Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sharing: THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu

Most of my favorite books feature main characters who are "other." By that I mean, the character is somewhat of a misfit and feels like they are not in sync with the rest of the world around them. In most cases, though, they find out that their feelings of being out of sync are due to the fact that they are "other." Harry was actually a wizard; Percy was actually a demi-god; Peter, Lucy, Edmond, and Susan were rightfully kings and queens of a magical land. Their feelings of being different were justified and ended up being the result of something unknown that made them incredibly special.

In The Real Boy, Oscar feels like a misfit. He is an orphan and a  magician's helper who happily spends his days in the shop cellar mixing just the right herbs and plants to create powerful effects for the shop's customers. When he is forced upstairs to deal with customers, he finds that his feelings of other-ness are only confirmed by people openly finding him odd. However, his journey upstairs leads him to his first friend, aside from his clowder of cats - Callie.

Together, Oscar and Callie unravel the mystery of something plaguing the perfect children of the nearby Shining City, something that Oscar thinks may be the answer to why he always feels out of place. As Oscar and Callie explore their history and the deeper motivations of those around them, Oscar discovers that there is much more to him than he or anyone else ever realized.

This beautiful story of friendship and accepting each other and ourselves for who we are is an unbelievably perfect follow up to Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Oscar's struggles with who he is will resonate deeply with middle grades students who are in the throes of becoming whoever it is that they will be.

Who Should Read This?
This is a perfect 10-14 read, but would be enjoyed by anyone who likes fantasy, fairy tales, and very good friends.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sharing: The Apprentices

The Apprentices is Maile Meloy's follw-up to her stunning first book for middle grades, The Apothecary.

The book picks up two years after the Janie Scott and Benjamin Burrows part ways, with the help of some memory-erasing elixir. Janie is a student at a boarding school in New England. Ben has been traveling the world, helping his disillusioned father, the apothecary, care for people in war stricken areas, such as Vietnam. The entire crew who saved the world in the first installment has splintered and gone their separate ways with differing priorities.

Ben tries to remind his father of their larger purpose, which is attempting to save the world from the possibility of an atomic bomb, but a series of failures leads his father down a different path. All the while, Ben can't stop thinking of Janie and finds a way to connect them over thousands of miles and dozens of months.

Meanwhile, Janie is dealing the repercussions of her own scientific success, doled out by a vindictive roommate and the roommate's ambitious, malicious father. She is also confused by feelings for a boy who is kind, but is not Ben. Eventually, Janie and the Burrows are brought together again in circumstances just as dire and exciting as the first time.

This book is an incredible sequel to the The Apothecary and is one middle grades title that you won't want to miss!

Who Should Read It?
This book is a solid MG title with the ability to interest emerging YA readers, as well.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sharing: Doll Bones

Doll Bones centers on three young friends who live in Pennyslvania: Zack, Poppy, and Alice. The trio have been friends for years and the tie that seems to bind them most strongly is an ongoing, imaginative game of pirates, mermaids, and grand adventure that they play using action figures. All of the adventure is controlled by the iron, but imaginary, fist of a creepy bone china doll that rules their play world as Queen.

When Zack's trying-too-hard father decides that twelve is too old to be "playing," he throws out all of Zack's action figures, effectively ending what was promising to be the friends' best story line yet.

When the Queen begins to let them know that she isn't quite ready for their imaginary world to come to a close, Zach, Poppy, and Alice must decide their own fate by choosing to refuse a belief in magic or risk the wrath of their ever-demanding Queen.

This book is at once chilling, mysterious, and aching. The three friends are repeatedly struggling against the forceful wave of growing up and losing the magic of childhood. But is it really their choice, or the will of the Queen, that will turn the tide?

Doll Bones is a recent release by Holly Black, published by Simon & Schuster.

It's a solid 10-14 middle grades read. But, truly, who should read it? Literally everyone.