The Littles and the Big Storm by John Peterson

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Title: The Littles and the Big Storm by John Peterson

Premise:

When the Bigg family goes on vacation, it is up to the Littles to take care of the house when a big storm bears down on them.  Can they keep the basement from flooding and ruining the furnace?  And what kind of creature is leaving mysterious clues around the house?

My thoughts:

I must say that this Littles book is not my favorite in the series.  While there are parts of the story which are cute and fun, the Littles never leave their house and the adventure seems a little lacking.  That’s only my personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.

The storm is what really provides the excitement in this story.  Because the Biggs are away from home, the Littles have to figure out how to solve the problem of the flooding basement, and that ends up being pretty dramatic.  I love imagining them on their raft floating across the perilous water-filled basement.

The other mystery which serves as a subplot throughout the story (which I’m not going to give away), ends in a rather anticlimactic way.  My son and I read the book together, and we were guessing that there was some kind of animal loose in the house.  You’ll have to read it to find out if we were right or wrong.

I recommend The Littles and the Big Storm to children who are beginning to read chapter books.  It’s also a must-read for Littles fans and would make a fun family read-aloud, too!

 

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

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Title: The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman  It’s a 1987 Newbery Medal winner.

Premise:

Jemmy is the unfortunate whipping boy for Prince Brat, spoiled and wayward heir to the throne.  Feeling bored, the Prince decides to run away and takes Jemmy with him.  In the outside world the Prince discovers that he needs Jemmy’s help, and the two boys develop a bond which neither one expected.  Can the boys outwit a couple of cutthroats who are determined to catch them so that they can collect a ransom from the king?

My thoughts:

I’ve loved this book since I was a kid!  It’s very short and ideal for children who are reading beginner chapter books.  There are occasional black and white drawings scattered throughout the book.

I don’t know how Fleischman did it, but he manages to pack a lot of personality and a great lesson into a very short story.  Prince Brat and Jemmy have very nicely developed characters, each one making you either loathe or love them.  The lesson contained in this book is about friendship and giving people second chances.  Jemmy could have easily left Prince Brat to fend for himself, given how much he had already suffered because of the Prince’s mischievous ways.  However, when the boys were truly in need, they had to rely on one another and they formed a bond which defied convention.

The Prince also got a look at life outside of the castle, which he had never been allowed to engage in before.  He meets a couple of thieves, a young lady and her dancing bear, the hot-potato man, and a rat catcher in the sewer.  He also has many first-time experiences such as shaking a commoner’s hand, going to the fair, exploring the sewers, and eating a potato.  The new adventures and relationships he experiences set him up to be a more thoughtful and considerate ruler when his time comes.

I recommend The Whipping Boy to children who are beginning to read chapter books (though older kids would enjoy the story, too).  It also makes a fun, quick family read-aloud.


Possible Objections:

  • Some violence

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus by Stacey Horan

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A special thank-you to Stacey Horan for providing an ARC for me to review!

Title: The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus (Book 1) by Stacey Horan

Premise:

Abigail and Quinn Link must go live with their grandpa when their mother suddenly dies from cancer.  Their grandfather, Professor Larson, asks the children to fill in where their mother left off — guarding the elixir vitae or fountain of youth from those who would use it for their own gain.  They travel around the United States finding and solving clues, while trying to simultaneously fit in at their new boarding school.

My thoughts:

I love the cover of this book!  I know that seems kind of silly, but I wanted to share something that I think was absolutely spot-on with this book.  I also loved the personal note which I received from the author when I won it through Goodreads.

The premise of the story is a good one.  The children go on adventures with their grandfather to find clues all around the United States to discover the whereabouts of the elixir vitae.  They do this by means of a magic portal map and key.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the execution of the story leaves something to be desired.  The actual narration sounded like a teenager telling about the events of their day — more like a diary entry than a novel.  I found myself wishing for more detail throughout the story, more richness, more variety in sentence structure, and more complex thoughts.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t become attached to any of them.  They needed more fleshing out and a closer glimpse into their psyches to show readers what makes them tick.  It also seemed that their emotional reactions were off at times.  Sometimes they had extreme negative reactions in situations which didn’t call for it.  I wondered why this person was all of a sudden screaming at that person.  Would they all benefit from some anger management classes?

