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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::Kelly::

 

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More Audio Reviews..three for teens, one for kids!

…and here we go again!  More audio reviews for your next road trip, or travels around town.

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breadcrumbs audioBreadcrumbs
By Anne Ursu, Read by Kirby Heyborne
7 CDs, 7 Hours, 47 Minutes

Hazel and Jack have always been best friends. Since they met in first grade, Hazel has always had Jack’s back, and Jack has always been there for Hazel.  Until the day he stops talking to her.  Hazel can’t figure it out; she didn’t do anything, nothing happened to drive them apart, Jack just…changed. Hazel’s mother tells her that sometimes that happens with friendships, especially when boys and girls are eleven and start to have different interests.  But Hazel knows her mother is wrong.

The change in Jack started after it snowed, so Hazel starts her search in the park, where she knows Jack went that day.  Soon Hazel, who never needed anyone but Jack, is meeting new people while she searches for answers.  When she discovers that Jack’s heart has been frozen, Hazel knows that the solution to her problem lies in the stories she and Jack have treasured.  But she’s one girl against the power of icy indifference.  Can she save Jack and win?

I enjoyed the audio recording of Breadcrumbs very much.  At first, I was surprised that Hazel’s story had a male narrator, but Kirby Heyborne has a very adaptable voice.  His pacing was excellent, and his voices were great.  Hazel and Kirby are eleven, and this book is probably enjoyable for kids in grades four through seven.  If you enjoy fantasy, adventure or modern retellings of fairy tales, you will enjoy Breadcrumbs!

 

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Once Upon a Time, there was a prince named Oliver. On his sixteenth birthday, he realized that he had to defeat the evil man who slayed his father, the king, and save the lovely maiden Seraphima.

Once, inside a book, there lived a young man named Oliver.  He hated his life in the book, playing the same role over and over and over.  He didn’t really like the girl who played Seraphima, and he despised the fact that “happily every after” meant that the book would be closed, and he would have to start all over again at his sixteenth birthday celebration every time the book is opened.  His greatest ambition was to escape the book and live his own life.

In our world, a girl named Delilah feels awkward and weird wherever she is.  She hates school, but she loves books.  Even though she’s in high school, she still enjoys reading fantasy and fairy tales.  In the library at her private high school, she has found a beautiful hand-painted fairy tale book about a prince named Oliver, on a quest to save his love, Seraphima.  She reads it over and over again, wishing that she could meet Prince Oliver in person.

And then, one day, she sees one of the illustrations move.  At first she doesn’t trust her eyes, but she opens and closes the book several times, until she catches Prince Oliver in motion.  Oliver decides that she’s trustworthy, and so he speaks to her…and she can hear him!  Soon Oliver and Delilah are plotting ways to be together.  Either they have to get Delilah into the book, or Oliver out of the book.  They don’t know where exactly to start, but they’re willing to try anything and everything.  Will they be able to have their own happily every after?  And if they get it, will they want it?

Between the Lines is set up with several different points of view, and the audio has four different narrators. There’s a narrator for the fairy tale story, a narrator for the chapters from Oliver’s point of view, and a narrator for the chapters from Delilah’s point of view.  Jodi Piccoult reads the author notes.  I absolutely loved each of the narrators, and it was great to hear them imitate each other’s voices. Technically, this is a wonderful audio production.  But.  I had so many questions about the plot of the book, the motivations of the characters, and the little details of practicality and common sense that were just left out of the story.  For that reason, I have to say that if details are important to you, you probably will not enjoy this book.  If you’re just looking for something to listen to and not think too deeply about, this is a great audio.  It’s all up to you.

Between the Lines is in our Teen collection, and is probably best for middle school readers. If you do listen to the audio recording, it’s worth picking up the book too.  The illustrations are wonderful.

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michael vey audioMichael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
By Richard Paul Evans, Read by Fred Berman
8 CDs, 9 Hours, 30 Minutes

Ninth grader Michael Vey is just a regular kid.  Okay, that’s not true.  He’s pretty tall.  He has Tourette’s Syndrome, so he blinks a lot.  He has a best friend named Ostin who’s a genius, and they both get bullied, though for different reasons.  Michael has a crush on a cheerleader named Taylor.  So…regular.  Except that Michael Vey has a really, really big secret.  And no one knows, except his mother, who years ago left a normal life behind and fled with Michael to Idaho, where they could hide in anonymity.

But it’s difficult for Michael to be just a face in the crowd, when he stands out so much.  And when Taylor starts paying attention to him, he gets in trouble with the bullies at his school.  Pushed to the end of his patience, he uses his secret power and shocks them.  It’s an accident, but Ostin, Taylor and most of their classmates saw the electricity arc from Michael’s hands to the bullies he shocked.  Everyone but Taylor is surprised, and Michael soon discovers that Taylor has her own secret.  But even if one or two people can keep a secret, a whole community cannot.

Suddenly, Taylor has been sent away to an “exclusive” school, and Michael’s mother has vanished, kidnapped by the people who sent them on the run so many years ago.  This mysterious organization doesn’t want his mother, they want Michael.  Ostin vows to help Michael find Taylor and get his mother back, but to do so, they need to get to California. Can they rescue Michael’s mother without getting captured themselves?  The outlook doesn’t look good…

The recording of Michael Vey, The Prisoner of Cell 25 is well done.  I enjoyed the narrator’s voice, and he did a great job with accents, distinguishing a large cast of characters.  The Michael Vey series is very popular with teen readers, currently with four titles out and more to come.  Teens who enjoy reading series by Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore will like these books just as much.

