Tag Archives: genre: adventure

Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland Review

kid_beowulf_2Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449475901

Synopsis: Banished from their homeland, Beowulf, his brother Grendel, and the magic pig Hama journey south to the Frankish Empire to find their uncle Holger, a knight in the service of Charlemagne. But all is not well in Francia: the king lies ill and his steward has decided that capital gain in more important for the country than keeping its citizens happy, and the hero Roland could use a little help setting things right….

Why I picked it up: It’s epic poetry in a more digestible form for a younger audience.

Why I finished it: Fajardo has managed to faithfully adapt The Song of Roland while still maintaining the integrity of the original manuscript (of which, he notes in the afterward, there are several variations) and present the reader with a story that is easy to follow. We are engaged from the get-go with a broad synopsis of the original Song of Roland to help set the stage for the reader. The story then branches off in two directions, intertwining the past with the present as Beowulf and Grendel read the letters Holger wrote to their father about his journey to Francia. And once the pair (and Hama) reach Francia, they find that Daneland is not the only state in which things are rotten. There is an uneasy peace between the Christian Franks and the Muslim Spanish that is on the verge of being overturned thanks to the traitorous acts of Roland’s stepfather Ganelon. Ganelon is willing to help Spain take over the Frankish Empire as an act of revenge against Charlemagne and Roland, and we are distressed to learn that perhaps the plan is working. A good amount of hilarity ensues as Charlemagne’s banished knights attempt to reunite and work out a plan to get the country ready to fight against the army of Spanish invaders using the makings of Ro-Land, a theme park built to celebrate Francia’s greatest hero. Fajardo juxtaposes the darkness of the story with the use of bright colors and some off-beat humor that makes sure the reader is still following along. There’s also a few character cameos that fans of other middle grades comics will find fun as well. It’s another fantastically epic ride through history that will engage readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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Whales on Stilts! Review

whales_on_stiltsWhales on Stilts!: A Pals in Peril Tale by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2010. 978-1442407015

Synopsis: Lily Gefelty thinks it’s more than a little weird that her father works for a company that makes prosthetics for cetaceans. I mean, what do whales need stilts for anyway? But when she realizes her dad’s boss, Larry, is outfitting the whales with laser eyes as well, she knows there’s something even more dastardly going on. Luckily, she has her friends Katie Mulligan and Jasper Dash to help her save the day!

Why I picked it up: I wanted a short read for a weekend trip.

Why I finished it: What I like about this series is that it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Our heroes find themselves in improbable situations, but for them these (for the most part) are everyday occurrences. The ridiculousness gives it the feel of a pulp novel while taking the reader on a highly imaginative trip through an alternative version of our own world. I really identified with Lily because I often wanted to hide behind my bangs and pretend I was invisible when I was younger. I know the feeling of not being up to par with my friends, of believing that I’m too ordinary to do the fantastic. But despite Lily’s shyness, she uses her cleverness and wit to be able to come up with a plan to stop Larry and his mind-controlled whale army from taking over the world. She might not have Jasper’s knack for inventing or Katie’s ability to fight off a zombie attack, but her ability to think and act quickly truly makes her a hero. I’d give this book to people who like fast-paced adventure and edge-of-their-seat action – it’s a pretty fast read and keeps up a good pace throughout.

Other related materials: The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Zombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns Review

bone_9Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2009. 978-0439706315

Synopsis: It’s full-fledged war as Briar, the rat creatures, and the Pawan army storm the city of Atheia. The Bone cousins, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben are all there to defend the Valley and stop the return of the Lord of the Locusts. When Thorn goes inside a ghost circle, she hears a voice urging her to seek the Crown of Horns. What follows is another dangerous journey for Thorn and loyal Fone Bone as they race to the sacred grounds of the dragons, searching for the one thing that may save them all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: EPIC CONCLUSION TIME!

