Movie Review: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

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Directed by: John Schultz

MPAA Rating: PG

Interest Range: 8-10

Genre: Comedy

Plot: Judy Moody had the perfect plan for making the summer after third grade their best one yet- a competition for who could complete the most thrilling dares, the goal being 100 thrill points and proving their summer was full of exciting and memorable happenings. But then two of her closest friends are leaving for the summer, one for circus camp and the other to the rainforests of Borneo. And if that wasn’t enough, Judy’s parents have to leave town to help out their extended family so their yearly trip to Grandma’s house isn’t happening. Instead, Aunt Opal is coming to stay and Judy will be stuck at home with her annoying younger brother, Stink, and her most boring friend, Frank. Judy changes her plan and emails her friends to tell them the thrills are now a race, and the first to 100 points wins- but how will she ever compete with learning to saw people in half and hanging out with monkeys?

Review: This movie was cute, and certainly points to something kids this age are worried about. Summer is supposed to be full of fun and exciting things that you can then brag about to your friends when you head back to school. Often there is nothing more dismal than looking ahead to a summer full of nothing. But Judy shows us how just a normal summer at home, where you think nothing is happening at all, can actually be full of quite a few thrills. It’s just what you make of it. Judy seems to be portrayed as a pretty honest 8 or 9 year old, she wants adventure and is often frustrated with her family and disappointed by her friends. She has her own sense of style, and her best friend is a boy. She’s not annoying to watch, and doesn’t seem to be some kind of caricature of a tween, although she’s definitely not going through anything too personal in this story. Ultimately, this movie made me want to take a closer look at the Judy Moody series of books. I wonder how well they adapted the main character to the screen.

Themes: Changes at Home, Building New Relationships, Humor

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Judy Moody: The title character, Judy has just gotten out of the third grade. Her friends have abandoned her for more exciting summers and Judy is left at home wondering what to do. On a few separate occasions, she decides to give up and spend the rest of the summer in her bedroom because NOTHING exciting ever happens to her. But eventually, she realizes it’s all what you make of it and she decides to turn her summer around.

Stink Moody: Judy’s little brother, who is currently obsessed with Bigfoot. The rumor of Bigfoot in the area has gotten Stink all riled up and he is convinced that he will capture the beast this summer. He’s even joined a Bigfoot Believers club.

Aunt Opal: Judy’s aunt, who they haven’t seen in many years, is in town and charged with taking care of the kids while their parents  are gone. Aunt Opal describes herself as a guerrilla artist and teaches Judy the importance of enjoying the moment and making something out of what you have in front of you. She also seems to be followed by small disasters.

Frank: Judy’s one friend who has remained in town this summer. Unfortunately, Frank is probably the least brave of the 4-member Toad Pee club and not the best match for Judy’s thrill-seeking adventures.

Bibliographic Info:

Schultz, J.(Director), Luther, B. S. (Producer), Magness, G. (Producer), & Siegel-Magness, S. (Producer). (2011). Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer [Motion picture]. United States: Smokewood Entertainment.

Tagline:

“Be careful what you wish for.”

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The Tale of Despereaux

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Author: Kate DiCamillo

Age Range: 7-12 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 7-12

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: This is the story of a very tiny mouse who was a disappointment to his family. He was smaller than he should have been, and terrible at everything a mouse should be good at. He was strange, and the other mice did not understand his ways. But Despereaux was special: he could read! And his ability introduced him to the importance of story, and the idea of knights and princesses and duty and honor. So when he finally met a real life princess, it makes perfect sense that he fell in love with the human girl and knew he would do everything it took to honor her. This is also the story of how other people wished to take revenge on the princess, and ultimately how Despereaux was tested to see how far his love for the princess could carry him. Will a tiny little mouse be able to brave the dungeon and ultimately save the princess from her terrible fate?

Review: This book was incredibly sweet. I loved the approach, telling the story from each of the main characters’ points of view  (Despereaux, Chiaroscuro, and Miggery Sow) and allowing you to see each of their personal pasts before telling you how they all three were wound together. I also enjoyed the sense of humor and repeating tendency to directly address the reader and invite them to make the story more personal (check your dictionary for definitions, relate the story to your own experience, etc.). The main character might be a mouse, but he is very much humanized and I think very easy for children to relate to. It is common to feel like you don’t fit in with your family, to feel different from your own kind and sometimes not realize that those differences are alright (even good), and can be used to your advantage or as strengths. And the emphasis of the importance and value of “story” and “light” is ultimately uplifting and encouraging.

