Twins Sarah and John are off to Wales for the summer to stay with the grandparents they’ve barely met. Almost immediately, even before the family has reached their destination, it’s clear that the area of their mother’s birth isn’t ordinary. A werewolf in the road, a fortress named Two Spells atop a mountain, and a mysteriously dysfunctional GPS that keeps returning them to Two Spells rather than guiding them to their grandparents are merely the beginning of their adventure.
Soon the twins are completely immersed in the world of the magical library—intrigued by the library and the magic within it. Soon enough it is clear that there are forces at work that would destroy the library, and they’re right in the middle of a battle for survival: the library’s and their own.
Mark Morrison’s first book shows that he has a great love of fantasy and magical worlds and a fantastic imagination.
Although I, too, am a fantasy lover, I often found myself disoriented in the complexities of the plot of Two Spells, although your mileage may vary. I also wished that Sarah had a little more agency and a little less help from adults and magical creatures in the resolution.
Though the author puts this book at a young adult level, I’d put it at a middle grade level, as Sarah and Jon seem young for a true young adult book.
The author sent me a copy of the book in hopes of receiving a review.
Written by Sarah Grace Tuttle
Illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018.
I grew up in the woods with the summer sounds of wood thrushes and katydids lulling me to sleep each night. In spring, we searched the woods for Indian pipes, Dutchman’s breeches, and lady slippers. The squirrels and songbirds joined us at meals at our picnic table among the trees. Despite all this, I was thrilled to move right into Boston when I was a teenager, and I’ve never wanted to be too far from that city since. But in the years I raised my young children, I despaired of giving them the kind of connection to nature that was so easy to nurture in the woods. I wish I had had a copy of Hidden City when they were small.
Sarah Tuttle’s poems evoke the rhythms, sounds, and behaviors of the wildlife tucked in and around a city landscape. Tuttle’s love and knowledge of wildlife and ecology sings through with information artfully included in each poem to help children and their parents know where to look for wildlife and learn more about each species. The poems focus on the everyday sightings of pigeons, sparrows, and dandelions and the more unusual: raccoons at night, snakes in the vacant lot, red-winged blackbirds in the marsh by the railroad track. These rich poems will spark interest—and questions. A rich double-page spread of end notes provides both more information and a list of resources for families wanting to learn more.
Tuttle’s beautiful poems are beautifully paired with artist Amy Schimler-Safford’s colorful artwork. The pictures are not only inviting, but also fun and informative. Many of the pictures have wildlife hidden here and there for eager readers to find. Who wouldn’t want to dive into these appealing pictures to find the dragonfly among the cattails, count the snails at night, or imagine the mouse’s warm paper nest?
To be fair, I must disclose that Sarah Tuttle is a critique partner of mine, so I have known and loved these poems for some time. I will be buying this book for my home library and sharing it with families I know. Even if you don’t know her, if you are raising or teaching children in a city environment, you will want a copy of this book to read and study and to encourage your family to go out and discover the wildlife in your neighborhood.
I received an advance reader copy of Hidden City courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
by Chris Pavesic, 2017.
When scientists found a way for people to live forever, it seemed like a good thing. Hydrologists found that consciousness could be imprinted on a droplet of water and kept in tanks. But when the tanks were breached, disaster ensued and civilization as we know it dissolved.
Cami and her little sister, Alby, are trying to make their way out of the post-apocalyptic city in hopes of finding safety in the country. However, rain is dangerous now because each drop could contain someone’s consciousness looking for a body to house it. Combating people and nature is only the beginning of Cami and Alby’s adventure.
Starter Zone is a cracking story and a great start to an exciting new series. Full of mystery, intrigue, and high stakes, the story will pull readers in and keep them reading. Pavesic’s gaming history is clear in the writing and I think lovers of role-playing games, both virtual and IRL will especially enjoy the story.
Thanks to the generosity of the author, I had the opportunity to both read and listen to Starter Zone through the Kindle and Audible versions. The audio book is well produced and performed with varied voices, making the story and characters easy to follow. The one exception to this is the computer voice that gives results and statistics. I found that difficult to follow. Fortunately, this didn’t make it hard for me to follow the story line. All-in-all I loved having the audio book to listen to as I finished knitting my Christmas gifts.
I recommend Starter Zone to pre-teen and teen readers and to adults who like a good game-based adventure. I was quickly drawn into the story and began rooting for Cami and Albi from the first chapter. I was a bit startled at the somewhat abrupt ending to this first book of the series, but it also left me eager to read the next installment.
Chris Pavesic knows how to tell an epic story with interesting personal and ethical problems for the main character to overcome. I’ll be watching for more books in the Revelation Chronicles series.
by Jackson Pearce, Bloomsbury USA Childrens 2018.
When the boys of the neighborhood exclude the girls from their soccer game, Ellie Engineer and her best friend Kit strike back by building an amazing water balloon launcher and soaking them all. The water balloon launcher is just one of the many engineering ideas that Ellie keeps in a notebook in her tool belt along with her hammer, two screwdrivers, and her prized possession, a mini electric drill. Ellie loves engineering, and all the neighborhood kids are eager to help, but the ins and outs of friendship prove a bit harder to solve than the problems Ellie encounters with a hammer and nails. Nevertheless, Ellie persists and puts her brain to work to solve problems both physical and personal.
I predict that Ellie, Engineer will inspire a generation of tool-carrying, invention-drawing kids in the same way that Harriet the Spy inspired note-scribbling, sneaking kids in my generation. Readers will root for Ellie as she designs solutions to problems and gets herself out of scrapes. Themes include questioning gender roles, friendship, and inventiveness. For teachers looking for strong girls and STEM connections, you’ll find them in this delightful new series.
Ellie, Engineer is the first of Jackson Pearce’s books I’ve read, but I’m now inspired to look for more. You can bet I’ll be waiting expectantly for the next book in the Ellie, Engineer series to come out.
I received a review copy of Ellie, Engineer from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It will be on sale Tuesday, January 16, 2018.