Showing posts from April, 2009

Time Travel Takes Over...

You might have noticed that I like to do things thematically and I like alliteration as well.  A few months back I finally got around to re-reading one of my favorite books and that led me to a frenzied stock piling of reviews of books of a similar genre.

I dabbled with the idea of turning "Fairy Tale Fridays" into "Time Travel Thursdays" but decided that I didn't want to alter my Monday-Wednesday-Friday review schedule just so I could slap a cool label on a post. Therefore, I am pleased to bring to you, for the next several Fridays, reviews of young adult books that involve time travel as part of the plot. I'll be kicking off the extravaganza with  a review of a childhood favorite of mine that was a groundbreaking book in the world of children's literature when it was first published in 1962 in so many ways.

I have enjoyed reading and re-reading every one of the featured books and have also realized that there seem to be two distinct ways to write about …

Max Disaster #1 Alien Eraser to the Rescue & #2 Alien Eraser Unravels the Mystery of the Pyramids written & illustrated by Marissa Moss RL 3

Marissa Moss, author of theAmelia's Notebooks series, first published in 1995, featured in the American Girl Magazine and now totaling more than twenty titles, brings us the boy version, sort of. As Max himself says, "There's a girl in my class who keeps a notebook about EVERYTHING in her life. SUPER BORING!" Max's notebook, which he found mysteriously tucked under his pillow one morning, is "perfect for writing scientific stuff in... I have so many great ideas, I need a place to record them. I don't want to forget ANY of my cool inventions or experiments. My mom and dad are real scientists and I'm going to be one, too." A combination of Alien Eraser comic strips, drawings, photographs, experiments and inventions, Max's notebook also weaves multiple plot threads throughout the story. The main plot line in Max Disaster #1, Alien Eraser to the Rescue, involves the escalating fights between Max's parents that result in their separa…

Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair (Twice Upon a Time Series #1) by Wendy Mass, 205 pp RL 4

There seems to be a serious problem in the publishing industry when it comes to marketing a smart, thoughtful, engaging book for young readers that is based on a traditional fairy tale. For some reason, the people who choose the cover art, and even the titles in this case, have a problem matching the outside with what's inside... I have complained in the past when reviewing Gail Carson Levine's superb retelling of Cinderella, Ella Enchanted and, with Wendy Mass' excellent contribution to the genre, I think I have an even stronger case to make.

Rapunzel: The One with All the Hair(Twice Upon a Time Series) by Wendy Mass is a winsome new look at an old story. In fact, it is one of those rare young adult books that I actually wish was longer, as opposed to the 500+ page doorstops that hit the shelves monthly. However, if this book were any longer it would threaten to move into a higher reading level and it is so perfectly suited for fourth graders and especially younger chi…

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer, by JT Petty, illustrations by Will Davis, 120 pp, RL 4

I first listened to Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer on audio a few years ago and thought it was a great story and a brilliant twist on a familiar idea. While reading and writing reviews for my Peter Pan (and related books) week I was reminded of this great story and pulled it off the shelf - and listened to it again. LJ Ganser, the best ever narrator of books without a British accent, reads Clemency Pogue as well as the spectacular Sisters Grimm series. JT Petty and Michael Buckly both share a wry sense of humor and are skilled at creating thoughtful, brave, girl characters as well as the wicked and wickedly funny fairy tale creations who sometimes torment and sometimes help them. Interestingly enough, Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer was first published in May of 2005, a mere two months before Daphne and Sabrina Grimm hit the bookshelves!
The prologue of Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer begins with a very funny treatise on the nature of good, bad and exceptions to the rule. Newborn mamma…

The Snow Pony by Alison Lester, 194 pp, RL 6

I read all of Alison Lester's marvelous horse books back-to-back and feel like I have just spent the week on horseback in the rural Australian outback. I can almost smell the dry, dusty roads, the hay and the manure. Horse Crazy, her series for young readers, is playful and gentle with relatively well behaved horses and only little tidbits of danger here and there. The Quicksand Pony, for slightly older readers, introduces a higher level of danger and a more emotionally complex story that is resolved with a happy ending. The Snow Pony, while slightly under two hundred pages, is an emotionally tense, gripping story of young girls growing up and learning that sometimes they can't trust the adults in their lives as well as a harrowing, at times, account of the hardships, dangers and tragedies that come from working with and earning a living off animals and the land.
Set in a landscape similar to that of The Quicksand Pony, The Snow Pony is the story of Dusty Riley and the brum…

