Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘fairy tales

cover image for How to Ditch Your FairyHow to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Like everyone in New Avalon, Charlie has her own personal fairy. Charlie has never seen her fairy, but she knows her fairy is there because of all the little things her fairy does for her. But while most people are happy to have the extra help, Charlie is determined to ditch her fairy any way she can.

Some people (such as Charlie’s best friend Rochelle) get to have shopping fairies, and always find the best clothes. Other people (like Charlie’s nemesis Fiorenze) have fairies that make all the boys fall in love with them. But fourteen year old Charlie has a parking fairy, and what good is a parking fairy if you can’t even drive? All it means is that everyone always wants to drag Charlie along on all kinds of boring errands. So Charlie has spent the last sixty days walking everywhere – no riding in cars, buses, or any other vehicle that needs a parking space – in the hopes that it will convince her fairy to leave. Because there’s nothing Charlie won’t try in order to ditch her fairy and get a new one.

I’ve only read three of Larbalestier’s books, but I can already tell she doesn’t do typical. Which is fine by me.

How to Ditch Your Fairy is not quite the genius novel that Liar is (because what can really compare to Liar?) but it is a wonderful story. It’s not at all what one might expect from an urban fantasy novel, and that is definitely one of its biggest strengths. Not every single part of the novel works as well as it could, but it’s always very fresh and engaging.

I also appreciate how Larbalestier handles Fiorenze’s situation. As one might expect, having a fairy that makes all the boys around you be attracted to you isn’t quite the dream that it might sound like at first. It’s not just that it’s hard for Fiorenze to be sure which boys are sincere, it’s not just that it can be tedious and distracting, and it’s not even just that it creates a lot of jealousy among other girls and makes friendships impossible. Larbalestier makes it clear that the boys don’t really enjoy having their wishes overridden by fairy magic and, most importantly, that having a fairy like this is unsafe for Fiorenze – that it quite often places her in dangerous situations. And Larbalestier shows this by giving Charlie moments of understanding and growth that are logical and realistic and rooted in empathy rather than preachy and dogmatic.

I was very sad when my copy from Better World Books ended up being a library discard, because I really think this is a great addition to any young adult collection.

cover image for Ghost ShipGhost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Theo Waitley is not who she was raised to believe she was.  Her mother may indeed be Kamale Waitley, a scholar from the Safe World of Delgado, but the father she’s always loved turns out to have a past she never suspected, and comes with a family that’s larger and more complicated than Theo may be ready for.  Pilot Waitley has more to deal with than just family politics, however. She has a friend to rescue, a mysterious sentient ship to find, and she’s still under contract as a courier pilot.

It’s always taken me longer than usual to lose myself in this series, but this particular book was especially hard.  I don’t know if it would have helped to have read the previous Liaden books first, as the first part of Ghost Ship involves characters that were new to me but I think perhaps not the series. (Several books were written in the Liaden universe before this particular series, but Theo Waitley’s story begins with Fledgling and – until now – her series works quite well on it’s own.)  As it was, parts of the book were compelling, while others left me wishing certain characters would talk less and do more.

cover image for Between Mom and JoBetween Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters

Nick’s life has never been perfect, but it has been full of love and laughter and parents who love him.  Coping with their divorce, with not being allowed to choose who he lives with, would be hard on any teenager.   But after their split, Nick isn’t even allowed to see Jo.  Since Jo never adopted Nick, and his mothers’ marriage was never legally recognized, neither he nor Jo have any legal rights to make sure the mother who gave birth to him allows Nick to spend time with the mother who raised him.  Can Nick convince his mother of what Jo means to him? Or will his enforced estrangement from one mother ruin his relationship with the other?

As with so many of Peters’ books, we need more of this kind of story, and I’m glad that we now at least have at least this one.  However, the writing just isn’t very good.  It’s arguably one of her better written novels, and she does some interesting things with telling the story in a not quite linear fashion, but the prose never manages to rise above acceptable.

cover image for Mommy, Mama, and MeMommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson

I’ve been known to complain about the quality of books like Heather Has Two Mommies in the past.  While the diversity they bring and respect they show are both much needed, their quality in terms of craft isn’t always up to par.  Not so with this lovely book.

