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!



Audio Reviews: Survival!

I didn’t realize there was a theme between the last three audio books I listened to, but when I put them together, it was right there.  One space adventure, one steamy Everglades fiasco, and one white-water rafting trip in the middle of a tropical storm.  And yet, they all have one thing in common–Survival!

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Have Space Suit, Will Travel
By Robert A. Heinlein, Read by Will McAuliffe and the Full Cast Family
8 CDs, 8 Hours

Kip has wanted to go to the moon since he was in elementary school.  There is a lunar base up there, of course, but most people have to do something extraordinary to get stationed there. Kip decides that he’ll just have to go into science, work hard, and get there. His parents support his plan, although they tell him he’ll have to work hard.  In fact, his father takes a look at his school and the curriculum, and gives Kip a bunch of extra homework to do in order to have the type of basis he’ll need to get into a good college.

But then Kip hears about a contest a soap company is running. The person who creates a new slogan for their product will win an all-expenses paid trip to the moon!  Kip is suddenly the biggest fan of soap that ever was. With everyone in town giving him soap wrappers to mail in the slogans he thinks up, Kip is sure he can win.  With five thousand entries, one of them has to catch the eyes of the judges.

But Kip doesn’t win first prize; he wins something else. A spacesuit. Formerly used on the space station but retired, it’s still (mostly) space-worthy.  Instead of selling it for college tuition, Kip decides to completely renovate and update it.

Which is why he’s standing in the middle of a field when he receives a distress call from space.  And it’s how he survives being snatched by space pirate, meeting aliens, and being stranded on a secret base on the moon.

If Kip survives the experience, he’ll have a LOT to tell his grandchildren!

Have Space Suit, Will Travel was written in 1958, and it’s an interesting blend of 50s culture, projected technology and science fiction. For example, Kip is trying to fit a radio into his spacesuit helmet, and he mourns the fact that the transistor circuit isn’t smaller.  But of course now, we have micro circuits that could fit a radio in something the size of a quarter…and have much better ways than radio waves to communicate, anyway.  Kip wants to make multiple copies of something, but can’t because he doesn’t have access to a mimeograph machine.  There are computers, but they’re the size of houses. And Kip buys 5,000 stamps for under $200!

But even though there’s a huge difference from the projected future of Kip’s world and what we have now, Kip and Peewee are kids who could exist today.  They’re brave, and funny, and determined to get back home.

Now, there is quite a bit of scientific theory in this book, which might make it a little hard to listen to for listeners not interested in how things work.  But if you’re a budding scientist, with a yen for space travel, this book would be perfect for you.  And I do love the narrators of Full Cast Audio, who have different actors reading each part.  The voices are perfect, and listeners will find themselves absorbed in the adventure.

I’d recommend Have Space Suit, Will Travel book to listeners in 5th – 8th grade.  The book might be more accessible to slightly younger readers, because you can skip over the science theories and explanations.

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By Carl Hiaasen, Read by James Van Der Beek
5 CDs, 6 Hours, 11 Minutes

Wahoo Cray lives in Florida, where he shares his home with his parents, several alligators, a few dozen snakes, monkeys, raccoons, turtles, a wild cat and a bunch more animals.  His father, Mickey, is a wildlife wrangler, and is so good at his job that he’s frequently in demand by TV and movie productions.   Unfortunately, he’s currently having problems due to being hit on the head by a frozen iguana dropping out of a tree onto his head and causing a head trauma and a (temporary) coma. Even though he’s now home, he’s not quite up to working.

Because the family still needs to pay their bills though, Wahoo’s mother takes a job in Japan. When she’s gone, Wahoo accepts a job over the phone, one that will pay extremely well and help the family pay off their bills.  All they have to do is work with Expedition Survival!, a TV-reality show starring Derek Badger.  What Wahoo doesn’t know is that Derek Badger is a pampered TV star who believes his own press and thinks that he can wrestle any wild animal into submission. And then eat them.   Mickey, who is extremely protective of his animal family, clashes with Derek immediately.

So when the Expedition Survival! production company decides to film in the wild, instead of in the Cray’s Everglades staging lot, Mickey and Wahoo are hired to go along as animal wranglers.  Who knew things would be complicated by a runaway girl named Tuna, a crazy boat driver, Derek Badger’s inflated ego, and a dangerous man with a gun.  Will Wahoo and Mickey survive Expedition Survival!?

