Book & Audio Review: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Getting ready for the holidays?  This is a great book to share with friends and family…and if you add chocolate, it’s even better!

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
By Stephanie Burgis, Narrated by Jill Frutkin
8 CDs, 9.25 HoursDragon Chocolate Heart

Aventurine is the youngest member of her family…and she hates that everyone can tell her what to do, from her only-slightly-older-brother Jasper to her know-it-all older sister Citrine to Mother and all the aunts and her Grandfather Grenat.  Even though she has her own treasure hoard, she is not allowed to leave the cave or fly, since she’s too young and her wings are untested.  Worst of all, everyone believes that she’s lazy, just because she hasn’t found her Passion yet.  Every dragon has a Passion–the thing that gives their life meaning.  Jasper is interested in learning, and reads every human philosophers’s book he can get his claws on.  Perfect Citrine already has other dragons worshiping her and building her palaces for the epic poetry she writes, but Aventurine has a passion too!  It’s out there…somewhere.

But how is Aventurine supposed to find out her Passion if she’s stuck in a cave? It seems to her that if she could go out in to the world, to hunt on her own, to see humans with her own eyes, she would find her Passion, and show her family!

Escaping a dragon cave isn’t difficult when you’re a small dragon, but trying to do it secretly means scraping through some tight spaces…and during her flight, Aventurine manages to injure her wings.  Not having wings means hunting isn’t as easy as she thought, and Aventurine doesn’t like being hungry.  When she discovers a strange human, making something over a fire, she knows exactly what that means–dinner!  Aventurine pounces.  Unfortunately, her injured wings get in the way, and she puts a claw in the fire.  And that’s when she smells it…something rich, and sweet, and spicy.  Something absolutely delicious that the human is cooking over the fire!  She demands to know what it is, and the human tells her “chocolate”.  He even offers her some to drink.  Aventurine can’t resist the wonderful aroma…she drinks deeply, and the chocolate explodes within her.dragon with a chocolate heart uk

When she wakes up, Aventurine has no claws, no smoke in her throat, no wings.  Instead, she has a soft skin, strange furry stuff on her head, and cloth coverings instead of scales.  Aventurine has been changed into a human.  But she has found her Passion–Chocolate.  The human mage leaves her with the advice to get to the nearest city and find a job or apprenticeship…maybe one of the Chocolate Houses will take her.

With no idea about what it means to be human, the transformed Aventurine makes her way toward the city.  One small, puny human who used to be a dragon against the whole world.  She survived barely a day as a dragon, how will she manage to survive the human world?  Will she find a way to turn chocolate into her Passion?   What about her family?  Will they even notice, or care, that she’s gone?

That is quite a bit for one small girl to deal with, even if she is a dragon inside.   But Aventurine is not a quitter, and there’s chocolate out there, somewhere.  She just knows she can conquer one small city and find her Passion.  She’s certainly going to do her best.

 

dragon with chocolate heart audio

I loved, loved, loved The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  Aventurine is brave and passionate and learning so much about herself in her journey.  She has no idea what humans are like, but she doesn’t let that stop her.  The writing reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones or Jessica Day George…lots of adventure, a touch of humor, and characters who will stay with you after their story is finished.

With that said, I had some real issues with the sound recording of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  When if first started, I really enjoyed the youthful, kind of scratchy voice of the narrator, and I liked the slow pacing during the first chapter, when Aventurine was a dragon.  However, when Aventurine because human and the story moved into the city I became very frustrated.  The pace stayed slow and the narration felt very much like a singsong bedtime story trying to put listeners to sleep.  I wanted a button to speed it up.  The other issue was that every character had the same voice…there were only a couple that sounded distinctly different.

So while I loved the book of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, I didn’t enjoy the sound recording.  That may be only me though!   But my recommendation is, if you have a choice, read the book and imagine your own voices.  I can almost guarantee, when you finish reading, you’ll want to hear more of Aventurine’s story.

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Dragons and chocolate!  Who knew they’d go so well together?  I would recommend The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart to readers in fourth through seventh grades.  If I didn’t scare you away with my assessment of the sound recording, I think it would be accessible to listeners as young as second grade, although there are a couple scary scenes.  If you’re just trying to put someone to sleep, you might be able to go even younger.

