Category Archives: Book Review: Fantasy

Review of “Jack Blank: The Accidental Hero (book 1)”

 
Jack Blank: The Accidental Hero (book 1)aav
By Matt Myklusch
Published by Aladdin
496 pages

A young orphan, hidden powers, good versus evil, and a special school. Sounds like Harry Potter? Well, it’s not. It has some of the same elements as Harry’s story, but it has an original plot and characters. This book has super heroes and evil robo-zombies from outer-space, and is about a young boy’s adventures on an extraordinary island.

When the story begins Jack lives in an orphanage. He likes to read comic books because they allow him to escape from his dreary life. Comic books, however, aren’t allowed at the orphanage because “These ridiculous magazines poisoning your brain with nonsense. Childish nonsense,” according to Ms. Theedwheck, one of the orphanage caretakers.One day, a rather unexpected visitor arrives at the orphanage. Jack soon finds himself on remarkable island where super heroes from his comic books live in real life! Jack’s unexpected escape to the Imagine Nation is beyond anything he could have dreamed of at the orphanage.

But not everything is perfect. Jack soon learns that he might be an evil robot himself! Although he’s pretty sure that he’s not evil, not everyone believes him. And, the possibility of being an evil robot attracts lots of unwanted attention, especially when the Imagine Nation press portrays him as a spy for the evil robo-zombies who have previously tried to take over the world. To make matters worse, he seems to have made enemies with a very important man who probably wants to kill him.

Overall, this a pretty good book, however the beginning chapters are poorly written. They are very childish, and had my brother not told me to keep going, I do not think I would have read on. Part of the reason the beginning is childish is the names the author gives to some of the places. For example, the island is called “Imagine Nation,” and the orphanage where Jack lives at the start of the story is called “St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost.” These names made it hard to take the story seriously at times. In addition, some of the characters who are supposed to be mean are exaggerated, but without an explanation for why they are as cruel as they are. Also, the fact that Jack once took a test for possible career jobs at orphanage and got “Toothbrush Cleaner” is just too silly. However, after the first few chapters, the writing gets much better, and I enjoyed the rest of the book.

This is the first book in a great trilogy. The two other books are just as existing and adventurous as this one (without the silliness of the first few chapters in this book).

Over all, I think this is a great book for kids who enjoy fantasy ages 9-12.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 & 2”

 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 & 2cc
By J.K Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic inc.
308 pages

Harry Potter has been one of the world’s most favorite wizards since 1997, along with his friends, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and many others. From daily magic classes at a school for witchcraft and wizardry, to confronting the world’s most dangerous wizard, the trio’s many adventures have captivated fans for nearly three decades.

I personally have loved Harry’s world since I first began reading the Harry Potter series at age seven. When I heard that a sequel was being published, I begged my mom to make sure I could get a copy the minute it was released. We arrived at the bookstore at 8pm, long before the book’s midnight release, where they had prepared for the crowd with crafts and games. And, when I got The Cursed Child in my hands, I stayed up half the night and read it all! It was absolutely worth it!

So what’s the book about? Well, nineteen years after Deathly Hollows, Harry is now an Auror (a dark wizard catcher), Ron runs a joke shop, Hermione is none other than Minister of Magic, and the next generation of witches and wizards are students at our beloved Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

The book, however, is not really about Harry. It’s more about Albus Potter and his struggle to live up to a family legacy he never asked for. As you may remember from the Deathly Hollows epilogue, Albus is Harry and Ginny’s second of three children. He and Harry have a hard time getting along and differences of opinions often lead to arguments. And, whenever Harry tries to fix things, things seem to get worse.

Despite being the son of the world’s most famous wizard (or, maybe because of it), fitting in and having friends at Hogwarts isn’t easy for Albus. His best friend Scorpius Malfoy doesn’t have many friends either. Albus’s family isn’t very comfortable about the friendship, as the Potters and the Malfoys were enemies as students at Hogwarts and during the war.

Because of a popular rumor, Scorpius is constantly accused of being Voldemort’s son. Albus and Scorpius don’t know it yet, but Voldemort’s real child might be on a quest to bring him back. Soon, the duo find themselves on a wild adventure traveling through time, learning how the smallest changes years in the past can ripple into big changes in the future. And when Albus and Scorpius try to go back again to fix their mistakes, it only gets worse.  It’s like the butterfly effect – one small change twenty years ago, can have unimaginable consequences today. This is actually one of the things I really loved about the story line.

