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.

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Video Game Review: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-7

Ages: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

Harry Potter is such a loved franchise, I was not at all surprised to see someone take it on in both the physical world of Lego toys and the popular video game franchise that Lego now incorporates into their product lines. Watching the beloved characters come to life in those little blocky shapes and act out the story line we all know so well with only grunts and gestures is incredibly amusing in its own right, let alone getting to manipulate them through the levels. I appreciated the fact that the player actually has to acquire each new spell and ability by attending classes and going through activities to help you practice the new skill. By interspersing actual game play levels with classroom tutorials the player is able to feel good about the new spells and abilities before having to actually use them where it counts.

As with all of the Lego video games, there is so much built into the game that a player could take months to get through it all. Once you play through the Story Mode and unlock as much as you possibly can (each level has the four sub-goals of collecting a certain number of “coins”, finding the three hidden characters, locating all four parts of the Hogwarts Crest, and freeing the Student in Peril), you can go back and re-play each level as many times and with any different character you like (and have unlocked and bought) to try and achieve all of the possible goals and gain the desired Red and Gold Bricks. The Red Bricks give you extra useful and fun things to do each level (allowing your spells to work faster, giving all of the characters funny disguises to wear or turning all of their wands into carrots), while the Gold Bricks are more of an end-goal. Once all of the achievements for each level have been met, the player will have collected all of the Gold Bricks and is able to put them all together in Diagon Alley (technically in the basement of Gringots) to construct a final surprise. To be completely honest, I’m not sure what it is yet since I haven’t had the time to play through everything enough to achieve all of the goals. I hope to someday find out.

The people who make the Lego video games decided to break the Harry Potter saga into two separate stories. I think this was wise. The only problem I have with it is that they decided to tweak and change certain aspects between the two games, probably as advancements were made with software and in an attempt to make the overall experience better for the player the second time around (the original Xbox version of Years 1-4 had some glitches that made it impossible to advance past a certain part in the game on  your first attempt through), but I appreciate consistency when two games are so obviously linked. I wish that the Diagon Alley section had been the same for both games, instead of just different enough to throw me off. I had a really hard time finding where to purchase all of the unlocked characters in Years 5-7.

The available online walk-throughs continue to be a major help for me with this Lego game (as with all of the others). Some people might be ashamed to admit that a game designed for children can sometimes be too complex or confusing for them, but I certainly am not. Not being the most avid of gamers, and not having a lot of free-time available for video games these days, I often go to the walk-throughs to help me get past very specific puzzles or find well-hidden important elements. And I am amazed (but not surprised) when watching gamers much younger than myself walk through these games and puzzles like they are no challenge whatsoever. Another aspect of the Lego games that I enjoy is the inability to die. Sure, your little character can be hit only four times before being blown apart into tiny bricks, but then he just reforms where he was previously standing. Having lost coins, certainly, but they even give you a chance to quickly run around and gather up much of what was lost in the first few seconds after you regenerate. Not being forced to start over every time something bad happens or you fail to complete a task makes this game encouraging and less frustrating for younger players (and older players alike).

Lovers of the Harry Potter franchise who are missing the books, enjoyers of Legos, and those who love puzzle games will all enjoy these two Harry Potter video games. Even if they do get frustrating sometimes, there is enough present in each of these games for players of all levels and varying interests, and help is always available in online communities.

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.

Dark Lord: The Early Years

 

Author: Jamie Thomson

Age Range: 9-14 (Kirkus reviews)

Interest Range: 9-14

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Humor

Plot: Dirk Lloyd has been hit by a car and lapsed into some kind of amnesia- at least that’s what he was told after waking up in a supermarket parking lot and being rushed to a hospital. But Dirk knows exactly who he is: The Dark Lord from the Iron Tower of Despair at the Gates of Doom, from the Dark Lands. The white wizard has sent him here to earth and trapped him in the body of a 12-year-old boy because it was the only way to defeat him, and now no one believes him. The child psychologists think he’s created some elaborate fantasy to deal with a traumatic event- they even try hypnotizing him to find out the real story! But after months of living in a foster home and learning how to navigate the seventh grade as a puny human boy, Dirk isn’t changing his tune. But he is managing to learn how to show affection and gain ::gasp:: friends instead of minions. Is Dirk faking, or is he really from another world, full of orcs and goblins?

