Tag Archives: 6th

Tales From My Closet

talesfrommyclosetby Jennifer Anne Moses

Genre(s): Realistic Fiction, Girl Drama

Basic Content Information: Five girls in their sophomore years in a New Jersey high school tell their interlocked personal stories in alternative narrative first person view points — each has enough drama to fill a whole TV series: secret boy friend in Paris, contemplating “going all the way,” unfaithful father, therapist mother who tells the private life of her daughter, secret crush over the coach, annoying siblings, shopping addictions, hidden talents, social mishaps and embarrassments, etc. etc. — and all tied with constant obsessions over one’s own and others’ outfits and appearances… Plenty of positive messages mixed with illogical actions and thought processes.

Edition: Netgalley

Pub Date: January 28, 2014

Publisher: Scholastic Press

(I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media. The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

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The Here and Now

hereandnow: Ann Brashares

Genre(s): Sci-fi, Mystery, Romance

Basic Content Information: Time Travelers from a devastated and plagued future back to our (Here/Now is May 2014, Tristate area) with the expressed desire to “fix the future” but as the protagonist (17-year-old Prenna) finds out, they are merely hiding in their new safe colony with stringent and suffocating rules. When an opportunity presents itself for Prenna to alter a current situation that will impact on her future, she goes for it with the help of her Time Native boyfriend. Notions of free will, choices, and sacrifices for one’s community are explored. Teen budding romance with physical ramifications are explored. Climate change, dirty and clean energies, and disease control are some scientific topics touched on in the book.

Edition: Netgalley

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

Publisher: Delacorte/Random House

(I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media. The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

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With A Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah

withamightyhandadapted and retold by Amy Ehrlich
illustrated by Daniel Nevins

Ehrlich’s talent as a storyteller is evident in the book.  She picked and chose powerful details.  She then tailored them for young readers with simple and easily understandable words and sentences.  The immediacy is almost shocking.  Instead of the tales feeling distanced by archaic language or complex sentence structures as often found in the translated versions of the Bible (or Torah), a young reader can digest these stories quickly and see the pictures clearly (also with the help of the colorful paintings.)

I think that’s why I had such conflicting reactions to this gorgeously illustrated religious text.  On the one hand, I really admire Ehrlich’s storytelling and distilling skills.  On the other hand, all these immediacies bring to sharp relief the brutal and the morally questionable events and behaviors in these stories.  Being a non-believer of any religion myself, it was really hard for me to understand how anyone could “fall for” this inconsistent, arrogant, vengeful, deceptive, conspiring, and power-hungry GOD.  Some of the lessons that I got from the book are

  • Since GOD is so fickle, but so all powerful, you’d better always do as told.
  • One’s relationship with GOD is and should be completely based on Fear.
  • All human inter-actions are based on Jealousy and sometimes bad deeds are richly rewarded.
  • Women are to be neglected and are of no or little importance except in bearing sons for the chosen people.
  • The chosen ones should endeavor in eliminating the non-believers and those who believe in other Gods.

So, I am left with a huge question: Why, in the year 2013, we need such a retelling of these brutal and morally antiquated tales to children which do not contain in the text itself explanatory notes or questions that encourage discussions for the family?  Especially since this is a trade book and conceivably could be read and shared with people who are not of the Jewish faith.   (There are indeed back matters with notes and an introduction but I really would have liked to see a more philosophical approach to these tales than the current shape it is in.)

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Far Far Away

farfarawayby Tom McNeal

An usual narrator (ghost of Jacob Grimm, the German folklorist), a small town that feels subtly unsettling, and a villain that really creeped me out made this a memorable read.  The book feels like a combination of a classic Hawthorne short story and a Coen Brothers movie — the sinister thread goes through the whole book and you are just wondering worriedly what’s going to happen next… I was not sure who’s the audience of this dark tale but am hoping that it will find some deserved adoration from teen readers.

 

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The Thing About Luck

the-thing-about-luckby Cynthia Kadohata

Kadohata once again proves that a book does not have to have an outlandish or extremely inventive premise to capture the reader’s attention and interest.  Once I started reading this book about a young girl’s simple wishes and dreams, her family’s struggle to stay afloat as seasonal wheat harvesters, and her brother’s difficulty in connecting with his peers, I could not stop.  I cared so deeply about Summer, her brother, and her elderly grandparents.  It’s really quite a feat for such a slim and quiet book!  Its inclusion as one of the five finalists of the 2013 National Book Award Young People’s Literature category is well deserved!

