Odysseus in the Serpent Maze

As I’ve said before–and if you’re actually following this blog, you should know this–I am a mythology nut. As in, you’re reading something written by a kid who takes LATIN, even though it’s practically a dying language (Sorry, Ms. K., it’s true!). But anyway, this is one of the best mythology-based books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot). Odysseus in the Serpent Maze, a collaboration between Jane Yolen and Robert Harris, follows the adventures of young Odysseus and his best friend Mentor, and is one of those books I’ve read who-knows-how-many times. Odysseus is well known for being mischievous and getting into trouble a lot, but it still comes as a shock when he and Mentor are kidnapped by pirates, and meet Helen of Sparta and her clever cousin, Penelope. Eventually they find themselves on the island of Crete, home to the infamous Minotaur. However, the Minotaur is dead–the question is, what new terrible monster now dwells inside the maze? This book is full of action, danger, and just a bit of romance. It’s one of the reasons I got so obsessed with mythology when I was younger, and I think both boys and girls will enjoy it. You should definitely go take a look. (Oh, and there are other books, too! Just not about this particular hero.)

P.S. There was no image available at Powell’s Books for a link, so it’s here it is.

What Do You Say, Dear?

My friends and I read this I-don’t-know-how-many times in the media center at school.  And not just when we were little. “What Do You Say, Dear?” (penned by Sesyle Joslin, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak) is a great book that I will still like when I am 97.5 years old, and older. It’s hilarious, and at the same time it is teaching you something–manners! Well, I guess we all better learn them at some point, huh? Say you have just gotten married, and are looking forward to a nice long life with your true love. But first…you are starving. What do you say, dear? “Could you please pass the cake?” of course! This and more are just inside this little book, which is written with humor and imagination. Perhaps some parents would have a problem with the little bit about a cowboy, in which someone comes up to you with a gun and asks you if you would like them to shoot you in the head. (Obviously, you say “no, thank you”) But I don’t. Have a problem with it, I mean. Little kids run into violence in cartoons, movies, etc. This book is a winner. It’s a very fun way to teach kids manners! And I wouldn’t be surprised if a parent read it to themselves once or twice, just for the heck of it.

P.S. I don’t know if any of you have heard about this yet, but April 23, 2012 is World Book Night. This is an event in which people across the U.S.A. will each give away 20 books in their communities: In a mall, a park, or any number of other places! The idea is to encourage reading and, hopefully, make some new readers. (So you should probably not give books away in libraries or bookstores, or give them to people who are already holding them.) You can read more about this and sign up on the great website, and I hope you participate! I sure hope to.

A Christmas Carol

Yes, I know it has been a while since my last post. But I am back on Christmas Eve, with a holiday-themed book. Who hasn’t heard of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’s famed ghost story of Christmas? Who hasn’t heard of the grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge, whose every other word is “humbug”? How many of us have actually read the story? I never had, I realized, so I thought I’d give it a try. Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly man, without a family, whose sole interest is making money. He believes that Christmas is a humbug, and no more cares for it than he does for being wished a merry one. Scrooge has no sympathy for the beggars who crowd the streets of London, nor even for his own clerk, Bob Cratchit. He has had no friend since his partner, Jacob Marley, died on Christmas Eve seven years past. But Scrooge doesn’t mind, which is just as well. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge has his usual day of conducting business, eating at a tavern, and going home to his lonely house: The one Jacob Marley formerly lived in. It is a normal day, correct? But the night brings something unexpected. A ghost, wrapped in chains, appears to Scrooge as he sits by the fireside. And there are three more specters to come. After a whirlwind night of memories, visions, and revelations, Ebenezer Scrooge will never be the same. Charles Dickens’s writing can certainly be a little confusing at first, even frustrating, but once you get the hang of it, the story is enjoyable. Warning: It may be a Christmas story, but that doesn’t mean it will not give you the chills. However, it will get you in the holiday spirit, and I wish you a happy one!

