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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Audio Review: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!

Almost time for the next school vacation!  And if you need a book for a long car trip, I’ve got a good one!

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures
By Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater; Read by Cassandra Morris & Peter McGowan
4 Hours, 12 Minutes; 4 CDs

pip bartlett's guide to magical creaturesPip Bartlett has an unusual talent…she can talk to magical animals.  Miniature Silky Griffins, Bitterflunks, Unicorns, Emerald Dunking Ducks…if she meets it, she can talk to it.  The problem is…no one believes her!  Not her parents, not her classmates, not even her aunt, a veterinarian who specializes in magical creatures.  So Pip has to keep her abilities a secret.

Then comes Career Day, when all the parents come to school to talk about their professions.  Piece of cake, right?  Pips parents are  geologists and bring geodes for kids to examine; there’s a dad who’s a chef, a mom with the stringed instrument quartet, an antique dealer dad….and then there’s Marisol Barrra’s parents.  Who raise unicorns.  Pip LOVES unicorns!  But unfortunately, unicorns love no one more than themselves, which Pip finds out from a vain unicorn named Raindancer as he tramples geodes, grills, violins and (almost) classmates and other unicorns, with Pip on his back!

After The Unicorn Incident, Pip is exiled to Cloverton, Georgia, to spend  the entire summer with her Aunt Emma and cousin Callie.  The best part to Pip will the the chance to help in the small vet clinic Aunt Emma runs.  It seems like a vet clinic for magical creatures would be the perfect place for her, but it’s more difficult than you might think NOT to talk to creatures when they’re right in front of you.  Things get a little heated when mysterious tiny fuzzles start popping up all over town, followed by fires that start small and grow to endanger everyone.  Pip and her new friend Tomas jump from the frying pan into the fire when they realize that the fuzzles they’re trying to rescue are actually starting the fires.  If that’s not bad enough, Mrs. Dreadbatch, from the Supernatural/Magical Animal Care, Keeping and Education Department, tries to close down Aunt Emma’s clinic and have the fuzzles exterminated.  Can Pip and Tomas save the town from fire, the clinic from Mrs. Dreadbatch, AND the fuzzles from themselves?  It’s a mystery and a rescue mission, all rolled into one!

pip bartlet audioI loved Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!  It was a fun and fast story, with lots of humor, an intriguing mystery, some great flights of imagination, and a wonderfully original character right in the middle of it all.   Cassandra Morris narrates the story with lots of enthusiasm and great characterizations, while Peter McGowan jumps in to narrate the selections from Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, Pip’s source of information for everything magical…which she adds to once she meets a creature and agrees or disagrees with the description.  In fact, if you listen to the audio book, you should definitely pick up the print book as well, so see the illustrations for each creature entry.  Pip’s additions are humorous, and the illustrations are beautiful.  If you don’t want to listen to the book on CD, Pip’s story would be a fun read-aloud for a family to read together.

Pip Bartlett would be a great family car trip book for everyone…kids as young as five or six would probably enjoy the story as much as adults, and it’s perfect for third through fifth graders.  A second book just came out–Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training.  I’m looking forward to reading and/or listening to that one too!

So come down to the library and check out Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!  And if someone else beats you to it, put it on hold and pick up something else while you wait.  Similar titles would be Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, Hatch! by Bruce Coville, or Ten in a Bed by Alan Ahlberg.  Or ask one of our librarians for help finding something perfect, just for you!

::Kelly::

Tremendous Trilogies – C Authors

More fun trilogies…moving on to authors whose names start with the letter C!  Do you like long stories?  Trilogies are great because the plot and characters span three books, not just one.  Great for hours of reading!  Here are a few more to try from our library collection.  This isn’t a complete list, so ask a librarian if you’re looking for something that’s not here.

