Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Enchanted Glass by Diane Wynn Jones

Enchanted GlassEnchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Andrew’s grandfather passes away, Andrew receives his large, magical estate in the will. He decides to leave his university job to care for it full-time; he realizes that there are magical things he has forgotten over time and wants to properly care for the property with all its magical beasties.

Soon after Andrew moves in, 12-year-old Aiden shows up, explaining that his grandmother, before she died, instructed him to come to the estate after her death. Andrew lets him stay, and it’s a good thing he does—Aiden has magical abilities, and he helps Andrew to remember

his own magical past. He also helps Andrew figure out the mystery surrounding the enchanted glass in the back door of the house.

This is a fun story that has both realistic and fantastical elements. Aiden does regular things like clothes shopping—and then uses his magical wallet that always seems to produce the exact amount he needs when he needs it. There are also fun characters like Groil (a giant who eats only vegetables) and Rolph (a were-dog who can turn from boy to dog at will). Readers who enjoyed this book might also like the Erec Rex series (Kingsley).

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Out of My Mind by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story is about 10-year-old Melody. She has cerebral palsy and needs help in nearly every area of her life--she isn't even able to speak. She stresses that, just because she can't speak or make her body do what she wants it to do, doesn't mean that she's unintelligent or deaf. In fact, she is very bright.

Melody tells the reader about her life at home and at school--where she's in the special education class and has teachers that usually assume all of the students in that class don't really need to learn. Things change a bit when she starts having inclusion classes, which are a couple of class sessions during her day that she spends with the rest of the kids in her grade with an aide.

Things really change for Melody when she gets a device that she can input words and phrases into (along with music!) that allows her to communicate for the first time in her life.

This is a very touching story; there were just some aspects of it that seemed unbelievable or inconsistent to me...her mom's character, for example. But that wouldn't keep me from recommending this to others. And those that enjoy this book might also enjoy _Anything but Typical_ by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Art and Max by David Wiesner

Art & MaxArt & Max by David Wiesner

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I didn't particularly like this story. The drawings were pretty neat (I like the picture of Max in front of the cactus) but the story was sort of stupid. I felt like the author came up with the picture idea first and then tried to write a story around it.

Art is a big lizard and Max is a small lizard. They're both in the desert, and Art(hur)is painting on a canvas. Max sees this and wants to paint too. Not knowing what to paint, he begins painting Arthur. When Arthur shakes the paint off, he loses all of the paint color--along with his original color, making him nothing more than lines. Then Max tugs on the lines and Arthur collapses into nothing.

Max bends the lines back together to make Arthur, then uses a fan to blow all of the shaken-off paint back on. However, he doesn't look like how he did before; he's all pixelated...but this appears to be the answer, because that's how Arthur remains. And that's the end.

This is the sort of book that's okay to read won't make it onto any of my favorite lists or anything.

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The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

The Coming of the DragonThe Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Rune was an infant, he was found washed ashore in an old rowboat. Amma, a wise, elderly woman, takes him in and raises him as her own. Now 14-years-old, Rune is a quiet young man, always wondering about the meaning of the symbols on the necklace he was wearing when he was found as a baby.

While chasing after his loose goat in the woods, Rune sees a dragon fly overhead and is terrified; dragons hadn’t been seen in ages—why would one be out flying now? Has someone stolen from its treasure hoard and made it angry? It seems like it, as the dragon goes on to burn large parts of the countryside, killing dozens of people. When King Beowulf and his warriors plan to search for the dragon’s lair to exact revenge, it turns out that only Rune knows the direction to head. Will Rune find the courage to face the dragon again?

This is a great story of courage, survival, and action. The author based some of the characters and events on the last section of the famous tale of Beowulf. Those who enjoyed this story might also enjoy Barnhouse’s other medieval book The Book of the Maidservant or John David Anderson’s Standard Hero Behavior.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Voices of DragonsVoices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this book up for a couple of reasons: 1)it's a book about dragons, and 2)I thought it might be good for the 7/8 list. I felt as though it is too old for middle school students--not because of the main story with the dragons, but because of the sub-story with her best friend always talking about sex and how the main character should sleep with her boyfriend.

Kay is a 17-year-old girl living in a world where dragons are a reality. There was a peace pact created many years before separating the dragons and the humans by providing each with their own areas of land that were not to be crossed by the other. This pact has been upheld, more or less, since its creation, until Kay (who lives right by the border) unintentionally crosses the border after she falls into the river after rock climbing.

She probably would have drowned were it not for a dragon later named Artegal; he sees her and rescues her from the fierce river. Although terrified at first, Kay learns that Artegal knows English and is as interested in humans as she is in dragons. They become friends (tentatively, as each of them is breaking the law each time they meet) and figure out from an ancient text that dragons and humans used to be friends hundreds of years ago. Kay wonders if she and Artegal can help let their societies know that it's possible for both sides to be friends.

This book was okay; it was a little slow-going in parts, and the whole 'you must be the last virgin at Silver Ridge High' got to be annoying--although, to be fair, virginity comes into play later. Although it's an okay story, I think it's more suited for older readers.

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Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Cloaked in RedCloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book! I've read another book by Velde (_Now You See It..._) and enjoyed that one, so I thought I'd pick this one up when I saw that it was new. I'm glad I did!

Written in short stories, this is a quick read. What Velde does is take the fairytale of _Little Red Riding Hood_ and write it eight different ways. For example, we are told the story from the point of view of the girl, the grandma, and even the cloak itself!

I will definitely recommend this book to others, as it's so funny! The author's note in the beginning is also a must-read.

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