Category Archives: Book Review: Fiction

Review of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books
352 pages

This book is what I would call fantasy and adventure. It’s a bit like the X-mencomic book and movie series because it’s about people born with unique abilities, who live in a special school, and who have to fight against others with similar abilities. But it’s different because the heroes of the story are teenagers, there’s a whole lot of time travel involved, and most of all, the public doesn’t know anything about the characters’ peculiar abilities. Also, every day at the children’s home is the same day: Sept 3, 1943. It’s the same twenty four hours over and over again; never September 4, never the 5th. Oh, and by the way, on September 3, 1943 the Germans bombed the island where they live.

Jacob Portman is the main character of the story. He is a typical sixteen-year-old teenager; there’s nothing about him that makes him stand out against most of his peers. When I think about it now, his character is rather wooden. But when I read the book, he didn’t seem that way at all. I know that doesn’t make sense. It’s as if his environment and everything that happens to him gave him a personality. But, he’s also the narrator and the focus of the story.

Then there’s Miss Peregrine. She is the headmistress of the children’s home. She reminds me a bit of Ms. McGonagall from the Harry Potter series. They’re both strict but kind, always know what’s right, and act like caring aunts to the children. There are also other important characters in the story, with many with neat abilities, but you’ll need to read it to learn about them.

I really like this book because the plot, which is basically good versus evil, is not too complicated or too simple and moves forwards at a steady pace. The writing in the story is very descriptive, and works well with the pictures. The pictures, like the one on the cover, are old black and white photographs that actually inspired the book. The author explained at the end of the story that he likes to collect old photographs, especially ones that are unusual, and then created a story around his favorites. The photos all have an aspect to them that’s not exactly menacing, but not friendly, and are perfect for this story (you can check out some of his other photos on his website (scroll down to the “found photographs”); these aren’t digitally altered like those in the book, but are still strange and interesting).

After I read the book, I saw the movie, which recently came out.  I was expecting the movie to follow the book more closely than it actually did. While there are basic similarities between the two, the movie actually tells a rather different story. Some of the differences bothered me a bit, especially when two main characters were swapped around. But otherwise, the movie is well done.

I really enjoyed this adventure, and recommend it to anyone aged 12+ who likes unusual adventure stories. By-the-way, this book is the first in a series of three books.

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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.

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Review of “Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer”

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Theodore Boone 1# – Kid Lawyer
By John Grisham
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
288 pages

This book is about a kid who wants to be a lawyer and a murder trial that’s full of twists and turns. It’s a story that revolves around the judicial system and about how lawyers and judges work.

Thirteen-year-old Theodore Boone’s parents are lawyers and own a law firm in the town of Strattenburg. Theodore spends lots of his time at the Strattenburg courthouse. He knows every police officer, judge, and bailiff in town. He already knows a lot about the law and sometimes even helps his classmates with legal questions. Someday, Theo wants to become a great lawyer or judge, like Judge Gantry, one of the characters in the book. But, for now, he likes to say he has his own office at the law firm, which is really an unused closet that he uses to do his homework in.

As the book begins, there is a big trial in town. Pete Duffy is being tried for murder. But no one actually saw the murder happen. Theo finds himself becoming involved in the case when he discovers that someone he knows has proof that Duffy committed the crime. The problem is that the witness is afraid to speak to the police because he is an illegal immigrant.

This is a really interesting story because even though Theo isn’t old enough to be a real lawyer, it doesn’t stop him from acting like one. For example, when one of his classmate’s dog runs away and is held at the pound, Theodore helps her get the dog back at the animal court. Also, when another classmate is worried because his parents are behind on their mortgage and the bank is threating to take the house, Theo explains to him about bankruptcy (that’s a court process that helps people and businesses get rid of their debts and repay their creditors).

Theodore was exciting, but he wasn’t a very complex character. I liked that he wanted to be a lawyer, but I wish he had had more of a personality. He wasn’t wooden, but the author could have told us more of what Theo was thinking (in the next book in the series, Theo’s character gets more developed).

There are six books in the Theodore Boone series.

By-the-way, the Theodore Boone website has lots of fun information about the legal system, weird laws, videos, and lots of other material.

Over all, I think this is a great book for all kids ages 9-13.

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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.

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

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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!

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Review of “Where the Red Fern Grows”

 
Where the Red Fern Grows
By Wilson Rawls51QWK0WB8KL
Published by Doubleday (original publisher)
208 pages

This is a wonderful piece of fiction that takes place in the 1920s. The story, which was published in the early 1960’s, is about a special friendship between a boy and his two dogs and the adventures they share.

Billy is a determined young boy living near the Ozarks mountain range in Minnesota. His family lives in a small but comfortable wooden cabin in the woods just outside of town. What Billy wants most of all are two dogs, but not just any dogs. He wants two coonhounds. Whenever he goes to his grandfather’s store, he hears the men talking about dogs and hunting. They share hunting stories, some true and some far-fetched, and hearing the men talk and trade stories only makes him want hounds even more. So, when he finds an advertisement for Redbone Hound puppies, he is determined to save up enough money – even if it takes two years!

Once Billy gets his dogs, he starts training them to hunt and they go on many exciting adventures, such as chasing raccoons through the woods. Billy’s grandfather even enters them into a coon hunting championship. But their biggest adventure takes place when they meet a mountain lion.

This book is about perseverance and friendship. Billy spent more than two years doing odd jobs like selling fruit to earn enough money to buy the dogs. And he spent many months teaching them to become the best hunting dogs in the Ozarks. Also, it was obvious that Billy and the dogs loved each other. The dogs always shared their treats between them and waited for each other before eating them, and they always followed Billy everywhere.

