Sometimes you just need a “cracking good story.” In 1842, Maria Merryweather, an orphan from London, goes to live in the West Country with a distant counsin. Maria’s cousin Sir Benjamin is welcoming and affectionate and Moonacre Manor is beautiful but cousin and manor have an air of mystery. Why is the Pine Woods full of terrifying Dark Men? Who is the beautiful woman who lives in a secret cave? Why is Maria’s imaginary friend Robin suddenly real? What is Sir Benjamin’s secret sadness? Did the original founder of Moonacre Manor put the town under a curse? Did Maria really see a little white horse in the moonlight?
The Little White Horse has adventure, romance, scary bits, and characters you care about. It is, however, very definitely old fashioned in flavor and gentle. Give this book to children who enjoy books like The Secret Garden, but want more magic or romance than straight historical fiction.
(PS: This was also J.K. Rowling’s favorite book when she was a child–she’s the one who called it “cracking good.”)
Posted by: Sarah
Fascinating! What more can I say? If you haven’t read it, read it. If you have read it you may want to read it again. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse who gets help for her family from the wise Rats of Nimh. The intricate civilization the rats have developed is fascinating and the suspense as the story unfolds is compelling. Enjoy.
Posted by: Iris
I am sure you have heard of Harry Potter. It is pretty hard not to have heard about him in the past decade. But have you actually read any of the books? You probably already know that Harry is a wizard, but what are the stories really about? If you are curious and want to find out, read on.
The first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, begins with a very normal family who live in England. The Dursleys do not believe in magic or any of that nonsense and make sure their son does not either. Then their nephew Harry arrives after surviving a killing curse from the darkest of dark wizards—Lord Voldemort. Suddenly the Dursleys are stuck raising this boy who is not normal or average. Harry’s life is pretty miserable with the Dursleys until his 11th birthday when suddenly, he learns that he is a wizard, and not just any wizard, but possibly the most famous wizard in the world (because he killed Lord Voldemort)!
Harry sets off to start his education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after visiting Diagon Alley where he gets his first glimpse of the wizarding world. At school, Harry is suddenly surrounded by people wanting to get to know him, but Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger become his closest buddies and take part in all his adventures. Soon Harry, Ron and Hermione find themselves trying to solve a mystery about a secret being guarded at Hogwarts while learning all about charms, transfiguration, and Quidditch. Tension mounts as Harry and his friends come closer and closer to the secret and closer and closer to danger. In the climax, Harry faces his first challenge as a wizard and must prove himself or die trying.
What makes these books, and this one in particular, so enjoyable is not just the action and plot, but the vivid descriptions that really show you what this world is like. The characters are lovable and the setting is one you wish you could jump right into. Be warned though—once you read one you won’t be able to stop. Enjoy!
Posted by: Kate
Rosemary’s mother, a woodwife or healer who was half elf, has been killed and Rosemary is left all alone in the world. She decides that rather than going down to the village and inevitably being married off to a man whom she must then serve the rest of her life, she would try to find her father, a renowned outlaw, Robin Hood. She cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy and armed with her crude bow and arrows she sets off for Sherwood Forest to seek him. Along the way she becomes fast friends with a huge dog who looks like a wolf, becomes an enemy of a vicious and frightening soldier who wears the skin of a black horse’s head as if it were a helmet, and meets an oversized man with the personality of a child and the voice of an angel.
This story entwines feminism, fantasy, folklore and adventure. Rosemary, or Rowan as she chooses to be called, is enterprising and interesting. There is lots of action and also self-discovery and self-determination. A good story for girls from 5th through 8th grade.
Posted by: Fran W.
Let me start out by saying the circuses give me the willies. That said, I also have to admit that I find them fascinating. So, when I saw the cover of this new alphabet book, I was suckered in, exactly the way that P.T. Barnum would have hoped.
Just as advertised, the information is amazing, bizarre and celebrated. In a mere one or two sentences per page, we learn that the phrase “hold your horses”—one of my father’s favorites—came from trying to get the circus parade through a town without a traffic mishap. Under bizarre, there are descriptions of weird novelty acts involving strength, agility or just plain foolhardiness—not to mention the “Fiji Mermaid”. Then there’s the celebrated Jumbo, the famous six and a half ton elephant whose name has become synonymous with the word huge.
But, just like Barnum and his ilk, I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll simply say, “come one, come all” to one of the greatest new books on our library shelves.
