WEDNESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2014

Baby gryphon hatches from blue stone

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Edric the Hatchling Gryphon
by Eric K. Williams
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2014 | FriesenPress | 72 pages


Very few people know anything about gryphons, the mythological creatures that are half eagle and half lion. Aerek had certainly never seen one when he happened upon a beautiful and mysteriously warm blue stone while walking through the woods. After his friend Miss Beecie helped him research the unusual rock, they concluded that it must be a gryphon egg. Thus they were not surprised when just such a creature hatched from the stone.

Edric, as Aerek decided to name him, quickly bonded with this human companions. As he grew, Edric displayed all the characteristics of a typical gryphon: courage, loyalty and above all, a love for gold. He accompanied Aerek and Beecie everywhere, which proved to be a blessing. His strength and daring saved them on more than one occasion. He even helped Aerek and his fellow soldiers defeat an invading group of Cyclops, displaying a nobleness of spirit that only a very special gryphon could possibly possess.

This first… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2014

An audition for life

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Far Out
by Rachel Billington
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2002 | Hodder Children's Books | 160 pages


Ruby and Slate separately see an unusual card on the noticeboard advertising an Audition for Life. When they attend the audition in a torn-down Salvation Army hall, bringing their pets as required, they alone are selected by the flamboyant and mysterious Frederick, April and Cherie, to take ship from Pier 225 to travel to The Island. With the orphaned Nadine and St Ives and Ruby's best friend Lee, who stows away, they travel to the island with other children who seem strangely unreal. This island is to be the stage on which each of them will develop and display his or her talents in an audition for life.

The story is gentle. The main characters are probably 10 or 11 years old: old enough to worry about toe-rings and mobile phone styles but young enough not to care when someone has to take her jeans off to get rid of spiders. Such tragedy as there is - Ruby's father's desertion,… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 12 NOVEMBER 2014

A book from one of our subscribers

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What Should My Child Read?
by Susan Moore
published in 2012 (1992) | Five Senses Publication | 224 pages


This third edition of Susan Moore's guide to literature for children ages 5-15 contains a wealth of information about a wide variety of books for young people. In her preface, Moore explains not only the organization of her book, but also delineates recent trends in this area. Her analysis of prevalent themes in children's literature can help parents and educators think more deeply about the implications of many modern popular books. Moore's professional background also enables her to evaluate the literary style of current authors.

Moore discusses primarily two categories of literature:  realism and fantasy in this "user-friendly" reference. In a single paragraph, she summarizes the plot, gives a brief character analysis, describes the author's writing style and raises any concerns about the book's contents. I have not read all of the books Moore includes and did see some titles that I personally would not be comfortable recommending (e.g., The Midwife’s Apprentice, Shiloh). That said, busy parents may… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2014

Optimism and humor

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Holes
by Louis Sachar
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2000 (1998) | Yearling | 272 pages


Stanley Yelnats, overweight and coming from a family which seems to have been dogged by misfortune, is optimistic even though he is sent to a harsh young offenders' camp in the desert when he is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of shoes. He finds his place among the other boys and offers to help one of them, nicknamed Zero, who is illiterate. In parallel, we learn about the history of Stanley's family and that they half-jokingly attribute their run of bad luck to a curse on one of their Latvian ancestors. When Zero attacks a sadistic camp guard and runs away, Stanley goes to find him, and together they survive in the desert, unwittingly coming across places and things which have a place in Stanley's family history. Finally, they make their way back to the camp where a lawyer has turned up to free Stanley and who unmasks the unjust behaviour of those running the camp.

This book is… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2014

A battle with a dragon

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St. George and the Dragon
by Michael Lotti
written for ages 11-14 | recommended
published in 2014 | CreateSpace | 162 pages


While little is known for certain about the martyr St. George, he is always portrayed slaying a dragon. This image is the inspiration for Michael Lotti's story of the conversion of a Roman soldier originally named Marcellus. Marcellus has a reputation for being a courageous and just tribune of the Empire's army, loyal to Rome and family. Upon returning to his father's estate to prepare for his wedding, Marcellus discovers that many of his neighbors, including his fiancée, have joined a cult that worships a dragon living in a nearby cave. In spite of an instinctive aversion to the creature, Marcellus visits it and finds the serpent's influence irresistible.