StarCrossed

Digger spends her days prowling among the shadowed streets of Gerse, slipping coins from people’s pockets and being hired as a thief.  But when she and her partner and friend, Tegen, have just managed to steal some important letters, disaster strikes. The job was done, everything had gone just as it was supposed to. And then came the Greenmen, guards of the Celystra. When the dizzying night is over, Tegen is gone forever and Digger must get out of Gerse. In a twist of fate, she finds herself sitting in a boat with a few nobs and is telling them her name is Celyn. From there, our heroine finds herself as a lady-in-waiting to Lady Merista Nemair, living in a secluded fortress and surrounded by anyone but her usual crowd. In this world of banquets and jewels, there is one sly snake that discovers Digger’s secret: Lord Remy Daul. Daul uses blackmail to make Digger his personal spy in the castle. The things she finds out about the citizens of her country, where magic is forbidden and politics and religion is in uproar, well, let’s just say they’re more than shocking. Penned by Elizabeth C. Bunce, this YA novel is rich in plot and characters. I found the writing absorbing and the story unique. The danger and the surprises abound, and I look forward to reading the sequel, Liar’s Moon.

Alanna: The First Adventure

So, several days ago it hit me that I have never reviewed a Tamora Pierce book. NEVER. I mean, how did I miss that? Today, I am going to fill that gap. When I was I-don’t-know-how-many years old, I picked a book off the shelves at Mom and Dad’s bookstore (see About). It was titled Protector of the Small: Lady Knight, so I started to read it. Guess what? I absorbed practically nothing! Over 300 pages? At whatever age I was, I remember it seemed huge. So, I tried it, but I just couldn’t finish the thing. That was my first taste of Tamora Pierce. My second was this book, Alanna: The First Adventure, the first in a quartet I read years later. It’s not as big as Lady Knight, but just as good. Alanna of Trebond would do just about anything to be knight, but in the realm of Tortall females are forbidden to pursue this. Her brother would rather go learn to be a mage than a knight. Hmm…crazy scheme? Alanna cuts her hair, obtains male clothing, and before you know it she is at the Palace, posing as Alan of Trebond, on her way to becoming a knight. But that’s easier said than done. Alanna must deal with rivals, harsh training, and (yikes) adolescence! This book is action-packed, and the writing keeps you sucked in, if you ask me. The next three books of the series do not fail to please, but I have to say that these are definitely young adult. They are something a lover of fantasy would definitely enjoy. Why don’t you give this a try? Please? Pretty please?

P. S. Saturday, September 24, 2011, is the start of Banned Book Week. This celebrates the freedom to read books that broach “dangerous” subjects. Click here for a great site to learn more about it.

The Ogre of Oglefort

Hot off the press! The Ogre of Oglefort, the beloved Eva Ibbotson’s last book, came out only earlier this month. Yes, I know, I’m a bit late in writing about it. But I’m here now, aren’t I? Here is the story of a hag, a troll, a wizard, and Ivo, a boy without a family. It is they who are charged to rescue the Princess Mirella, who has been stolen away by the dreadful, the vile, the evil Ogre of Oglefort, and must be saved (and the monster killed) as soon as possible. But arriving at the estate of Oglefort yields a startling discovery, and the rescuers quickly learn that everything is not as it seems, and they very wells may have something quite different on their hands than retrieving Princess Mirella. In fact, she’s hardly the normal type of princess at all, and the ogre is not your run-of-the-mill ogre. Fully equipped with violent ghosts, talking animals, and a cast of diverse (and I mean DIVERSE) characters, this book’s writing is great and has an attractive plot. Eva Ibbotson has done it again! It’s not terribly big, but it is kind of gruesome. Some parts made me inwardly shiver, and some were just plain funny. I advise you to go to the library, the bookstore, or wherever it is you go for literature–just go check this out. And (this may astound you) the ogre is one of my favorite characters…