This book actually has a sad ending. The author connects you to some of the characters, but then sad things happen to them. You don’t realize how much you care for the characters until the ending. Most kid’s books today have happy endings, so this one is unique in that way. I think the ending makes you feel like you know Billy and the dogs even more.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful story for kids ages 9-13.

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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.

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Review of “The One and Only Ivan”

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The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate
Published by HarperCollins
300 pages

This story is about promises kept, selflessness, and friendship. It’s about Ivan keeping his promise to his friend, Stella, and trying to get Ruby to a better place.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla. For twenty-seven years, Ivan has lived in the mall. Every day, Ivan is in his domain watching the people outside as they go about their lives. Ivan hardly ever thinks about his old life when he was living in the jungle. Instead, he watches television, draws, and paints. Ivan’s life is not sad. Sometimes he’s happy, especially when he’s painting. But Ivan doesn’t seem to realize what he doesn’t have. He doesn’t realize that his cage is small and he insists on calling it a domain and not a cage.

There’s a part where Ivan says “I know what most humans think. They think gorillas don’t have imaginations. They think we don’t remember our pasts or ponder our futures. Come to think of it, I suppose they have a point. Mostly I think about what is, not what could be.” This suggests that Ivan might not have any hope. I think it’s more that Ivan doesn’t hope for anything because he doesn’t know what to hope for. So when Stella tells him about a zoo, a place where she says humans try to make amends to the animals, he begins to have something to hope for.

Ivan isn’t the only animal at the mall. There are elephants, dogs, and birds. But, Ivan is the only gorilla. All of the animals, except Ivan, are part of a small circus. But as Mack, the human boss at the mall, says, it’s enough for Ivan to be Ivan.

Ivan’s best friends are Stella and Bob. Stella is an older, wise elephant who remembers much of her old life in the jungle, and knows many stories. Stella and Ivan have a very strong friendship that compels Ivan to make a special promise to her. His other friend, Bob, is a crafty stray dog who stays at the mall, but doesn’t want an actual home. Bob’s would rather find his own food than be fed by someone else. At one point in the story, when he is asked why he doesn’t want a home, he answers, “Everywhere is my home, I am a wild beast, my friend: untamed and undaunted.

The other main character is Ruby. Ruby comes into the story when business at the mall slows down, and fewer people come to see the animals. Mack decides to get a small baby elephant (Ruby) for the circus. Ruby is young and naïve and asks lots of questions. When Ivan sees her in her small cage, and when he sees how Mack makes her practice her circus routine even when she’s very tired, Ivan decides he must make some changes.

The story is narrated by Ivan. But as Ivan says, gorillas don’t waste words. I think the author did a great job incorporating that concept – short sentences and descriptions without wasting words – into the way the book was written, but without making the story too simple.

Although this story is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the true story of a gorilla that also lived in a store for many years before going to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and later to Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia. You can learn about this story here.

This book has won many awards including the 2013 John Newbery Medal. It’s a wonderful story for anyone ages 8-14.

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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.

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Review of “Pippi Longstocking”

 
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Pippi Longstocking
By Astrid Lindgren
Published by Puffin Modern Classics [originally published by Rabén & Sjögren]
160 pages

Pippi Longstocking is a naïve nine year old girl who is super strong! She can lift up people and even cars! Pippi has crazy red braids that stick straight out on the sides on her head, and she has a pet monkey named Mr. Nelson and a horse.

When Pippi moves into her father’s house next to Annika and Tommy, she has to do everything by herself because her mother is dead and her father is away at sea. She has no parents to tell her what to do, no parents to make her go to school, and no parents to make her go to bed when she’d rather do lots of other fun things.

Annika and Tommy seem to be around the same age as Pippi, with Annika being the oldest and Tommy being the youngest of the trio. Annika is very careful, tidy, and independent. She also is very polite and doesn’t like to get her dress ruined or dirty. Annika’s brother, Tommy, is brave and up for excitement, and isn’t afraid to go on thrilling adventures and get a little dirty on the way.

Together Pippi, Annika, and Tommy go on funny and delightful adventures through their town. Once Annika and Tommy take Pippi to the circus and it turns into a big fiasco when Pippi jumps into the arena and rides the horses.

The adventures in this book are witty and exciting. In all of them Tommy, Annika and Pippi seem to have lots of fun. I think it would be thrilling to have crazy adventures like the ones they go on.

My favorite part is when Pippi first moves in and Annika and Tommy can’t help noticing the odd things about Pippi, like the way she doesn’t have parents. I like it because it reveals to the reader that Pippi is no ordinary girl.

Pippi Longstocking has been around for 60 years!! She was originally published in Sweden in 1945. Since then her story has been translated into 64 languages and loved by many readers all around the world. Pippi even had an old television show that aired in1969, and a few movies!

The name ‘Pippi’ is actually a nickname. When the book was originally published in Sweden, her full name was ‘Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump’, which has some made up nonsense words that could not be translated to other languages. As a result, different versions of the story use different names. Some of the English names include ‘Pippilotta Rollgardinia Victualia Peppermint Longstocking’ and ‘Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraimsdotter Longstocking’. Some of the names for ‘Pippi Longstocking’ in other languages are ‘Harisnyás Pippi’ (Hungarian), ‘Pipe Phakidomyte’ (Greek), and ‘Malgwallyang’i Sonyŏ Ppippi’ (Korean).

You can find more facts about Pippi here.

I think this is a great book for all kids aged 8-11.

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