Friday, August 29, 2014

The Badger Knight - a review

Erskine, Kathryn. 2014. The Badger Knight. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

After the great plague, Adrian's father is overly protective. Having lost his wife and daughter, he is determined to protect his12-year-old son, Adrian.  Small and weak, Adrian has what we now call asthma and albinism. In the rural England of the 1300s, however, his condition is more often considered an unlucky and unholy affliction - rendering him only slightly more popular than Thomas the leper. Though he is quick of mind, skillful with a bow, and able to scribe, he is nonetheless treated as useless and dim-witted.

When the Middle March is threatened by war with the Scots, Adrian sees a chance to prove his mettle,

"Soon I hear the blacksmith's voice in my head: Nock! Mark! Draw! Loose! I spread some dirt under my eyes to counteract the bright sun, close my left eye, ready  my bow, and take aim at a single leaf fifty feet away.  On my second shot I split the leaf in two.  As I practice more, I can hit a leaf on my first try, even when it sways in the breeze.  I lose all sense of time and feel like I'm in another world.
Until I hear someone approach through the woods, and I grab my arrows, stowing them quickly with my bow inside the tree trunk.  For years I haven't been discovered and I don't intend for anyone to find me out now.  When the time is right, I will shock them all.  So I stand and look up at the branches to divert attention away from the trunk and to show that I'm simply addlepated Adrian looking at birds."

The Badger Knight is a historical fiction adventure that touches upon many common themes (bullying, friendship, gender bias, coming of age, survival, the nature of good and evil) as Adrian goes off to war and becomes a man - not by might, but by right.

 "... I'm reminded of Nigel and his search for the truth.  I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how these "truths" aren't real at all.  They're things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like me are supposedly angels or, more often, devils.  I didn't believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.
     Now I see what he means."

The Knight Badger is rich in historical details - from the minor particulars of everyday life and the societal hierarchy of medieval England to the gruesome manner of medieval warfare. Erskine offers an unvarnished look into the lives of serfs, tradesmen, religious leaders, free lances, city street urchins, and robber barons. The author's thoughts on the nature of war are on display throughout, but readers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and examine their own biases.

A solid adventure story that should appeal to boys and girls.  There is room for a sequel.

On shelves 8/26/14.   Target audience: ages 8-12, Gr 3-7
352 pages

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Time of the Fireflies - a review

I was actually searching for a fantasy book, but stumbled upon a good old-fashioned ghost story instead.

Little, Kimberly Griffiths. 2014. The Time of the Fireflies.  New York: Scholastic.

Larissa Renaud doesn't live in a regular house. As she tells it,
"My parents moved us into the Bayou Bridge Antique Store—a fact I do not brag about. It's embarrassing to admit I share the same space as musty, mothball-smelly furniture, dusty books, and teacups that dead people once drank from."
Sometimes she wishes they had never come back here from Baton Rouge, but her family has a long history in the bayou town, much of it is tragic.

When Larissa receives  a mysterious call on a broken antique phone, she's got a real mystery on her hands.
"Trust the fireflies," 
the ghostly girl tells her, setting Larissa on  a strange and eerie path of discovery. Can Larissa right the wrongs of the past to save her family's future?

Though it highlights rural poverty, bullying, and new sibling issues, The Time of the Fireflies is at heart, a ghost story with a remarkably likable and resourceful protagonist.

To avoid giving away too much, I'll merely mention that readers may see some similarities to Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning, When You Reach Me. The spunky Larissa and author Kimberly Griffiths Little will draw you into the rich world of the Louisiana bayou until you too, are carried away by the fireflies.

A link to The Time of the Fireflies trailer is here.  I'm not posting the trailer here because, honestly, I think the book is better than its trailer.

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher as an Advance Reader Copy.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Visit me at the ALSC blog



It's Wednesday. I'm blogging for the ALSC Blog today. Stop by and see what you think.


If you're a librarian or book blogger, the Cybils are looking for judges.  Check it out here. I've done it in the past.  It's hard work, but a great opportunity and some fun as well!


Have a great day!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Last Wild - an audiobook review

Torday, Piers. 2014. The Last Wild. Penguin Audio.  Narrated by Oliver Hembrough.

Like Eva Nine, in the WondLa series, Kester Jaynes finds that he can communicate with creatures of the wild - an ability that is particularly intriguing in a dystopian world where all animals are presumed dead - killed by the incurable red-eye virus.  Kester finds himself the leader of his own "wild," the ragtag remnants of the animal world.  Flora and fauna are pitted against commercial efficiency and industrialism in this first book of a planned trilogy.

The plot is occasionally predictable, but slow patches are often brightened by the humorous antics of The General (a likable but militaristic cockroach) and a befuddled white pigeon who speaks nonsense that is also somehow prophetic.

The author and narrator hail from the UK, so the reader or listener should be prepared for numerous British words that are uncommon here in the US (wellies, trainers, boot, windscreen, plaits, etc.).

My review of The Last Wild for Audiofile Magazine appears here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Southern migration

I'd like to say that I'm going on vacation, but it's really more of a migration—the annual road trip to deliver my two Jersey girls safely to their respective universities in North Carolina and Florida.


I know that I should have 8 days worth of reviews ready to post while I'm gone, but I don't work that far ahead.  So, enjoy the end of your summer, and I'll see you next week!
 (or on Facebook or Twitter)

As always, my thanks for your continued interest.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Words with Wings - a review

Below is my review from the August, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.

