Category Archives: Fantasy

Kid Review: Horns and Wrinkles

Kid Review: Horns and Wrinkles

Horns & Wrinkles

“Along a magic-saturated stretch of the Mississippi River near Blue Wing, Minnesota, twelve-year-old Claire and her bullying cousin Duke are drawn into an adventure involving Bodacious Deepthink the Great Rock Troll, a helpful fairy, and a group of trolls searching for their fathers.”

I haven’t read this one but Delaney sure makes it sound good:

Delaney Says: This book is awesome!!!It is full of adventure,excitement, and laughter!!!

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The Books of Umber: Dragon Games

The Books of Umber: Dragon Games

Happenstance FoundIn The Books of Umber Book 1: Happenstance Found, Lord Umber found a boy with no memory. There were unusual things about the boy besides his startlingly green eyes. For one, he never slept. Ever. He could see in the dark and he could jump high…Superman high.

In this second adventure, Lord Umber has taken the boy, Happenstance or Hap, as his ward. That means Lord Umber is Hap’s guardian since his parents and family are unknown. Lord Umber is determined to find out who Hap is and where he came from. He also wants to know more about Hap’s unusual abilities.

Hap loves his new life living in Lord Umber’s castle and he loves his new friends there. There is a library and extraordinary things for Hap to study that Lord Umber has collected in his travels. It’s taking longer, though, for Hap to get used to Lord Umber himself. In the same way that Hap takes comfort in home and desires the routines of a household where he can study and explore, Lord Umber desires reckless adventure. Once his curiousity sets in there is no stopping Lord Umber from finding out what he wants to know, no matter the cost or danger to himself, or the people around him. It’s exciting to be around Lord Umber, but scary too!

Lord Umber receives an invitation to a neighboring kingdom to attend dragon games.  Umber can hardly contain his excitement. What are dragon games? Could there possibly be REAL dragons involved? Lord Umber thinks so and he doesn’t want left out of the action. Umber reminds me a lot of Han Solo only he travels the sea on a ship instead of hurtling through space in a spaceship. Lord Umber is always on the lookout for mythical monsters and magical things that most people think are the stuff of legends and stories.  To see an actual dragon is something he just can’t pass up. Hap is not so excited about leaving on another adventure and neither is Lord Umber’s right hand man Oates. Here is what Oates thinks about Lord Umber and this new adventure:

You’re reckless. You can’t find a beehive without wanting to stick your hand inside. You want to discover things, and you don’t care if you risk our lives along the way. I think one of these days you’ll get one of us killed.

Oates can be so straight with his boss because he just can’t help it. He lives under a curse that requires him to always tell the truth! Lord Umber brushes off all the concerns and the ship sails straight into the unknown, just the way Lord Umber likes it.  In no time the companions are caught up in wild and fantastic adventures involving sea monsters, talking spiders, miniature creatures with gnashing teeth, spewing volcanoes, betrayal within a royal family and yes, dragons! The question is, will this adventure get them any closer to finding out Hap’s true identity? Author: P.W. Catanese

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Kid Review – Charlotte’s Web

Kid Review – Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web

A review came in yesterday from Claire. She says:

Even though this is a book for kids younger than me, I still liked it. The characters are interesting and seem just like people. Charlotte is one of the best characters I’ve ever read about!

I love Charlotte too, but I think my favorite character is Templeton the rat. It’s Templeton, afterall, that finds words for Charlotte to use in the web. He’s self absorbed, obsesses about food and only helps out when it’s in his best intersets to do so…but he’s also funny, which I always like in a character. What do you think?

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The Nine Pound Hammer

The Nine Pound Hammer

The Nine Pound Hammer

Ray and his sister Sally are on an orphan train in hopes of finding new parents out West. On the train, Ray realizes that Sally would stand a better chance at getting adopted if she didn’t have an older brother – so he jumps off the train to adventure on his own.

Ray has one thing to remind him of the life he used to have, a stone his father gave him. It is a lodestone, a magnetic stone used to make compasses. The stone is acting funny. It seems to be pulling Ray South, so Ray decides to go wherever the lodestone leads.