Finally, there were enough errors in the text itself that it couldn’t be overlooked.  The editing wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t careful enough, either.  Of particular note, I counted eleven instances of the wrong word being used.  That’s kind of a lot.  Throw in a few misspelled words, missing words, extra words, and a paragraph break in the wrong place, and you can see how it could become a problem.

I recommend The Elixir Vitae Adventures: Ortus to those who like adventures which feature kids as the heroes.  If you’re willing to overlook some bumps in the delivery, you might enjoy this story.


Possible Objections:

  • One instance of taking God’s name in vain
  • One of the kids says, “Holy shhhhhh” – implying you know what

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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Title: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Premise:

Follow the adventures of four woodland friends: Badger, Toad, Mole and Rat.  They have adventures in the Wild Wood, lazy days boating on the river, and trouble with a motor-car.  When Toad’s reckless ways land him in a heap of trouble, it will take all of the friends to make things right again.

My thoughts:

I absolutely love this book!  It’s not the first time I’ve read it, but it has just as much charm as I remember.  Grahame has an uncanny knack for writing in a manner which is both charming and playful, as well as describing nature in a singularly unique way.  It’s as if he sees all of nature as a living being.

The story is somewhat meandering (though still completely satisfactory) because it simply follows the characters in their day-to-day life.  The meat of the story is the episode in which Toad steals a motor-car and all of the drama that ensues because of his actions.  Certainly there are other events in the book and though they aren’t particularly dramatic, they are just as enjoyable to read about.

The characters are wonderfully written and developed.  Who would think that you could feel so much in common with woodland animals?  Yet Grahame makes his animals come to life and embody human characteristics to such a masterful degree that you feel like they are old friends.  I think Badger is my favorite character.  He’s a bit gruff, but still kindly and down-to-earth.  He would be like your favorite gruff old uncle who is hiding a heart of gold underneath.

I recommend The Wind in the Willows to children in their later elementary years and up, families, and those who enjoy classic literature.  This is a fun adventure which appeals to all ages!

 

Possible Objections:

  • The a-word is used several times (as the English might use it to refer to someone who’s making a fool of themselves)
  • Some animals brandishing & shooting guns
  • A couple of the animals smoke pipes (not very frequently)
  • A few mentions of drinking alcohol: beer & champagne
  • The vocabulary might be a bit advanced for younger readers

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

A Walk in the Woods – Movie 2015

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Just the other day I had the privilege of watching A Walk in the Woods, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  I managed to rack up $5 in library fines in the process, but by gum, I did it!  Another aside — I had to find a time to watch it when little ears wouldn’t be around to hear all of the f-bombs that I knew I’d be hearing.

For those of you who have never read the book, this is a story about an older man’s quest to hike the Appalachian Trail.  He and a friend use the opportunity to have one last hurrah, as it were.  If you want to know more about what I thought of the book, check out my book review.

My thoughts:

First, you should know that I absolutely loved the book!  That means that I was starting from a place of already being in love with the story and the author.  When following a beloved story with a movie, it can be difficult to live up to the high expectations that the reader/viewer already has.

As you know, something is lost when you translate a book into film, and this was no exception.  The movie left out the charm and wit of Bryson’s storytelling, as well as his asides on topics such as the National Forest Service, etc.  If you’ve read the book, this is a nice way to visualize the story and see the embodiment of the characters.  If you watch the movie without reading the book, just know that you are getting the short end of the stick.  The book is so much more complex, nuanced, clever and lovely.  Another thing that just doesn’t come through in the movie is the stink, sweat, toil, fatigue and monotony that was a part of the trail life.  For all of those juicy details you’ll have to pick up the book.

I didn’t care for the way Bill’s wife was portrayed in the movie as being unsupportive.  In reality she was actually very supportive and helped Bill with many aspects of the journey.  However, I think they may have changed her character to give the story some conflict.  On the other side of the coin, we have Katz whose character was magical.  Nick Nolte was a wonderfully grizzled, unsophisticated and crass Katz.  I loved his way of talking and that he threw in the expletives in an unobtrusive manner.  Katz’s dry, sardonic sense of humor comes through really well, too.

There are a few objectionable aspects to the film which you should know about.  In one scene we briefly see Nick Nolte’s derrière from afar.  There’s also regular talk about things of a sexual nature, including a short scene with implied fellatio.  Other than that, the foul language is the most pervasive objectionable aspect.

