Tag Archives: adventure

[U] The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

24 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

A pregnant calico cat goes to live with the bloodhound, Ranger, who helps her raise her kittens. Ranger’s abusive owner, Gar Face, keeps Ranger chained and half-starved, so he cannot leave his post and the cat and her twin kittens must stay hidden in The Underneath, the space beneath Gar Face’s porch where the cats live. However, their family starts to fall apart as the boy kitten, Puck, breaks the most important rule and leaves The Underneath.

Their story is intertwined with the story of Grandmother Moccasin, a mystical shape-shifter trapped in a jar and buried under a tree, waiting for the day when she, too, can escape her “underneath.”

In this lyrical book, Appelt tells a story of loneliness and finding family, of betrayal, hope, and love. The third person narrator creates a distance from the sometimes disturbing events of the book while maintaining a magical realism. Readers must piece the story together as successive chapters float across time and space until all the storylines come together at the climax. A satisfying read enhanced by Small’s illustrations that help readers picture the Texas bayou where the events of the book take place.

The Underneath is written by Kathi Appelt with illustrations by David Small. It was recognized as a Newbery Honor book in 2009 and was a National Book Award Finalist in 2008.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.

[R] Runemarks by Joanne Harris

21 Apr

(Happy late Easter everyone! I was so busy yesterday that I forgot to schedule my posts… Anyway, here’s another post that was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Maddy is an outcast in her village because of a rune mark on her left hand. Her only friend is One-Eye, an old traveler who has been teaching Maddy about runes and magic, heresy in the eyes of the Order that controls the world in which she lives. When Maddy discovers her magic by accident, One-Eye sends her on a quest that reveals her destiny.

Runemarks might start off slow, but it has the heft and feel of an epic fantasy with an exciting adventure in a rich world that is part Norse mythology, part Christian tradition, and all imagination.

This review refers to the eBook version of the book.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter R.

[O] Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

17 Apr

(This was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

This review refers to the Overdrive version of the audiobook of Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris, read by Carrington MacDuffie.

Christian was raised by a troll, but that didn’t stop him from longing after Princess Marigold. They become pen pals by carrier pigeon, and one day, Christian decides to make his fortune and find work at the palace. There, he must save Marigold from her mother’s schemes and prove that he is worthy of her love.

This is a cute story that is pretty funny, although younger listeners may not get all the references to fairy tales and pop culture. MacDuffie’s voice took some getting used to at the beginning, but her performance is funny and draws listeners into the story.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter O.

[J] Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

11 Apr

(#93 on School Library Journal‘s Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results from 2012.)

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson is set in 1910 and is about an orphaned English girl named Maia who gets sent off to live in the Amazon with her relatives and has lots of adventures. There’s even a small love triangle with a stage actor she meets on the boat over and a mysterious Indian boy she meets in the jungle. It’s a satisfying read that goes on longer than expected (in a good way) and ties up all the loose ends by the last page.

I loved this book. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading it (all I knew was that it started with the letter “J” and that it was by a popular author I hadn’t really read much of before). It was written more recently than I expected, too, in 2001. I first heard of Ibbotson when I read The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, but after reading this book, the omnibus of three of her books just jumped to the top of my “to read” pile (right after all the books I need to read for this challenge, and the others I need to read for class…)

Even though I read tons of orphan books growing up and usually prefer to have loving parents (even if they’re absent) these days, Maia was just the kind of character that I liked to read about. She was smart, brave, resourceful, and just plain fun to read about. She was basically what I had hoped Calpurnia Tate would be, but Callie Vee did not keep my attention the way Maia did.

The natives in this book are seen through the rose-colored glasses of Maia, which seem to be typical for the time period, but since it is actually a contemporary book, their portrayal is probably not as offensive as it could have been. Unrealistic maybe, but not offensive. I also spent way too much time while I was reading the book getting distracted by her name, since Maya is a common Japanese name, but I haven’t really heard of an English girl with that name before. (Apparently she was named after Hermes’s mother in Greek mythology, which is appropriate, since her parents were very well-traveled.)

Anyway, everyone should read this book, but it’s great for girls who like historical fiction or adventure books. :)

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter J.

 

[X] Xanth series by Piers Anthony

27 Apr

The first and only thing I could think of for the letter X was the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I don’t know if I would consider them YA, but I think I read them in late elementary school because I found the books at the junior high where I had Chinese school on Saturdays. They were probably a little mature for me, but I enjoyed the humor and the fantasy elements. There was also an older girl at church who collected the series, so she let me borrow a bunch of the books in the series after she found out that I liked them.

