Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Review of Thick as Thieves audiobook, by Megan Whalen Turner, performed by Steve West

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner
performed by Steve West

HarperAudio, 2017. 8.75 hours on 7 discs.
Starred Review

This is now the third time I’ve read Thick as Thieves, and I don’t get tired of it. As with all of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I discovered a few more nuances each time.

But the audiobook version has the advantage of being read by my new narrator-crush, Steve West, discovered when he read Strange the Dreamer. I could (and do) listen to his voice for hours. He delineates the characters well with different voices. Although the audio version doesn’t have a map, I didn’t feel like it was dragging as I listened to his narration – it made each episode that much more interesting.

And there’s probably not much more I need to say. This is the fifth book in one of my very favorite series. It’s got adventure and danger and characters you root for. And has an outstanding narrator as well. I do recommend reading the books in order, beginning with The Thief, but let me say that they also make outstanding family listening.

harperaudio.com

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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 The Antlered Ship, by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

The Antlered Ship

by Dashka Slater
illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Beach Lane Books, 2017. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book adventure story featuring animals. I expected trite, corny, or hokey. What I found was charming and marvelous.

The book begins by introducing us to a fox who asks philosophical questions:

The day the antlered ship arrived, Marco wondered about the wide world.

He had so many questions.
Why do some songs make you happy and others make you sad?
Why don’t trees ever talk?
How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?

But when he posed these questions to the other foxes, they grew silent.
“What does that have to do with chicken stew?” they asked.

Marco goes to the harbor to see the ship and learns that the crew of deer onboard are lost. They hope to hire better sailors. Marco signs on, in hopes of finding other foxes who know the answers to his questions. A flock of pigeons, led by Victor, signs on, hoping to have adventures. The original deer crew, led by the captain Sylvia, are looking for an island with tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees.

But first, they find adventures. The crew gets discouraged by the difficulties they face. This is my favorite page:

“We should have stayed in the woods,” Sylvia said. “Deer aren’t supposed to go to sea.”
“We should have stayed in the park,” added Victor. “Pigeons aren’t supposed to do hard labor.”
Marco eyed the deer and the pigeons. “Foxes aren’t supposed to be vegetarian,” he said. “Still, we must do the best we can.”

No, Marco doesn’t eat the crew. He makes a warm and reviving stew of vegetables and revives his friends to continue their quest.

Marco continues to pour forth philosophical questions throughout the book. Things like: “Do islands like being alone? Do waves look more like horses or swans?” But the question for which he finds the best answers is “What’s the best way to find a friend you can talk to?”

And though the others’ initial quests are satisfied, the friends decide that they want to travel on….

The beautiful illustrations by Terry Fan and Eric Fan add just the right touch to give the animals’ efforts seriousness. At the same time, their naïve ideas are child-sized. Children will delight to share the adventure.

dashkaslater.com
thefanbrothers.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Baabwaa and Wooliam, by David Elliott, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Friday, November 24th, 2017

Baabwaa & Wooliam

by David Elliott
illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Press, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This book had me at the introductory spread:

This is Wooliam.
He is a sheep.
You will note that Wooliam is reading.
There are not many sheep who read.
But Wooliam is one of them.

This is Baabwaa, also a sheep.
In this picture, Baabwaa is knitting.
Knitting is a very practical hobby for a sheep.
It’s surprising not more of them do it.
Oh well.

Reading and knitting! These are my kind of sheep!

One day, when Wooliam has been reading about adventures, he suggests that they set out to have an adventure of their own.

It’s not easy to find an adventure in a field with a stone wall around it. But then, they are approached by another sheep.

A sheep with a long, rangy tail.
A sheep with a sharp, whiskered snout.
A sheep with a filthy wool coat.

However, well-read Wooliam recognizes the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing from his reading.

After some chasing, the wolf wants to find out more. Wooliam has read about him?

