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
ChildrenFantasy Literature for Children ages 9-12.
Ares: Bringer of War by George O'Connor
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
Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Everyone thinks of Rin as her mother’s shadow. She belongs to a large extended family that all live near each other in the forest and, until recently, Rin has always been her hard-working mother’s helper. She cooks, cleans, fetches the water, helps take care of all the kids, etc. When she needs a little peace, she communes with the trees of the forest. She doesn’t really “speak” with them, but just feels their love and the constant harmony they provide.
But then Rin did something bad and the trees have withdrawn their love. She feels their disappointment and disgust with her. Now Rin feels unworthy and unloved and begins to sink into depression. In an attempt to help, her big brother Razo invites her to join him and his new wife at the Bayern court. There she meets Queen Isi and admires her strength and confidence. As Rin tries to find her place at court, she manages to tag along on a quest t... Read More
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle
When I was a kid, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time blew my mind. I’m sure that’s why I remember it as one of my favorite childhood books. Reading it gave me the first inkling of the immenseness of the universe and that the concepts of space and time were much more complicated than I had realized. I think it was also the book that started my life-long love of science fiction. Before that, I had no idea that I loved having my mind blown! It’s surprising then that I never read the sequels to A Wrinkle in Time. I don’t think I was aware of them until years later and then I probably thought of them as children’s books and passed them by. That was a big mistake which I’ve now corrected.
The first sequel, published eleven years later (in 1973) is A Wind in the Door. Meg is now in high school and Mr.... Read More
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Shannon Hale writes excellent children’s fantasy. River Secrets is the third book in her BAYERN series. It follows The Goose Girl and Enna Burning and focuses on one of readers’ (and the author’s) favorite characters from these books, Razo of the forest.
In the previous books, Razo’s friend Isi, who has wind magic, became queen of Bayern and his friend Enna, who has fire magic, helped Bayern win a battle with Tira. Now Bayern and Tira are swapping ambassadors and opening diplomatic relations. The people of Bayern are not popular in Tira because of what Enna, the fire mage, did to their army. Enna isn’t happy about her role in the battle, either, so she asks to go to Tira with the ambassador, hoping to redeem herself by doing something constructive instead of destructive with her magic.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Long ago, the Builders created Ember, an underground city. The Builders only intended for the people of Ember to stay underground for two hundred years, but, due to a slight wrinkle in the Builders’ plans, the people of Ember have stayed underground far longer than two hundred years. Now, supplies are running out. In fact, there soon won’t even be light bulbs left, and the people will be left in darkness.
Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember is a children's post-apocalyptic novel that follows the adventures of Lina and Doon. Lina and Doon, at twelve years old, have finished their schooling. Lina, who loves running, manages to become a Messenger, while Doon, who wants to find a way to fix Ember’s flagging generator, draws work in the Pipeworks. Lina is an outgoing and cheerful girl, while Doon is more introspective and given to temperamental outbursts. However, they are... Read More
The Haunting by Margaret Mahy
I first read The Haunting when I was about ten or eleven years old, and now — almost twenty years later — I was stunned by how much I remembered it. Usually good books leave an imprint of enjoyment on your memory, but such is the potency of Margaret Mahy's writing that I recalled almost every beat of her story. At the same time, there were parts of The Haunting that I could appreciate much more as an adult than as a child.
Barney Palmer is a sensitive but ordinary little boy, who is on his way from school one day when "the world tilted and ran downhill in all directions, and he knew he was about to be haunted again." Sure enough, the blurry vision of a ghost appears before him, a curly-haired boy wearing an old-fashioned velvet suit and lace collar, who cries: "Barnaby's dead! Barnaby's dead! And I'm going to be very lonely." Read More
Hello from 2030 by Jan Paul Schutten
I had some mixed feelings about Hello from 2030, a Middle Grade (grades 3-7) non-fiction book by Jan Paul Schutten that over the course of about 200 pages speculates on what the future might hold for human culture — driverless cars, robots, living houses, a changing environment — as well as explains how such “futurology” predictions are made. On the one hand, it is full of interesting moments of speculation about future technology, has a quick pace, is clear and easy to follow. On the other hand, I found a few choices a bit puzzling.
For instance, one segment talks about cameras in your home that can send images of an “intruder” to your watch or phone — “if it’s a stranger, you can warn the police with one push of a button.” Maybe this is my simple naiveté, but it seemed a bit strange to me for a kids’ book to worry them abou... Read More
The Secret of the Key by Marianne Malone
The Secret of the Key appears to be the final book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS adventures. This children’s series has been a bit of a disappointment for me and the only reason I have continued with it is that I requested a review copy of the audiobook edition of this final book and so I felt obligated to read it. As I have noted previously, and as Bill and Kelly have mentioned, the premise is fabulous, but the execution falls short.
The stories follow Ruthie and Jack, two sixth graders who find a way to shrink and explore the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago. The two likable kids discover that the... Read More
Maddigan’s Fantasia by Margaret Mahy
Early in the 22nd century, the world underwent a vast and radical change, in which the tectonic plates of the Earth shifted and a series of devastating earthquakes changed the face of the planet. As a result of these events — now known as the Great Chaos — the population has severely dropped and most technology has been lost. What remains is a dangerous wilderness where communities are isolated and bandits roam the unmapped highways.
Yet out of the ashes of the old world comes Solis, the shining city. It is here that the circus troupe known as Maddigan's Fantasia spends each winter before heading out every year to explore new lands, collect lost knowledge and spread some colour and joy to those living in a post-apocalyptic world.
But this year things are different. Because Solis is powered by the sun, it is in desperate need of a new solar converter if the... Read More