The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Emerald City of Oz is L. Frank Baum’s sixth OZ book. Here we find Dorothy Gale back at home in Kansas. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are about to lose their farm and they despair of what will happen to their niece Dorothy since they can no longer support her. The three decide that Dorothy should go live in Oz with her friend Princess Ozma who has often tried to get Dorothy to move there. But sweet little Dorothy can’t leave Uncle Henry and Aunt Em living lives of hard labor back in Kansas, so she gets permission to bring them to Oz, too.
Thus, Dorothy gets to give her aunt and uncle a tour of Oz (oh no!) and introduce them to all her friends — Cowardly Lion, Hungry Tiger, Billina, Sawhorse, Wizard, Pumpkinhead, Scarecrow, Woggle Bug, etc, etc, etc. On her tour she also run... Read More
ChildrenFantasy Literature for Children ages 9-12.
The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Right up front, Jordan Stratford advises the young readers of The Case of the Missing Moonstone, the first book in his WOLLSTONECRAFT DETECTIVE AGENCY series, that he is playing fast and loose with history. Ada Byron (also called Ada Lovelace), Lord Byron’s daughter, was eighteen years younger than Mary Godwin, not three, but Stratford thought these two brilliant young women working together and solving mysteries would be fun, so he changed the timeline. He was right; this alternate history is good fun.
Ada lives in a mansion, cared for by servants, because her mother has gone off to their country house. Ada has a mathematical frame of mind and great curiosity. She is bad with names and leads a very sheltered existence, preferring to take refuge in her hot-air balloon that is tethered to ... Read More
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
When the Roamer, Maggs, drives her carriage into the small town of Sparks, she finds a desperate people with nothing to trade. Sparks used to be reasonably flush for a post-apocalyptic society, but absorbing the refugees from Ember just before winter has used up almost all of its resources. People aren’t starving, but they might be soon. Maggs is about to leave when Doon and Lina spot an old book in her carriage. Doon wants the book, but Maggs has been using the book as fuel for her fires, so she insists that Lina pay at least one match for it.
The book turns out to have been written by the Builders for the people of Ember — probably to help them after they return to the surface, reasons Doon. Only eight pages remain, but they inspire Doon to return to Ember in order to find whatever the Builders left for them — and to scavenge any food that might still remain in the subterranean cit... Read More
The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum
OK. It’s obvious what’s going on here. As L. Frank Baum explained in the foreword to one of the OZ books (and I’ve seen such sentiments in some of his other forewords, too):
It's no use; no use at all. The children won't let me stop telling tales of the Land of Oz. I know lots of other stories, and I hope to tell them, some time or another; but just now my loving tyrants won't allow me. They cry: "Oz — Oz! more about Oz, Mr. Baum!" and what can I do but obey their commands?
I think it’s sweet that Baum wanted to satisfy his readers, but these stories are starting to feel like they were quickly and thoughtlessly thrown together just to satisfy those loving tyrants.
In The Road to Oz, Dorothy and Toto meet the Shaggy Man who carries a love magnet so that everyone... Read More
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Palace of Stone is a sequel to Shannon Hale’s excellent Newbery Honor-winning Middle Grade novel Princess Academy. You’ll definitely want to read Princess Academy first, and to avoid spoilers, you should read it before you read this review. So, if you haven’t read Princess Academy yet, go away and read it now. (Then come back, please.)
In Princess Academy, we met the poor hard-working uneducated families of Mount Eskel who survive by mining and carving linder, a valuable type of stone that they export to lowlanders. Their culture was changed when it was determined by lowlander priests that the next princess should come from Mount Eskel. To get the girls up to snuff, a “Princess Academy” ... Read More
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum
If you happen to know Dorothy Gale, let me advise you to stay away from her. The girl attracts natural disasters like she’s some sort of magnet. This time, it’s an earthquake. Dorothy and her cousin Zeb are traveling on a wagon in California when it strikes. Down they go into a big crack in the earth and keep falling until they land in a city made of glass buildings. There are several clues that they have entered a fairy realm: Zeb’s horse (Jim) and Dorothy’s kitten (Eureka) can suddenly talk, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (who was also in California) shows up with nine tiny piglets in his pocket, and the inhabitants of the city turn out to be made of vegetable matter. Dorothy and her friends can’t get out of the earth the way they came, so they decide to try to walk to Oz where they know they’ll be welcome.