Newman’s text is full of catchy rhymes that keep the pages turning and the illustrations are expressive, clear, and skillful.  While Thompson’s style doesn’t quite match my personal taste, there is no denying that her work is well done and engaging. Together they present scenes that are familiar to all families, and yet depict a type of family that is under represented in quality children’s books.

More like this, please!

cover image for Rapunzel's RevengeRapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale

For as long as she can remember, Rapunzel has lived in comfort in Mother Gothel’s villa, never knowing what lay beyond.  Until the day she scales the walls and finally begins to understand what the woman she was taught to call mother is really capable of.  Now her curiosity has become a question for the truth, and Rapunzel won’t stop until she, and everyone else, is safe from Mother Gothel.

I so very much wanted to love this book, and there was, indeed, much that I liked about the characters and plot. Unfortunately, the illustration style never grew on me and so ended up being distracting rather than adding to my enjoyment of the story.

cover image for Close to FamousClose to Famous by Joan Bauer

Sonny Kroll dreams of being a baker, a world famous chef with her own television show.  Right now though, she’s sitting in the car with her mom, all their belongings tossed hastily into the trunk and backseat, on their way to a new town, a new place to live, and a new school.  Complete with a new principal that Sonny needs to keep from finding out that she can’t read.

I’ve heard good things about Bauer’s work, but this was another book that wasn’t awful, yet didn’t really impress me either.  It’s the type of book I’d try including in a large library collection, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend.

cover image for The Big Bad Wolf Goes on VacationThe Big Bad Wolf Goes on Vacation by Delphine Perret

Some kids are afraid of monsters hiding in their closet. Not Louis.  He doesn’t worry that something might be in his closet, he already knows that the Big Bad Wolf lives there.  This causes all sorts of problems, of course. Including the Big Bad Wolf insisting that he be taken along when he overhears that Louis is going on a trip with his grandfather.

Silly, unique, and sarcastic, this is one of the rare picture books that works better for older children rather than little ones. New readers may need help with the words, but can easily follow the pictures and will feel accomplishment in the use of chapters.  Older readers will find the comic like structure challenging but fun. Perret’s minimal sketches allow for personality and variation, but are uncluttered enough to keep their repetition from becoming chaotic or confusing.

cover image for I Need My Own CountryI Need My Own Country by Rick Walton, illustrated by Wes Hargis

Little brothers can be such a pain sometimes.  That’s when you need to take charge, and make a country of your own.  One he can’t join.

Hargis’s illustrations are well done, but the actual story is one of those that seems more for adults than for kids, who likely won’t be quite as entertained by this book as their parents will be.

cover image for A Good Night WalkA Good Night Walk by by Elisha Cooper

Evening slowly turns to night, as readers take a walk trough a friendly neighborhood.

Part of what makes Cooper’s books work so well is the way the illustrations giver personality to the text as the words explain the mechanics of farming, a day at the beach, or how ice cream is made.  While the illustrations here are wonderful, and the text is soothing, the two don’t work together in quite the way they often do in Cooper’s other books – they repeat rather than adding different information.

cover image for Quick as a CricketQuick as a Cricket by by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

Are you as quick as a cricket? As happy as a lark? Or perhaps you are as strong as an ox.  Or maybe, like our narrator, you’re all of these things, depending on your mood.

With simple similes and rich illustrations, Don and Audrey Wood introduce young readers to a world rich in nature and imagination, as well as the idea that they can be more than just one thing.  This book is a classic for a reason; the sentences are lyrical and the pictures creative, while the message is both simple and profound.

cover image for Tumble BumbleTumble Bumble by Felicia Bond

A tiny bug takes a walk, but he’s not alone for long. Soon a while parade of critters joins him as they tumble bumble through the neighborhood – and into someone’s house!

Felica Bond is a whiz with subtle shades of color and engaging characters, as anyone who as seen her artwork for the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series knows.  It turns out that she’s really great at rhymes and humor as well, making this book a classic story for little ones.

cover image for Sam's SandwichSam’s Sandwich by David Pelham

When Samantha asks her brother to make her a sandwich, Sam agrees – and decides to make her one with all the fixings.