Chomp is a great book to listen to!  Carl Hiaasen always creates completely wacky situations that seem to be just normal life for his characters.  I loved Wahoo and Tuna and Mickey.  And even though I didn’t really LIKE Derek or Raven, his producer, they were a lot of fun to hear about.  As they travel around the Everglades, finding snakes and dodging giant bats and encountering danger, you won’t want to stop listening.

James van der Beeks’ narration was quite enjoyable, although I was a little unsure of it at first.  Wahoo and Mickey sound very similar, and I thought there would be a problem distinguishing between the voices.  As soon as the cast of characters started growing though, everyone had a distinct voice and rhythm.  And it makes sense that a father and son would sound alike.  And he did some great Australian, Floridian, and backwood swamp folk accents.

Chomp is a great survival story, with a hint of mystery that could be enjoyed by readers in grades 5  through grade 8.    The audio could be listened to by kids slightly younger, although Tuna’s situation and her father’s actions might require some discussion with younger kids. I think adults and high school kids would enjoy it as well…it has a unique and subtle humor that makes you grin, rather than laughing out loud.  And then try Hoot, Flush and Scat, which are all great books and books on CD as well!

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Take Me to the River
By Will Hobbs, Narrated by Steven Boyer
5 CDs, 5.25 Hours

Dylan has been planning this trip to Texas to visit his uncle and cousin for months.  Although he’s never met them, all three share a love of white water rafting; for the visit they’ve planned a trip  down the Rio Bravo, with Dylan in a canoe and Rio and his father in a raft.  When Dylan gets to the airport, he takes the bus to town, just as planned. But no one comes to meet him. Instead, he gets a message that he should hitchhike to his uncle’s house.

Puzzled and dismayed, but not wanting the adventure to be cancelled, Dylan finds a ride with a trucker, and meets Rio in a little restaurant where he works.  There, he learns that his uncle has been hired as a river guide in Alaska, and won’t be able to go on the rafting trip.  Rio was supposed to call Dylan while he was still at home in North Carolina, so that he could change his travel plans.  Rio didn’t make that call though, because he wanted to meet Dylan, even if all they can do is hang around Rio’s house.

And then the boys have an idea.  Why don’t they go on the rafting trip anyway?  They’re old enough and responsible enough, and they have plenty of experience on a variety of rivers. They get a friend of Rio’s to give them a ride to the head of the Rio Bravo, planning to buy most of their supplies at the store there.

But when they reach the store, it’s closed. And there are black helicopters on the river.  Dylan and Rio learn that there’s a tropical storm approaching and that the US and Mexican governments are searching for a group of dangerous drug runners.  Even though they consider both these problems with care, Dylan and Rio decide that it’s most likely that the tropical storm will go another direction, and that the Mexican criminals will be spotted by the searchers before they even reach the river. They set out on their trip.

But of course, things don’t go as planned, and soon Dylan and Rio are faced with tropical downpours, a raging river that’s much higher than they’d planned on, and two unwanted passengers.  Will they manage to survive?

Take Me to the River is a great adventure book for anyone who likes their stories spiced with danger!  The cousins don’t always make the wisest choices, but they’re both smart, and tough, and trying to do the right thing.   Although they’ve been in touch through e-mail and phone calls for years, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to meet, and it’s quite an introduction!

The descriptions of the storm, the raging river and the various weather fronts make the listener feel like they’re in the back of the raft.  The tidbits of information about life on the border of Texas and Mexico are quite interesting, and very eye-opening.  Once the boys run into their uninvited passengers, their actions stay true to their natures, and they struggle with a lot of difficult choices.

Take Me To The River is a wonderful survival story for kids in fifth through seventh grade. The audio could be enjoyed by family members of all ages for a long car trip.  This is a must read for anyone planning to raft the Rio Bravo, and would be an enjoyable selection for anyone who might be going white water rafting.

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And…that’s it.  Enjoy these survival stories and let us know what you think.  If you’re in the Weston Public Library looking for something to read or listen to, ask one of our librarians for help.  We’re glad to assist you in finding the perfect book or audio!


Booklist: Fairy Tale Re-Tellings…for Boys!