 

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thirteen days to midnight audioThirteen Days to Midnight
By Patrick Carman, Narrated by Steven Boyer
6 CDs, 7.25 Hours

Jacob  has had a rough life.  He became a foster child at the age of four, and went through a lot of different homes.  Because of all the changes he’s had to endure, he’s mistrustful of most adults and their motivations.  He’s been content for almost two year  though, after meeting Mr. Fielding, who became his foster father.  They shared a small home on the grounds of Holy Cross, a Catholic boarding school, where Mr. Fielding was a teacher.  That is, until Mr. Fielding was killed in a head-on collision with a tree.  Just before the accident, he touched Jacob and said “You are indestructible”.  Somehow, Jacob survived the accident, although he has no memory of the actual impact.

Arriving back at school after the funeral, Jacob is invited to live in the staff quarters until he graduates.  Mr. Fielding, it seems, was one of the benefactors of the school, and he has left Jacob a small fortune at his death.  At first, Jacob is numb to the world around him, even his best friend Milo can’t seem to interest him in everyday life.  Then Milo introduces him to his new  friend Ophelia.  Unfortunately for Milo, Jacob and Ophelia seem to hit it off.  Ophelia, who takes risky chances and likes living life on the edge, is all about testing limits.  Jacob, still trying to make sense of Mr. Fielding’s death, tells Milo and Ophelia about the accident, and repeats “you are indestructible!” as a joke, touching Ophelia on the arm. She decides to test it, pavement surfing on a new skateboard, hanging on to Milo’s car as he drives.  But Ophelia’s hits a bump, then her head hits the pavement with stunning force.  Jacob and Milo are sure that she’s dead, but she just gets up and brushes herself off.  What is going on?

Jacob needs to find out.  As he uncovers the mystery of Mr. Fielding’s past, he and his friends test the new power that seems to have come into their lives.  At first, it’s an adrenaline rush that starts out as something exciting, but soon turns dark.  Cheating death is a big responsibility, it turns out. Is this power something that will save lives, or will it cost Jacob and Milo and Ophelia everything?

Thirteen Days to Midnight is a suspenseful story, full of twists and turns.  The narration of the audio book is well done, with dramatic flair in just the right spots.  I thoroughly liked the narrator and the story, and I had no idea how it was going to end.  Thirteen Days to Midnight  is in our Teen collection, and is probably best for readers grades eight and up.

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If you’re looking for something to listen to for a family trip, to relax before bed, or to read with a book, visit the library!  Our librarians are happy to help you find something to suit you, whether you’re looking for something for the family or something for yourself. And since I just found two more audio books I listened to that I haven’t reviewed, there are more reviews are coming soon…

::Kelly::

 

 

Booklist — Daring Girls! (in Honor of our Very Special Author Visit)

Booklist—Girls who Adventure!

In celebration of our visit from Caroline Carlson, author of Magic Marks the Spot, here’s a booklist of girls who leave society behind to do their own thing!

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magic marks the spotCarlson, Caroline.  Magic Marks the Spot
Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle?   Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword. 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 is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she 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.

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The Other Books:
          (Many of them have sequels or are the first book in a trilogy or a series, so make sure you look for the other titles!)

Amaranth EnchantmentBerry, Julie.  The Amaranth Enchantment
When a mysterious piece of jewelry and a strange visitor arrive within minutes of each other  in the jewelry shop where she works for her evil aunt, Lucinda’s course takes a surprising turn. With the help of the Amaranth Witch, a young (and harmless) con-artist, and a prince, Lucinda uncovers secrets about her own royal past.

wrappedBradbury, Jennifer.  Wrapped
Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown on the lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season.  This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy; it’s a host for a secret unleashing mystery, international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.

kat incorrigibleBurgis, Stephanie.  Kat, Incorrigible
Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she’s inherited her late mother’s magical talents, and despite Stepmama’s stern objections, she’s determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa’s intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat’s magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, Kat’s reckless heroism will be tested to the utmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true loves?

runaway princessCoombs, Kate.  The Runaway Princess
King Stromgard offers his daughter’s hand in marriage and half his kingdom to the prince who can rid the kingdom of evil and restore peace and prosperity to our realm.  But Princess Margaret is not your traditional princess. Meg firmly objects to her parents’ giving her away, and she certainly has no intention of remaining in the tower where she is sequestered. Instead, she sets out to win the contest herself by enlisting the help of her good friend, her loyal maid, an eager guardsman, a young wizard, and a tenacious witch. Does Meg find her distinct place in the kingdom, or is she doomed to fulfill her royal duties?

bewtching seasonDoyle, Marissa.  Bewitching Season
In 1837 London, young daughters of viscounts pined for handsome, titled husbands, not careers. And certainly not careers in magic. At least, most of them didn’t. Shy, studious Persephone Leland would far rather devote herself to her secret magic studies than enter society and look for a suitable husband. But right as the inevitable season for “coming out” is about to begin, Persy and her twin sister discover that their governess in magic has been kidnapped as part of a plot to gain control of the soon-to-be Queen Victoria. Racing through Mayfair ballrooms and royal palaces, the sisters overcome bad millinery, shady royal spinsters, and a mysterious Irish wizard. And along the way, Persy learns that husband hunting isn’t such an odious task after all, if you can find the right quarry.  YA

howls-moving-castleJones, Diana Wynne.  Howl’s Moving Castle
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl–and herself–than first meets the eye.

alex and the ironic gentlemanKress, Adrienne.  Alex and the Ironic Gentleman 
A student at the prestigious Wigpowder-Steele Academy, Alex is often mistaken for a boy because of her haircut, but that’s okay—she has an excellent sense of humor.  As much as she enjoys learning, she doesn’t enjoy anything else about school. Luckily for Alex, the new school year brings an exciting new teacher. Mr. Underwood makes lessons fun and teaches her how to fence. But Mr. Underwood has a mysterious family secret and not everyone is glad he has come to school. When the pirates of a ship called The Ironic Gentleman kidnap him, Alex sets off on a journey to rescue him, along the way encountering a steady stream of hilarious and colorful characters!