Some read-alikes you might like:
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep.
Stephanie Burgis also has a wonderful trilogy that starts with Kat, Incorrigible, that readers of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart would enjoy as well.

As always, if you need any reading or listening suggestions, visit the library and ask one of our librarians for help.  We’re always happy to match books with readers and listeners.

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

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Book and Audio Review: Fuzzy

Beginning a new year of school is not so easy.  But when you’re a robot, it’s REALLY difficult.  From Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami YodaInspector Flytrap and QwikPick Papers series, as well as Horton Halfpot and Fake Mustache comes another humorous and heartfelt story about a unique character.

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Fuzzy
By Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, Narrated by Erin Moon
4 CDs, 4.5 Hours

fuzzyMax Zelaster is a pretty average student a Vanguard One Middle School.   Of course, to even BE at Vanguard One, you have to be pretty bright; the weekly UpGrade Tests see to that; if kids don’t meet their potential they’re DownGraded to a less desirable school in the Federal School Board Program.  The one thing Max excels at is robots…she just loves everything about them…from programming to design.

So when Vanguard One becomes the test site for RIP, the new national Robot Integration Program, Max is hoping that she might get a chance to participate.  When the awkward-looking robot shows up, Max is less than impressed…especially when it trips and falls, barely missing her as it crashes to the ground.  Her quick actions in getting it back up and running though brings her to the attention of Dr. Jones and Lieutenant Colonel Nina, the people running the program.   The two ask Max to be the robot’s guide in the school.  They explain that Fuzzy–whose name is classified, but the nickname comes from the fuzzy logic he uses to problem solve–might be good at retrieving information and learning from experience, but he has no idea how to be a student.  Max agrees.  What an opportunity to learn!

Soon Fuzzy is immersed in Max’s classes, and Max is finding out more and more about Fuzzy.  And even though he’s proving to be a very good friend, she’s asking more and more questions about why a robot is being integrated into a middle school.  It’s kind of weird, right?  Why would a robot have to learn how to be a kid?

Unfortunately, as soon as things start to go smoothly in their classes, Fuzzy manages to get Max in trouble with Vice Principal Barbara, the artificial intelligence that runs the school.  Fuzzy may be making friends and learning all kinds of new skills, but Max is racking up discipline tags, tardiness tags and citizenship tags…and so is Fuzzy.

What is going on with Vice Principal Barbara, who seems to be lurking around every corner, through her view screens, janitorial robots and the eyes, hands and ears she has (literally!) all over the school?   She seems to have it in for both Max and Fuzzy…and all those tags are mounting.  Even though the adults don’t believe them, Max and Fuzzy know that half of the tags are for things that never even happened.  Through the Vice Principal’s actions, Max becomes a student At Risk.  If she’s DownGraded, she could lose her place at Vanguard One, as well as all her friends and any chance to find out more from or about Fuzzy.

Through some excellent code-cracking and a little sneaking around, Max and Fuzzy  start to uncover some truths about the Robot Integration Program and about Rossum Technologies, which runs the program for the government.  They’re sure they’re onto something, because as soon as they start getting some answers, armed men (and one woman) try to kidnap Fuzzy!  When they get him back, it’s Max’s turn.  With some quick  teamwork by Max and her friends, the kids are onto a government conspiracy with Fuzzy at the center.

Can Max and Fuzzy save Fuzzy from being turned into scrap…or worse?  Can they save Max from being kicked out of Vanguard One Middle School?  Can they discover what, exactly is going on with Vice Principal Barbara and Rossum Technologies?  Only time, friendship and a lot of detective work and effort will tell.

fuzzy audioFuzzy is such a fun audio book!  Narrator Erin Moon is a professional actor and award-winning narrator of over 150 audio books.  She gives each of the characters a distinct voice, and the overall package is wonderful.  I love the short chapters in the book, and the terse style translates very well to the audio.  In fact, I want to go look up Erin and see what else she’s narrated, just because I enjoyed Fuzzy so much.

