Showing posts from June, 2009

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, interior pictures by Sue Porter, 230 pp, RL 3

Eva Ibbotson'sThe Secret of Platform 13is a magical romp with creatures almost crawling out of the woodwork - or sewers, in the case of the merrow. Written a few years ahead of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, readers will wonder if she read Ibbotson's book as she was writing her own. There is a downtrodden but kind hearted orphan boy, an obnoxious mother and her spoiled son and, of course, a magical train platform. And, while the similarities between the Trottles and their treatment of Ben over their birth child, Raymond, are strikingly similar to the Dursleys, Dudley and their abuse of Harry, the precise coincidences end there. Ibbotson, as gifted a writer as Rowling, keeps her writing grounded in the realm of children's literature and is really more reminiscent of classic children's writers like the wonderful Edward Eager (Half Magic) who's works were first published in the 1950s and the magnificent E Nesbit, who published most of her …

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, 298 pp, RL 4

Although I count her among my most favorite authors, I have put off reviewing any of Eva Ibbotson's books for almost a year after starting this blog because I knew I'd need to set aside a large chunk of time to do justice to her works. I also knew that I couldn't just review one of her books - I would have to review as many as I could. I thought that I would be able to skim the books, all of which I have already read, then review them. What I didn't realize was that I would get sucked into each and every one and end up re-reading all the books from cover to cover!
Eva Ibbotson is such magnificent writer capable of creating characters that you love and wish were your best friends as well as characters who are devious, self-centered, snobbish and downright mean. While her writing is highly descriptive and visual, it is also plain spoken and straightforward. Whether she is telling a story set in unique geographical location and time period or in a magical world, she…

Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, 281 pp, RL 4

In Island of the Aunts Eva Ibbotson tells the story three sisters who have dedicated their lives to caring for the injured magical and non-magical sea creatures who manage to find their way to their unplotted island in the Atlantic Ocean that sits within sailing distance of London, England. Eva Ibbotson has to be one of my all-time favorite writers for children and I can't believe that I haven't reviewed one of her many books sooner. She is a remarkably versatile children's writer of both fantasy and historical fiction as well as having written for adults and teens. Born in Austria in 1925, Ibbotson immigrated to England and has lived there ever since. She began her writing career at the age of forty and has since written over twenty books, many of which are illustrated by the wonderful Kevin Hawkes.
Ibbotson has a cheerful sense of practicality in her story telling that makes her works seem timeless even though most of her books were written in the late 1980s and 1990s…

The Frog Princess (Tales of the Frog Princess, Book #1) by E.D. Baker, 214 pp, RL 4

The Frog Princess by ED Baker is a gentle twist on traditional fairy tales that should put a smile on the face of fans of Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted and her Princess Tales, now collected in one volume titled, The Fairy's Return and other Pricness Tales, which I highly recommend for all fairy tale lovers.
Set in the kingdom of Greater Greensward, there are the familiar witches, spells, curses, talking animals and seemingly indifferent royal parents who are on the verge of arranging a marriage for their unwilling daughter. Princess Emeralda, fourteen when the story begins, is a clumsy girl with a unique, guffawing laugh and the feeling that she doesn't fit in anywhere but in the chambers of her Aunt Grassina, the royal witch. Although Emeralda, or Emma as she is often called, tries to learn magic from her aunt she is hopeless. Upset at the prospect of another visit from the self-absorbed Prince Jorge, Emma heads off to the swamp for some peace and quiet, flora …

The School Story by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick, 196 pp, RL 4

Andrew Clements is known as the master of the school story and rightly so. His first and most popular novel, Frindle was published in 1996. Since then he has written fifteen young adult novels, many of which are illustrated byBrian Selznickthe Caldecott Award winning illustrator and author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Clements has written even more chapter books, beginning reader titles and an handful of picture books and has definintely staked out a place on the bookshelf right after Beverly Cleary and her Ramona books and just before Eoin Colfer and his Artemis Fowl series.
The covers of Clement's books, when illustrated by Brian Selznick, always have the main character holding something representative of the story. The cover of School Story reflects back upon itself, like standing between two mirrors, and the story inside proves to be a bit like that as well. Sixth grader Natalie, is the daughter of Hannah Nelson, editor at Shipley Junior Books in New York City. The t…

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, 323pp RL: Middle Grade

It is rare to find a well written mystery in the world of young adult literature, especially one that doesn't have a "Scooby-Doo" type ending, the kind you never could have seen coming no matter how good your deduction skills may be. Not only is Siobhan Dowd'sThe London Eye Mystery gripping from start to finish, it is also an entirely plausible story beginning to end. And, most importantly, it is entirely believable that the narrator Ted and his older sister Kat were able to think their way through the mystery to a solution at the end when their parents and the police couldn't.
Although the great artwork for the hardcover edition of The London Eye Mystery caught my eye right away, I didn't pick it up until it was released in paperback a year later. I began by reading The London Eye Mystery during my breaks at work and, when I was about two-thirds of the way finished I stopped reading and flipped to the back of the book thinking, "This woman is a phenomen…


Your kids can earn a free book this summer at Barnes & Noble.

