Series Books

The Ancient Technology Series by Michael Woods and Mary B. Woods.
Runestone Press/Lerner Publishing Group: Minneapolis, MN, 2000.

Ancient Agriculture
Ancient Communication
Ancient Computing
Ancient Construction
Ancient Machines
Ancient Medicine
Ancient Transportation
Ancient Warfare

This is an awesome World History series. I found the books at my local library and introduced them to my sons to show them different types of technology. I wanted to impress on them the brilliance and importance of discoveries made thousands of years ago. Many things are still used today because they are still among the best ways to accomplish tasks. I also wanted them to learn that there are things that ancient people knew that were lost for centuries and needed to be rediscovered.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.
Talk Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children: NY.

Magic and fairy tales (literally) go hi-tech in this most original, humorous, and elaborate series. All of the books are absorbing with many memorable moments. Artemis is a mastermind at planning and technology. Despite his intelligence, he is certainly not the ideal in character. However, exposure to the fairy world teaches him valuable lessons in friendship, loyalty, and selflessness.

Artemis Fowl ©2001: Through research and scheming Artemis finds a way to capture a fairy in order to increase his family fortune. Because of his knowledge he is sure of success, but there are still things about the fairy world that he has not learned.

Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident ©2002: Artemis's father is being held in Russia for ransom. The B'Wa Kell goblins are rebelling with the help of an insider at LEPrecon headquarters. Human artifacts are surfacing underground, so Holly Short, Root and Foaly believe Artemis must be trading with the goblins. Artemis and Butler are interrogated to learn the truth, and the 5 join forces to retrieve Artemis Fowl, Sr. and end the goblin uprising.

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code ©2003: Possibly the best of the series, this book has many surprises. Artemis builds the ultimate computer-with fairy equipment confiscated in earlier situations. The C Cube will make all other communications technology obsolete. It is verbally controlled, wireless, and can be used as a TV, phone, video and audio player, and computer. It can hack any computer and scan any contents-electronic or organic. It can also piggyback on any satellite given the source code.

Artemis tries to make a business deal regarding the C Cube, and it ends up in the hands of a ruthless criminal industrialist. Holly and Foaly are drawn into Artemis's deals again because the Cube has scanned their information systems. Because the Cube is verbally controlled, Spiro (the thief) will require Artemis's services.

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception ©2005: Opal Koboi has made an ingenious escape and has set out to destroy all those responsible for her incarceration. Artemis walks directly into her trap. Thanks to Butler's unique abilities they elude death. Holly has lost connection with Foaly and is on the run as a suspect for the murder of Commander Root. So, Artemis is the only one capable of stopping Opal, but he has to recover his memories of the fairy people first.

Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony ©2006: Not reviewed yet. RL=5th-YAThe Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Arthur A. Levine: NY.

The Seeing Stone: 2001.

This is the journal of a younger son (page) at the turn of the thirteenth century near the border of England and Wales. It is a cozy glimpse into life in a small medieval village. It is also an exciting parallel of the King Arthur stories. Scenes of King Arthur's life are played out before him in a seeing stone given to him by his friend and mentor, Merlin. There are many similarities between what he sees in the stone and what happens in his life. Some of the things are seen beforehand, and others he sees in the stone after experiencing a similar version. Either way, the thirteenth century Arthur has a thirst for knowledge and understanding and learns from both the seeing and experiencing.
related-King Arthur, thirteenth century, medieval village, England and Wales

At the Crossing Places: 2002.

Arthur leaves Caldicot to train as a squire with Lord Stephen de Holt. He continues to view King Arthur's world through his seeing stone as he and Lord Stephen prepare for a Crusade. He examines things he is told or taught as he faces contrasting ideas in life, and everything is logged in his journal. As he prepares for knighthood, he is also preparing to manage his inheritance-Catmole. Or as he finally realizes, his Camelot.
related-King Arthur, Middle Ages, British history, identity, contradictions in life

The King of the Middle March: 2004.

In the last book of the trilogy, Arhtur participates in the Fourth Crusade in Venice and Zara and witnesses the confusion and horrors of war. He also sees the downfall of King Arthur's court in his seeing stone. The third book also focuses on his courtship of Winnie and his worry that he will lose her. After the other 2 books, this one was disappointing to me. It is likely to appeal to less people, and I would not recommend for younger than YA, although the depiction of the Crusades is interesting as is the parallel between Arthur and Winnie/Arthur and Guinevere.
related-King Arthur,British history-Richard I, 1189-1199, King John, 1199-1216, Middle Ages, magic, identity

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques.
Philomel Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: NY, 2001.
author of acclaimed Redwall series

The angel who doomed the Flying Dutchman to sail the seas for all eternity spared a boy and his dog from that fate. Because of their innocence and good-heartedness, they were instead given the opportunity to live through the centuries helping people in ditsress. This first book introduces the Flying Dutchman legend and then focuses mainly on a village that is soon to be destroyed by industrial development and the coming together of townfolk to save it with the guidance of the boy and dog.

My sons are big Redwall fans, but personally, I enjoyed The Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and its sequels The Angel's Command (2003) and Voyage of Slaves (2006) more. There is an exciting treasure hunt and references to the founding of the village. The boy tries to get as many townspeople involved as possible so that they come together as a community instead of depending on a hero. The community working together is a recurring theme in most of Brian Jacques's books. As usual the characters and attention to detail contribute to another success for Jacques.
related-heroes, angels, dogs

Charlie Bone Series by Jenny Nimmo
Orchard Books: NY

Midnight for Charlie Bone 2003
Charlie Bone And The Time Twister 2003
Charlie Bone And The Invisible Boy 2004
Charlie Bone And The Castle Of Mirrors 2005
Charlie Bone And The Hidden King 2006
Charlie Bone And The Beast 2007

Children with personal magical talents are taught at a school for the descendants of one family. It isn't a school of magic; it's just a way of keeping track of them. It is another story of good vs. evil. I haven't read the latest book, but each story has a unique and exciting storyline building up to a climax still in the future.

The Chrestomanci Books by Diana Wynne Jones.
Greenwillow Books: NY.

Charmed Life 1977
The Magicians of Caprona 1980 - No Review Yet
The Lives of Christopher Chant 1988
Mixed Magics: Four Tales of Chrestomanci 2001 - No Review Yet
Witch Week 2001 - No Review Yet
Conrad's Fate 2005
The Pinhoe Egg 2006

In a world full of magic it is the Chrestomanci's job to control the magical community, keep the magical from trampling the nonmagical, and limit travel between their world and others. Because of the risks involved, the Chrestomanci is always a powerful enchanter with nine lives-so he can afford to lose a few. He also must have the ability to learn what everyone is up to and travel easily himself to the other worlds. In the series, there is also a Chrestomanci-in-training for each book.

Charmed Life Originally published in Great Britain by Macmillan London Ltd: Gwendolen and Cat are picked to live and study in Chrestomanci Castle-they believe because of Gwendolen's abilities. However, she and the Chrestomanci clash immediately, and she proceeds to show everyone the extent of her powers. Cat, meanwhile, is cowed by her and trying to fit in without incurring his sister's wrath. When Gwendolen escapes into another world, she leaves a Replacement further complicating matters for Cat.

Charmed Life is the start of an ingenious series. I like it best of the series with The Lives of Christopher Chant a close 2nd. Cat and Chrestomanci are wonderful characters, and there are several entertaining tidbits and plenty of twists with foreshadowing details.
related-magic, multiple lives, law enforcement, family, travel between worlds, doubles in other worlds, high interest

The Lives of Christopher Chant: This chronicles the boyhood of the Chrestomanci in Charmed Life. When Christopher's uncle learns of his exploring 10 other worlds in his dreams, he recruits him for "experiments" which turn out to be far more sinister. As he loses lives during these dangerous escapades, Christopher's father realizes he has nine lives and takes him to Chrestomanci Castle to be trained as the next Chrestomanci (chief of magical law enforcement). His future and past collide making him the ideal enchanter to save the present Chrestomanci (Gabriel), foil the plans of enemy #1, and meanwhile save a goddess from her sacrificial fate.

Many little pieces of the story are quite entertaining. Some of them turn out to have more relevance than you'd guess. The character interaction between Christopher and Tacroy/Mordecai and Christopher and the living goddess/Millie is especially noteworthy. It is interesting to see the boyhoods of Christopher and Gabriel, and the cricket moments and Throgmorten ( a devilish cat) are most enjoyable.
related-magic, multiple lives, law enforcement, family, travel between worlds, high interest, smugglers, black market

Conrad's Fate: Conrad goes to work in Stallery Mansion (in an alternate world of the Chrestomanci universe) as a servant. The property is in a spot where details of the world shift at times. Someone in the mansion has learned how to control the shiftings and increase their number.

Christopher Chant follows Millie to this same world since she ran away from her boarding school. While searching for her, he and Conrad are caught in the shifting as is Millie.

There are several ideas going on in the book that are interesting-the shifting of the worlds (alternate mansions), Christopher as a servant incognito, other characters with assumed identities, magical spells, as usual the appearance of the Chrestomanci to set matters right, and a reality shift at the end when all characters are identified. The servant/household structure is reminiscent of Victorian novels-which is also interesting, but overdone. There are some amusing episodes involving servants-in-training, but I would have preferred less details of decor for a smoother flow in the story. All in all a good story, but the 1st and 2nd are still my favorites.

The Pinhoe Egg has some good characters, interesting concepts, and hilarious details. I don't think it is up to the standard of the other books in the series, though. To be fair my kids enjoyed it more than I did. I think it is long for the level it is, and through much of the book the events seem haphazard and unconnected to the plot. They come together at the end, but it is far into the book before there is any connection. It is whimsical in tone, except the 2 clans having a huge brawl. I did enjoy the 2 main characters (one is Cat Chant), and there are some hints of other stories in the making.