If you missed our list of trilogies from authors whose names start with A & B, look HERE

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Calonita, Jen — Fairy Tale Reform School
fairy tale reform flunked fairy tale reform charmed fairy tale reform tricked
Flunked – Charmed – Tricked
Twelve-year-old Gilly is mostly happy living in a shoe with her parents and five siblings. Times are hard though, so to help feed her family, Gilly steals food and trinkets from the wealthier residents of Enchantasia.  Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).  But then she is busted and sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are reformed villains. Harsh!  When she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns that Fairy Tale Reform School is not all it seems. Someone has a secret, sinister agenda, and Gilly and pals must quickly discern perpetrator and plot, whom to trust, and what to do to avert a not-so-happy ending for everyone. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?
Fairy Tales, Adventure, Humor, Magic

Cameron, Anne – The Lightning Catcher trilogy
lightning catcher trilogy
The Lightning Catcher – The Storm Tower Thief – The Secrets of the Storm Vortex

Eleven-year-old Angus’s world is turned upside down when he is mysteriously whisked away to become an apprentice at the Perilous Exploratorium for Weather and Vicious Storms. At Perilous, the world’s most dangerous weather is studied to protect mankind from its ravages. There, Angus discovers that his parents aren’t boring government workers after all—they are actually famous Lightning Catchers, and they’ve been kidnapped. With the help of two new friends, Angus intends to find them. It’s Angus, Indigo, and Dougal to the rescue. . . . Will they get there in time and all in one piece?
Adventure, Weather, Nature Magic

Carlson, Caroline – The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates
very nearly honorable league trilogy
Magic Marks the Spot – The Terror of the Southland – The Buccaneers’ Code

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle?  Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. There’s only one problem: the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags. But Hilary won’t let this stop her; instead, she sets out to find her own piratical adventure and gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas. Read Weston’s very own most famous library graduate’s exciting trilogy!
Adventure, Humor, Magic, Pirates

Carman, Patrick – Floors trilogy
floors trilogy
Floors – 3 Below – The Field of Wacky Inventions

With mystery and adventure on every floor, there’s no other place quite like the Whippet Hotel. Each and every floor has its own wacky design–and its own wacky secrets. The guests are either mad or mysterious. And ducks are everywhere. Leo Fillmore should know everything there is to know about the Whippet Hotel–he is the janitor’s son, after all. But a whole lot more mystery gets thrown his way when four cryptic boxes are left for him…boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and an unexpected friend or two. Join Leo as he takes the ride of his life, without ever having to step outside. As the hotel starts falling apart and the mystery thickens, there’s only one thing Leo can know for sure: The future of the Whippet Hotel depends on him.
Puzzles, Humor, Hotels

Carroll, Michael – Quantum Prophecy
quantum prophecy trilogy
The Awakening – The Gathering – The Reckoning

It has been ten years since the great battle that wiped out all the superhumans. Whether they all died that day or simply lost their powers and blended back into society, only one thing is certain: They are gone. Or are they? Thirteen-year-olds Danny and Colin have recently begun changing. How can they explain Danny’s newfound ability to move at the speed of light, or Colin’s surprising strength? They can’t, but their parents, the lost generation of superhumans, can. They have been watching and waiting for these changes. So have others—and not everyone is happy about the boys’ new powers. Some will do anything to stop them.
Science Fiction, Superheroes, Adventure

Castle, M.E. – The Clone Chronicles
clone chronicles
Popular Clone – Cloneward Bound – Game of Clones – Clones vs. Aliens
Meet Fisher Bas– 12 years old, growth-stunted, geeky science genius, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning creators of the Bas-Hermaphrodite-Sea-Slug-Hypothesis. No surprise: Fisher isn’t exactly the most popular kid in his school, tormented daily by the beefy, overgrown goons he calls The Vikings. But he senses relief when he comes upon the idea of cloning himself–creating a second Fisher to go to school each day while he stays at home playing video games and eating cheetos with ketchup. It’s an ingenious plan that works brilliantly, until Fisher’s clone turns out to be more popular than him–and soon after gets clone-napped by the evil scientist Dr. Xander. Another trilogy that turned into a quartet when I wasn’t looking!
Science Fiction, Humor, Schools

Catanese, P.W. – The Books of Umber
books of umber
Happenstance Found – Dragon Game – The End of Time

Twelve-year-old Happenstance awakens in a cave with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. Soon a mysterious trio arrives to take him away: the explorer Umber, shy archer Sophie, and Oates, whose strength and honesty are both brutal. Hap and his new acquaintances narrowly escape the cavernous underworld and make their way to Lord Umber’s harbor city, Kurahaven. Once there, Hap learns that Lord Umber is an extraordinary man — he’s a merchant, adventurer, inventor, royal adviser, and chronicler of all things monstrous and magical. But Umber’s accomplishments can’t answer the question closest to the boy’s heart: Who is Happenstance? Desperate to uncover clues in his new, baffling surroundings, Hap accompanies Umber on dangerous and unusual missions. Hap soon learns that there are powerful enemies inside the kingdom, and a ruthless assassin hot on his trail. Faced with many unknowns, Hap knows one thing for certain: There’s a reason Umber has chosen him…if only he could figure it out.
Magic, Imaginary Animals, Adventure

