A Sliver of Stardust
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”
This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.
All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.
So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 daisies because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.
story by Lisa Wheeler and art by Ponder Goembel
A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006
I have an adorable picture book for you! This is how it starts out – “On an island/in the ocean,/ near the land of Singapore,/midst a storm of great proportion,/ fifteen cats were washed ashore.” There were 7 kittens and 8 adults – a calico tom named Mittens (who has muscles and an anchor tattoo), a Persian Blue, an angora, a bobtail, a beat-up tabby, a pair of Siamese cats, and an orange marmalade. They all must band together if they are to survive on a tiny island in the ocean. At first they look for help to rescue them and then decide they’re on their own. Will they be able to survive? Will they even be able to get along with each other?
The illustrations are absolutely adorable and the story is told via rhyming poetry. The print is large enough for early readers to enjoy; there are so larger words that may be difficult at first but every reader needs their vocabulary expanded!
I loved this book – it’s got everything you could want – cats, cats and more cats – plus kittens!; an adventure at sea; a lesson on how to get along with the ones around you and that family doesn’t always mean the folks you were born to!
I pulled these images off the internet – they aren’t very good quality – but let that encourage you to check the book out at your library!!
(written and illustrated by) William Joyce
MoonBot Book, A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
From the book jacket: “In the secret realm of toys there are many mysteries. There is the Code of the Toys, which is as ancient as childhood. There’s also the magic of becoming a child’s favorite, the highest honor in the Toy World. Billy’s mother made Ollie by hand. He was a toy who would matter. He becomes Billy’s best friend, confidant, pal, and yes, Billy’s “favorite.” But there are villains in the Toy World, and Zozo, the clown king, is the most feared. He and his toy henchmen (the Creeps) have sworn to steal and imprison favorite toys until they forget their children and become forever lost. When Ollie is toynapped, Billy must rescue his beloved favorite from Zozo’s subterranean lair in the Dark Carnival Place, past the park, through the woods, and into the night. Never has a journey of ten blocks been more epic.”
Sounds awesome, right? Well, it was! I wasn’t sure at first because the story is told mainly through Ollie’s point of view and I will admit, even with my vivid imagination it was a little hard to get it into my head that toys think, talk, and move on their own. But after the first couple of chapters I could hardly put it down. Billy, who is around 6 years old, is very brave (and very naughty) for going out on his own in the middle of the night to find his lost Ollie. All the while, Ollie is desperately trying to get back to him and rescue all the other lost toys.
Written for the early reader set, this 295-page book will take them a while to get through but it is well worth it. It would also make for good reading to children at bedtime, a one or two chapters a night to savor the “A-venture” Ollie goes on. There is sadness along the way and Zozois mean and does mean things to other toys (but not too mean). There is also love, hope and friendship as well. The illustrations are both poignant and sweet. We recommend this book for any kitten (or grown-up) who has a favorite toy and will cherish it forever. (Mom still has her favorite teddy bear from when she was a child- see it below.)
My well-loved teddy bear – Favorite Toy