Marianne's family is a secret clan of witches. The leader of the clan, her grandmother, has been out of line for quite a while, but recently is incoherent and silently feuding with a neighboring clan.

Marianne finds a unique and precious egg in her grandmother's abandoned attic and gives it to her new friend, Cat Chant. Cat hatches the egg and starts a flood of trouble. Marianne tries to warn her family of her grandmother's behavior and is hushed up. Cat, meanwhile, is noticing oddities in the surrounding area (redirection spells, a strange barrier in the woods, and a feeling of emptiness in the forest). Cat and Marianne join together to bring it all out in the open for the Chrestomanci, Cat's cousin and teacher, to see and resolve.
related-magic, griffin, identity, family, feud, power struggle, invention, mythical or magical creatures, magic in crafts

The Circle of Magic Series by Tamora Pierce.
Scholastic Press: NY.

Sandry's Book 1997
Tris's Book 1998
Daja's Book 1998
Briar's Book 1999

The Circle Opens
Magic Steps 2000
Street Magic 2001
Cold Fire 2002
Shatterglass 2003

The Will of the Empress 2005
   BookAdvice Book of the Month Nov 2006

The Circle of Magic Series explores the concept of trade magic. The books are fascinating and well-planned. RL=5th-8th

Sandry's Book is primarily an introduction to the series. The mage Niklaren Goldeye gathers 4 young people (Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar) with unusual qualities to teach them to understand and use their abilities.The magic of natural things is explored-textiles, weather, metalsmithing and plants.

In Tris's Book, Winding Circle Temple is at risk by a pirate attack. The four young mages assist in defending the city. They have found they can communicate telepathically with each other, and they explore their own abilities as well as combine their magic for a stronger effect.

In Daja's Book, the apprentices' abilities are being transferred to each other uncontrollably. They are challenged to discover more about how they are connected and learn to manage their skills better instead of going wherever the magic leads.

in Briar's Book, an epidemic is attacking the city. One of Briar's street friends asks for his help. He soon learns that the disease is beyond Rosethorn's healing abilities. Each member of Winding Circle is enlisted in the fight against the disease according to their abilities. Briar will prove his worth in the process and move finally beyond the status of street urchin and thief.

The Circle Opens books are for more advanced readers. They are more complex than the earlier Circle of Magic books, and they have more violence than the earlier books. The books are captivating and explore the mages' abilities in detail. The nuances are intriguing, and the there is mystery, adventure, and drama in all of them. However, I would not recommend for young readers. RL=7th-YA

In Magic Steps, Sandrilene has found a young mage with a more unusual ability than hers-dancing. As their is no one available with the training to teach him, the responsibility falls on her as the discoverer of his powers. First she must convince him and his family of the necessity of training him.

There are invisible killers loose in Emelan taking vengeance on one particular family. As their vengeance continues, Sandry and her student are drawn into the mystery. Their particular talents may be the key to stopping the killers.

Street Magic takes place in the city of Chammur. Briar spies a street urchin polishing rocks in the marketplace. The seller knows the rocks she touches sell better, but all she knows is that certain rocks call to her. When he approaches her, she runs, and Briar plays a cat and mouse game trying to convince her she needs a teacher. They both run afoul of the street gangs in the city-especially one controlled by a wealthy widow. When the gang learns of Evvy's ability, they try to lure and then capture her to work for them-not knowing the devastating consequences of crossing a mage as powerful as Briar (and even Evvy) even though he is only 14. The story is less about magic than it is about gangs and street life plus the intrigue of the wealthy widow.

In Cold Fire, Daja and Frostpine are staying in Namorn with old friends of Frostpine. Daja finds that the twin daughters of the family have ambient magic (as she does). She recruits a teacher for each according to her ability, but she has to train them in meditation-each in a different way to suit her personality. Their training interrupts her own projects. There has been a rash of fires set in the island region. She is drawn into helping to control them and tracking the arsonist. She is also attempting to design clothing for the leader of the fire brigades since he is personally involved in every firefight.

There are clues from the beginning about who sets the fires, but there is still suspense about why and how he will be caught. The story is a little dark and sad. But it is captivating, and the concepts are thought-provoking.
related-fire prevention and protection against fire, cooking, woodworking, arson, abuse, hospital, ice skating, metalworking, twins, forms of meditation

In Shatterglass, Niko and Tris have travelled to Tharios for a huge conference for mages. As Tris explores the glass shops, she meets Keth who has blown a living dragon of glass. He tries to demolish the dragon as it was an accident, and she saves it from him. She learns that he is a lightening mage with no knowledge of his power, and so he becomes her responsibility.

In exploring the city, she also learns of the class system in which prathmuni are untouchables because the handle all wastes of the city (including the dead) and of the deaths of the yaskesdasi that no one cares about because they are only poor, wanton street performers. That is, they don't care until they are left by the murderer in public places to defile the cleanliness of the city. Naturally, Tris and Keth become involved in the case.

In The Will of the Empress, Daja, Briar, and Tris come home to Emelan from their travels. They each return with dark secrets wondering if they will still be accepted and unwilling to open up their mental connection to each other. Though bickering as a result of their disconnection, Duke Vedris asks the 3 to accompany Sandry to her family's home in Namorn as Sandry's cousin, the Empress of Namorn, is demanding her presence. They know right away the Empress wants to keep Sandry there (by force if necessary), but they soon learn that she wants all of them to stay. Their connection is evetually reforged and strengthened by the conflicts with the Namornese which they face.

For me, there was a little too much court nonsense in the story, and the middle dragged as a result (maybe because Pierce's dealing with 4 people's reactions to court life). The excitement level does, however, pick up in the second half of the book. With the Namornese kidnapping law, it resembles a Victorian novel at times with the damsel in distress situation. It is handled fairly well, and there is a point to it. As usual the mages' abilities lend complexity to the story. Those enjoying the story will be thrilled.
related-courts and courtiers, rulers, friendship

The Dark Is Rising Series by Susan Cooper.
Over Sea, Under Stone. Harcourt, Inc: NY, 1965.
The Dark Is Rising. Atheneum: NY, 1973. Newbery Honor 1974
Greenwitch. Atheneum: NY, 1974.
The Grey King. Atheneum: NY, 1975. Newbery Award 1976
Silver on the Tree. Athenuem: NY, 1977.

RL=5th-adult       *Some of the books may be challenging for grade levels under 7th.

I finished my second reading of The Dark Is Rising series. The first was 4 to 5 years ago, and I remember being excited and enthralled by it. This time, looking at it more objectively, I noticed that there is an excitement building within the books similar to an orchestra rising to a crescendo. This is an impressive achievement for the author. The series is a masterful work of storytelling. It has the complexity of Tolkien without the heaviness. The language is filled with the High Magic making the reading an awesome poetical experience.

The story just touches on Arthurian legend, and yet it still has a strong Arthurian feel. The books are heavily laced with a mystical and magical sense of purpose and of destiny, though a wrong turning at one point or another could change the whole outcome.

In Over Sea, Under Stone, Simon, Jane, and Barney find a crumbling manuscript with a map in the attic of an old house in Cornwall. They rejoice at the opportunity for a treasure hunt, and they become drawn into a much more important quest. It is a race between the forces of good and evil. As the story unfolds, there are references to the days of King Arthur and a hint of adventures to come in the rest of the series.
related-Cornwall, good vs evil, quest, King Arthur

In The Dark Is Rising, Will Stanton discovers that he is, like Merriman Lyon, one of the Old Ones-the immortals who strive unceasingly to curtail the domination of the Dark. His first task as a newly awakened Old One, is to gather the six Signs that are needed to overcome the Dark in the final battle, and in so doing, learn what it means to be an Old One and what is expected of him. During the twelve days of Christmas, the power of the Dark increases. Will is confronted by Dark forces throughout his quest as they try to stop the fulfillment of his destiny.

This complex fantasy is loaded with symbolism and allusions to ancient Celtic and English traditions and legends. Will has been drawn into a whole new world as he continues in his own family and village as well. The blending of his worlds is fantastical and spectacular. The book is a departure from the first. It can stand alone as a splendid story as well as being connected through the character of Merriman Lyon and the continuing contest of wills between the Light and Dark forces.
related-Buckinghamshire, good vs evil, quest, Christmas, village life, traditions and legends-Celtic and English

In Greenwitch, the grail has been stolen from its museum. Simon, Jane, and Barney return with Great-Uncle Merry to help restore it to the Light. They also wish to retrieve the scroll which is the key to the markings on the grail. Will Stanton joins them in their endeavors.

The creation of the Greenwitch is the centerpoint of the story. The local women construct the Greenwitch annually, and she is thrown into the sea as a sacrifice. Jane watches the ceremony in fear and sympathy. While humans made it and the Light and Dark can call it forth, controlling it is another matter since the Light and Dark have no authority over the Wild Magic. In the end, Jane's bond with the Greenwitch is an important factor in the resolution of their crisis.
related-good vs evil, Wild Magic, Cornwall

Like the 2nd book, The Grey King is laced heavily with symbolism and myth and legend. Will Stanton recuperates in Wales with relatives after a terrible illness and must fulfill his first quest without help from other Old Ones as he faces the strongest of the Dark forces yet. A local boy named Bran is introduced and will play a major part in the last book. This particular book also focuses more on human character-feelings, motivations, obsessions, and free will.
related-Wales, good vs evil, Pendragon

In Silver on the Tree, the Dark is rising for the last time. Bran and Will go in search of the crystal sword made for the Light but kept by the maker. The Drew children play a part in protecting Bran as he fulfills his destiny. As the Dark is challenging them, they are drawn through time to face fear, nightmares, and even death.

Silver on the Tree is totally wrapped in mystical symbolism. It is very much the Arthurian quest (a continuation of the quest in The Grey King). So heavily mythological, and yet, it works. There is again the blending of times through the use of the land (done to a greater extent in The Dark Is Rising).
related-Wales, good vs evil, Pendragon, Lost Land, dreams, nightmares

Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Books Reviewed: The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey.
(mostly) Ballantine Books/Random House:NY.