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The Grimm Conclusion

grimmby Adam Gidwitz

I waited for a while to read this one.  Was somewhat apprehensive.  When one becomes friendly and very fond of an author, one sometimes also becomes worried.  What if… What if the book isn’t as good as you’d hoped?  As good as you  believe that particular author could have made it?  What it…

So, I didn’t read the galley.  I did attend an overwhelmingly successful event at Book Court in Brooklyn with Adam entertaining a host of young readers and their parents.  And then, finally, after I started seeing my students toting around this third volume and hearing that they really really enjoyed it (one of them read it more than twice in the week of its publication) I braced myself and delved into it!

What a treat!  I couldn’t put the book down.  Adam not only featured some of MY favorite Grimm tales, he even used one of my favorite STORY TIME staple (Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock!)  And not only Adam continues with the intrusive and flippant (but often kind and comforting) storyteller/narrator, he brings this narrator INTO the story (or, rather, brings the protagonists OUT of the story and into current day Brooklyn.)  I was worried when I knew that there is a metafiction element of the tale that it would have seemed trite or forced — but Adam did it in a natural and fluid way that really works.  The story as a whole seems a bit darker than the first two, but it is to my liking.  And as in so many stories for children (and adults) the power of storytelling is celebrated at the end!

Same as in the first two books, there are definitely some very sticky moral dilemmas that the two kids have to face and conquer.  I am happy to report that the messages do not get in the way of the enjoyment of the tales. And I suspect that these important “lessons” are being absorbed and are strengthening child readers everywhere as I type!

Finally, the new “Kingdom of Children” that the narrator refers to in the end of this book is an apt metaphor for the realm of imagination, for stories and books, and especially for the Grimm trilogy, where children venture in to “run, to play… to tell their tales and face their fears and let whatever is inside out.”

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Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise – (3 Volumes)

avatar(originally posted on 9/20/2013 on just vol. 1 — updated to include all three)

The story of two “nations” occupying the same land where one is now being demanded to remove itself mirrors eerily contemporary conditions in our current world. I’m delighted that almost all the important characters make their appearances here and their personalities consistent with the show. The artwork is definitely true to the show as well — for the most part.  Of course, the fight scenes are slightly less epic or thrilling presented in still frames and not movements, but fans of the show can probably fill in the sounds and sequences. I know I read it with the actors’ voices in my head!

The story arc is convincing and the ending is satisfying.  My biggest complaint might be that Zuko (the new Fire Kingdom King) is not quite what he looked like on the show — his features in the books are less defined and with less angsty charm that I so enjoyed from the show.

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Lockwood & Co #1: Screaming Staircase

screamingstaircaseby Jonathan Stroud

I truly enjoyed Stroud’s narrative tone, characters and world building in this first volume of a new fantasy/horror series.  In Lucy we find a fresh, sharp-minded, slightly paranoid and self-doubting, but in the end completely lovable main character/narrator.  Lockwood and George are also interesting and multi-faceted characters who maintain the flavorful exchanges between these young people.  The premise also provides a new world for the author and the readers to venture into and explore — The Problem, consisting of ghosts, hauntings, and the solutions of using special child agents trained to deal with them, with all the life-threatening dangers that could befall anyone at any moment.  I’m in awe of Stroud’s talent.

So why didn’t I absolutely love the book?  Probably because I figured too many things out too early so the wait for the reveal seemed a bit long and drawn out?  Or perhaps there were just a few repetitive descriptions/scenarios too many?  (How many times do the readers need to be told how the first hints of haunting feel or look like?)  Do I still want to see what unfolds in book 2?  Yes.  If the Bartimaeus trilogy is any indicator, the sequels will give us more layers and nuanced interactions.  The story will only evolves into something grander and hopefully the ending will be as satisfying — and perhaps unexpected, too?

