Fun Summer Reads #4 and #5

Tuesday is Two-for-One Fun Reads!

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The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, Written by Eugene Trivizas, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Three little wolves and the big bad pigEveryone knows the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf.  But how many people know about the three little wolves and the big bad pig?

This story starts off the same as the three little pigs story does, but wolves are apparently a little smarter than pigs, because these three little siblings START with a house of brick.  Unfortunately for the wolves, big bad pigs are also a little smarter than big bad wolves.  This big bad pig brings a sledgehammer in his bag of tools.  What can three little wolves do when a big bad pig can destroy something made of concrete?  Think again, and this time, go for smarter.

A fun reversal of the fairy tale.  Kids in the know will appreciate the changes, and kids still finding out about fairy tales will enjoy the plot.  And everyone will enjoy the humor!

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Somebody and the Three Blairs, Written by Marilyn Tolhurst, Illustrations by Simone Abel

One Sunday morning,somebody and the three blairs Mr. Blair, Mrs. Blair and Baby Blair were just sitting down to breakfast when they decided to take a walk before eating.  That’s what most families do on a nice day, right?  Mr. and Mrs. Blair want some fresh air, while Baby Blair just wants to “feeda ducks!”

While they were gone, Somebody came to the door. Somebody knocked, and when no one answered, Somebody tiptoed in…

Another fun fairy tale reversal, this time with the humans living in the house going out, and a friendly-looking bear coming in.  And if you thought that Goldilocks caused some destruction?  Wait until you see what Somebody is capable of!  Parents will laugh, kids will giggle at the mayhem Somebody causes, and everyone will enjoy.  This story is meant to be read aloud, so make sure you share it with your favorite listener!

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As always, ask one of our librarians if you need help looking for these books, or if you want our help with finding other great titles for the summer.

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

October Display: Witches and Old Favorites!

Witches seem to be making a comeback in Children’s books this fall!  Two old favorite titles and one author have all come back into print…after a couple decades of only being able to find them by scouring library book sales, family yard sales and used book stores.  So exciting!

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little witchLittle Witch, by Anna Elizabeth Bennett was featured as an Old Favorite in this blog way back in our very first year!  The book has now come out with a 60th anniversary edition, and it has lost none of it’s charm in all those years.  Any reader who loves The Rainbow Fairies will enjoy this tale of Minikin Snickasnee, the daughter of a witch who wants only to make some friends.  Of course, when friendship leads to testing out her mother’s potions, things get dangerous…fast!

Little Witch is consistently one of the top books on the “most in demand” annual list of out of print books.  It’s wonderful that after thirty years, it’s back!

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little leftover witchThe Little Leftover Witch, by Florence Laughlin is another charming tale, back in print after over 40 years.  Felina is a little witch who broke her broom on Halloween night, which left her stranded in a tree outside Lucinda Doon’s window.  Lucinda manages to convince the little witch to come in and meet her parents,  When Felina tells them that she cannot return  to her witch world until the next Halloween, the Doons decide to give her and her cat Ichabody a home.  But an untamed little witch does not make for a good house guest!  Soon the Doons are helping Felina with everything from brushing her hair to learning not to curse…in the spell-casting kind of way.  What happens over the course of that year will change Felina, Lucinda and the Doons forever.

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And then there’s Ruth Chew, an author I adored when I was in elementary school.  Her books have been out of print for a couple decades, and have been sought by the kids who read them since them.  Not many survived, since they were mostly paperbacks, and the paper quality wasn’t the best.  So I was extremely happy to hear that Random House is bringing back all her books, releasing two to three each season until her whole catalog is out again.

They’re starting with two favorites: What the Witch Left and No Such Thing as a Witch.

What the Witch LeftIn What the Witch Left, Katy and Louse find a key which opens the forbidden bottom drawer of a dresser.  The drawer was locked years ago when Katy’s Aunt Martha left some valuables there.  The girls aren’t impressed with the “junk” they find in the drawer, until Katie tries on what looks like an old robe…and vanishes!  It’s an invisibility cloak!  As the girls find out what each item does, their adventures take them all around the world.  Who knew that aunt Martha was a witch!

no such thing as a witchIn No Such Thing as a Witch, Nora and her brother Tad have always been a little uneasy about their neighbor, Maggie Brown.  The old lady seems nice, but strange things seem to happen around her house. Things like squirrels reading newspapers and talking dogs.  It all seems to be connected to the fudge Maggie makes.  Nora discovers that one piece makes you love animals; after two pieces you will be able to understand animal languages. Three pieces make people act like an animal, and four pieces..?  You’re in trouble!

