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Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

07th December 2012

This was a fun book, perfect for young fans of  “Harry Potter” style stories. It’s a blend of dystopia survival with magical elements and intrigue. While it’s action packed and suspenseful, it’s not frightening or gruesome, and would be an excellent read-aloud or independent read for grades 4-7.

Orphaned by the brutal murder of her parents,  Princess Ben, the only heir to the throne,  is confined to the castle by Queen Sophia.  Ben misses her parents and chafes under the restrictive and controlling queen.  When she discovers a secret tower full of magic, Ben begins learning the secret and long-forgotten magical arts.  At first, this is just a diversion, but when her country’s sovereignty is threatened, Ben must put her new powers to work and defend her country.

There were many things that delighted me about this book, one being the clever allusions to numerous fairy tales woven neatly into the plot.  But more than that, even though this book was full of witches, magic and dragons, it had a very “real” sense about it.  Princess Ben was a very real character.  No slender, beautiful, graceful princesses here!  Ben is overweight, sometimes sullen, selfish and lazy.  Because of that, she’s a character that you can relate to and love.  Ben’s search for true love is real, and even her use of magic is tempered with a good bit of common sense!  Ben’s parents were also very real, and instead of being demonized (as so many Young Adult books tend to do) they are celebrated.  My favorite quote comes right at the end:

…I dedicate this work to her memory as well as that of my parents, for however we might criticize those who rear us, the fact that we survive at all into adulthood, however late that passage comes, is testament enough to their ability and perseverance.  p. 344

When Takeo’s family is murdered, he is rescued by Lord Otori Shigeru, and Takeo’s life changes forever.  Action, suspense, fantasy, romance, honor, and intrigue combine to create a fantastic story.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequels.  Thanks for the recommendation Andy!

Henry Day is stolen by some changelings when he is 6 years old.  Henry goes to live in the forest with the other changelings, and becomes “Aniday.”  Meanwhile, a changeling takes Henry’s place in life.  No one knows that the boy who was “Henry” has disppeared.  No one knows that the boy who is now Henry is really an imposter.

But a simple synopsis of this book cerainly doesn’t do it justice.   Donohue’s book is rich with detail and depth.  He explores the parent-child relationship; the power of books, reading and writing to bring meaning and understanding; the beauty of friendship; the myth of the changelings; and the freedom of forgiveness.

My favorite quote comes when a changeling observes a human boy reunite with his mother after an hour playing at the park.  The changeling observes:

A thin smile creased [the boy's] face when she arrived, and without a word he jumped down from the swing, grabbed her hand, and off they went.  Their behavior and interaction baffled me.  Parents and children take such everyday moments for granted, as if there is an endless supply.

The changelings spend hundreds of years longing for a human family.  Too often I feel as if I spend the time I have with my children wishing it was naptime!  The reminder that the moments I have with my precious children are finite is a timely and necessary one.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

10th December 2008

Impossible A modern day fantasy book, based on the ballad “Scarborough Fair.”  Lucy, her mother, her grandmother and all of her ancestors have fallen under the curse of an evil elfin knight.  They must either complete 3 impossible tasks, or belong to him forever.  When Lucy discovers the curse, she and her foster family have only a few short months to complete the tasks before the elfin knight comes back to claim his prize.

One unique thing that struck me about this book was how Lucy, her friend Zach and her foster parents all came together to complete the tasks.  Usually in young adult fiction, the adults are incapable, out of touch, or absent.  In Werlin’s book,  Lucy is able to turn to her foster parents for support and help.  I like that.

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