piraticaLee, Tanith.  Piratica 
Artemesia is the daughter of a pirate queen, and she’s sick of practicing deportment. Escaping from her school, she hunts up her mother’s crew and breezily commands them out to sea in a leaky boat. Unfortunately, Art’s memories of her early life may not be accurate-her seasick crew are actors, and Art’s infamous mother was the darling of the stage in a pirate drama. But fiery Art soon shapes her men into the cleverest pirate crew afloat. And when they meet the dread ship Enemy and her beautiful, treacherous captain, Goldie Girl, Art is certain that the Seven Seas aren’t large enough for two pirate queens!  Art will have the battle of her life and the race for the most fabulous treasure in pirate lore. YA

flora segundaWilce, Ysabeau.  Flora Segunda
Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall–the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. Huge mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler–and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever. Flora has to deal with soldiers, Dainty Pirates, amazing hounds, magical potions and a magical butler who may be her undoing.

dealing with dragons (2)Wrede, Patricia.  Dealing with Dragons
The youngest of seven beautiful princesses in the kingdom of Lindenwall, Princess Cimorene wants more out of life than to be the wife of a boring, proper prince. Tired of her sedate existence, she takes up fencing, cooking, Latin, even magic. But each endeavor is ended with the admonition that “princesses just don’t do that.” Faced with marriage, she decides it’s time to find some adventures of her own and runs away, ending up as the dragon Kazul’s princess, and finding adventure, danger, and challenges galore.  It turns out that the life of a dragon’s princess is exactly what Cimorene needed!

mairelon the magicianWrede, Patricia.  Mairelon the Magician
Kim doesn’t hesitate when a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into the travelling magician’s wagon in search of a silver bowl. Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. Growing up a waif in the dirty streets of London has schooled her in one hard lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But there is something odd about this magician. He isn’t like the other hucksters and swindlers that Kim is used to. When he catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for–until he suggests she become his apprentice. Kim wonders how tough it could be faking a bit of hocus pocus. But Mairelon isn’t an act. His magic is real.

sorcery and cecelia (2)Wrede, Patrica & Stevermer, Caroline.  Sorcery & Cecelia
A great deal is happening in London and the country this season. For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There’s also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he’s not doing a very good job of it–so just what are his intentions?) And then there’s Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is. Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. Strange forces are convening to destroy a beloved wizard, and only Kate and Cecelia can stop the plot. And the girls might be in fear for their lives . . .if only they weren’t having so much fun!

Weston Public Library
March 2014
Kelly Wood

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And there you have it–a list of some remarkably determined young women!  After reading Caroline’s book, try one of these others and get lost in a magical adventure!

And don’t forget to join us tonight and hear Caroline talking about her writing experience.caroline magic marks the spot3

Audio/Book Reviews: Four fantasy titles!

Traveling during vacation gave me a lot of time for listening.  My preference is usually fantasy, and so that’s what I read!  Er…listened to.  These four were not my favorites (in fact, one is the worst audio book I’ve ever listened to!) but the other three were pretty solid choices.

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Eyes Like Stars
by Lisa Mantchev, Read by Cynthia Bishop and the Full Cast Family
8 CDs, 8 hours, 30 minutes

Bertie lives in The Theatre Illuminata…she has all her life.  As a baby, she was left on the doorstep, and The Company joined together to raise her.  She lives on the stage (although she has to get off for performances) eats with the crew in the Green Room, and gets her clothing (and hair dye) from Wardrobe.  She has everything she needs to live a full life…or does she?

The problem with living in the Theatre is that no one can leave. Whether it’s Ariel from The Tempest, Nate from The Little Mermaid, or Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed and Moth, Bertie’s fairy companions from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not one of them has ever made it past the EXIT sign.  Only the mysterious Ophelia claims to have returned to the Theatre from Outside.

So when Bertie manages to get into enough mischief to alienate the Theater Manager, the Stage Manager, and Mr. Tibbs, the Properties Master, she is in terrible trouble.  These three, who never agree on anything, band together to tell Bertie that she will have to leave the Theater and the only life she has ever known.  At the protests from some of the Company, she is given an out: if she can find an invaluable way to contribute to the Theater, she will be allowed to stay.

Bertie is determined to find a way to keep her home, even if she has to turn it upside down to do so. And she has help from several of the players.  The only problem is…are they trying to help her, or help themselves?

The audio recording was done by Full Cast Audio, who have one reader for the narrative sequences, and different actors reading the voices of the characters.  I love the Full Cast Audio recordings, because I find them very easy to listen to–sort of a cross between a play and an audio recording. It’s nice to have male characters reading male voices, female characters reading female voices, and children who sound like children.  This production company always manages to make the best match-ups in voices.  The director of the production makes sure that the mood of the scenes are reflected in the voices, and the action sequences have a faster pacing that the slow scenes.  I loved the reading.

I’m not quite sure about the intended audience for this book though. It seems to be aimed at a middle school audience, but there is an assumption that the reader (or listener) has enough background to know who the Shakespearean characters (from at least five plays) are, and what their stories are.  There is also quite a bit of information that relies on knowing the background of a stage production.  And I was confused a bit about what is covered by the Theatre.  Is it all plays, or just classic plays?  It’s not just Shakespeare, because a bunch of characters from The Little Mermaid (the Disney version, as far as I can tell) are also thown into the mix. The internal logic of Bertie’s world seems a little flimsy, under close observation.

This book is the first book of a trilogy about Bertie. She’s an interesting and opinionated character, strong-willed and imaginative.  I am curious about the rest of her story, so the audio/book did succeed in making me want more.

This would be best for kids in middle and high school who are interested in theater production, Shakespeare and putting on a play.