I would highly recommend Fuzzy as a book or an audio book for kids from fourth through eighth grade.  The whole question of artificial intelligence and school tests, which would probably pass unquestioned by younger readers, would be a great discussion topic by older readers.  The book is deceptively easy, because there is a lot of weight to the subject matter.  Like all of Tom Angleberger’s books, there’s also a lot of humor.  Just ask anyone who has read Origami Yoda, or Fake MustacheFuzzy is a science fiction book with a bit of humor, a smidgen of adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.  Anyone who likes any of those things should love Fuzzy.

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So if you’re looking for a good book for a car trip, or just to read around town, try Fuzzy.

Some similar books are: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks,  Robot Revolution by James Patterson, or Eager by Helen Fox.

Some similar audio books are: Crunch by Leslie Connor and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

As always, whether you’re looking for a book or an audio book, our librarians can help you find the perfect one to suit your needs!  Just ask us…we love to help.

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book and Audio Review: Click Here to Start

Are you a fan of online games?  Do you do well on puzzles?  Could you escape a room with only what you have on or around you?  If so,  Click Here to Start is the book is for you!

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Click Here to Start
By Denis Markell, read by Greg Watanabe
7 CDs, 7 hours, 51 minutes

click here to startIt’s almost the end of summer vacation, and Ted Gerson had planned to spend the time playing online games, sometimes with his friend Caleb, sometimes on his own.  So when his mother insists that twelve-year-old Ted go to the hospital and visit his barely remembered Great-Uncle Ted, the younger Ted balks.  But moms have a way of getting their way, so off Ted goes.

Great-Uncle Ted turns out to be a funny, sarcastic old guy.  Even though he can’t talk, the two Teds communicate through notes–well, notes on Great-Uncle Ted’s end, talking on the younger Ted’s.  It turns out that Great-Uncle Ted is also a fan of games, and, like his great nephew, among his favorite are the Escape the Room type of games.  Ted leaves, looking forward to spending more time with this newly rediscovered relative.  Only Ted doesn’t have another chance.  It turns out that their first visit is their only visit.  Great-Uncle Ted dies only days later.

At the reading of the will, Ted discovers that Great-Uncle Ted has left him the entire contents of his apartment…and all  it contains.  In fact, there’s even a challenge.  Since he’s so good at solving puzzles, (Great-Uncle Ted writes)  if he searches hard, he will find a treasure…

Ted wonders what the treasure could be.  Great-Uncle Ted was a soldier during WWII, could the treasure be jewels or gold that were found by the Japanese-American unit he served with?  Or could it be something more recent, like computer games and consoles from the 70s?   Even though his mother cautions him to not get too excited, Ted is sure that the search will be easy.  After all, he’s beaten the highest level and won every Escape the Room challenge he’s ever played, and faster than any other kid he knows!  Then he sees Great-Uncle Ted’s apartment.

The man seems to have kept everything he ever owned, and he didn’t throw anything away!  Maneuvering through the piles of old newspapers and magazines, books, broken appliances and bags of stuff is exhausting.   Luckily, Caleb agrees to help, and Ted’s father’s new boss has a daughter, Isabel, who also joins the boys…reluctantly.   The first day, they do discover a couple treasures, but only clear a tiny fraction of the apartment.

But things get interesting on the second day.  Someone has broken into the apartment and trashed it even more.  Is someone else after the treasure?  The parents aren’t sure about letting the kids continue, even though Ted, Caleb and Isabel are more psyched than ever to find a treasure among the trash.  And then the strangest thing happens…when Ted is trying to wind down after a long day of cleaning, he goes to his favorite game site…only to find something new called The Game of Ted.  When he clicks on the link, it opens a game where the room looks exactly like Great-Uncle Ted’s apartment, complete with all the same junk in the same places.  What is going on..?

Can Ted, Caleb and Isabel find the treasure?  Who else is looking for it?  Are they in danger?  Who is behind The Game of Ted, and are they helping or hindering the search?  Only by finding the treasure will the kids find out the answers.

click here to start audioThe audio for Click Here to Start is very enjoyable.  Greg Watanabe does an excellent job of making each character’s voice unique.  He sounds like a twelve year old who is engrossed in solving a mystery.  I enjoyed the pacing; the action parts kept me on the edge of my seat.

