Pax (Sara Pennypacker, 2016)

pax

Why did you choose this book?

It’s an adorable novel about a fox!  What more need I say?  Those of you who read my review of Tor Seidler’s Firstborn know that I have a thing about books told from the perspective of a dog/wolf/fox.

What’s it about?

Peter’s father is headed to war and sends Peter to live with his grandfather until the fighting is over.  Peter’s father forces Peter to turn his pet fox, Pax, loose in the woods.  Chapters alternate between the perspectives of Peter and Pax.  Peter runs away from his grandfather’s house, trying to travel the hundreds of miles back to Pax.  Pax runs into a pack of foxes and tries to learn to survive in the wild.

Categories

Juvenile fiction

Other recommended reads?

I know this one is old, but one of my favorite books from childhood was Child of the Wolves by Elizabeth Hall.  The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford is also a good one.

Review

I was expecting this book to be a real tear-jerker with a heartbreaking conclusion.  I read it in one sitting, being completely sucked into the story.  But I didn’t shed a single tear.  I loved Pax and wanted the best for him, but Peter struck me as overly whiny and self-centered.  I also was bothered by the unspecific setting.  It was wartime, but when and where?  We don’t know.  Definitely a cute read, recommended for animal lovers.  It’s a little unique because the portions told from Pax’s point of view don’t tell the reader his thoughts, like many other books with this sort of perspective do.  It is also difficult for adult readers to believe, since no one seemed to try to find Peter during the weeks he was gone.

Up next?

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman or The Infidel Stain by MJ Carter

 

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Stormstruck (John Macfarlane, 2015)

stormstruck

Why did you choose this book?

Honestly, we received an ARC at the library.  My officemate, upon seeing a dog on the cover, handed it to me.  I shrugged and took it home, where it has been sitting for more than six months.  I went on a 2 day trip and decided it was the perfect short read to take with me.

What’s it about? 

Sam’s parents decide it is time to euthanize his beloved Labrador, Pogo.  Pogo originally belonged to Sam’s older brother, who was killed in the war (I assume Iraq or Afghanistan).  To save him, Sam takes him out on his sailboat and runs away from home.  The duo encounter various obstacles, and end up spending a few days marooned on a previously abandoned shipwreck with no food or water.

Categories

Adventure, juvenile fiction

Other recommended reads?

If you’re into juvenile fiction about dogs, try some of the other classics like Old Yeller, Big Red, Where the Red Fern Grows, or Because of Winn-Dixie.

If you’re reading it for the adventure, try Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Review

I only finished this book because it was short (like 130 pages or so).  I thought Sam was far too self-centered, even for an impulsive kid.  He got on my nerves.  The book also had tons of nautical jargon about sails and navigation and parts of boats.  Those sections were too advanced for me, and I read at an adult level, which is far above the target reading level for this novel.  I would only recommend this book to kids who frequently go sailing and already have nautical knowledge.

Up next?

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

The Golden Specific (SE Grove, 2015)

golden specific

Why did you choose this book? 

I was intrigued by the synopsis, which actually made me pick up the previous book in the series.  I love the concept of a world fractured not into countries but into different periods of time.

What’s it about?

As I mentioned in the previous post, the world in this book has been fractured into different Ages – different parts of the world set in different time periods.  Sophia’s parents were explorers who traveled east in search of a friend in danger.  Sophia has dedicated herself to finding them, whatever the consequences.

Categories

Juvenile fantasy, cartography, alternate reality

Other recommendations?

I stand by what I said in the last post about the similarities between this series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Review

I found this entry in the series much more compelling than its predecessor.  The reader finds out how Ages set in the future deal with Ages set in the past, and we make our first journey to what the reader knows as Europe.  This volume seemed a bit darker and more mature than the first, which I appreciated, though I still struggle with whether or not this book is classified correctly.  The main character is young and it isn’t particularly gory or sexy, but the vocabulary is intense!  There were even words I didn’t know (inchoate…really, how often does that come up?).  It ended on a cliff-hanger and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.  Definitely an improvement over The Glass Sentence.

Up next?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Glass Sentence (SE Grove, 2014)

glass sentence

Why did you choose this book?

I love history and cartography, and something about the synopsis for the second book in this series caught my eye.  The second novel is The Golden Specific, and the third comes out this summer – The Crimson Skew.  The series as a whole is called The Mapmakers Trilogy.

What’s it about?

Sophia lives in New Occident in 1891 with her uncle, a famous mapmaker.  When he is abducted from their home, she sets out on a daring rescue with only one clue and a mysterious glass map to guide her.  The book is substantially more complicated – I’ll go into the world-building in my review.

Categories

Juvenile fiction, alternate reality

Other recommended reads?

The alternate yet similar world reminded me of Philip Pullman’s trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (the trilogy is His Dark Materials).  Though this series lacks the religious dimension found in the 3rd book of Pullman’s.

Review

I struggled with trying to decide if I loved this book or not.  I also struggled with its classification as a JFIC novel.  While it doesn’t contain the mature themes usually found in teen books, it uses an advanced vocabulary, extremely complicated world-building, and is very long (nearing 500 pages).