The design of this book is rather clever and cute, and if it was just a story about a sandwich with creepy crawly things in it, I would love it.  The characters are both incredibly annoying though, as are the gender stereotypes they perpetuate for no reason.

cover image for When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When Miranda Sinclair gets a mysterious note asking her to pass on the location of her house key, her mother argues that it doesn’t mean anything. The note, found in a borrowed copy of A Wrinkle in Time, could have been intended for anyone – it might be decades old even. And the note can’t be related to Miranda losing her key two days earlier; why would someone who already has the key ask where it is?  But Miranda’s mom changes the locks anyway.  And Miranda wonders…

When You Reach me takes all the little, ordinary mysteries of being a kid and interweaves them with larger questions about independence, sacrifice, and loyalty – and the paradoxes of time travel.  It’s an elegant and enjoyable novel, meant to be reread, examined, and discussed.

cover image for BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Nothing in Hazel’s life is as it should be.  Her father has left and moved away to another city, her best friend’s mother is sick, and everyone thinks it’s strange that she and Jack are still best friends.  Even Hazel’s own mother keeps trying to get her to play more with other girls, instead of Jack.  Now Jack has stopped speaking to Hazel, and everyone tells her that just happens when boys and girls reach a certain age – but Hazel knows something else is going on, and it’s up to her to figure it out.

This was a decent story, but something about it just didn’t click with me.  I suspect I may have liked it better if I were more familiar with the specific fairy tales being referenced.

cover image for The ChangelingThe Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Martha Abbott isn’t smart, or pretty, popular, or athletic like her older siblings.  Ivy Carson isn’t quite like her family either, something Martha’s mother doesn’t quite understand.  But together, Ivy and Martha make a perfect pair.  And no matter how many times the Carson’s move away and back again, or how long it’s been since the girls saw each other last, Martha always feels more alive, more herself, when Ivy is around.

There’s just something about Snyder’s meandering way of telling a story, and her ability to capture the way that children imagine and play (aware that it’s pretend, and yet somehow also believing it’s real) that I absolutely adore.  I don’t know how today’s young readers would react to this book, but I enjoyed it a lot.

cover image for Everyone EatsEveryone Eats by Julia Kuo

With this single title Julia Kuo has joined my list of “female children’s book authors/illustrators to watch/who deserve more attention.”  It’s superbly done – so much so I’d love to have a larger version to read for story times.  The pattern sentences are by turns predictable and amusing and the illustrations are adorable, full of detail and texture yet bold and graphic.  Looking for something new for the little one in your life? BUY THIS BOOK.

cover image for RokkoRokko by Paola Opal

Rokko’s family is looking for a place to sleep, but can Rokko find the perfect spot?

The big selling point of Opal’s books is, of course, her adorable characters and  distinctive, rounded, and thickly outlined illustrations.  The story here is basic, and commonly used, but manages to not be tiresome despite that.

cover image for Snorkeling With Sea-BotsSnorkeling With Sea-Bots by Amy J. Lemke

Kolten is having fun but typical day at the beach with his family when a robot appears out of the ocean!  And not just any robot, Rip is one of the robots that lives under the sea and make the waves that come crashing to shore.  Best of all, he’s here to show Kolton how they do it.

I wanted to like this story.  It’s a cute idea – both the premise and the idea of chapter book level comics as a bridge between picture books and graphic novels.  And the main character is delightlfully non-WASPy, which we desperately need more of in chapter books.  But the story – the text, really – just didn’t flow and the there was absolutely no logic or substance to the fact that it’s robots that are making the waves.

cover image for A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

I’m going to assume you all have read the original already (and if you haven’t, you need to – right now!) and so instead I’ll skip straight to analysis.

There are a few missteps in Larson’s adaptation; I’ve never been a huge fan of the faces she draws (Charles Wallace in particular looks creepy – long before he’s supposed to) and the panels are sometimes a bit text heavy, especially in the beginning.

pages 1 and 2 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novelpage 40 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novelpage 184 from A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

That said, Larson totally gets Meg.  She also kept all the right bits in and many of the panels are just absolutely perfect.  Especially the first few pages and in the second half of the book, once the trio have made it to Camazotz and then later meet Aunt Beast.

cover image for WolvesWolves by Emily Gravett

Rabbit knows just where to get books on interesting topics: the library!  But when he checks out a book about wolves, he may just get more than he bargained for.

