Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Audiobook Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, performed by Katherine Kellgren

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
performed by Katherine Kellgren

HarperAudio, 2016. 13.75 hours on 11 discs.
Starred Review

I’ve already reviewed this book in print form, but oh, Katherine Kellgren’s performance makes it so much fun!

We’ve got alternate history England, featuring Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days. In this version, many people have the magic power to turn into an animal. In the course of things, Jane finds out she is one, which is how she escapes losing her head.

The story is funny and clever and twists history just enough to be terribly fun. And Katherine Kellgren’s brilliant vocal abilities are perfect to bring out all the humor in the situations.

By now, I’ve become Katherine Kellgren’s fan. In a story set in England that was already outstanding in an over-the-top humorous sort of way, her performance puts it even more over the top. Now when I recommend this book, I’m going to suggest listening.

harperaudio.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Blood Rose Rebellion

by Rosalyn Eves

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2017. 407 pages.

I’m getting used to alternate histories with magic, but this was an alternate history of something I didn’t know much about in the real world – the Hungarian revolution in 1848.

Anna Arden doesn’t mean to break other people’s spells. But sometimes, especially when her emotions get stirred up, this happens spectacularly, and people get hurt. After she ruins her sister’s debut, she’s sent off with her grandmother to stay in Hungary for awhile at her grandmother’s childhood home.

But various people find out about Anna’s unusual abilities. Would she be able to break the Binding spell – the one that confines magic to the nobility, the Luminate class? And what are the motives of the people who want to use her in this way? But at the same time, what would be the cost? Would this break the power of the Circle, so that common people can have access to magic? But what will the Circle do to stop her?

Anna’s confused as to what she should do. Meanwhile, there’s a handsome Romani young man whom Anna would like to teach her Romani magic. Maybe if she can’t do Luminate magic, maybe she could do Romani magic, which is so different.

Romance and adventure, magic and danger – all put into the context of the actual history of the Hungarian rebellion from the Hapsburgs.

randomhouseteens.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo, read by Jenna Lamia

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Raymie Nightingale

by Kate DiCamillo
read by Jenna Lamia

Listening Library, 2016. 4 ½ hours on 4 compact discs.
Starred Review
(Review written in 2016.)

I already loved Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale. Now, having heard Raymie’s voice, and the voices of the others of the Three Rancheros, I love Raymie and her friends even more.

I already talked about the plot in my review of the print version. Now let me talk about the new things that struck me when I got to listen to the story.

The narrator of this book is wonderful, giving each of the girls a distinctive voice, and giving all voices a slight southern accent. Being a northerner myself, even though the book is set in Florida, I didn’t hear southern accents when I read it in my head. The accents definitely added to the charm.

Also, after listening, the characters and events are much more memorable. Maybe I read more quickly when it was in my mind. Now I feel more as if I’ve experienced the events of the book. And I now feel like I’ve met the characters, spent some time with them.

Again, the narrator’s characterizations of the girls are spot on. Raymie’s voice is tentative, figuring out the world. I just wanted to hug her and help her through. Louisiana is naïve and hopeful. Beverly Tapinski gives her tough-girl front. She’s not afraid of anything.

The story is a crazy yarn of good intentions that spin out of control. These girls can’t even attend a simple baton-twirling lesson without something going wrong. But we hear the girls tackle setbacks together. Even tough-girl Beverly can’t resist the sweet, innocent, and hungry Louisiana. And we understand how Raymie is pulled along.

This would make good family listening. I don’t remember them saying how old the girls are, but I would say upper elementary school age. There aren’t any boys in the story, but the antics are so amusing, I don’t think anyone in the family will get bored.

This beautiful story only gets better with re-listening. Kate DiCamillo just keeps winning Newbery Medals – and this new story is as great a book as any of them.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Echo

by Pam Muñoz Ryan

read by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler
music performed by Corky Siegel

Scholastic Audiobooks, 2016. 10 hours, 22 minutes, on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review
2016 Newbery Honor Book
2016 Odyssey Honor Audiobook

This is an amazing audiobook production.

The story is about an enchanted harmonica. The prologue tells of a boy lost in the woods in Germany who learns about the sisters whose spirit enchants the harmonica, and who entrust it into his care.