 

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Counting by 7s

countingby7sby Holly Goldberg Sloan

My reactions to this book are quite mixed that I cannot sort them all out coherently.  So, here we go, a list of what I liked and what I had some issues with:

Starting with the positive aspects of the book:

  • I quite enjoyed the protagonist and her many interesting observations and thoughts.  Especially when she was less “normal” and more stubbornly herself the first part of the book.  I know that’s kind of the point of the book, that Willow “learned” how to interact with others and became more accepted and more accepting, but she definitely becomes less interesting a character as the story progresses.
  • I appreciated the author’s effort in pulling together a cast of diverse ethnicities, and featuring mix-raced kids and adults.
  • I definitely was curious and interested enough to know how things would pan out for Willow and the others, especially Dell.
  • I liked how at first one couldn’t quite tell the age and gender of Willow.
  • I thought that this is a thematically significant story.
  • I also thought it totally fine for the author to switch POVs — I’d rather this than having the author trying to keep it all in Willow’s head and thus making the book either too claustrophobic or Willow too wise and and unconvincing in her insights.

Now, onto the things that troubled me or did not satisfy me as much:

  • Vietnamese is presented as a language that one has to learn “verbal conjugations” for — when in reality, like many Asian languages, one uses only a few time stamps/phrases to indicate tenses while the original verbs remain the same.  I know that the author consulted Vietnamese speaking friends so it is even more curious that this oversight is in the book.  (I did read the online galley so don’t know exactly how the finished book handles this aspect exactly.)
  • I cannot wrap my head around how Pattie has SO much money that she could buy the entire building complex from the bank at the end of the book because of Willow and her predicament, and yet would subject her own children to live squalidly in the garage where her teenaged son who obviously is VERY troubled by the fact that their living condition is shameful (and he didn’t even have normal underwear) and was acting out and doing poorly at school.  Would an immigrant mother who suffered quite a bit of humiliation in her own youth, and who is presented as competent and caring for others, hide away all her wealth to this extend?  This just doesn’t compute for me.
  • There is quite a bit of rule and law breaking through the whole book, by almost every character, that I got slightly paranoid about recommending this to young readers.  Dell got by in his job without ever following protocols or performing the minimum requirements.  We hope that he has changed toward the end of the story… but that was not quite clear.  The whole “using Dell’s address” and faking that they’re all living in that apartment works quite well, but from the get go was a giant and elaborate lie, which became a wonderful truth at the end of the tale… seems too convenient and pat and is that what the author tries to convey?  As long as a lie comes from a good place, it will lead to a positive outcome?  Even Mai tells lies to the school in order to go to the custody hearing.  I am usually not one to worry about such things in children’s books, but for some reason, the accumulation of such behaviors as a way to make the story work got under my skin.

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Rithmatist

rithmatistby Brandon Sanderson

with illustration by Ben McSweeney

I have had the best time reading this book: discovering a completely new and fresh world that is a twist of our real world with alternative histories and a wonderfully naive yet sinister kind of magic: two dimensional chalk drawings turned to life battling creatures.  Sanderson once again  proves his skills in creating a compelling magical system completed with intricate and convincing rules that makes the reader wish to encounter such magic in the real world.  The kind that will excite young readers to learn and master: drawing those Rithmatic defense circles and lines and dreaming up potential new designs and patterns.  The kind that will inspire game makers to create a wonderful board or video game based on the world, characters, and strategies found within the story line.  The kind that I am actually pleased to wait for the next installment in the series because I want to venture further with the characters to explore the unknown territories beyond the confine of the magical academy and the town.  I hope the next book comes out soon!  Can’t wait!

Oh, and the two teenaged protagonists are also authentic and their relationship often brings a smile to my face.

I also love the helpful and fun line drawings of the Rithmatic designs and chalklings, and the intriguing map of the United Isles with island names like Coronado, Zona Arida, Maineford, and DaKote.

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Doll Bones

dollbonesby Holly Black

I was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very end.  To me, that’s the best part of the whole book.  Some other aspects, however, did not speak to me that much.  I was told the three main characters’ personalities, a bit of their back stories, and about the fact that they had been best friends with such amazing bonds as telling those fantastical stories…. but, as a reader, I never quite “felt” any of these facts.  Partly because on their “quest,” most I saw was their bickering and distrust of each other.