The next two titles will be released in the spring of 2014.  I don’t know what they are yet, but I hope one of them will be The Wednesday Witch, which was my absolute favorite of all Chew’s titles.  There are still a few libraries that own the original title.  It’s definitely worth requesting from another Minuteman Library if you are a new Ruth Chew fan.

Even though they’re older books, the stories (especially Little Witch and The Little Leftover Witch) are timeless.  I would say that they’re a solid third grade reading level, but are accessible to kids in second through fourth grades.  They’re also fun to read-aloud, especially at this time of year.  If you check our catalog (as I did this evening) you’ll find that the books are already checked out!  So it might be best to put in a request if you want to read any of them.

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Because I was so excited about the return of these four titles, I made a witch display at the library to feature them!   If you’re looking for one of these books, or any other tales featuring witches, come check it out.  If you’d like to try a witchy recipe or craft, or see a booklist about witches, check out our first October Newsletter, featuring…witches, of course!  And here it is:

monthly newsletter oct13 witches

(If you do happen to visit us at the library, check out Bella’s costume.  She’s very proud of it.)

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Happy Halloween!

::Kelly::

Three Fantasy Audio Books Reviewed

Time for a few more audio reviews!  For some reason this month, they’re all fantasy-adventure stories.  I guess I have a type.

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Earwig and the Witch
by Diana Wynne Jones, Narrated by Charlotte Parry
1 CD, 1 Hour

Earwig was left on the steps of St Morwald’s Home for Children as a baby with a note pinned to her shawl:
Got the other twelve witches all chasing me.
I’ll be back for her when I’ve shook them off.
It may take years.
Her name is Earwig.

Of course, Matron didn’t believe that anyone would name a child Earwig, so she called her Erica Wigg. That never stuck though, and Earwig became…Earwig.

One of the interesting things about living in an orphanage is when people show up looking to foster children. Earwig always manages to avoid being chosen though, because she likes living at St. Morwald’s.  Where else would she be able to make everyone do whatever she wants? When potential foster parents come through, Earwig concentrates on looking unloveable. It’s always worked.

So when two strange people come in–the woman with one brown eye and one blue one in a mean face, with blue-rinsed hair and purple lipstick, wearing a brown suit with a green sweater and sky blue high-heeled boots,  the man just a tall black blur in the air–looking for a child, Earwig looks unloveable. It doesn’t work. The couple seems to see right through her concentration, and they take her. Earwig tries to refuse, but she has no grounds for an objection.  She goes to live with Bella Yaga and the Mandrake.

But the little house on Lime Street has some curious secrets. Why is it bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? Where are the doors to get out?  How can Thomas the cat speak to Earwig?  And what is Bella Yaga brewing in hter kitchen?  Soon Earwig has her hands full figuring out the mysteries of her new home and practicing magic, as well as trying to make her place in the world.

The narration for Earwig and the Witch is quite charming…I love the narrator’s matter-of-fact approach to telling the story.  All the characters have distinct voices and accents.

Earwig and the Witch was the last book Diana Wynne Jones completed before her death, and it’s an intriguing story.  Somehow though, it feels like it was only the beginning of a tale that is much longer and more involved.  I just wish she’d had the chance to write more about Earwig, Thomas and all the orphans at Saint Morwald’s.  But for a quick car trip or to introduce Diana Wynne Jones to younger readers, this would be an excellent choice.  I think kids as young as five would enjoy listening to Earwig’s story, and the book is aimed at second through fourth graders.

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Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy, Performed by Rupert Degas
6 CDs, 7 Hours, 30 minutes

Stephanie had always enjoyed her Uncle Gordon, even if he was a bit of a mystery. Part of that may be because he was a mystery writer, coming up with far-fetched horror plots where the hero never quite makes it through the book. But when Gordon dies and leaves the bulk of his estate to Stephanie, she’s as shocked as the rest of her family.