Eventually, the sheep develop a friendship with the wolf. Wooliam teaches him to read, and Baabwaa knits him a better sweater. But there’s still a fair amount of chasing. The sheep needed some exercise anyway.

And they decide it was quite an adventure, after all.

This book is quirky, warm, and fun. It even gives a message about the value of reading. Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are also quirky, warm, and fun. As it happens, I was planning on doing a preschool storytime this week about “Adventures,” and this book will fit in perfectly.

Friendship is one of the best adventures of them all.

candlewick.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 York: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby

Friday, September 29th, 2017

York, Book One

The Shadow Cipher

by Laura Ruby

Walden Pond Press (HarperCollins), 2017. 476 pages.

The Shadow Cipher is set in modern-day New York – but in an alternate universe. This world has very different technology than our own, including genetically engineered pets and therapy animals. But the biggest differences came from innovations built into New York City by the brilliant Morningstarr twins in the 1800s.

The Morningstarr twins also supposedly left a cipher in the city – that leads to a treasure. Tess and Theo Biedermann, who are named after the Morningstarrs, live in one of the original buildings constructed by the Morningstarrs.

When an evil real estate developer – named Darnell Slant – buys their building and they have to get out in 30 days, Tess and Theo are horrified. At the same time, they come upon an original letter written by Tess Morningstarr. It seems to be a new clue – leading to a whole new chain of clues. Working with Jaime, another kid who’s getting evicted from the building, the three of them plan to find the treasure to save the day.

This book has a good puzzle story and adventure yarn. It’s not like the reader can solve the clues themselves, but it’s fun to read about the kids going from one clue to another.

Now, could a cipher really stay intact for more than a hundred years? They try to get around this amazing coincidence by commenting on them and saying that it seems like the Cipher is solving them. That wasn’t quite good enough for me – but I’m a more-skeptical-than-average reader.

There was one incident that pulled me out of the book. At one point, Tess was so upset from being evicted, she had trouble sleeping.

She’d tried her favorite guided meditation video for an hour. She’d organized her underwear drawer by color. She’d tried counting backward from one million. When the sun rose that morning, she was on number 937,582.

I’m sorry – I don’t buy it! 937,582 is more than 60,000 less than a million. If Tess were able to count one number per second (which would be incredibly fast for such big numbers), it would take her more than 16 hours to get to such a relatively low number!

Now – I posted my complaint on Facebook in general terms. One of my friends speculated that Tess may be an android. And you know what? Even after finishing the book, that is a possible explanation. In fact, as the book goes on, Tess gets an uncomfortable feeling that many of the machines made by the Morningstarrs are alive! Perhaps Tess herself is a machine made by the Morningstarrs, and this is our first clue.

All the same, I have my doubts. I think it was probably a mistake rather than a cleverly planted clue to Tess’s real identity.

But the book is fun. And full of surprises. The story doesn’t finish, in fact the book ends on the threshold of further adventures. So this is part of a series you’ll certainly want to read in order.

The science in the book seems iffy to me – but any time machines seem to come alive, I’ll have some trouble with it. Also the coincidences. In general, the book is more like fantasy. But I didn’t mind it too much while I was reading it. You’ve got an imaginative alternate world, an intriguing puzzle, and a fun story of three children on an adventure trying to solve the puzzle and save their home.

lauraruby.com
harpercollinschildrens.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 Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

The Inquisitor’s Tale

Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

by Adam Gidwitz

illuminated by Hatem Aly

Dutton Children’s Books, 2016. 363 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Newbery Honor Book
2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medalist
2016 Capitol Choices selection
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Fiction

This book is marvelous! Set in France in the year 1242, it tells the story of three children with miraculous powers. Jeanne, a peasant girl, has fits during which she can see the future. William, an oblate at a monastery whose mother was a Saracen from Africa, has strength like Samson. And Jacob, a Jewish boy, has miraculous healing powers. Their other companion is a holy dog. This dog saved Jeanne’s life when she was a baby, but died. Now the dog, Gwenforte, has come back to life.