Posted by: Eileen
H.I.V.E. is the Higher Institute of Villainous Education and since this school hand picks only the elite prospective student, i.e. the most athletic, the most technically advanced, the smartest and cleverest in various abilities, it must abduct or kidnap all its incoming class. Once you’re brought to this school on a secluded island inside a seemingly active volcano, you’re in for the six-year program, and leaving is not an option. The elite students brought to H.I.V.E. study textbooks like Deathtraps: Their Use and Care; Global Domination: What You Need to Know!; A Beginner’s Guide to Doomsday Weapons, and more.
The students, of course, are not just any clever young teens, but ones who have already accomplished some unethical or criminal deeds and therefore are good candidates for H.I.V.E. But — that being said — the main characters with questionable pasts are really good (bad?) kids.
Thirteen-year-old Otto Malpense is a speed reading, photographic memory talented guy who finds some things of interest at this school and some new good friends as well — athletic martial-arts expert Wang; computer genius Laura; and beautiful diamond thief Shelly. These four friends band together and rebel at being forced into a 6-year sentence at H.I.V.E. Can they accomplish what’s never been done there — a break out? And, while that’s being attempted, who will stop the deadly biotechnical science experiment that’s running amuck?
Plenty of loose ends and unanswered questions assure the reader of exciting sequels to this intriguing, devious, deliciously evil first book of Mark Walden. Now that Harry Potter is finishing his seven-year schooling, are we readers in for a six-year run of a new type of school and student? I hope so. I recommend this book for 5th grade and up.
Posted by: Fran D.
A relatively new addition to the collection, The Lamb-a-roo, is sweet story about a young lamb that is left alone and looking for a mother. Coincidently, a kangaroo who is sad about not having a baby finds the lamb. They hit it off and become a family, but soon realize that they are very different from one another. After a fun switch-a-roo, they realize that it is their differences that make them special. The illustrations add charm to this humorous yet touching tale about what makes a family. Although it is an enjoyable story on its own, it could be used for a discussion about adoption.
Posted by: Liz
The time is 1964 when we meet the River family of Hog’s Hollow. Each of the four Rivers has a dream – Old Man River (the father) dreams of protecting his family and begins building a fallout shelter in the front yard; Flo River (the mother) is writing a novel that she dreams will be as popular as “Gone With the Wind”; Beau (older son) has space fever and dreams that he will be an astronaut, and Danny (younger son) dreams of having a dog.
Danny and Beau are brothers who are also great buddies and they spend their days together working on their fort, riding bikes and sometimes causing mischief. Life is going along well until tragedy strikes the family and Beau has an accident playing on the fallout shelter. His death shatters the River family and their dreams. The fallout shelter is filled in with dirt and covered over with grass; the novel is put away, while Danny silently grieves – until a stray dog comes his way.
Danny’s parents allow him to keep this dog and he names him Rocket. It isn’t too very long before Danny begins to feel that his brother lives within this dog. He feels that Rocket communicates with him just as his brother once did. Unfortunately, Rocket bites the boy who torments Danny and the police come to take the dog away. Danny refuses to believe that Rocket isn’t in some way his brother and he isn’t about to lose him again, so he runs away with Rocket heading to the one destination that Beau always dreamed of – Cape Kennedy.
A magical meeting with Gus Grissom, Beau’s all-time favorite astronaut, helps Danny, as well as his parents, to reconcile some of their feelings about Beau’s death. This is a heartwarming story of brothers, dreams, love and a dog named Rocket.
As an interesting aside, some of the small details in this book are from the author’s own childhood.
Posted by: Wendy
This was a really enjoyable book that takes a look inside the lives of teens in a small town whose lives intersect in interesting and everyday ways. They are brothers and sisters and friends and crushes and co-workers and strangers all trying to figure out their young lives. There are no great events in this book, no orphaned children or near drownings; well there is a grandmother who is driven to the fire station for medical help by kids who have no driver’s license and who also have to jumpstart the car. Mostly though, there are just simple everyday happenings of lost necklaces and crushes and part-time jobs and parents and learning to play the guitar and town festivals and embarrassing yourself in front of the girls you like. It was fun to get inside the minds of kids, especially teens whom we often wonder what could they be thinking.
(A note: this book won the 2006 Newbery Award).
Posted by: Mary