Posts Tagged ‘MG’

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

September 7th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children took me by surprise. By the back cover copy, I thought it would more of a ghost story with maybe some light horror type elements. It’s actually a fantasy novel along the lines of an X-Men type story with no technology and a little more magic.

In the present day, teenage Jacob loses his World War II grandfather to what police and his parents call a vicious dog attack. Jacob knows this isn’t true, as he found his grandfather and saw the hideous monster responsible for the attack. Jacob falls apart, and eventually his father takes him to a Welsh island for six weeks. The island is interesting to both Jacob and his father. To his father, it’s a birdwatchers paradise. For Jacob, it’s a chance to research his grandfather’s past, as his grandfather was evacuated from Poland to an orphanage on this island during World War II.

Jacob’s grandfather showed both his son and grandson photos of ‘peculiar’ children, like a girl floating a few inches off of the ground. He told them tall tales of his life in the orphanage before he enlisted in the Army. As Jacob finds the bombed-out orphanage, he realizes that maybe those tails weren’t quite as tall as he’d assumed.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a great novel for both older middle-grade and younger YA readers. There’s a little romance but it’s inline with novels like Rick Riordan’s Olympian series. The old photos add a nice visual touch to the novel. This is clearly the first novel in a series, with an end that clearly sets up the adventure for the following books.

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Source: Nook e-book
Read: August 2011

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The Unwanteds: Dystopian Middle Grade novels mixes an idyllic magical world with a cold, repressive regime

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

In Quill, the people are divided into three groups: wanted, necessary, and unwanted. The unwanted are eliminated. Permanently. When thirteen-year old Alex is declared unwanted, he tries to stay strong and be grateful that his twin brother Aaron is wanted.

When Alex arrives at the eliminated site he’s shocked to find that instead of being killed he’s taken to the magical world of Artime. Created to protect the unwanted, who tend to be artists, musicians and other creative folk, Artime is a magical paradise with fun classes, talking statues, and more. Alex is finally able to express himself, as drawing, creative thinking, and expressing emotion are encouraged in Artime while banned in Quill.

Meanwhile, Aaron progresses in the Quill University and has come under the eye of the country’s dictator, Justine. Alex wishes Aaron was with him in Quill, feeling a bond between them that increases over time. This bond could destroy Artime’s very existence.

The Unwanteds would make a nice combination gift pack with The Giver by Lois Lowry and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Fans of Harry Potter might also enjoy it. The world is a fun mixture of cold, repressive regime and colorful world in which children are taught to use their creativity to solve problems. Alex makes his own choices and faces consequences, yet he also has a strong mentor able to both understand and guide him.

Definitely recommended for middle grade readers.

Read by: Kelly

Title: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Date read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Return to Camp Half-Blood in The Lost Hero

February 26th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

I opened up The Lost Hero curious to discover whether Riordan could replicate the success, humor, and suspense of his first series revolving around Camp Half-Blood. The original series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, ended with a new prophecy for the demigods to fulfill, but that prophecy could come to pass anytime in the future.

The Lost Hero opens from new character Jason’s point of view as he finds himself on a school bus holding hands with a girl, yet with no memories of who he is, and how he ended up on the bus. As he visits the Grand Canyon, storm spirits attacks them. Neither Jason nor his two new friends, Piper and Leo, know they’re demigods. After fighting the storm spirits, they’re whisked away to Camp Half-Blood by Annabeth and another demigod. The new story begins not long after the events of the original series.

As the story progresses, the narrative is also told from the perspectives of Piper, daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo, son of Hephaestus. Occasionally the reader sees the same scene from multiple viewpoints. All three narrators have a similar voice even though the characters have their own sets of challenges, problems, and heartaches. As Jason, Leo, and Piper embark on a quest to save Hera, who has been captured, Annabeth leaves on her own journey to find her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, who is missing. Annabeth’s journey is not shown, although it will come into play in the later books, as Percy’s disappearance is bound up with Jason’s appearance.

Jason is very much in the Percy Jackson/Harry Potter mold; he’s a natural leader who does what he needs to do, even if it involves putting himself into danger to save his friends. Riordan gives his characters a mix of cultural backgrounds (Leo’s mother was Mexican-American, Piper’s father is Cherokee), and the diversity is appreciated.

There’s a similar mix of action and age-appropriate romance to this series as the first. Yet the story is unique enough and Riordan subtly (and logically) changes the rules of the world of the books to entice fans of the original to enjoy this series.

The second book in the series, The Son of Neptune, comes out in the fall of 2011.

Read by: Kelly

Title: The Lost Hero, Heroes of Olympus Book One
Author: Rick Riordan
Date read: February 2011
Source: Public Library

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2010 NBA Winner: Mockingbird

January 30th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Fiction, Middle Grade
 
Kathryn Erskine's Mockingbird

I’m always curious about books that earn major awards as hype and quality don’t always overlap. With Mockingbird, I  immediately saw why it won the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The novel tackles several difficult subjects—Asperger’s Syndrome, school shootings—and blends them into a moving story. Writing about these subjects in a way appropriate for middle grade readers is impressive. The ending is fairly pat, but it makes sense for the intended audience and honestly: who doesn’t like a reassuring (if not happy) ending?

I’ve read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon and, inevitably, I thought of it while reading Mockingbird. Both books are told from a narrator unable to relate to the people around them, and both authors use a disability as a way to shine light on delicate emotional situations.

Caitlin grows throughout Mockingbird, learning words like “closure” and “empathy” as she tries to relate to the people around her. While this can be a tad heavy-handed, it works. This would be an excellent book to use to teach the concept of metaphors to younger readers. For example, Caitlin prefers to draw in black and white, since colors muddle the world. Yet by the end of the story she starts using colors since she understands the world is nuanced and she can’t hide her head under couch cushions when facing problems.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Mockingbird
Author: Kathryn Erskine
Read: January 2011
Source: Public Library

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