Review: I loved this book! Between the humor and the references to movies and role playing games, there were very well done discussions on bullying, going to therapy, navigating inter-group relations at school, dealing with the powerless feeling of being a kid. It’s hard to be the nerd, especially when you’re so lost in your world that you can’t help but let it come out sometimes. Dirk lets his flag fly high, and gains friends in the process. His closest friends end up spanning three very different groups: a goth girl, a very normal boy, and the most attractive and popular jock in the seventh grade. His unwillingness to back down in the face of bullies is inspiring, and his interactions with the child psychologists are frustrating and (I would imagine) pretty spot-on for most kids. This book might appeal to a very different kind of kid- or at the very least let those who are always focused on the good guys take a walk on the dark side. Like Dirk always says “Why is it always for goodness’ sake? Why can’t it be for evil’s sake? For evil’s sake!”

Themes: Bullying, Illness, Changes at Home, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Dirk Lloyd: The Dark Lord, or so he believes. The adults are trying to tell him he’s been hit by a car and just cannot remember his real name, parents, or anything about his past. But Dirk is convinced he was fighting a war in his home, the Dark Lands, and was banished by a white wizard. Now he’s been placed in a foster home and must start attending school like any other normal kid. But Dirk is anything but normal, and his teachers and fellow students don’t quite know what to think.

Christopher Purejoie: The son of Dirk’s new foster parents. Chris and Dirk eventually manage to become friends. Chris even earns the title “Mouth of Dirk” for his wonderful ability to act as translator between Dirk and his surroundings.

Susan Black: Upon first meeting her, Dirk mistakes Sooz for a vampire- even addressing her loudly as “Child of the Night” and disrupting class. But Sooz is a goth, not a vampire, and really likes Dirk. I mean, really likes him. She even decides to take the heat when the three of them (Sooz, Dirk, and Chris) get in some major trouble.

Sal Malik: The most popular jock in the seventh grade. His interests lie mostly in Baseball and Soccer, and Dirk only manages to earn his friendship when he displays his strength in tactics. Soon the two are meeting secretly to come up with plans on how to crush the competition. Dirk even promises Sal the position of Lord High Overseer of the Armies of Darkness, due to his physical prowess.

All three sidekicks are certain that Dirk is crazy and just coming up with stories. They know he believes every word he says, but none of them actually thinks he’s telling the truth.

Bibliographic Info:

Thomson, J. (2012). Dark Lord: The Early Years. New York: Walker Publishing Company, Inc.

Tagline:

Dirk Lloyd is from another plane of existence, but for now he’s trapped on Earth in the body of a puny 12-year-old boy. How’s a real Dark Lord supposed to take over anything when his magic stops working and he’s reduced to a child?

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!

Forays Into Modern Technology: The Animated Book Trailer

An animated book trailer, by Yours Truly. Wow, do these take some time to put together!

Follow the link to enjoy! (Apparently WordPress doesn’t support Flash…)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio by xstarbattx on GoAnimate

Animated Presentations – Powered by GoAnimate.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

 

Author:Brian Selznick

Age Range: 9-12

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Hugo was destined to be a clockmaker. His father was one before him, and his fingers seem to just know exactly what to do with all of those tiny metal cogs and springs. But one day, a terrible accident happens and Hugo must go live with his uncle, the man who maintains all of the clocks at the train station. Over time, Hugo learns how to keep the clocks running himself, which is good because eventually his uncle disappears too. While living on his own and maintaining the clocks so no one will notice that his uncle is gone, Hugo begins to repair a fantastic old automaton that he believes will hold a secret message from his father. But after meeting Isabelle and uncovering the real message of the automaton, Hugo will embark on a journey he never even dreamed of. And just maybe he’ll manage to find his place in the world after all.