GRIMES, Nikki. Words with Wings. 1 CD. 41 min. Recorded
Books. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490609676. Playaway, digital
download.

Gr 3–5— Gabriella is a dreamer, more like the father she visits than the mother she lives with every day. Since her parents separated, Gabby and her mother have moved, and she has enrolled in a new school. Always the class daydreamer, she's prepared for the teasing that she knows will come. Mention the word "butterfly," and her thoughts may soar out the classroom window on the imagined wings of a beautiful creature. Other words create thoughts that are more pensive. Sometimes it's easier to retreat into her imagination than to face her circumstances. Gabby's expectations for her new school are low, but her teacher and a quiet boy in the back of the room offer some hope in her new surroundings. With encouragement, perhaps a pen and paper can anchor the "words with wings" that set Gabby's mind adrift. Mutiyat Ade-Salu is perfectly cast for this story in verse, told in the first person in the present tense story. Her voice is youthful and likable, and as Gabriella's thoughts soar, plummet, and wander, so too does the voice of Ade-Salu. A perfect book for poets, dreamers, and reluctant readers.


Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Storm - a review

Napoli, Donna Jo. 2014. Storm. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Stormtold in first person, present tense prose, presents the story of the biblical flood through the eyes of 16-year-old Sebah, an unlikely stowaway aboard Noah's massive ark.

The story unfolds in chapters that correspond with the biblical timeline - 40 days of rain, 150 days for the waters to recede, 10 months until the mountains become visible, 40 days until the release of a bird, etc.
(All can be found in the 7th and 8th chapters of Genesis.)

After chronicling Sebah's three week struggle to survive the deluge with her companion Aban, the chapter titled, "Day 22," ends,
It's another creature.  Like the first, but larger.  And obviously male.  He perches in a round hole high in the side of the ship.  There is a line of such holes.  And I passed another line below as I climbed.
A whole ship of these creatures.
I think of letting go, disappearing into the sea. I let loose one hand and look down. The sea is far below. I feel the energy seep from me. It would be so easy to just give up.
...
The creature behind me nudges my dangling hand.
I reach for the male's hand, and I am half pulled, half shoved up through the hole and into the ship.

Ms. Napoli clearly put an enormous amount of thought into the logistics of preparing for a massive exodus of animals with little or no possibility of resupply for more than a year. She details the grueling work of the voyage.  While Sebah struggles to remain hidden and survive in the enclosure of the bonobos, Noah and his family have a huge responsibility to the ark's inhabitants. The animals must be secure from each other, their enclosures must be cleaned, they must be fed, they must have fresh water. Their survival is imperative. The family collects rainwater, they dry and ration supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables for the ark's herbivores, they fish to obtain fresh food for the carnivores. The family's nerves grow frayed under the stress.  They begin to argue and turn against one another.  The hidden Sebah sees much,

"Respect!" Noah claps his hands above his head, and dust flies through the dim light.  "And haven't you learned arguing gets us nowhere?"  He takes his ax back from Ham. "The bottom deck stinks.  I have to breathe shallow to stand going down there.  Everyone has to help Japheth and me clean it out.  Today! Let our wives feed and water the animals of this deck and the top —while we shovel waste.  Noah goes up the ladder with Japheth at his heels.
How you will perceive this book will depend greatly upon how you perceive the biblical story of the great flood. Arguments could be made for classification as historical fiction, alternative history, survival fiction, dystopian fiction, or fantasy. However you choose to view the book, it cannot be denied that it is a thought-provoking look at the nature of humans and animals, of loss and love, of despair and hope.

An Author's Note, Timeline from Genesis Verses, and Bibliography are included.  Visit the author's website http://www.donnajonapoli.com/ya.html#STORM to read an excerpt.

(I'm not a Russell Crowe fan, but now I think that I might want to watch the movie, Noah, just to see another perspective.)

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher, and was an Advance Reader Copy)


Monday, August 4, 2014

Hope for Winter - a review

First there was Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again (a companion book to the movie, Dolphin Talethat detailed the rescue and rehabilitation of the baby dolphin, Winter. Now there is Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship.


Yates, David, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff.
2014. Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Anyone who has seen the movie, Dolphin Tale, knows the story of Winter, the rescued dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail.  Now, in the book Hope for Winter (and in the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2 movie), people will learn of Hope, another bottlenose dolphin rescued in circumstances remarkably similar to those of Winter's, and destined to bring them together.

In simple language, this paperback picture book tells the story of Hope's rescue and new life at the aquarium,

     When the cast and crew finished filming Dolphin Tale, they threw a party at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. They were happily celebrating, when they received an urgent call —a baby dolphin was on her way to the aquarium.  She was very sick and might not survive the trip.  A group of veterinarians, dolphin trainers, and volunteers left the party and started getting prepared.  When the baby dolphin arrived, it was clear that every minute counted.

Back matter includes several pages of information on Clearwater Marine Aquarium, two pages of "Amazing similarities between Winter and Hope," and "Dolphin Facts."

Fans of the original movie, animal enthusiasts, and teachers should love this one.

(Publication date: August 26, 2014)

 


Today is Nonfiction Monday.  See all of today's Nonfiction selections at the Nonfiction Monday blog.