Click Here to Start is Denis Markell’s first middle-grade novel, and it was a fun and fast read.  He definitely knows the ins and outs of gaming.  I’m looking forward to more from this author.  Apparently, he has a book coming out in July 2018 called The Game Masters of Garden Place.   The brief description on his web site makes it sound like another fun mystery involving online games and a group of smart kids.  I know I will be reading it!

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So there you have it…Click Here to Start is a solid mystery, read by a talented narrator.  Fans of the Mr Lemoncello’s Library stories by Chris Grabenstein will enjoy this one too!  The book is probably best for readers in fifth through seventh grades, but the audio book could be accessible for listeners as young as eight or nine.  If you like trying to solve mysteries or computer puzzles, you will enjoy this book.  Just pick it up and find out!

Read-alikes:  Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

Listen-alikes: The Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Bertram, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Come to the Library and find this book for your next car trip or free reading.  As always, if you need suggestions for a book to read or to listen to, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to help you find the best book for you!

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book & Audio Review: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted!  There are quite a few new entries coming up though, so we hope you’ll be sticking around to check it out!  First up…a fun series featuring a boy with a problem and a group of librarians who are…(shhh…don’t tell!)…evil.

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Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
By Brandon Sanderson, Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo
6 CDs, 7 Hours

Alcatraz vs the evil librariansAlcatraz Smedry has never known his parents. An orphan, he’s currently living with foster parents Joan and Roy Sheldon.  Although Alcatraz likes the Sheldons, he’s not counting on being with them forever.  They’re his 27th placement as a foster kid; not because he’s a bad kid, but because of his…problem.  Alcatraz breaks things.   He doesn’t intend to, it just seems to happen to things around him–from washing machines to plates to chickens.  He doesn’t destroy things, because all the pieces are still there, things just end up broken beyond repair.

Alcatraz oldWhen a package arrives on his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz is surprised to open it up and see a note from his parents.  The package looks old…the stamps date back thirteen years, and the wrapping is old and faded, with frayed cords. Alcatraz isn’t sure what to think of it.  Is it a cruel joke? Did his parents really send it?  And how would they have been able to know the address where he would be in thirteen years?  He’s only lived there for eight months.  The “birthday gift” however, is a bag of sand.  Sand?  Alcatraz looks for more, but aside from a few mysterious scribbles on the packaging, that’s all it is. A bag of ordinary-looking beach sand.

alcatraz vs evil librarins 2Disgusted, Alcatraz goes downstairs to made dinner for his foster parents in gratitude for them being normal.  But he manages to break the kitchen, setting it on fire.  Alcatraz’s case supervisor comes to tell him to get ready to move to a new home.   Once again, his ability to break things has come back to haunt him.

The next day, a very odd old man in a rattletrap old-fashioned car shows up, calling Alcatraz by name.  The case worker, Alcatraz assumes.  But the old man seems completely crazy!  When he tells Alcatraz that he’s his grandfather.  Grandpa Leavenworth Smedry has a preposterous tale of  the Free Kingdoms and the Hushlands, evil librarians who control our world, and Oculators, who control technology with special lenses.  Alcatraz tries to get away from the crazy old man, only to run into a second strange man who tries to kidnap him!  What’s the better choice? A loony old guy who seems fond of him, or a man with a gun who shoots at him?  Alcatraz leaves with Grandpa Smedry, but not before breaking the whole house.

Soon, Alcatraz is in a flying car, helping to form a team of freedom fighters and Oculators to battle the forces of Libraria and the evil librarians infiltrating our world.  Will he and his team succeed?  Or will they fall to the forces of order and librarianship?

alcatraz vs evil librarians soundThe sound recording of Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is excellent!  I love the narrator–Ramon De Ocampo is the perfect choice for this series.  His voices for all the characters (and there are quite a few!) are all varied.  Old, young, male, female, good, bad…every character has a distinct voice and stands alone.  His pacing is excellent, and his voice is always clear and easily understood.  The quality of the recording is excellent.

alcatraz seriesThere are five books in the Alcatraz series: Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians, The Scrivner’s Bones, The Knights of Crystallia, The Shattered Lens and The Dark Talent.  There may be a sixth book on the way…author Brandon Sanderson has shared that he’s writing it from the view point of Bastille (you’ll be introduced to her very quickly in the first book).  There’s currently no publishing date, but it looks like he’s said the manuscript should be finished in 2017…so maybe soon we’ll have some news about it!