First they are nearly killed while trying to fight their way past the... Read More
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
Reading a book by Catherynne Valente is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. It could be glass forests with shape-shifting reindeer that used to live on the moon, or blue kangaroos that mine the underground for memories encased within precious gems, or families living in giant Samovars that serve teas called the Elephant's Fiery Heart or the Crocodile's Long Dream.
Like a post-modern Alice in Wonderland (though Valente has coined the term "myth-punk" to describe her work), this is the sequel to her first children's novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, detailing the continued adventures of young wartime girl September throughou... Read More
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Ozma of Oz is the third book in L. Frank Baum’s OZ series. We all know what happened in the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, a boy named Tip accompanied several strange characters on a quest to help restore Princess Ozma to the throne of Oz. Dorothy, who was back in Kansas, didn’t appear in The Marvelous Land of Oz.
Ozma of Oz begins as Dorothy Gale (we didn’t know her last name until now) is with Uncle Henry on a ship heading to Australia. A storm blows up and washes Dorothy over the side. (It seems to me that Dorothy has an uncanny ability to attract deadly storms. Perhaps she should change her last name.) She manages to stay ... Read More
Ares: Bringer of War by George O'Connor
Ares: Bringer of War is George O'Connor's sixth title in his OLYMPIANS series of graphic retellings of Greek myths for younger readers. Short take? I'm wondering why the Hades I don't own the first five, an oversight I will quickly rectify. Long take below . . .
I absolutely loved this book. Beginning with its opening segment on the distinction to be made between the two gods of War in the Greek pantheon: Athena and Ares. O'Connor begins with Athena, whom he calls the "the goddess of martial skill. Of formations, of strategy. Of training realized and wisdom applied." And the art presents just such a calculating image of war, with its highly symmetrical depiction of Greek soldiers, their feet, spears, bodies, and shields precisely aligned, all against a cool blue background. But war isn't always so neatly organized; it is often "chaotic, unpr... Read More
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
Nickie is eleven years old when her aunt Crystal takes her to Yonwood, North Carolina. Their family has inherited a mansion, Greenhaven, from Nickie’s great-grandfather, and while Nickie loves the old building, Crystal is determined to sell it and get back to Philadelphia as soon as possible.
We see the house through Nickie’s eyes, and it is full of neat things, including her great-grandfather’s journals. Nickie also finds Amanda Stokes, who had cared for Nickie’s great-grandfather but who now has nowhere else to go. And there’s also a dog, Otis. Nickie agrees to help Amanda stay hidden in the house and they together create a soundproof room for Otis. (Crystal hates dogs.)
Nickie is a good natured kid and eager to help others. She sets three goals while at the mansion. She is determined to:
Fall in love
Help the world Read More
Rogue Knight by Brandon Mull
Rogue Knight , book two of Brandon Mull’s FIVE KINGDOMS series, continues the story about Cole, the boy who took his friends to a haunted house on Halloween and unwittingly caused them all to be sold into slavery in another universe. (Ouch.) Cole managed to escape slavery, but he’s racked with guilt, and now, with the help of some friends he’s made in The Outskirts, which consists of the five kingdoms of this series’ title, he hopes to eventually save his friends.
Cole is currently in Elloweer, the second of the Five Kingdoms (you can probably guess that there will be five books in this series). He’s tagging along with Mira, a princess who’s hiding from her father, the King, because her father wants to steal her magic for himself. Mira is trying to find her sisters who are also in hiding so they can work together to overthrow their evil father. Col... Read More
Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters
I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.
The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; the... Read More
The Foundry’s Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz
The Foundry’s Edge, by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, is a solid MG/YA entry that, I’d say, had more potential than was met. In failing to fully take advantage of its possibilities, it never falls so far as to be a “bad” read, but it also rarely inspires or enthralls, though it picks up in the latter quarter of the novel, both in terms of action and emotion.
The story is set at first in the city of Meridian, a technologically advanced (well past any other regions) city thanks to being the home of the Foundry, a corporation that has been spitting out all sort of marvelous inventions/gadgets. Meridian is threatened, though, by surrounding regions, who are both jealous and leery of Meridian’s technical and scientific prowess. Years ago war raged between the two groups, and since that time, the Foundry has been keeping Meridian’s enemies at bay by giving them more and... Read More
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Lina and Doon have led their people out from the subterranean city of Ember. Now, they encounter a world full of dazzling new things like birds, sunlight, and trees. For all its wonder, Lina and Doon have not entered a world of plenty. The humans before largely destroyed the world with their weapons and their insatiable need for revenge. Doon and Lina lead the wandering Emberites in search of a new home.
