Spindle’s End

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Spindle's End
by Robin McKinley
written for ages 13-16 | highly recommended
published in 2001 (2000) | Ace | 368 pages

Katriona, niece of a fairy and a fairy herself, is chosen out of all those in the village to attend the christening of the new princess. She finds herself rescuing the princess instead, and bringing her back to their little village where she can grow up as Rosie. Rosie grows up among the villagers, believing herself the orphaned cousin of Katriona. She retains an ability to speak to animals, unusual even in that magic-ridden land, becomes an expert horse-leech and forms a close friendship to Peony the wheelwright's daughter. This is all she knows until a short while before her 21st birthday, when an unusual man knocks at the door in the middle of a storm (in keeping with the conventions of narrative and dramatic tension) and her past is revealed.

I take my hat off once again to Robin McKinley, who has managed to retain the fairy-tale feel of a story while filling out the gaps normally indicated by phrases… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
by Kristin Levine
written for ages 11-14 | highly recommended
published in 2010 (2009) | Puffin | 272 pages

In her first novel, author Kristin Levine weaves an appealing young adult novel out of stories from her grandfather, Harry Otis ("Dit") Sims. Family life, race relations, work, and leisure time activities in the Jim Crow South make up the fabric of this story. Quirky characters, the flu pandemic of 1917, lots of baseball and a murder keep the reader turning pages.

As the story opens, Moundville, Alabama is waiting for its new postmaster, and young Dit Sims is anxious to meet the postmaster's son. The town is shocked to find that the postmaster from Boston is black, and Dit is crushed when his hoped-for summer companion turns out be a girl. The reader knows instinctively that the daughter, Emma, will be the "best bad luck" Dit ever had, though both of them need some convincing of this in the beginning. The relationship that develops between Emma and Dit shows how friendship can overcome many obstacles and be a means… click here to read whole article and make comments



Reading Matters’ Book List for Christmas 2012

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written for all ages | highly recommended

Though not as extensive as last year's list, here are some favorites we feel are worth purchasing. To learn more about these books, click on the titles.

Ages 2-7

The Biggest Bear, Lynd Ward

How Much Is That Doggy in the Window, Iza Trapani

Jenny's Hat, Ezra Jack Keats

Mike Mulligan and More, Virginia Burton

Song of the Camels, Elizabeth Coatsworth

That's What I'd Do, Jewel

Truckery Rhymes, Jon Scieszka


Ages 7-10

Anna Maria's Gift, Janice Shefelman

The Cat's Pajamas, Wallace Edwards

Charlotte's Web, E. B. White

Jennie Maizels' Things To Do Book, Jennie Maizels

Sadie and Ratz, Sonya Hartnett

Word After Word After Word, Patricia MacLachlan


Ages 9-12

Breaking Stalin's Nose, Eugene Yelchin

Crispin, Avi

Gone Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright

Horton's Miraculous Mechanisms, Lissa Evans

The Icarus Project, Laura Quimby  

The Unforgotten Coat, Frank Cottrell… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Echorium Sequence

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Song Quest
by Katherine Roberts
written for ages 9-12 | acceptable
published in 2002 (1999) | Chicken House | 272 pages

In this prehistory, the world is populated by half-creatures such as Merlee, half-man half-fish, and Quetzal, half-man half-bird, as well as humans. It is because these special creatures are being slaughtered or captured that Second Singer Toharo sets out to enforce the treaty forbidding such activity. The "Singers" are diplomats and healers, whose songs have the power to heal, to calm, to excite, to cause laughter or tears. Behind these abuses is the Khizpriest, a scheming and powerful figure. He has a plan which involves capturing Rialle, a pre-adolescent novice Singer, the best student in her class and one who is sensitive to the songs of the half-creatures. Because she can talk to the Merlee, Rialle is taken by the Second Singer Toharo when he travels on a diplomatic mission.

The author has created a convincing world of humans, Singers and half-creatures. Since the point-of-view characters are two youngsters, on the cusp of adolescence, our view and understanding of this… click here to read whole article and make comments


Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at

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 our picks for
2-7 years 13-16 years
7-10 years 15-18 years
9-12 years 18 and over
11-14 years all ages

 our standards
highly recommended: you must read this!
recommended: age-appropriate and entertaining
acceptable: not outstanding but not problematic
some reservations: contains potentially problematic scenes or concepts
not recommended: not appropriate for intended readers

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