At the reading of the will, she meets the mysterious Skulduggery Pleasant. His only legacy from Gordon is a pithy piece of advice, but Stephanie is intrigued by his appearance. He wears a very fancy suit, gloves, a large hat, sunglasses and a scarf. There’s not a single bit of skin showing on his extremely thin frame. Stephanie and the rest of her family finds it very odd.

When Stephanie ends up alone in Gordon’s house–well, HER house now–overnight, she enjoys the time alone and the chance to read Gordon’s last manuscript.  Just after midnight, when she’s finished reading, someone starts banging on the door.  Stephanie tries to pretend she’s not there, but soon the prowler breaks into the house and attacks.  He apparently wants something that he thinks Gordon left to Stephanie–something that is hidden in the house. Something Stephanie has no idea exists.  She fights back, but Stephanie is no match for the mysteriously strong thug. She is saved by Skulduggery…who in the course of the fight reveals himself to be a living skeleton.

Stephanie is determined to learn what kind of craziness Uncle Gordon was involved in, and soon discovers that there is a whole other world which exists alongside the human world, populated by magic users, monsters and beings like Skulduggery, former humans transformed into something different by magic.  As she works alongside Skulduggery, trying to find out who is trying to kill her, she learns that she has some magic skills of her own…

The CD recording of Skulduggery Pleasant is fun to listen to.  I love the narrator’s accent, and his tone is full and rich.  I was at first taken aback by the bridges between chapters and scenes…most of them feature spooky music but there are also rattling bones, echoing footsteps, and sudden screams. (My poor dog practically jumped out of the car the first time she heard the screams on a car ride.)

The narrator’s voice is surprisingly deep, but there are so many menacing adult male characters in the story that his voice is perfect.  One thing that did throw me was that Skulduggery’s voice changed from disc to disc…on the first two CDs, he had a very deep voice with what sounded a bit like an American accent…but on the third CD, it was higher and had the same accent as most of the other characters.  It was a small flaw in an otherwise masterful recording.

Skulduggery Pleasant is both a mystery and a fantasy story.  It has two sequels–Playing with Fire and The Faceless Ones. The books do feature some magical fighting and contain some violence, so it’s probably better for older listeners.  I would recommend the books and the recordings to kids in fourth through seventh grade.

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Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Performed by Danielle Ferland
10 CDs, 11.25 Hours

Flora Fyrdraaca has problems.  She’s the only Fyrdraaca at home, which makes her the one in charge of Crackpot Hall.  As if being fourteen and preparing for her Catorcena ceremony wasn’t enough, she has to clean a house with 11,000 rooms, muck out horses stalls, care for the family dogs and watch out for Poppy, her father who lives in his Eyrie away from everyone else at the top of the house, has temper tantrums that destroy rooms and cause more work for Flora.

Even if Flora’s Mamma was home, the responsibility would still fall to Flora. Mamma, after all, is the Rock of Califa, the Commanding General of the Army of Califa, second only to the Warlord who rules the country. She is much too grand and busy to worry about the upkeep of the house. It would be different for Flora if Mamma hadn’t banished the Fyrdraacan Denizen, the magical entity who IS the house. But she did, and that’s why nothing in Crackpot Hall works. Even though there are 11,000 rooms, only a handful are actually accessible regularly.

So when Flora takes a forbidden shortcut and ends up in the Library, a room she has never before seen, she just has to explore. And when a skinny boy comes out of the gloomy stacks and introduces himself as Valefor, the family butler, Flora is amazed at how much Fyrdraaca family history he knows. But when he tells her that she can restore him to the healthy magical Denizen of Crackpot Hall by giving him a tiny taste of her will, Flora is intrigued.  The pot is sweetened when he offers to restore some of the conveniences of the house with the rebuilding of his Will.  Flora will have help cleaning, and cooking, and have fresh towels and sheets and someone to talk to while her Mamma is away and Poppy is hiding in his Eyrie.  Flora agrees, and Valefor takes some energy.

Flora thought that things would get easier with Valefor’s help, but then Mamma comes home and she has to hide his presence. Mamma leaves shortly, but not before Flora’s snooping in Mamma’s office reveals that one of her heroes, the Dainty Pirate, is about to be hung.