Instead of a home, however, they find Sparks, a town that has finally begun to realize tentative prosperity after years of struggle. Reluctantly, Mary, Ben, and Wilbur, Sparks’ leaders, agree to provide shelter, food and training to the people of Ember. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors that led them to destroy the world. Unfortunately, Sparks does not enjoy a large surplus of f... Read More
Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
I gave Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron a pretty fair shot I’d say—200 of its 370 pages, but eventually I just had to give it up. And I wasn’t alone in that, as my wife and 13-yr-old son gave up far, far quicker. As usual with books I didn’t care for, and especially for books I didn’t finish (a rarity for me), this will be a relatively short review, as I don’t like to belabor the point.
The problems began immediately, with the introduction of the main character (Promi), a sassy and spunky orphan street thief with a heart of gold who is good with a knife (though not good enough to avoid trouble with a corrupt and brutal priest), that ends up in a chase scene where Promi gets to toss off barbs at the chasing guards while performing acrobatic feats of derring do. Now, I’ve always been one to let... Read More
Charlemagne & the Paladins by Julia Cresswell
Charlemagne & the Paladins is another in the generally excellent MYTHS AND LEGENDS series from Osprey Publishing, this one written by Julia Cresswell and illustrated by Miguel Coimbra. Charlemagne & the Paladins displays the usual strengths of the series: a nicely condensed version of the story, informative sidebars, an easy to read style, and a good collection of complementary artwork.
The introduction begins by describing the wide geographic and cultural reach of stories about Charlemagne and his paladins, gives a bit of historical detail about the real-life emperor and his heirs, describes the process of “mythistory,” “where fact and fiction feed into each other,” and finally explains how most of the text will be made up of the French tales.
More detail on both t... Read More
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
I listened to The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare on audiobook, narrated by Paul Boehmer. It tells the story of Callum Hunt, or Cal, a boy who enrolls in a magical boarding school, makes friends, irritates teachers, and finds out he's been marked from birth by the greatest enemy the magical world knows. Sounds familiar, right?
I read a lot of complaining reviews about this Middle Grade book, all accusing The Iron Trial of being a Harry Potter rip-off. Cassandra Clare is, after all, the woman who got her start by writing Harry Potter fan-fic. This is not Harry Potter fan-fic, though, any more than Star Wars is Joseph Campbell fan-fic.
Th... Read More
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The fifth and final book in Madeleine L’Engle’s TIME quintet is An Acceptable Time, a story about Polly, the daughter of Meg and Calvin, the kids we first met in that now-classic children’s science fiction novel A Wrinkle in Time. (Polly is also featured in a different L’Engle series about the O’Keefe family, and An Acceptable Time is the fourth and final book of that series. Slightly confusing, I know.)
One autumn while Polly is visiting her famous grandparents at their house in the country, Polly begins to see people who shouldn’t exist whenever she’s near that big rock where Meg and Charles Wallace used to go to think and watch the stars when they were kids. One of the people she sees is a girl who looks like a Native American and turns out to be a druid. There are also men carry... Read More
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Many Waters is the fourth book in Madeleine L’Engle’s TIME quintet. The previous three books, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet have all focused on Meg Murray and her strange little brother Charles Wallace as they travel through time and space. Many Waters is completely different. In this story, Meg’s twin brothers Sandy and Dennis mess with a computer in their mother’s lab and get blasted back to the time of Noah before he built the ark. From there the story turns into a strange historical fantasy whose source text is Genesis 6.
In this well-known biblical story, God declares that humans are violent and corru... Read More
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978) is the third book in Madeleine L’Engle’s TIME quintet, a series of science fiction novels for children. The first book, the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time, blew my mind when I was a kid and I’m just now getting around to reading the sequels.
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Meg Murray is now an adult. She’s married to her childhood friend Calvin O’Keefe and is pregnant with their first child. It’s Thanksgiving time and Calvin is away at an academic conference overseas. Calvin’s mother, a strange reclusive woman who has never shown any interest in the Murray family, has unexpectedly accepted their invitation to Thanksgiving dinner. While she’s visiting, Mr Murray, a famous physicist, gets a call from the President of the United States. Th... Read More