Brightwood by Tania Unsworth

brightwoodAlgonquin Young Readers, 2016.

Daisy Fitzjohn and her mother have everything they need in the mansion that is their home. In fact, Daisy has never been outside the grounds, not even to accompany her mother on her weekly shopping trips. But one Monday morning Daisy wakes to hear her mother leaving in the car, which is puzzling. Wednesday is shopping day, so where could her mother possibly be going? When Daisy’s mother fails to return and when a long lost cousin arrives hoping to develop the property, Daisy will have to use her considerable wit, her intimate knowledge of the house and property, and the help of her friends (a rat, a topiary, a statue, and a ghostly explorer named Frank) to save herself and her home.

Brightwood is a fun and adventurous tale with an admirable, clever, and strong main character and a villain to be reviled. A fun, adventurous read suitable for home, classroom, and library collections.

I received an advance reader copy of Brightwood from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Seven Audiobooks to Make Holiday Travel Fly By

The impending holidays make me think of travel with kids. I don’t know any kid who likes a long car ride, but a good audiobook can turn cranky into complaisant and make hours feel like minutes.

For the Younger Set:

audio-winnie-the-poohWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

The set we had when our children were small was put out by the BBC. We loved it because it had pooh stories but it also had poems from When We Were Very Young. There are loads of editions out there. I’d definitely go for British actors!

 

audio-junie-b-jonesJunie B. Jones by Barbara Park

The whole family loved to listen to Junie B stories. She always got us laughing out loud with her antics!

 

For Older Kids:

audio-hp-and-the-sorcerers-stoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

This one almost goes without saying. We’ve listened to some of the Harry Potter stories in addition to reading them. They’re beautifully read by Jim Dale, and each book contains hours of material. We found we got a different appreciation for the stories by hearing the words read aloud.

audio-chronicles-of-narniaThe Chronicles of Narnia C. S. Lewis

My in-laws gave my daughter this boxed set with all seven of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. They’ve been a favorite of both my kids. There are connected stories that fall both before and after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so there’s lots of material there. They’re read beautifully, so even though my husband and I aren’t C. S. Lewis fans, we’ve all listened to them together.

My Current Favorites:

audio-the-graveyard-bookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m just listening to this book now. It’s one I’ve been meaning to read for years and what a fun book it is! Nobody, the main character, is a living boy raised by the ghosts in a graveyard. So charming, such beautiful language, so very English! It’s a tribute to The Jungle Book with a very different setting. The beginning is quite violent and scary, so if you’ve got very small or sensitive kids, this might not be the best choice.

audio-brown-girl-dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this book, but it became an instant favorite. Written in verse and read by the author, it was an absolute delight to listen to in the car. Because each track is a poem, it would also be a great book to listen to in small chunks. The language is gorgeous and Woodson’s memories of growing up brown during the civil rights era is important for all American children to hear. This book could also spark great discussions. I may have to plan a road trip, so I can share it with my family.

Finally, Flashing My Geek Card — the radio play my entire family can quote from:

audio-hitchhikers-guideThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This series was actually a radio play before it was published as a book. It’s got everything you need for a long, boring trip: excitement, space travel, and the answer to life, the universe, and everything. What more could you need besides a towel?

The library’s a great place to discover new audiobooks, and for airplane trips Playaways, those tiny library mp3 players with just one book on them, are perfect. Then everyone can have their own story to enjoy.

Wishing you peaceful, story filled holidays and safe travels.

 

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

dead-girls-of-hysteria-hallScholastic Point, 2015.

Delia’s only sixteen when her great aunt dies and leaves her Hysteria Hall. The grand old house was once an insane asylum that housed both truly insane and simply defiant girls and young women. The house, in fact, has its own will and conspires to keep Delia with it forever. Soon Delia is wrapped up in the ways of the house, its ghosts, and its wishes, and it will take all of her cleverness, will, and bravery to find a way to break the spells and save her family, her friends, and herself.

A creepy and intriguing horror story, The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall kept me guessing and had me rooting for the women of Hysteria Hall.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit

cloud-and-wallfishCandlewick Press, 2016.

It’s an ordinary day of sixth grade for Noah Keller until his parents pick him up from school. Then, suddenly everything in his life turns on its ear. He learns that his name is not really Noah Keller, he’s not eleven yet, and their normal American life is being replaced by an extraordinary new life behind the wall in East Germany.

Communication is tricky in his new home, and strangely enough that has very little to do with Noah, now Jonah’s Astonishing Stutter. In East Germany, Noah must speak German, he has not been given permission to go to school, and perhaps most importantly he must follow his parents rules about what he may say or ask and where. It’s a lonely and confusing new world. But when Jonah meets Cloud-Claudia who lives downstairs with her grandmother, his world becomes a lot less lonely but quite a bit more interesting, confusing, and even dangerous.

Cloud and Wallfish is a masterful telling of the tale of East Germany immediately before the demise of the Berlin Wall. Though at first I bristled at Noah-Jonah’s attitude toward him as they upended his life to take him behind the iron curtain, how could they do it without an explanation? How could they be so darned cheerful about it? I soon was drawn into the story and began to trust the kindness and good nature of the parents, and unlike Noah-Jonah, I remained frustrated at the many things they wouldn’t divulge to him.

Anne Nesbit’s writing is unique and appealing as in this passage when the American family is sitting down to dinner with Jonah’s friend from the downstairs apartment. “It was the longest group of words any of them had ever heard Cloud-Claudia say. They all tried not to gape at her. There was a lot of friendly staring at spoons.”

I will want to read Cloud and Wallfish again. It’s a wonderful book to help children today understand the end of the era of the Cold War, but it is also simply a good story about the complexities of relationships, friendships, governments, and life. Highly recommended for schools, libraries, and homes.

I received an advance reader copy of  Cloud and Wallfish from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.