Why I finished it: I think the descriptor “epic” gets thrown around quite a bit when we’re talking about finales, but I think Smith actually pulls it off. The reader has officially peeled all the layers back from the story and gotten to the core. Action, drama, and humor take center stage as we follow our heroes through the final battles and an emotional homecoming. It’s hard to talk about this last volume without giving too much away, but needless to say that Smith has wrapped everything up nicely. There’s a bittersweet feel to the conclusion, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any series, it’s hard to say goodbye to the characters we love. We feel like we’ve gone through everything with these characters and we don’t want them to leave, but we have to trust that they can look after themselves without the reader peeking in at their lives. This series more than deserves every award and accolade it’s received. I’ve said before that this book has more than earned its place on my shelf, and it’s a series I will happily recommend to readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel


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W.A.R.P.: The Hangman’s Revolution Review

hangmans_revolutionW.A.R.P., Book 2: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-1423161639

Synopsis: Chevron Savano thinks she’s going home to a familiar twentieth century, but when she arrives she finds that the world is a much different place from than what she remembers. In this reality, she is a cadet in a fascist training academy that prepares soldiers to fight in the war against France. Split between two minds and literally at war with herself, Chevie must find a way back to the nineteenth century in order to stop the revolution that creates her current world.

Why I picked it up: It was an impulse borrow at the library – I remembered having read and enjoyed the first book in the series, but had forgotten there was more.

Why I finished it: Having shifted over briefly from reading Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, this book is much darker and more mysterious than the previous series. While there are parallels that can be drawn between Artemis and Holly and Riley and Chevie, W.A.R.P. is a series that grounds itself in a somewhat grimier waters and our heroes often find themselves in much more tenuous situations than their counterparts. Colfer takes care to remind the reader that London at the turn of the century is not wholly the thriving metropolis that it is made out to be: it has shady, unfriendly, disease-ridden parts that make the reader glad for modern medicine and indoor plumbing. This aside, Colfer blends the past with the present in such a way that the reader can be fully immersed in both worlds simultaneously. Chevie and Riley rely on their natural talents to get them out of tight situations – and they seem to get into quite a few of them. While the main premise of the book is laid out in the first few pages and we’re basically privy to the entire plot, Colfer still surprises the reader with his trademark twists that make us realize that perhaps we don’t know how the story will end. The book moves at a fast clip and there’s a lot of good action happening in every chapter that fuels the motivations of our protagonists and antagonists. It’s definitely more mature than Artemis Fowl and perhaps not for the faint of heart, but readers who dare are in for a fun but dangerous adventure through nineteenth century London and even beyond.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Forever Man (W.A.R.P., Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis; Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger; The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer; Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs;  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle;  A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle;  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; The CHRONOS Files books by Rysa Walker

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Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles Review

bone_7Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2008. 978-0439706346

Synopsis: A long-dormant volcano explodes, blacking out the sun, mowing down trees, and filling the land with soot and ash. The Lord of the Locusts has been released. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, the Bone cousins along with Thorn and Gran’ma Ben struggle to reach safe haven in the city of Atheia. Meanwhile, Lucius Downs lies severely wounded and trapped with the villagers in the camp at Old Man’s Cave. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The end seems to be near…or is it?

Why I finished it: If you’ll permit me a brief parallel, this is the portion of the saga that is vaguely reminiscent of Gandalf and Pippin’s ride to Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings. The cousins are reunited with Thorn and Grandma Ben, but there still remain two factions of valley dwellers: those in Atheia and those confined to Old Man’s Cave. The mysteries continue to abound as our quintet makes the dangerous journey across the valley, and a key piece to the puzzle is revealed…in a roundabout way. Well, actually, a couple of them, but it’s still hard to see what some of these clues mean to the bigger picture. This volume also sees the return of Bartleby the rat creature, who helps our heroes escape yet another onslaught by his people. I’m also starting to see Smiley’s role in the story as comic relief. It’s well-balanced comic relief, though: he uses humor to diffuse tense situations – particularly between his cousins – but he will also offer some logic on occasion that will make his comrades think more about what they are doing. Smith is using Smiley to help bring some much needed laughs to a desperate situation in this book, especially since most of the world has turned into a dark and barren landscape. The art is somewhat grittier to match the tone, but still retains the curved lines and soft edges that are linked to the hope we have that everything will work itself out. True, there is bound to be more trouble before things get better, but , like Smiley, I have faith that nothing can stop them.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

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The Poe Estate Review

the_poe_estateThe Poe Estate by Polly Schulman

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 978-0399166143

Synopsis: Sukie O’Dare is haunted. Literally. Since her sister Kitty died, her ghost has been hanging around keeping an eye on Sukie the same way she did when Kitty was alive. And if it weren’t for the fact that Kitty is still extremely overprotective, it might even be cool. But it’s not, and now everyone thinks Sukie is a spook. A spook that is being haunted by ghosts other than her sister; ghosts that won’t rest until Sukie has fulfilled their strange request.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and I was eager to read more of Schulman’s work.