Dragonquest ©1971
The White Dragon © 1978

These first three have also been published as a 3 story set and are closely related.

Dragonsong © 1976 Simon & Schuster Childrens Publications: NY
Dragonsinger © 1977 Atheneum/Macmillan Publishing Company: NY
Dragondrums © 1979 Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
The Masterharper of Pern © 1998 Ballantine Publishing/Random House

These four books are the harper series and are parallel to the first three. They have some of the same characters with a focus on different subject matter. They have a more historical and artistic feel to them as opposed to fantasy/science fiction. They are the books that first drew my attention and captured it.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern ©1983
Nerilka's Story ©1986
Dragonsdawn ©1988
The Renegades of Pern ©1989
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall ©1993
All the Weyrs of Pern ©1991
Dragonseye ©1997

Dragon's Kin (with son Todd McCaffrey) ©2003 Del Rey/Ballantine Books
Dragonsblood (Todd McCaffrey) ©2005 Del Rey/Ballantine Books

Anne McCaffrey has created a whole new world for readers. The people have come from a highly technological society and travelled to a solar system far from Earth in an attempt to leave behind the constant and seriously destructive warfare. The colonization was an attempt to start again with a far less technological and more cooperative culture. Each book delves deeper into the culture, and the detail with which the series is described is impressive and exciting.

**The author suggests that books in the series be read in the order of publication.

Dragonflight: This story explains the threat of thread and the necessity of the dragons and dragon partners. Not everyone believes it is a real threat. F'lar becomes the one of the leaders of the society(weyrleader) as he prepares for and convinces people of the necessity of preparedness. His weyrwoman finds a way to save the people since they are not ready for the peril.

Dragonquest: The oldtimers who have been fighting thread the longest are causing problems. They live by a different set of rules, the landowners (holders) are becoming angry and uncooperative as a result. F'lar tries to find a better solution for thread and friction caused by the oldtimers.

The White Dragon: Jaxom is to inherit Ruatha Hold, but a trustee is managing it until he is of age. Meanwhile, he attends a dragon hatching and unintentionally bonds with a dragon(which means he has to raise it). This is unheard of for a Lord Holder, but Ruth is no ordinary dragon. Jaxom is allowed to keep Ruth as a "pet," but soon he is training him also in secret.

Dragonsong: Music is more important than anything to Menolly. Between her father forbidding her to continue with her music and a serious injury to her hand, she decides she will leave home(even though she could die without shelter from thread). While hiding from thread, she discovers fire lizards hatching. She feeds them, and they attach themselves to her. She gets caught out in the open one day with a thread storm coming and is found by a dragonrider on duty.

Dragonsinger: This is a continuation of Menolly's story. It is also an explanation of the importance and work of the harper network and the importance of Menolly within that network. It is a complex and heartwarming story. The harpers are my favorite part of the series.
Dragondrums: When Piemur's voice changes, he becomes the masterharper's personal assistant and is sent to do political work in the field.

The Masterharper of Pern: Robinton, son of the composer Petiron and the singer Merelan, is exceptionally gifted from the start. His talents develop quickly with special opportunities and attention. This is the account of how he becomes The Masterharper.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern: A mysterious illness spreads across Pern (possibly started by a runnerbeast) killing holders, craftsmen, and dragonriders.

Nerilka's Story: Embarassed by her family's unwillingness to help during a deadly plague, packs medicines and supplies and leaves home. In her quest to help, she arrives at Ruatha Hold and finds a new life for herself.

Dragonsdawn: The early settlers have their first confrontation with thread and start to genetically engineer and use dragons.

The Renegades of Pern: This is the story of the outsiders on Pern-the travelling traders, the people who lost holds, those exiled for wrongdoing, and those choosing to live as outlaws. Lady Thella is the worst of the thieves, and there is a whole group trying to stop her evil plans.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall: These are short stories of Pern. Some of them are extensions of the other books, and some are completely new ideas.

All the Weyrs of Pern: Excavation of some of the Southern continent's buildings uncovers some of the lost technology. A new plan is formed which will hopefully end the cycles of thread.

Dragonseye: Their training teaches them that thread is shortly going to fall for the second time since inhabiting the planet. It has been two centuries, and some of the Lord Holders doubt the teachings. This is the first time chronologically that weyr and hold preparedness is in question.

Dragon's Kin: Kindan's father is experimenting with watch-whers(relatives of dragons) in the mines. When his father is killed in a mining accident, Kindan is asked to raise a young watch-wher to carry on this important work.

Dragonsblood: The dragons contract a deadly disease. It is spreading quickly, and the weyrs race against time to find a way to save the dragons before they lose so many that thread is impossible to stop.

The books were written for adults but appeal to younger readers as well-starting with maybe 5th to 6th level.

Girls Against the Boys by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

It's the four Hatford boys against the three Malloy girls. They exhibit great imagination in the pranks they play against each other. The feud starts when the Malloys temporarily move into the Hatfords' friends' house as Mr. Malloy substitutes as coach for the local university.

The Boys Start the War
The Girls get Even
Boys Against Girls
The Girls' Revenge
A Traitor Among the Boys
A Spy Among the Girls
The Boys Return
The Girls Take Over
Boys in Control
Girls Rule
Boys Rock
Who Won the War?

RL=3rd-5th Good Times Travel Agency by Linda Bailey. il Bill Slavin.
Kids Can Press: Tonawanda, NY.

Adventures in Ancient Egypt 2000
Adventures in the Middle Ages 2000
Adventures with the Vikings 2001
Adventures in Ancient Greece 2002
Adventures in Ancient China 2003
Adventures in the Ice Age 2004

The Good Times Travel adventure series is an uproarious, informative, high interest series. Three children travel to historical settings through a travel agency. In order to get back home, they must finish reading the book of facts related to the setting. It is written in comic book format with facts, instructive remarks, and funny asides.

Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Press: NY.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 1997
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 1999
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 1999
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2000
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2000
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 2005
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2007

For many people Harry Potter needs no introduction or review. Those who have not read the books may be getting tired of hearing about it. Fans can't get enough and want it to never end. If you have seen the movies and not read the books, I strongly recommend that you read the books. The books are much better because things have been cut for the movies.

Although they were not written as children's books, the first two books are written at a level that 3rd to 5th graders can easily read. At that point the books are amusing because of the humor in the dialogue and the interesting things that can be done with magic. Starting with the 3rd book, the series becomes more complex-dealing with social issues and psychological aspects of life. They are still packed with humor and creative details. However, the characters are more developed and interesting, and we start to see that there is a master plan for the series that is slowly being revealed. Loose ends are being tied to the story that before didn't seem significant.

I know that some people are put off by the magic and hype surrounding Harry Potter. The allure of the magic in the series is similar to the fascination with superheroes or awe of computerized graphics. It creates possibilities that we know are not really possible. To me, the magic is just the backdrop-however amusing. It is just another medium used to display the story which is the struggle of good against evil-including different shades and variations of each. The story also incorporates the social and psychological struggle that life can be. As for the hype, that comes naturally because it is one of the best series available-for both juvenile and adult literature. It appeals to both, and so it has become a masterpiece that we all can share.

starting with 3rd book RL=7th-adult

Quidditch Through the Ages
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

My sons loved these books of background information, and they still refer to them for fun and speculation about the Harry Potter series.

For people who want to dig deeper into the stories (or for classes), there are some good sources available. Wizarding World Press supplies critical analysis of the books. Their information is insightful and entertaining. They inspired my family to think more analytically and investigatively of the books.

Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter
The Plot Thickens...Harry Potter Investigated by Fans for Fans
New Clues to Harry Potter: Book 5

by Galadriel Waters
*There are newer books also that we have not read.

The website links listed below provide news, editorials, speculation, discussion, spin-offs, etc.

Leaky Cauldron-JKR's favorite fan site
Pottercast-Leaky's podcast
Site of Requirement
HP Lexicon
COS Forums

The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulsen.

Hatchet. Bradbury Press/Macmillan, Inc: NY, 1987.
Newbery Honor 1988
The River. Delacorte Press: NY, 1991.
Brian's Winter. Delacorte Press: NY, 1996.
Brian's Return. Delacorte Press: NY, 1999.

Paulsen has created a fascinating detailed, and realistic account. You can easily see yourself in Brian's place.

Hatchet: Flying from New York state into Canada in a small plane, Brian's pilot has a massive heart attack, and the plane goes down. Brian is left stranded in the wilderness alone with only a hatchet to help him survive. During the 54 days he is alone, he learns through trial and error and hard labor. By the end of that time he becomes proficient at survival and he has undergone a powerful transformation.

The River: The government wants to place Brian in the wilderness again so that they can study how to help people survive in the wilderness. This time a government psychologist goes with him. During a storm the psychologist becomes incapacitated, and Brian fears he will die without medical help. He decides to build a raft and transport Derek down the river for help.

Brian's Winter: In the novel Hatchet, Brian is rescued after he manages to reach the radio from the plane. Brian's Winter is a different conclusion to Hatchet. If he hadn't been rescued, he would have had to somehow deal with winter.

Brian's Return: Brian is having trouble adjusting to school and "normal" life. He tries to talk about his experience in the wilderness and sees that others aren't listening to him. He wants to go back to the woods. In Brian's Return, he learns he can go back on his own terms and continue to study the natural world as he did before only without being trapped.Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant. il Sucie Stevenson.