Review: Paris in the 1930s and a discussion of the early days of film- I had no idea that this book would hold so much! I knew it had won the Caldecott, and I’ve sold it to many readers, but before this I’ve never sat down to actually experience more of the story than flipping through the beautiful drawings. The blending of full blown picture book and text make this a magical experience in itself, often giving you the sensation of sitting back and being at the movies. I completely understand now why this was made into a film. It practically screams for it the entire time you’re reading it. Hugo is an interesting character. He hates stealing and tries not to do it any more than necessary, but often his story is launched forward when he gets caught for doing something he hates. His ability with clockwork gives him hope for a better future than running through the walls of the train station, but without guidance he has no idea how to get there. Isabelle is in a similar yet different situation: no parents and prone to stealing things and picking locks, but being raised by people who truly love her. Hugo and Isabelle are perfect for each other.

Themes: Coming of Age, Overcoming Challenges, Making new Friends

Additional Info:

Adaptations: This book was made into the movie Hugo by Martin Scorsese in 2011, his first in 3D, which won 5 Oscars

Main Characters:

Hugo Cabret: An orphan, who is secretly living in the Paris train station, maintaining the clocks like his uncle taught him in the hopes of not being caught and sent to the orphanage. In his spare time he is repairing the clockwork automaton that his father had found in a museum attic. Even though he knows otherwise, Hugo has convinced himself that if he can get it working he will receive a message from his father telling him what to do now that he is on his own.

Issabelle: A young girl that Hugo meets in the train station. Reluctantly, they become friends. But they are both prone to stealing and lying, so the relationship is rough. But Isabelle is very smart, always borrowing books from the train station bookshop to read and learn about everything she can and sneaking into movies for fun.

Papa George: The keeper of the toy shop in the train station where Hugo frequently steals clockwork toys to get parts for his automaton. One day George catches Hugo in the act and takes the notebook that contains everything he knows about his automaton. In desperation to get the notebook back, Hugo begins working for George. Also, Papa George is one of Isabelle’s godparents and caretakers.

Mama Jeanne: Isabelle’s godmother and George’s wife, Jeanne has been keeping secrets about her husband for years. She has locked away all the things that will remind George of his real past in an effort to protect him.

Bibliographic Info:

Selznick, B. (2007). The Invention of Hugo Cabret. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

Sometimes the machinery of the world just lines up, and everything falls into place. Even for an orphan who lives in a train station.

Invisible Inkling

Author: Emily Jenkins

Age Range: 7-10 (Kirkus Review)

Interest Range: 7-10

Genre: Fantasy,  Magical Realism

Plot: Hank Wolowitz is not looking forward to the fourth grade. His best friend Alexander has moved away and he is facing the year without any real friends to share it with. But one day, he feels something. It’s fur, under the counter. And then again when the neighbor’s dog just won’t stop barking at an empty corner. Eventually he discovers Inkling, an invisible bandapat who has traveled to Brooklyn in search of the Big R0und Pumpkin, because he really loves squash. But the Big Round Pumpkin isn’t a vegetable at all, it’s Hank’s parent’s ice cream shop. Despite the disappointment, Inkling sticks around to help Hank- since he owes him for having saved his life. Hank’s got problems at school. And when Bruno Gillicut decides that Hank is the perfect person to push around, Inkling comes to the rescue. Will an invisible creature really be able to stand up to a big bully? Or will Hank be forced to pay the sprinkle tax for the rest of eternity?

Review: This was a very cute story about a very real problem. Hank is a lonely kid who is floundering because his best friend is gone. Before he has time to bounce back and find himself with other kids, in comes Bruno. Hank even does what he is supposed to: he talks to the lunch aides, he talks to his teacher. But the lunch aides never see Bruno at work, and Hank’s teacher is too concerned with the fact that Bruno’s family is having problems at home. And maybe Hank should try to befriend Bruno, but Bruno isn’t making it easy. Hank even realizes it when he goes too far, insulting Bruno in a fit of anger by saying something that hits a little to close to that sore spot at home. He feels horrible, and not just because of the beating he knows is coming his way, but because he sunk to Bruno’s level. Eventually, it is Hank that gets in trouble with the school, not Bruno. But Bruno decides to leave Hank alone. Was it the invisible creature that bit the bully, or did Hank really act out enough to scare the boy off? I guess we’ll never know.

