Oliver and the Sea Monkeys

Dear Reader,

A bit of wacky humour. Brief loneliness. Lasting friendship, courage, and adventure. An easy-to-read novel that you will finish in no time at all. Only 193 pages, many of them filled with funny illustrations. Read this book when you want a rest from serious novels. Have fun!

Reeve, Philip and Sarah McIntyre. Oliver and the Sea Monkeys. New York : Yearling, 2016, c2013.

Then, when you are ready for a much longer science fiction novel, read Fever Crumb. It’s the first in a challenging series by author Philip Reeve. 

Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
Fourteen-year-old Fever has been trained as an engineer in a futuristic culture which believes women are not capable of rational thought.  When she leaves her home in London, she makes surprising discoveries and faces unexpected dangers.  For 12 – 16 year-olds. [England; Foundlings; Identity; Science fiction; Technology]

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

More humorous stories

More science fiction novels 

The Player King

Dear Reader,

You have already enjoyed many stories about characters who set out to search for something. Perhaps you have also read or watched movie versions of these famous quests:  Homer’s Odyssey, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.  Many folktales and fantasy novels focus on a hero’s journey to find someone or something.

Here is another story that tells of a quest. But this one is not a fantasy novel. This novel is based on something that actually happened long ago in England.

Avi. The Player King. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017.

During the 1400s, two families fought to gain control of the English throne. In 1485, Henry proclaimed himself king and defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field. But Richard’s supporters did not want to give up the power they’d enjoyed. So they found a boy, Lambert Simnel, and convinced him to pretend that he was the true heir to the crown. All so they could keep their wealth and prestige. This really happened. This novel is a spell-binding tale that tells how a young penniless orphan might have been convinced that he was someone important, someone who was worthy of becoming the king. 

By the way, even though the topic is quite serious, this 195-page book isn’t difficult to read. The margins are generous. The lines of print are widely spaced. Many sentences and paragraphs are very short. There is also lots of conversation. You will undoubtedly race through this novel to find out what happens!

Ms. R.

P.S. Any story by Avi is well written. Later you might like to read Crispin, another story from the Middle Ages about a boy on a quest to discover his true worth.

More historical novels

The great achievement…

Almond, David. Harry Miller’s Run. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick, 2017, c2008.
Eleven-year-old Liam wants to get outside and start training for the big race coming up. But his mother wants him to help an elderly neighbour move into a nursing home. What starts out as a frustrating day turns into an amazing adventure as Liam listens to Harry tell about the great race he ran from Newcastle to South Shields when he was a young lad himself.
This joyous novella – by a multiple award winning author – reads like a true story. I kept checking the flyleaf to find out more about the background. There was nothing.  But this heart-warming story by a masterful writer will live in readers’ memories as if it really happened to someone we ourselves must have met somewhere. Whimsical illustrations by Salvatore Rubbino – creator of picture books about London and Paris – add to the charm of this unpaged book highly recommended for readers 9 years old and up.  

A serious David Almond novel about refugees

A humorous David Almond novel about a runaway

Stories of summer

P.S. Always check out the books published by Candlewick. They’re reliably beautiful. 

Seeing goodness…

A multiple award-winner and New York Times bestseller!

Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. The War I Finally Won. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers 2017.
Do you need courage to have hope? Can you know something but not believe it? How do you learn to overcome fear? The story of Ada and Jamie, evacuated from London in The War That Saved My Life, continues in this 385-page novel recommended for readers 12 years old and up.
The story begins with surgery to repair Ada’s clubfoot. But surgery can’t repair the sense of rejection she still feels from years of abuse. And surgery can’t teach her how to trust anyone except herself. It is steadfast love from her new guardian and her own determination to learn that transforms Ada from a fearful 11-year-old to a confident 14-year-old ready to embrace the goodness of life.

More stories set in World War 2

More books about abuse

Stories about foster children

P.S. Part of the brilliance of this novel is its quiet complexity. While told from the limited point of view of Ada, the reader sees that we all have limited points of view. And sometimes our lack of knowledge limits our ability to see clearly. Lady Thorton is stand-offish due to limitations imposed by her childhood. People in the village mistrust Ruth – a Jewish refugee – due to ignorance of events in Germany. Susan assumes she will be rejected by a friend’s family, and Maggie thinks her mother doesn’t care about her. Over and over again, we see that life may have been terrible in the past but it can still be good in the future. And we are all lovable.