This book is not written in the form of a novel like the other seven Harry Potter books. Instead, it is a play script published in book form. So, there are parts where you have to pay very close attention to every word to understand what is happening, while in other sections there is a lot of excess dialogue. Sometimes when they speak it is hard to understand what is happening, because there is no narrative voice to describe the actions. I think the story line seems more complicated as a play script because of all the talking. I would have preferred that the book had not been written as a script, because there are lots of places where helpful descriptions could have been added if it were a novel.

Two more things to note. First, if you are concerned about the violence or darkness in the story, don’t worry. It is no more violent or dark than the first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Second, there are multiple sections in the story that incorporate plots from the earlier Harry Potter books. You may not understand some of the references if you haven’t read at least the first four books in the series.

Overall, this is a thrilling look at a new generation of witches and wizards, plots and adventures, and friendships in the wizarding world. This book is for everyone 9 years and up, all the way to the oldest adults who love Harry Potter’s magical world.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstackHalf_Stack

Review of “Janitors, Book 1”

 
JanitorsJanitors, Book 1
By Tyler Whitesides
Published by Shadow Mountain
288 pages

This book is about two kids who get mixed up in a world of magic and school janitors, two things that normally don’t go together. Spencer lives an average 6th grade life.

One day, after an incident involving a bully drawing on his face and a bottle of magic soap, he starts seeing weird insect-like creatures roaming the school. He soon realizes that the only other people who can see them are the school janitors. The problem is that nobody believes him, except for Daisy, one of his classmates. Soon after, Spencer and Daisy get recruited by the Bureau of Educational Maintenance to return a magical object that the janitors at their school took from the BEM. The BEM is a government agency in charge of all public school janitors, and for making sure the janitors stop the insect creatures. But Spencer and Daisy soon find out that the BEM hasn’t told them quite everything.

Spencer is an earnest student who wants to learn, even if he falls asleep in algebra class. Many times throughout the book, he acts more mature than a typical 6th grader would. For example, he is always worrying about germs and washing hands, when most kids couldn’t care less.

Daisy is very different from Spencer. At the beginning of the book Daisy is very naïve, even gullible. I think the author exaggerated her gullibility too much that it was hard to believe. For example, she didn’t know what algebra was, so one of the other kids told her it was a sea creature with tentacles. And she believed him! Even though Spencer is the main character his personality in a little wooden, while Daisy’s personality is more developed.

One of the things I liked about this book, is that even though it’s a fantasy story, Spencer still has regular 6th grade problems. He still worries about bullies and not embarrassing himself. Although this is a fantasy story, there still is quite a bit of reality.

This is the first book in a series of five. I think the other books in the series have very funny names, like ‘Strike of the Sweepers’, and ‘Heroes of the Dustbin’.

I think boys and girls who like fantasy story ages 9-12 will enjoy this book.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl – Platinum, Book 1”

 poke
Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl – Platinum, Book 1
Story by Hidenori Kusaka
Art by Satoshi Yamamoto
Published by Perfect Square
202 pages

This book is a Pokémon comic book. Pokémon are like animals from a different world that come in all shapes and sizes. Pokémon have special abilities that they can use to fight. Some Pokémon engage in Pokémon battles, where two or more Pokémon fight using their special abilities (such as breathing fire, invisibility, or super speed). In the Pokémon world, they live in all different habitats, from the seas to the sky and anywhere on land. Some Pokémon live on their own in the wild, and some live with people like pets.

The illustrations in this book are done in manga style, which means they have large eyes and small mouths and noses. Manga is a Japanese cartoon art form that is commonly confused with anime, but anime is usually animated and manga is just pictures. Also, anime is usually in color and manga is usually black and white.

In this book, Pearl and Diamond (nicknamed Dia) are a comedy duo who use Pokémon in their skits. One day, they win a special prize at a comedy competition: a trip to the Peak of Mt. Coronet! Soon, Pearl and Dia find themselves as companions to a rich girl on an exciting quest to the top of Mt. Coronet. They have all sorts of adventures, mostly helping or using their Pokémon to fight other Pokémon.

The other main character is a rich girl called Lady. It’s not really her name, but Pearl and Dia call her that because that’s what everyone else seems to do. Lady is definitely spoiled. She doesn’t have any chores and her butler does everything for her. He even gets her outfits ready in the mornings. She’s hard to like because she seems a little stuck up.

I like comics because you can see the scenes play out. This is the first manga style comic book I’ve read and I really liked it. The pictures and story line were fun. But I did have one problem with the book. The first time I read the book, I got almost half way before I realized that I was reading it backwards! It didn’t make much sense. But I soon understood that this book had to be read from right to left. Also, you have to read the panels from right to left. This is because like almost all Pokémon books, shows, or movie, this book was originally written in Japanese. I am now ready to read my next manga book, the right way!

