Tag Archives: genre: fantasy

Rise of the Jumbies Review

MG-Baptiste-RiseoftheJumbiesRise of the Jumbies (The Jumbies #2) by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2017. 978-1616206659

Synopsis: Even though Corrine has tried to get on with her life after banishing Severine, her neighbors are still distrustful of her because she is half Jumbie. So when Corrine is blamed when the village’s children begin to go missing, she decides to seek the help of the mysterious Mama D’Leau, who sends Corrine and her friends on a journey across the ocean that will change them forever.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR and my husband thought it was a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Corrine doesn’t feel as strong and as brave as she was when the reader first meets her in The Jumbies because her world has been shaken, so it seems appropriate that the book begins with an earthquake. Corrine just wants people to trust her again, but the prejudices against Jumbies run deep in their village. Mama d’Leau seems to be Corrine’s chance at redemption, but the old Jumbie is crafty and seemingly unscrupulous: she offers to help Corrine and her friends if they will retrieve a stone that was lost to her. What the children see on their trek across the ocean is almost as eye opening as the realization that Corrine is half Jumbie. Baptiste’s broaching of the subject of slavery is a tough topic – something that was spoken about in the NPR interview – and it isn’t easy to present it to middle readers. Plus, it’s not exactly a topic that gets brought up in every day conversation. Yet, the way the story is constructed, Baptiste is able to show us the horrors of the slave trade without making things so ugly that it overshadows the rest of the plot, which is still full of the same magic and mythos as its predecessor. It’s a fantastic adventure that leaves room for even more Jumbies stories.

Other related materials: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; Akata Witch by Nnedi Okafor; Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okafor; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Jumbies Review

jumbies_1The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 978-1616204143

Synopsis: Corrine La Mer isn’t afraid of anything – until the day she meets Severine. Severine is charismatic and beautiful, but she’s also part of an ancient race that occupied the island from before men came: the Jumbies. When Severine reveals that she plans to rid the island of all humans, Corrine and her friends must find a way to stop the Jumbie before she drastically changes everything they know.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author on NPR about her second book Rise of the Jumbies and my husband thought it and Jumbies were a perfect pick for my blog.

Why I finished it: Jumbies is a magical, supernatural tale that draws on the mythology of the Caribbean and features an array of creatures that are guaranteed to make one want to sleep with the lights on. Corrine, despite having heard some of the stories, doesn’t truly believe the Jumbies could be real until she meets Severine and she begins to work her way into Corrine’s life. She may not be afraid, but her ability to sense danger tells her that something is wrong. Her courage is truly tested as the story continues, giving the reader the sense that despite adversity, it is possible to overcome even the most difficult obstacles. We identify with Corrine, Dru, Malik, and Bouki because there are times when we are also afraid and unsure of ourselves; but it is our reliance on our friends that will get us through even the most dire of circumstances. Baptiste is a gifted story teller, transporting us to a tropical island whose culture is infused with magic and mysticism. The reader can almost feel the sea breezes and feel the sand between their toes. It’s a fast read that is bound to be liked by even those of us who aren’t overly fond of ghost stories.

Other related materials: Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen; Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley; Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder; Beyond The Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk; Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai; The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan; The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Feature Presentation: Trolls

Trolls_(film)_logoTrolls starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, and Quvenzhane Wallis

DreamWorks Animation/Hurwitz Creative, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: When the ghoulish Bergens invade the Troll Village to steal its citizens for their annual Trollstice Feast, Princess Poppy recruits fellow villager/hermit/doomsday prepper Branch to journey to Bergen Town to rescue her friends.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but it was definitely girlier than I anticipated. Maybe it was something about the metallic trolls farting glitter or the hugging/singing/dancing nature of the trolls themselves. Sadly, even Branch’s depressed mood and color scheme didn’t do much in the way of making it less girly. Nonetheless, the film’s upbeat energy and the character’s happy-go-lucky attitude is truly infectious even in the most dire of circumstances. Poppy’s self-confidence and positivity sharply contrasts with Branch’s curmudgeonly demeanor, even when he agrees to help Poppy save her friends from certain doom. The Bergens themselves are just as depressed: their only true joy comes from the consumption of Trolls once a year and, as King Gristle Sr. tells his son, there is no other way to be happy. In their own ways, both the Trolls and the Bergens are searching for happiness, but it seems that only one truly knows how to achieve it. While there are part of the movie that seem trite and overly optimistic, the message of perseverance is one that resonates with viewers of all ages and encourages us to see the bright side of life.

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Feature Presentation: Sing

Sing_(2016_film)_posterSing starring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, and Nick Offerman

Illumination Entertainment, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Buster Moon’s greatest ambition has been to run a theater ever since he was a young Koala. So when the Moon Theater’s ledger goes deeply in the red, Buster decides to host a singing competition in an effort to save the institution he loves. Little does he realize that the contestants will not only change his life, but their own lives a well.