More Fairy Tales…this time, with male main characters!  Featuring boys and young men of rare braveness and daring,  with skills in beanstalk-climbing and trickery. Princesses?  Maybe as supporting characters!  Try one of these tales from the other side of the story!

Books with a J at the end are in the Juvenile collection, books with a YA are in the teen collection. Ask a librarian if you’d like to find more titles!

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Fairy Tale Retellings — For Boys!

Featuring Princes, Brave Jacks, Outlaws and Rats…

Catanese, P. W.  The Brave Apprentice
Meet Patch Ridlin. He’s a tailor’s simple apprentice in a remote village. When he rescues his friend Osbert from an aging and decrepit troll, Patch finds himself something of a town hero. Word of his bravery quickly spreads throughout the countryside, and Patch is summoned to the king’s castle.  Soon Patch finds himself engaged in an all-out battle against the trolls. With only the help of a fool named Simon and a maddening riddle, can Patch figure out the troll’s fatal flaw? Or is the kingdom destined to perish?  J

Catanese, P.W.  The Thief and the Beanstalk
Orphaned and desperate, Nick joins a rugged band of thieves in hopes of a warm meal and a little protection. In exchange Nick must help them break into the lavish castle full of riches, rumored to belong to an old man named Jack. When Nick discovers Jack is Jack of the magical beanstalk, he sees a chance to climb the famed beanstalk himself. But what Nick doesn’t know is that there are new foes at the top now. Foes with cruel weapons and foul plans that could destroy the world as Nick knows it. Will Nick come down the beanstalk a hero? Will he come down at all? Try the other books in the Further Tales Adventure series: The Eye of the Warlock, The Mirror’s Tale, and The Riddle of the Gnome, each based on a different tale.  J

Gruber, Mchael.  The Witch’s Boy
They call him Lump. Ugly, misshapen, abandoned as an infant and taken in by a witch, he is nursed by a bear, tutored by a djinn; his only playmates are the creatures of the forest, whose language he learns to speak. But when Lump inevitably stumbles into the human world, his innocence is no match for the depths of people’s cruelty, which turns his heart to stone, and fuels a vengeance that places him and his witch mother in deadly peril.. Readers will recognize well-known tales woven into the story, giving readers a differen, and sometimes frightening take on childhood staples. J

Hale, Shannon.  Calamity Jack
Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler…maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk.  With help from Rapunzel, a pixie from Jack’s past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people.  J COMICS

Lowe, Helen.  Thornspell
Prince Sigismund has grown up hearing fantastical stories about enchantments and spells, knights and heroic quests. He’d love for them to be true but they are just stories. Or are they? From the day that a mysterious lady in a carriage speaks to him through the castle gates, his world starts to shift. He begins to dream of a girl wrapped, trapped, in thorns. He dreams of a palace, utterly still, waiting. He dreams of a man in red armor, riding a red horse. When that man arrives at the castle! Sigismund is about to learn that sometimes dreams are true, that the world is both more magical and more dangerous than he imagined, and that the heroic quest he imagined for himself begins now! J

Martin, Rafe.  Birdwing
Once upon a time, a girl rescued her seven brothers from a spell that had turned them into swans. But one boy, Ardwin, was left with the scar of the spell’s last gasp: one arm remained a wing. And while Ardwin yearned to find a place in his father’s kingdom, the wing whispered to him of open sky and rushing wind. Marked by difference, Ardwin sets out to discover who he is: bird or boy, crippled or sound, cursed or blessed. But followed by the cold eye of a sorceress and with war rumbling at his kingdom’s borders, Ardwin’s path may lead him not to enlightenment, but into unimaginable danger.  YA

McKinley, Robin.  The Outlaws of Sherwood
In the days of King Richard the Lionheart, a young forester named Robin set out one morning for the Nottingham Fair. But he never arrived. By the end of the day a man lay dead in the King’s Forest, and Robin was an outlaw with a price on his head. There have been many tales and ballards about the man we know as Robin Hood, and the lady Marian, Little John, Will Scarlet and the rest. A unique retelling of the adventures of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws…  J & YA

Napoli, Donna Jo.  Crazy Jack
Once there was a boy named Jack who traded away a cow for a handful of beans. But Jack was no fool, he was haunted since the day his father climbed up into the clouds and vanished. When the beans provide a way for Jack to pursue his father, he enters the Giant’s world, where he discovers the terrifying ends of greed and desire. YA