I LOVED the world created in this book.  In the 1790s, everything froze for one moment, and in that moment, every season passed before the eyes of the spectators.  When it unfroze, different regions of the world had been thrown into different eras.  Canada was in the Ice Age (Prehistoric Snows), America was in the same time (New Occident), Mexico was past, present, and future (the Baldlands), Europe was in the medieval era, and Egypt was in the era of the pharaohs.  I adore the exploration so central to this new world.

I also loved the conception of maps in this trilogy.  Paper maps are just as they are in our world.  Glass maps are activated with light and contain the memories of people.  Cloth maps are activated with wind and contain weather patterns.  Metal maps are activated with heat and contain memories of man-made structures.  Clay maps are activated with water and contain topography.  Stacked together, you experience a full memory of a time and place.

Overall, it’s a good read in a fascinating world, but not for the faint of heart.

Up next?

The Golden Specific by SE Grove

Nooks & Crannies (Jessica Lawson, 2015)

nooks crannies

Why did you choose this book?

I honestly don’t remember where I first heard of this one, but I was intrigued by the plot.  I love mysteries where all of the characters are confined to a grand manor house.  Or mysteries set during the Victorian/Edwardian time period.

What’s it about?

In 1906 or 1907 (I can’t remember), six children receive a letter inviting them to the home of a reclusive philanthropist.  The group includes churlish Barnaby, clever Oliver, book-smart Edward, sweet Viola, haughty Frances, and curious Tabitha.  Tabitha is the main character.  She loves Inspector Pensive mysteries (similar to Sherlock Holmes) and constantly looks for clues with her pet mouse, Pemberley.  Tabitha’s parents have always treated her horribly, and while they try to make the trip profitable, Tabitha is happy to be exploring the grand manor without them.

Categories?

Mystery, historical, juvenile fiction

Other recommended reads?

This is in 2 parts.  First, many reviewers compared this book to Roald Dahl.  I have never enjoyed his books and thus can neither agree nor disagree.  I found some aspects of it (such as Tabitha’s cruel treatment at the hands of her parents) to be similar to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I loathed that series when I was younger as well.

Personally, I would compare the overall feeling of this book to one of my all-time favorites, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.  If you haven’t read it, go put it on hold now – it’s soooo good!

Review

I really, really enjoyed this book, and I didn’t solve the mystery until Tabitha did.  I enjoyed the eccentricity of the characters as well, but I did feel that some parts of the book were too dark and mature for the book’s target age group.  I’d recommend this for upper elementary and middle school students.

Up next?

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

The Marvels (Brian Selznick, 2015)

the marvels

Why did you choose this book?

I thought it was about time that I read one of those giant Selznick tomes.

What’s it about?

This story can be roughly divided into 2 sections.  The first is substantially longer (about 400 pages) and is entirely composed of sketches.  The second is about 200 pages and is written as a traditional novel.  The sketches tell the story of a young boy who stowed away on a ship where his older brother was a crewman in 1766.  The two boys put on a play but the ship is caught in a storm and the ship breaks up, with the older brother falling from a very high perch.  Though they both reach land, the older boy dies and the younger one is eventually rescued.  The family is traced through 3 subsequent generations of actors in the same theater, which boasts a picture of the deceased brother as an angel on the ceiling.  The story section tells of a young boy who runs away from school to the home of his uncle in the 1990s.  His uncle, though, is quite the character and lives in a manner befitting the 19th century.  Do these two stories relate?

Categories?

Graphic novels, jfiction

Other recommended reads?

The acting family, to me, echoed a theme of circus families that has been present in books for both young readers and adults recently.  Examples include The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley and The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler.

Review

I wasn’t expecting so much of the novel to be graphic, but those portions drew me in more than the text-based sections did.  I also couldn’t put this book down, finishing it after a marathon reading at about 1:30 AM.  In its defense, I didn’t start it until around 10:30.  I wanted the resolution of the novel to be more magical than it was, but it was still a satisfying read.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but let me know what you think if you read it!

Up next?

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures (Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater, 2015)

pip bartlett

Why did you choose this book?

Any good librarian will brush up on literature for every age group.  This is a JFIC pick for middle-grade readers and I think younger me would have snatched it up and devoured it immediately.

What’s it about?

The story takes place in a world just like ours, except that in addition to normal animals, magical creatures roam the world.  Pip Bartlett is a young girl who loves these creatures, but seems to be the only person who can communicate with them (no adults believe her, however).  The majority of the book involves issues with Fuzzles, small fluffballs considered pests due to their ability to burst into flame at the slightest provocation.

Categories?

Juvenile fantasy

Other recommended reads?

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede.  A very different premise, but an equally intriguing series for kids with a love of magical creatures or just creatures in general.

Review

I thought it was a good read, though I personally will not read the rest of the series.  Pip was an enjoyable character and I really liked the fact that the magical creatures she encounters don’t fit the mold.  For example, the unicorns were not the wise and majestic figures they are in so much other literature.  Instead they were either completely vain and self-absorbed or paranoid and anxiety-ridden.

Up next?

Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indridason