Flora enlists her best friend Udo to help rescue the Dainty Pirate. But can two teenagers take on the entire forces of the country (not to mention the overlords and enemies of that country) to save one pirate? Some surprising people come to their aid, and some unsuspected villains are revealed as Flora and Udo take their lives into their hands to do what they think is right.

I loved the narrator of the Flora Segunda CD.  The language in the story is quite different from most books, with a little bit or exotic flavor. The narrator’s voice is quirky, and her accent is just right for this book.  There are terms thrown around that are not what you expect to hear, and yet they sound perfectly natural.  It feels like the listener is in an entirely different world.

Flora has to deal with some difficult issues in her life–her father has PTSD and drinks, her mother is away too much, her family tree is riddled with strange characters–yet her charm and innocence and determination comes through. But because of that, I would recommend both the book and the book on CD for kids in fifth through ninth grade.

And if you like Flora Segunda, try the two sequels: Flora’s Dare and Flora’s Fury.

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So if you’re in the mood for a good fantasy book of CD for a car trip, a bedtime listen, or just to play for fun, try one of these.  They’re sure to be a hit with the right listeners.

If you need suggestions for your next book on CD, please ask one of our librarians. We’ll be happy to help you find the perfect story for your family!

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: Dealing with Dragons

With all the fairy tale lists I’ve been doing, it seemed like a good idea to bring up a book that isn’t based on a fairy tale, but that has many elements of fairy talew written into the plot. (Hmm. That may be another booklist.  Oh dear.)   Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede is a fun, humorous adventure that feels a bit like a fairy tale, with fairy godmothers, princess-taking dragons, magic frogs, and questing princes…but it’s so much more!

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Cimorene is the youngest daughter of the King of Linderwall. Her six older sisters are each beautiful, with long golden hair and sweet dispositions, but Cimorene has jet black hair and…well, people who are trying to be polite say that she’s stong-minded. (In other words, she’s as stubborn as a brick.)  Her sisters love their lessons on deportment, dancing, embroidery, and etiquette.  Cimorene would rather learn to use a sword, cast a magic spell, speak Latin or cook cherries jubilee. Each time her parents  discover her learning something that’s not within the realms of princess behavior, they protest. “It just isn’t done!” they tell her, and stop the lessons.  Each time, Cimorene finds a new person in the castle to teach her a new skill, until she’s stopped again.

When she turns sixteen and her tutoring sessions on economics and juggling have been discovered and forbidden, Cimorene is bored again. With only etiquette and dancing lessons to look forward to, she summons her fairy godmother to help her find something interesting to do. But the fairy godmother has been talking to her parents, and instead encourages her to enjoy her heritage of being a princess. Totally disgusted, Cimorene sends her away, and tries to find another new skill or interesting topic to learn about. Causing trouble around the palace doesn’t quite work the way she planned though; Cimorene learns that her parents have arranged for her to be married to the very dull, very boring Prince Therandil…before her next birthday!

What’s a contrary princess to do?  After a confrontation with Prince Therandil and an encounter with a talking (and possibly enchanted) frog, Cimorene decides to run away.  Following the frog’s advice, she makes her way to a mysterious hut down the road, outside the walls of Linderwall.  There, she encounters…dragons.

Although several of the dragons want to eat her, Cimorene argues her case quite well, and ends up volunteering to be the princess of the dragon Kazul. The other dragon’s don’t approve, since “it’s just not done!” but neither Kazul nor Cimorene listen to them. She returns with Kazul to her cave, and sets up housekeeping.  Her duties will include organizing and cleaning Kazul’s treasure hoard, repairing those items that need repair, and cooking Kazul’s meals.

Life with Kazul is definitely more interesting than Linderwall!  By the end of her first week, Cimorene has already sorted the piles of treasure for further examination. By the end of the second week, she’s dealing with knights coming to “rescue” her. By the end of the third week, she’s met three captive princesses, had a friendly visit from a witch and dealt with some smarmy sorcerers.  And that’s just the beginning of her life with Kazul as a dragon’s princess.

When Kazul decides to run for the title of King of the Dragons, Cimorene finds herself in a whole new level of trouble. Now, she has to discourage knights, expose evil sorcerers, and learn magic to protect herself, her new friend Alianora, and even Kazul. There’s also a death curse cast on her, and a bit of match-making to do. It’s a tall order, but Cimorene has the motivation and skills to succeed!