The dog started the trouble, really. People of the village had been venerating her grave. Jeanne finds Gwenforte alive in the Holy Grove where she’d been buried just before a group of knights arrives to destroy the grove, because obviously venerating a dog is false worship. When Jeanne saves the dog and the knights learn that she has visions, she becomes a target, too.

We know at the start of the book that in the last week, the three children have become famous through all of France and that now King Louis himself is after them. Their story is told at an inn outside Paris. Our unnamed narrator wants to find out about the children. He finds people at the inn who can tell their stories. So the chapters of the book have titles that remind one of The Canterbury Tales, “The Brewster’s Tale,” “The Nun’s Tale,” “The Librarian’s Tale,” and the like.

We hear the stories of all three of the children and how their paths intersected. They end up on a mission together to save books from burning.

Each of the children is a victim of prejudice. Jeanne because she’s a peasant, William because of his dark skin, and Jacob because he’s a Jew. Jacob’s is by far the most serious, as his whole village was burned. They find a kinship together, and maybe their tolerance for each other is slightly anachronistic — but it’s beautiful enough, this can be forgiven. William has done much reading in the monastery, so he knows about the wisdom found in Jewish books.

The story is told with plenty of humor. And it’s a wonderful story, with miracles and twists and turns and people chasing the children and plots and quests. All throughout the book, we have illuminations. Here’s what it says about that at the beginning:

This book has been illuminated — as a medieval text might have been — by the artist Hatem Aly. Some of his illustrations will reflect the action, or the ideas, in the story. Some will be unrelated doodles, just as medieval illuminators often doodled in the margins of their books. There may even be drawings that contradict, or question, the text. That, too, was commonplace in medieval manuscripts. The author and the illuminator are unique individuals, with unique interpretations of the story, and of the meaning behind it.

There are almost thirty pages of notes and bibliography at the back — Adam Gidwitz did plenty of studying about medieval times. I love the way he based the children’s miracles on actual medieval sources. He also wove in actual historical characters and places. I love the way Mont St. Michel is featured. (I really want to go there some day.)

The story’s engaging, exciting, and funny, but it also has a lovely message about tolerance which feels very timely. This is from the Author’s Note at the back:

It was a time when people were redefining how they lived with the “other,” with people who were different from them. The parallels between our time and theirs are rich, poignant, and, too often, tragic. As I put the finishing touches on this novel, more than a hundred and forty people were killed in Paris by terrorists. It turns out they planned the attack from apartments in the town of Saint-Denis. The tragic irony of this haunts me. Zealots kill, and the victims retaliate with killing, and the cycle continues, extending forward and backward in history, apparently without end. I can think of nothing sane to say about this except this book.

This book is marvelous — both filled with marvels and magnificently carried out.

adamgidwitz.com
metahatem.com
penguin.com/youngReaders

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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 Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

ancillary_mercy_largeAncillary Mercy

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2015. 359 pages.
Starred Review

Wow! I suspected that I would appreciate the second book, Ancillary Sword, much more after reading the third book in the trilogy, and I was absolutely right.

Yes, you need to read this trilogy in order. It’s a unit, and everything comes together in this final book.

Book One, Ancillary Justice was about Breq, who was once the ship Justice of Toren and is now a lone ancillary, seeking revenge on the tyrant who destroyed most of her and the captain she loved. In the process of revenge-seeking, she starts a civil war, or at least makes obvious that a war is going on.

In Book Two, Ancillary Sword, Breq is Fleet Captain of a new ship, Mercy of Kalr, with a crew of humans, but with access to everything the ship senses. She goes to a distant planet and deals with politics and intrigue on the planet and its orbiting space station, which has its own AI.

