Spring break just ended so there was time for a few books.
I just finished reading The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. I wanted to like it. I sort of liked it, which is to say I liked the premise of the series. It’s a twisted fairy tale and two ordinary tweens fall through a storybook into the fairy tale kingdoms of the stories they love. But I found myself aware of the writing. I’ve heard from middle grade students who enjoyed it. I can see why; there are some engaging plot twists. I probably won’t go looking for the sequels though.
Before that I read Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban about Japanese internment during World War II. I very much enjoyed this story of Menami, a young girl struck speechless by the traumatic move from her peaceful island home to the desert camp. This book handles the internment more gently than Farewell to Manzanar. Overall, Menami’s family adjusts better to life in the camp than in the classic. Based on the description of waves of Japanese Americans arriving at the camp, I surmise the adjustment may have been easier for those who arrived earlier and were able to find jobs in camp, giving their days structure and a sense of normalcy. The book hints at issues that an astute young reader might pursue further. I will definitely add it to our historical fiction collection.
My favorite book of vacation was The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski. Fantasy and historical fiction are my favorite genres and this, although it leaned more heavily to fantasy, blended both. In this alternate universe in the Europe of the World Wars era, there are some people with magical talents. One such craftsman is a metal worker who makes mechanical creatures who come to life, and an extraordinary clock with a dangerous power. After he is returned home without his eyes, his daughter vows to recover them from the prince who stole them. Against all odds she finds friends and allies on her mission which expands from merely retrieving her father’s eyes to ensuring a dangerous weapon will never work. Petra has great spunk and her pet mechanical spider is endearing.
And finally there was The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill. This story had satisfying complexity, weaving various subplots together toward a final showdown. It reminded me in part of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” or The Hunger Games in that a sad, foggy town is kept in check by an annual sacrifice. But those similarities end at the forest’s edge. Inside the treacherous forest…are starlight, moonlight, and the magic they provide. Luna’s footsteps literally fill with flowers as her magic and joy bubble over. Barnhill weaves a story that crosses locations and generations. Character motivations are sometimes complicated. Sometimes we do something bad for a good reason. This is one you’ll be able to read and reread. I suspect there’s more hiding beneath the surface.