Then the main part of the book gives us three stories – first a boy in Germany with a musical gift but with a birthmark on his face that makes him seen as less than perfect and in danger in Hitler’s Germany. The second story is about two brothers in Pennsylvania at an orphanage after their grandmother became too frail to care for them. Mike is a talented piano player, and it seems they have a chance of a home, but something is wrong. Perhaps he can join the harmonica band that’s auditioning for new members. Then Ivy, in California, has to move to a new home, where children of Mexican heritage aren’t allowed to go to school with the other children. But she can join the orchestra.

The three stories are told completely separately, with a different narrator for each part. What they have in common is that all involve a harmonica with an especially beautiful tone that has a red M painted on it. The three stories come together in an episode at the end, and then we get an epilogue to tell a little more about the story of the boy and the three sisters who sent the harmonica out into the world.

The book is good, and won Newbery Honor. Each story has some punch to it, and each child has reason to need the encouragement that comes through the harmonica.

The audio production is exceptional! There is harmonica music throughout, as well as piano music when that’s part of the story. It adds so much to hear the songs being played.

Some producers might not have dared to add harmonica music when the text is raving about the harmonica’s glorious tone. But for the most part, the music played went perfectly with what was described. For several of the songs, they added a singer, which I wasn’t completely happy with – but that was a way to let the listener know the words, which was a nice addition for the child listener. Even though I know the words to songs such as “Brahm’s Lullaby” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” an unobtrusive way to include them for kids was to have a voice along with the harmonica playing.

This is definitely a book that has much value added in audio form! A delightful listening experience.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Silver in the Blood, by Jessica Day George

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Silver in the Blood

by Jessica Day George

Bloomsbury, New York, 2015. 358 pages.
Review written in 2016.

Set in 1897, this is a historical fantasy romance about two cousins who are being sent from New York to Bucharest, Romania, to meet and learn the truth about their mother’s family.

Now, the copy on the back of the book gives away what they will find. LouLou also encounters a young man on the ship who asks her, “Are you the wing?” LouLou tells about it in her letter to her cousin Dacia:

“Are you the wing?” He said it again, and looked me up and down yet again! “You are not the claw, and there is never a smoke anymore.”

Complete gibberish, Dacia! What was I to do? I simply goggled at him for a moment. When I gathered myself, I started to turn away again, when he said, “You are the wing; I see it now.”

By the time the girls do find out what the Wing, the Claw, and the Smoke are, we are not at all surprised. I can’t help but wonder if it would have given the book more momentum if it had started when they arrived in Bucharest, rather than during their separate journeys there. There’s some build-up to the revelation of the family’s magic that falls a bit flat by the time we discover what it is.

We do end up with an interesting situation. Two young ladies ready for New York society suddenly discover magical powers and that their powerful family is part of a prophecy – and a political plot. They must decide which side they are on.

The timing of the story fits with the publication of the book Dracula and the girls meet Prince Mihai, a descendant of the famous count. Their family has always served the Dracul family. Prince Mihai intends that they continue to do so.

This book is a historical novel for teens who like regency fiction with dances and gowns and society – combined with a twist of magic and political intrigue. The exotic setting of the Romania of 1897 adds to the fun.

JessicaDayGeorge.com

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Source: This review is based on an advance reader copy I got at an ALA conference.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Ashes, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Ashes

The Seeds of America Trilogy, Book Three

by Laurie Halse Anderson

A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 298 pages.
Starred Review

This book concludes The Seeds of America Trilogy. I never did read the first book, Chains, about Isabel, an African girl stolen into slavery during Colonial times. (I need to remedy that!) I did read Forge, the second book, about Curzon, a slave turned soldier, and what he went through at Valley Forge.

In Ashes, Isabel and Curzon have joined forces and are going through the countryside looking for Isabel’s little sister Ruth. When they find her, their welcome is nothing like Isabel hoped for. But they wind up at the army camp in Williamsburg as the American and French soldiers prepare to lay siege to the British army at Yorktown.

Isabel’s the narrator of this volume. She’s got lots to worry about — finding her sister, staying alive, staying healthy, getting money and food to travel on, and staying free. Also, how does Curzon really feel about her? He seems to care more about fighting for so-called “freedom” than about her.

This book gives a fascinating look at a time I thought I knew a lot more about than I did. Giving the vantage point of African-Americans inside the camps brings it to life so much more vividly than a textbook.

I enjoyed the Revolutionary War-era diary excerpts and letter excerpts at the start of each chapter. There are also in-depth notes at the back. I knew from reading Octavian Nothing that the British promised freedom to African-Americans who fought for them. I learned in this book that 17 of George Washington’s slaves escaped during the Revolutionary War and fled to the British. Many of those were returned to him after the war, but a few did make it to New York and managed to get safety and freedom in Nova Scotia. Twenty-three of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves fled to join the British, though six were found and recaptured after the war.