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I just love this book! Dealing with Dragons was originally published in 1990, and was popular right from the start.  It is on my personal top ten list of books everyone (but every girl, especially) should read. Cimorene is a great heroine and fantasy character, and a wonderful alternative to all the cartoon movie princesses that seem to be everywhere.  And she’s funny!  Her dry observations of the magic creatures and situations around her will make readers smile. Cimorene is intelligent, determined and just a little bit sarcastic. Every time something new comes at her, she figures it out how to deal with it in a new and creative way. She doesn’t let anything stop her!

Kazul the dragon is also a great character in her own right, powerful and caring. The supporting female characters like Morwen the witch and Alianora, another dragon princess, are individuals with their own stories and reactions to situations. And even though I haven’t mentioned any of the male characters in this book, they run the gamut from the strong Stone Prince to the goofy but well-meaning Prince Therandil.

There are three other books in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles about Cimorene and her further adventures after Dealing with DragonsSearching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons. The first two are about Cimorene, the last one about her son, Daystar.  Actually, Talking to Dragons was the first story of the four to be written, published in 1985. Although you can read it as a stand-alone, it does work best as the final book in the series.  There have been rumors about more stories set in The Enchanted Forest, but so far, nothing. If one ever comes out though, I’ll be first in line to buy it–one copy for me, two for the library!

Dealing with Dragons has been so popular in our collection that we’ve worn out at least three hardcover copies, and several paperbacks.  It’s a great read-aloud for groups and families. Some of the elements of fairy tales coming into the story make it familiar to younger readers, and Cimorene’s character makes older readers enjoy the wit and different take on those elements. We have The Enchanted Forest collection in both our juvenile and teen sections, and the story is great for readers in grades four through eight.

Try Dealing with Dragons, and see what you think. I bet you’ll be looking for the next book in the series as soon as you finish!

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: The Ship That Flew

Time travel stories have been one of my favorite genres for a very long time. Whether the time travel device is an artifact, a magical object, or a science fiction time machine, it doesn’t matter. As long as the characters are from one time and somehow travel to another, it’s good.  I can’t even remember the first book I read that had kids travelling back in time…Half Magic, maybe, or Time Cat.  Or perhaps it was The Ship that Flew, by Hilda Lewis…

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It started with a toothache and an emergency trip to the dentist. Because his mother was ill, Peter was given some money and told to take the bus to the dentist to get a bad tooth pulled. After the appointment, his bus fare and extra allowance jingles in his pockets. With some time to waste before he has to catch the bus, Peter bypasses all the bright shops with cheap-looking toys, looking for something different. He walks down a curious, dark little street and discovers an old antique shop. In the window, Peter spots a tiny ship, carved from wood, with a boar’s head on the prow and tiny shields all down the side. It looks very old, and slightly mysterious. Something tells Peter that this little ship is special.  When a very elderly man with a black eye patch opens the shop, Peter asks to look at the ship. He’s allowed to hold it. As he admires the ship, the old man tells him that it is older than anything he’s ever touched before; that no one alive could recreate a ship like that. When Peter asks the price, he’s told it’s more valuable than anything princes or emperors can buy; that it would cost him all his money and then some. Peter empties his pockets and gives the man everything he has…and to his amazement, leaves the shop with the tiny ship. And no bus money.

With very little time to make it home before tea, Peter skips the longer route across the cliffs and takes the dangerous shortcut across the beach.  Unfortunately, he’s badly estimated the time. Suddenly, Peter finds himself trapped by the tide, with no way to go back to town or to go ahead home. His life is in grave danger!  In despair, Peter wishes that he were at home…and suddenly, the tiny ship in his pocket starts to grow.  It turns into a boat just large enough to hold one medium-sized boy.  Peter climbs in, expecting to sail home, but instead the ship flies!

At home, Peter can’t wait to tell his sisters and brother–Sheila, Humphrey and Sandy–about the amazing ship.  At first, they don’t believe him, but then the ship starts growing–big enough, this time, to hold four children–and proves to the others that it is indeed magical.