Napoli, Donna Jo.  The Prince of the Pond: Otherwise Knows as De Fawg Pin
Having been turned into a frog by a hag, a frog-prince makes the best of his new life as he mates, raises a family, and instills a new kind of thinking into his frog family.  A hilarious tale of a prince who’s been turned into a frog, as he tries to communicate…without rolling his tongue.  Also try the sequel: Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace. J

Pullman, Philip.  I Was a Rat!
“I Was a Rat!” insists a scruffy boy named Roger. Maybe it’s true. But what is he now? A terrifying monster running wild in the sewers? A victim of “Rodent Delusion”? A lucrative fairground freak? A champion wriggler and a budding thief?  Or maybe just an ordinary small boy, a little ratty in his habits? Only three people believe this version of the story. And it may take a royal intervention—and a bit of magic—to convince the rest of the world.  Set against the backdrop of a Royal Wedding—and a playful parody of the press, this is a magical weaving of humor, fairy tale, and adventure. J

Riley, James.  Half Upon a Time
Jack lives in a fantasy world. Really. He’s the son of the infamous Jack who stole the magic beans from the giant, and he’s working hard to restore his family’s reputation. He finds the perfect opportunity when a “princess” lands in front of him, apparently from the land of Punk, as her Punk Princess t-shirt implies. May is from our world, and she’s utterly confused to find herself in the midst of the fairy tale characters she has read about. But Jack and May have more in common than they realize–and together, they embark on a hilarious and wild adventure!  Look for Twice Upon a Time in late spring 2012.  J

Schmidt, Gary.  Straw Into Gold
What fills a hand fuller than a skein of gold? By order of the king, two boys, Tousle and Innes, must find the answer to this puzzling riddle within seven days or be killed. A former nursemaid to the queen’s child tells the boys that the banished queen may have the answer they seek. Danger presents itself at every turn, for the boys are pursued by the Great Barons, secretly plotting against the king. Another pursuer reveals a strange story of a little man who once spun straw into gold for the queen,  but then disappeared with her firstborn son. Tousle realizes that the man he calls Da is the strange little man. Does that mean  he may be the lost prince?. Or could it be Innes who can hear the music of the dawn?  J

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There aren’t quite as many fairy tales from the boy’s point of view, even though you would think that all those adventures would be perfect as the basis for a great book.  (Potential writers…maybe that’s a niche you can fill?)

Anyway, grab one of these books and start reading.  Then let us know what you think of fairy tales from the male perspective.


Old Favorite: The Book of Three

Fantasy has always been my first love when it comes to reading.   The first fantasy books I found in fourth or fifth grade were fun, but quick: one story, one book.  Up until then all my favorite books had all been mystery series, so it was a bit of a transition. It wanted a fantasy series– because you know when you finish the first book, there’s another one waiting. Then, along came The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander.

Wow!  A fantasy series.  I was smitten. Since then, I’ve discovered (along with everyone else in the publishing world) that if one book is good, a trilogy is even better!  Or a quartet! Or a series!  But I think many readers of fantasy, then and now, would agree that The Book of Three, the first book of The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander, is still one of the best.

* * *

Taran wants more than anything to be a warrior like his hero, Prince Gwydion. He tries making sword blades and practicing fighting. Unfortunately, his job is to be the assistant pig-keeper at Caer Dallben.  It’s true that Hen Wen is a famous oracular pig rather than just a normal one, and that Coll, the current Pig-Keeper was a former warrior.  Even Dallben, the ancient wise man who is Taran’s guardian and head of the castle, has an interesting past. But none of that makes up for all the chores that Taran has to do, since oracular pigs need just as much care as regular ones.

When something strange frightens all the animals on the farm, Hen Wen panics and flees into the woods.  Taran follows, only to discover that Hen Wen wasn’t quite as stupid as he thought she was…the oracular sow is fleeing from the Horned King, the most evil being in existence.   When Taran collapses after trying to run after his pig, a stranger comes out of the trees behind the Horned King and his horseman and helps him. The unassuming man turns out to be Taran’s hero, Prince Gwydion.

Taran discovers that the Horned King’s presence threatens the kingdom of Prydain’s very existence, and that if the Horned King manages to capture Hen Wen, the kingdom is doomed. In order to rescue his charge, Taran sets out on a dangerous mission.  Along the way, he gathers a group of companions who help in a variety of ways.