Wolves invites readers to imagine what might happen if non-fiction books were a different kind of “real.”  The sparse and straightforward text lets Gravett’s always excellent illustrations shine.  The three different styles of art (graphite pencil sketches for the wolves, pastels for Rabbit, and photography for the book) all expertly reinforce both plot and theme.

BlueChameleonBlue Chameleon by Emily Gravett

Chameleon is blue. Or pink. Or yellow. Or brown.  It all depends on who or what is nearby.  But mostly, Chameleon is blue – because Chameleon is lonely.

The story structure is very similar to Lionni’s A Color of His Own, but Gravett’s illustrations and humor really makes this tale hers.  Chameleon doesn’t merely wander from place to place, changing only colors, he works hard at becoming just like a snail, sock, or shoe.  Making his new friendship at the end of the book not only comforting but triumphant.

cover image for HuntressHuntress by Malinda Lo

When a never ending winter threatens the kingdom, it’s clear to everyone why the oracle stones have chosen Taisin, one of the most promising students at the Academy of Sages, as part of the envoy sent to the Fairy Queen for help.  What’s less clear is why Kaede, the very unmagical daughter of nobles, is chosen to go along as well.  But Kaede’s addition to the small group makes Taisin nervous for an entirely different reason; Taisin has been having disturbing and prophetic dreams about Kaede.

The pacing here was much better than in Ash, the characters deeper and full of life, and the plot had more purpose and direction.  Where Ash was interesting and angsty in a mellow sort of way, Huntress was much more complex and immediate, and the action moved more quickly and came with more tension.  There was still room for improvement, but it’s a good story overall. And yes, the romance between Taisin and Kaede is a big part of what makes it enjoyable.

cover image for The ChaosThe Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

The volcano that appeared out of nowhere in the middle of Lake Ontario is the least of Scotch’s problems. She’s more concerned with finding her older brother, getting rid of the tar-like rash she’s picked up, and dealing with the disembodied horse heads that have started following her.

This was an odd story.  Not necessarily in a bad way; much of the oddness was fun even if it didn’t make any sense most of the time.  The problem came, as it often does in Wonderland stories, in wrapping everything up.  Lessons were Learned, Relationships Grew, and Nothing Was Ever Going to Be the Same – but how exactly does one return from Wonderland when the problem is that Wonderland has come to you?

That said, I suspect much of the story not making sense to me has to do with my ignorance of various myths and tales from non-Western, so I may have to reread it after having done some more research.

Also, may we have more YA characters like Scotch please?  In speculative fiction in particular.  All too often the Scotches of YA, when they exist, get relegated to realistic fiction; I, for one, would like to see more of them taking on volcanoes, Baba Yaga, and whatever else the universe might want to throw at them.

cover image for AshAsh by Malinda Lo

After circumstances conspire to make Aisling’s life into a Cinderella tale, she spends much of her time lost in a fog of grief, finding solace only in the familiar woods near her home.  Her wanderings through the forest brings more than one stranger into Ash’s life, and not all of them human; her new experiences and acquaintances tantalizing Ash with the possibility of escaping her dreary existence.

Lo’s debut novel is unique and intriguing, but unfortunately also rather slow and detached at times.  It’s a good addition to any young adult collection, especially in light of how little lgtbq genre there is, but not one that I would make a priority.

cover image for Paladin of SoulsPaladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Shortly after the conclusion of The Curse of Chalion, the dowager royina Ista Dy Baocia sets off on a pilgrimage.  Ista is quite violently against the idea of healing her broken relationship with the gods, but the goal of visiting holy sites througout the kingdom gives her a socially acceptable excuse to escape the walls and expectations that surround her.  The gods themselves have other plans, however, as they often do, and Ista’s wandering soon because an expedition with surprising and momentous results.

As awesome as Paladin of Souls is, I have to admit that a lot of the emotional resonance of the story passed me by, owing to my complete and utter lack of faith at any point in my life.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like it, I absolutely adored it!  It’s just that many of the deeper moments were illuminating, in terms of understanding how faith works for people who have it, rather than touching on a personal, intimate level.

That said, Ista is awesome and I wish we had more protagonists like her.  More middle aged women. More mothers.  More women who yearn for peace and freedom but recognize the complexities of their obligations.