Bradbury Press, NY:
Henry and Mudge 1987
Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble 1987
Henry and Mudge in the Green Time 1987
Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon 1987
Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days 1988
Henry and Mudge and the Forever Sea 1989
Henry and Mudge Get the Cold Shivers 1989
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat 1990
Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps 1991
Henry and Mudge Take the Big Test 1991
Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend 1992
Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind 1993
Henry and Mudge and the Careful Cousin 1994
Henry and Mudge and the Best Day of All 1995

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, NY:
Henry and Mudge in the Family Trees 1997
Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers 1998
Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night 1998
Henry and Mudge and Annie's Good Move 1998
Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan 1999
Henry and Mudge and Annie's Perfect Pet 2000
Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas 2004
Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas 2005
Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover 2006

il Carolyn Bracken
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, NY:
Henry and Mudge and the Tall Treehouse 2002
Henry and Mudge and Mrs. Hopper's House 2003
Henry and Mudge and the Wild Goose Chase 2004
Henry and Mudge and the Funny Lunch 2004
Henry and Mudge and the Tumbling Trip 2006

Henry and Mudge books are about a boy and his dog and the adventures that they share. They are some of the best beginning readers available. Our favorites are Puddle Trouble, Happy Cat, and The Long Weekend.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House: NY.
Originally published by Scholastic Children's Books: Great Britain.

The Golden Compass: 1996 (Britain 1995)
The Subtle Knife: 1997
The Amber Spyglass: 2000

The Golden Compass: Raised by the scholars and servants at one of the Oxford universities, running wild with the children of the town and universities, Lyra longs to go North in search of her "uncle" and adventure. Her best friend disappears from Oxford, thought to be kidnapped along with other children by the Gobblers for some sort of sacrifice. She sets out with great determination to rescue him, finding allies along the way where she can.

Mostly a book of epic adventure and intrigue, it also touches on the psyche or soul with the dæmons-individual creatures who are bound to their respective humans. Those of children can change aspects, but in adolescence they "settle" into one form. There is also a connecting point with other worlds (universes) through the Northern Lights. In this series, Lyra's world is the alternate universe, and it is her destiny to travel to ours. She has no difficulty finding protectors but makes her own decisions and follows her own path.

The excitement builds throughout the book with its twists and turns and a knowledge that there are momentous events to come. Not quite on the level with Harry Potter by Rowling and The Dark Is Rising by Cooper, but the story and details are truly exciting. The language and planning are not as complex.
related-missing person, experiment, arctic region, alter ego

The Subtle Knife: Lyra joins Will who has an overwhelming quest of his own. From different worlds, they meet in another world altogether. A world in which the Specters feed on the souls of adults leaving a chaotic world of children. Within this world there was an organization of philosophers who crafted a knife that could cut through anything. Little did they know that the power of the knife was much greater and diverse and would become the ultimate weapon in the war to come.

Will's quest is to find his explorer father who has been missing for years. In his attempts he is drawn into the epic adventure in which Lyra is fated.

While there are parts of the book that are fascinating, it is more disjointed than The Golden Compass and has some slow spots. The book is obviously important in the buildup to the conclusion. My favorite parts are regarding the connecting of worlds, the further understanding of Dust and dæmons, and the story of Will's father.

The Amber Spyglass: The third book is the epic struggle between the religious Authority and Lord Asriel and his rebels who wish to end the Authority's inquisitorial rule. Lyra is known to play a pivotal role in the confrontation, and so she is being hunted. Dr. Malone is also a target and has fled into another world. Her task is to live and study with the beings of that world to form a better understanding of the Dust particles and their importance in the life cycle. Will accompanies Lyra into the afterlife to set Roger free and, in doing this, they change the pattern of life and the Dust. Their relationship and sacrifices also are significant in the reformation of the ruling structures in the worlds.

The dæmon, or soul, is still a primary focus of the story. The ultimate conflict is resolved simply through Lyra and Will's relationship, growth, and thought instead of the usual colossal battle.
related-coming of age, innocence, consciousness, other conscious beings, evolution, adaptation

More reviews of His Dark Materials
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass

A History of US by Joy Hakim.
Oxford University Press: NY.

Book One: The First Americans
Book Two: Making Thirteen Colonies
Book Three: From Colonies to Country
Book Four: The New Nation
Book Five: Liberty for All?
Book Six: War, Terrible War
Book Seven: Reconstruction and Reform
Book Eight: An Age of Extremes
Book Nine: War, Peace, and All That Jazz
Book Ten: All the People 1945-1994

As a homeschool teacher, I rely on the library for most of our History information. When I found Joy Hakim's books, I found a goldmine. I needed an overview to use for general information for the different time periods-to use as a springboard. I did not expect to find the detail of a ten volume set. Thinking back to the History textbooks I read in school, I was delighted to read an intelligent, and at times witty, account of our history. These books inspired me to read beyond what I already knew about U.S. history. The books also recommend books for more specific information. The series is interesting enough to read solely for pleasure.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.
Dial Books/Penguin Group: NY.

The Looking Glass Wars 2006: I checked the book out from the library, because it sounded intriguing. It's much more captivating than I expected. I don't know how it was received by Lewis Carroll fans, but I found it to be one of the more engaging young adult books. The reading level is a little low (possibly 7th grade), and there are some parts that could have been developed more.

The concept of the book is what first attracted me. Alyss Heart (heir to the futuristic Wonderland Queendom) is transported to nineteenth century England through the Pool of Tears/random puddle when her Aunt Redd murders her mother (the Queen) and grabs control. Alyss falls in with some homeless children (like Oliver Twist), gets caught stealing, and is taken to an orphanage where she is adopted by the Liddells (Mr. Liddell being a dean in Oxford). For years she tries to keep the memory of her past alive and is scorned for her efforts. The publishing of her story (twisted by the author) motivates her to reject her memories and learn to blend in with society. Alyss is propelled back into Wonderland when Hatter Madigan announces her survival and Redd sends the Cat after her. She needs a crash course in imagination, since the battle for the Queendom is one of imagination.

There is a timeline of parallels at the back of the book, but the political and social references are minimal in the story. There are many special effects with a futuristic atmosphere: transportation using looking glass mirrors and a puddle system, talking billboards animated by the Queen's imagination, all sorts of flying weaponry and illusions. Hatter Madigan and Bibwit Harte are great characters and may yet inspire me to read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

This is one of the many fantasy stories in movie production. Though I don't want all of the great books to be made into movies, I believe this book could make a great movie if done properly.

Seeing Redd 2007: Through an imagination twist, Redd and the Cat find their way to France via an artist's palette. Redd seeks out the darker elements of Earth to gather generals for her next attempt at wresting Wonderland from Alyss. Hatter Madigan leaves to mourn his beloved, learns of a daughter he didn't know he had, and walks into the clutches of the King of Borderland.

Overall, I liked the first book better. Maybe because it was fresh and original. Maybe because so much of this second book is war, and the first book was violent enough already (doubtless boys will love it). Maybe I was just forced to read the book too quickly, since I had three others I was reading and a son dying to get his hands on it. There are some bits I think are excellent: the means of Redd's return, the tool used to defeat Redd again, parts of Madigan and Molly's story, brief allusions to Earthly politics (alas, no timeline for this book).

related-kings, queens, rulers, monarchs, war, characters in literature, Alice in Wonderland, imagination, light vs dark, good vs evil

The Lost Years of Merlin Series by T.A. Barron.
Philomel Books/Putnam & Grosset Group: NY.

The Lost Years of Merlin 1996
The Seven Songs of Merlin 1997
The Fires of Merlin 1998
The Mirror of Merlin 1999
The Wings of Merlin 2000

T.A. Barron always writes with a consciousness of nature and spirituality. His stories are passionate and alive. The pace is slower than what is currently popular because there is meaning in every part of the story. The language of The Lost Years of Merlin is not difficult or even challenging, but the description requires some lingering and rumination to appreciate the story.

In this series, Merlin's childhood is only loosely linked to the Merlin that the world recognizes, but I can see glimpses of the Merlin that Emrys will become. My oldest was disappointed because the story didn't seem to be truly Merlin to him. Barron points out that there is no established canon for Merlin's childhood. Merlin is different in these stories. He is the young Merlin, before he has learned wisdom. He may have the soul of a wizard, but certainly also the arrogance of one, and not balanced or kept in check by the self-restraint and wisdom necessary to be a great wizard.
related-wizards, magic, childhood and education of Merlin, identity, amnesia, second sight, friends, King Arthur, prophecy, human relationship to nature and animals

The Lost Years of Merlin:
With a sudden jolt, he realized that he could not remember anything. Where he had come from. His mother. His father. His name. His own name.

Cast from the sea onto the rocks of Wales is a boy with no knowledge of who he is or from where he comes. He soon notices a woman who says she is his mother, and they settle in a nearby village, although never truly a part of it. After a few years a momentous and life-wrenching experience propels the boy to journey in search of his past and identity. The task he must undertake on the legendary Isle of Fincayra, the bridge between the Earth and the Otherworld, sets him on a path to become Merlin, the greatest of all wizards.

The Seven Songs of Merlin: In his youthful ignorance and arrogance, Merlin makes many terrible, careless mistakes. He puts aside the task with which he is entrusted, healing the lands of Fincayra, to bring his mother back to the island. Because of this mistake, he grievously wounds his mother and must learn what it truly is to be a wizard to save her. Each of the Seven Songs holds an essential truth necessary to be powerful enough to withstand Rita Gawr and his servants. This particular tale also mirrors the Holy Grail quest in that young Merlin's task is to obtain the Elixir of Dagda in order to restore Elen to health.

This is my favorite of the series so far. I've read all but the last book. There is wisdom in each of the seven tasks he must achieve. A large step forward in Merlin's maturing process.

The Fires of Merlin: Urnalda the Queen of the Dwarves calls upon Merlin to pay a debt by defeating the dragon that has reawakened and is looking for revenge since someone has destroyed the remaining dragon eggs on the island.