Will Taran and his small group of adventurers manage to rescue Hen Wen from the clutches of evil?  Can they save the kingdom?  Only by reading this book–and the others that follow–can you find out!

* * *

The Book of Three was first published in 1964; the fifth and final book in the series, The High King, came out in 1968.  Each book was as hotly anticipated by young readers in the 60s as Harry Potter books were in the 90s. A short story collection called The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain was published in 1973, because author Lloyd Alexander received so many requests for more Prydain stories. These short stories mostly fill in the backgrounds of favorite characters. They’re now marketed as the sixth book in the series.

The Book of Three and the other Chronicles of Prydain books were extremely popular through the 60s and 70s, and into the 80s. Since fantasy series exploded into the children’s/teen book world, The Chronicles of Prydain tends to get a little lost in the crowd.  It shouldn’t though!  The books have dangerous quests, a brave hero, a funny sidekick, a courageous heroine, and lots of humor. There are good and evil sorceresses, The Lord of Death, warriors and wizards and bards and even a strange little character called Gurgi, who talks in rhymes.

The first two books in the series were made into a pretty bad animated film The Black Cauldron, by Disney.  If you saw that movie, forget everything you saw  and start the books with a fresh perspective.  They are SO MUCH better.  The second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, was a Newbery Medal Honor book in 1966, and the final book, The High King, won the Newbery Award in 1969.

The books are loosely based on Welsh mythology, and are populated by gods and monsters from The Mabinogion.  So if you liked Percy Jackson and the gods of Greek mythology, you should thank Lloyd Alexander and check out The Book of Three.  I bet you’ll be finishing The High King before you even know it!

These books are great for all ages–if you’re a parent who missed them the first time around, I’d recommend reading them now.  The early books are aimed at the fourth through sixth grade readers, but the later books are definitely for sixth through eighth.  (Like Percy and Harry, Taran and his band age in each book.)  Fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter should definitely try The Chronicles of Prydain…those characters may owe their existence to Taran and his band of adventurers.

And if you do read them, let me know what you think!


Old Favorite: Running Out of Time

What if everything you knew was a lie?  That’s the premise of this week’s Old Favorite: Running Out of Time, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

* * *

Jessie is a normal girl, growing up in Clifton, Indiana. She lives with her Ma and Pa and her five brothers and sisters, goes to the one-room schoolhouse down the road, and plays with her friends after her chores. She can recite the history of Clifton, and the presidents right up to Van Buren, the current man in office. It’s 1840, and Jessie is comfortable with her place in the world. Until the younger children in the village start becoming sick.

Ma, who has had nurses training, diagnoses children with something called diphtheria. Jessie’s never heard of it before, but it’s said to be life-threatening, and some of the younger children are seriously ill. Suddenly, most of the adults in Clifton seem secretive, and worried.  And when Jessie’s little sister Katie becomes the most recent child to fall sick, Jessie’s mother tells her that she has a secret.

It turns out that Clifton is not everything it seems to be…there are cameras hidden all over town, and all the inhabitants are being observed by tourists most of the time. Jessie’s head reels as she takes in all the unfamiliar terms, and discovers that  it’s not 1840 at all, but 1996.  Clifton is actually a living history museum, only the children of the village have no idea. The adults have known since they agreed to participate in this experimental “return to history” sixteen years ago.

Jessie listens as Ma tells her how the world outside has changed. The best news is that diphtheria is completely curable in the modern world.  The worst? That the Clifton families are trapped; Miles Clifton, the millionaire who came up with the tourist village, has exerted so much power over the residents that there is currently no communication between the villagers and the outside world. Even trying to contact the watching tourists is under his control, so there is absolutely no way to ask for help. Jessie,  Ma and everyone else are prisoners in 1840. The only way to save Katie and the other sick children is for someone to risk everything and escape–to go out into the “future” and find some help. None of the adults can do it, because they would be missed by the cameras and guards right away.

With a quick summary of over a hundred years worth of technology and social developments, Jessie escapes the guards keeping watch over the town and heads out in to the real world, to bring back help. But Jessie soon finds herself surrounded by the unfamiliar modern world, and in terrible danger. Can she save herself and her town? There is a time limit, and Jessie is running out of time.