This book doesn’t introduce you to Pokémon very well, so kids who don’t already know what Pokémon are might not understand it. But, it is a great book for kids ages 8-12 who already like Pokémon!

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstackHalf_Stack

Review of “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree”

 
The Jaguar and the Cacao Treejagurar and cacoa
By Birgitte Rasine
Published by LUCITA Publishing
332 pages

I was asked to review this upcoming book, which will be published in March 2016. This was a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot. The book is about two kids, Max and Itzel, and their adventures in the jungles of Guatemala. It is also about Mayan life and mythology where the legends actually come to life!

Max is eleven year old boy who gets to travel the world. His father is a bee researcher whose job takes him to exotic places and his mother is a science writer who helps Max’s father. The book begins when Max’s family goes to Guatemala to research a unique type of bee. There, they stay with a small Mayan village, near the jungle, where Max meets a young Mayan girl names Itzel. Itzel teaches Max about the ancient Mayan culture and traditions and together, they have numerous adventures in the jungle. For example, they encounter serpents and jaguars, and re-home honeybees.

The biggest adventure they have is when, one night, Itzel takes Max to a sacred cacao tree where, during the full moon, the Mayan elders perform a ritual with the cacao pods. But when Max and Itzel realize it’s not the night of the full moon, they have to hurry back to the village before they are discovered missing and near the sacred tree, where they are not allowed. As they are leaving, they discover several of the sacred cacao pods had fallen off the tree. When they open the pods, they accidentally release the sacred pollen inside and find themselves in deep trouble with one of the Mayan mythological deities.

This book taught me a lot about the Mayan ways. For example, Itzel explains that naguals are “spirit guides.” In the book, Max actually meets his nagual, a hummingbird called Luna, who becomes an important character in the story. But I especially loved learning that chocolate is a part of Mayan history, including a special hot chocolate recipe that was passed down from an ancient Mayan lord.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author provided many small adventures and then one big one at the end. Most other books I’ve read only have one main adventure. I also liked the way the little adventures built up to the key adventure. This made the book more interesting and exciting.

Also, there are parts in the book where the characters speak Spanish, and the author provides the translation underneath. I think the way Spanish is used in the book makes the characters more realistic, since that is the language that is spoken in Guatemala. I also think it’s fun to learn a little Spanish.

This is a great adventure book for kids ages 9-13.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstackHalf_Stack

Review of “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer”

 
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summermag chase
By Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Pages 512

This is another amazing book by the New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan. He wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles series, as well as Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Heroes. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians books have even been made into movies. I previously reviewed The Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods.

The story begins with Magnus, a 16-year-old homeless boy living on the streets after giant wolves kill his mother. He has uncles, but his mom told him not to associate with them, especially his uncle Randolph. One day he learned that Rudolph and his cousin Annabeth are looking for him. He soon finds himself in Randolph’s mansion where his uncle rambles on about Norse gods and mythology. He tells Magnus about how monsters are stirring for Ragnarok, the Norse version of doomsday, and that to stop Ragnarok from occurring, Magnus must find a special weapon that has been lost for years. Why Magnus? Well, its because the weapon is the sword of Frey, God of summer and rain, and Magnus is Frey’s son!

I really like the characters in this book. Sam, one of the main characters, is the intelligent one who provides information on myths to help Magnus and his friends on their quest. She’s also somewhat of a tomboy and is really good at combat. At one point in the story, they go to the mythological world where their dwarf-friend, Blitzen, lives. Dwarves live in dark places because light turns them to stone. They are also natural blacksmiths and everything they make is one of a kind. I think its especially neat that dwarves believe that if something is good enough to be made it is good enough to have a name.

As for Magnus Chase, he is a lot like the famous Percy Jackson most kids know. They are both sarcastic and brave, both teenaged demigods, and most of all, they both have to save the world. But, they are also quite different. Percy’s story begins when he is 12, but Magnus’s story begins when Magnus is 16. Percy has inborn water-related powers, while Magnus doesn’t have any powers at birth. But Magnus develops special fighting powers after he dies. Yes, he dies early in the book, but that’s part of the plot.

The plot in the story is similar to the one in Percy Jackson. They both have the main characters traveling around the globe and into the mythological worlds to find magical objects that will help them save something or someone from obliteration. And they both have side adventures where they have to go on missions to find these things for those who can help them on their main quest.