A group of characters combine through their separate actions to lessen Merlin's ability to defeat Valderag, the dragon. Because of an old prophecy about the confrontation, he spends most of the time looking for the Galator which he believes will give him the power he needs. The Galator has been stolen from Domnu (its last possessor), so he travels to a volcanic cave to visit a seer (not unlike Greek mythology) to find its location.

Merlin meets 2 deer people-who change back and forth between deer and people. His relationship with this brother and sister extends the series' concept of interconnectedness and helps to prepare him for his confrontation with the dragon (and confrontations in later books)-as does his relationships with Cairpré and Rhia.

The relationship with Hallia and Eremon (the deer people) and the conclusion are the strongest parts of the book. Barron does a good job of showing the reader (and Merlin) the viewpoint of the animals which impacts how he deals with other creatures in hostile situations.

The Mirror of Merlin: The 4th book of the series is again a book of connections. The mists in different situations connecting worlds. The mirror connecting times through different pathways. The mists were present in previous books-this time with increased focus.

The whole book seems to me to be leading up to Merlin meeting his older self (which is the best part of the book). Other than this there is less purpose to the story than the other books. Many of the happenings are accidental. There are some good moments besides, like Merlin freeing the marsh ghouls and their helping him in return (a connection to The Fires of Merlin).

One thing interesting is that Nimue in Barron's series is totally hateful and power-hungry. Normally, I don't see Nimue in this way-although there are variations in her behavior from story to story.

The setting for Merlin's older self doesn't quite fit canon either. Merlin was not imprisoned in the crystal cave as Arthur's tutor. However, it lends interesting details to Barron's story.

I need to go back and check The Seven Songs of Merlin. After reading The Mirror of Merlin, I wonder if Nimue's behavior in the bakery was only about jealousy and lust for power, or is it possible she had some contact with her older self? Did she want the sword specifically or only objects of power? Was she trying to stop Merlin through taking away the younger Merlin's power as she tries to do in this book? My feeling is that Nimue had some knowledge in The Seven Songs of Merlin that Merlin didn't have.Perhaps knowledge of the future?

The Wings of Merlin: Dagda tells Merlin in a vision that he must convince the peoples of Fincayra to unite (an impossible task) to repel an invasion by Rhita Gawr on the longest night. He has 2 weeks to protect the island against certain destruction with the help of a few people-his sister Rhia, Caipré the scholar, Shim the giant, Hallia the deerwoman, and his own shadow. As a distraction, Rhita Gawr sends one of Merlin's oldest enemies after him with complementary sword arms. In protecting the children of Fincayra from Sword Arms, Merlin succeeds in gaining access to the Forgotten Island and earns the chance to restore wings to humans and to choose his destiny.

I enjoyed Rhia's attempts at flight-both the swinging through the trees and the Icarus/Dedalus imitation. Her character is full of surprises and, as said about Rhia and Merlin, "full of madness." I appreciate also that this leads up to the recovery of lost wings and the history of the Forgotten Island. Shim's part in the story (though small) also adds to it. I wasn't impressed by the winged-human idea, but the story of the Forgotten Island is fittiing, and the formation of Avalon lends credibility to Merlin's choice to confront his destiny instead of staying on Fincayra.

The reintroduction of an old enemy and Merlin's sympathy and mercy are one more step towards his ultimate destiny. In the last 3 books, Merlin matures greatly and gains both wisdom and the respect of others. Though he hasn't recognized his own worth, others are starting to consider him a wizard and to see the possibility of his greatness in the future-including the immortal Dagda.
related-Merlin, wizards, forgiveness, unity, community, destiny, Avalon

The Magic School Bus originally by Joanna Cole. il. Bruce Degen.
Scholastic Inc: NY.

Besides being a very informative introduction to scientific ideas, the series motivates beginning readers with its witty dialogue and details.
RL=1st-3rd and read aloud to younger

By Joanna Cole: At the Waterworks, and the Electric Field Trip, Explores the Senses, For Lunch, Gets Lost in Space, Gets Planted, Goes Upstream, Going Batty, In the Attic, In the Rain Forest, In the Time of the Dinosaurs, Inside a Beehive, Inside the Human Body, Inside a Hurricane, Inside the Earth, Inside Ralphie, Lost in the Solar System, On the Ocean Floor, Out of This World

By Linda Beech: Gets Ants in Its Pants, Gets Baked in a Cake, Meets the Rot Squad

By George Bloom: Makes a Rainbow

By Gail Herman: Blows Its Top

By Nancy Krulik: Butterfly and the Bog Beast, Hello Out There

By Jane Mason: Ups and Downs

By Joseph Mitchell: Looking for Liz

By Jackie Posner: Shows and Tells

By Patricia Relf: Gets Eaten, Hops Home, Wet All Over

By Tracey Web: Gets Cold Feet, Spins a Web

By Nancy White: Gets a Bright Idea, Gets Programmed, Kicks Up a Storm, Sees Stars, Takes a Dive

Midnighters by Scott Westerfeld.
EOS/HarperCollins Publishers: NY.

The Secret Hour 2004: There are ancient creatures running loose in Bixby, OK. But only in one hour a day-an hour hidden from everyone except those born at midnight. Since Jessica Day moved to town, the creatures have become more predatory. They seem to be after her specifically. In order to survive she must band together with the other midnighters to find what talent she may have which would enable her to protect herself.

The story is mysterious and exciting. Westerfeld is highly imaginative. None of his books so far have been disappointing. The language is not as rich in this book as in others (ex.So Yesterday), but the story is captivating.

Touching Darkness 2004: Jessica and the other midnighters discover a disturbing connection between the midnight hour and daylighters. As they search to find out more, they learn of Bixby, OKlahoma's shadowy past-a time when the midnighters seemed to have disappeared. Changes are happening withi n their group, and a horrifying conspiracy is revealed. Dess is drawn to an old woman who may be the only one who can keep them from disappearing as their predecessors had.

Even more exciting than the first book, it is full of tension and surprises. It is the kind of book you don't want to put down, but you don't want it to end either.

Blue Moon 2005: The Midnighters learn that there is a rip in the wall that separates the blue time-threatening to increase the time and space for the darklings to hunt. Rex has a major identity struggle since his thoughts merged with the darklings in the last book. Part of him now sees humans as prey and reacts in other ways as a darkling. The midnighters also learn more about the history of Bixby, OK, and the past realizations will have a great impact on their future.

An exciting conclusion for the midnighters. Fans of the seer will love it. There is less focus on abilities and more on what's ahead and who they want to be as people.
related-identity, mystery, the hunt, beasts, Sam Hain

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. il. Zena Bernstein.
Atheneum: NY, 1971.

Newbery Award Winner 1972

This is one of the first books that my oldest son was excited about reading. He had been unwilling to move beyond Goosebumps and Animorphs. He had read an excerpt from a textbook and decided to give it a try. His motivation for reading it was the technology involved in the story.

Scientists at NIMH try to teach lab rats to read. They underestimate the rats' abilities, and the rats decide to gain their own freedom and create their own community.

The two sequels (Racso and the Rats of NIMH: 1986 and RT, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH: 1990-both by Jane Leslie Conly, his daughter) are as good as the first book. They are worth reading again and again.

My Side of the Mountain Trilogy by Jean Craighead George.
E. P. Dutton: NY, 1959.
Newbery Honor 1960

Sam Gribley leaves his family's home to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains. He looks back at the summer and fall when he was faced with solving all the details that would make it possible to survive through the winter independently-with comfort.

As with the other books I have read by Jean George, the strength is in the details of being a part of nature as well as the feelings and thoughts expressed in this solitary living. The story concept is a little strange to me-possibly since so much has changed in our society since the book was written. While I can understand a boy's desire to live freely in an undeveloped area, some of the events wouldn't fit well into modern life. Still I enjoyed the ingenuity of the boy, and the descriptions give the reader the feeling that it is still possible to live independently with only products of the land and one's own ability to think of solutions. As I was finishing I also thought that those enjoying George's books would also likely enjoy Thoreau and Walt Whitman when a little older.

related-freedom and independence, survival, study and observation of nature, ingenuity, problem solving

On the Far Side of the Mountain
Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Books: NY, 1990.

Frightful is taken away and Alice, Sam Gribley's sister, strikes out on her own. Sam and Bando track her across the mountain for an adventure and to make sure she is safe. She leads them on a merry chase. When they learn there are poachers nearby, they split up. Bando contacts the authorities, and Sam moves quickly to catch Alice.

The story is full of natural observations, but it is quirky also because of Alice's personality.
related-wilderness survival, brothers and sisters, falcons-fiction, friendship, ingenuity, falconers

Frightful's Mountain
Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers: NY, 1999.

Told from many points-of-view, the story follows not just Frightful but other peregrine falcons as well. It is the story of Frightful's transfer from captivity to the wild. It discusses (in story format) the dangers affecting the falcons and other endangered birds. The birds and those caring for them face conflicts. Protections are described as well as failed attempts. Children and wildlife protection agencies become involved in preserving Frightful's babies. Full of details of Frightful's adaptation to the wild, it has a great balance between wild life observations and human interest. It is an exciting story-the best of the trilogy.
related-peregrine falcon-fiction, falcons, wildlife conservation, New York state, falconers, return of birds of prey to the wild, endangered species, migration, civil activism, school children, mating, falcon chicks

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. il Marc Simont.

