Category Archives: Children

Freaks by Kieran Larwood

If only there was someone who could tell her something about her past. For all she knew, she could be the Crown Princess of Mongolia, the daughter of a rich and magnificent king. Or maybe a hair-covered parent just like her. Perhaps then she wouldn’t feel so desperately different.

Just to be somebody’s daughter would be nice. (p. 3)

Identifying with characters in stories

As a young girl and woman (and even now) it was difficult to find female characters that I could identify with. I am white, nerdy, Asperger (although I did not know this at that time) and Norwegian. As time passed more female characters entered the scene, but their roles were often romantic seconds. Not until the last few years have great female characters become more common. Finding characters that you can identify with if you belong to any female minority must be extremely difficult. Perhaps especially in a society as misogynistic as the US.

Along comes Marley Dias who is 11 years old. This amazing girl manages to launch a book-collection campaign focusing on books with black girls as main characters. I would never have dared, or even come up with, such a thing when I was 11. How can I do anything but look up to such a wonderful person?

Marley Dias, 11, Launches Social Action Campaign to Collect #1000BlackGirlBooks

Marley Dias Book Drive 1,000 Black Girl Books
11 year-old Marley Dias at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown, collecting books as part of her #1000BlackGirlBooks social action project. (JANICE DIAS/FOR PHILLYVOICE)

In the past year, Philadelphia native Marley Dias has successfully written a proposal for (and received) a Disney Friends for Change grant, served food to orphans in Ghana and recently launched a book club.

Dias is 11 years old.

“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” Dias told PhillyVoice. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects — and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”

Dias’ latest social action project is the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive. Frustrated with many of the books she’s assigned in school, she confessed to her mother during dinner one night that she was unhappy with how monochromatic so many stories felt.

“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.” ………….

The rest of the article may be read on Good Black News

Pierce, Tamora: Wild Magic (The Immortals I) (1992)

Wild Magic is the first book in The Immortals four book series. It can be read alone or with the other three. The setting is in Tortall. In the world of Tortall and its neighboring countries, magic is called the Gift.

Daine is our main character. She is 13-years-old and an orphan. Daine has an unusual ability to communicate with animals. In spite of this, her gift does not show the hallmarks of the Gift. It turns out that her magic is a more dangerous, unpredictable and unusual magic, Wild Magic. In fact, Daine seems to be brimming with it.

Daine’s father is unknown (unknown to her). Before her mother managed to get around to telling Daine who he was, bandits killed her and Daine’s grandda and tried to burn down the homestead. At the time, Daine and Cloud (her pony) were away helping a breech-birth lambing.

“Coming out of their place, I couldn’t see anything anywhere but fog, couldn’t smell, couldn’t hear. I was clear to our village before I knew.

“They hit around dawn. The mill was burned, the miller dead. They took the wheelwright’s oldest girl and the headman’s wife. Really, they mighta passed my house by, Ma having the Gift, but they remembered she was pretty too, see.

“They fought—all of them. Ma, Grandda, dogs, ponies, horses—even the stupid chickens. Even Ma’s geese. Not the rabbits. They left. Well, they never fight, and you can’t ask them to go against their nature. But the rest fought. They killed some of the bandits.

“The bandits went crazy. They killed everything on the farm and didn’t carry any of it away, Mammoth told me. Mammoth was my boss dog. He said they was too cared of animals who fought like that.

“Mammoth told me what happened, and died.

“So we buried them, me and Cloud, every last one of our family. Cloud’s dam and sire, her brothers are in those graves.

“I straightened up the house, what was left. The raiders had tried to burn it, but only the upper story and the roof were gone. Ma had a bunch of charms against fire in the kitchen, so most of the downstairs was saved.

“It was two days before anyone came to see. After Ma helped them birth their children, nursed when they was sick. Two days! She could’ve been alive and hurt all that time! If the bandits had passed us by, Ma would have been at the village with medicines and bandages, making me and Grandda help.

Daine brought what she could from her home and left. Onua is the first person we know about who encounters Daine’s unusual ability to converse with animals. It turns out Daine is also unusually good with the bow and arrow. Way better than natural ability would make her. But Daine does not acknowledge that her abilities have anything to do with magic. That would mean confronting an episode we do not find out about until we are well into the story.