If you’re looking for a series to read or listen to with a lot of action, a great cast of characters, a touch of humor, some elements of fantasy and a likeable hero (even though he says he isn’t one) you’ll love the Alcatraz series.  As an audio book, we have had families with kids as young as six tell us they loved listening to the first book, as well as the entire series.   For reading, it’s probably at a 4th – 7th grade level–on par with the Unwanteds series by McMann or the Alex Rider series by Horowitz.

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Sound good?  You should check it out!  If you like Alcatraz, besides the two series mentioned above, you could also try The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, or The Beyonders by Brandon Mull.

As always, if you would like help finding an audio book to listen to, or a book to read, ask one of our Youth Services librarians.  We’re always happy to help you find the perfect book for you.

::Kelly::

 

 

 

Audio & Book Review: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Another fun book for a car ride or plane trip!  This is the second book in the Pip Bartlett series, but I liked the first one so much, I picked up the second one as soon as we got it in at the library.  If you like humor and fantasy, with a little mischief and crazy situations mixed in, this book is for you and your family.

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training, by Jackson Pearce & Maggie Stiefvater
Read by Cassandra Morris & Peter McGowan
4 Hours, 20 Minutes – 4 CDs

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn trainingPip Bartlett is still in small-town Georgia for the summer with her veterinarian aunt and her cousin Callie.  Aunt Emma’s Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures is still a pretty exciting place to be, even after she and her new friend Tomas have solved the mystery of the fire-starting Fuzzles.  (This is all in the first book, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures.)  Even though Pip is a little worried that all of the adventures of the summer are over, she’s soon proven wrong when she finds out that the Triple Trident–the most famous unicorn show in the country–is being held right in Cloverton!

Because of her common sense during a crisis at the vet clinic, Pip is hired by Ms. Gould to keep her Rockshines (a sheep like animal that go invisible with any stress) calm and visible before the show.  Pip is eager to get a chance to get behind the scenes at the Triple Trident, and even if Rockshines aren’t very glamorous, they’re still magical!  And when she’s helping, Pip can watch the unicorns, her very favorite magical creature.  Even if they are rather vain, they are beautiful.

Pip finds out that Regent Maximus, the only unicorn she knows personally, is entered in the show and goes to see him.  But poor Regent Maximus is the complete opposite of what show unicorns are supposed to represent. Instead of being proud and majestic, he’s fearful and cowering.  Mr. Henshaw, his owner, promptly hires Pip and Tomas to train him to be able to walk across the threshold of the stable and into the show ring.  Two jobs!?  Can they manage to help both adults with their magical animals?

Training is well underway with Regent Maximus and the rockshines when disaster strikes!  Someone cuts off the beautiful tail of one of the unicorns.  On purpose!  Is someone trying to cheat so their unicorns win?  Or is there a mysterious person trying to sabotage the show? Pip uses her own special talent–talking to magical creatures–to investigate.  If they can discover who is responsible, they can figure out why.  But even the magical creatures are flummoxed.

Can two kids manage to do everything that needs to be done?  Can Pip still train Regent Maximus to compete with this creepy unicorn stalker on the prowl? Will Pip and Tomas solve the mystery before it’s too late?

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn training audioThe audio recording for Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training is absolutely delightful!  There are two readers; one for Pip’s narration, and one to read the entries for Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures.

I love both voices…Cassandra Morris sounds exactly like a girl who could talk to magical creatures, but she also sounds perfect as Aunt Emma, Callie, Mr. Henshaw and every other character who comes into the story.  She does a wonderful voice for all the magical creatures, Regent Maximus in particular is perfect! Her voice is wonderfully paced for the action.

I would highly recommend both of the Pip Bartlett books, both as books and as audio.  The book has lots of great pictures from Jeffrey Higgleston’s guide, with Pip’s comments and changes.  So if you do listen to the book, you should also check out the print copy for all the extras!  I don’t know how many more Pip Bartlett books are coming, but I hope that the series goes on for many volumes!