Themes: Being Different, Light vs. Dark, Coming of Age, Prejudice (species, in this case)

Additional Info:

Awards: Newbery Medal Winner in 2004

Adaptations: This book was made into an animated film in 2008.

Main Characters:

Despereaux: A mouse, smaller than normal and very different form all of the other mice in the castle. After letting himself be seen by the King and even be touched by the Princess Pea, Despereaux is turned in by his own brother and father and exiled to the dungeon by the Council of Mice (basically a death sentence). But when meeting the princess, Despereaux fell in love with her and will fight to get back to the light and keep her safe from harm.

Chiaroscuro: A rat, born in darkness but desiring a life filled with light. When he finally gets to experience it, he is shunned and sent back to the darkness where he begins to plot his revenge on the Princess. He is forever obsessed with the brilliance and beauty of the light, and ultimately will try to capture the Princess and teach her a lesson.

Miggery Sow: An unlucky girl who was sold into slavery by her father after her own mother’s death. Miggery is often beaten, to the point of losing her hearing. Unfortunately, she is also not very smart and quite lazy. After seeing the Princess Pea on her seventh birthday, her only wish is to also be a princess.  Instead, she ends up working in the castle and is eventually tricked into helping Chiaroscuro take his revenge on the Princess Pea.

Princess Pea: The Princess of the castle, still dealing with the passing of her mother. Princess Pea is fond of Despereaux and becomes angry with her father for not allowing her to befriend the mouse. She becomes the object of Despereaux’s affection, Miggery Sow’s dreams, and Chiaroscuro’s revenge.

Bibliographic Info:

DiCamillo, K. (2003). The Tale of Despereaux. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

Despereaux is a very different mouse. But often being different just means you’re destined for adventure.

The Red Pyramid

Author: Rick Riordan

Age Range: 10-18 (Kirkus)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Plot: Carter and Sadie have grown up as practically strangers. When their mother died, their father continued traveling the world and studying Egyptian history with Carter in tow while Sadie stayed with their grandparents in England. On Christmas eve, the only time of the year when the three of them are together, their father manages to let lose an ancient Egyptian god who wants him dead. Carter and Sadie are amazed to find that the Egyptian gods are not only real, but after their own family. And now, with the disappearance of their dad they have to learn to work together for the first time in their lives if they have any hope of saving him. As their adventure advances, the brother and sister realize their own powers and unlock the history of their family that goes all the way back to the time of the pharaohs. Can they learn to work together in time to save their dad and the world as we know it?

Review: Riordan seems to have cornered the niche of Greek and Egyptian mythology at the middle grade level. His writing moves quickly, and he throws in lots of history and facts about the different gods and the history and culture of these regions. It’s easy to see why readers enjoy his multiple series, but I can also see how they might get old quickly. Since I have a love for mythology, these books appeal to me and my excitement at seeing young kids excited about reading in this genre. These books could be a good starting place for teaching mythology: a fast paced story to draw them into the topic, and then other materials could be introduced for more depth with different myths or gods.

Themes: Changes at Home, Building New Relationships, Magic, Coming of Age

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Carter Kane: 14 years old, and often called “Wikipedia brain” by his sister, Carter is smart. He also happens to be a very strong magician, although he doesn’t know it at the beginning of this story. Carter’s main concern is finding and saving their father. Of note: Carter (and Sadie) have parents of two different races. His father was black and his mother was white. Carter’s skin color makes this fact much more obvious than his sister’s. People often don’t understand them to be related.

Sadie Kane: 12 years old, Sadie was born and raised for most of her life in Los Angeles but has been living with her grandparents for the past few years in England. She does not see her father often, and does not get along well with her brother because of a fight at her sixth birthday party.

Muffin/Bast: The cat that Sadie’s father gave to her when he lost custody of her, Muffin is actually the goddess Bast in housecat form. She eventually makes her presence known and helps Carter and Sadie in their adventures.

