environmental themes, this book has a strong focus on staying true to oneself and not giving in to peer pressure. Obe is a very kind and conscientious boy who finds he's not "cool" enough to hang around the other boys in his grade and in the end, finds true friendship where he least expects it.
There were many earth friendly lessons and also quite a bit of information about the many environmental dangers in today's world, so this would be a fantastic read aloud around Earth Day!
Fairy tale loving young ladies will really like If the Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid. I believe this is her first book, and I know it's the start of a new series.
Darling Dimple has spent her entire life in the castle and when she comes of age she gets her job assignment- Under Scrubber (yup, she scrubs the pots). It's not the worst job, but it keeps her from her true dream of becoming Princess Mariposa's best friend. One day her dream (sort of) comes true and she gets promoted upstairs to Under-Presser. Even though Darling must get through mountains of sheets and handkerchiefs that need pressing, she is able to explore and finds her way into a magic closet full of 100 beautiful gowns. Unable to resist the temptation, she tries on number 11 and discovers that each dress has the power to disguise her as someone else in the castle. This come in handy as a mystery begins to unfold and Darling is the only one who can save the day. She must be careful as she faces an unknown evil villain, magical stone dragons, and a horrible roommate bent on making Darling's life horrible!
A little slow in the beginning, but once Darling sets foot into the magical closet, the story becomes a wonderful adventure. This book has magic dresses, friendly mice, an enchanted canary and all sorts of other fantastic elements. Also, Darling is a fabulous heroine! She dreams big and doesn't let her station in life define her. She has an incredible imagination, and I found myself rooting for her every step of the way. I think girls from 3rd grade and up will really enjoy this.