Coward McCann, NY:
Nate the Great 1972
Nate the Great and the Fishy Prize 1985
Nate the Great Stalks Stupidweed 1986
Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag 1987
Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt 1989
Nate the Great and the Stolen Base 1992

Coward, McCann & Geoghegan< NY:
Nate the Great Goes Undercover 1974
Nate the Great and the Lost List 1975
Nate the Great and the Sticky Case 1978
Nate the Great and the Missing Key 1981
Nate the Great and the Snowy Trail 1982

Dell Yearling., NY:
Nate the Great Goes Down in the Dumps 1989
Nate the Great and the Monster Mess il Martha Weston 2001

Delacorte Press, NY:
Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine 1994
Nate the Great Saves the King of Sweden 1997
Nate the Great, The Case of the Fleeing Fang 1998

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Craig Sharmat
Nate the Great and the Musical Note. Coward-McCann, NY, 1990
Nate the Great and the Tardy Tortoise. Delacorte Press, NY, 1995
Nate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas. Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, NY, 1996

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Rosalind Weinman.
Nate the Great and the Pillowcase. Delacorte Press, NY, 1993

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat.
Delacorte Press, NY:

Nate the Great, San Francisco Detective il Martha Weston 2000
Nate the Great and the Big Sniff il Martha Weston 2001
Nate the Great On the Owl Express il Martha Weston 2003
Nate the Great Talks Turkey il Jody Wheeler 2006

Nate the Great is a boy detective who solves many cases. There are interesting characters and funny tidbits in the stories. Our favorites are those with Rosamond and her cats.

The Old Kingdom Books by Garth Nix.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY.

Sabriel 1995
Lirael 2001
Abhorsen 2003
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen prequel expected 2010
sequel to Abhorsen expected 2011

Sabriel: For 2 hundred years the Old Kingdom has been overrun by the Dead who are controlled by practitioners of Free Magic. Most of her life Sabriel has been safe in a boarding house in Ancelstierre, across the Wall from the Old Kingdom. Barely of age, Sabriel learns her father, the Abhorsen (the Charter member with enough power to control the Dead), has been trapped in the realm of the Dead by the Greater Dead. His loss of power coincides with the further deterioration of control of the Dead allowing the possibility of demolishing the Wall between the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. Sabriel's mission is to save her father if it's not too late and restore order if at all possible.

The book is well written, but a little too violent and creepy for my taste. My teenaged sons loved it. It is a necessary introduction to the series, but possibly too dark for the first book. Sabriel is a strong character, and I enjoyed the parts that were about her life before she was fighting the Dead. I was disappointed to hear the next 2 books are about someone else-until I read them. I enjoyed some of the aspects of the magic-the paperwing (an airplane), bells for controlling the dead, technology not working in the presence of Free Magic, necromancers' bodies freezing as they go into the Land of the Dead-but the premise is creepy. Some will love the books; others may avoid the topic.
related-magic, necromancy, Land of the Dead, kingdom in decay, adventure, horror, restoration of Kingdom

Lirael: The 2nd book takes place about 20 years after Sabriel. Sabriel and Touchstone are needed in Ancelstierre on a mission of diplomacy. They leave the Kingdom in their children's hands. Ellimere, the heir to the throne, and Sameth, the Abhorsen-in-training. Meanwhile, Lirael has grown up as a daughter of the Clayr, but separate from them because she hasn't gained the Sight. She is an orphan. Her mother died when she was young, and her father is unknown. She is given a choice of jobs, and she chooses the library since she can avoid people that way. The Clayr's library is full of relics and ancient rooms and passageways as well as books. Early on she acquires a companion, the Disreputable Dog, who watches over her while she is pushing her to learn and explore dangerous situations. As Lirael comes of age (and the King and Abhorsen are out of the country), a critical situation is growing in the Old Kingdom. The Clayr See her as a part of the solution and send her to her destiny.

I think this book is so much better than Sabriel. Partly because the gruesome events don't happen until the next book. Most of this one is the growth of Lirael and Sameth as characters and the setting up of the catastrophe that is looming. Lirael's character is every bit as strong as Sabriel's, moving from an orphan to an independent young woman of knowledge and competence to the one who can rescue both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. Sameth struggles with the role expected of him by his parents and sister until he learns that maybe that isn't his destiny.

Abhorsen: This is a continuation of the story in Lirael. A continuation of the catastrophe that is looming. A coming together of the plan of the Destroyer and of the people involved in the foiling of his plans. The book is largely the quest to reach the site of confrontation. And then the ending which was partly expected and partly unanticipated but perfect. The Disreputable Dog and Mogget (cat from Sabriel) are also part of the mission to stop the Destroyer. Orphan Train Children Series by Joan Lowery Nixon
Books #1-4 Bantam Books. #5-8 Delacorte Press

A family Apart 1987
Caught in the Act 1988
In the Face of Danger 1988
A Place to Belong 1989
A Dangerous Promise 1994
Keeping Secrets 1995
Circle of Love 1997
Lucy's Wish 1998

This is an incredibly moving series for such short books. A woman reads to her grandchildren from a diary kept by one of the orphan children. The writer was the eldest of a large Irish family whose father died in New York City and the mother could not support the children. The children's adoption is based on a foster program set up to give the children on the streets a better life. It took place in the 1800s, during the Civil War. Part of the idea was to supply western pioneering families with children. There are stories appealing to both girls and boys.

A Family Apart: The first book of the series is told by Frances, the oldest girl. She explains why they are being sent west, describes the families who take them in, and her experiences with her new family.
related-foster homes, brothers and sisters, underground railroad, orphan train

Caught in the Act: Mike's new family has a strict father who mostly wants free labor and a son bent on getting rid of him. They are hiding a terrible secret. Mike believes his safety and that of his new friends lies in exposing the secret.
related-foster homes, family secrets, troublemakers, friendship

A Place to Belong: Danny and Peg go to live with a kind couple, but the wife is sick and weak. They both grow quickly to love her and must accept her passing. Danny concocts a brilliant plan to have his mother marry his new father. It's a great idea, but can life work out that smoothly?
related-foster homes, slavery and abolitionists, kidnapping, remarriage, farm life, Missouri history

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan.
Hyperion Books for Children/Miramax Books: NY.
The Lightning Thief 2005
The Sea of Monsters 2006
The Titan's Curse 2007
The Battle of the Labyrinth 2008 - no review yet

The Lightning Thief: In the first book of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Riordan tells a tale of Greek mythological characters roaming the modern U.S.-starting in New York City and traveling to Los Angeles. Imagine your ADHD being the result of your demigod status, unbeknownst to you! One crazy event after another happens as Percy meets more characters-especially once he learns who he is and accepts his quest. The characters and other mythological connections are well done and my favorite part of the story. The confrontations occur a little too often, but there are plenty of creative tidbits to keep readers hooked.

Percy's quest arises due to the fact that someone has stolen Zeus's master lightning bolt. He accuses Poseidon and gives him until the summer solstice to return it or prepare for World War III. Percy (short for Perseus) is appointed the task of reclaiming it. His advisers believe Hades is the culprit, so he must travel to the Underworld. Unfortunately, Zeus is not the only god missing an object of power, and matters become complicated.

Interestingly, the book reminds me of another story related to Zeus's stolen property, Thor's Wedding by Bruce Coville. Coville's story closely follows a Norse poem, Thrymskvitha. Riordan's does not.

All three of my sons (ages 9-16) read the book and immediately read the second book. They loved them.
related-Greek gods & mythology, monsters, family relationships, high interest/low reading level
RL=4th & up

The Sea of Monsters: Thalia, the tree that guards the border of Camp Half-blood, is stabbed with poison by a half-blood traitor. The barriers protecting the camp have broken down, and the camp will be overrun by monsters. It's decided the Golden Fleece is the only thing that can restore the camp, and Clarisse, daughter of Ares, is sent on the quest to steal it from the cyclops, Polyphemus. Percy has a new friend, Tyson, whom everyone else is treating as if he were a monster.

There is more discussion of the prophecy no one wants to reveal to Percy, and the overall plot unfolds a little more. The book is as quickly paced as the first. It may not make as much of an impression as the first, perhaps because the concept was new with the first. There is an intriguing, surprise ending and some funny references to historical figures.
related-Greek mythology, gods, monsters, cyclopses, Golden Fleece, family relationships, relatives, high interest
RL=4th & up

The Titan's Curse: In this 3rd book, Annabeth is kidnapped and the goddess Artemis hunts a monster and becomes trapped. Percy and the others are seeing premonitions in their dreams. Percy and friends save two new half-bloods, but one of the kids immediately becomes involved in the newest quest. There are odd things going on with the new kids. The quest is made up of errors by the participants, but there are some twists that help them to prevail.

This is possibly the most complex of the series so far with many twists in the plot-including an ending I did not guess. The mythological references come fast and furious. The gods play a bigger role in the quest itself since the consequences are increasing. I still may have liked the first book best overall; I think because it was a fresh idea. There are some memorable moments in this one, and it may be more developed psychologically. It is a great series for the age range it is written. Enjoyable for older kids also, but advanced readers may not be interested.
related-Greek mythology, monsters, gods & goddesses, manticore, friendship, family relationships, prophecy, high interest
RL=4th & up

Pure Dead Series by Debi Gliori.
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House: NY.

Pure Dead Magic © 2001
Pure Dead Wicked © 2002
Pue Dead Brilliant © 2003
Pure Dead Trouble © 2004
Pure Dead Batty © 2005
Originally published as Deep Water by Transworld Publishers Ltd: Great Britain, 2005.

The Pure Dead series is wacky and fun. It's an easy to read series made interesting by odd pets, peculiar happenings, plot twists, and Scottish slang.
related-magic, criminals, brothers and sisters, Scotland, humorous stories

Pure Dead Magic is an introduction to the family, pets, nanny, and butler. The setting is a Scottish castle. The oddness of the family and pets combine with magic and the internet for a truly unusual, zany adventure when their father is kidnapped.

In Pure Dead Wicked, major repairs to their castle force the family to live at an inn for weeks (the only one that will allow their beasts). Included in the book are a real estate development scam and a cloning project through the internet. It is another wacky adventure for all concerned with a unique and funny solution.

Pure Dead Brilliant: As Titus is about to inherit his grandfather's money, he and Pandora see a horrible forecast of their future. Also their home has been overrun by their mother's classmates creating more hilarious upheaval at the Strega-Borgia home. A demon appears who intends to steal an old stone that has been in the family's keeping for centuries.