Bibliographic Info:

Riordan, R. (2010). The Red Pyramid. New York: Hyperion Books.

Tagline:

What if one day you found out that your dad was an Egyptian magician? What if all of a sudden you were one too?

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Author: e. l. konigsburg

Age Range: 9-12

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: Claudia Kincaid has decided to run away. In the weeks that she spends planning her departure she almost forgets why she wanted to run away in the first place, but she is a very determined almost-12-year-old girl and knows that it must have been something important. She decides to take her younger brother Jamie, because he is richer than any of her siblings and also the one she can stand the most, and that they will travel to New York City and stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Think that sounds crazy? Well, they manage to do it- and they make a few big discoveries along the way. Will Claudia and Jamie ever be able to get along? Can they manage to outwit the security guards and not get caught? And just who carved that mysterious new Angel statue, anyway? Hear the story as it was told to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and learn why she’s now writing these two children into her will.

Review: This book was hilarious and also quite deep. I never imagined it to be a discussion on the kinds of feelings and needs a young girl sometimes has to feel different or changed in some way. Yes, it is far fetched in that two children running away from home and living in a museum successfully for a week could not happen today, and at times the text is rather dated (there’s an interesting discussion on drugs and drug pushers and mysterious candy that made me laugh out loud), but it is so well done that you hardly realize that you’re learning something along the way. The value of secrets, or the value of feeling different or changed on the inside even if others can’t tell on the outside. Claudia left home searching for something and was determined to stay away until she knew she could come home as a different person. And she found out she couldn’t force it- her decision to wear a sari and attempt at practicing the appropriate walk after visiting the UN proved that quite clearly. She had to figure things out on her own. And she managed to, in the course of a week. A tall order for the real world, but a valuable lesson to be given to the reader. Sometimes we as humans want to experience a change in ourselves. I’ve had that craving many times, and moved around the country because of it. It’s a desire for adventure and experience. Claudia gained both.

Themes: Adventure, The Importance of Secrets, Changes Within, Coming of Age

Additional Info:

Awards: Newbery winner in 1968

Adaptations: done as an audio book in 1969 (cassette tape), a movie in 1973 (released as The Hideaways, featuring Ingrid Bergman), and a made-for-tv film released in 1995.

Main Characters:

Claudia Kincaid: A very determined 11 year old girl (almost 12) who loved to plan, but is not very good with money. Claudia decides to run away, spends weeks planning it, and manages it rather successfully. They manage to live in a museum, keep themselves well-fed, and even do laundry and travel around New York City without having many problems at all. In the course of the story, Claudia realizes that she is looking for experience and a way to come home changed on the inside.

James Kincaid: Claudia’s 9-year-old brother, who is terrible at planning but very good with his money. He’s been saving every penny he ever earned, and manages the team’s finances while they are adventuring. He is a perfect fit for his sister’s strengths and weaknesses, and the two of them form quite the team while out on their own.

Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: Mrs. Basil is a rich old woman (82 years old) who lives in Connecticut and owns a very vast collection of art. Her statue of the Angel was recently bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art at an auction, and she holds the secret behind it very dear to her heart. She is the narrator of this story, since she has collected it as evidence and is presenting it to her lawyer to explain why she wants to include Claudia and James in her will.

Saxonberg: Frankweiler’s lawyer, to whom she is writing this story.

Bibliographic Info:

Konigsburg, E. L. (2002). From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tagline:

Sometimes it’s not enough to come home safe and sound. Sometimes you need to come home different.

The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate

 

Author: Scott Nash

Age Range: 10-12 (Kirkus reviews)

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure Story

Plot: Welcome to the world of avian pirates! The fearsome Captain Blue Jay has been leading his air ship, the Grosbeak, and crew on a very successful run of pillaging and plundering. But everything changes when he decides to keep an egg that they’ve found as a prize for his collection. The presence of the egg throws the crew into disarray- loyal Junco, the navigator,  has been leaving her post to try and hatch it! She convinces Jay that this egg is truly special and will bring them adventure, so the entire crew is enlisted to keep the egg safe. When the egg finally hatches, they find the Junco was right- this adventure will be like nothing they’ve ever dreamed. Along the way, learn a few new pirate songs and let the Jolly Robin fly!