Child, Lauren – Ruby Redfort trilogg
ruby redfort trilogy
Look into My Eyes – Take Your Last Breath – Catch Your Death

Ruby Redfort is a genius code-cracker and daring detective. She gets into lots of scrapes with evil villains, but she’s always ice-cool in a crisis. Ruby gets to prove that when she gets an anonymous call setting a challenge that leads her to the headquarters of Spectrum, a highly secret anti-crime agency. They need her help to crack a code. But Ruby quickly becomes bored with her first Spectrum assignment. With the help of her sidekick/classmate Clancy Crew, she ventures out from her well-hidden office into more dangerous territory to prevent the theft of a priceless jade Buddha statue. Playing a game of cat and mouse with criminals and fellow agents, Ruby finds her way into some dire situations. Can she and her back-up team get her out of them?
Codes and Ciphers, Mystery, Adventure

Clark, Platte, F. – Bad Unicorn Trilogy
bad unicorn trilogy
Bad Unicorn – Fluff Dragon – Good Ogre

It wasn’t Max Spencer’s idea to fight robots, lead an army, or save the world-it just so happens that he’s the only living person who can read the most fantastical book ever written: The Codex of Infinite Knowability. The Codex is no ordinary book, and among other things, it describes Princess the Destroyer, an unusual unicorn who loves nothing more than hunting down, killing, and eating other creatures. And right now Princess is on Max’s trail. Her mission? To retrieve the lost Codex for an evil sorcerer and his mysterious master. If she can do that, she’s been promised an all-the-humans-you-can-eat buffet in Texas. Stuck in another world and with a carnivorous unicorn on his trail, Max must find the courage to save himself, his friends, and, oh yeah…the entire human race.
Wizards, Humor, Urban Fantasy

Clarke, Cassandra Rose – The Assassin’s Curse duology
assassin's curse trilogy
The Assassin’s Curse – The Pirate’s Wish
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.  And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be. Not actually a trilogy, unless you count the novelettes available only as 3-books, it’s too good to miss!
Magic, Adventure, Thieves, Pirates

Cody, Matthew – Powerless trilogy
powerless trilogy
Powerless – Super – Villainous

Twelve year old Daniel, the new kid in town, soon learns the truth about his nice–but odd–new friends: one can fly, another can turn invisible, yet another controls electricity. Incredible. The superkids use their powers to secretly do good in the town, but they’re haunted by the fact that the moment they turn thirteen, their abilities will disappear–along with any memory that they ever had them. Is a memory-stealing supervillain sapping their powers?   The answers lie in a long-ago meteor strike, a World War II-era comic book, the green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and–possibly, unbelievably–“powerless” regular-kid Daniel himself.
Heroes, Paranormal, Mysteries

Cole, Steve. The Hunting trilogy
zrex trilogy
Z.Rex – Z.Raptor – Z.Apocalypse

Adam Adler is thirteen and suddenly on his own. His father, who has developed the world’s cutting edge research on virtual electronic game-playing, has been missing for weeks. And suddenly Adam is being hunted by men with guns, his picture is on the news, and, worst of all, something seemingly impossible is chasing him–a savage, man-eating dinosaur…his father’s greatest creation, which has seemingly escaped from the game. How can that be? Can Adam gain control of Z.Rex and rescue his father from the people who have kidnapped him?
Adventure, Gaming, Kidnapping, Dinosaurs

Colfer, Eoin – W.A.R.P. trilogy
WARP reluctant assassin WARP hangmans revolution WARP forever man
The Reluctant Assassin – The Hangman’s Revolution – The Forever Man
Teenage Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, is unwillingly apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who uses his unique conjuring skills for murder and other crimes. Riley is saved from having to participate when his intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of W.A.R.P. –the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program.  Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.
In modern London, Riley teams up with Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent with a bad record. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been altered by his trip through the wormhole. Not only is Garrick evil, but now he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.
Adventure, Time Travel, Mysteries

Corder, Zizou – Lion Boy trilogy
lionboy trilogy
Lion Boy – The Chase – The Truth

When his parents are kidnapped, what’s ten-year-old Charlie Ashanti to do? Rescue them, that’s what! He doesn’t know who has taken them, or why. But he does know that one special talent will aid him on his journey: his amazing ability to speak Cat. Charlie calls on his clever feline friends –from stray city cats to magnificent caged lions–for help. With them by his side, Charlie uses wit and courage to try to find his parents before it’s too late.
Kidnapping, Survival, Adventure

Up Next: Trilogies D – F

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For help finding any of these books, check the Minuteman Library Catalog, or visit the Library.  We’re happy to pull these books for you, and have they ready for pick up.