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The Demon King: A Seven Realms Novel
by Cinda Williams Chima, Narrated by Carol Monda
13 CDs, 15.25 Hours

Han Alister is a child of the streets in the city of Fellsmarch.  He does get a slight break from the city though…for some reason his mother has always sent him into the mountains in the summer, to spend the summer months at the Marisa Pines Camp with the Clans.  Between his two homes, Han has been a street lord, a thief, a ragpicker, a healer, a merchant and a warrior.  Because of his younger sister Mary though, Han has vowed never again to steal or practice his darker crafts, wanting something better for her and his Mam.

But when walking through the mountains with his friend Fire Dancer of the Marisa Pines Camp, Han sees three wizards start a fire on the sacred mountain. That is something neither he nor Dancer can ignore. They stop the young wizards, and to keep one from killing Dancer, Han demands his jinxpiece. The arrogant young wizard finally hands it over, and the boys leave them to try to deal with their out-0f-control magical fire.  Han has no idea that this encounter will change his life forever.

Inthe palace, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna is the Princess Heir, destined to rule the Queendom after her mother. She has no idea of the conditions  the poor people in her queendom live with on a daily basis. But when her childhood friend, Amon, returns from a three-year apprenticeship to take his rightful position in the Guard, Raisa convinces him to let her go into the city to see what are the issues her people must deal with.

Han is one of her people, running from the guard, who accuse him of murder, from the demons, who are hunting for him, and from his destiny, which is wrapped up in the jinxpiece he stole from the young wizard.  When he is cornered, he kidnaps Raisa, thinking she is a governess called Rebecca Morley.

Will Han be able to escape his pursuers? Will Raisa be able to help her people?  Will these two very different teenagers, separated by their circumstances, be able to work towards peace?

I really enjoyed the narration of this audio book. Carol Monda manages to keep track of dozens of characters and give each a different voice, relying on speech patterns, cadence and accents.

The story alternates between Han’s and Raisa’s stories; they know many of the same people, but from very different perspectives. When the story starts, both characters are fifteen, and headed towards their name days, the day where they turn sixteen and take on adult responsibilites.  Because of their circumstances though, both are already responsible for not only their own lives and destiny, but for many other people. Headstrong and proactive, they may be at odds, but they’re both trying to do the right thing.

I would recommend these books to kids in middle school and high school, and even adults who enjoy a good fantasy series. A good fifth grade fantasy fan would be able to enjoy them too.  There are currently four books in the series; I believe there will be seven titles.

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The Exiled Queen: A Seven Realms Novel
by Cinda Williams Chima, Narrated by Carol Monda
16 CDs, 17.75 Hours

This is the second book in the Seven Realms series.  Han and Raisa are both escaping from the queendom, Han because everyone he knows in the city has been murdered, Raisa because her mother tried to marry her off to a wizard, forbidden by the agreements put into place after The Breaking, a thousand years ago.

Both head to school at Oden’s Ford, where wizards, soldiers, diplomats, musicians and talented students are trained.  There, Han is set to learn wizardry, while Raisa, in disguise as Rebecca Morley, learns warfare, culture and diplomacy.  Both are concentrating exclusively on their studies, ignoring the social opportunities that the school offers. Neither knows the other is at Oden’s Ford, although they do have several friends in common.  Until one day, their paths cross again…

Like the first book, this is a wonderfully imagined fantasy.  There were a few times when I wanted to shake both characters (and a few of the minor characters as well) and tell them to stop being so pigheaded and open their eyes!  But that’s a minor quibble.  I still want to read or listen to the rest of the series, although I may take a break for a bit.  They’re long, and I need a little variety!

Again, these would be enjoyed by fantasy fans of all ages. Adults might find the teenage angst a little frustrating, but this would make a good listen for a car trip for a family with older kids.

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Wildwood
written by Colin Meloy, performed by Amanda Plummer
13 CDs, 15 Hours

Prue is a normal sixth grader with a horrible secret. When she was supposed to be watching her baby brother Mac, he was carried off by a murder of crows, lifted right off the playground and taken into the Impassable Wilderness on the outskirts of Portland.  Prue managed to keep the secret of what happened from her parents overnight, and the very next day she sets out to find her brother.

With help from Curtis, a super-hero drawing aquaintance with too much curiosity for his own good, the two find their way into the Wildwood, hoping to find Mac. Braving coyotes, magic, brigands and evil nannies, they bravely search for Mac.  Prue knows she can’t return home without him, but can she survive finding him?

Okay, this is it. The worst audio book I have ever attempted to listen to.  The story is full of adventure, danger and cliffhangers…but the narrator reads with a child-like lisp, her voice sing-songy and seemingly unconnected with the events of the story.  I couldn’t tell the differences between the characters at all. The pace was all over the place…slow in action scenes, slightly faster in slow scenes.  It was so soft that I couldn’t understand what the narrator was saying when I was driving.  I gave up.

Wildwood might work as an audio book for someone who is trying to go to sleep and doesn’t care about what the voice is reading.  But if you want to experience the adventure that this book offers, you’ll have to read it or find someone with a better grasp of the story to read it to you.

I never expected to write a review like this!  When I went back to the library and read the book, I realized that the reason for the narration style is provided in the last sentence of the story.  Unfortunately, that was too long for me to wait.  Maybe this issue is just with me, so if you listen to this audio book and enjoy it, let me know!

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And that’s it.  Next week, we should return to our regular schedule of Old Favorites on Tuesdays, the Teen Open Book newsletter every other Friday, and other reviews as we finish reading or listening.  Also keep your eyes out for our favorite summer reviews by students in the Summer Reading Program.

Until then, happy reading!