Review: This book was definitely great for pirate lovers. A true pirate story all the way, complete with legends , and sword fights, and death, but made more kid-friendly because the characters are all birds (and a few other animals). This story will capture the mind of any child fascinated by pirates or birds, and the author has done a great job of describing details like how their ship flies through the air. Pirate-obsessed younger readers with strong abilities will enjoy this story too, and won’t need much help from parents to get through it. A unique option for the reader who wants nothing but adventure, this might help them bridge the gap into the fantasy world.

Themes: Coming of Age, Changes at Home, Bullying, Loss, Death

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Blue Jay: The captain of the Grosbeak, and infamous pirate. There are many legends about his ferocity, but those who know him best know otherwise. He’s survived six mutinies, and piloted multiple ships, but this next adventure will go down in the books as his biggest achievement yet.

Junco: The navigator for the Grosbeak. It is her instinct that tells them the new egg is important and should be hatched. More loyal than any other shipmate, everyone is surprised by her crazed behavior surrounding the egg. Junco becomes a kind of surrogate mother to the hatchling.

Gabriel: The hatchling, who turns out to be a gosling. Blue Jay refers to him often as a godling, since in their world geese are often thought of as gods.

Bibliographic Info:

Nash, S. (2012). The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

Pirates can sail the high seas, why not the high skies? Join Captain Blue Jay and his crew on the greatest adventure a bunch of pirate birds has ever seen!

Zebra Forest

 

Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz

Age Range: 9-12 (publisher’s info)

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: On the last day of sixth grade, Annie has to write an essay about her three wishes for the summer. She writes the essay, but doesn’t tell the truth about her wishes, which are all for things that she thinks are impossible: 1. Get tall, 2. Have an adventure, and 3. Meet her father. Annie doubts she’ll ever be tall since her Gran is so incredibly short, and Sunshine isn’t exactly a town with lots of adventures to be had. Her third wish is definitely impossible, since the only thing she knows about her father is that he died when she was young. But her summer is surprising, and adventure certainly comes to Sunshine with a prison break from the town next door and the arrival of a visitor who is here to stay. Annie, much to her surprise, is about to be a part of something intense that threatens to rip her family apart at the seams.

Review: I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. The story is well written, but the subject matter isn’t anything that I find particularly interesting. Annie’s father ends up not being dead, but instead a convicted felon who happens to run into the family by mistake. It just seems too staged. But Annie is a kid dealing with some very serious problems. Her Gran has good days and bad, and probably isn’t fit to raise two young children, but the social worker assigned to her family has promised to look the other way as long as Annie promises to tell her if anything very serious happens. Her younger brother, Rew, has anger management issues of a pretty serious variety. Although Annie has figured out how to handle him over the years, the reappearance of their father stretches his limits and eventually causes some serious division between brother and sister. And then there’s Annie, a very smart girl whose world is suddenly flipped upside down and who has to suddenly deal with being a hostage in her own house and figuring out if she can trust this man who was once her father but is now a convicted murderer. A very serious book that would only appeal to certain readers, but is definitely worth a read.

Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Tough Issues, Illness

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Annie: A 6th grader who has been groomed to lie like a pro. She has been raised by her Gran, who homeschooled her until the social worker figured out what was really going on in the house. Annie is smart, but lacks much motivation for anything. What she wants more than anything is to know her family’s history, most importantly more about her dad.

Rew: Annie’s little brother who loves the book Treasure Island. The copy they have read repeatedly starts at Chapter 8, and Rew refuses any attempt to read the beginning of the story because he loves making up his own ideas for all of the characters’ beginnings. Rew is incredibly smart and always beats his sister at chess, unless she teases him enough to make him angry. Rew cannot think when he’s angry.

Gran: Annie and Rew’s grandmother. She moved them to the town of Sunshine after her husband died. She has been caring for and raising the children alone for the past 8 years, and is slowly slipping into depression. Gran is not always fit to be the caretaker for two young children, but she will never admit that to anyone. She is a world-class liar.

Andrew Snow: An escaped convict from the local prison who breaks into Gran’s house and takes the family hostage.

