Category: Fantasy

The Field Guide – Spiderwick Chronicles

DIT - Spiderwick ChroniclesThe Spiderwick Chronicles have been on shelves since 2003, and here I am picking up the first book thirteen years later! I’ve always been curious about this series, but never had the opportunity to check them out until now.

The story starts off with the Grace family moving into the Spiderwick manor. We have Mom, Mallory, Jared, and Simon. Jared was nearly kicked out from their previous school for causing fights, but avoided expulsion due to the fact his family was moving anyways. Weird things happen in the Spiderwick manor, and due to his unruly behavior Jared is blamed for them. After stumbling upon an old, musty book titled Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You Jared believes the missing items and pranks are the cause of fairies, and is determined to make them stop.

My biggest problem with this book was that it was too short! The authors left off on a cliffhanger so children would quickly pick up the next book, but I’m still not sure why the authors chose to make this a five book series when two books of this length could have easy been put together.

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Flora and Ulysses Review

Continuing with the Ds brings us to Dicamillo, and I have selected Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures!DIC Flora and Ulysses

The concept of this novel is hilarious; self-proclaimed cynic Flora Buckman rescues a squirrel from an out-of-control vacuum cleaner. The squirrel, named Ulysses, gains self-awareness, super-strength, the ability to fly and… can write poetry? Together these two find beauty in the world around them and friends in this cast of unique characters.

Dicamillo is not afraid to bring large vocabulary words into her writing, and this could be either a good or bad thing depending on the level of your reader. Children (and adults like me) will be drawn to the pages filled with comic strips depicting Ulysses’s adventures.

Matilda Review

Ah, Matilda. One of several children’s classics written by Roald Dahl. Overall, I thought this book was far from perfect, especially when I’m reading it for the first time in 2016. But this book has lots of charm, even though some of the wording would be considered outdated and have to be explained for students, I think this book would make a great read-aloud for elementary students.DAH Matilda

I was drawn by this book specifically because Matilda is a young reader. She has a passion for learning at her age (since she was 2!)that is rare. Her parents abhor education, and shudder at the thought of reading for fun! Regardless, Matilda deals with her home situation by playing pranks on her awful parents. When she enters Kindergarten she befriends her teacher, Miss Honey, and learns to be wary of the school’s principal, Mrs. Trunchbull. Matilda wants to deal with Mrs. Trunchbull the same way she deals with her parents; by pranking them, and discovers that she has telekinetic abilities.

Unfortunately, this is where the book lost it’s ability to be believable. Telekinetic powers are interesting and all, but I felt as though Matilda would have been more than capable of getting Mrs. Trunchbull to quit and leave without having those powers.

Invasion of the Overworld Review

CHE - Invasion cover

A chapter book series about Minecraft!? I have to read this one! Especially when so many young people are obsessed with Minecraft. We can hardly keep our Minecraft handbooks on the shelves, so being aware of a chapter book series that takes place in Minecraft may be good for future reader’s advisory.

I was incredibly touched when I learned that the author of this book, Mark Cheverton, was inspired to write this series after his son had been bullied on Minecraft by what we call “griefers”, people who like to ruin the game online for other players by destroying what they create. Our protagonist starts off as a griefer, but over time begins to realize how much hurt is he causing, and sees the error of his ways. The message Mark Cheverton wanted to get through to the audience, that players on Minecraft should consider the consequences of their actions while playing the game, is crystal clear. I think kids who have experienced bullying online will certainly see this book as a reflection of those experiences.

Despite the strong messages presented in this book, it suffers from poor writing. Here is the sentence that bothered me the most as a reader; “…Gameknight pulled out flint and steel and started striking it. He wasn’t sure when he’d gotten the fire maker and didn’t care.” Are we sure it was Gameknight999 who didn’t care and not the writer? This was a crucial point in the plot! Without the flint and steel Gameknight would not have been able to set off the TNT and save the day. But instead of adding the flint and steel into the plot at any time before this, we opted to ignore it all together and acknowledge the fact that it was just thrown in there for the sake of convenience.

This book is intended to target young lovers of Minecraft, and it fulfills this niche. Those who aren’t familiar with Minecraft however, will be completely lost. I’ll admit that even I did not understand any of the references made towards popular YouTube stars and videos. (And I follow a lot of gamers online!) I would still recommend this book to Minecraft lovers who are ready to give this chapter book a shot.

The Witch’s Boy Review

BAR Witch's Boy

Kelly Barnhill’s The Witch’s Boy drew me in with it’s dark cover and intriguing title. I also knew this title was a newer addition to the library, but I never saw it leave it’s prime spot on our new shelf, which made me even more curious to read it.

This tale is about two twin brothers, Ned and Tam, who attempt to build a raft together and sail into the dangerous river beside their village. When the raft breaks down and the two boys are near drowning, their father only manages to save one, the wrong boy. The boy who is too slow, and too weak to do anything. Their mother guards an ancient magic that must not (or should not) be used for evil, and she uses it to sew the soul from the twin who drowned into the twin that lived, so that she does not lose either of her children.

This tale is about a strong and resourceful girl named Aine, who dreams of living on the sea as her mother did. After her mother passes on due to illness, she watches her father slowly regress into who he was before he met her mother. A bandit.

This tale is about loss, unlikely friendships, and that words are what truly have power in this fairy-tale world.

I would recommend this story to more middle-aged children because the story is very in-depth, but also because the word “damn” was used a few times and I know some parents would be uncomfortable with younger children reading that kind of language. I personally felt the author’s use of the word damn was used in a clever way, to further emphasize how malicious one of the side characters were. This story was enjoyable to read, and I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves fairy-tales.