I recommend this movie to adults who enjoy a low-key, humorous movie about aging.  While the story isn’t anything to write home about, the delivery is amusing.  I feel like a group of older friends would get a kick out of watching this together.

Possible Objections:

  • Brief partial nudity
  • Sexual references
  • Lots of foul language (mostly from Katz)

Rated: R

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

OTHER A WALK IN THE WOODS POSTS:

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Walk in the Woods

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Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Premise:

This is a humorous memoir about Bill’s quest to hike the Appalachian Trail, a good portion of it with his friend Katz.  Additionally, Bill shares his observations and opinions on topics which are pertinent to the story, such as, the National Parks Service, invasive species, conservation, mining, etc.

My thoughts:

It would not be an understatement to say that I LOVED this book!  It wasn’t a page-turner that I just couldn’t put down, but more like an old friend that I would return to for shared jokes and just to appreciate being together.  I wanted to savor my time with this book.  Bill’s wry humor really suits me and I appreciate the way he uses it to draw attention to and poke at issues he cares about.  Sometimes it’s more effective to criticize something through sardonic humor than by railing against it in an angry tirade.

When I picked up the book, I didn’t really think it would be all that exciting.  How can you make an exceptionally long walk entertaining?  Well, Bill figured it out and delivered beautifully.  His comedic timing is like strawberries and whipped cream: perfect.  Let me state again that I am in love with his writing style and I look forward to reading more of his works.  How can I have gone so long without reading any of his books?

The last thing I wanted to comment on was how Bill brought little nuggets of history into his story.  I love history when it’s presented in an engaging manner, and Bill incorporated it seamlessly.  I was particularly intrigued by the opulent hotels which once existed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the sad history of the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania.  I had previously studied Centralia when I was on a kick about ghost towns, and it is a haunting setting to be sure.  If you’ve never heard of it, do a bit of research.  It’s fascinating.

I recommend A Walk in the Woods to adults and mature teenagers who enjoy a humorous adventure story.  If you like wry humor, you’ll especially appreciate Bryson’s writing.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“’Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.’  When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.”  (p. 63-64)

“The forest we walked through now was really just a strapping adolescent.  In 1890, a railroad man from Cincinnati named Henry C. Bagley came to this part of Georgia, saw the stately white pines and poplars, and was so moved by their towering majesty and abundance that he decided to chop them all down.  They were worth a lot of money.”  (p. 68)

Possible Objections:

  • a decent amount of swearing

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

A Walk in the Woods Book Giveaway — CLOSED

My Bookshelf Giveaway: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (Sorry, the teddy bear doesn’t come with the book.)

Read my review here

Enter by following the link below.  It’s open internationally to participants 18 years and older and will end on June 30, 2017.  The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted through email.  Good luck!

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The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Sign of the Beaver

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Title: The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Notable: Newbery Honor book, 1984

Premise:

Matt and his father have claimed a homestead in the Maine wilderness, but Matt’s father must return to civilization to bring the rest of his family  back.  Does Matt have what it takes to protect their claim and survive until his father returns?  When Matt experiences misfortune, a couple of members of the local Penobscot tribe help him survive.  But how do white settlers and Native People coexist?

My thoughts:

I’m really conflicted on this book.  I enjoyed the story, Matt’s fight for survival, and the blossoming friendship between Attean and Matt.  On the other hand, there were aspects of the book which I really disliked–the dumbing down of the Native Americans, the offensive language, the almost too subtle social commentary.

I’m not a prude when it comes to offensive language in a book, but this is a book aimed at children.  They won’t know that some of the words are outdated or downright offensive.  If it were just a couple of instances it would be easier to overlook, but it’s pretty pervasive.  I most certainly wouldn’t want my child to think that it’s okay to call a woman a “squaw” or a Native American a “savage”.  Okay, rant over.

Apart from that, there are several passages when Matt’s accepted way of thinking is challenged and he comes to a new understanding.  He entertains the idea that perhaps slavery is wrong…maybe Native Americans aren’t as “savage” as he thought…perhaps the white man’s priorities in life are not always superior.  I appreciate that Matt has those crises of thinking, but I think that they are not always spelled out clearly enough that a child would pick up on them.  I hesitate to introduce racist ideas to a child without a very clear follow-up that shows the child why those ideas are wrong.