In Pure Dead Trouble, the Strega-Borgias arrive home from vacation to find their butler comatose on the doorstep. Titus becomes obsessed with exposing a shady corporation that has moved into the area. Pandora shadows the handsome replacement butler. Nanny McLachlan realizes that whatever attacked the butler will be back, and it is up to her to protect the children. The story is as twisted as ever and pulls you right along with it.

Pure Dead Batty: The Borgias' nanny, Mrs. McLachlan, disappeared in the last book. Their terrible cook accuses Luciano (the father) of murdering her, and he is taken to prison. In the resulting chaos, Damp (the youngest) disappears also. As with the other books, it is a totally wacky experience.

Redwall by Brian Jacques
Philomel Books. Originally by Hutchinson Ltd: Great Britain.

Redwall 1986
Mossflower 1988
Mattimeo 1989
Mariel of Redwall 1991
Salamandastron 1992
Martin the Warrior 1993
The Bellmaker 1994
Outcast of Redwall 1995
Pearls of Lutra 1996
The Long Patrol 1997
Marlfox 1998
The legend of Luke 1999
Lord Brocktree 2000
Taggerung 2001
Triss 2002
Loamhedge 2003
Rakkety Tam 2004
High Rhulain 2005
Eulalia 2007

In all of the Redwall books, peace-loving animals join together for a bit of adventure in defending their homes or their friends against evil, roving bandits and tyrants. Jacques applies a medieval format to the lives of woodland creatures. Each type of animal has familiar, humorous traits. The villains are wonderful in their nastinesss.

The strength is in the lively characters, outrageous dialogue, and masterful use of language. For younger readers it is a positive thing that the books mostly follow the same basic storyline with similar characters but with some twists and variations. As individual books they are quite enjoyable. In fact, the first six are excellent. I would, however, recommend not reading one right after another, since there is a battle in every book (I am sure that would not hinder most boys). There are some good elements in the stories for girls, too, such as the riddles, feasts, and good fellowship. This is an excellent series to start reading aloud, since Brian Jacques developed Redwall through storytelling before he became a writer. Most children will want to continue on their own.

The Seasons by Steven Schnur. il Leslie Evans.
Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Company: NY.

Autumn 1997
Spring 1999
Summer 2001
Winter 2002

Schnur has created an alphabet acrostic book for each season. Eye-catching linoleum-cut illustrations partner acrostic poems for each letter of the alphabet. What a beautiful way to share the seasons with young ones! Full of wonder, overflowing with descriptions.
related-abc, poetry, seasons
RL=3rd-4th     read aloud to PreK-2nd

The Shakespeare Stealer Series by Gary Blackwood.
Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Putnam Inc: NY.

The Shakespeare Stealer ©1998: Widge as an orphan turned apprentice has learned the skill of writing a form of shorthand. He can write as fast as a person talks and translate it after. This would be an invaluable skill to someone who wants to steal Shakespeare's new play, Hamlet. That is what he has been ordered to do, and when he is caught he devises another plan to steal the play. This involves apprenticing to be a player, and in so doing, he finds the first place he has ever belonged.

More secrets are exposed as the story unfolds. The story is full of colorful characters, drama and adventure-and a bit of masquerading as well. This trilogy is one of the best for this reading level (6th-8th).

Shakespeare's Scribe ©2000: The Black Plague has come to London again. As a result Queen Elizabeth has banned all public gatherings in the city. The Lord Chamberlain's Men take to the road to perform in towns around the country. Many obstacles are presented in their travels as would be expected. A new boy is hired for female parts as Sander stays in London. Widge finds himself struggling to get along with Sal Pavy as he gradually loses parts to him. Even his new duties as Shakespeare's scribe cannot console him. In the region of Widge's birth, he meets a man who claims a link to his family and may also drive a wedge btween Widge and Shakespeare's troupe.

Shakespeare's Spy ©2003: In this last book Widge becomes James. He falls in love for the first time only to have the girl go out of his life again. Evidence is found of a thief within their troupe, and to prove his innocence James becomes a spy in their rival's troupe. He also tries his hand at script-writing and agonizes over the result.

A cunning woman (fortune teller) tells Widge, Sam, and Sal their fortunes. She says Sam will become a traitor. She at first sees nothing for Sal, but then she sees a rough hand gripping him and a knife at his throat. She predicts Widge will come into a fortune. Later she predicts he will cause someone to die and someone to come back to life. All of the predictions will come true-but not necessarily in expected ways.

As with the other books, there is no shortage of action and plot twists.

related-theater, Black Plague, William Shakespeare, Great Britain-history, orphans, actors

The Squire's Tales by Gerald Morris.
Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

The Squire's Tale (1998)
The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady (1999)
The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (2000)
Parsifal's Page (2002)
The Ballad of Sir Dinadan (2003)
The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Cart Knight (2004)
The Lioness and Her Knight (2005)-No review yet
Quest of the Fair Unknown (2006)-No review yet

The Squire's Tale: The story is told from the perspective of Gawain's squire (Terence) who is related to the fairies and therefore has undiscovered abilities. Gawain is shown as more intelligent and thoughtful than the other knights. The fresh perspective of Terence is the distinguishing feature of this retelling of events.

The book will be more enjoyable for elementary readers than most Arthur stories.
related-Gawain, knights and knighthood, magic, England, chivalry, fairy and folk tales, King Arthur

The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady: In this book, Squire Terence and Sir Gawain are called on a quest. Gawain has been challenged by the Green Knight to accept one blow for another. Gawain gives the first blow and must find the Green Chapel to accept his. They leave Camelot to accept the consequences knowing that Gawain will likely be killed. Bound by honor, he has no choice.

Lancelot has newly come to Camelot and has stolen Guinevere's favor. In Gawain's absence, Lancelot has also replaced Gawain in the court's esteem as the greatest knight of the kingdom.

Morris shows Gawain as the true heroic knight with some slight flaws. Lancelot may be a great sportsman, but he doesn't have the honor or wisdom of Gawain. Wisdom that Gawain has achieved through hard lessons.

The challenge of the Green Knight is borrowed from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 14th century poem which was influenced by even earlier tales. The tournament at the end is symbolic of Gawain's replacement by Lancelot in later tellings. Time passes, and the young generation has its new heroes. Also the new story replaces the old-although the old is not necessarily forgotten by all.
related-Sir Gawain, knights and knighthood, England, magic, honor, love, loyalty

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf: This is a retelling of Beaumain's story-the kitchen hand who takes up the challenge of Lady Lynet to rid her and her sister's castle of the Red Knight who has besieged the castle. Beaumain is a skilled knight in disguise. An unusual dwarf (who knows Beaumain's identity) accompanies them on the quest. Morris's much expanded version answers questions left hanging in the original telling. Not only does Morris's version make more sense, but it is also more interesting and realistic.
related-Gareth and Gaheris, knights and knighthood, King Arthur stories, Knights of the Round Table, chivalry, beauty, love, Medieval life

Parsifal's Page: Raised on courtly stories by his lady-in-waiting mother, Piers wants to become a page, not learn his father's trade-blacksmithing. He jumps at his first chance to serve a knight. As Piers learns the knight is a recreant, Parsifal (a rustic wishing to become a knight) slays the knight and takes the armor. Piers becomes Parsifals's page and tries to teach him to be more knightly. They happen upon Jean le Forestier who trains Parsifal in weapon skills. In Parsifal's quest for good deeds to do, they come across the castle with the Holy Grail. They fail to ask about King Anfortas's perpetual injury, and in their failure the castle disappears. The quest to rediscover it is also a maturing process for both of them. Along the way they journey with Gawain and Terence and learn of important family connections.
related-Perceval and the Holy Grail, King Arthur, Medieval pages, England in the Middle Ages

The Ballad of Sir Dinadan: Morris uses a minor knight that appears in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur as a way of telling of the often told or referred to love triangle of Tristram (Tristan, the legendary knight) and Queen Iseult (also known as Isolde, Isoud, and Isolt) and King Mark. Morris uses Sir Dinadan as a contrast to show what knights ought to be like instead of the more praised Tristram, just as he contrasted Gawain and Gaheris with Lancelot in previous books.

In the story, Dinadan's father knights him against his will. Dinadan travels to Camelot where he befriends knights of the Round Table. He goes questing with others, but his foremost desire is to write and perform ballads. He prefers not to fight (like Gaheris) knowing that he is no good at it.

In his travels, Dinadan meets a Moorish knight, Palomides, who has come to England to learn what it is to be a great knight. After journeying together Palomides decides it isn't necessary to meet King Arthur and his knights. He has already met the closest to ideal that he can possibly find-Dinadan.
related-Iseult, Isolde, Tristan, Tristram, knights and knighthood, minstrels, troubadours

The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Cart Knight: Morris retells a lesser known tale, at least in our time, by one of the early writers of the Knights of the Round Table, French poet Chrétien de Troyes. He adjusts parts of the story that don't work well and adds more of his own characters while keeping to the basic storyline.

In the basic story, Kai and Guinevere are abducted as the catalyst of a revolt against King Arthur instigated by Morgause. The intention is to accuse Kai and Guinevere of disloyalty, like Lancelot and Guinevere, kill them both, and weaken Arthur's rule over all of England. Lancelot and Gawain go to the rescue separately, and there is a trial by combat with Sir Meliagant, who imprisoned Kai and Guinevere, to resolve the situation. In Morris's tale there is a witness to the kidnapping (Sarah) who alerts King Arthur, which starts the rescue. As the kidnapping knight is also responsible for her mother and foster father's death, it becomes Sarah's quest as well.

The story shows Lancelot as a worthy knight again despite his past errors. One odd thing is that Morgan le Fay is shown contradictory to how others have depicted her. She and Morgause remain mysteries to me. Perhaps, that is how it should be.
related-King Arthur, Knights of the Round Table, knights and knighthood, treatment of Jews, Lancelot, England, magic, fairies, Chrétien de Troyes's Le Chevalier de la Charette (The Knight of the Cart)

The Tortall Books by Tamora Pierce

These books are three series in one.