Soon, the children learn that not only can the ship travel through space, bringing them to their sick mother’s bedside, but that it can also travel through time!  Peter, Sheila, Humphrey and Sandy end up in the Nile river valley, during the rule of the ancient Egyptians. Egyptian pharaohs, Robin Hood, Norse gods…it seems the magic and the possibilities are endless.  Soon the children are traveling through time, meeting new friends, and evading new enemies.  Because really, who wouldn’t want a flying ship that can travel through time?

Can the four Grant children keep hold of their magical ship?  Will they find their way back from all their travels?  Read The Ship that Flew and find out!

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From the condition of the book I read, I knew The Ship That Flew was old when I read it in fifth grade.  At the time, I thought that it was written around the same time as Edward Eager’s books.  I was quite surprised to learn that it was originally published in 1939, making it a precursor to Edward Eager, and closer in time to E. Nesbit’s stories like Five Children and It, or  The Story of the Treasure Seekers.

Although I would have loved to see a sequel to The Ship That Flew (and searched for one many times as a young reader) I never found one. Although Hilda Lewis wrote many other books, they were all for adults. The Ship That Flew was her first published work and the only one written for children. Still, it remains her most famous.

If you like the time travel magical adventures of Edward Eager and E. Nesbit, or you enjoy reading about Viking mythology, you’ll enjoy The Ship That Flew. The language is British, and maybe a little old-fashioned, but it quickly grows on the reader. I would recommend it to readers in fourth grade through sixth grade, but it could go a bit older or younger.  It would be a great family read-aloud for families with a wide age range of listeners.

As always, let us know what you think!

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: A Dog Called Kitty

Another bit of sad news for the world of Children’s literature this week…author Bill Wallace died last Tuesday.  He wrote many books, sort of evenly divided between humorous animal stories and adventurous survival stories (or sometimes animal survival stories and humorous adventure stories) that have been popular for thirty years.  His first book, A Dog Called Kitty, is this week’s old favorite.

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Two years after moving to a farm from the city, Ricky is pretty well-adjusted to country life.  One thing he’s never been able to face though, in either the city or the country, is dogs. When he was a toddler, one bit him. Ricky really only remembers the bite that made the scar under his eye, but he had to have over 50 stitches, and he definitely remembers the painful shots he had to have in case the dog had rabies.  So maybe it’s not surprising that every time he sees a dog, he starts shaking, or running, or just plain panics.

Ricky can mostly ignore that fear by avoiding dogs, or being near dogs.  However, when a stray puppy starts hanging around the farm, trying to survive by fighting the barn cats for the scraps they’re fed, Ricky’s fear of dogs starts bothering him again.  Sure, the pup is rabbit-sized,  fuzzy-furred and skinnier than any dog should be. But he’s a dog!  And all dogs bite…don’t they?

But when Ricky finds the puppy stretched out in a corner of the hay barn, practically lifeless, panting pathetically with ribs showing and no energy at all, he knows that the dying dog isn’t a danger to anyone. He tries to be glad and leave the puppy behind, but even scared-of-every-dog Ricky can’t do that.  He starts to smuggle food to the pup, hoping that if it recovers, it won’t bite.

What follows is a warm and funny story of a boy and the dog he never wanted.

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A Dog Called Kitty was the first book by Bill Wallace, published in 1980.  It was the winner of the Texas Bluebonnet, the Oklahoma Sequoyah and the Nebraska Golden Sower Awards.  Mr. Wallace’s first career was as a teacher, and he discovered his talent for writing when he wrote this book for his fourth grade class, to keep them quiet after recess.  It worked!  Suddenly the children’s book world found a new voice, and A Dog Called Kitty was followed by 29 more titles by Bill Wallace, alone and with his wife Carol Wallace.

Although I usually have a horrible time reading most boy and dog stories,  A Dog Called Kitty made me laugh more than it brought me to tears.  Like Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows and Marley and Me, the ending is bittersweet, but the story is well worth it.

If you like this book, try other books by Bill Wallace. Beauty is sort of a sequel to Kitty, about Ricky and his beautiful horse.  Red Dog and No Dogs Allowed are two other dog/child stories with happier endings. Trapped in Death Cave and Blackwater Swamp are two of his best survival stories. Mr. Wallace wrote some very funny stories too; Snot Stew, The Biggest Klutz in Fifth Grade and The Backward Bird Dog are my favorites.