While the film centers around humanoid animals in a fictional city, the characters each touch on the different ways that one can go about pursuing their dreams. Ash, a porcupine, was just dumped by her boyfriend because he didn’t like that she wanted to sing lead and write her own songs. Meena is a shy elephant with a beautiful voice and a severe case of stage fright. Rosita is a stay-at-home pig mom who yerns to do something beyond taking care of her 25 offspring. Johnny isa gorilla with a natural born talent for singing that is being talked into helping out with the shady doings of his father’s gang. Mouse Mike is a street musician with a big ego in search of some recognition for his hard honed talents. Their ability to keep going in spite of the many setbacks the group endures while prepping for the big performance shows the audience that our ability to dream big dreams and fulfill them is only limited by our own discouragement. We find ourselves cheering for each of these contestants, hoping that they are able to break out of their shells and show the city and the rest of the world what they are made of. The film is largely formulaic in terms of its plotline, but the soundtrack and the eclectic nature of the cast make it worth the hour and forty-five minute runtime. Like with most family films, there is a broad range to the humor that will appeal to viewers of all ages. Younger viewers will be espeically amused by Buster using his own body as a sponge to wash cars in one particular sequence while older viewers will connect with Donnie’s fear of his grandmother Nana, a famous opera singer back in the Moon Theater’s heyday. Overall, a cute and inspiring film about following your dreams and unleashing your inner animal.

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A Clatter of Jars Review

a_clatter_of_jarsA Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

Philomel Books, 2016. 978-0399174995

Synopsis: It’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered for a reason—one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper’s head and placed into another. And no one knows why. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I loved A Tangle of Knots.

Why I finished it: In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, Graff introduces us to a new set of Talented kids who find themselves in the midst of a mystery while attending summer camp. As a refresher, those with Talents can do something special like tie perfect knots or talk to animals or mix a beverage perfect for making you feel better or matching orphaned children with new parents. Those without a Talent are Fair, meaning they have no special powers. Lily, Chuck, Renny, and their siblings are hoping to have a summer camp experience that will help them find something about themselves beyond their Talents. As the story unfolds, we see each of the characters discover something unique about themselves that sets them apart from the rest of the campers and allows them to find and solve the mystery of the jars of Talents in the lake. What I love about this book is just how imaginative it is. It gives the reader a chance to think about what their own Talents are (both magical and nonmagical) and about how we express love for our families and friends. We learn that forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, but we also see that reconciliation can help to mend broken hearts and minds. I also liked that this book included recipes for some delicious sounding summer time beverages that can be made year round (depending on the availability of the ingredients). It’s a fantastical read that gives a positive message about the power of love.

Other related materials: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff; Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff; The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff; Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff; The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff; Bliss by Kathryn Littlewoood; A Dash of Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Littlewood; The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd; A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd; Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl; The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders; Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice; Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; Hold Fast by Blue Balliett; Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle; Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis; Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass; The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech; The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Princess Curse Review

the_princess_curseThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 978-0062008152

Synopsis: In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep. Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention while I was browsing for books in the library.

Why I finished it: Those of us who know anything about fairy tales know that they usually involve a curse of some sort that a brave hero or heroine must break before the all-important happily ever after ending. What piqued my curiosity about this particular book was the nature of the curse. Did the author choose to retell a fairy tale? Did Haskell take an existing plotline and add a few new twists and turns of her own? What is the curse and is it something I’ve read about before? The answer to all of these ended up being that yes, this is a retelling of a fairy tale with some new twists – including a variation on the traditional curse. It’s a clever mash-up between Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast that takes an almost mythological turn as Reveka reveals the true consequences of breaking the curse. Reveka has been labeled a liar and a troublemaker by the nuns who raised her, but it’s clear to the reader that though her actions at the outset seem somewhat devious and selfish (the reward is enough for her to pay the admission dowry to a nunnery where Reveka wishes to start her own herbary), she begins to see the selflessness that comes from freeing the princesses from their obligations to dance. It’s a fantastical read that fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Megan Morrison will devour.

Other related materials: The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell; Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell; Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison; Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale; Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale; The Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado; Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan

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Unicorn Crossing Review

unicorn_crossing_coverUnicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483579

Synopsis: Time flies in this fifth volume of Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn! Follow the lovable duo as they experience somewhat-spooky Halloween parties, ecstatic snow days, and looming summer reading assignments. Although the journey of growing up can sometimes be difficult, along the way Phoebe and Marigold discover something more enduring than goblin fads, unicorn spa vacations, and even a Spell of Forgetting—their one of a kind friendship. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wanted a lighthearted break after all of the heavy books I have been reading for my book clubs.

Why I finished it: I’ve mentioned before that I love this series in large part for Simpson’s often tongue in cheek humor that can be enjoyed by any age reader. Ever the drama horse (that’s a thing; I might have just made it up, but it’s a thing now), Marigold continues in her somewhat half-hearted quest to understand humans – namely Phoebe – when she decides to dress up like her best friend for Halloween. And while the experience doesn’t give Marigold any more insight into the non-unicorn beings, it’s an amusing anecdote about how well Phoebe and Marigold know each other. This bit is followed closely by another in which Marigold goes to a unicorn spa in Canada and leaves Phoebe on her own for a few days – needless to say, that although she survived for nine years without her friend, it proved hard to be without her.  The stories each touch on the notion that friendship is a bond that continues to strengthen and maybe even get a little weirder (in a good way) over time. Simpson’s art is fresh and fun without taking itself too seriously, contributing to the lighthearted humor of the comics. It’s a must read for fans of this series and even if you’re new to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, you’re sure to find something magical within the pages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure; Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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