Book review: The Runaway, by Kate O’Hearn

O’Hearn. Kate. The Runaway. (Valkyrie series, book 2) Aladdin, 2014. 362 pgs. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-4814-4740-9. Gr. 6+. P8 Q8

This is the second book in the Valkyrie series and what a book it is. Action from the get go and I was so absorbed in it I did not realize that it was the second book; it can definitely stand on its own merits. Set in the city of Asgard, where Odin is the ruler, Freya is a young reaper who is being punished for defying Odin. Her punishment is to clean the stables daily. A competition between the nine separate realms, sort of like the Olympics, is take place soon and Freya thinks she will not be allowed to attend. Odin does allow her to participate in the tug of war completion, where Dirian, a dark searcher, kills her. He loathes Freya for having shamed him in front of other dark searchers. Freya is a reaper and collects people as they die. A dark reaper is a winged man who pledges himself to to Odin and collects those who go astray. Freya returns to life and is ordered by Odin to bring a Valkyrie back to Asgard, as a war between the realms is rumored to take place.

Verdict: I cannot wait for the next book in this series; it is necessary read for all who love action packed mythology literature.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Storm Dragon, by Paula Harrison, illustrated by Sophy Williams

Harrison, Paula. The Storm Dragon. Illustrated by Sophy Williams. (The Secret Rescuers series, book 1) Aladdin, 2017. $5.99. ISBN 9781481476072. 128 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

The Storm Dragon is a chapter book in the series The Secret Rescuers. It is a story about a girl named Sophy who discovers a young dragon named Cloudy. The queen and the captain of the guard do not like magical creatures, so Sophy tries to rescue Cloudy. The cover has a cute picture of a baby dragon on it, which entices the reader to open the book and read it. Pencil drawings enhance the story. The story lends to a sequel.

Verdict: This is an easy read with pictures to go along with the story. It is a sweet book that combines the love of adventure and the love of animals. I recommend this book for individual reading, public library, classroom library and elementary school libraries.

April 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Frogkisser!, by Garth Nix

Nix, Garth.  Frogkisser! Audible Audio Edition. Listening Library, 2017. $19.25. 11 hrs 6 min. Ages 10-13. P8Q8

Although my favorite Garth Nix books are the darker YA Abhorson series, I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous fairy tale. Spunky Anya is the younger princess of the kingdom of Trallonia. Her evil stepstepfather is a tyrant sorcerer who “transmogrifies” anyone who bothers him- that is, he turns them into frogs or other animals. Anya prefers to read in the library, but to help her sister and to escape from her stepstepfather, she reluctantly sets out on a quest to gather the ingredients for a magical lip balm that will allow her to kiss a frog (one of her sister’s suitors) and restore him to his human form. She is accompanied by one of the royal talking dogs and a want-to-be thief boy who has been turned into a newt. She finds diverse help along the way (though she says she won’t need help, because she’s not that kind of a princess), and learns some good lessons. I liked that while this was a light children’s story, there were some serious themes like how sometimes we don’t want to do something, but we must help when we can, that people have rights and responsibilities, and that being a leader means thinking about what is good for the people before doing what you want for yourself.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: In Darkling Wood, by Emma Carroll

Carroll, Emma. In Darkling Wood. Delacorte Press, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780399556012. 231 pages. Ages 10-14. P7Q8

In Darkling Wood is a cross-generational tale which intertwines family, grief, and English lore. It is told from the point of view of Alice, a middle-school-aged girl with a seriously ill younger brother and an estranged father. When her brother enters the hospital to receive a transplant, Alice is shuffled to her paternal grandmother’s rural cottage. Here, surrounded by Darkling Wood, an enchanted forest that her grandmother has threatened with destruction, Alice must discover the source of her family’s grief and save the Wood—her brother’s life may depend on it. The young girl’s account is supplemented by WW I era letters, written from a sister to a brother before and after he was killed in the War. These letters set the stage for the supernatural aspect of the story by referencing the Cottingley Fairies and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s investigations into the paranormal. The inclusion of paranormal themes can make this book subtly spooky at times. Illness, death, and their powerful affect on family relationships are principle threads in the narrative. Because In the Darkling Wood was written by British author Emma Carroll, readers will encounter some unfamiliar vocabulary associated with British English. This vocabulary is more quirky than challenging and further transports the reader to the English countryside.

Verdict: Young readers who appreciate fantasy or mysteries will enjoy In the Darkling Wood. Very sensitive readers may be triggered by certain themes in this book.

May 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Song of the Poison Dragon, by Tracey West

West, Tracey. Song of the Poison Dragon. (Dragon Masters series, #5) Scholastic Inc., 2016. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-545-91387-4. 96 p. Gr. 1-3. P8Q8

west-song-of-the-poison-dragonsThe Dragon Masters and their teacher, Griffith, welcome a new Dragon Master, Petra.  Unfortunately, Petra is nervous about handling her dragon, a hydra.  Together they help Petra learn to communicate with her dragon and save the king who inhaled the hydra’s poison.

Verdict: The diverse group of Dragon Masters represents a variety of nations.  Many young readers will find themselves in these different characters.  The story contains a great deal of dialogue and the author relies on dialogue to propel the plot.  The sentence structure is quite complex for a young reader; however, the author provides solid context clues for new vocabulary.  There are helpful illustrations on every page of the story. A page of discussion questions appears at the end.  This book may be too much for a beginning chapter-book-reader, but the entire series may prove a rewarding read for a student at a proficient level of early reading.

October 2016 review by Shelly Jones.

Book review: The Girl in the Tower, by Lisa Schroeder, illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Schroeder, Lisa.  The Girl In the Tower.  Illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli. Christy Ottaviano Books, 2016.  $16.99  ISBN 978-0-8050-9513-5. 246 p. Gr. 3 – 7. P7Q4

schroeder-girl-in-the-towerQueen Bogdana needs the hair of a girl with lavender eyes, so she has locked Violet and her mother in a tower.  The queen is waiting for lavender-eyed Violet to turn 11 years old so she can pluck a hair and complete the spell that will make Queen Bogdana beautiful.  The queen turns her mother out and tries to adopt Violet for herself.  Violet must rescue herself and her mother and reunite the family that the queen destroyed 11 years ago.

Verdict: This is a delightful story where the young protagonist rescues herself and doesn’t need to wait for a knight in shining armor to do so.  I would heartily endorse this book being purchased for your library save for one issue.  In the illustrations, by Nicoletta Ceccoli, the queen is portrayed as overweight.  Once more we have an example of fat being portrayed as evil and unhappy and not beautiful.  It is a stereotype that has happened one too many times for me to be comfortable.  On page 84 Schroeder writes “The queen was so ugly it was difficult for Violet to look at her.  She hadn’t ever known a person could be that hideous.” On page 85, there is an illustration of an extremely overweight queen.  I cannot recommend that you add a book to your library that continues the myth that fat and beauty are not compatible.

October 2016 review by Shelly Jones.