In this third book, Ancillary Mercy, the part of the Lord of the Radch that hates Breq comes to the planet looking for her. Breq still wants revenge, and Breq is definitely in danger, and plot threads are woven in intricate ways.

I can’t say a lot about the plot, since I don’t want to give anything away from the earlier books. By this time, I’d gotten used to everyone being referred to as “she.” One thing I especially liked about this book was that even with the large cast of characters, there’s growth in almost all of the characters. Some things Breq was doing as a matter of course in the last book, she’s now questioning. And Breq’s lieutenants face their own challenges, and even the station and the ship come up with some surprising character development.

These books make you think about humanity and gender and perspective and justice and love and relationships in whole new ways — all while telling an intricately woven, imaginatively inventive story with thrillingly dangerous action sequences. (Yes, Breq’s trend of getting seriously injured in each book continues.)

I can’t wait for my son to read it so I can discuss it with him! (He gave me a copy of the first book for Christmas.) This book is mind-blowing and amazing.

annleckie.com
orbitbooks.net

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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 Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

luck_uglies_largeThe Luck Uglies

by Paul Durham

Harper, 2014. 387 pages.
2014 Cybils Finalist, Speculative Fiction for Elementary/Middle Grade

We never do find out why the Luck Uglies are called the Luck Uglies. But they are not monsters. They are mask-wearing outlaws who have been banned from Village Drowning by the Earl.

Rye and her friends Folly and Quinn live in Village Drowning and begin the story by accidentally stealing a book and running over the rooftops to escape pursuit.

The Earl who oversaw the affairs of Drowning had not only banned women and girls from reading, but went so far as to outlaw certain books altogether. None was more illicit than the book Rye now pressed close to her body, Tam’s Tome of Drowning Mouth Fibs, Volume II — an obscure history textbook that was widely ignored until the Earl described it as a vile collection of scandalous accusations, dangerous untruths, and outright lies. Even an eleven-year-old could figure out that meant there must be some serious truth to it.

There are, in fact, monsters in this book — the terrifying Bog Noblins who live outside Village Drowning in the forest Beyond the Shale. Rye herself has a close encounter with one. But someone rescues her. When she wakes up in her home, she’s worried about the village.

“Mama,” Rye said, pushing her mother’s hand away from her face. “We need to tell the soldiers. Before it, it . . .” Rye shuddered. “Comes back.”

“Darling, quiet now.” Abby eased her back down. Your close call is something best kept to ourselves. Bog Noblin attacks attract attention. The Constable — and the Earl — would be eager to speak with you. That’s not the type of attention we want.”

Rye didn’t understand.

“But what about the rest of the village?” she said.

“Riley,” her mother said. “Listen to me carefully. I’ll make sure the right people know what happened. But at the moment, you need to rest. Your encounter in the bog was not the only trouble that befell you on the Black Moon. You were poisoned.”

Rye and her friends end up in the thick of danger from monsters, in a village with corrupt leadership. They need the Luck Uglies, but can the Luck Uglies outwit the Earl’s army? It turns out they will need Rye’s help.

This book does have monsters, but it comes across as a gentle fantasy adventure in the style of Robin Hood. With girls in the thick of the action.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Loudoun 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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

royal_ranger_largeThe Royal Ranger

The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 12

by John Flanagan

Philomel Books (Penguin), 2013. 455 pages.

I listened to the first two and a half books of The Ranger’s Apprentice series, but lost interest in the middle of book three. I have to say that I think John Flanagan has improved as a writer since the beginning of the series.

I wasn’t lost picking up the series with Book 12, though if I were planning to go back and read the books I’d missed, I’d know how some things turned out. I must admit I did like seeing the “futures” of so many of the characters I met in the first two books. In fact, at times I was annoyed in the early books when he seemed to be dwelling on minor characters. – It turns out they were quite important, after all.

But this book is nicely self-contained and tells a good story. The princess Maddie is acting like a spoiled teenager. So her parents ask Will to take her on as an apprentice – the first ever female Ranger’s apprentice.

