Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lost Children of the Far Islands

Lost Children of the Far IslandsLost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My 10 year old son purchased this book on one of our visits to the bookstore. He had a few books to finish before he could begin it- so, I scooped it up. I had never heard of Emily Raabe but I am always cozy within a book about children who discover they have magical abilities.

Raabe introduces her readers to a fantastical world like none that has appeared in the more recent fantasy books for children. Her Selkie-Lore is beautifully spun with a modern twist, making her story both approachable and mysterious.

Taking place in the northernmost part of Maine, "Lost Children of the Far Islands" is a book of rocks, and sea, and folk tale. Twins, Gustavia and Leomaris, and their intentionally mute little sister, Ila, are the children of a Physical Oceanographer father and an Artist mother who only paints the sea.
They are a loving family who nurture and support one another. Which is why, when some unfathomable events begin to happen, the children do not understand why their parents become so secretive.

Their father is looking into the possible reasons why several fishing ships in the area have gone missing along with their crew. Their mother has suddenly become inexplicably ill and weak and withdrawn. As if this isn't frightening enough, strange and enormous paw prints are appearing outside their home.

In conversation with their parents, the children share that they have noticed a disturbingly increased aptitude for being underwater. This alarms their parents, who decide the children must go and stay with their grandfather for a while. There is a lot of whispering behind closed doors between their mother and father. The children are frustrated because they know they are being kept in the dark about something serious and unusual.

When an impossible visitor comes in the night and introduces himself to the children with the promise to be able to explain everything to them, they embark on a dangerous and magical adventure.

This is Raabe's first children's novel and it is well executed.

My only criticism is that I think fewer pages could have been used describing the mystery behind Ila's lack of speech. There were six pages about it but, when the "explanation" for her purposeful muteness is given, it lacks proper development. Other than that, this is an engaging, exciting, endearing story that will interest both boys and girls alike.

Recommended for ages 8+. 4 stars.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Howl's Moving Castle has been my first introduction to the writing of Diana Wynne Jones and I am thrilled to have fallen in love with such a prolific author. I plan to devour everything she has written.

This story of a transient magical castle which houses an unlikely group of wanderers is a must-read for anyone who claims to be a fan of fantasy. The tale includes magic spells, enchanted objects, jealous lovers, mistaken identities and flamboyant displays of emotion. It reads like a Shakespearean story that journeyed into into Narnia via the Tardis (and that is an extremely well-paid compliment!).

As for the characters: Howl (a Wizard) is a dashing, charming, narcissistic leading man who will steal your heart (maybe literally!) as he travels through dimensions wooing beautiful women. Sophie (a hatmaker??) is a talented, sassy, ever-evolving leading lady who is unwittingly sent upon a journey of self-discovery with Howl. Michael (a wizard's apprentice) is the "boy next door" whose cheeks you just want to pinch. And Calcifer (a fire demon)- oh what a layered, endearing, wonderful character he is!!!

This book has the intelligence of a Gregory Maguire novel, the approachability of Young Adult literature, and the spunk of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Also- it is the first of a trilogy which makes it even more worth reading!!!

Read this with my blessing as a fantasy-obsessed librarian! You will not be disappointed!

Five stars. Ages 10+.