I suppose the only way I can recommend this book is if you read it with your child and have some very candid discussions about what you are reading.  Some of the issues that will need addressing are slavery, racial terminology, gender roles and terminology, and a more in-depth look at Native American culture.  You can learn more about the Penobscot tribe here.  Also, this link has some helpful curriculum discussion points to address the issues I mentioned.

Possible Objections:

  • Outdated and/or offensive racial language (i.e. Indians, savages, heathen, squaw)
  • Outdated modes of thinking (racism, slavery is normal, Native Americans are uncivilized, etc.)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

islands-of-the-blessed

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I finished the final book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy–The Islands of the Blessed. I think this was the best book in the series!

Premise:

Jack and his companions must go on another quest to save his village.  A draugr, or undead spirit, has been drawn to the little town by a magical bell.  She is seeking revenge for an old wrong done to her and will harm anyone who gets in her way.  Can the Bard, Jack and Thorgil get justice for the draugr before her patience runs out and someone else is hurt?

My thoughts:

I thought this was the best book in the series!  The characters have gained more depth and the plot has become more satisfyingly complex.

It’s great seeing the old characters again–especially the Northmen.  Skakki, Olaf One-Brow’s son, is an admirable man and a great leader.  The Bard saw much more action in this story and displayed more of his impressive magical skills.  Magic is just so much fun!  Jack and Thorgil also matured in this tale and their companionship finally develops into something safe and comforting.

The fin folk, or mermaids, were a really fun and imaginative people group.  I’ve never seen the concept of merfolk developed so fully, and it was interesting to see how the author imagined their homes, social customs, etc.

It seems like this is a series that could keep going, especially since there are characters whose stories didn’t wrap up–Pega, Lucy, Brutus, Hazel, etc.  I was disappointed that Pega’s character and story line weren’t developed more.  It seemed like there was a really good story wrapped up in her existence, but in the end nothing of great importance happened to her.  Jack and Thorgil’s entrance into the School of Bards sets the scene for another series of stories, but I don’t know that any will be forthcoming.  Islands of the Blessed was published in 2009.

This is a great book for kids in the elementary to teen age range, or as a family read-aloud.  Those who are interested in Norse mythology or the early interplay of Druid and Christian religions will appreciate the subject matter most.

Possible Objections:

  • One instance of the a-word

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

sea-of-trolls

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While perusing the shelves on a recent library visit, I found The Sea of Trolls and thought it looked interesting. It is the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy.

Premise:

Jack is the unnoticed son of an Anglo-Saxon farmer, until the Bard singles him out as his apprentice.  Jack begins to learn how to harness the life force and use magic.  Though life is looking up for Jack, it doesn’t last when Vikings invade his town.  Jack and his sister Lucy find themselves in the middle of an epic adventure involving magic, trolls, Vikings and dragons.  Can they survive and will they ever return home?

My thoughts:

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book!  The action is a bit slow in starting, but once Jack leaves his homeland, the pace quickens and the story becomes more cohesive.

Jack is a main character whom I really like.  He’s down to earth, unassuming, and has a knack for blundering his way through all situations.  There are many other likable characters, though they all have their weaknesses and foibles–Olaf, Thorgil, the Bard, Bold Heart, and more.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Bard, but perhaps he’ll feature more in the other two books.

Norse mythology and some historical facts are interwoven into The Sea of Trolls.  I certainly didn’t take it as a historically accurate tale, but it’s fun to insert fact into fantasy stories.  For those of you who are fans of Norse mythology, Vikings, or European history, this story will give you a kick because it makes reference to all of those things.  Personally, I don’t know a lot about Norse mythology or the Vikings, but I’d like to learn more about them now.

I’m really looking forward to starting the next book in the series and hope that many of the same characters make a reappearance.  Since the adventure seems to have been fully resolved in this book, the next two should have their own independent story lines.  We shall see.

I would recommend this book to elementary-age children or even teens.  (In fact I just recommended it to my picky 11-year-old.)  It’s an entertaining adventure story that is free of bad language and not too descriptive in its violence.  This mama gives it a thumbs-up.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

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Wizard’s First Rule is the second to last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Almost done!  I had never heard of this book, nor the author, Terry Goodkind.  It can be a little intimidating starting a thick book with no clue about whether or not it will be a good one.

Wizard’s First Rule is an epic fantasy adventure story in which Richard (the Seeker) has to defeat the evil Darken Rahl.  He is aided by a beautiful but powerful woman, a wizard, and a few others.  The majority of the story is taken up by their journey to find a magical object which must be hidden from Rahl, and by the many scrapes they find themselves in.

