Posts Tagged ‘junior fiction’

The Wolf Wilder

January 12, 2016

The Wolf Wilder

By Katherine Rundell

Feodora “Feo” Petrovich and her mother Marina are “wolf wilders” who live in the snowy wilderness of Russia during the early 20th century with only wolves for company.  This may seem like strange company for them to keep but they have a strange job.  Their job is to “undomesticate” wolves who have been trained as pets for the Russian aristocracy but have grown too dangerous to own.  As their owners wish to return them to the wild, they turn them over to Feo and her mother so that they may remind the wolves of their natural instincts and help them to survive when they’re reintroduced to the wild.  This is a happy existence for both mother and daughter who live comfortably with their family of wolves until the evil and blood-thirsty General Rakov (ruler of the Tsar’s Imperial Army) orders the wolves to be destroyed. Unwilling to follow the General’s order, they are declared traitors which, of course, comes with its own consequences.  As her mother is carted off to prison “for defiance of the Tsar”, Feo vows to save her and sets off with her 4-legged friends across the wintry wilderness to rescue her and stop the General.

Is this a folk tale or a survival story?  Actually it feels like a bit of both.   Feo’s loyalty, courage and bravery sustain the story as she sets out to do what’s right in the harshest of circumstances and gains a reputation as “the little wolf girl” among the Russian peasants and those who rule them.

Recommended for grades 4 – 6

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

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Lilliput

December 31, 2015

Lilliput

By: Sam Gayton

Illustrated by: Alice Ratterree

Have you heard of the tale that’s short and tall?  There’s an island in the world where everything is small!

She is a girl three inches tall with eyes like drops of dew. Her clothes are cut from handkerchiefs and stitched with spider silk. For half her life, she has been trapped in a birdcage while her giant kidnapper sits below her, writing in a leather-bound book. Her name is Lily, and tonight she is escaping. She is going home. To Lilliput. (from book cover)

After suffering years of ridicule for his “fanciful” tales of travel, Lemuel Gulliver returned to the nation of Lilliput to find his proof.  Lily is that proof and Gulliver has done everything in his power to keep his prisoner from escaping as he hides away, working on his book, in the attic of the most nefarious clock maker in London.  With the help of the clock maker’s apprentice, and a jolly, rhyming chocolatier and his talking parrot, Señior Chitchat, Lily might finally get her freedom and her home back.  But first they must get past not only Gulliver but the scheming clock maker as well!

A thrilling tale based on Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, this middle grade book is fast-paced and full of adventure.  Because Gayton focused on the action and plot, the details are a little lacking; however, this makes for an enjoyable quick read.  The illustrations, spread out nicely throughout the book, enhance the story without overpowering it.  With a couple of darker scenes and themes, this is a great book for young readers who are not quite ready to make the jump into the deep end of young adult novels but still want a little bit of suspense and danger.

Reviewed by: Meredith (Harrington Library)

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When Mischief Came to Town

December 18, 2015

WHEN MISCHIEF CAME TO TOWNWhen Mischief Came to Town

By: Katrina Nannestad

 I was immediately drawn into this well told story about Inge Maria, a young girl who leaves Copenhagen after the death of her mother, to live with her stern grandmother on a small island village. The quiet village and the people that live there are nothing like her home in Copenhagen. Rather than adapt to fit in, spirited Inge Maria, infuses life into the sleepy village with her lively sense of mischief. She is helped along by her grandmother (who also has a tendency toward mischief), some spunky farm animals, and her vivid imagination. The story is filled with humor. When the story starts Inge is traveling to the island by fishing boat when she falls asleep and a goat nibbles off one of her braids. She then wears a bright red hat knitted by her grandmother to conceal the damage to her hair. Inge Maria and her grandmother, Dizzie, learn how to move together to form a new kind of family.

I think this story is destined to become a classic like Anne of Green Gables. Inge Maria is an adorable heroine who will be remembered long after readers finish her story.

 

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The Lightning Queen

December 11, 2015

The Lightning Queen

By: Laura Resau

I am a fan of Laura Resau’s writing and this latest book is just as wonderful as her other novels.

In present day Oaxaca, Mateo visits his grandfather, Teo, in the ancestral Mixteco town of Hill of Dust. Teo begins to tell his grandson a story about a magical girl who could harness power from storms and sing back the dead. The story shifts to the past when Teo was a boy and his first meeting with the Romani (gypsy) people on a caravan through Hill of Dust to show movies, sing, and read fortunes in exchange for food and gifts. Teo’s family lost his sister the year before in the river, and while his grandfather is the town healer, the family is working through grief at the time when the Romani visit. Teo is enchanted by the fortuneteller’s granddaughter, Esma, the “Queen of Lightning”. Esma’s grandmother predicts that Teo and Esma will be friends forever and their friendship will continue with their grandchildren.

This story is interesting culturally because it addresses some of the prejudices felt by the native Mixteco people in Mexico and the similarities in prejudices felt by the Romani people. Resau, as always, adds an informative author’s note describing her research and includes glossaries of words in Spanish, Mixteco, and Romani. The inter-generational story mixed with magical realism makes this an enjoyable read and is recommended for ages 8 and older.

If you like this story, be sure to check out the author’s other books, such as What the Moon Saw and Star in the Forest.

