Friday, December 22, 2006

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

Wrede, Patricia C. and Stevermer, Caroline. 2006. The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc.

The sequel to The Grand Tour (which follows Sorcery and Cecilia) this third novel offers another adventure of cousins Kate and Cecy (and by now their families) ten years later. The story is told through letters to each other and is about how England is being transformed by the new railway system. James and Cecy must track down a missing German railway engineer (and magician) who disappeared quite suddenly (and rather suspiciously). While they are looking into it, they notice that the new railways are disturbing the natural magic in the area, which if not fixed could spell disaster for England!

Meanwhile, Kate is busy looking after all of their children...until one is kidnapped and when she and her husband Thomas find him they find another missing child who they take under their wing. Who is she they don't know and neither will the child talk to tell them and yet somehow all of these strange events are tied together...

A very satisfying read from two well known YA authors, Ms. Wrede (pronounced REE-dee, and here I've been saying it wrong all this time!) is known for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles while Ms. Stevermer is more known for her novel River Rats as well as other fantasy novels. The book is a nice blend of magic, adventure, and mystery - although I don't know if I'd try to keep them going since they've aged their characters so much now. I think it would have made a nicer series if they had continued with their characters a bit closer together where they'd left them off at in the last book.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Sonnenblick, Jordan. 2005. Drums, girls, & dangerous pie. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press.

When his five-year-old younger brother, Jeffery, is diagnosed with leukemia, thirteen-year-old Steven tries to deal with the complicated emotions, his school life, and his desire to support his family both emotionally and financially.

The story is told from Steven’s viewpoint and gives a very realistic view of the life of a family dealing with crisis. Steven’s Dad basically shuts down and shuts people out, his Mom becomes the sole caregiver for his brother, and in the whirlwind Steven is left to cope on his own. School is no longer a priority and his grades go from above average to failing very quickly. Music becomes the only thing that really matters to him and he looses himself in it.

However the story is saved from being overly melodramatic by the wit, complexity, and realisticness that Sonnenblick infuses his characters with. All the horrors of dealing with cancer are there, from chemo to vomiting; yet there is also love and hope and the lesson that even in the middle of tragedy life will go on – sometimes for the worst but also for the best.

The Canning Season by Polly Horvath

Horvath, Polly. 2005. The Canning Season. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

A National Book Award winner for 2003 The Canning Season by Polly Horvath, is a novel about a thirteen-year-old girl, Ratchet, who is unceremoniously dumped by her mother into the care of two old, distant, twin great aunts, Tilly and Penpen, that live in Maine in a very large remote house surrounded by blueberry bogs and bears. Supposedly Ratchet is going to stay just for the summer while her mother attends to more important things, like gaining entry to the country club and her new boyfriend, but Ratchet ends up looking after and caring very much for Tilly and Penpen. When an unwanted teenage girl, Harper, shows up on the front porch, the household dynamics change somewhat, but Ratchet and Harper become friends in caring for the older women, learning the ways of rural Maine, and dealing with a shared sense of abandonment.

This book was so-so for me...I object to the use of the "F" word in the seemed that she was going for shock value instead of just telling the story, I feel that she could have used some other expletive and still gotten the point across. It's a book that I would recommend for older teens because the themes are a bit obscure I think for younger students.