* * *

Running Out of Time isn’t that old as children’s books go…it was published in 1995, the year that Jessie suddenly finds herself living in. It was extremely popular when it came out, but isn’t read quite so much now. That’s a shame, because it’s a wonderful adventure story, with an extremely likable and intelligent heroine in a dangerous situation!

Jessie’s story will keep you right on the edge of your seat.  Think about it–Jessie knows nothing about telephones, planes, subways, television or most things kids growing up now take for granted.  (Even if you just think about what has changed just between 1995 and 2011–things like smart phones, thumb drives, ipods–jumping forward sixteen years might throw some.)  Not only is she in a completely strange setting, but Jessie is on the run, trying to navigate in a world she doesn’t know, on the run from people trying to stop her. Do you think you might be able to jump ahead a hundred years and know how to act or what to do to save your family?

Every person I’ve asked about this book remembers it well, and enjoyed it. (Even if they don’t remember the author and title, they remember the plot.) This is a very appealing story for kids in fourth through sixth grade, especially if they’ve visited tourist attractions that feature living history re-enactments; places like Plimouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s also a great read-aloud, so if you’re looking for something that might appeal to a large group, consider Running Out of Time!


Old Favorite: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Who wouldn’t want a magical car that could fly?  (I could really have used one last week, when I was on vacation. Much better than sitting in airports for layovers!)  If you need a car that drives on roads, sails in the sea or flies in the air,  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming (yes, THAT Ian Fleming) might be the car you’d choose!

* * *

Jeremy and Jemima Pott live with their father Commander Caractacus Pott, R.N. (Retired)  and their mother Mimsie Pott in a wood beside a big lake with an island in the middle. It’s a beautiful place to live, but they really can’t get out anywhere because they need a motorcar. When Commander Pott (who is an explorer and an inventor) creates an amazing flute-like candy, Jeremy and Jemima become experts in making music with them…enough to get noticed by the town’s big candymaker, Lord Skrumshus.  After selling the recipe for Crackpott Whistling Sweets, the family finds themselves with enough money from to actually buy a car.  And off they go to look.

They look high and low, but nothing seems quite interesting enough for this unique family.  Until they find a wreck. At first, it looks nothing like a car, more  like a pile of parts.  Buried under a tarp at the local garage, it was a wrecked old one-of-a-kind race car from the thirties. But the Potts see something special, so they hire a tow truck and bring the pile of scrap back to Commander Pott’s workshop.  Only Jemima notices the license plate–Gen11.  Or is it Genii?

Commander Pott fiddles and cleans and polishes and works for three months on the old car. Until, one day, he calls Mimsie and Jeremy and Jemima in for a test drive. He turns the key and:
(with a distinct pause between each noise, and the sounds sort of like two big sneezes followed by two small explostions) the car is off!

The Potts family enjoys their new motorcar immensely. Enough that they decide to take her for a picnic at the shore. Unfortunately, almost every other family in England seems to have had the same thought. In the middle of a huge traffic jam, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang suddenly shows a new knob that says “IDIOT!”  And when Commander Potts pushes the “IDIOT!” light, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang undergoes the most extraordinary transmogrification the family has ever seen…she grows wings!

Suddenly, the Potts are the proud owners of the most interesting car in the world. They decide to have their picnic on a deserted beach, which sets off a spectacularly dangerous chain of events including being marooned, finding caves full of gangsters, a kidnapping, some bank robbers and even the opportunity to befriend French chocolatiers.

Hm. Maybe there is something to that license plate!

* * *

Probably when most people think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, they think of the film starring Dick Van Dyke. But although the car in the movie looks like the book’s Chitty, and some of the characters have the same names, the story is completely different.  Unrecognizably so.

(Here, I will have to confess that I loved the movie, and saw it at the theater when it came out. My mother also bought the soundtrack, so I can sing most of the musical numbers (although you wouldn’t want to hear me) and probably even recite some of the dialogue.)

With that said, although the movie is a fun family film (if a little scary in parts), it’s nothing like the book. It’s not even the same time period! It does have a VERY interesting connection to children’s literature though. What it it? The screenplay was written by Roald Dahl, author of a few other books–some made into movies–that you might have heard of: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, among others. Which really might explain some of the movie’s humor AND the  scary bits.