I am still conflicted about this book. Was it good? Was it bad? Did it mess with my brain? Probably so. There are parts of it that I really like and parts of it that made my stomach churn.

The frequent graphic violence (including sexual violence), is just so overwhelming. If that had been watered down dramatically, I think I might have liked the novel more. Of course the writing isn’t stellar, but it’s hard to fairly assess anything else in the book when all you can think about is a dominatrix, a pedophile, and people’s heads cracking open like melons.

What I liked:

  • I liked the variety and different types of characters.  It seems like there was a lot of thought and imagination that went into the diverse inhabitants of this fantasy world.  You get to see people who are pure and people who are quite diabolical.
  • I liked that they were going on an epic adventure and that their journey took many detours (it reminded me of The Lord of the Rings quest).
  • The beginning and end of the book.  The last third of the book, in particular, really picks up in plot twists and complexity.  Even though there were parts of this book that I didn’t like, I will probably read the next in the series because the end of the book was an interesting segue into the next.

What I didn’t like:

  • The main characters seemed almost bipolar at times, going from saying they would protect someone with their life one minute to holding a sword against that person’s throat the next.  Real people don’t act that way, but hey, maybe they were under extreme stress?
  • I felt like the book could have been shortened by not repeating phrases over and over.
  • One of the characters seems to me to be almost a rip-off of the Gollum character from Lord of the Rings.
  • I understand that terrible things happen in war, but personally I was very uncomfortable with how candid the author was about things like sexual exploitation and gory violence.
  • The middle of the book was more difficult to get through–I had to force myself to keep reading.  It seemed like it was lacking any urgency in keeping the story going.

So, there you have it–my mixed feelings on this book.  I feel like there are definitely people out there who would really dislike this book because of some of the intense subject matter.  If you’re uncomfortable with the occult, gory violence, or sexual themes, I would recommend you skip this one.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of violence & gore
  • Not very subtle references to sexual violence against women & children
  • Sexual themes, including S&M and references to anatomy
  • 2 instances of the b-word
  • Occult themes

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Inkheart – Movie 2008

Inkheart Movie-w

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So sad, so sad.  Let me shed a tear.  I was hoping, hoping, hoping that this would be a good movie.  I really, really wanted to like it.  I just couldn’t.  After mulling it over for a few days, I still can’t.

Inkheart is based on the book by the same name, by Cornelia Funke.  I must report that there was some creative license taken with the movie.  The characters are not exactly like those in the book, more drama and fantasy are added to the movie, and the plot is changed a bit.

I really hate to say it, but the acting left me feeling like it didn’t quite hit the mark.  While I think Andy Serkis is very talented, I was not convinced that he really was Capricorn.  Farid, I’m afraid, was quite unbelievable.  Even Mo was lacking in the convinceability department.  (I do make up words; just get used to it.)  Surprisingly, two of the characters I most enjoyed were not big players at all–Fenoglio and Flatnose.

I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy Inkheart more, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially when comparing it to the book.

Rated: PG

Rating: 2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

OTHER INKHEART POSTS:

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Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart-w

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While hanging out with daughters 1 and 2 at the library, I wanted to grab a book for myself.  Since I couldn’t let the girls out of my sight, I stuck to the kid’s section, scanning for a fantasy or sci-fi novel.  I came up with this one–Inkheart.  Never heard of it.  Looks interesting.  Grab it and go.

Inkheart is about a man who is able to read things out of books.  This man, Mo, has a magical way with words.  Quite by accident, while reading aloud one night, he reads some characters out of a book, while at the same time his wife vanishes into it.  Nine years later, he and his daughter Meggie are living a quiet life, trying to hide from the nefarious characters who appeared the night his wife disappeared.  One of the characters, Capricorn, is a thoroughly evil man who is smitten with the possibilities of power and money in this new world he’s been brought into.  He has been hunting Mo so that he can read more things out of books–money, henchmen, women.

Eventually Capricorn catches up with Mo and all heck breaks loose in a series of chases, kidnappings and hostage situations.  Capricorn is defeated at the end through the power of words.  Sorry for the vagueness; I hate to give away endings.

