The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner is part historical fiction, part magic and intrigue. Yann and Tetu, gypsy performers who can read minds and move objects, are on the run from the evil Count Kalliovski, who may or may not be the devil in disguise. When Sido, the unloved daughter of the pompous yet foolish Marquis, is facing the guillotine will Yann or the Count rescue her first?
Laid against the backdrop of the French Revolution, The Red Necklace is properly haunting. Count Kalliovski murders several people, and each of victims are found with a red necklace. The Count desires Sido to be his bride and speaks of breaking her when that day comes. Disturbing automatons that can move and speak and tales of gypsy genocide add to the horror.
Despite the appearance of a ghost, a palm reading, and one reference to the powers of the occult, I find The Red Necklace appropriate for teenagers. The Red Necklace has no shortage of good and virtuous characters fighting the darkness.
Mable Riley by Marthe Jocelyn is about a young girl sent with her sister to a new town as boarders. Mable's stuffy sister, Viola, has been hired as the new teacher. Mable is to be her pupil, her companion, and her teaching assistant.
While Viola wants to do her job and do it well, Mable sees their new circumstances to be the start of an adventure. Mable befriends the radical young Mrs. Rattle, who wears pantaloons and speaks her mind.
Trouble finds Mable when she finds herself in the middle of a labor dispute at the local cheese factory. If the workers don't strike, their terrible conditions and hours won't change. But if the workers do strike, the farm where she and her sister board will have nowhere to sell their milk.
Mable Riley is told in the voice of a young girl, and her impetuous and often thoughtless nature comes through. The silly story she writes in installments to send to her friend back home is a ridiculous allegory of her own life. Even though this tale as told by Mable reflects her personality very well, my personal dislike of Mable and her penchant for dishonesty prevented me from getting much enjoyment from this book.
But perhaps I am being too harsh. There is nothing objectionable in Mable Riley which is appropriate for middle schoolers and up.
Have you heard of the My First Little House Books? They are picture book adaptations of Laura Ingalls Wilder's original series. The illustrators of these My First Little House Books do a wonderful job of emulating Garth Williams' style and original images.
We own a few of the titles, and every one of my children has loved them at some point in their lives. Jill is enjoying them right now. She knows all about Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, and Carrie as well as Royal, Eliza Jane, Alice, and Almanzo.
|Like the original Farmer Boy, the My First Little Almanzo books don't skimp on the food.|
If you're looking for the perfect gift for a small boy or girl who likes stories, I can't say enough about the My First Little House Books. I just love them so much! But then again, I've been a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan since I was seven and received her books as a gift myself.