Will’s got some issues of his own, becoming obsessed with revenge. I like the way this book mirrored, in some ways, the first book, where Will himself was the apprentice. Will and Maddie take on a challenge that threatens to be more than they can handle, and the title doesn’t give away the ending this time!

And there was no magic in this book, evil or otherwise. In the early books, there was a sinister sorcerer they had to fight. I found it interesting that in this book it’s more ordinary (but still powerful) evil they are up against.

For adventure and the excitement of a small person effectively and cleverly fighting bad guys and helping the weak, this series fills the bill.

worldofjohnflanagan.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure, by Robert Arthur

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

vanishing_treasure_largeAlfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in

The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure

by Robert Arthur
illustrated by Harry Kane

Random House, New York, 1966. 159 pages.

This is Book Five in The Three Investigators series. I’ve decided to post my reviews of the books in order, even though I’m reading them out of order. As I read, I remembered quite a few details from this one, probably because there are some quite bizarre things.

The book begins with Jupiter discussing how he would steal the Rainbow Jewels from a local museum. The three decide to go to the museum on Children’s Day to practice their investigator skills – and while they are there, a valuable Golden Belt is stolen. Their help on that mystery is refused, but then they are asked to help one of Alfred Hitchcock’s friends, who has been seeing gnomes. It’s a bizarre case – little people with fiery red eyes peering in the windows and digging noises at night. We aren’t surprised when the two cases dovetail.

As usual, I am once again amazed at what the boys’ parents let them go off and do on their own! And once again, they get into danger, but the strategic placement of a chalk question mark (and a very clever and memorable placement in this case) gets them out of it. Once again, we have a stereotypical ethnic character – this time a boy from Japan. At least the author is trying to be cross-cultural, though not perhaps in the politically correct way it would be approached today.

Still no girls at all have appeared in these books, but they are still a quick-reading adventure yarn, where kids figure out a case that has adults stumped. I’m having great fun going back in time with these mysteries.

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Source: This review is based on an interlibrary loan borrowed via 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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Secrets of the Sky Caves, by Sandra K. Athans

Monday, October 27th, 2014

secrets_of_the_sky_caves_largeSecrets of the Sky Caves

Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs

by Sandra K. Athans

Millbrook Press (Lerner), Minneapolis, 2014. 64 pages.

Shades of Indiana Jones! Here’s a nonfiction book about modern archaeology, complete with danger, religious artifacts, wall murals, ancient manuscripts, and plenty of human remains.

In the Mustang region of Nepal, nestled high in the Himalayas near Mount Everest, high in the soft stone of the cliffs are thousands of caves, where ancient people used to make their homes, probably to escape fighting over the Silk Road.

This book details recent expeditions to explore the caves. Pete Athans, American world-class mountain climber, led the expedition, and brought along his wife Liesl Clark, who is also a world-class mountain climber, and their two children. The children have set a record as the youngest outsiders to enter the district of Mustang. Pete Athans’ sister is the author of the book.

Pete Athans has climbed Mount Everest, but the Mustang cliffs, with their brittle rock faces, are perhaps even more dangerous.

The photographs in the book are many and varied. The story of the exploration is fascinating as they had to use mountain-climbing techniques to uncover these cave cities – and then found artifacts like an ancient mural, thousands of pages of an old manuscript, ancient pottery, and even human and animal remains.

Scientists study the different artifacts in different ways, and for each step, permission was needed from the government of Nepal. A scholar who could read ancient Tibetan was needed for the manuscripts. A geneticist who can extract DNA was needed for the human remains. And of course archaeologists are involved in uncovering the rich artifacts buried in the tombs. And all the scientists have to learn rock climbing to access the finds.

This book is sure to get kids interested in archaeology, as well as the many other areas of science involved in learning about the ancient past. Or perhaps exploration and rock-climbing.

lernerbooks.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.