::Kelly::

Audio Review: The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas
By John Stephens, Read by Jim Dale
10 CDs, 11 Hours, 38 Minutes

Kate, Michael and Emma are orphans.  They weren’t always orphans. Kate can remember the night her parents vanished; she was four, Michael was almost two, and Emma was just a baby.  When a shabby man with a serious warning showed up at their home, Kate’s mother kissed her and told her to take care of her brother and sister, and eventually their family  would all be together again. She slipped her locket over Kate’s head.  The  next morning (after a dangerous car chase they slept through)  the children woke up in the care of Sister Agatha, of St. Mary’s Home.

Ten years later, there’s still no sign of their parents, and Kate, Michael and Emma have ended up at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans, their twelfth stop in a long line of placements, each one worse than the last.  They may not know their last name, but they do know that their parents are still alive and will eventually come for them. But in the meantime, they still have to deal with bullies, nasty orphanage directors and prospective adoptive parents.  When Miss Crumley, their latest tyrant of an orphanage director tells them that they have to make a good impression on a prospective adoptive couple, Emma and Michael just can’t.  Mrs. Lovegood and her horrific swan headpiece and attitude toward children are too awful.

In the aftermath of the scene that ensues, Miss Crumley finds the three children the most out-of-the-way institution she can to take them. After a day long train trip to Lake Champlain, they end up in Westport,  New York, waiting for a ferry.  No one they ask knows anything about Cambridge Falls, the town where their new orphanage is, the orphanage itself or even the island where both are located.  There is, however, a derelict dock where they can meet the boat they’re supposed to take to the mysterious island.

When the children are picked up for the ferry ride, they encounter a mysterious fog in the middle of their journey.  When the fog finally clears, they arrive on the island. Cambridge Falls is desolate, cold…and empty.  And it’s strange; the huge mountains on one side of the island certainly should have been visible from Westport. And the vicious wolves that chase their carriage are unexpected.

When they reach the musty old mansion that is to be their new home, Kate, Michael and Emma learn that not only are they the only children in the orphanage, they’re only children in the whole village. The only other people on the island seem to be Abraham, the man who picked them up at the ferry landing, Miss Sallow, the housekeeper, and the mysterious Dr. Pym, the head of the orphanage.

But the strange island and the drafty old house are well worth exploring, and the children do that. When they find a secret passage down to the basement, how could they resist? And when during their explorations, Kate picks up a book, who could have known that the discovery would change their lives forever?  Traveling through time, dealing with monsters, dwarfs, and one evil  sorceress…will Kate, Michael and Emma survive?  Will they find out who they are?

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The audio version of The Emerald Atlas is read by Jim Dale, famous for his narration of the Harry Potter books.  Although I loved the narration, for me his English accent was a little off-putting.  Kate, Michael and Emma grew up in orphanages in New York, Boston and Baltimore.  Cambridge Falls is in the middle of Lake Champlain, so it’s either New York or Vermont. It’s difficult to believe that any of them would have British accents…and yet they do.  I realize that Jim Dale is a master narrator, but I had a hard time remembering that these were supposed to be American kids living in the present time. (Well, at the start of the book, anyway.)

If you get past that though, the narration is wonderful.  The characters that live in Cambridge Falls and the other places the children end up (who could very well have British accents, given their magical backgrounds)  have rich voices, filled with individuality. The tempo of the reading is wonderful–breathless and hurried when action is taking place, slower at moments of exposition or discovery.  And the end definitely leaves you wanting more!  Luckily, it looks like there will be two more books, since The Emerald Atlas is one of three missing books in the story.  A true trilogy!

I would recommend The Emerald Atlas to fantasy fans.  Kate, Michael and Emma are great characters, each a little different, but devoted to each other. (Even if they don’t always show it.) The magic is grand, the villains very evil. The good guys aren’t always aware of their roles, but they learn.  And there’s subtle humor throughout, keeping things from getting too dark. Mostly.

If you liked Harry Potter (the books, but especially the audio books) this title is a must.  Fans of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass and The Dark is Rising Sequence should also enjoy this book and audio book.   It’s a long book, with some complicated plot devices, so it’s probably best for readers in 5th to 8th grade. But don’t let that stop you if you’re older or younger!  If The Emerald Atlas sounds like something you’d like…try it!  And let us know what you think.

::Kelly::

Booklist: Pickpockets, Thieves and Scoundrels!

With the success of books like The Thief Lord and The Lightning Thief, books about thieves seem to have gained popularity. Just put it in as a key word in a Minuteman search and see how many books for middle grades and teens pop up!  Or check out the kids in these books; they are thieves, robbers or outlaws in their worlds, for a variety of reasons. From fantasy to historical fiction to adventure, these characters are determined to survive, whatever skills they might have to use.

The books on this list are pretty evenly split between the Juvenile (J) and Teen (YA) collections; their placement in our collection is listed at the end of the brief summary.

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Pickpockets, Thieves and Scoundrels!

Barratt, Mark. Joe Rat
In the dark, dank sewers of Victorian London, an abandoned boy known as Joe Rat scrounges for valuables, not for himself, to give to a woman known as “Mother,” a criminal mastermind who considers him a favorite among her “rats”.   But it’s a chance meeting with a runaway girl and a stranger called “the Madman” that transforms Joe’s life, as well as the lives of all who know him.  J

Bell, Hilaire. Shield of Stars
A former pickpocket, Weasel is the type of boy most people would avoid.  Justice Holis took Weasel off the streets, gave him a home, a job, and the key to his house. When Justice Holis finds himself in trouble, only Weasel can save him. But what can one boy do? Not much without help…so Weasel will find that help.  Try the other books in this trilogy!  J & YA

Blackwood, Gary.  The Shakespeare Stealer
Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”–or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare’s players perform.  J