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Audio Review: Falling In

Magic, adventure, and alternate realities.  What could be better?

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Falling In
By Frances O’Roark Dowell, narrated by Jessica Almasy
5CDs, 5 Hours

falling-inIsabelle Bean has always been an unusual girl.  She doesn’t have many friends…other kids seem to know that she’s different.  Isabelle is the girl who sits in the back of the room, almost invisible to the rest of the class. She rarely speaks first, and has bangs hanging over her face so you can’t look at her eyes.  She wears clothes that come from wherever she finds them…right now, her favorite shoes are a pair of red lace-up boots she found stuffed into the corner of a chair on the sidewalk.

falling-in-pbkIsabelle is rather otherworldly, if another kid concentrates hard enough, he or she can almost see the silver sliver of light that connects  the top of her head to the bottom bump of her spine.  Kids don’t want to sit too close, because something about that silver thread tells them that if they get touched by it, Isabelle might just tangle them up in it and take them into a dark space where they will never be found.

But Isabelle is used to it.  She just makes her own way in the world, picking out words and ideas and rearranging them into stories.  Other kids aren’t going to keep her down, no sir!  Isabelle Bean keeps hope in her pocket, and listens to the buzzing that always seems to be just on the edge of her hearing.

And then…one day…she opens a closet door where the buzzing is loud, and falls through to another world.

Because of her red boots, the people in the world think she’s a witch!  Still, Isabelle feels like this world suits her just a little better than her own.  Can Isabelle Bean figure out how to prove that she’s not a witch, rescue the REAL witch, and find her way back home?

falling-in-audioFalling In was a fun audiobook, full of references to everything from fairy tales to Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz.  The chatty narration was fun to listen to; it felt like the narrator was talking directly to me. Isabelle’s adventures were both fun and a little scary, and her practicality and imagination both helped her survive. Isabelle Bean is a girl I would want in my corner if I fell through to another world.

Falling In would be a fun book to listen to on your own, or for a light-hearted car ride.  The books is for kids ages nine and up, but the audio book could be accessible to kids in first or second grade who enjoy fantasy.  Grown ups will enjoy picking up the references to older fantasy books.

Read-alikes: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood.

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Give this book a try!  And, as always, if you would like an audiobook or book recommendation, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to share some of the books we enjoyed.  If you would like to see some of BellaOnBooks previous audio reviews, click here.

::Kelly::

 

 

Audio Review: The War That Saved My Life

Whoo-hoo!  Another audio book review!  One to go on our “top ten” list, too.

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The War That Saved My Life
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle
6 CDs, 7 1/2 Hours

war-that-saved-my-lifeAda and her little brother Jamie live in a one-room flat in London with their Mam.  It’s 1939, and a war with Germany is looming.  Ada doesn’t know much about the war; because she has a ‘bad foot’, Mam doesn’t allow her to ever leave their room, even for school.  She has grown up staying in the flat all day, sitting for hours in the chair by the window, watching Jamie play with his friends and waving at neighbors she’s never met.  Unless it’s a day that Mam is angry with her, then she’s stuffed into the cupboard under the sink or not given any food.

One day, Jamie comes home with the news that the children from their neighborhood are being evacuated to the country because the government is expecting London to be bombed.  Mam scoffs, but decides that one less mouth to feed might be a good thing.  She’s not letting Ada go though. No, Mam says Ada has to stay and get bombed, if it comes to that. Both children protest, but Mam locks them in and leaves for the pub.

No one at school knows Ada even exists, but she’s determined to go away with Jamie. Her practice standing on her bad foot comes in handy for their escape. When the morning comes to evacuate on the train, she steals her mother’s shoes and limps, then crawls, then gets a lift from one of Jamie’s friends.  Ada and Jamie make it to the country…only to be left out when everyone else is chosen.  Not one villager seems to want two dirty children with no belongings.