The second person Daine meets after Onua, is Numair, shape-shifter and magician. He is the one who spots the degree of her magic and identifies it. Numair is also the person who helps Daine understand that she must learn to control her magic. Otherwise Daine might end up unintentionally killing herself or others. So Daine battens down and does her best to stuff information into her head while at the same time ending up as Onua’s assistant. Turns out Onua is head hostler of the horses that the Riders use. Riders are semi-cavalry who go out in small groups to route out bandits and try to keep Tortall out of trouble.

Strange creatures attack Tortallians. Immortals seem to have escaped the God’s dimension that magicians had imprisoned them in 400 years previously. They are back and making sure people know it. Some of the Immortals are cruel beings, some are indifferent and some are helpful. Like people everywhere, I suppose.

Daine and her friends are attacked by the scarier versions of the Immortals. These creatures are difficult, but not impossible, to kill. Daine faces many difficult choices during Wild Magic. Some of them involve placing others in danger and understanding the meaning of free will. Other choices involve killing other intelligent creature. Not a simple matter for a 13-year old girl.

Daine also has to face pirates and the royalty of Tortall. For those who have read The Lioness series, you know that they can be a bit unusual. For Daine, who has grown up in a hierarchical and patriarchal society, Tortall royalty comes as a shock. But face them, she must. We meet characters from The Lioness series (another great children/young adult series that Pierce has written. The Immortals falls into the same age category.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Translations:

  • Czech: Pierceová, Tamora, Zaklínačka koní; Trans: Eva Kadlecová; Praha, CPRESS, 2014
  • Danish: Vild Magi; Trans: Bjarne Skovlund; Ruds-Veby, Tellerup, 1998 (ill: Bodil Molich)
  • German: Dhana: Kamph um Tortall; Trans:  Elisabeth Epple; Würsburg, Arena, 1998
  • Indonesian: Wild Magic – Sihir Liar; Trans: ; Jakarta Pusat, Elex Media Komputindo, 2013
  • Swedish: Vild Magi; Trans: Ylva Spångberg; Stockholm, Bonnier Carlsen, 2003

Turner, Chris: Magical Entities Are Not For Sale (Fantastic Realms) (2011)

Magical Entities Are Not for Sale - Chris Turner

Magical Entities is a cute story that seems to intend to teach children the importance of keeping their promises even when keeping them is difficult.

Radpa, has chosen Klarys to take over his store. But she must prove herself worthy of this task. Klarys is only nine when she begins this life-long journey. Sometimes she falls short of her potential. But that is OK because Radpa just expects her to keep on trying. And she does.

There is no violence, no swearing and no sexual content. I have set it as children’s literature.

Recommended.


Reviews:


Magical Entities Are Not For Sale available on Booktracks (audio)

Colfer, Eoin: Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian (VIII) (2012)

This time the Chinese cover wins hands down. All of the Chinese covers are amazing. You can find them on amazon.cn if you want a look.

Another book era has passed. This time Artemis Fowl is the person we get to say goodbye to. All three of us fantasy-buffs in this family followed along through Time Paradox. My oldest and I kept at it until the end. And what an ending it was. What responses to the ending there have been. I wonder what it is like being Eoin Colfer and seeing the engagement of his readers.

In the case of my oldest son and I, we enjoyed the ending. Artemis Fowl had evolved as a character throughout the series and ended up in the place where he was destined to end. His frustration, helplessness and decisiveness during the story led him to the spot he came to (with a little help from his friends). Holly, Butler and Foaly are there for him as always. Even Foaly has come to rely on Artemis finding a solution when no solution appears possible.

Two of the characters I truly loved in Last Guardian were the twins. The scene with Juliet, Myles and Beckett by the tower was hilarious. An absolute gem. I pity Juliet beeing the bodyguard to this pair. Beckett really shines as a berserker. The images this four-year old brought forth in my mind – well funny doesn’t even cover it.

Another favorite in many of the books has been Mulch Diggums. His appearance here was no less gooey or fraught with lack of self-confidence than the others stories. There is something very grosse yet fascinating about glowing spit and smelly indestructibility.

Opal Koboi has always been a bit insane. In The Last Guardian she jumps off the edge of sanity and loses any grip on the world most of the rest of the cast sees. Opal has finally found the world of Opal Koboi and she intends to stay there and bring the rest of the world into it.

I liked this ending to the Artemis Fowl saga.