Bibliographic Info:

Gewirtz, A. R. (2013) Zebra Forest. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Tagline:

When Annie wished for an adventure, she had no idea what she was getting herself into.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: September is a very normal girl whose father has gone off to fight in World War II and whose mother is now working a lot to help with the war effort. On the night of her twelfth birthday, the Green Wind and his Leopard decide to surprise September with a trip to Fairyland. Before she knows it, September is off on a greater adventure than she could ever have imagined. Fairyland is in turmoil, ruled by a Marquess that has forbidden dragons and fairies to fly and imposed all other sorts of demanding rules on the inhabitants of this fantastic world. Along the way, September makes many new friends, including a Dragon who was raised by a Library and a blue boy from the sea who can grant wishes. But will this terribly normal girl be strong enough to stand up to the evil Marquess? Can she find a way to follow her ever-growing heart and restore Fairyland to what it once was?

Review: One of my top ten books that I have read in 2012, this story is absolutely amazing. For any lover of fairy tales, adventure stories, or fans of Lewis Carroll, this book is a must read. Valente manages to create a Victorian-style story that is truly on a middle grade level, even if it will expand the vocabulary of readers of any age. A wonderful example of a coming-of-age tale, this story follows September’s progression from being Heartless (as all children are) to someone who’s Heart is Growing (what happens to everyone as they begin to grow up). She makes new relationships with very diverse characters and must make very important decisions about who to trust and who to move against. I’ve already given this book as a gift to a few of my friends who have embarked on major life changes this year, and it has struck a chord with each of them. Enjoyable to read for adventurers of all ages.

Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Making Decisions

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

September: A twelve-year-old girl from Nebraska whose parents are both rather absent because of war-time activities (World War II). She is taken to Fairyland by the Green Wind and left there to have adventures, which ultimately involve the dethroning of the evil Marquess.

A-Through-L: A Wyverary, or a wyvern (like a dragon) whose father was a Library. He has extensive knowledge of everything beginning with the letters A-L. He has no forepaws (so think of a shape like the letter S) and wings, but those wings are chained due to one of the Marquess’s laws. A-Through-L befriends September early in her adventures and travels with her throughout Fairyland.

Saturday: Saturday looks very much like a young boy with blue skin, but he is a Marid. He comes from the sea and lives his life quite out of order. But if you defeat him in legitimate combat, Saturday can and must grant you a wish.

The Marquess: The ruler of Fairyland. She took her place when there was a vacancy from the previous queen, who simply left one day never to return. The Marquess learns of September’s adventures in Fairyland and sets her with the quest of obtaining a very special sword from the depths of a dangerous forest. September must then decide if she will use the sword herself or hand it over to save her friends.

Bibliographic Info:

Valente, C. M. (2011). The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. New York: Macmillan.

Tagline:

A very normal girl goes on very abnormal adventures in Fairyland. Can she make the right choices to save both this magical world and herself?

Coraline

Author: Neil Gaiman

Age Range: 9-12 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Fantasy/Horror

Plot: Coraline and her parents have moved into a new apartment. Their neighbors are nice, but old, and none of them can even remember to get Coraline’s name right (they all call her Caroline, no matter how many times she corrects them). So the finals days of Coraline’s summer break are spent exploring the new house and the grounds around it. But a string of rainy weather has Coraline exploring indoors, and one day she finds a door to nowhere. After she finds the door, strange things start to happen, and one day the door opens onto a tunnel instead of the usual wall of bricks. Following the tunnel, Coraline discovers a house just like her own. But in this house lives her other mother and other father, who resemble her own parents but happen to do everything right. They cook her favorite foods and play with her constantly and exist just to give her everything she wants. But Coraline soon finds that the other world isn’t as friendly and nice as it seems. She eventually is trapped by her horrific other mother, and must save her own parents before she can get back home. Will Coraline be brave enough to face the scariest things she’s ever come up against?

Review: Coraline is a wonderfully dark and scary story. I’ve read it a number of times, listened to the audio book again and again while cooking and knitting, and enjoyed the movie in 3D in the theater when it first came out. The most important thing about Coraline’s story is the discussion of what it really means to be brave. Coraline learns about bravery first hand from her father and then is able to apply it to her own situation. He teaches her that bravery isn’t necessarily what you do in the moment, but when you are willing to walk into something that you are already knowingly afraid of or frightened by. And this is a lesson that everyone can benefit from. Best for readers who like scary stories.