Themes: Bullying, Making new Friends

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Hank Wolowitz: A 9-year-old boy who finds an invisible creature and decides to keep him as a kind of pet. This comes with great timing, since Hank’s best friend has recently moved away. But when Inkling decides he needs to move on in search of more squash, Hank has to face the possibility of losing a friend all over again.

Inkling: An invisible bandapat, we’re unsure of where he comes from since every time he tells a story it’s a new lie. But he makes Hank’s life interesting and Hank appreciates the company.

Nadia: Hank’s older sister, she works sometimes at the ice cream shop and also walks the neighbors’ dogs for extra cash.

Bruno Gilligcut: The fourth-grade bully. The teachers are convinced that he’s just having a rough time at home (his parents have recently split-up) and are looking the other way.

Ms. Cherry: Hank’s 4th grade teacher, who is convinced that no one is your enemy, but only a friend waiting to happen. Ms. Cherry never happens to see when Bruno is exacting his sprinkle tax on Hank or generally stealing his lunch and making his life miserable. She eventually sites Hank as the source of the problem and gets him in trouble. But it’s not entirely her fault, she couldn’t see that the real biter was an invisible creature who was standing up for Hank.

Bibliographic Info:

Jenkins, E. (2011). Invisible Inkling. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tagline:

Not everybody is lucky enough to know an invisible bandapat, but Hank is. And this one owes him a debt- big time.

The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

Age Range: 10-18 (Kirkus Reviews)

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: A young boy’s life is changed when his parents are murdered one night in their sleep. Although he is only a toddler, the boy manages to escape his house unnoticed by the killer and find safety in the local graveyard. There, the ghosts gather to decide his fate: feeling pity on him, they decide to raise him as one of their own. Bod, as he is eventually named (short for Nobody), grows up happily in his adopted home and loves the spirits like family. But there comes a time when he wants to know about the outside world. As he attends school and tries to learn the ways of the living, there are many dangers that threaten him.  All this time, on the outside of the wall, the terrible Jack has still been hunting him and trying to finish the job he started on that fateful night.Will Bod ever be able to live among the living, or will he be forced to remain in the graveyard spending the rest of his days already among the dead?

Review: This story is Gaiman’s modern day retelling of the Jungle Book, with the added twist of the supernatural. In reality quite a frightening story, involving murder, ghosts, and very tricky evil men, Gaiman manages to pull this off as a story very accessible to younger readers. The ghosts are kind, sympathetic and nurturing, and in all really the most comforting characters in the book- whereas the humans are the ones to look out for. Bod is an orphan, growing up in a place where he does not fit it, and then trying to reshape himself to fit into the world from which he came. This story will resonate with middle grade readers who also feel that they don’t quite fit the norms of their surroundings. Great for lovers of fantasy or horror.

Themes: Coming of Age, Building New Relationships, Trying to Fit In

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Nobody Owens: Bod manages to escape certain death as a toddler, only to find refuge in a graveyard and be raised by the spirits who call it home. His curiosity regarding his real home, the human world, ends up creating some real danger- since the murderer of his parents is still out there lurking and trying to finish the job.

Every Man Jack: The man who murdered Bod’s parents, and who is now hunting him.

The Owenses: The ghost couple who decide to “adopt” Bod and take responsibility for his upbringing.

Silas: A mysterious being who seems to navigate both the human and spirit worlds. He is Bod’s protector.

Scarlett Amber Perkins: A young girl, roughly Bod’s age, who becomes his friend when her family begins frequenting the beautiful graveyard. She eventually leaves him because her family decides to move to Scotland for her father’s work. She returns to England with her mother when she is 15, and befriends a scholar who frequents the old graveyard.

Mr. Frost: a friendly scholar who is deeply interested in the old graveyard. He befriends Scarlett and her mother upon their return to England. But Mr. Frost is eventually discovered to be much more than what he seems.

Bibliographic Info:

Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard Book. New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Tagline:

What would it be like to grow up in a graveyard? Living and breathing, but only among spirits and ghosts?