The Fir Tree – Review

The Fir Tree is a story I had heard before, but did not know well. The sad tale is a cautionary fairy tale with traditional Hans Christian Anderson tropes and an ending that will bring a tear to your eye. In this beautiful green, cloth bound edition, the illustrations of Finnish artist Sanna Annukka elevate the story to new heights of beauty and devastation. Gorgeously rendered and written, this book is definitely worth the read. 4152frzf4cl-_sx282_bo1204203200_*this book was sent to me in exchange for a fair and honest review by blogging for Books*

Magic Under Review

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Magic Under Glass

By: Jaclyn Dolamore

  • Age Range:12 and up
  • Grade Level:7 and up
  • Paperback:256 pages
  • Publisher:Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 24, 2011)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1599905876
  • ISBN-13:978-1599905877

Summary (From Amazon.com)

When a wealthy sorcerer hires Nimira to sing with a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. But at the sorcerer’s estate, rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman, and fairies that are tortured for sport. When Nimira discovers-and falls for-the spirit of a fairy gentleman trapped in the automaton, she will also find the fate of the magical world in her hands

 

Character Believability:

The three main characters that populate this book are well written, multi-dimensional, and manage to still exhibit ‘normal’ emotions and reactions to the proceeding of the plot. Typically, that’s all you can really ask for in a quick read novel like this: fantasy, steampunk, pseudo-historical…these elements tend to combine to bring us 1 or 2 dimensional characters that would fall flat if brought away from their specific world and work.

Jaclyn Dolamore, however, skipped over that particular ‘norm’ and gleefully provided us with secondary and tertiary characters, twists, and exciting discoveries that all obviously believed her when she pretended the story was about them. These many facets come together to bring us a world that makes perfect sense and characters who, mostly, feel as though they might live down the street from their readers.

I’ve given this category a 4 out of 5 possible stars because a few of the characters, though well written, seems as though they were a) written in a rush and added in and/or b) were incredibly predictable.

Flow and Pace:

I have given the flow and pace of Magic Under Glass a rating of 4 out of 5 possible stars. While the majority of the book is, in my opinion, excellently maneuvered for both the flow of the story, and the pace of the plot, there are a few places in which I felt the pace slowed a bit too much and that the flow seemed to stutter and confuse itself.

For example, Nimira (our main female character) and Erris (our automaton) first meet in a scene that really slows the feel of the story for me. Conversely, the final two chapters stutter and feel rushed, in my opinion, so that the ending winds up with an information dump. However, I did enjoy the overall flow and pace of this book and think it will work wonderfully as a decently quick read for middle and high school students.

Reader Engagement:

This book did a wonderful job of capturing my attention. The first inkling of what was inside came when I spotted this book on the shelf at the Scholastic Book Fair on one of my substituting days…the phenomenal cover art, followed by the back blurb, lured me in. By the time I got around to cracking open the front cover I was already hooked.

I remained interested, engaged, and intrigued through the story. I am giving this category 4.5 out of 5 possible stars and have already placed the follow up novel, Magic Under Stone on my wishlist/TBR/somebody please buy it for me lists.

Reader Enrichment:

While I truly enjoyed the world and wonders of Magic Under Glass, I have only given this category a 3.5 out of the possible 5 stars. The fact is that, while I was excited for the addition of trouser girls and an automaton, this seems to be mainly a mixed-up Beauty and the Beast re-telling (My FAVORITE fairy tale, fyi). As a retelling or on its own, the story is beautiful. However, while my imagination sparked a bit in a few places, I walked away feeling as though I had spent a delightful afternoon reading a well done story…but didn’t take anything away from the experience with me. So, with a sad and slightly pouty face, I am giving this category a 3 out of possible 5 stars.

Reader Enjoyment:

I cannot begin to describe in enough detail how much I truly enjoyed this book. I adore fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast being my all-time favorite, and this book has several subtle takes from that beloved story. I have also been getting very interested in the steampunk movement lately, so this fairy tale magic automaton mixture was absolutely perfect for me to wade into those worlds with.

If it had not been for a couple (literally, TWO) places that made me think that I had perhaps skipped a line or fallen into a plot hole, this category would have jumped the half point for 4.5 to 5 stars. However, 4.5 out 5 possible stars just ain’t too shabby anyway!

Front Cover:

The front cover photograph, copy written in 2010 by the talented Ali Smith, was what originally drew me to the book. When I saw it sitting there on the book fair table I just needed to know more about that character.