Why I finished it: While Schulman’s books have the luxury of being able to stand alone, some of the relationships with the characters and the events to which they refer will make more sense to you if you have read the other two books. That is one of the things that I like about this series: you get to find out what happens with the characters without a whole other book dedicated solely to them. I like Schulman’s take on the fantasy/horror/gothic novel genre and that this book is creepy without being too creepy. Sukie has had to deal with a lot since her sister Kitty as died, and readers who have lost someone close to them can understand a lot of her frustrations at the changes that are happening within her family. She’s having to make adjustments that aren’t exactly comfortable, especially when the spirit of her sister is stuck while Sukie continues to move forward. This theme about changes and moving forward is a central theme to the story that gets explored not only with Sukie, but her family ghosts as well. Spirits often need closure in one life before they can move on to the next, a problem Sukie seeks to tackle along with her friend Cole and the staff at the New-York Circulating Materials Repository. The mystery and the magic of the library once again plays a key role in aiding our protagonist in finding answers to a more urgent dilemma and also finding answers about who they are themselves. For me, it was a reminder that libraries are welcoming places where one can find the answers to almost any question we could have. It’s a fun and exciting story that will be enjoyed by both fantasy and gothic novel fans.

Other related materials: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; The Wells Bequest: A Companion to the Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; The Books of Elsewhere books by Jacqueline West; Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick; The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler; The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler; The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison

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Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code Review

hooks_revenge_2Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484717172

Synopsis: Having defeated the terrible Neverland crocodile, Jocelyn now sets her sights on recovering her father’s long lost treasure. But in order to find it, she needs to be able to read the map. In order to read the map, she needs the key. And in order to get the key, she’s going to have to collaborate with that annoying Peter Pan. Plus, she has to try to stay ahead of the evil Captain Krueger – which won’t be easy considering he has a faster ship and more men in his crew – and try to convince her captive, Evie – the girl Pan has brought to be his new mother – that the pirate’s life is not for her.

Why I picked it up: Jocelyn had to have had so many more adventures after she vanquished the crocodile….

Why I finished it: Jocelyn might have gotten her feet wet, but she still seems a little green at this whole pirating business – especially as it relates to the Pirate Code. For one thing, pirates are supposed to kidnap (she takes Pan’s new mother, but Evie is probably the world’s worst hostage), ransack (she doesn’t want to go after a merchant ship for fear of disrupting trade agreements), fight (her crew is provoked into defending her, but it now means Captain Krueger knows about Hook’s treasure), and above all, not to be trusted. But Jocelyn seems somewhat torn between doing whatever and doing the right thing. She definitely doesn’t want to adhere to the standards that her grandfather has set down for her and she’s more apt to want a loophole in the Pirate code than she is to follow that either. She’s clear about the fact that she wants to live her life on her terms, and that is something she does manage to do. She finds ways to get done what needs to be done in order for the end result to be the most beneficial for her and her crew, even if things often go sideways. But Jocelyn’s spunk and spirit keep her crew and the reader cheering her on as she fights to take what is hers. The reader sees more of a struggle for Jocelyn to find an in-between where she can belong, much the same way we struggle to find a niche for ourselves. Hendrix’s illustrations add another layer to the story, as good art does. He’s taken the time to really study the descriptions and then creates for the reader a series of images that bring the reader deeper into the plot’s key moments and contribute to the fantastic overlay of the book. I’d recommend this book for fans of fractured fairy tales and those of you who like a good spin on a classic story. I’ve very much enjoyed the tales of Jocelyn Hook thus far, and I am excited to see what more is in store for her and her crew.

Other related materials: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix; Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie; Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrations by Scott M. Fischer; Peter and the Starcatchers books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Greg Call; Peter and the Starcatchers Never Land books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Gregg Call; Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff; Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Surtliff; Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff; Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley; The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D’Lacey; The 8th Continent series by Matt London

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