Pip Bartlett’s Guide books are probably best for third through sixth grade readers, but the audio is good for all ages–kids as young as five should enjoy both the humor and the mystery.  Some similar titles are Fridays at the Castle by Jessica George, The Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors, and The Familiars series by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson.

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As always, if you need help finding a book or need suggestions for books to read, just ask one of our librarians!

::Kelly::

 

Audio Review: The Wishing Spell

One of the most popular series in the library these days is Chris Colfer’s series The Land of Stories.  With five fiction books, a picture book and a collection of classic fairy tales, it’s consistently one of our most requested series.  Since he last volume of the series coming out in July, it seems like the right time to seek out some answers about why.  So, when we got a new copy of the audio book, it was time to try it!

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The_Land_of_StoriesThe Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
by Chris Colfer
Narrated by the author
8 CDs, 8.5 Hours

Alex and Conner , 11-year-old twins, have had a horrible year.  Not only was their father killed in a car accident, they’ve had to move from their beloved home to a small rental house, their mother had to sell the bookstore their father owned, and neither of them is doing well in school…for two totally different reasons.  Alex is interested in everything and always knows all the answers, so some kids are resentful, while Conner falls asleep in class because he’s not really interested in anything.  When their mother has to work a double shift on their birthday, the twins are happy that their grandmother can come for a visit and a party.

For a gift, their grandmother gives them her cherished copy of The Land of Stories…a book of fairy tales that the twins and the whole family have grown up sharing.  It’s a wonderful surprise, and something both Conner and Alex will treasure.

But when the book starts humming late one night, Alex isn’t sure what is going on.  Conner watches as his sister starts acting strangely, both at home and at school.  Alex won’t tell him what’s going on, but he knows he has to figure it out.  But he never would have guessed that the book is coming to life!

When Alex tumbles into the book–literally–Conner follows close behind.  Even if it’s dangerous, there is no way he is going to let his twin get lost in a book without him!  Upon landing, they discover that they’re in the middle of their favorite fairy tales…only nothing is quite as they remembered.  Time has passed since the stories, and the kingdoms are in crisis.  Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, Red Riding Hood is a reclusive queen, and the Evil Queen has escaped prison to terrorize all the inhabitants.  Stories are fun to read, but maybe not so fun to live in.

When a new acquaintance tells them about a spell–a wishing spell–that might get them home, Alex and Conner are determined to find all the ingredients.  Can they travel the fairy tale kingdoms and retrieve the treasures to get them home?

wishing spell audioI quite enjoyed the audio recording of The Wishing Spell.  Chris Colfer is a delightfully flexible actor and his voices for the characters were wonderfully rich and varied.  Listening, you can hear that he had a lot of fun interpreting his characters for the audio production.  I was a little less impressed with the narrative sections; sometimes it felt like he was rushing through them to get to the voices.  Still, it was a good solid recording that is enjoyable for all ages of listeners.  If you enjoy thrilling quests, adventures with a touch of humor, and fairy tales, this series is for you!

I would recommend The Land of Stories books for kids in third through sixth grade.  I think avid fans of fairy tales would enjoy them a little earlier, and their enjoyment would last a little longer.  If you’re looking for something to listen to on a family car trip, this is a good choice.   If you’re a fan of tv shows like Once Upon a Time, or Disney fairy tale movies, this series is right up your alley!

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If you come to the library and The Land of Stories is not available, think about trying some of our other titles with similar themes: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, or The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley are all wonderful books on CD that should also appeal to fans of Alex and Conner.  If you’re looking for books to read in print, try the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski, The Hero’s Guide series by Christopher Healy or the Half Upon a Time series by James Riley.  These are all adventurous, fun series with a fairy tale background.

 

And as always, if you’re looking for help or book, media or other suggestions, ask one of our librarians.  That’s what we’re here for!

::Kelly::

Audio Review: The League of Beastly Dreadfuls

Time for another audio review!  This one is a mystery with a little horror, a little comedy, and a lot of action adventure!   It’s also the first book in a trilogy that promises to be a mix of A Series of Unfortunate Events and 39 Clues, with a sprinkling of The Little Princess, Charlie Bone, and Peppermints in the Parlor mixed in.  (If you don’t know any of those titles, check one or all of them out at the library as well!)

