Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore

Monster Like Me, A (c) 2019
by Wendy Swore
A Monster Like Me by Wendy Swore is such a great book, not only for kids, but for adults as well. The main character, Sophie, because of a mark on her face, seems to sincerely think that she's a monster, especially after a cruel comment about her mark made by, of all people, an adult, a GROWN UP PERSON in a grocery store as the main character is standing right there! I appreciated the difficulties the main character faced as she went through her trials, and the things she started believing about herself and others around her. Knowing that in real life real people face these same troubles made me very glad for this book. It teaches empathy and compassion for others, and tells a fantastically written story at the same time.

I recommend this story to kids and adults who like strong protagonists who stumble sometimes, but get back up, and learn important lessons along the way.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

First Girl Child, The (c) 2019
by Amy Harmon
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon is a skillful blend of Norse mythology and fantasy, creating a well written story about a country cursed with being able to produce no girl children. When a monk finds a dying woman, his own sister, who has just given birth to a baby boy not far from the Temple Mount where he serves, he witnesses her curse the baby's father who rejected both her and her son before dying.  When the women of the country start giving birth only to boy children, he realizes that his sister's curse has become a reality. But when the queen, seemingly, gives birth to a healthy girl after miscarrying several boys, he begins to think the curse is beginning to lift. Or is it? And why does his little nephew that he has been raising feel such a connection to the little baby princess, and who is the mysterious "Ghost", the woman with white hair and skin, and strange colored eyes he finds weeping under the very tree where his sister died?

The First Girl Child is meant for older ages, having a bit of violence and intimate scenes in it not appropriate for young readers.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Spiderwick Chronicles, The (c) 2013
by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black are a fun set of five books/chapters that make up the story of the Grace children, Jared, Simon, and Mallory, who, with their mom, move into their great Aunt Lucinda's house. When Jared finds a book entitled Arthur Spiderwick's Fieldguide, he starts discovering a lot of things about the woods near his house that he wishes he didn't. And when something he and his family can't see, but can hear, starts to play pranks on them, things really start to get weird.

He, his brother, and his sister get embroiled in the world of the Fae folk, some of them benign, others dangerous. When the elves ask Jared to get the book for them, will Jared be able to do as they ask? But what happens when someone, or something else takes the book?

Read the Spiderwick Chronicles and find out.

Readers who enjoy middle grade fantasy will enjoy this story.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, first published in 1942, is an insightful book that looks at the world from the view of a devil. Screwtape, the master, is coaching Wormwood, an apprentice tempter as Wormwood works to guide his "patient" toward evil and away from good. It is an interesting look at how not only devils, but mean people as well, think, and how they seek to build themselves up by destroying (sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally) other beings. I liked how Screwtape talked about his and Wormwood’s philosophies of consuming other things to feed themselves made perfect sense to him, and the “Enemy’s” (God’s) philosophy of “filling the universe with tiny copies of himself” didn’t make any sense to their ultimately selfish philosophies, and therefore must have some ulterior motive behind it. It was interesting to see how people whose every thought is focused on self ultimately can’t or won’t understand selflessness, so to comfort themselves, they decide that an act that is selfless by someone else can’t be, and therefore must have a sinister, selfish bent to it since they can’t or won’t, understand anything else. I also found it insightful at the end when *spoiler* Wormwood failed, that Screwtape turned on Wormwood without mercy. It showed how selfishness, by its own nature, inevitably turns on itself. An endnote by Mr. Lewis mentioned how he hadn’t enjoyed writing The Screwtape letters, though it had been easy to do so. For myself, I appreciate that despite the fact that he had not had fun writing it, that he had done so anyway.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(c) 1997 by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Also titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the U.K.) by J. K. Rowling begins the magical series of Harry Potter and his friends as they go to school at Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry.

Not only does Harry have the usual school troubles of tests, difficult assignments, teachers who don't like him, and bullies, but he also has to worry about Volemort, who wants to find him and finish the job he'd tried to do ten years before, when Harry was a baby. Voldemort killed Harry's parents, but oddly failed at killing Harry, leaving only a scar on his forehead.

Fortunately, Harry has the support of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, as well as the school's headmaster, Dumbledore.

Hopefully, with their help, he can make it through his first year at
Hogwarts alive!

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas
(c) 2010 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Good Morning, Gorillas by Mary Pope Osborne is the 26th Magic Treehouse book.

In this book, Jack and Annie travel to the cloud forest of Africa and meet a family of gorillas. The young gorillas seem to like the kids, and the young gorillas' mothers. But the silverback who leads the group is another story. Will he make friends with Jack and Annie too? And what will happen when a dangerous leopard has its hungry eye on the littlest gorilla? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn
(c) 2008 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne is the 37th book of the series.

In this story, Annie and Jack travel back to Old Japan to find the secret to peace, and bring that secret back to cheer Merlin up. But while in Edo (the ancient name for Tokyo) they are questioned by Samurai wanting them to show their passports, and they don't have any! Who will come to Jack and Annie's aid? Read the book and find out!

Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark (Book 1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Magic Tree House Book 1 Dinosaurs Before Dark
(c) 1992 by Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Treehouse Dinosaurs Before Dark begins the fantastic series of over thirty books by Mary Pope Osborne.

In the first book, Jack and Annie find the magic treehouse for the first time, and are transported back to the time of the dinosaurs! As they explore, Jack finds a mysterious medallion in the grass with the letter M on it, and they wonder what it could mean. But before long, their attention is diverted by a dangerous T-Rex! How do they escape this ferocious monster? Read the book and find out!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary is a sweet story about Ramona during her 4th grade year. She’s worried that the family might have to move if her dad can’t find a job in Portland, and she doesn’t want to have to leave her school and her friends, and she’s worried about her mom too, and the baby inside that’s slowly making her mom’s stomach bigger and bigger. But what secret is her Aunt Bea keeping, and what does it have to do with her best friend Howie’s Uncle Hobart? This is a fun book that kids will enjoy reading, and adults who enjoy fun children’s stories will like it as well.
Ramona Forever  (c) 1984
by Beverly Cleary

The Wyrm King by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Wyrm King, The (2009)
by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles #3) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is the last book in a three book series that follows the Spiderwick books. Nick, his stepsister Lauri, his brother Jules, and the three Grace kids have a race against time to stop the hydras that are starting to create sinkholes all over Florida. Will bringing the giants back from the ocean help get rid of the hydras? Will finding the source of all the hydra eggs help stop them? Read the book and find out!

This is a fun novella aimed at young readers, but any age who enjoys a good fantasy will enjoy this book.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

False Prince, The (c) 2013
by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an exciting book for middle grade readers and high schoolers. Sage, an orphan, is picked up off the streets and saved from punishment for stealing some meat, but the guy who saves him, Conner, is not doing him any favors. Sage quickly realizes that Conner has some sinister and dishonest plans for him and three other boys; passing one of them off as the prince lost four years before. When Conner callously kills one of the boys, Sage knows that Conner is a bad guy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Will Sage and the other two boys survive their imprisonment in Conner's house? Will the two boys Conner doesn't pick meet the fate of the first boy? And who knew an astounding twist will come toward the end?

If you like adventures with plucky teens as the protagonists in fantastical worlds, then you'll enjoy this book!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary

Henry and the Clubhouse
(c) 1962 by Beverly Cleary
Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary is an enjoyable series of chapters following Henry Huggins as he juggles the responsibilities of his paper route and his desire to have a clubhouse for himself and his friends. (Guy friends, no girls allowed!) But what happens, when little Ramona, angry about this dictum, decides to lock him in his precious clubhouse? And is there any Henry can get Ramona to stop pestering him in other ways? Like many of Beverly Cleary's other books, the story doesn't have a main story goal or question, though there is the theme of his paper route and the clubhouse running through it. Each chapter is its own short story following the other chapters in chronological order as Henry works through one conflict after another. Kids and adults who like to remember what it was like to be a kid, would enjoy this book.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Henry Huggins (c) 1950 by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for kids, especially those who love their pets. Henry Huggins is on his way home from the swimming pool, when a skinny, hungry dog begs him for a taste of his chocolate ice cream cone. He wants the dog to come home with him (it doesn’t have a license, so it can’t possibly have an owner) but he can’t ride the bus with a dog unless it’s in a container of some kind. So what does he do? He puts the dog’s lower half ina paper bag and wraps the upper half of the poor creature in a huge amount of packing paper in an attempt to get the dog on the bus, and all the way home. This begins Henry Huggins’ adventures and misadventures with his new dog Ribsy. Even as an adult, I enjoyed the story as much as I did when I read it as a youngster.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis

The Horse and His Boy (c) 1954
by CS Lewis
The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis is an enjoyable tale about Shasta, a human boy, Bree, a male horse, Aravis, a human girl, and Whin, a female horse. Both Whin and Bree are talking horses from Narnia, kidnapped when they were foals, and taken to Calormen, a country to the south of Narnia. Shasta is pale skinned despite the fact that everyone around him has dark skin, and he wonders why. When he meets Bree and Bree tells him that he must be from Narnia, or possibly Arkenland and especially after he overhears the man he thought was his father discussing selling Shasta as a slave with another man, Bree and Shasta decide to run away together. On their journey, they meet Whin and Aravis. Whin’s story is much like Bree’s, and Aravis is running away to escape an arranged marriage. The four team up, but will their combined forces be enough to make it through Tashban, and across the wide desert to reach Arkenland, and Narnia?

I recommend this delightful tale to readers young and old who enjoy adventurous journeys, narrow escapes, and characters with lots of courage.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (c) 2008
by Mary Pope Osborne
Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne is one of the many fun books in the Magic Tree House series, a series of fun books for kids who are getting ready to start reading middle grade.