All of these tidbits (told as answers to questions that naturally arise out of the story) are accompanied by suggestions for further reading.

MadWomanInTheForest.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Swing It, Sunny, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Swing It, Sunny

by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
with color by Lark Pien

Graphix (Scholastic), 2017. 220 pages.

This graphic novel is a pleasant sequel to Sunny Side Up. Sunny’s now starting middle school, which is tough, but most of the tension in the book comes from the difficulty of adjusting to her older brother being sent away to boarding school. When he comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the whole house is full of tension.

The story’s set in 1976, which was when I was in eighth grade myself. So I especially enjoyed the seventies’ touches such as Pet Rocks, seventies’ décor, and TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man. The authors keep a light touch, mixing fun diversions – like a new next-door neighbor teaching Sunny how to swing a flag – with worries about her brother.

You’ll enjoy it a little bit more if you read the first book, since you’ll appreciate Sunny’s interaction with Gramps and her fondness for the alligator Big Al. But even without that, you’ll still have fun with this book.

It all adds up to a truly delightful and hopeful graphic novel.

scholastic.com/graphix

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Piper, by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg, illustrated by Jeff Stokely

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Piper

by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg
illustrated by Jeff Stokely

Razorbill (Penguin Random House), 2017. 144 pages.
Starred Review

This gorgeous graphic novel turns the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln into a tragic romance.

It’s also a story of prejudice and greed – but with love rising above that. And we find out that the real story isn’t the one we’ve heard.

This version of the story features a deaf teen girl named Maggie who lives in Hameln with an old woman, something of an outcast. She can read lips and talks with the piper, a handsome teen himself. She learns his story, as no one else does.

Maggie enjoys writing stories with her caretaker, an old woman named Agathe. She writes the stories of the villagers the way they should be told.

Did the villagers deserve what they got from the Piper? What if the revenge the Piper took was different than the story we’ve heard?

This book is a quick read but a haunting and poignant tale. The ending especially will surprise you.

PenguinTeen.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Different Pond, by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

A Different Pond

by Bao Phi
illustrated by Thi Bui

Capstone Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book tells the story of a small boy and his father going fishing early in the morning on a Saturday.

It’s lovely father-son time and focuses on how the boy feels grown up because he’s helping his father. Along the way, we learn that the father used to fish with his brother at a pond in Vietnam. They both fought in the war, but one day his brother didn’t come home.

We also learn that the father has a second job and the mother works, but they still need to fish to be sure of having food for dinner. Because everything is expensive in America.

I like the way the book focuses on warmth and love and this shared activity instead of the hardships in the background. It reveals those hardships in a gentle way.

And the paintings are wonderful. On many spreads, there’s a creative use of inset panels. The story happens almost entirely before the sun comes up, but the artist gives texture to the night sky and the darkness.

A story about fishing with a father that has much more behind it, and presented in a beautiful format.

mycapstone.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The War I Finally Won, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The War I Finally Won

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 385 pages.
Starred Review

The War I Finally Won is the sequel to the wonderful award-winning book The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It was my #1 Sonderbooks Stand-out in Children’s Fiction for books I read in 2016. Yes, you should read the first book first.

The book begins with Ada having surgery to fix her clubfoot so she can walk without crutches. But the war is going on, and a lot of people she knows are dying, including her Mam – which means that Susan can become Ada and Jamie’s legal guardian.

Susan’s house was destroyed in the first book – but Lady Thorton gives them a home in a “cottage” on her estate – a bigger place than Susan’s house had been. However, things get smaller when Lady Thorton moves in with them after her stately home is requisitioned by the government. And then Susan is asked to tutor a 16-year-old German Jewish girl named Ruth.

Lady Thorton doesn’t want to have anything to do with a German girl, because her son is in harm’s way fighting the Germans, but she has to give in. Ada only gradually comes to understand that Ruth hates Hitler just as much as they do.

Ada still has the same voice as in the first book. There are still a lot of words she doesn’t understand because she has no experience with them. And she still is prone to emotional outbursts, still has trouble feeling safe.

This book explores many aspects of what it means to be a family. It was marvelous watching Ada’s fragile heart open wider, even while dealing with the hardships and tragedies of wartime.

kimberlybrubakerbradley.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?