Monday, August 31, 2009

Good books, August 2009

The Goblin Baby by Berlie Doherty, 2004, 120 pages.

My 7-year-old is not as much of a reader as his sisters were at his age. He loves to read books like the Magic School Bus series, but has a hard time staying focused long enough to read a story. This book was a good find for him. It's a fairly easy chapter book with lots of illustrations, but the story and language aren't so simple as to feel dumbed down. A young boy discovers one morning that his baby sister has been taken to the land of Faery and replaced by a goblin baby. Although he comes to like this new baby all right, he misses his sister and sets out to get her back. The story is light and fun but has a good message about the importance of family.

The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky, ill. by S. D. Schindler, 2006, 48 pages.

This is a fascinating picture book (with a lot of text) for upper elementary ages (and on up to adults). I never realized how much science, history, and sociology there is behind salt, "the only rock eaten by human beings." Salt affected where people settled and who gained economic and political power. There were interesting things I didn't know on nearly every page, from the origins of Buffalo, New York, to the story of Gandhi's long walk to get salt.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret, 1996, 179 pages.

Peg was in the 7th grade when one day she noticed her legs weren't obeying her. Within 48 hours she had been diagnosed with polio and was paralyzed from the neck down. In 1949 it wasn't an uncommon story, but it's brought to life for modern readers here as the author tells about her experiences and recovery. It's written for upper elementary ages but is enjoyable for older readers too. Peg had courageous days and fearful days, but usually faced her situation with humor and determination, making this an inspiring book about dealing with challenges of all kinds.

Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted, 2009, 244 pages.

This young adult novel is about Cody, who has grown up traveling the world and being trained by his father, a CIA operative. Now Cody has to take on a new role as a regular junior high student while his father tracks the people who are trying to harm him. Cody thinks it will be a piece of cake, but soon learns that fitting in is harder than it looks. There are some funny scenes and plenty of suspense. Some parts are a little hard to believe, but get past that and the book is a lot of fun.

The Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock, 2003, 432 pages.

I've read several Christian fantasy novels that have been published in recent years, and until this one I wasn't too impressed. But this series really stands out. Abramm, the heir to the throne of Kiriath, is planning to take holy orders with a powerful sect. When he discovers that their motives and methods are far from holy, he escapes, but his brother arranges for him to be sold into slavery and taken far from his homeland. As Abramm learns to survive in his new life, he also has to decide whether to trust the Terstans, members of a minority religious group he keeps encountering. The story is complex and rich in detail, and is much more than a simple allegory, although the allegory is unashamedly clear. Even though my religious beliefs differ in some ways from the author's, there are enough similarities that I found the insights on Christianity very personally meaningful. The whole four-book series is well-written and well worth reading if you enjoy fantasy. (Book 2: The Shadow Within; book 3: Shadow Over Kiriath; book 4: Return of the Guardian-King.)

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, 1994, 405 pages.

This is by far the best Sherlock Holmes spinoff I've ever read. (Granted, most of the ones I've read have been for children or youth. This is written for adults but could be enjoyed by young adults too.) The premise is that Holmes is retired; he lives in the country and keeps bees. Then Mary Russell bumps into him -- almost literally -- and a firm friendship begins. Mary is 15, incisively intelligent like Holmes, somewhat of a social misfit like Holmes, and ready to learn. Holmes tutors her and they end up working on several cases together, culminating in the mystery of who is trying to kill Holmes. The characters are unforgettable, and the writing is excellent. I really love the direction and tone the author has taken. I will be reading the several sequels as soon as I can.


Harmony said...

I love your reviews and wish I could find more time for reading. I haven't tried Christian fantasy yet, but have really enjoyed the Christian historical fiction novels by Brock and Bodie Thoene, especially their earlier series. Have you read any of the Boy Sherlock Holmes books for YA by Shane Peacock? I've got one from the library, but haven't had a chance to crack it open yet.

Tamary said...

I've read Shane Peacock's Eye of the Crow and Death in the Air. I don't know if he has others out yet. They are both good. I'll have to look at the books by the authors you mentioned. I always love hearing recommendations from other people!