Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hits and Misses


Hits:

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine
Levine hits the mark again with this tale of new fairy, Prilla, and the fate of the island of Neverland. Prilla sets out to discover her talent in this charming story appropriate for all ages.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This is one of the most original books I've ever read. Half told by gorgeous pencil drawings, the story is a hybrid of Phantom of the Opera and Oliver Twist, set in France during the advent of motion pictures. Sure to be a classic.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
This story revolves around the idea that characters can be transported out of (and into) books. Meggie and her father flee from villains while they seek to free her mother. There are some rather pointless statements that the characters do not believe in the devil, but no agenda to prove such.


Misses:

Birdwing by Rafe Martin
This was a great read until the hero is betrayed by his best friend and the girl he likes. Now, I can think of dozens of plot twists to convey betrayal, but the author chose to have the hero find the other two, "asleep beneath one blanket, their naked shoulders exposed, wrapped in each other's arms." There is also another reference to undressing girls. Too bad.

The Devil's Boy by Anthony Horowitz
I have a few issues with this book. The first is that one of the very first characters introduced to the reader is Dr. John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, Dr. John Dee was a real person who was an astrologer, alchemist, and occultist. Secondly, when one character engages a room for a night at an inn, the innkeeper offers him the use of one of the barmaids. Lastly, the main plot is of the mistaken identity of the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I. Illegitimacy can be handled discreetly for young readers, but not so in this case.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

In a hip, modern type of fairy tale setting, Christian finds true love with Princess Marigold. Of course, there are many obstacles to overcome before the happily ever after part, such as Marigold's gift or curse of being able to read the minds of those she touches, and her evil mother's plot to marry her off to royalty or kill her, which ever comes first, and her dear father's slipping into senility and losing control of his kingdom.

Christian first sees Marigold from the telescope he invented in his foster troll father's cave. He then sends her a p-mail, message by carrier pigeon, and so their relationship is born. Eventually, Christian decides he must leave his forest home, the cave, and the troll who has cared for him for most of his life, and get a job at the castle. But he is nearly too late, Marigold is to wed Prince Magnus in the very near future. Christian tries to stop the wedding and is thrown into prison. Marigold tries to stop the wedding and she is thrown into prison as well. Fortunately, Marigold and Christian have plenty of support from some unlikely characters.

There is only one problem with the book. The bishop, who is to preside at the wedding, is shown to be a little too interested in women and wine while the wedding is delayed. This is one brief sentence, probably meant to be funny, but I found it offensive. The rest of the story is delightful and witty. If this one scene were not in the book, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Magyk by Angie Sage

Magyk is a fun tale of wizardry and enchantment. Unlike the Harry Potter series, this series takes place in an imaginary time and place. The plot revolves around the Heap family, Silas, Sarah and their six green-eyed boys. On the night of the birth of their seventh son, Septimus, the midwife arrives, pronounces the baby dead, and takes him away. Later that same evening, Silas finds an abandoned infant girl in the forest and takes her home to Sarah to raise as their own child, Jenna. Other mysterious events have taken place on this fateful night. The Queen has been murdered as well as her infant princess, and the evil Necromancer has taken control of the kingdom.

The rest of the story takes place ten years later. The henchmen of the Necromancer are figuring out the true identity of the violet-eyed Jenna Heap. In their escape to Aunt Zelda's hidden home in the marshes, Jenna, her brother Nicko (the sixth son), and former ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand bring along a young castle guard who identifies himself as Boy 412.

Angie Sage has kept clear distinctions between good and evil in the first book of the Septimus Heap series. Boy 412 quickly learns which is the wrong side, once he is removed from the service of the Supreme Custodian. Family is an important theme in this book, and like the Harry Potter series, large families are shown to be places of love, security, support and happiness. I recommend Magyk for strong readers 4th grade and up, with the following advisory message.