I think its pretty cool that all of the Rick Riordan mythology books take place in the same mortal world. In fact, although the characters in the books don’t always know that there are other groups of gods and different mythologies, they co-exist in Riordan’s books. Riordan even wrote short side stories about Percy and Annabeth meeting with Carter and Sadie, from the Kane Chronicles; the ancient Greeks and Romans actually know about each other in Riordan’s main books; and Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson’s stories, is actually Magnus’s cousin and a rather important character in this story.

I think kids, especially boys, ages 9-13 will like this book, as well as anyone who liked the other Rick Riordan books. And, if you want more information about Norse mythology, you can go to this website.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “MouseHeart”

 
MouseHeartm_h
By Lisa Fiedler
Illustrated by Vivienne To
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
313 Pages
 

Hopper is no ordinary pet shop mouse. He is the “Chose One” prophesized to bring peace to an underground rodent world. But before he can do that, he has to escape from the pet shop before he becomes snake food! He also has to learn that he is, in fact, the Chose One.

Hopper and his sister, Pinkie, plan an escape. They prepare all of the other caged mice, including Pup, Hopper’s baby brother. During the getaway, Hopper loses both of his siblings and finds himself alone in a bustling rat city, underneath Brooklynn, called Alantia. While in Alantia, he makes friends with Zucker, the rat prince, and learns about the “Mus”, a group of mice who seek to destroy Alantia. But do they really? During his adventures, Hopper finds himself wondering what side his friends are on, and what side he is on.

As I was reading the book, I was first rooting for Alantia because they seemed to be the ones defending the city and their inhabitants. However, as I moved through the book, the author revealed new plots that changed my view of who the villain really is, and who is the hero. I really liked the way the author did this. It was a complete surprise.

I think the book is well-written. The author was great at describing the world from a mouse’s point of view. She made everything seem bigger, without directly saying it. To a mouse, a small shop is a giant hollow mountain, and a coffee cup is bigger than a broom closet (but makes for a great hiding place). The writing style also kept me reading, because I always wanted to know what happens next.

One of my favorite characters is Pinkie, Hopper’s little sister. On the outside she’s harsh, tough, and competitive. She calls her brothers names, bites some of the humans, and even threatens Hopper with a mouse-sized dagger. But, it seems like on the inside, she might be a bit softer. At the end of the book, she is even willing to take care of her little brother, Pup. I think she learned to be tough because she is the only girl in the family, she has an overprotective big brother, and her mother disappeared when she was the size of a pebble. I have a big brother too, and I can sometimes be tough with him, although, not as tough as Pinkie.

The book is a bit violent, just below the level of violence in the first few Harry Potter books (the last four Harry Potter books are pretty dark). For example, the rat prince and one of the mice poke a cat’s eye out, and some of the rodents are surrendered to the cats for their dinner. If you are ok with the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson style, you will be fine with this book.

I think this is a good book for kids ages 9-11.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “A Wrinkle in Time”

 
A Wrinkle in Time13
By Madeleine L’Engle
Published by Square Fish
Pages 256
 

This book has a mixture of adventure, fantasy and science fiction in it. It is about how two siblings, Meg and Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin travel through space to find and save Meg and Charles Wallace’s father. Their father, Mr. Murry, worked for the government and had to take lots of secret trips without telling them where. The last time he left, he didn’t come back, and his family was told he was dead. Mrs. Murry, however, didn’t believe it and kept using the phrase “when your father comes back” when speaking to her children.

One day an unexpected visitor, Ms. Whatsit, comes to the house. Soon after, Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin are on an adventure to find Mr. Murry.  They travel to different planets and different galaxies by “wrinkling” time; they confront IT, the evil villain who wants to take over the world; and they encounter weird creatures (like the ones described below).

I think what makes a book especially good is the way the author describes what is happening in the book. In this book, the author’s descriptions of one of the weird creatures gives you some picture of what they look like, but you still need to use your imagination to put it all together. Here is one of my favorite descriptions:

They were the same dull gray color as the flowers. If they hadn’t walked upright they would have seemed like animals. They moved directly toward the three human beings. They had four arms and far more than five fingers to each hand, and the fingers were not fingers, but long waving tentacles. They had heads, and they had faces. But where the faces of the creatures on Uriel had seemed far more than human faces, these seemed far less. Where the features would normally be there were several indentations, and in place of ears and hair were more tentacles. They were tall, Meg realized as they came closer, far taller than any man. They had no eyes, just soft indentations.

I like how the author gives me the outline of the beasts, but that I still have to imagine their detailed features. For example, I have to visualize in my mind what the indentations and the tentacles actually look like.

One of my favorite characters in the book is Meg. Some people think that she is not very smart. But that is probably because she always gets sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention in class. Meg, however, is great at math. And she is a bit stubborn like me.