The Quicksand Pony by Alison Lester, 135 pp RL 3

Author and illustrator of many magnificent picture books for children, native Australian Alison Lester has written a series of books for new readers titled Horse Crazy as well as two books for slightly older readers. Written in 1997, The Quicksand Pony reads almost like a fairy tale on the right side of reality. There is a grief stricken young woman who disappears with her baby, a wild dog who allows himself to be tamed and a beautiful pony named Bella who appears to have been magically rescued from a quicksand bog. But, Lester's telling of the story of Biddy, Joe and Bella is so vivid and straightforward I felt like I could almost smell the sea air and feel a chill as I read.
Set on a remote coastal headland in Australia, The Quicksand Pony tells the story of people who live in the wilds and off the wilds that surround them. They tale begins on a windy night nine years earlier when a girl and her baby set out in a boat and only the boat reaches land. The story picks up again …

The Silver Horse Switch (Horse Crazy Series #1) by Alison Lester, illustrations by Roland Harvey, 62 pp, RL 2

Native Australian Alison Lester is one of my top five favorite picture book illustrator/authors. Sadly, most of her picture books are not available in the United States, but if you are lucky your library will have a couple on the shelf. Of those available for purchase here, my favorites are Are We There Yet? : A Journey Around Australia, which is about a family's winter-long (which is summer down under) car trip driving around the perimeter of Australia and is only available in hardcover. Magic Beach is a poetic, sunny romp through a child's family vacation at a beach house. Imagine is the perfect rainy day book in which a sister and brother play dress-up while imagining themselves in various animal habitats that include the rain forest, the Australian outback, the African plains, the Arctic and a jurassic setting. Lester provides a list of the all the animals that appear in each detailed illustration in the back of the book. Both of these titles are available in paper…

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd, 96 pp, RL 5

Winner of the 2008 Newbery Award, Laura Amy Schlitz's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village is unique in so many ways. While I cannot see it being read as a stand-alone book, but rather as part of a lesson plan, a drama project or in conjunction with other set in medieval England, this does not detract from its value and importance.

As she says in her forward to the book, Schlitz wrote "these plays for a group of students at the Park School, where I was a librarian." The students were studying the Middle Ages and experimenting with building catapults and miniature castles, baking bread, tending herbs, composing music and illuminating manuscripts. Schlitz wanted them to have something to perform so she wrote these "miniature plays," nineteen monologues and two dialogues so that each student would have a substantial part to perform. For this very reason, this book begs to be read aloud in a group. If this is not possible, make sure you fi…

Peter and the Starcatchers (Starcatchers Series #1) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Greg Call. 480pp, RL 4

If JM Barrie's original, unadulterated, Peter Panis a favorite of yours, I suggest you read Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. If you enjoy the characters and setting from the original, but are not a purist, and, if you have time to read Barry and Pearson's series to see how Barrie's book is re-imagined then I definitely recommend Peter and the Starcatchers. At times is seems like a watery shadow of the original, but, if you are a fan of Pan by way of the 1953 animated Disney classic, this series, which calls itself a prequel to the meeting of Peter and Wendy and is published by Hyperion, a subsidary of Disney, you may enjoy the non-stop action and intermittent glimpses of people and places you remember from the movie.
According to the authors, this series was conceived when, more than five years ago, after a bedtime reading of JM Barrie's book, Ridley Pearson's daughter asked him how Peter met Captain Hook. This collaboration is heavy with action a…

Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geralidine McCaughrean, illustrations by Scott M Fischer, 310 pp RL 4

From an adult perspective, JM Barrie's Peter Pan is a bittersweet story. From a child's viewpoint, it must be a playful adventure. The final chapter, "When Wendy Grew Up," (which was actually an epilogue written four years after the debut of the play and performed only once in Barrie's lifetime, per his instructions) finds an adult Wendy in the nursery with her daughter and Peter crying bitterly when he realizes she has grown up. However, Peter soon decides that Wendy's daughter Jane will do just as well for a mother and Spring cleaning on Neverland and they fly out the window together. When Jane is grown Peter returns for Jane's daughter, Margaret. The final line of the book reads, "When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter's mother in turn; and so it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless." At first, the word "heartless" confused me. But, after more thought I think B…