Then Lady Thornton, the woman in charge of the evacuated children, takes them in hand and leaves them to stay with Susan Smith, in a big old empty house.  Even though Miss Smith claims she is unkind and unfit to care for children, living with her is better than living with Mam.  As Ada and Jamie start exploring the world around them, fall in love with horses (Ada) and planes (Jamie), they start to trust Susan.  But will Susan want to keep them?  Will the war reach them, even in the country?  Will their Mam come to take them away, as the other refuge children are taken back?  And what about spies?

A little bit adventure, a little bit coming-of age, a little bit historical fiction, this is an amazing story about strength and courage and family.  The War That Saved My Life was a 2016 Newbery Award Honor Book Winner.

war-that-saved-my-life-audioThe sound recording of The War That Saved My Life is simply wonderful.  I loved the narrator, Jayne Entwistle.  She did a terrific job finding each character’s voice, and I was truly impressed at how she could infuse her voice with emotions.  You could hear the laughter and the tears in her voice as Ada spoke.  This audio book is right up there in my top ten recordings of children’s books.  It also won the 2016 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audio Production, so I’m not the only one to think that way!

The War That Saved My Life is for kids in grades 5 – 8, although I think adults would enjoy it just as much as their kids do.  The sound recording would be great to share on a family car trip, although it might be difficult for a child younger than nine or ten, because of some tough subject matter.  (In addition to the consequences of being at war and the loss of loved ones, Ada and Jamie’s Mam is a thoroughly horrible person, and her treatment of the children might be difficult to hear.)  Listening to it as a family though, would provide some great groundwork for discussion about war, and families, and strength of spirit.

Some read-alike suggestions:  Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt.

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Remember, if you would like recommendations for book or books on CD, ask one of our librarians.  Or check out some of our earlier recommendations here at BellaOnBooks!

::Kelly::

 

 

Booklist: Fiction with Cooking!

It’s the holidays, and what’s one thing everyone seems to enjoy when it gets cold and dark too soon?  Baking!  Here are some fiction and chapter books to enjoy adventures, mysteries and fantasy titles featuring kids who cook!

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Cooking and Baking Fiction & Chapter Books

recipe-for-troubleBerk, Sheryl.  Recipe for Trouble
Sophie and Katherine, stars of TLC’s DC Cupcakes meet Lexi Poole. To Lexi, a new school year means back to baking with her BFFs in the cupcake club. But the club president, Kylie, is mixing things up by inviting new members. Lexi is cast in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. If only she could be as confident onstage as she is in the kitchen. The icing on the cake: her secret crush is playing Romeo. Sounds like a recipe for trouble. Can the girls’ friendship stand the heat, or will the cupcake club go up in smoke? This book Includes recipes and tips to try at home!  Try all of the Cupcake Club series!

Dahl, Roald.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
charlie-and-the-chocolate
Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca lt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

De Laurentiis, Giada.   Naples!
naplesWhen Zia Donatella comes to live with the Bertolizzi family, little do Alfie and his older sister Emilia know what’s in store for them. Zia Dontella is determined to show the kids how a home-cooked meal is better than even the best take-out pizza or burrito. Zia’s plan transports Alfie and Emilia to famous food cities around the world. Alfie and Emilia find themselves transported to Naples, where they meet Marco, a young Italian boy on a very important mission to shop for the essential ingredients for his family’s entry in the city’s annual pizzafest contest. In their whirlwind search for the perfect items, Alfie and Emilia not only get a taste of Italy, but also find themselves refereeing a family feud between Marco’s family and his uncle’s family. Try all the Recipe for Adventure series

Dunbar, Fiona. The Truth Cookie
truth-cookieIn a sparkling debut reminiscent of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, comes the story of Lulu Baker, an ordinary twelve-year-old who discovers a magical secret. Lulu Baker’s dad is getting ready to marry his new girlfriend, world-famous model Varaminta le Bone. Everyone thinks Varaminta is fabulous. Everyone, that is, except Lulu. She knows that her stepmother-to-be, not to mention her awful son Torquil, is cruel, deceitful, and just using her father. But how can she make her dad see Varaminta and Torquil for who they really are? When a magical recipe book called THE APPLE STAR finds its way into Lulu’s hands, she finds that some very unusual ingredients and some help from her friends just might do the trick. Try the whole Lulu Baker Trilogy

Elish, Dan. The Worldwide Dessert Contest
worldwide-dessert
For eleven years in a row, John Applefeller has entered his highly original apple desserts in The Worldwide Dessert Contest. And every year he’s watched his delectable treats turn into disasters while the evil Sylvester Sweet wins first prize. But this year, when John’s greatest creation, the world’s largest pancake, flops, he and his sidekicks decide to seek help from the king of dessert chefs, the magical Captain B. Rollie Ragoon!