A Dog Called Kitty is written for fourth and fifth graders, but may be popular with younger kids too, if they listen to it read aloud. If you’re sharing it with younger kids though, make sure you’re prepared for the ending. (Psst–adults, this mean you should read and be prepared before sharing.)  And let me know what you think!

::Kelly::

New Favorite: Tuesdays at the Castle

Princess Celie’s favorite day is Tuesdays. That’s because Tuesdays are the day that the castle most often gets bored, and grows a new room. Every Tuesday, Celie goes looking for these new additions, so that she can add them to her maps. Sometimes it’s a new room, sometimes it’s a shorter connection between rooms that are already there. Sometimes entire rooms or wings vanish, for no reason. No one knows why Castle Glower changes, just that it does. It doesn’t always happen on Tuesday, and it doesn’t happen every Tuesday, but it’s frequent enough so that Tuesdays are Celie’s favorite.

Even though Celie has an older sister and two older brothers–Princess Lilah, Prince Bran and Prince Rolf–Celie is the only one of her siblings who is interested in mapping the magical rooms of Castle Glower.  Everyone else, from the royal family to the chambermaids and stable boys just follow the two rules of the castle.  Rule One: The Throne Room is always to the east, and Rule Two: If you turn left three times and climb through the next window, you’ll end up in the kitchen, where the helpful kitchen staff will help you get to the Throne Room.  Celie is the only one who tries to figure out how Castle Glower works.  And it seems that the castle loves her for it…she gets flowers in her room when she’s sick, and comfortable furniture when she need it. In fact, everyone acknowledges that the Castle knows what’s best for the kingdom and for the royal family.

When Celie’s parents go away to attend Prince Bran’s graduation from The College of Wizardry, Celie, Lilah and Rolf must remain at the Castle.  None of them are very happy about it, but members of the royal family have a duty to the people, and that includes making sure that they aren’t all exposed to danger at the same time.  Unfortunately, even the much-loved Glower family has enemies who would enjoy taking over their kingdom.  Celie continues to work on her maps, tease her sister and have adventures with Rolf while they await the return of their parents and oldest brother.

But then the unthinkable happens. One of the soldiers returns with news of an attack in the forest: the King, the Queen and Prince Bran were all injured, and the rest of the soldiers were killed.  When the royal guard returns to the site, there is no sign of  the bodies. The King, The Queen and Prince Bran are declared dead, and Rolf, who was happily heir apparent, is suddenly to be crowned King Glower the Eightieth. Although Celie, Rolf and Lilah all staunchly declare that their parents and brother cannot be dead, Ambassadors from neighboring kingdoms start showing up at the castle, invited by the Royal Counselors.  The Counsel wants to crown Rolf as king immediately, marry off Lilah to a prince of a neighboring kingdom, and declare themselves regents.  No one quite knows what to do with Celie.

This is fine with Celie, because she seems to be the only one that notices that Castle Glower is changing. Secret passageways, new turns, even a brand new tower room supplied with spy tools, supplies and several mysterious objects have appeared overnight. Castle Glower is preparing to fight!  And so is Celie. Can a magical castle and one young princess , with the help of her brother and sister, several loyal servants and a few new allies manage to save the kingdom?  They are sure going to try!

* * *

I loved, loved, loved Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.  It has twists and turns and magic…and that’s just the castle!  It also has a spunky young heroine and a great cast of characters.  There’s humor and mystery and political intrigue, as well as dangerous situations, creepy characters and even some slapstick comedy.  It’s a great read!

Jessica Day George has written several other popular titles: the Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear trilogy, as well as Princess of the Midnight Ball and Princess of Glass, based on the fairy tale story  The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  She has been one of the authors whose books I’ve enjoyed very much in the past; but Tuesdays at the Castle is my new favorite.

If you’re a fan of books by Diana Wynne Jones or Patricia Wrede, you’ll love Tuesdays at the Castle. It’s a wonderful book that stands alone, but I’m crossing my fingers that we may see more of Celie, Rolf and Castle Glower in the future.  I’d recommend it to fantasy fans in grades 4 – 6, and it would be a great read-aloud for slightly younger kids.

So try Tuesdays at the Castle, and see what you think!

::Kelly::