Annie and Jack, the main characters, are off on a slightly scary adventure into the Middle Ages with their sorcerer in training pal, Teddy. Their mission is to restore order to a castle that has been bewitched by the Raven King. The story is appropriate for young kids, scary enough for the conflict to be interesting, but not too scary for its audience. As a grown up, I enjoyed it, and I recommend it to adults and young kids 3rd to 5th grade who enjoy fun adventure stories.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Henry and Ribsy (c) 1954
by Beveryl Cleary
Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for young kids about the adventures that Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy go on. Henry really wants to go salmon fishing with his dad in a few months, but his dad says that Henry needs to keep Ribsy out of trouble in order for that to happen. But how can Henry do that, when Ribsy chases the garbage man for trying to "steal" their garbage, and eats Ramona Quimby's ice cream cone? Read the book to find out!

First published in 1954, it has been a well loved book about a boy and his dog ever since!

 Dog lovers, young and old, would enjoy this book!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Ribsy (c) 1964
by Beverly Cleary
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary is a fun book for both kids and adults.

Ribsy and Henry Huggins are best friends. So when Ribsy gets lost in the parking lot at a mall and then accidentally jumps into the wrong car, he'll do whatever it takes to get back to Henry Huggins!
This book is a fun adventure for dog lovers as Ribsy goes from one escapade to another in his efforts to get back home to Henry Huggings from enduring a flower scented bubble bath to being stuck on a dog-unfriendly fire escape!

Dog lovers and anyone who enjoys a fun adventure involving dogs and kids, will like this book.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Movie Review: It's A Wonderful Life

It may be a little too late to review a Christmas movie, but It's a Wonderful Life has a message that is important all through the year.

George Bailey has run into some financial trouble. His Uncle Billy has lost 8,000 dollars of their bank's money, and George might end up going to jail. But in the midst of this crisis, comes a guardian angel, Clarence. A bit bumbly, but good hearted, to help out the situation. But as he's trying to encourage George, what does George do? He says that everyone else would be better off without him, and the he wished he'd never been born! What does Clarence do in response? He takes George on an adventure into a world where he really has never been born to see what would happen if he really hadn't been born! The movie is a little slow in beginning, but it's message is great. I would encourage anyone who enjoys Christmas movies, and feel-good movies in general, to watch this.

It was made in 1946, and directed by Frank Capra. It starred Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey and Donna Reed as Mary Bailey.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Adventurers Wanted The Axe of Sundering by M.L. Forman

Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering
 (c) 2017 by M.L. Forman
Adventurers Wanted Book 5 The Axe of Sundering by M.L. Forman is an interesting and exciting book. While it moved too slow in some places for my taste, had some scenes that didn't move the story forward, and left a lot of questions unanswered which isn't a good thing for a last book in a series, it was still an entertaining book, and an exciting ending to the series. Alex Taylor is off on another adventure helping his mentor Welan Venkyn (the spelling may be off, since I listened to the audiobook) defeat his evil nephew. But toward the end, a surprise foe arises whom Alex didn’t expect. The ending chapters were particularly exciting, and I did enjoy them. Fans of the series will probably like this final book, as will fans of fantasy adventure stories.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(c) 1964 by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is an enjoyable book for young kids. Little Charlie Bucket lives with his parents and all four grandparents in poverty. He’s a good kid, but because of their difficult situation, he doesn’t have much. He doesn’t even get candy but once a year on his birthday. All this changes when he gets a lucky golden ticket to tour Willie Wonka’s amazing Factory. I enjoyed the story when I was young, and still enjoyed listening to the audio version recently. I found Willie Wonka’s behavior more annoying as an adult however, and questioned the ethics of his employing Oompa Loompas for no pay other than cocoa beans. Also, When I was little, I didn’t think about how economically devastated the town would be when he suddenly let all his workers go just because some had been spies. Instead of shutting the factory down, he could have created a system that brought an end to the spying instead of putting so many innocent workers out of employment. However, this isn’t something that kids would really worry about, and the story is aimed at kids after all. Even with my grown up brain, I still enjoyed the story, and cheered little Charlie on, the whole way. I recommend this story to readers in 3rd to 7th grade who enjoy stories about kids who are rewarded for being good and honest, and of course, candy!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Woods Runner (c) 2011 by Gary Paulson
Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen is an enjoyable and suspenseful tale about the life of a 13 year old boy named Samuel who lives on the frontier during the Revolutionary War in America. One day while out hunting, Samuel sees smoke coming from the direction of his settlement. On returning, he discovers from reading the tracks, that British soldiers as well as a group of Iroquois have come through and have either killed or captured everybody. His own parents are not among those who are dead, and Samuel sets out in the hopes that he might rescue them. The story that follows is suspenseful, well-written, and educational as well, without being obviously so. The adventures Samuel has along the way, and the people he meets all give insights into what life was like during the American revolution, and the risks that many people took so that they could live in a country that governed itself.

I really liked the story. It seems to be geared toward young readers, but I think anyone who enjoys adventure stories, and/or stories about the Revolutionary War would enjoy Samuel’s story.