Charles Wallace is super smart. But he also is often thought to be stupid and unable to talk. It is because he didn’t start talking until he was almost four.

I think the author is using the theme “don’t judge a book by its cover” by showing that some kids who are not thought to be smart are actually the smartest ones. The book cover here is what people see on the outside of Meg and Charles Wallace, the side that looks to some people to be not smart. But the inside of the book is the truth, the way there are bright kids.

This book was written 52 years ago and I think it’s fascinating that a book that was written that long ago still appeals to kids today. Over the years, this book has had many different cover designs. Some have simple designs, and others are more intricate and more interesting. I believe the one I posted in this review is the most recent one. Here is a link to a website that has all the different covers.

There are four other books in this series. However, the author also wrote other books with some of the same characters.

This is a great book that is good for ages 9-14.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures”

 
flor
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Published by Candlewick press
240 pages

This is a fun book that has adventure and a little humor. I wouldn’t call it a fantasy book exactly, but it has some fantasy in it.

Flora Belle Buckman is a 10 year old girl who calls herself a “natural born cynic”, but I don’t agree. She’s not exactly an idealist, but she’s certainly not a pessimist.

One day Flora is reading a comic book when she sees a neighbor, Ms. Tootie, with an out-of-control vacuum outside her window. All of a sudden, she vacuumed up a squirrel. “Holy unanticipated occurrences!” (That’s one of Flora’s and her father’s favorite expressions). As it turns out this is no ordinary squirrel. It was Ulysses.

Who is Ulysses you ask? Ulysses is a poet. Ulysses is a scavenger. Ulysses is a super hero! Ulysses wasn’t always a super hero. Something happened when Ms. Tootie accidentally vacuumed him up with a Ulysses 2000x vacuum.

When Flora saved him from the vacuum by shaking him out, he surprised her with his strength when he lifted the vacuum over his head and shook it. But he did that only because he wanted the crackers that had gotten sucked up with him in the vacuum.  Later, Flora also discovered that Ulysses can fly and write poetry (but he has to type his poetry out on a keyboard because he can’t hold a pencil). Of course, Flora named him Ulysses after the vacuum.

As everyone knows, every super hero has to have an arch nemesis. It doesn’t take Ulysses long to find his. It happens to be Flora’s mom! Flora’s mother, a romance writer, wants Flora’s father to kill Ulysses with a shovel (to stop Flora from acting weird)! But when he doesn’t, she tries to do it herself! How does he escape? You will have to read the book.

This is not a typical novel. Some of the pages are actually in comic strip form. There are also some pictures penciled in black and white. I like the way the author mixes comics with the novel. I think it’s fun and unique.

I think this is a great, fun book for kids ages 8-12

By the way, this book actually won the 2014 Newberry Medal. The Newberry Medal is an annual award given by the Association for Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. You can find more information here.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack

Review of “The Ever Afters: Of Giants and Ice”

 
The Ever Afters: Of Giants and Iceof_giants_and_ice_pic
By: Shelby Bach
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 368 

Although this book has a similar title to another book I   reviewed, called Ever After High, it is a totally different book by a different author.

This book is about a 6th grader who discovers that fairy tales are actually real.  Rory Landon had always been under the shadow of her parents, a movie director and a Hollywood actor. Until one day in 6th grade she goes to the most extraordinary after-school program, where fairy tales aren’t just tales. Now destined to be a star of a fairy tale, she will step out of her parents’ shadow. Pretty soon she is climbing a bean stock, just like the fairy tale “Jack and the Bean Stock”. Up in the giant’s house she and her friends Lena and Chase fight baby dragons and a few unexpected intruders. Once, they even take a portal to the Snow Queen’s castle. The Snow Queen is one of the most dangerous and evil people in the world. In the castle they are chase by the guards, and have to get back to the portal quickly.

One of my favorite characters is Rapunzel. I like her because she is a good person but she is also different. She is very mysterious and whenever she says something, she says it in a strange way, and no one quite understands what she means until later in the story. One of my favorite parts is when Chase and Rory start agreeing with each other, since at the beginning of the story they don’t quite get along as friends.

I really like this book. There are two worlds, the normal world and the fairy tale world. It is a little like another book I reviewed, called Whatever After. But unlike Whatever After where the fairy tale world is a different dimension that the kids take a portal to, in this book the two worlds co-exist. I like this book the same as Whatever After, but that had more humor while Giants and Ice had more action.

I recommend this book to kids 8-10 who like fairy tales and adventure.

bookstackbookstackbookstackbookstack