The stone leads Ray to Cornelius T. Carter’s Mystifying Medicine Show, a sideshow that travels in a steam train from town to town performing tricks and selling medicine oil. The band of performers includes a blind sharpshooter, a snake charmer, a fire-eater, a sword swallower and a strong man. Ray discovers that these performers are more than they first appear. The strong man, Conker, is John Henry’s son. John Henry was a legendary railroad worker who defeated a steam powered hammer, man against machine, in a contest. John Henry won the challenge, but then dropped dead from the effort. His stories are legends like Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan.

Ray discovers that John Henry’s legend is actually real and that John Henry didn’t just win a competition, he defeated a demonic machine built by a man (the Gog) who was determined to dominate the world with his evil mechanical inventions. Ray finds out his dad helped John Henry beat the evil machine…but that the Gog and his evil machines are back. It is up to Ray and Conker and their friends to do battle again.

This story draws a lot of characters and personality from tales of the American South, African American Folklore and tales from the frontier West. I liked reading about traveling by steam locomotive. It’s hard for us to imagine now, but back in those days there were trains owned by individual people that traveled all over the country – trains decked out like fancy RVs inside.

The story is science fiction meets the frontier meets steampunk. (Steampunk is a story that involves technology before that technology was actually invented. The evil gunius in this story uses robotic creatures that are built with technology not known in the 1800s.) Ray’s adventure is like Harry Potter because there is an ensemble cast of kids that have inherited the fight from a previous generation.

There are no unicorns or dragons or wizards in this magical story, but magic still, a kind of magic that has its roots in African-American history and the American South called hoo doo. People knowledgeable in hoo doo are called conjurers or root doctors. They make potions from herbs, animals, or items owned by a person. Sometimes, the hoo doo knowledge is what we might call a folk remedy. Hoo doo uses a bit of science and a bit of the spiritual unknown to conjure up its magic. Author: Claude Bemis Series: The Clockwork Dark

  • Look Inside The Nine Pound Hammer
  • The Nine Pound Hammer on CD
  • Disney’s John Henry Part One and Two
  • Listen NPR Author Interview with Claude Bemis

There is a really cool book about the song The Ballad of John Henry. The book traces the history of the song and takes a guess at who John Henry really was. This book is called Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry. Generally, legends are based on at least a tiny bit of truth and this book shows the historical treasure hunt the author went on to track down the bits of truth in the John Henry story.

The video below is the blues artist John Jackson singing the John Henry song. Blues music came out of African-American communites in the South in the 1800s. Songs included spirituals and work songs and chants. A lot of times the songs told a story in a ballad – John Henry is a ballad and work song.

Continue reading Ray and Conker’s story in The Wolf Tree and The White City. Ain’t Nothing But a Man is the story of John Henry – very interesting with outstanding pictures.:
The Wolf Tree The White City Ain't Nuthin But a Man American Tall Tales
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Dormia

Dormia

12 year old Alfonso sleep walks, but he doesn’t do normal sleepwalking things like walking into closets or making himself a sandwich. When Alfonso wakes up from sleepwalking he can be miles from his house, he can even be at the top of a tree precariously balanced on branches not meant to support his weight. It’s Alphonso’s challenge when he wakes up to figure out where he is and how to get home…without breaking any bones or getting arrested.

Alfonso also has a green thumb. He’s been tending a mysterious plant in his Grandfather’s greenhouse. The plant’s leaves change color, not like leaves in the fall, but from minute to minute.

When a stranger shows up at his house claiming to be his long lost Uncle Hill, Alfonso learns that he is descended from a kingdom of people who live in the town of Dormia, deep in the Ural Mountains, people born with talents like Alfonso’s. Alfonso’s people have the power to do extraordinary things in their sleep.  They can solve puzzles, demonstrate incredible strength & speed, fight without tiring, shoot arrows long distances with bulls-eye accuracy and more.

The problem is, Dormia is wasting away and will disappear completely unless “The Great Sleeper” (Alfonso) returns with a special plant that will regenerate their town.  If the plant is not returned Dormia and it’s people will die. Alfonso’s color changing plant is a Dormian bloom and he alone needs to return it to Dormia to save his people.

World's End

Alfonso and his Uncle set out on a dangerous journey – there are those who want Dormia and it’s people to die and will try to stop Alfonso from bringing the Dormian Bloom home. Like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter and Frodo, Alfonso collects some good friends along the way who make it possible for him to get to Dormia and join the fight for surival. Author: Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

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