Bradshaw, Gillian. The Dragon and the Thief
Prahotep has been plagued with bad luck his whole life. When he takes up tomb robbing, he stumbles across Hathor, the last dragon in Egypt. Hathor requests his assistance in her escape to Nubia in search of fellow dragons, and suddenly, although they’re pursued by evil magicians, the usually unlucky boy suddenly finds the gods and a little fortune on his side.  J

Brennan, Herbie. Shadow Project
A young English thief stumbles on, and subsequently is recruited for, a super-secret operation that trains teenagers in remote viewing and astral projection techniques in order to engage in spying. Danny Lipman is a young thief who stumbles into a clandestine operation that he does not immediately understand. The staff of the Shadow Project allows him to escape after deciding that he shows natural talent for their work but not before bugging his jacket.  J & YA

Bunce, Elizabeth. Starcrossed
In a kingdom dominated by religious intolerance, Digger, a teenage orphaned thief, is on the run after a botched job ends in a violent ambush. Desperate lies help her escape with some young aristocrats, who take her to their remote mountain estate. While posing as Celyn, a ladies’ maid, Digger meets a visiting lord who blackmails her into uncovering dangerous political plot. YA

Buckley-Archer. Gideon the Cutpurse
Peter and Kate have somehow stumbled from the 21st century back to 1763, and even though they are still in England, everything has changed. They believe their time travel must be connected to the antigravity machine Kate’s father has been working on, but it has been stolen by a criminal called The Tar Man. To survive, they really have no choice but to trust Gideon, a stranger whose offer of help seems genuine, even if he is known as a cutpurse and thief.  J

Carter, Ally. Heist Society
A group of teenagers uses their combined talents to re-steal several priceless paintings and save fifteen-year-old Kat Bishop’s father, himself an international art thief, from a vengeful collector. The daughter of notorious thieves, Kat Bishop has enrolled in the exclusive Colgan School to escape the family business and try to live a normal life. But when she is kicked out, Kat has to return to her roots. YA

 Catanese, P.W. The Thief and the Beanstalk
Orphaned and desperate, Nick joins a band of thieves; in exchange Nick must help them break into the lavish castle rumored to belong to an old man named Jack. When Nick’s dangerous mission leads him straight to Jack, he sees a chance to climb the famed beanstalk himself. But what Nick doesn’t know is that things are different from when Jack made his climb. There are new foes at the top now. Will Nick come down the beanstalk a hero? Will he come down at all?  J

Cole, Stephen. Thieves Like Us
Jonah, a brilliant computer hacker, is the newest addition to an elite group of teen outlaws all hired by the same mysterious benefactor. Each of them offers a unique talent: Patch is a locksmith; Motti can dismantle any electrical system; Con’s charm is mesmerizing; and Tye can detect a lie with more precision than a polygraph. Together, this motley crew races from a high-tech underground centre to exotic locations where they hunt for priceless ancient artifacts that may bring riches . . . or the secret to eternal life. YA

 Colfer, Eoin. Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.  These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules.  Read all the sequels too!  J & YA

Couloumbus, Audrey. The Misadventures of Maude March
When Sallie March and her sister Maude escape their self-serving guardians for the wilds of the frontier, they begin an adventure the likes of which Sallie has only read about. This time however, the “wanted woman” isn’t a dime-novel villain, it’s Sallie’s very own sister! What follows is not the lies the papers printed, but the honest-to-goodness truth of how two sisters went from being orphans to being outlaws—and lived to tell the tale!  J

Deary, Terry. The Fire Thief
Greek God Prometheus travels into the future, and falls in with a pair of itinerant thieves: Jim, a young orphan and his “Uncle” Edward. They gain admittance to wealthy homes, and while Uncle Edward stages a theatrical performance in the downstairs parlor, Jim steals valuables upstairs.   Is Jim really the person who can save the god of fire?   Read all three books!  J

Engh, M.J.  The House in the Snow
Runaway Benjamin meets another boy, newly escaped from the mysterious House in the Forest. He learns that it is inhabited by robbers who can make themselves invisible; they keep a group of stolen boys as servants. Faced with starvation, the two sneak boys make a desperate plan: they will sneak into the House and discover the robbers’ cloaks of invisibility. Will it work?   J

 Fagan, Deva. The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle
The personal quests of a young witch who aspires to be a villain and a young thief who is determined to become a hero intersect in a swampy bog. On their travels, it becomes clear that what little magic there is in the Uplands is draining away. As Prunella and Barnaby try to discover the cause, they realize that good and evil can come packaged in deceptive forms-nasty bog-witches, malevolent wizards, and beautiful queens aren’t always what they seem.  J

Funke, Cornelia. The Thief Lord
After escaping from their cruel aunt and uncle, orphans Prosper and Bo meet a mysterious boy who calls himself the “Thief Lord.” Clever and charming, the Thief Lord leads a band of street children who enjoy making mischief. But the Thief Lord also has a dark secret. And suddenly Prosper and Bo find themselves on a fantastical journey to a forgotten place. What they discover there will change the course of their destiny … forever.  J & YA

 Hahn, Mary.  The Gentleman Outlaw and Me—Eli
Eliza Yates reinvents herself as Elijah Bates when she runs away from her unloving relatives, is headed west in search of her absent father. She finds Calvin Featherstone, left for dead by his muggers, and so begins a funny, cliff-hanging melodrama that features a sparkling text containing rapid-fire dry humour and a fresh, determined heroine who manages everything to her satisfaction.  J

 Harlow, Joan.  Firestorm!
Poppy, a skilled pickpocket working the streets of 1870s Chicago, meets 13-year-old Justin Butterworth, a prominent jeweler’s son A twelve-year-old street urchin and the son of Chicago’s most important jeweler strike up an unlikely friendship in the days before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and both are nearly trapped when the city goes up in flames.  J