For example, when Zach worried about the two girls’ talking about him behind his back, his thoughts are whether they talked about he smelled bad or that he’s stupid.  I would hope, that after being close friends with each other for years, there might have been some darker, deeper secrets or concerns that made Zach squirm.

There are also just so many details that do not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters.  A list of 27 flavors of donuts that do not carry overt or hidden meanings baffled me.

I was also puzzled by each character’s ability to succinctly explain why have been acting in such a way toward their friends, sounding like what a therapist might present, after listening to 12/13 year olds relating the events and their feelings.  Alice revealed that the reason why she couldn’t believe in Eleanor’s ghost was that “There can’t be a ghost, a real ghost.  Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can’t be bothered to come back and haunt me.”   And Poppy’s confession, “I thought that we could do this thing, and when it was over we’d have something that no one else had — an experience that would keep us together.”  Even Zach’s father confessed, “But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anyone wants.”

Don’t get me wrong — I believe in the validity of all of these statements and those are at the heart of this story — that we act certain ways because there are some additional, underlying emotional reasons which are seldom on the surface for others to interpret quickly or easily.  I just have a bit of trouble with how all of these ideas are delivered as “statements” by these characters.  I wish that readers had chances to perhaps sort some of these out by ourselves.  For example, perhaps in one of the shouting matches, Alice could have said something like, “There are NO GHOSTS!  If there are, WHY WOULDN’T MY PARENTS TALK O ME???!!!”  (haha.. much exaggerated)

I also was not creeped out enough by the book — and I wish I had been — the cover gave me so much hope!

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Boxers / Saints (Boxset)

boxersandsaintsby Gene Luen Yang

As I said in my notes earlier, my reactions to this two-book graphic novel set are complex and still unresolved even after several days’ reflection.  Partly because that I found so much of it outstanding, so I did not want to be nitpicking about certain details and I don’t want to color anyone’s reaction to this historical fiction based on my largely emotional reactions as a Chinese American reader who wants everyone to know THE WHOLE STORY!!  I also don’t want anyone to think that I KNOW the WHOLE STORY.  In fact, I had to do some research as I read the book since my textbook history knowledge of this rebellion was also mixed with folklore and stories I saw on tv when I was little.

I am quite aware that Yang did not set out to write a historical treatment of the entire movement, but to personalize individual experiences so that he, and the readers, can explore the impacts of these events.  He couldn’t have been more successful in reaching his goal.  I greatly appreciate how there are never easy answers in Gene Luen Yang’s stories — the readers are left to wonder whether to be angry or sympathetic toward the characters; to admire or abhor what they do; and to be enlightened or perplexed by their reasons for their actions.

I’m glad that Yang included a list of the books he used to create this narrative since the origin of the Boxers and their practices are much debated topics amongst Chinese historians.  The references to the boxers’ being spiritually possessed by powerful deities based on folk beliefs are in agreement with most historians’ findings and there was a real leader of the movement named Red Lantern Chu.  I wish, however, that some sources translated from Chinese scholars were consulted and that the main sources have more balanced views from both sides.

I wish that I could have been convinced of Bao’s ignorance of Qin Shi Huang who is one of the most famous personalities in Chinese history — even if he might not have featured greatly in the opera — but was glad that the First Emperor is portrayed with a complexity of his own.

I wish that I had not cringed so much by Yang’s referencing/highlighting the more exotic but less significant aspect of the rebellion: how some boxers believed that foreign forces’ success was due to their utilizing the “yin power” (usually refers to the female spiritual power) which is evil and undesirable (drinking menstrual blood, flags woven from women’s pubic hair, etc.)  Even if these were documented facts (as Diana Preston claims in her The Boxer Rebellion,) I simply couldn’t help feeling ashamed and hoping fervently that young readers won’t mistake such “foreign” notions as typical of my fellow countrymen in the 21st century. (Does the inclusion of such claims enhance the storytelling and the power of this book?  I am too shaken by it emotionally to see it… perhaps someone else could convince me otherwise!?)

I wish that the slogan on the war banner had been written out in traditional Chinese characters because the events happened way before the simplification of the characters.