There are several other characters who play an important role in the story–Basta, Capricorn’s henchman; Elinor, Meggie’s aunt; Dustfinger, a street performer; and Farid, a boy read out of another story.  Some of them are more well-developed and intriguing than others.  Dustfinger in particular is difficult to classify.  I’m curious to see what happens with him and Farid in the next book.

Inkheart is a long novel, but I like that kind of story.  The pace of it alternates between exciting action and more relaxed scenes.  If you’re looking for something that propels itself forward at a fast pace, this may not be the book for you.  Also of note, there is much more in this book about our world than about Mo’s magic reading.  The fantasy element is there, but it is at least equaled by our earthly reality.  Just some fair warning so that you won’t be disappointed.  I recommend this book for pre-teens and older.  There is quite a bit of violence, threats of violence (slicing people with knives), and the occasional passing reference to relationships of a sexual nature.

Rating: 3 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness as told to Robert Specht

Tisha

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness is one of my all-time favorite books!  I was introduced to it when I was fairly young, perhaps in grade school.  I believe that I found it on my dad’s bookshelf.  In fact, I still have that very copy, though the binding has completely split by now.

Anyhow, this book is a little difficult to classify because it doesn’t stick to a single genre.  There’s some adventure, some romance, some social commentary, some history.  Since it’s a biography, it is a multi-faceted story.  That makes it especially interesting and entertaining.

The overarching story is about a young woman named Anne Hobbs who goes to Alaska in the 1920’s to teach in the tiny community of Chicken.  She is hoping for some adventure, and boy does she find it!  There is plenty of adventure and action throughout the story, no doubt because of the frontier conditions in Alaska at that time and the inhabitants’ ability to do as they please.  Anne doesn’t understand how things are done in her new community, so she ends up stepping on toes and voicing opinions that are not widely accepted.  Many in the community believe that the Native “Indians” are not as good as white people, and this is where Anne runs into a lot of trouble.  She decides that she will allow the native children to attend school with the white kids, and then she has the gall to fall in love with a man who is half Native American.  There are truly heartbreaking scenes throughout the book, but in the end love wins out.

This story is so charmingly told that you end up feeling like you are a part of Anne’s community.  I love all the details the book gives about what life was like in that small Alaskan town at that particular time in history.  You get a glimpse into history that is both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend this book to adults and possibly older teens, depending on their level of maturity.  As you’ll see from the section below, there is quite a bit of objectionable content in the book.

Possible Objections:

  1. There is a lot of racism in this book, whether it’s racial slurs or simply people voicing their prejudices.  Though those views are not advocated, they are presented without apology as the views of some of the significant characters.
  2. Racist terms–more than just against Native Americans.  There are also a few slurs against African Americans and others.  I would not want my children reading those words until they are older and better able to judge that they are inappropriate.
  3. There is mention of one man having tried to start a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the town he used to live in.
  4. A child whose father chooses not to acknowledge him is called a “bastard.”
  5. There is a passage where one of the characters beats the donkeys and horses in his pack train to make them continue.  It could be disturbing for some people.
  6. The squalor and disease that is detailed in the Native American community could be disturbing to some readers.
  7. There are some episodes of violence, with people physically fighting.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Blue Dolphins

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Island of the Blue Dolphins is a book for younger readers that’s loosely based on a true story.  Karana lives on an island in a small community of native people.  When the Aleuts show up to hunt otter, there is conflict and many in her tribe are killed.  Not too long after, another ship arrives to take the remainder of her tribe to the mainland to start a new life there.  Karana’s brother gets left behind when he goes back for something he forgot, and she jumps from the ship into the sea to swim back to the island.  Because of bad weather, the ship has to leave without them, so she and her brother are forced to fend for themselves on the island.  After only a short time her brother dies and she is left all alone.  The rest of the book chronicles the many tasks she has to do to survive, such as harvesting abalones and building a shelter.  Karana also makes friends with one of the wild dogs who has been injured, and some other creatures.  In the end she is rescued, but not until after eighteen years of seclusion.

I read this book as a child and loved it, so I decided to read it aloud to my boys.  It’s a great story of adventure and survival.  It also draws in themes of resourcefulness, companionship, loneliness, and the need for others.  This story is full of sweetness and sadness, which meld into a perfect blend.  I would highly recommend this book, especially for later elementary-aged kids to teens.

Possible Objections:

  1. There is a little bit of violence, such as when Karana’s brother is killed by the wild dogs.  Other than that, it’s fairly tame.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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