Equally compelling, however, are the Christians that Marcellus' father harbors on his land, among them the family's most trusted slave, Pasikrates, and Agathon, a travelling bishop. Marcellus is torn between the hypnotizing power of the dragon and the gentle wisdom and brotherly love of the Christians. He must decide if he… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 3 NOVEMBER 2014

Children’s travel log

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Anthony Ant Goes to France
by Julie Bettendorf
written for ages 2-7 | acceptable
published in 2014 | Outskirts Press | 32 pages


Clever travel log about an ant who visits Paris with a ladybug friend. Illustrations are bright and captivating while the text is written in clever rhyming couplets that explain the sites of the City of Lights.

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FRIDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2014

So-called “modern classic” promotes relativism

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Shiloh
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
written for ages 9-12 | not recommended
published in 2000 (1991) | Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 144 pages


Set in rural West Virginia, this book tells the story of eleven-year-old Marty who befriends a run-away dog (Shiloh) whom he suspects is being abused by its owner (Judd Travers). His father makes him return the dog, knowing that the law will undoubtedly side with Judd, an abused dog is not the same as an abused child and the potential backlash to their family argues against fighting a lost cause. Marty tells Judd that he will bring Shiloh back if he finds him again. However, when Shiloh returns, Marty hides him in a pen on his father's land and sneaks food to him.

This secret causes Marty to lie to his parents, two younger sisters, friends and neighbors, one lie leading to another. When Shiloh is nearly killed by a bear while trapped in Marty's pen, the secret is revealed, causing problems between his parents and embarrassment for his family. Although Marty is forced to return Shiloh, he is determined… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 30 OCTOBER 2014

Beloved author continues to enchant young readers

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The Mouse and the Motorcycle
by Beverly Cleary
written for ages 9-12 | highly recommended
published in 2014 (1965) | HarperCollins | 176 pages


Author Beverly Cleary has a skill for creating wonderful characters that linger in the memory and imagination. The Mouse and the Motorcycle was first written in 1965 but has been re-printed and is still quite popular now in 2014.

A young boy named Keith and his family stop at the Mountain View Inn for a few days rest whilst travelling over mountains and across hills in their car. Keith takes out his toy cars and motorcycle and runs them up and down his blanket's stripes making ‘pb-pb-bb-b’ noises for the motorbike. He does not realise that while doing this, he is being watched....a young mouse named Ralph quickly ventures out from his hole. Ralph is fascinated with the shiny motorcycle. His subsequent adventures and scrapes as he hops on for a wild ride make for an exciting story. Ralph's main quest in the story is to escape dogs, cats and humans while retrieving a lost aspirin when the… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2014

Blood is thicker than water

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Saving Kabul Corner
by N.H. Senzai
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2014 | Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | 288 pages


Twelve-year-old Ariana has always been proud of her Afghan heritage and the family grocery store owned by her father and uncle. When her cousin Laila moves into her home, and her room, Ariana begins to realize how little she knows about her own culture. Newly arrived from Afghanistan, the graceful and mature Laila relates to the girls’ grandmother and older relatives in ways that Ariana cannot. Laila is so perfect that she may even steal Ariana’s best friend Miriam away.

Ariana may not be as genteel as Laila, but she is intelligent and perceptive. She is the first to discover that a rival Afghan store is opening in their neighborhood and realizes that this spells trouble for her family. As tempers flare among the adults, Ariana follows her instincts. With the help of Miriam, Laila and the competing store owner’s son, Ariana solves the mystery behind the store rivalry. She also learns that, in spite of their differences, she and… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2014

See it before you read it

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The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
written for ages 13-16 | acceptable
published in 2009 | Delacorte Press | 374 pages


A group of teenage boys wake up inside a deadly Maze, and each day they must search—or fight—for a way out. The newest young adult dystopian trilogy to become a film is pitched at a slightly younger readership than Hunger Games and Divergent, and its strange mechanical and animal monsters seem created for the screen.

The boys—later joined by a single girl—don’t know who created the Maze or why they are there. In the process of making sense of their world there are many instances of self-sacrifice and bravery, even though characters sometimes make mistakes or let tiredness and strain goad them into revenge.

The younger readership is not implied in the frequent bone-crushing violence and gruesome encounters with disgusting creatures, or even in the complex exploration of whether the Maze creators are good or evil, but in the juvenile style in which the story is told. Dashner has invented an entirely new collection of profanities which are irritating when… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

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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 jennifer.minicus@mercatornet.com.


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