Book & Audio Review: Flunked!

It’s time for another audio book review!  If you like fairy tales, a little bit of villainy, and a dose of magic…Flunked is a book you should like!

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Flunkedflunked
By Jen Calonita, Narrated by Kristin Condon
5 CDs, 5.25 Hours

Gilly isn’t a bad kid, but she is a thief.  It’s not like she has a real choice…she has five brothers and sisters and lives in a boot.  True, her father is a master cobbler, but there’s no longer a demand in the kingdom for shoes made by hand.  Magic slippers are all the rage.   So Gilly HAS to steal…her thievery provides extra food to keep her siblings fed and healthy.  And if she steals something special for a birthday gift here and there…well, it’s not like the stuck up royals will even notice that something is gone.  They’ll just replace it, right?

But when Gilly steals from the wrong royal, in the wrong shop, she’s found out.  And since it’s her third offense, she’s sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School by Headmistress Flora, formerly the Evil Stepmother.  Princess Ella even signed the order.   There’s nothing Gilly or her siblings or even her parents can do about it.

But Fairy Tale Reform School — FTRS for short — isn’t anything like Gilly expected.  Sure, their mission is “To turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes”, and Gilly expects to be stuck in a dungeon and fed bread and water while being lectured about being good.  But there is no dungeon (for the students anyway) and instead of being stuffed in the toe of a boot with all five siblings, Gilly has a spacious room with only one roommate, delicious and plentiful food, and classes on everything from magic to history to sports.

Of  course, Gilly doesn’t like following rules, even if they do kind of make sense.  And she wants to go home to take care of her siblings; even the promise that they can visit her doesn’t make things much better.  She does start making some friends though, and as they pool their information together about what they know about the school and how they might escape, they discover a mystery.  Who is trying to sabotage the school?   Are their lives in danger?  Gilly and her new friends Jax, Kayla and Maxine may be reluctant students of FTRS, but they will have to put their heads together and use all the somewhat illegal skills they have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

flunked trilogyThe audio recording of Flunked was  quite charming.  (heh!)   Flunked is a first-person story, so everything is relayed through Gilly.  The narrator has the perfect voice for Gilly…young, a little bit inquisitive, scrappy…and reluctantly impressed with her new surroundings.  Her voice for other characters, seen through Gilly’s eyes, are varied by accent, pacing and attitude.   Letters from Gilly to her family, notes from teachers and The Happily Ever After Scrolls–updates on the action at the school, as reported by a nosy reporter for FairyWeb- enhance the story and give an outside view of the action.

Flunked is the first of the Fairy Tale Reform School trilogy, followed by Charmed and Tricked.  I would recommend the series for kids who like an off-beat take on fairy tales, an anti-hero heroine, or just an entertaining read.  Fourth through seventh grade readers would enjoy the book, while the audio would probably work with second grade and through adults.

Some read alikes include Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series, Shannon Hale’s Ever After High series, Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and Suzanne Selfor’s Ever After High series (apparently a popular series title!)

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So pick up book, or the whole series, and enjoy!  If you like it, let us know!

As always, if you need help finding books or audio books to read, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to help!

::Kelly::

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Audio Review: The Wishing Spell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

::Kelly::

Fun Summer Reads #4 and #5

Tuesday is Two-for-One Fun Reads!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::