Graff, Lisa. A Tangle of Knots
tangle-of-knots
Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.

Hannigan, Kate.  Cupcake Cousins
cupcake-cousinsCousins Willow and Delia can’t wait to spend a week vacationing together with their families. Their aunt is getting married, and Willow and Delia are hoping their tasty baked goods will be enough to get them out of being flower girls in the wedding. But with a mischievous little brother, a bacon-loving dog, and a misbehaving blender in the mix, their treats don’t exactly turn out as planned. When a real emergency threatens to ruin the wedding, will their baking skills be enough to save the day?  Try the other Cupcake Cousins books!

Harper, Charise.   Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes
just-grace-and-the-power-of-cupcakesIt’s time for the school fair, and Just Grace’s class has chosen a cupcake theme. But the fair’s highlight, a cupcake competition, causes quite a stir when Grace gets paired with dreadful Owen and not with her best pal, Mimi. Grace is devastated. And just when she thinks things can’t get worse, her team votes down her idea to build a cupcake Eiffel Tower in favor of building Spiderman. It’s a challenging time for Grace. Will she be able to overcome her disappointment and lead her team onward? Will Grace’s team ever figure out how to make a Spiderman out of cupcakes?  Try the other Just Grace books

Horvath, Polly.  Everything on a Waffle
everything-on-a-waffle
Primrose’s parents have been lost at sea, but she believes without an iota of doubt that they are still alive, somewhere. She moves in with her Uncle Jack, but feels generally friendless. Her only real refuge is a local restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, where the owner, Miss Bowzer, serves everything on waffles – except advice and good sense which come free of charge and are always reliable. Food in general plays an important role in Primrose’s journey toward peace and understanding.

Kingfisher, Rupert.  Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles
madame-pamplemousseMadame Pamplemousse is the story of Madeleine, forced to work in her unpleasant uncle’s horrible restaurant, The Squealing Pig . By chance she comes across the most marvelous shop, run by Madame Pamplemousse, which is quiet, discreet, yet full of delicious and otherworldly ‘edibles’ – Pterodactyl Bacon, Scorpion Tails in Smoked Garlic Oil, and Great Squid Tentacle in Jasmine-Scented Jelly. A quiet comradeship develops between Madeleine, Madame Pamplemousse, and Madame’s cat, Camembert. And together they create some wonderful culinary magic. Try the sequel too!

Lin, Grace.  Dumpling Days
dumpling days.jpgThis summer, Pacy’s family is going to Taiwan for an entire month to visit family and prepare for their grandmother’s 60th birthday celebration. Pacy’s parents have signed her up for a Chinese painting class, and at first she’s excited. This is a new way to explore her art talent! But everything about the trip is harder than she thought it would be–she looks like everyone else but can’t speak the language, she has trouble following the art teacher’s instructions, and it’s difficult to make friends in her class. At least the dumplings are delicious…As the month passes by, Pacy eats chicken feet (by accident!), gets blessed by a fortune teller, searches for her true identity, and grows closer to those who matter most.

Magnin, Joyce.  Cake
cakeMore than frosting filled those cakes. Wilma Sue seems destined to go from one foster home to the next–until she is sent to live with sisters and missionaries, Ruth and Naomi. Do they really care about Wilma Sue, or are they just looking for a Cinderella-style farmhand to help raise chickens and bake cakes? As Wilma Sue adjusts to her new surroundings and helps deliver “special” cakes, Wilma Sue realizes there’s something strange going on. She starts looking for secret ingredients, and along the way she makes a new friend, Penny. When Penny and her mother hit a rough patch, Naomi decides to make her own version of cake–with disastrous results. Then tragedy strikes the chickens, and all fingers point to Wilma Sue–just when she was starting to believe she could at last find a permanent home with Ruth and Naomi. Will the sisters turn her out, or will she discover what it feels like to be truly loved?