Small Persons With Wings

Yes, Small Persons with Wings. DO NOT call them fairies. They don’t take kindly to it, as Melissa Angelica Turpin finds out pretty early in life. Age five, to be exact. That’s when she had a Small Person with Wings living in her room. His name is Fidius, and he could make squash look like candy corn and a room look like a jungle. But all that changes when Mellie comes back from kindergarten with the exciting news that she plans to take Fidius in to show everyone. Maybe for once she might have some friends. Then Mellie’s hopes are dashed when she wakes up the next morning to an awful surprise: Fidius has left, leaving nothing behind but stupid china figurine. Let’s just say things don’t turn out well on Monday when that’s all Mellie has to show of her “fairy”. The embarrassment follows her for years, right up to when she’s thirteen. But when there is news that her grouchy grandfather has died and left her family his old inn, it’s a golden opportunity to leave it all behind and get a fresh start. But what do Mellie and her parents find when they get there? You guessed it. An infestation of Small Persons with Wings. Sigh. what can Mellie do now? This is a fresh, fun book, with a good plot and lovable characters. The writing is good, not particularly engaging, but definitely works. It’s appropriate for both children and young adults. Nice job to Ellen Booraem! This is a book I would recommend to all fantasy-lovers. I suggest you go check it out!

July 27, 2011: Only two more!

The Bronze Pen

I’ve read this book about two or three times. I’m still not tired of it. This tale written by Zilpha Keatley Snyder never ceases to captivate me. Audrey Abbot has a dream of becoming a writer, but nobody else knows. She doesn’t think it would seem important in her world, one with a dying father and an  extremely hardworking mother. So Audrey keeps her aspirations inside of her. Until one day, when she runs into a strange old woman, who she finds herself telling about her writing. And isn’t Audrey surprised when the woman presents her with a glittering bronze pen? She tells Audrey to use it well, and wisely. The girl takes it home and immediately starts using it in her writing. But the story doesn’t end here. Strange things start occurring. All of a sudden, Audrey’s dog is talking to her! Then…is that a dragon under the bed? Audrey can only think that it might be the bronze pen that’s doing this, but the things Audrey writes about don’t always end up the way she expects. The pen is unpredictable, so does she dare use it to try to save her dad’s life? This book has touching characters, a cool plot, and is (like I said before) captivating. Tons of kids will enjoy this exciting fantasy.

June 30, 2011: 6 posts left!

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Yes, I read graphic novels, too. And this is one of the best, by author Barry Deutsch. Mirka does not like bothering with marriage, or sewing, or anything she’s supposed to, for that matter. Unlike her stepmother Fruma. No, what Mirka wants to do is something different, something no eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl has done before: Fight (and hopefully slay) dragons! Now, no one in her family is especially supportive of this. Not her bossy sister, not her nervous brother, and definitely not Fruma. But Mirka is determined to achieve her goals. Still, there is one problem…it’s not really possible to slay a fire-breathing beast without a sword, is it? Before you know it, our heroine is on a quest. So, follow through with the funny illustrations and interesting characters on the quest to Mirka’s sword.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

Happy Easter, everyone! In the spirit of chocolate eggs and bunnies, I have the perfect book to review today. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, written by Du Bose Heyward, is a wonderfully illustrated book containing a story that will make any little boy or girl very excited about this holiday. Little Cottontail wants nothing more than to be an Easter Bunny (of which there are actually five), but all the strong jackrabbits and wealthy white rabbits tell her it can never be so. Soon, this little country bunny grows up into an adult country bunny, and has many, many little cottontails to take care of. Their home is very happy, even if Mother Cottontail hasn’t fulfilled her dream of distributing Easter eggs to children all over the world. Then one of the current Easter Bunnies is too old to carry on! All are excited, hoping they will be the replacement. And aren’t they all surprised when Mother Cottontail is chosen! This whimsical, beautiful book is sure to please, and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.