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The only reason this category is being given a 4.5 out of 5, instead of a perfect score, is that I felt the text font should have been more consistent with both of the As being the same for the title, instead of the ‘A’ in Magic being specialized while the ‘A’ in glass was plain.

Back Copy:

I agree whole heartedly with the back copy assertion that fans of Libba Bray and Charlotte Bronte will probably enjoy reading this book. The author has created a wonderful world to sink into and discover.

However, I am giving the back copy a 3.5 out of 5 possible stars because, after reading the book, I realized that the summary is actually incorrect in three separate places. THREE PLACES! Now whether that was an intentionally misleading copy to make sure the readers were not expecting certain aspects of the story (and the things that led me astray from the back copy are actually not that important to the story) or just some odd oversight from the editors, publisher, and author, I still do not ever appreciate being maneuvered in that way.

The back copy is still intriguing, however, which is why I didn’t drop the score down even lower.

 

Overall Rating:

4.0 out of 5 possible Stars and Dragons.

This book is well written and worth a read, whatever age level you currently claim (or actually are)

I very much look forward to the next one!

Rump Review

Rump:

The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

Written by: Liesl Shurtliff

Printed by Scholastic Inc. 2014

Age Range: Middle Grades (8-13 years old)

 

Book Review by:

 Elizabeth S. Tyree

(www.alaynabellesmom.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/TyreeTomes

www.amazon.com/author/elizabethtyree )

 

In Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin the audience is introduced to Rump, a 12 year old boy living in a world where your name is your destiny…and he’s named after the rear end of a cow.

Rump is trying to find his destiny and, along the way, discovers family secrets, friendship, and the real power of names.

At the beginning of the story Rump is a small-for-his-age twelve year old that is the *ahem* butt of the town’s joke. Liesl Shurtliff has created a world in which nothing has a unique name, except for the people inhabiting it. Rump lives in The Village on The Mountain, wherein no animals have names and no town in THE KINGDOM has a real name, known only as Yonder, The King’s City, etc.

On the Mountain, villagers dig for gold to trade with the Kingdom for their rations. Pixies, who love gold, become excited around veins of gold, but haven’t been active lately…that is, until Rump turns 12 and they become agitated every time they’re anywhere around him.

Cue zany antics and the search for his true name! With the help of his only friend, Red, her grandmother, and his family, Rump searches for his real name, learns his special gift, and begins the journey that will lead him to becoming a well-known and sometimes villainized fairy tale character.

I give this book 5 out of 5 dragons for the awesome cover art. The whimsical depiction of a dark wood, a castle, pixies, and two young people on the cover caught my eye before the title did!

As for the story, I give it 4 out of 5 dragons. I enjoy a good twist on the classics probably more than a lot of people I know, but this had little to do with the old story I always enjoyed. In fact, I rather like the character of Rumpelstiltskin and this supremely likable character, whom the audience will identify and empathize with, threw me for a loop!

Over all, though, I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to reading other works by Liesl Shurtliff. (I’m getting ready to go get Jack now!)

 

 

Aside

Characters

Tomorrow is “National Reading Day” in the U.S.A., a day for pre-k thru 3rd graders to (hopefully) happily read and develop the literacy foundation they’ll need throughout school and life. (http://national-reading-day.org)

Thinking about the books I loved in elementary school made me realize something I had never really thought about before.

When you think about great classic books, especially children’s books, you remember the general setting, the tone, and of course, the main characters. Everyone remembers Peter Pan from Neverland had a friend named Tinkerbell. We all know that the Red Queen chased Alice through Wonderland. And who could forget that Aslan welcomed the Pevensie children into Narnia…well, eventually. However, does anyone remember the minor characters? Do you have a favorite?

I know that some of my absolute favorite characters are those who seem to slip in and out of the storyline, almost undetected but for a swift pun or stunning swordplay before they once again fade out of the limelight. For example, Nana and the mermaids of Neverland, a myriad of talking animals throughout children’s stories (Reepacheep, the Beavers, DorMouse, Mock Turtle, etc.), and perhaps even the Woodsman of fairy tale lore can be called a minor character who plays a major role.

Some characters have been given the dubious honor of being both a major and minor character in literature. For example, Mr. Tumnus the Fawn plays a great role in the beginning of the Lucy’s adventure into Narnia, but then fades out of the story for a while. The Mad Hatter comes and goes and, though he continues throughout the Wonderland narratives, he does not always have much of a role to play.

I must confess that the Mad Hatter is my favorite character from the Lewis Carroll’s works, and the subsequent television and film adaptations. Who is your favorite “minor character”?

May your imagination never cease to amaze, may your life follow your dreams, and may you have a Blessed Day!