Reviewed by: Diana (Harrington Library)

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The Doldrums

December 10, 2015

The Doldrums

By Nicholas Gannon

11-year-old Archer Helmsley is a dreamer who longs for adventure.  Unfortunately, his overprotective mother has confined him to his house and his school.  Not for a week or a month but forever…or at least as long she can protect him from the adventurous tendencies passed down to him by his grandparents, famous explorers who disappeared in Antarctica. It doesn’t help that his family lives in his grandparents’ house surrounded by pictures and memorabilia from their numerous journeys around the world. Consequently, Archer’s resolve to escape is intensified. He soon concocts a plan, along with some new-found friends, to stow away on a ship to Antarctica to find his grandparents who he is convinced are still alive.  But… the best of plans don’t always turn out as expected.  Accidents can turn into adventures too!  After all, anything can be an adventure when you’re with friends!

This is the perfect book for kids in grades 4-6 who enjoy whimsical tales of friendship, mystery and adventure with characters who could have leaped out of a Roald Dahl novel. Delightful full-color as well as black and white illustrations complement the story without distracting the reader and give this imaginative novel a “classic” quality.

Highly recommended!

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

 

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A Nearer Moon

November 18, 2015

A nearer moonA Nearer Moon

By: Melanie Crowder

This is an interconnected story of two sets of sisters, told in alternating chapters. Luna and Willow are human sisters who live in a village that sits in a swamp.  The swamp used to be a flowing river filled with sprites and fairies until a log jam created a dam.  Now the swamp contains a sickness and anyone who drinks the water will sicken and die in exactly three weeks.  When Willow accidentally swallows some of the swamp water, Luna is willing to do anything to save her sister.  Luna breaks every one of her mother’s rules in her brave journey to save her beloved sister.  Meanwhile, water sprite sisters, Perdita and Pelagia, are preparing to leave the world they live in on the night of the nearer moon.  Perdita misses the window of time when the doors to the new world opened.  Now she is stuck in the dam searching for a way to be reunited with her twin, Pelagia.  The stories of both sets of sisters are closely intertwined.  This fantasy story is told in beautiful, poetic language and is a pleasure to read.

 

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The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

November 11, 2015

starwarsThe Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, an original retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope

By: Alexandra Bracken

With the upcoming Star Wars movie coming to theaters, this story revisits the original Star Wars trilogy in chapter book form. The book describes itself as a “retelling” but essentially it is a pretty close novelization of the original Star Wars: A New Hope movie. The main difference is the order that the story is told. The story is divided into 3 parts: one for Leia “the princess”, one for Han Solo “the scoundrel”, and one for Luke Skywalker “the farm boy”.

The retelling is clever because it informs the inner dialogues and feelings of the characters. Most of the spoken dialogue is taken directly from the movie. It may not be necessary to know the movie to understand and read the book. However, for those that know the movie, it is appealing to see these famous movie quotes in chapter book form. Nothing extraordinarily new comes from the book, but there is ample evidence that the author loves Star Wars and her enthusiasm makes the retelling enjoyable.

This title is recommended for ages 8 and older. It would also be a fun read-aloud story for families to share, especially for those that love space adventures and want to introduce Star Wars to a new audience.

Reviewed by: Diana (Harrington Library)

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Connect the Stars

October 29, 2015

connectthestars

Connect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

Middle-school can be tough, and Audrey Alcott and Aaron Archer both feel like misfits at their schools.  They both have special gifts too…Audrey knows when people lie, and Aaron has an encyclopedic memory.

When Audrey and Aaron meet at a six-week wilderness survival camp, they are paired on the same team with two other campers and must undergo challenges designed by the camp founder and former football player, Jared Eastbrook.

I loved that this book addressed bullying, and developing friendships within a great story about the West Texas wilderness and survival.  Don’t pass this one up by assuming it might be another “problem” novel about middle school.  Even though the characters are a bit older than the typical juvenile novel, I think it would be a great book to read together as a family or in a classroom.

I hope you like Connect the Stars as much as I did!

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Fuzzy Mud

October 20, 2015

Fuzzy mudFuzzy Mud

By: Louis Sachar

I have been a huge fan of Louis Sachar since I read the novel, Holes, years ago. He is a masterful storyteller and he has written another very entertaining story. Fifth grader Tamaya and seventh grader Marshall always walk to and from school together. However, Marshall is threatened by the school bully, Chad, so he decides to cut through the off-limits woods to avoid the bully. When Marshall follows the pair into the woods, Tamaya tries to defend her friend by shoving some “fuzzy mud” into Chad’s face. The two escape the bully, but later that day Tamaya notices an odd rash on her hand from the mud. The next day Chad is missing and Tamaya’s rash has gotten much worse. The children have unexpectedly stumbled across a huge problem that might affect the future of the entire world. Fuzzy Mud is part adventure tale, part thriller, and part mystery. I enjoyed the story so much that I finished it in one sitting.

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Nooks & Crannies

October 9, 2015

Nooks & Crannies

By Jessica Lawson

Do you love a good mystery?  11–year-old Tabitha Crumb does and so does her sidekick, a pet mouse named Pemberley.

Tabitha is an avid reader of Inspector Pensive mystery novels and dreams of someday working with Scotland Yard as a detective. That day comes sooner than she expects; however, when she and 5 other children of the same age are invited to the notoriously haunted Hollingsworth Hall, the country estate of Countess Camilla DeMoss, to determine who among them is the Countess’s heir. There, they discover that they are in the middle of a mystery as dead bodies appear, spooky noises awaken them in the night, children disappear, secret passages are discovered and nothing is as it seems.

In a plot set in 1907 and written in the style of a Sherlock Holmes mystery with a bit of Roald Dahl mixed in, Tabitha proves to be a plucky and sympathetic character with whom  readers will identify as she experiences loneliness, fear, loss and at last hope throughout her adventures and search for love and friendship.

With all of the elements of a well-crafted British mystery, Lawson’s novel will appeal to a wide age group from ages 8 through 12.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

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