Haydon, Elizabeth. The Thief Queen’s Daughter
Young Ven Polypheme is sent on a secret mission within the walls of the Gated City, a former penal colony in the land of Serendair, where he and his friends face kidnapping and even worse dangers from the ruthless Thief Queen, who is trying to reclaim her runaway daughter. The first book in an exciting trilogy!  J & YA

Hughes, Carol. Jack Black and the Ship of Thieves
Captain Henry Hugo Black, of the world’s largest airship, has agreed to let his son, Jack, come along on her maiden voyage. But there is  treachery aboard! Jack finds himself a prisoner aboard a ship of thieves that hasn’t seen port for more than 25 years. From an erupting volcano to encounters with a sea monster…will Jack survive? J

Korman, Gordon.  Swindle
After a mean collector cons him out of his most valuable baseball card, Griffin Bing must put together a band of misfits to break into the man’s compound and recapture the card. There are many things standing in their way — a menacing guard dog, a high-tech security system, a very secret hiding place, and their inability to drive — but Griffin and his team are determined to get back what’s rightfully his.  J

 Lawrence, Carol.  The Thieves of Ostia
Flavia lives in the Roman Empire, in the port city of Ostia. When the dogs on Flavia’s street start dying, she is determined to find out who is killing them–and why. Her investigation leads her to three extraordinary people: Jonathan, her new neighbor; Nubia, an African slave girl; and Lupus, a mute beggar boy. They become firm friends as they search for the killer, narrowly escape being kidnapped by a slave dealer, and uncover a run  of burglaries.  A great series!  J

 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.  This retelling of the outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest, robbing from the rich to feed the poor is sure to be popular with readers.  J & YA

 Michaelis, Antonia. Tiger Moon
Sold to be the eighth wife of a rich and cruel merchant, Safia, also called Raka, tries to escape her fate by telling stories of Farhad the thief, his companion Nitish the white tiger, and their travels across India to retrieve a famous jewel that will save a kidnapped princess from becoming the bride of a demon king. J & YA

Mikelson, Ben.  Sparrow Hawk Red
Ricky Diaz, the son of an ex-DEA pilot, vows to avenge the death of his mother by a Mexican drug cartel. When he overhears his father refuse a secret mission to confiscate their plane, Ricky decides to do it himself. Spanish-speaking and able to fly small aircraft, he heads for the border. Once across, he lives among the rateros (homeless children) and meets Soledad, a streetwise waif who shares not only survival tips, but also strategies for penetrating the high-security cartel compound.  J

Prineas, Sarah. The Magic Thief
Conn picks the pocket of a wizard, who is startled that the stolen magical stone didn’t kill the boy. Nevery takes on Conn as a servant, but the boy’s inquisitiveness and talents move him to apprentice status. As Conn becomes more enmeshed in his new life, he navigates through the intricate dealings of both the wizarding world and the political machinations in a plot to overtake the wizard council and king.  Read all three books in this trilogy!  J

 Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson learns he is a demigod, the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, god of the sea. His mother sends him to a summer camp for demigods where he and his new friends set out on a quest to prevent a war between the gods.  His first mission? To steal the lightning bolts of Zeus!  The first book in an excellent series!  J & YA

Schwabach, Karen. A Pickpocket’s Tale
Molly Abraham is a kinchin mort: a ten-year-old thief trying not to starve on the London streets. But everything changes for Molly when she is sentenced to be transported to the American colonies. She becomes an indentured servant to a kind Jewish family in New York City, and Molly has it good. So why is it that all she wants to do is go back to London?  J

 Tanner, Lian. Museum of Thieves
In the city of Jewel, children are chained to their Blessed Guardians from birth until Separation Day. When a bomb interrupts Separation Day, Goldie runs away and ends up at the mysterious Museum, where she discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.   Look for the new sequel: City of Lies.  J

Thompson, Kate. Highway Robbery
A stranger leaves his magnificent horse in the care of a boy he’s never met. As dusk falls, soldiers arrive, demanding to know where the horse’s owner has gone. Could the stranger be the notorious Dick Turpin, known for his daring holdups and amazing exploits? Is the horse the legendary Black Bess? And will the boy ever see the reward he’s been promised?  Or is his story just a story?  J

Turner, Megan Whelan.  The Thief
Because of his great skill at thievery, Gen lands in the King’s prison. After months of isolation, kept sane only by his sharp intelligence, Gen is released by the King’s Scholar, the Magus, who believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. The Magus needs the best thief in the land to help him steal it, and that thief is Gen. But Gen is also a survivor and a trickster–and he has ideas of his own.  The first book in a truly wonderful series.  J & YA

Updale, Elizabeth. Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman
When a petty thief falls though a glass roof in his attempt to escape from the police, what should have been the death of him marks the beginning of a whole new life. He adopts a dual existence as a respectable, wealthy gentleman named Montmorency, and his degenerate servant Scarper. But Montmorency must always be on guard. The smallest mistake could reveal his secret and ruin both his lives. YA

Walden, Mark. H.I.V.E.; Higher-Institute-of-Villainous-Education
H.I.V.E. is operated on a volcanic island in a distant ocean by G.L.O.V.E., a shadowy organization of worldwide wickedness. And, as Otto Malpense soon discovers, here the slickest of young tricksters, thieves, and hackers have been brought against their will to be trained as the next generation of supervillains. Otto and his friends refuse to be held and develop a scheme to escape from the island, but they must face many perils to succeed.  J & YA

Williams, Alex. The Talent Thief
Orphaned Cressida, a magnificent singer, and her brother Adam attend the by-invitation-only Festival of Youthful Genius, where they join forces with a former race car driver to try to stop a bizarre creature from stealing the talents of the young prodigies.  J