Themes: Coming of age, Bravery

Additional Info:

Adaptations: Coraline was made into a stop-motion 3D movie in 2009. It also exists in audio book format, read by the author and complete with creepy music.

Awards: 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers, 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella

Main Characters:

Coraline: A very smart young girl who doesn’t like food made from recipes, being trapped inside because of the rain, or being ignored. Her parents work at home and are often around but inaccessible, so she is often left to herself- although this doesn’t bother her most of the time, since she is a self-proclaimed Explorer. Coraline is very brave,  because her father taught her how to be.

The Other Mother: Also referred to as the Belle Dame, the other mother is the creature that created Coraline’s other world. She is trying to trap Coraline in this world so she can feed on the girl’s soul and keep her forever, like the other children she has ensnared over time.

Bibliographic Info:

Gaiman, N. (2002). Coraline. New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Tagline:

Coraline Jones is an explorer, but her other mother wants to keep her locked up forever. Will she ever be brave enough to find her way home?

Forays into Modern Technology: The Shapshot Book Trailer

This was produced using the free software available at Animoto. Very easy to use and creates quite the professional-looking product. The free version keeps you to 30 seconds, but I know from this experience I’m tempted to use it for much more.

Enjoy!

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Peculiar

 

Author: Stefan Bachmann

Age Range: 10-15 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 10-15

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Steampunk

Plot: Bartholomew Kettle is half-human and half-faery. He is living in post-war London, post faery war, that is. And in this world, the humans won the war and people like Bartholomew are scorned. So he spends his days trying to stay out of sight, not be noticed, and hope that life can proceed as normal for his mother, sister, and himself. But one day he is seen, and not by the right people. Bartholomew is being stalked by sinister beings, and just might be the next victim in a line of horrible murders.  But then the string of murders is brought before Parliament, and Mr. Arthur Jelliby realizes that he just may have a clue as to who is committing these crimes. Can Bartholomew outrun the dark magic that pursues him? Will Jelliby put the pieces together in time to save the next victim? And just who is that mysterious lady in the plum-colored dress?

Review: This fast-paced book is action-packed. The almost 400 pages seemed to fly by. The stories of Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby revolve around each other tighter and tighter until they are inevitably brought together to solve the mystery for each of their own personal reasons and benefit. Bartholomew’s life is far from easy: he is being raised by a single mother, their family is struggling, Bartholomew hates doing chores, and just wants a friend. These elements combine to convince Bartholomew that he should summon a domesticated faery to take care of all of their problems. His desire to use magic to solve their problems makes him even more relatable, I think, and the troubles that this easy escape bring upon his family is a great lesson for anyone to learn. But the story is dark, and deals with some very menacing topics and descriptions (dark magic, evil faeries, violent murder, disturbing characters) that make this read most appropriate for readers who like a thrill and enjoy that prickly sensation that comes from reading horror.

Themes: Coming of age, Loss, Problem Solving

Additional Info:

Fun Fact: The author began working on this book when he was 16 years old. It was published when he was only 18.

Main Characters:

Bartholomew Kettle: A young changeling boy who hates doing chores and wishes things were different for his family. He is drawn to using magic to better his family’s lot in life, and this leads him to some pretty sticky situations. His own curiosity gets him marked as the next victim in a series of violent murders.

Mr. Arthur Jelliby: A politician who never wanted to be one. A very kind man who has no interest in the backstabbing, gossip, and plotting that his job requires. He’d rather sleep in and do nice things for his wife than do anything that might cause a stir. But then he learns some things that he shouldn’t, and is suddenly sucked into a murder mystery that he’d much rather have nothing to do with. But out of his own kindness he decides to pursue his leads, and try to help the mysterious lady in plum.

Mr. Lickerish: Lord Chancellor and the first Sidhe (a type of faery) ever to be appointed to the British government. Known as a very stand-up citizen, he may be hiding things from the public eye.

Melusine: The lady in plum, who seems to have a split personality.

Bibliographic Info:

Bachman, S. (2012). The Peculiar. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tagline:

“Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged” are this young boy’s words to live by.