Considering how much I read them at the time, it’s kind of sad that I can barely remember anything about them. Looking at my bookshelf, I actually own quite a few of his books, but I couldn’t remember which ones were part of the Xanth series and which ones were part of a different series. I remember now that I liked the puzzles in the Adept series, so I bought books from that series, but I didn’t realize that I only bought the second half (I think). I did manage to find an X book under “Anthony, Piers” on my shelf, though–Xone of Contention, which is part of the Xanth series.

Even with the help of Wikipedia, I couldn’t remember much about the book or the series, so that’s all for this very short post… Only two more to go!

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter X. 

[T] Tiger by Jeff Stone

23 Apr

Tiger by Jeff Stone is the first book in the Five Ancestors series about five young warrior monks whose temple, the only home and family they have ever known, is destroyed. They are the only survivors, starting them on a quest to learn about their pasts and save their country.

Even though Jeff Stone is not Chinese, he has a respect for the Chinese culture that comes through in these novels.  He uses both Mandarin and Cantonese words throughout the books, including in the names of the characters, who are all named after animals that reflect their personalities.  I don’t speak Cantonese, but by the time the words are romanized, they tend to come out similar to Mandarin, and it was fun trying to figure out what all the words meant (and brush up on my knowledge of Chinese animal names!).

This is a dark, suspenseful action-packed series that will leave you wanting to read the next book as soon as possible, so I would recommend getting your hands on a complete set before reading Tiger. Fortunately, I was able to get the first six ebooks all at once, and I borrowed the seventh and last book from my library way before I finished the sixth, so I was able to read straight through them.

If you can’t tell by the description above, this book is great for boys, and fast-paced enough for reluctant readers. I recommended it to my fifth graders last year, but I don’t think anyone ended up reading it. :( I’ll have to try harder to promote it this summer. Girls are usually more willing to read about boy main characters, and I think those who enjoy action or adventure stories will also like this series. There are also a few strong female characters in the series, so girls should have no problem relating.  With all that action, it does get a little gory though, so be prepared for some blood.

Here’s Random House’s website for the series, complete with Flash trailer and cheesy music.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter T. 

[S] The Strictest School in the World by Howard Whitehouse

21 Apr

I randomly picked up the first book, The Strictest School in the World, at the library because the subtitle looked interesting:

Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken (The Mad Misadventures of Emmaline and Rubberbones)

I liked the part about the clever girl because I always enjoy reading about clever girls (having aspired to be one in the past, I now just find them amusing). Most of my favorite books involve clever girls, and my favorite novel that I wrote for Nanowrimo stars a clever girl.

Emmaline’s dream is to build flying machines, and Rubberbones, a boy who can’t get hurt, is destined to help her fly them. However, her mother (in India with her father, a British colonial officer) wants her to become a lady, so she sends Emmaline off to a boarding school for girls that is known as the strictest school in the world. The rest of the Mad Misadventures series follows their adventures and misadventures with a cast of wacky and colorful characters, most of whom you would not want in your living room, even if they do mean well.

It had been a while since I read about England and its surroundings, and I have to say I enjoyed reading about the horrible boarding school and the cool Aunt Lucy (widowed, round in shape, fierce with an umbrella, enjoys cooking with slugs) who encourages her niece in her endeavors. I also loved Lal Singh, Aunt Lucy’s mysterious Indian butler, who seemed to have been a solider in a past life. He always seemed to appear in the right place at the right time, and his Indian curry sounded delicious, especially compared to Aunt Lucy’s slug cakes.

The headmistress of St. Grimelda’s School for Young Ladies reminded me of Miss Trunchbull (from Matilda, by Road Dahl), and disgusted me almost as much. The villain of the second book was also gross, as the faceless fiend really had no face. In comparison, the Collector (of mad scientists) in the third book was not nearly as intimidating or fleshed out as a character, as he sent his underlings to do most of his dirty work and just sat in his lair for pretty much the whole book.

The books all start off a little slow, but once the action starts, it continues until the very last page, with only a few breathers in the end. Every time one problem is resolved, another seems to take its place. The climax generally takes place very near the end of the book, and what comes after that is is rush of resolving loose ends that left me wanting more. Which was why I read the next book. And the book after that.

It is very effective, making me want to read more even after there were no more pages. However, at times, I got tired of the American mad scientist Professor Bellbuckle blowing something up–again–and Princess Purnah (the rightful heir to the throne of a small, very violent, country) messing up yet another plan with her random outbursts and thirst for blood and sweets. It’s loads of fun, but can get a little tiring if you read it all at once.

Overall, it’s a fun mad-cap adventure that never quite seems to stop, whether you want it to or not. I think kids of all ages would love their adventures, but for American kids unaccustomed to the speech and vocabulary of Britain, it may be a little difficult to understand. The more they are exposed to it, though, the easier it will be for them to absorb, so this may be a good place for them to start, as long as they are willing to skim over the parts they don’t understand (which is a good tip for any child reading anything that contains content that is above their level).