The Song of the Lioness series. Atheneum Books/Macmillan Publishing Company: NY.
Alanna: The First Adventure 1983
In the Hand of the Goddess 1984
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man 1986
Lioness Rampant 1988

The Immortals series. Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster: NY.
Wild Magic 1992
Wolf-Speaker 1994
Emperor Mage 1995
In the Realm of the Gods 1996

The Protector of the Small. Random House, Inc: NY.
First Test 1999
Page 2000
Squire 2001
Lady Knight 2002

Alanna: The First Adventure: Alanna switches places with her twin brother in order to train to be a knight. Her brother wishes to train to be a wizard. Disguised, she is put through many tests and gradually proves herself capable. Her relationships are as important as the hard lessons she learns.
In the Hand of the Goddess: Alanna becomes Prince Jonathan's squire. She tells him she is a girl, but no one else until the end of the book. She also deals with her suspicions of Duke Roger (Jon's cousin) and eventually confrontation with him. This book and the rest of the series are rated YA because of relationships. The relationships are not detailed, but they are a big part of this first series.
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Alanna becomes part of the Bazhir (a group that joins as one telepathically) and learns to accept and manage her Gift of magic.
Lioness Rampant: Alanna meets Princess Thayet while on a quest. She also meets and learns from the Shang Dragon. They travel and adventure together. She eventually has to confront Duke Roger again-for the last time.

The ability to communicate with animals is thoroughly explored in the Immortals series-with some unique and interesting ideas. The supernatural theme continues as do the good vs evil and saving the realm.The writing flows much better in this 2nd series, and the focus of relationships is centered more on companionship. Boys may enjoy this series more than the first even though the focus is still on a female.

Wild Magic: The first book is an introduction of Daine-her background, how she meets Numair who becomes her mentor, and her distrust of others.
Wolf-Speaker: Daine now has more confidence and more trust in Numair and her animal guide (the beaver). She starts to explore beyond her obvious abilities and test her limits.
Emperor Mage: Daine and Numair travel to Carthak as a diplomatic visit. It is revealed that the Emperor of Carthak is an old classmate of Numair from the University. The Emperor is jealous and competitive, and Daine becomes a key factor in the conflict between Tortall and the Emperor.
In the Realm of the Gods: Daine and Numair are transported to the Realm of the Gods when Daine is in trouble. This book mostly deals with their travels within the immortals' world and the rules within it.

In the Protector of the Small series, Keladry is the first girl accepted into Tortall's knight training program-after the Lioness has proven girls can become knights. The decision is controversial, so she is accepted with a probationary condition.

This is the best quadrilogy of the Tortall series. It has the strongest characters and storyline, and the reader has more empathy for Keladry because it is easy to imagine being in her situation.

First Test: Kel is proving that she is worthy of being a trainee. She must physically excel and simultaneously show superior mental judgment and strive to secure friendships and supporters. In some ways, Alanna's storylines are similar, but there are also many contrasts. Alanna was protected by her friendship with the prince. Kel has to face her enemies early and often. At first, she does it alone. Alanna was accepted by her peers before everyone knew she was a girl. Their powers also are different. Kel's is communication with animals like Daine, but Daine can transform unlike Kel.
Page: The second book follows Kel through three years training as a page. She is still facing bullying enemies, but she now has support from staunch friends. She finds herself in a situation in which she must take control from the designated leader and ultimately save others' lives. On the day of her final test as page, she is forced to make an excruciating decision and face her worst fear. This challenge will have a far-reaching impact on the school.
Squire: The next step in training is to serve and learn from an experienced knight. At the end of that time, there is a final test. The squire is left alone in the Chamber to confront whatever is most difficult for him/her-fears, failings, or unrepented deeds. Some squires have lost their minds or lives facing the Ordeal. This year more squires than ever fail this test. Kel goes last, and the Chamber has something extra in store for her.
Lady Knight: Now that Kel is a knight, life is not what she expected. Tortall is under attack by Scanrans, and instead of fighting the enemy, she has been put in charge of a refugee camp. She is perfect for the job because she is the only one who truly see the refugees as people with abilities. Besides managing the camp, she also trains them in defense. She is, however, torn the whole time between fulfilling her duty and joining the troops. After the camp is attacked, she believes she must pursue the people who are creating the monsters that are attacking Tortall. She risks her career and her life to do so.
RL=YAThe Veil by Christopher Golden.
Bantam Dell/Random House: NY.
The Myth Hunters 2006
The Borderkind 2007
The Lost Ones 2008

The Myth Hunters: On the eve of his wedding, Oliver Bascombe is having second thoughts, when his privacy is intruded upon by the iceman Frost. Frost asks for Oliver's help, as he is being hunted. In assisting Frost back to the border of his world, Oliver is propelled into that realm to be hunted along with Frost. It is a world in which myths are real, driven there by the disbelief of ours. A parallel world to ours, separated by the Veil.

So far the emphasis in the series is on fantasy instead of horror. There is horror, but it is understated; maybe just waiting to spring on us in later books. Like Stephen King, Golden's style is more sophisticated than the average pop horror. The Myth Hunters, though, is more calm, focusing on the fantasy world instead of the horror in ours.

As in most fantasy, there is good vs evil and a quest with much traveling and confrontational episodes. The concept of The Myth Hunters is intriguing as are the characters. The one thing that bothers me is that it seems that not much is accomplished in this first book. 350 pages and I feel like the story is just starting. The first book ends when Oliver's fiance and the detective assigned to the murder of Oliver's father and disappearance of him and his sister learn of the supernatural aspect of Oliver's disappearance.

What I like the most about the book is the jaunts into our world and the perspectives of the detective, fiance, and sister who have no idea what is going on. The juxtaposition of fantasy and reality is interesting and helps to create a more complex story. In some ways it emphasizes the horror, in others it feels like it lessens it; like the reader is awakening from the fantasy.

related-myths, legends, murder, mystery

The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan.
Tom Doherty Associates/Tor Fantasy: NY.

The Eye of the World (1990) is the first book of Jordan's twelve book epic series. (A 13th book, which he didn't finish himself before his death, is scheduled for fall 2009.) It is a fantasy with a historical setting. The young people of Emond's Field run from the attack of the Trollocs (beasts bidden by the Dark One) on their town and to their destiny with the help of Moiraine Sedai, magic wielder and healer, and Lan, her sworn protector. The Dark One threatens to stamp out the Light. One of the young people is the key to whether this can be done or not. They all journey to the place of confrontation, and the chase is on.

By the end of the book, more questions arise than are answered. We are given glimpses into the characters-enough to want much more of each. I think the strengths are the characters and the reworking of history through the ages. There are references to historical social issues, such as the Children of the Light, a militant religious group which persecutes those they find using any type of magic. Though the book was rather long, I am looking forward to reading more. In my experience, in depth worlds such as this tend to improve as the series go along. The details become more intertwined. I believe it will be a series to savor, not rush through.

In The Great Hunt (1990) there is more emphasis on events being replayed through time. There are even a couple spots that indicate many possible scenarios-in fact, time has already replayed the conflict between the Dragon Reborn and the Dark One thousands of times with different outcomes. The Dark One says this time will be the last, but does he say that every time, trying to intimidate the Dragon?

In this book Rand, Perrin, and Mat go with soldiers from Fal Dara (a borderland fortress) to recover the Horn of Valere which must be used by the Dragon Reborn to awaken the dead heroes to fight the last battle against the Shadow. A darkfriend has stolen the Horn to lure Rand to the area of confrontation. In The Eye of the World, Rand learns that he is the Dragon Reborn, but adamantly rejects the idea through most of The Great Hunt, until he can no longer deny it at the end. He wants nothing to do with it, because the Dragon is reputed to go mad and destroy those he loves. But he learns by the end of the book that his friends are woven into the story that will play out even if he tries to run away. He will then just not be there to fight to defend the people against the Shadow.

Egwene and Nynaeve travel to the White Tower to learn the ways of the Aes Sedai and meet Elayne, the princess of Andor, and Min, the seer who has become entwined in their lives. It is apparently not their destiny to stay secluded in the Tower, and they are soon caught up in unfolding events as well. At this time it is also revealed that these young women will play a part in the direction the current time turns.

Moiraine Sedai releases Rand from watchfulness as he goes on the quest of the Great Hunt (He can hardly believe it.), but a reclusive and scholarly Sedai, Verin, learns of his importance in the Wheel of Time and takes it upon herself to aid him in his traveling.

As is the first book, this one is long and drawn out, but again it feels like a detailed exploration of a new and exciting world. The reader wants to know every possible detail. Events are slowly unfolding, and it is important to watch every clue regarding characters, the world, and what happens next. As expected, things are already becoming more complicated. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Prequel: New Spring 2004 Ultra-Condensed
Book 1: The Eye of the World 1990
Book 2: The Great Hunt 1990
Book 3: The Dragon Reborn 1991 review at Fantasy Folder
Book 4: The Shadow Rising 1992 review at Fantasy Folder
Book 5: The Fires of Heaven 1993 review at Fantasy Folder
Book 6: Lord of Chaos 1994 Ultra-Condensed
Book 7: A Crown of Swords 1996
Book 8: The Path of Daggers 1998 Ultra-Condensed
Book 9: Winter's Heart 2000 Ultra-Condensed
Book 10: Crossroads of Twilight 2003
Book 11: Knife of Dreams 2005 Ultra-Condensed
Book 12: The Gathering Storm 2009 Ultra-Condensed
Book 13: Towers of Midnight
Book 14: A Memory of Light
RL=YA-adult, written for adult

*For an in depth review of the series.

Young Repairman Jack by F. Paul Wilson

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