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league of beastly dreadfulsThe League of Beastly Dreadfuls
By Holly Grant, Read by Rosalyn Landor
6 Hours, 41 Minutes; 6 CDs

Anastasia McCrumpet is a perfectly ordinary 11 year old girl with almost ordinary parents.  (Mr. McCrumpet is pretty ordinary, though obsessed with plants; when they die, he holds funerals.  Mrs. McCrumpet is…not so ordinary.  But perhaps not in a good way.)  Anastasia loves both her parents, which is why she’s so upset when two great-aunts she never met show up at school to take her to their home, while her parents recover from a freak vacuum-cleaning accident at St. Shirley’s Hospital for the Seriously Mangled.  Auntie Prim and Auntie Prude whisk her away in their second-hand hearse without even a trip home for clothing or supplies.

Anastasia has serious qualms when she finds out the aunties live in in a Victorian mansion…or, to be absolutely correct, a former Victorian lunatic asylum–St. Agony’s Asylum for the Deranged, Despotic, Demented, and Otherwise Undesirable (That is to Say, Criminally Insane). Not only is the Asylum at the end of a deserted road and surrounded by a high iron fence, it’s also guarded by ferocious attack poodles, and has no electricity.   Aunt Prim and Aunt Prude, although they seem to be very sweet, lock her in her room every night, and she has to eat Mystery Lumps for breakfast, lunch and dinner…when she gets the last two meals.  Keeping a child is expensive, the aunties tell her, so she has to make some allowances.  And then the aunties tell her she has to live with them forever, as her parents are as dead as dormice.

Now an orphan, Anastasia is sunk in despair…but not so sunk that she doesn’t start wondering what is going on around her.  Isn’t it peculiar that the aunties have the same ring as the evil school secretary back at home?  Is the deranged teenage gardener with the silver cage on his head really chasing her, or is he only trying to talk to her?  And what is making that eerie EeeeooooEeeooooo sound in the night?

When Anastasia starts exploring St. Agony’s she finds secret rooms, hidden dumbwaiters and disguised speaking tubes, which lead to even more mysteries.  Why are there clippings of missing children in an empty desk?  Who are the strange women with uni-brows in the portrait hall, and why do some of them look familiar?  Most importantly, who are the deranged gardener and the boy trapped behind a mirror?  Eavesdropping might not be polite, but what can she learn from listening to the aunties secret discussions?   When Anastasia finds and reunites brothers Ollie and Quentin, both prisoners in separate areas of St. Agony’s, the three of them decide to work together.  Can the newly-named League of Beastly Dreadfuls find out what Prim and Prude are up to and escape the dire fate the two have in mind for them?

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls is one of those stories that is funny while it’s at its most perilous.  Anastasia takes everything coming at her with the utmost seriousness, even when a reader (or listener) knows that things are probably not exactly what they seem…

league of beastly dreadfuls soundThe sound recording of The League of Beastly Dreadfuls is absolutely wonderful!  It’s funny, scary and suspenseful, all in turns.  The reader, Rosalyn Landor, has a beautiful British accent, and her character voices are distinctive and perfectly narrated.  If you do listen to the sound recording, make sure to check out the print copy of the book as well; the illustrations by Josie Portillo are quirky and a wonderful addition to the text.

I highly recommend The League of Beastly Dreadfuls for kids in third through sixth grades to read; for listening, I think it would be accessible to kids ages 7 to 14;  older teens and adults would enjoy it for the storytelling.  Like the Series of Unfortunate Events, much of the humor is in the way the characters don’t recognize that their world is not quite as it seems to be…but the reader (or listener) can see what the characters might not.

Book Two in The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, The Dastardly Deed, came out this spring.  I haven’t read it yet, but I am looking forward to it!  If you would like other books or recordings that are similar to The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, try Caroline Carlson’s The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series, or The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series by Jordan Stratford.  As well as A Series of Unfortunate Events.

league of beastly dreadfuls 2 magic marks the spot alcatraz vs the evil librarians wollstonecraft detective agency series of unfortunate events

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As always, if you would like a personal recommendation or need help finding something to read or listen to, ask one of our librarians for assistance.  We’re always happy to help you find the perfect thing to read!

::Kelly::

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