I would be telling you about this even if I didn't work there because, hey,

Stop by your local B&N (if you have one...) and pick up a form or follow this Summer Reading with Percy Jackson link to download a form. Kids entering grades 1 - 6 are eligible to enter. There is some wiggle room with this age rule. Generally, a bookseller will not hassle you if your child looks a little to old or too young to be participating. The most important thing is to make sure there is a book on the list of eligible free titles (clicking on the link above will provide a list of eligible free titles) that your child CAN and WANTS to read.
Rules: Kids must read 8 books - ANY 8 - library books, neighbor's books, books in the doctor's office, any book. Fill out the form, go to B&N, choose your book and take it to the cash register so a bookseller can ring you up. Even though the book is free, we need to…

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo, 448 pp RL 4

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineasis the first in a trilogy and reminds me very much of Angie Sage'sSeptimus Heap series from its square shape to to it's map of the town and guide to the characters at the end of the story, as well as wonderful illustrations by Antonio Javier Caparo. Both series can serve as the perfect bridge between shorter chapter books and popular, more intense series like Cornelia Funke'sInkworld trilogy or the Harry Potter Series. Where the books differ is in their imaginary settings. While Angie Sage's series has a distinctly medieval, fairy-tale like feel, Sarah Prineas' has a more Victorian air to it, the narrator sometimes using mellifluous phrases like "quick dart" and "skip-tripping."
In what has to be one of the best first lines to a fantasy novel I have read in a while, the narrator, Connwaer, tells us that, "A thief is a lot like a wizard." As his description at the back of the book reads, Conn is a "…

Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest, story and pictures by John Lechner, 56 pp, RL 2

Sticky Burr, illustrated and written by John Lechner is one of the most exciting books to come across my path in a while! Aside from being a charmingly illustrated story that packs adventure, humor and a little nature lesson (in the form of the main character's journal) into the book's colorful pages, there is a map, a copy of the Burrwood Gazette (Summer issue) and sheet music for a delightful little song that my four year old son, after he asked me not to sing it while pounding away on the piano, sang to himself for the rest of the day. There is also the great Sticky Burr interactive website with an on going comic strip featuring Sticky and pals as well as a link to John Lechner's other day job at FableVision. As Art Director for the children's media company founded by the amazing illustrator and author Peter H Reynolds, Lechner, who was a puppeteer for many years, directs films and designs children's software and educational websites. The website for FableVi…

Time Travelers (Time Quake Trilogy #1) by Linda Buckley-Archer, 400pp, RL 5

I guess because I am like a kid in a candy store when I go to work, coupled with the recent plethora of great new books coming out every month, I never get the chance to go back and re-read a book I love. Since I started reviewing books I have been given a reason to make revisiting beloved books a priority and I am ecstatic to finally be re-reading and reviewing what I consider one of the all-time best children's books published post Harry Potter. The cover illustration by the amazing artist James Jean, which I think is magnificently haunting and magical and perfectly evocative of the story behind the picture. Notice the trainers on the otherwise historically dressed children...
Originally titledGideon the Cutpurse, and now in paperback with a new title, Linda Buckley Archer's The Time Travelers interweaves the complexities of love between parents and children in the 21st century with the frequently harsh and unfair aspects of life among those not fortunate enough to be born i…

Deeper by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, 656 pp RL MIDDLE GRADE

When I started reviewing books, and inevitably reviewing books that were the first in a series, I decided not to post reviews of the subsequent book(s) in the series for a couple of reasons. Most of all, I figured that the reader of the first book in the series was, at the end of the book, pretty well equipped to decide whether or not to continue on with the series and thus did not require my two cents. Also, with over one hundred books on my shelf waiting to be read, or re-read and reviewed, I felt like my time was better spent elsewhere. However, Deeper, by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, which is the sequel to Tunnels, caused me to rethink a few things, as well as give up a significant chunk of my life and my personal sense of well being as I powered through it.
Released in the US in February of 2009, and several months earlier than that in the UK, Deeper, based on the jacket flap, did not grab me enough to make me set aside all other responsibilities in order to read it as …