The above are all pretty much about Boxers — and I didn’t really get a chance to talk about Saints — which, for some odd reason, I found thoroughly convincing and more intense, although it is only half the length of Boxers.  I found the timeline crisscrossing of the two books very effective and the two pages (282 in Boxers and 158 in Saints) depicting compassionate deities (Guan Yin and Christ) with the same visual design absolutely breathtaking.

These two books can generate so much discussion and are so thought provoking that I have to tag them Highly Recommended even if I had some personal reservations…

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The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (Ninja Detective #1)

NinjaDetective1by Octavia Spencer

I usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for others’ reactions. But for some reason, I got a positive vibe from the galley. Perhaps because its multi-ethnicity cast portrayed and neatly presented on the cover? My gut feelings proved to be not that wrong. Much like what Spencer enjoyed reading as a child (Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown,) the story is just complex enough to keep the readers’ interest without too many confusing layers and the solutions are somewhat on the easy and happy side — which are thoroughly appropriate for its intended middle grade readership: both entertaining and comforting.

Do I sense that Spencer tried too hard to “balance” the cast with the inclusion of a hearing-impaired Hispanic kid, a black kid, and a Chinese house-keeper/friend? Yup. I sense that. But I’m ok with it because she actually created solid characters whose identities and friendships ring true and whose ethnicities are not the focal point or the plot driving elements. For the most part, the ethnical references are cringe-free. (Except for when Mei-Ling says, “Ni Hao” for a quick morning greeting to those she knows well… instead of the more appropriate “Zao” – for early/morning.) I will have no problem recommending this book to my students and hopefully they will enjoy this mystery with its positive message of community building.

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Dune

duneby Frank Herbert

I was much more impressed with the book during the reading of the book than after having finished it — largely due to my expectations of having something transcendent, something heart-felt, something truly world shattering that the journey might have led to than what actually transpires at the end.  I definitely liked the world building, the presentation of technology and training of various warrior/assassin types, and the drawing upon non-Euro-centric traditions in constructing the beliefs and social structures within the world of Dune.  (And the Sand Worms… are such cool Desert Dragons!)

With such a rich and realized world, in the end, the book is just a fairly standard story of a hero that’s born with amazing abilities who cannot escape the paths set up for him and who walks all the way to the end as destined and even though losing a few precious things along the way, there seems to be little to no effect on his person. Much of the plot is propelled and explained away with mysticism and basic political maneuvering. At a certain point, I muttered, “Paul’s better not succeeded in accomplishing this as he has planned…” — but, as always, he did. He managed to achieve all that he set out to do, from outwitting enemies, to changing the ways of a tradition, to earning back trust easily from his old pals. Yes, he did lose a son in the whole process — but his reaction? They would be able to create more heirs and the heirs will inherit the world.

The volume ends as the two generations of concubines having a short exchange where Paul’s mother assures Chani (his true love but not the proper empress) that even though they would never have the title during their lifetime, they will be remembered in history as “Wives”!! Woop-dee-doo! What an achievement!

Granted, it was created in early 1960s and perhaps Herbert was not trying to question science or future worlds as harshly as we might these days — I still couldn’t help but putting a 2013 lens on it.

I know I will not be reading the sequels any time soon.   I searched and read some book summaries of the two sequels — it seems that the question of lineage and political power play are even more centralized in the next two books. Definitely not too exciting for me!

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Warrior Heir

warriorheirby Cinda Williams Chima

I’ve been catching up with titles and series that I know my middle school readers have enjoyed one at a time.  That’s the main reason that I picked this title up.  For the most part, I enjoyed it.  I can see recommending this one to Percy Jackson lovers because it has some similar situations: a presumed “normal teenager” discovering his talents as both a wizard and a warrior; the training that one receives to better the skill set; the help from mentors; the resolving of conflicts via unconventional means; and a bit of romance.  I only wish that the prose has been a little less bland — either darker, more atmospheric, more descriptive, more dangerous, or more humorous — instead of just “talk talk talk talk talk.”  That’s how I felt as I read — being “talked to” not “story told to.”  And of course, I wish that I were a faster reader so I didn’t have to spend as much time on the pedestrian prose to get to the story line (which is fairly solid and quite inventive….)

I do appreciate that the main characters are from American midwest, and some Americana flavor was introduced — although the Wizarding world is still modeling after medieval European traditions.