There is a little real history, mixed with real and fictional characters from a number of famous and not so famous books, including Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, Sigmund Freud, and Nikola Tesla. The same goes for the map of the world Whitehouse created, which includes both real and made-up places. Kids may have a hard time telling fact from fiction (which is the point), but it would be a great place to start or end interdisciplinary work on the Victorian era.

Contains mild violence, kidnapping, guns, knives, pterodactyls, and a scary headmistress. Includes dialect that may be hard to understand for lower level readers, especially in places that are not England.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter S.*

*Note: I actually wrote this review almost immediately after reading the book last year and was saving it for this blog, so please excuse the length…

[Q] The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whelan Turner

19 Apr

I can’t believe I didn’t discover Megan Whelan Turner until last year! I mean, she was even in Disney Adventure! And I had a subscription to that for years, although I was already in high school by the time her story came out in it and had stopped subscribing.

The Queen of Attolia is the second book in her The Queen’s Thief series (which, according to Wiki, is a fan-coined name). I try to introduce the first book of a series as much as possible, but I’m making an exception since I need a book for “Q” (I suppose I could have used the name of the series like I did for The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce, but I’m trying to keep it to book titles as much as possible this month). I loved this series so much that I bought all four books after reading the ebooks from the library.

The world Turner writes has elements of Greek myths, but it is really about political maneuverings with a little intervention by the gods. It does remind me a bit of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, which have some of the same feel to them. Turner and Pierce both do a great job with characterization, and Gen reminds me of George Cooper from the Tortall books. The politics is as engaging as Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, and there’s a bit of Percy Jackson thrown in with the mythologies. And there are more unexpected twists than any of those series, I think. (Just writing this makes me want to go back and re-read them!)

Some profanity in The Queen of Attolia makes me not want to use it with my fifth graders, who can still be somewhat immature when it comes to things like that. I would definitely use the first book, The Thief, though. It’s a great book, written in first person, even though the rest of the series is written in third person. It has the added bonus of being a Newberry Honor book in 1997, which is always nice to tell the parents.

This series has strong male and female characters with enough action for the boys and a little romance for the girls. Great for fans of any of the series I mentioned above, although the series does get a little darker after the first book.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Q.

[M] The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

14 Apr

Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?

This is the beginning of the ad that the four main characters of this book (series) answer when they start on their adventure.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is filled with puzzles and mysteries that the reader can try to solve along with the characters. I’ve been trying to teach my students to read critically by asking questions and making predictions, and this would be a great series to get kids to do that naturally.

I was on the fence about reading this book, but when I saw the actual book and the cover at the library, I knew that I would enjoy it. I did, and so did everyone else I recommended it to (including picky fifth grade boys).

The first book is a little slow, and there is some pretty important information to understanding what is going on that is not revealed until the very end of the book. You don’t realize what you’re missing until you read the second book, though, and I think the first book would be better if re-read after finding that new piece of information (I didn’t have time to re-read it, though–I was too busy reading H.I.V.E.).

Kids seem to like it a lot, especially the more precocious ones (this was another word I’d learned from Dealing with Dragons, come to think of it). Great for advanced fourth or fifth graders, boys and girls alike (the main characters are two boys and two girls). Also good for kids who like puzzles or games.

The book also has a great website with all the usual book website stuff, plus games and a link to their free app on iTunes. We have been talking about engaging patrons through social media a lot in my library school classes, and while this isn’t a library, I think it’s a great example of a book that is taking advantage of its content and the technology available to reach out to its target audience.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter M. 

[H] H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden

9 Apr

H.I.V.E. = The Higher Institute of Villainous Education.

I loved this book from the title, and the story (and its sequels), weren’t too shabby, either. They reminded me of Harry Potter mashed together with Mission:Impossible or another flashy action movie with cool gadgets. The acronyms in the book all spelled out something meaningful, which was also fun.

It was while I was reading this book that I realized that books were being written for shorter attention spans these days. This book reads like a spy movie or T.V. show (which isn’t surprising, since the author has an M.A. in Twentieth Century Literature, Film and Television and used to be a video game producer/designer according to Wiki).

That said, other than the shortage of commas, this is (another) favorite new discovery. I’m waiting anxiously for the full series to come out in the States so I can buy a box set!

Really action-packed, full of diverse characters (one of whom even speaks American English!) and strong male and female characters. Great for reluctant readers and book lovers of all ages and backgrounds. (The main character is a 13-year-old boy, and School Library Journal lists it as being for grades 5-8.)

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter H.

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