Wooding, Chris. Storm Thief
Orokos is a city of chaos, surrounded by an endless ocean, lashed by probability storms that re-order the world wherever they strike. When teen thieves Moa and Rail stumble upon a valuable artifact, they must flee pursuers who covet their find. Their journey brings them into contact with a half-mechanical homunculus and a group of rebels preparing to escape the city permanently. YA

Wrede, Patricia. Mairelon the Magician
Kim, a young street waif disguised as a boy, takes up with traveling magician Mairelon and his coachman after she is paid to search Mairelon’s wagon and is caught in the act. She agrees to travel with Mairelon, but is this part of her plan?  As she helps with the show, she learns some real magic, and eventually her plans fall apart. Can she find a new life as something better than a thief?   J & YA

 Zahn, Timothy.  Dragon and Thief
Assistant con-man Jack Morgan is on the run after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit.  Jack pilots his uncle’s spaceship to a remote and uninhabited planet hoping to escape capture. When another ship crashes after a fierce battle, Jack rescues the sole survivor– a K’da warrior names Draycos. It turns out Draycos can help Jack clear his name. All they have to do is team up. Not a problem, until learns that Draycos is not your average alien.  YA

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For some other titles, try:

Bell, Hilari.  Player’s Ruse J & YA

Cadnum, Michael.  Flash  YA

Fleischman, Sid.  Bandit’s Moon  J

Lindgren, Astrid. Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter  J

Rees, Celia.  Sovay  YA

Roberts, Willo.  Jo and the Bandit  J

These titles all sort of fit our list, but not quite.

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If you have any other titles to add, let us know!  And if you’re looking for these books or any others, please ask any of our librarians for assistance!

::Kelly::

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones
August 16, 1934 – March 26, 2011

Anyone who has ever talked to me about books knows that my favorite author ever is Diana Wynne Jones.

I discovered DWJ’s books when I was in junior high–Witch’s Business was the first one. It’s about a brother and sister who lose their allowance for four months and decide to start a business to make some money–Own Back, Ltd. For a slight fee, they’ll make sure their clients get revenge for any perceived wrongs. The only problem is that their customers have much bigger problems than Frank or Jess ever imagined…and there’s already a witch in town who is in the revenge business. It was such a wonderful set up! Here were two real world kids, with real world problems, who suddenly find themselves all muddled up with magic and revenge and treasure hunting.

I promptly went back to the library and took out the only other book they had–The Ogre Downstairs. That one might have been even better–Caspar, Johnny and Gwinny’s mother (a perfectly reasonable woman)  has just married Malcolm and Douglas’s father (who Johnny immediately dubs “the Ogre”)…and the two sets of kids are not getting along. The Ogre buys Malcolm and Caspar chemistry sets in order to make peace…only these chemistry sets have some very strange chemicals that even teenage Douglas has never heard of. Soon, the kids are flying around town, bringing toffee bars to sluggish life and even switching bodies.  Will the chemistry sets help their family, or cause an irreversible rift?  More real kids,  a touch of humor, a bit of  bumbling and magic.  (It’s also a great read-aloud with fourth and fifth graders.)

There were several other books listed on the back cover of that first book I read by Diana Wynne Jones, but my poor little cash-strapped rural  library didn’t have them. I promptly went to the bookstore and spent some hard-earned babysitting money on Power of Three and Dogsbody. (I couldn’t find the others; it took me several years and a new college library with ILL to track them down.)  Both of these stories were larger in scope, more high fantasy, pulling in Celtic and Roman mythology, but still featuring humor, adventure, likable kids in troubled situations and a bit of accidental magic. When her next book, Charmed Life was released, the library ordered it and I was first on the list. I read it twice, and promptly decided then and there that Diana Wynne Jones was my favorite author. Ever.  It’s been more than thirty years, and that has never changed.

Since 1977, I’ve eagerly awaited every new release, at first through booksellers in every town I’ve lived in, eventually having friends in England buy them over there (where they were often released earlier than in the U.S.) and sending them, and then ordering them online.  I would always read each book through in one or two sittings, to see what happened, and then go back and read it slowly, to savor the intricacies of the plot, the clever characters and the way it all fit together.

Unfortunately, there will only be one more new release–Earwig and the Witch, coming out in June 2011.  Diana Wynne Jones passed away on Saturday.

There has been an outpouring of memories from fans and authors all over the world. Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull, and Diane Duane to name just a few.  Diana Wynne Jones studied in Cambridge, taking classes from J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Her books were never a well known as, say, J.K. Rowling, but she has a loyal fan base around the world, who have been reading almost forty years worth of output religiously. She’s inspired and helped younger writers, but her voice was always unique. In 2007 she received a Life Achievement Award at the World Fantasy Association. She also won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (twice), the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the British Guardian Award. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages and have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.  There are some wonderful, heartfelt tributes online, just google her name and dozens of entries will come up.

My favorite books of hers to recommend to new readers are Howl’s Moving Castle (which is probably her best known book, but it has to have one of the worst original covers ever! I wish we could get the cover displayed here!) Charmed Life, and The Lives of Christopher Chant. (Chrestomanci and Howl have to be two of the best characters ever created in children’s literature.)  My personal favorites (although I love all of them) are probably Fire and Hemlock, The Homeward Bounders and The Dark Lord of Derkholm, because I always find something new, every time I re-read.

When you read one of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, prepare to be enchanted.  Then, if you’re the type of person who likes to re-read, prepare to read it all over again for all the “obvious” things you missed along the way.

Since high school, through college and graduate school, and then into adulthood, a new Diana Wynne Jones every year (well, almost every year) has been part of my life. It’s hard to accept the fact that there will never be another new one after this spring. I feel like I’ve lost a friend.  Still, DWJ will always be my very favorite author.  And her legacy will be kept going strong by all the readers (and writers!)  she’s inspired.

Thank you, Diana, for your wonderful stories.
::Kelly::