Will I read the rest of the series?  According to my (now high school) students, this is the best of the entire series… so I don’t think I will be able to spare time when I really need to catch up with some other titles.

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Mastiff

mastiffby Tamora Pierce

I did not read this one when it was first published in 2011 because I kind of “fell” out of love for Beka Cooper and her escapades after Terrier when Bloodhound did not quite deliver the punch that I was hoping for — even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  (I vaguely recall that I didn’t like how she resolved, or didn’t resolve the relationships with the men in her life and also didn’t find the crime or investigation of the crime gripping.)

But, boy, am I glad that I went back to Beka and was not disappointed!!  It’s not that the pacing of this volume is so breathtakingly fast, and it’s not that there is more heart-wrenching romance, somehow, Mastiff just seems more mature and deeper than the previous one, fittingly so, of course, since Beka has matured herself.

This time, the whole kingdom of Tortall is in danger.  The little prince was kidnapped and mistreated.  Evil and powerful mages are setting traps and murdering innocents.  The stakes couldn’t have been higher!

This time, the newly introduced mage, Farmer, also couldn’t have been more entertaining or full of promises — AND he IS so powerful and So very clever!

This time, the mysteries keep me guessing and guessing wrongly a few times!

This time, the conclusion is both sad and satisfying.  Everything works out logically and I enjoyed the Epilogue that brings this story to the very first story I read by Tamora Pierce, Alana.  It brought a content smile to my face.

A most excellent read!

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Sisters Grimm #1: The Fairy-Tale Detectives

sistersgrimm by Michael Buckley

I read this series not in order but it didn’t hurt the enjoyment since each story has its central conflict to resolve and there’s a nicely tied up ending for each one. This first story sets up the backdrop quite nicely, explaining how the fairy tale creatures (the Everafters) got to Ferryport Landing and how the sisters came to assist their grandmother in playing the detectives to capture the culprits in magical crimes. It’s all very clean, imaginative fun and beloved by many of my young readers.

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Fairy's Return and Other Princess Tales

fairysreturnby Gail Carson Levine, a collection of six Princess Tales

I enjoyed pretty much every single story in this collection.  Each one is inventive and fresh, with a lot of humor and just the right kind of twists from the original tales to maintain a high level of interest — even from this veteran fractured fairy tale reader.  I only wish that the design and the title are not so incredibly girly because I believe like all Grimm tales, these stories can be equally appreciated by both genders, even if the focus on the tales is the yearning and seeking of that one and perfect match.  The way Levine presents the relationships of the main characters stresses more on personalities and character compatibilities than some external or shallow physical attraction makes these tales solid choices for young readers.

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Grimm Legacy

grimmlegacyby Polly Shulman

For a librarian, someone who has worked for the New York Public Library system and toured the underground (deeply underground) stacks of books and objects, and a huge fan of fairytale reinventions, this book is a perfect match.  I thoroughly enjoyed the capers and the many magical aspects of the storyline.  This is another one that I can easily recommend to readers who want fantasy stories firmly inserted into their real world experiences.  The clean high school romances, the school basketball games, and the use of electronic devices will speak to contemporary twin readers.  The threads of the mystery are intriguing the first 2/3 of the story.  The last 1/3 becomes a little less skillfully laid out: once all the red herrings are eliminated and the true villain is identified, the story loses a little bit of momentum.  But thanks to the few super fun elements (Elizabeth’s losing her sense of direction, the bottomless box, and the whole idea of all those people turned into figurines for centuries, for example,) I was not bored.  It is, however, a little of a let down to see that the author could not seem to come up with a better or really clever way to get rid of the villain and had to employ a deus ex machina in the form of one of the minor characters and a realm that was never introduced previously in the story.  Nonetheless, I am still excited about the companion book that is to be released this June, The Wells Bequest. I can’t wait to go back to this fantastic library and see what the imaginative mind of Polly Shulman has concocted for the readers.

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Tales from Brothers Grimm and Sisters Weird

talesfrombrothersgrimmby Vivian Vande Velde

The short fractured fairy tales in this collection are lightly inventive, and I found the retelling of Hansel and Gratel truly successful: Vande Velde turns the traditionally sympathetic siblings into cold-blooded, calculating murderers.  The few fairy tale poems seem to be merely fillers.

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