Mass, Wendy.   Pi in the Sky
pi-in-the-skyJoss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. His older brothers help his dad rule the cosmos, but all Joss gets to do is deliver pies. That’s right: pies. Of course, these pies actually hold the secrets of the universe between their buttery crusts, but they’re still pies. Joss is happy to let his older brothers shine. He has plenty to keep his hands full: attempting to improve his bowling score; listening to his best friend, Kal, try (and fail) to play the drums; and exploring his ever-changing home, The Realms. But when Earth suddenly disappears, Joss is tasked with the seemingly impossible job of bringing it back. With the help of Annika, an outspoken girl from Earth, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime…and learns that the universe is an even stranger place than he’d imagined.

great-cake-mysteryMcCall-Smith, Alexander.  The Great Cake Mystery
Have you ever said to yourself; wouldn’t it be nice to be a detective? This is the story of an African girl who says just that. Her name is Precious. When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective.

McCall-Smith, Alexander.  The Perfect Hamburger and Other Delicious Stories
perfect-hamburgerWhen a snazzy fast-food chain moves into town, business at Joe’s favorite hamburger restaurant begins to suffer. He gets an idea that’s sure to bring back the diners, but there’s just one problem. The secret recipe for the burgers is missing! Can Joe figure out the ingredients to recreate the perfect hamburger before it’s too late?  Enjoy two other delicious stories featuring three  young chefs with some enterprising ideas!

Michaels,  Anna.  The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
adventures-of-miss-petitfourMiss Petitfour enjoys having adventures that are “just the right size – fitting into a single, magical day.” She is an expert at baking and eating fancy iced cakes, and her favorite mode of travel is par avion. On windy days, she takes her sixteen cats out for an airing with the aid of her favorite tea party tablecloth as a makeshift balloon, Miss Petitfour and her charges fly over her village, having many little adventures along the way. Join Miss Petitfour and her equally eccentric felines on five magical outings — a search for marmalade, to a spring jumble sale, on a quest for “birthday cheddar”, the retrieval of a lost rare stamp and as they compete in the village’s annual Festooning Festival. A whimsical, beautifully illustrated collection of tales that celebrates language, storytelling and small pleasures, especially the edible kind!

Pankhurst, Kate.  Mariella Mystery Investigates a Cupcake Conundrum
mariella-mystery-investigates-a-cupcake-conundrumShe’s smart as a whip, super sleuth-y, and able to solve most mysterious mysteries and perplexing problems in no time flat. Mariella Mystery (age nine and a bit) knows that all good detectives write down important information about their investigations. In this top-secret journal she tackles the case of who is trying to sabotage the Puddleford baking contest with important clues and observations, helpful drawings, and handy tips for new detectives.

Papademetriou, Lisa. Save the Cupcake
save-the-cupcakeHayley has a knack for baking cupcakes with all sorts of ingredients, from cocoa to peanuts to even Thai curry! She and her little sister, Chloe, have just moved into their grandmother’s house with their mom, who divorced their dad a year ago and has just been laid off from her job. Hayley often helps out at her grandmother’s tea shop, where she gets to practice her cupcake-baking skills. She makes a batch for her new class only to learn that the PTA president’s daughter is allergic to gluten. Before she even gets a chance to share her gluten-free cupcake recipe, Hayley finds out that the PTA may instate a school-wide cupcake ban. Now it’s up to Hayley and her new friends to “Save the Cupcake!”  Try the other books in the Confectionately Yours series.

Pearce, Jackson. Sweetly
sweetlyAs a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear, too. Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They’re invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion. Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past — until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn’t gone — it’s lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak’s infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is. Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Schaefer, Laura.  The Teashop Girls
teashop-girlsAnnie, Genna, and Zoe have been hanging out at the Steeping Leaf since elementary school. The Teashop Girls do everything together — at least they used to. With the end of eighth grade approaching, Genna’s too busy with theater, Zoe’s always at tennis, and Annie feels totally left out. What happened to tea every week, no matter what? When Annie convinces her grandmother to give her a job as a barista at the Leaf, things begin to look up. In between whipping up chai lattes for customers, and attempting to catch the attention of her Barista Boy crush, Annie is finally beginning to feel as grown-up as her best friends. But an eviction notice spells trouble for the Leaf and unless they can turn the business around, the teashop will have to close its doors forever.

Smith, Robert Kimmel.   Chocolate Fever
chocolate-fever
Henry Green is a boy who loves chocolate. He likes it bitter, sweet, dark, light, and daily; for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks; in cakes, candy bars, milk, and every other form you can possibly imagine. Henry probably loves chocolate more than any boy in the history of the world. One day-it starts off like any other day-Henry finds that strange things are happening to him. First he makes medical history with the only case of Chocolate Fever ever. Then he finds himself caught up in a wild and hilarious chase, climaxed by a very unusual hijacking!