A stage version of the musical also hit Broadway in 2005. It had mixed reviews, and featured the same story and musical numbers which were in the film. So Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is still alive and well after almost 50 years!

Ian Fleming–the creator of Bond, James Bond–was the author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It was his only children’s book, written for his son.  Ian Fleming died just before it was  published in 1964.  It was very well received, and the movie was made in 1967.

Interestingly enough, The Fleming family has commissioned a sequel to be published in the fall of 2011 by author Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of another popular book made into a movie: Millions.  The new books will feature a modern family, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will be a camper. Will it have as much charm as the original?  We won’t know until November.  But I will certainly be buying the book for the library and reading it to see!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is such an extraordinary car, and a fun book, it’s not surprising that there has become a web of connection between famous children’s authors because of it. (And I forgot one: the original illustrator was John Burningham, who has become a famous picture book author and illustrator.) It’s not long, only about 120 pages, so it’s very accessible to a good third grade reader, although the situations are more in line with a fourth or fifth grader.  It’s also a fun read-aloud for a family trip.  Read it this summer and find out about the most extraordinary car in the world!



Old Favorite: Merlin’s Mistake

We have a great display up right now for boys, called Boys with Swords. It’s right above the computer beside the gerbils’ cages. You really can’t miss it…just look for the sword and shield hanging on the wall!  There’s also a booklist.

While I was picking titles for the booklist, I started thinking about some  favorite older fantasy titles. Some of my favorites didn’t make my booklist  (it is, after all, called  Boys with Swords, not Girls with Swords, or Elves with Swords, or Boys with Bows, which unfortunately eliminated some choices). Several favorites did fit the qualifications of an adventure about a boy,  who fought with a sword, and went on a quest. Excellent!  But while going through the list of titles, I realized that one of my absolute  favorites has not been checked out recently, nor very often over the past few years.

I guess it’s not a surprise–our paperback copy has an awful cover picture, and the hardcover is missing a dustjacket, and therefore has no picture at all! Because it’s such a good book that deserves much more attention,  I thought it was time to feature Merlin’s Mistake, by Robert Newman as this week’s Old Favorite.

* * *

Brian desperately wants to be a knight like his father, who died ten years ago. Unfortunately, he’s stuck at home, as his overly protective mother doesn’t want to lose him too.

Tertius is the third son of another knight. He’s not really aiming for knighthood, he just wants to use the magic he received as a christening gift from Merlin.  Merlin, it seems, was distracted by Nimue when he gave the gift, and instead of giving the gift of all possible knowledge, he gave Tertius the gift of all future knowledge. So Tertius knows all about spectacles, and computers, and lasers, but he has no idea how to cure warts. In this time and place, science is unknown, and as a form of “magic”, it’s unacceptable.

It’s Brian’s sixteenth birthday, which means it is time for him to go on a quest to prove his manhood. Tertius asks to come along, so he can find someone to teach him magic…proper medieval  magic. After some resistance from his mother and guardian, Brian is gifted with his father’s sword, and together, the boys set out on an exciting and dangerous journey.

Brian almost immediately clashes with the evil (and invisible!)  Black Knight, who is holding a kingdom hostage. In Brian’s quest to find the  mysterious  “knight with a red shield”  whom a prophecy claims will defeat the Black Knight, Brian and Tertius are joined by a crabby crone named Maud–who may or may not be old.  Working together, these three very different individuals encounter a variety of characters who both help and hinder them along the way. Can they find Merlin? Is science really more useless than magic? Will they find the knight with the red shield?  Brian, Tertius and Maud will do their best.

* * *

This is a very interesting and funny book.  Even though Brian and Tertius are searching for Merlin, they never really get anywhere near Camelot; instead, they roam through what seems to be a somewhat magical alternate to medieval England, full of quirky characters and dangerous situations.  And you’ll discover that in certain cases, science can be as useful as sword-fighting in encounters with monsters!

Merlin’s Mistake came out in 1970. There is a sequel, The Testing of Tertius, which came out in 1985. (No swords in that one though–Tertius has to rescue Merlin from a spell.)  Both are fun to read, and run about 300 pages, but with largish text. If you like your sword and sorcery quests with an irreverent side, or you enjoy the Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander or the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, you’ll like this one too.

Try our other Boys with Swords books too!