Book review: Granted, by John David Anderson

Anderson, John David. Granted. Walden Pond Press, 2018. 325 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-06-264386-5. Gr. 5+. P8 Q8

Sometimes we make a wish in the hope it will come true or that it will be granted.  Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a fairy who lives in Haven with the other fairies. Ophelia is a wish granter fairy and she has been chosen to grant a wish to a young girl. The wish is for a purple bicycle to replace one that was stolen. Ophelia ventures into the world and though there are strict rules to follow she chooses to break the rules and grant a second wish along with the first. The second goes to a young girl who wants her father back so that her world is stable once again.

Verdict: Wow, what a great book! The magical aspects add humor to a story that is at times very sad.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

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Book review: Orphan Island, by Laurel Snyder

Snyder, Laurel.  Orphan Island.  Walden Pond Press, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-06-244341-0. $16.99.  269 pages.  Ages 10+.  Q7P6

An island where nine orphans, ranging roughly in ages from 4 to 13, raise themselves.  At 13ish the oldest has to leave the island.  Jinny is the oldest, therefore has the responsibility to raise/teach the newest orphan, Ess, but due to her empathic nature, struggles to put Ess through any ordeal which makes Ess uncomfortable.  Luckily, others on the island help her by taking over some of the responsibilities.  It appears everything will work out until Jinny decides she is not going to leave the island like she is supposed to when she turns 13.  The author does a great job capturing the insecurities and strength of the youngest and the emotional inner turmoil of the oldest with the onset of puberty and the knowledge she’ll have to leave the island.  I also like the unknown almost science fiction reason they are on the island, an experiment perhaps?  What I don’t like about the book is you never find out why these select children were put on the island, and how the island “works”.  The island “masters” seem to know all that is going on and change the island experience accordingly.  Although the book is filled with a beautiful setting and much soul searching, the book is flawed by the unknown.

Verdict:  The thought process I’ve spent on the “unknown” is similar to the exercise in futility of contemplating the meaning of life.  I don’t necessarily want to do that with my reading material.  Perhaps a bit philosophical for the target audience?

March 2018 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: The Shadow Cipher, by Laura Ruby

Ruby, Laura. The Shadow Cipher. (York series, #1) Walden Pond/HarperColllins, 2017. $17.99. 476p. ISBN 978-0-06-230693-7. Ages 10-14. P8Q9

In this alternative-history steam-punk novel set in New York City follows three young people, Jewish twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and friend Trinidadian-Cuban Jaime Cruz, in their race against time to save the historical apartment building from demolition by a dishonest real-estate developer. The building was created in the 19th century by inventors and architects who brought skyscrapers fitted with innovative fantasy technology and left the Old York Cipher, clues to the location of a fantastic treasure. The young people explore the city to locate the treasure and save their homes but instead encounter unexpected villains. In the midst of their adventures, each of the protagonists suffers from personal issues—the increasing dementia experienced by the twins’ beloved grandfather, the increasing absence of Jamie’s father, and the loss of their home.

Verdict: Printz Award-winner author (Bone Gap) has fashioned an amazingly detailed vision using such pop culture as Marvel superheroes and Legos with imaginary inventions such as the robot “caterpillars” that clean the Underway (aka subway). The length of the book with its humor and peril is inviting to youth who love reading. They will look forward eagerly to the sequel.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Astounding Broccoli Boy, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Boyce, Frank Cottrell.  The Astounding Broccoli Boy.  Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.  384 pages, $17.89. ISBN:  978-0-06-240017-8.  Ages 8-12. Grades 3-7.  P7 Q9

boyce-broccoli-boyThis book grabbed my attention from the first page.  Rory Rooney compares his life with that of a superhero.  He even has an arch nemesis.  On top of everything else he keeps referring back to a book Don’t be Scared, Be Prepared.  What could prepare him for turning green?  Even with all the uncertainty of being broccoli green, he seems to, at least in his mind, have super powers. Each chapter starts with phrases you would see in comic books.  Throughout the reading of this book, I was giggling and amused at all the shenanigans that Rory got himself into.  This book is recommended for grades 3-7.  This would be a great book for a whole class read in upper elementary.  And, I think even early high school would love this book.  The characters build throughout this story, the writing flows and the plot leaves you wondering what is going to happen next.  Frank Cottrell Boyce has also written Cosmic, Framed, and MillionsMillions was also made into a movie.

March 2016 review by Fawn Ferguson.

Book review: The Vanishing Island, by Barry Wolverton

Wolverton, Barry. The Vanishing Island. [The Chronicles of the Black Tulip series, volume 1]. Walden Pond/Harper Collins. 2015. $16.99. 338p. 978-0-06-222190-2. Ages 9-13. P8Q9

Wolverton Vanishing IslandHigh adventure follows 12-year-old Bren Owen from his boring life in Map, Britannica, onto a sea adventure in the first of this series set in an alternate version of 1599, the Age of Discovery. Facing the “worst job on earth,” Bren finds a mysterious object that gives him the opportunity to gain a way onto the Albatross, bent on locating places from Marco Polo’s quest. The fast-paced plot has believable characters who suffer danger and hazards on and off the sea as Bren works to crack a secret code and save his life in an exciting book that blends cultures from the East and the West. Young readers will love the depictions of violence and gore in a brutally honest view of life over four centuries ago. This mix of fantasy, history, and youthful angst will appeal to a diversity of readers and promises an electrifying sequel.

September 2015 review by Nel Ward.