Reviews:


The Last Guardian available on iBookstore and Amazon UK
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2012 Irish Book Award in the “Irish Children’s Book – Senior”


My review of:


Eoin, Colfer: Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex (VII) (2011)

Part of the fun of preparing for a review of one of the Artemis Fowl stories is immersing myself in the fan art. Some of my favorites are in the above collage. The other part is reading other people’s reviews.

“Foaly,” he called after the centaur. “I really think we should search for my secret birthmark. Dragons love that sort of thing.”

Of all the quotes I could have chosen from The Atlantis Complex, this is the one that stuck with me.

Orion is Artemis Fowl’s alter-ego/alter-personality/dissociated identity. I loved him. Granted, Orion was annoying and caught up in some sort of medieval psychosis. Yet he showed us to what degree Artemis confrontations with his own past and dabbling in magic had affected him. Let’s face it. Some of the events Eoin Colfer has put his young charge through have been on the dark side of extreme. In spite of that, Artemis knows that in order for his environmental scheme to go through he has to fight the disorders that are popping up (Atlantis Complex).

My grandmother suffered from schizophrenic paranoia. Eoin Colfer stays true to what that must have been like for her (going by my dad’s descriptions of his childhood). Not trusting the most trusted person in his life is just part of the parcel. When he sent Butler off on what was supposed to be a fake mission, Artemis had no idea that Butler and Juliet (Butler’s much younger sister) would end up having to fight for their lives. And what a fight. The two of them make a great team.

Butler has long suspected that something is off with Artemis. Being sent away in this manner only makes him more determined to be there for Artemis. That is what I like about Butler. I would liken his loyalty to that of a faithful guard dog. What once began as a paid assignment has turned into a strange friendship between two unusual people. Being able to bring Juliet along with him only adds spice to his experience.

Mulch Diggums is Mulch Diggums. He is now on the “right” side of the law if you want to be an upstanding citizen. Mulch isn’t certain he wants that. During The Atlantis Complex that choice will be taken away from him. Poor Mulch. Being friends with Artemis can be quite a challenge.

Turnball Root is the kind of villain I would not like to meet. He has landed on the far side of sanity and psychopathic is a mild term for where he is at. His mission is to get to the “love of his life” and somehow save her.

Like any great author, Eoin Colfer gets me to like all of his characters. I love his humor, his action scenes and the strange people that inhabit the world of Artemis Fowl. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Atlantis Complex available at Amazon US

 

Crook, Mackenzie: The Windvale Sprites (2011)

The Windvale Sprites - MacKenzie Crook

Mackenzie Crook has illustrated the story of The Windvale Sprites along with the cover illustration. His illustrations go perfectly with his story.

I picked this copy of The Windvale Sprites up at my library. Ragnhild, the fantasy-buff librarian, makes certain she keeps the fantasy/science fiction section well-stocked with books for all age groups. She seems to have a pretty good eye for what will appeal to people. Once again, she was correct where I was concerned.

Librarians are such wonderful and diverse creatures. We get to meet two of them in our story: Mrs. Fields and Mr. Trap. Both names are somehow appropriate (probably intentional). Mrs. Fields is an elderly, sweet, somewhat deaf woman who is willing to aid a boy with his odd queries. Mr. Trap, on the other hand, loves to trap people with his words and is quite sarcastic. He is the kind of person I would have very much liked to stick my tongue out at when I was Asa’s age. Asa definitely finds himself not at all fond of Mr. Trap.

Young Asa is the way I think children should be. You know, just a bit naughty, extremely curious and kind at heart.

(Asa) “scribbled a feeble lie on a piece of paper explaining to his parents where he hadn’t gone”

At this point I knew I would love the story about Asa, our young hunter of sprites. And I did. There is something magical about an author who knows just how much he can get away with when it comes to playing around with words.

Another thing I really liked about The Windvale Sprites was the sprites themselves. Like ravens and crows they love shiny things, they do not thrive in captivity and there is nothing sweet-looking about them (except perhaps their gossamer wings).

The Windvale Sprites left me with a happy feeling inside and a smile on my face.

If you listen to the sample below read by the author, you will get a sense of the story of The Windvale Sprites.


Reviews:


The Windvale Sprites on Faber & Faber Ltd.

Mackenzie Crook reading from The Windvale Sprites