Spinelli Eileen The Dancing Pancake
dancing-pancakes
The grand opening of the Dancing Pancake isn’t the only new thing in Bindi’s life: new friends, a new apartment, maybe even a cute new crush? But there are other changes, like her dad’s move to a new city that have left Bindi confused and wondering: What will happen to my family? Will this new life ever feel normal? Among the unlikely bunch of regulars who form a makeshift community at the diner, Bindi will try to figure out how to be a new version of herself, one pancake and one silly elephant joke (her uncle’s specialty) at a time.

Staniszewski, Anna. The Prank List
prank-listRachel Lee never thought she’d fight for the right to clean toilets. But when a rival cleaning business starts stealing her mom’s clients, Rachel will do whatever it takes to save herself the horror of moving to Connecticut―even giving up her fantastic new pastry classes, and her best friend Marisol. Operation Save Mom’s Cleaning Business is a go!  But when the series of pranks Rachel and her BFF cook up to take down the competition totally backfires, Rachel worries that her recipe for success is a dud. You know what they say―if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen…  Try other books in The Dirt Diary  trilogy!

Thorpe, Kiki.   In a Blink
Kate craves adventure and excitement. Mia loves dresses, roses, and anything beautiful. Lainey dreams of talking to animals. Gabby believes in fairies more than anyone. In a blink of an eye, these four best friends all get their biggest wish–they’re whisked off to Never Land, home to Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.The Never Girls is a fun series based on Disney characters.

Weeks, Sarah.  Pie
pieWhen Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship, family and the pleasure of doing something for the right reason. With Pie, acclaimed author Sarah Weeks has baked up a sweet and satisfying delight, as inviting as warm pie on a cold day. You’ll enjoy every last bite.

Wilson, Jacqueline. Cookie
cookieBeauty Cookson isn’t beautiful. Her father chose her name because he wants her to be a confident, popular girl. She tries to fit in, but she’s plain and awkward. All the girls at school make fun of her and have nicknamed her Ugly. Her mother thinks she needs a fun, creative nickname, something like . . . Cookie! But kids at school can’t just be told to call her Cookie. And, even worse, her Dad doesn’t approve. His already bad temper reaches frightening new heights. Will Cookie find the strength to stand up to her dad? And will she find a way to be the person she wants to be?

 

Winston, Sherri.  President of the Whole Fifth Grade
president-of-the-whole-fifth-gradeWhen Brianna Justice’s hero, the famous celebrity chef Miss Delicious, speaks at her school and traces her own success back to being president of her fifth grade class, Brianna determines she must do the same. She just knows that becoming president of her class is the first step toward her own cupcake-baking empire! But when new student Jasmine Moon announces she is also running for president, Brianna learns that she may have more competition than she expected. Will Brianna be able to stick to her plan of working with her friends to win the election fairly? Or will she jump at the opportunity to steal votes from Jasmine by revealing an embarrassing secret? This hilarious, heartfelt novel will appeal to any reader with big dreams, and the determination to achieve them.

Wrede, Patricia. Sorcery and Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot
sorcery-and-ceceliaA great deal is happening in London this season. For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at Sir Hilary’s induction into the Royal College of Wizards. (Since when does hot chocolate burn a hole straight through one’s dress?!) Then there’s Dorothea. Is it a spell that’s made her the toast of the town–or could it possibly have something to do with the charm-bag under Oliver’s bed? And speaking of Oliver, just how long can Cecelia and Kate make excuses for him? Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is! The girls might think it all a magical nightmare . . . if only they weren’t having so much fun.

Zahler Diane Baker’s Magic
bakers-magic
Bee is an orphan in the poor kingdom of Aradyn, and when she is caught stealing a bun from a bakery, the lonely baker offers to take her on as an apprentice–but when she meets Princess Anika, and the evil mage Joris who is her “guardian” she embarks on a journey to save Anika, and restore the kingdom its rightful ruler.

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We hope you enjoy these great stories of cooking from all around the library!  If you would like to see if any of them are available for checking out, just look the title up on the Minuteman Library Network Catalog.  If it’s not available in Weston, we can put it on hold for you, and have it sent from one of our other member libraries!

Booklist prepared by Hope