Separated from their parents while at sea, fourteen-year-old Molly McConnachie, an Irish immigrant escaping the famine in County Donegal, Ireland, has found herself in Cellar Hollow with her ten-year-old brother, Kip.  Along with their horse Galileo—who is as loyal as he is stubborn—the children make their way to Windsor Estate, where Molly has a job, but folks along the route warn them against the sourwoods.  Hester Kettle, a storyteller who plays the hurdy gurdy, is vehement about the foreboding that awaits: “They say the sourwoods changes folks. . . brings out somethin’ horrible in ‘em” (10).  Convinced this is all frightening nonsense, she and Kip,Read More →

Callie did not have an average childhood. She never had a home, never attended school, and has very little memories of her father. Not knowing her life was different than the typical child, Callie enjoyed traveling state to state with her mother, Veronica. Veronica held odd jobs (not all of them legal), allowing her and Callie to stay in hotel rooms and eat many of their dinners from the lobby vending machine. During the middle of the night, Veronica wakes Callie to tell her they are leaving and her suitcase needs to be packed within minutes. While Callie is used to her her mom pickingRead More →

At twelve years old, Hannah Silver has idiosyncrasies: thinking out loud, using words from an invented Muffin Language, hearing the bossy voices of Nancy and Belinda in her head, and fearing that stairs are traps with hidden torture devices.  She soon discovers that her family belongs to a sect of Guardians who guard the door to the afterlife.  Hannah’s mother tells her the story, that the secret door in the lighthouse near their home leads to the city—temporary home to everyone who has lived and died in our world.  Beyond the city lies Ascension.  To ascend requires certain qualifications—Watchers enforce these rules. On a stormyRead More →

Readers of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid will likely enjoy The Boy Problem: Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy by Kami Kinard. While it doesn’t have the plethora of pictures, it has relevance and ‘tween appeal in its plot.   Tabitha Reddy, who believes in signs and clues, thinks it’s possible to predict the future and that wishing on a star increases the likelihood of that wish’s coming true.  Her BFF, Kara McAllister disagrees, saying: “Nothing helps your wishes come true unless YOU do something yourself” (11).  She encourages Tabitha, who is in search of a boyfriend, to be proactive. The social scenes and peerRead More →

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell was a difficult book to read.  I am always flummoxed by hate, preferring instead to stand up for social justice, to act as Anna Sewell said in Black Beauty all those years ago: “With cruelty and oppression, it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it.” Still, this is an important nonfiction book, one that can easily be read alongside The Road to Memphis by Mildred D. Taylor.  As he commemorates the 50th anniversary of the murders of three civil rights workers by the Ku Klux Klan, Mitchell provides a look into one of the dark cornersRead More →

One month before their 11th birthday, all is peaceful in Maine for the Brennan twins, Gus and Leo, until their mother develops a mysterious illness and boats begin to mysteriously disappear.  These freakish events are just a beginning, however, as solitude turns to emergencies, screaming, lying, and nighttime visitors.  And Ila, who has never previously spoken in her five years of life, starts to speak nonsense about morays and watchers. By the time a shape-shifting messenger arrives, Gus is furious, frightened, confused, and full of grief, but she and her siblings step out of their previously idyllic life into something completely unknown. The Bedell takesRead More →

This is the second book of the Mystic City series, and while I would have liked to have read the first book, not having done so was not a detriment.  This book stands alone perfectly. I am not sure if one could label this a dystopian novel, but there are dystopian elements present. There is a segment of the society that is mystic. The mystics look and act like “normal” humans, but as their name implies, they have mystic powers.  Somehow these mystics have been exploited to, basically, serve the wealthy. OK, as I write this, perhaps it would be better to read these books inRead More →

In Katherine Kirkpatrick‘s Between Two Worlds, travelers on a race to the top of the world interrupted life during the 1900’s in Greenland.  The Greenland Inuits were amazed at the expansive wooden ships that rammed upon their shores bringing white men, women in impractical dresses, and canned food. Billy Bah was not exempt from the amazement. She followed the captain of the ship – Captain Peary – and spent time with his wife, especially after the birth of their daughter in the barren tundra of Greenland.  When the Peary’s sail home to America they ask to take Billy Bah with them – the first “Eskimo” toRead More →

A magical realism tale, Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson is set in Taper, Florida, “where the sea of sugarcane stops and swamps begin” (1). The thick, mucky place intrigues twelve-year-old Charlie Reynolds who is attending the funeral of his stepfather’s father. While the family is in Florida, Charlie notices a look on his mother’s face, the old look of fear, placed there by an abusive father. He knows his mother does not like this place, so when the townspeople ask Prester Mack to coach the football team, a position vacated by the death of Willie Wisdom, Charlie worries that the place will dredge upRead More →