This book is a fantasy novel and deals with themes of magic, ghosts, and spells. Children's literature has used these devices for millennia. The world of fiction is a truly magical place but must be explored with caution. Parents know best when and if their child can grasp the nuances between fictional magic in books and occult magic in the real world. I recommend Alan Keyes' comments from his wise but short-lived program, "Alan Keyes is Making Sense," for more insight.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hits and Misses


Hits:

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine
Levine hits the mark again with this tale of new fairy, Prilla, and the fate of the island of Neverland. Prilla sets out to discover her talent in this charming story appropriate for all ages.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This is one of the most original books I've ever read. Half told by gorgeous pencil drawings, the story is a hybrid of Phantom of the Opera and Oliver Twist, set in France during the advent of motion pictures. Sure to be a classic.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
This story revolves around the idea that characters can be transported out of (and into) books. Meggie and her father flee from villains while they seek to free her mother. There are some rather pointless statements that the characters do not believe in the devil, but no agenda to prove such.


Misses:

Birdwing by Rafe Martin
This was a great read until the hero is betrayed by his best friend and the girl he likes. Now, I can think of dozens of plot twists to convey betrayal, but the author chose to have the hero find the other two, "asleep beneath one blanket, their naked shoulders exposed, wrapped in each other's arms." There is also another reference to undressing girls. Too bad.

The Devil's Boy by Anthony Horowitz
I have a few issues with this book. The first is that one of the very first characters introduced to the reader is Dr. John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, Dr. John Dee was a real person who was an astrologer, alchemist, and occultist. Secondly, when one character engages a room for a night at an inn, the innkeeper offers him the use of one of the barmaids. Lastly, the main plot is of the mistaken identity of the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I. Illegitimacy can be handled discreetly for young readers, but not so in this case.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

In a hip, modern type of fairy tale setting, Christian finds true love with Princess Marigold. Of course, there are many obstacles to overcome before the happily ever after part, such as Marigold's gift or curse of being able to read the minds of those she touches, and her evil mother's plot to marry her off to royalty or kill her, which ever comes first, and her dear father's slipping into senility and losing control of his kingdom.

Christian first sees Marigold from the telescope he invented in his foster troll father's cave. He then sends her a p-mail, message by carrier pigeon, and so their relationship is born. Eventually, Christian decides he must leave his forest home, the cave, and the troll who has cared for him for most of his life, and get a job at the castle. But he is nearly too late, Marigold is to wed Prince Magnus in the very near future. Christian tries to stop the wedding and is thrown into prison. Marigold tries to stop the wedding and she is thrown into prison as well. Fortunately, Marigold and Christian have plenty of support from some unlikely characters.

There is only one problem with the book. The bishop, who is to preside at the wedding, is shown to be a little too interested in women and wine while the wedding is delayed. This is one brief sentence, probably meant to be funny, but I found it offensive. The rest of the story is delightful and witty. If this one scene were not in the book, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Magyk by Angie Sage

Magyk is a fun tale of wizardry and enchantment. Unlike the Harry Potter series, this series takes place in an imaginary time and place. The plot revolves around the Heap family, Silas, Sarah and their six green-eyed boys. On the night of the birth of their seventh son, Septimus, the midwife arrives, pronounces the baby dead, and takes him away. Later that same evening, Silas finds an abandoned infant girl in the forest and takes her home to Sarah to raise as their own child, Jenna. Other mysterious events have taken place on this fateful night. The Queen has been murdered as well as her infant princess, and the evil Necromancer has taken control of the kingdom.

The rest of the story takes place ten years later. The henchmen of the Necromancer are figuring out the true identity of the violet-eyed Jenna Heap. In their escape to Aunt Zelda's hidden home in the marshes, Jenna, her brother Nicko (the sixth son), and former ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand bring along a young castle guard who identifies himself as Boy 412.

Angie Sage has kept clear distinctions between good and evil in the first book of the Septimus Heap series. Boy 412 quickly learns which is the wrong side, once he is removed from the service of the Supreme Custodian. Family is an important theme in this book, and like the Harry Potter series, large families are shown to be places of love, security, support and happiness. I recommend Magyk for strong readers 4th grade and up, with the following advisory message.

This book is a fantasy novel and deals with themes of magic, ghosts, and spells. Children's literature has used these devices for millennia. The world of fiction is a truly magical place but must be explored with caution. Parents know best when and if their child can grasp the nuances between fictional magic in books and occult magic in the real world. I recommend Alan Keyes' comments from his wise but short-lived program, "Alan Keyes is Making Sense," for more insight.