The Hazel Wood

Albert, M. (2011). The Hazel Wood. NY: Flatiron Books.

The Hazel Wood is an interesting tale about a seventeen year old girl named Alice and her mother. They’ve never lived in one place for too long because when they do, strange and unusual things start happen. So Alice and her mother and accepted their constantly moving life and live it. But when Alice’s grandmother dies at her house in the middle of her woods everything Alice thought she could depend on in her fragile life collapses. Her mother is kidnapped by something from the Hinterland, the world in which the fairy tale like stories that her grandmother wrote take place. Alice’s grandmother’s book, has a cult following that believes that the stories are real and the characters are real as well. Alice must now depend on someone who has read her grandmother’s book, in order to evade the beings chasing her, and in order to save her mother.

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Fablehaven

Mull, B. (2006). Fablehaven. NY: Shadow Mountain.

Fablehaven is an enchanting story that entertains you through the whole ride. The story starts when Kendra, 13 years old, and Seth, 11 years old, visit their grandparents at their isolated home. What seems to be, at first, a boring vacation stuck in a house all summer, turns into a wild adventure after Seth and Kendra discover the dark secret that their grandparents are hiding. After solving a series of clues left by their grandfather and a few near misses exploring the woods, Kendra and Seth discover the world that has been hiding right in front of their eyes this whole time. They find a pan of milk outside, hidden behind a bush, and taking a leap of faith, drink from it. When they open their eyes they see what was hidden before: Continue reading

The School for Good and Evil

Chainani S. (2013). The School for Good and Evil. NY: HarperCollins.

What if all the fairy tale villains and heroes that we all love and hate come from one place? And what if that place was a school where the heroes and villains trained 16248113to be good or bad and where they learned chivalry and hexes. What if that place was called The School for Good and Evil? Sophie and Agatha are best friends. Sophie is the ‘princess,’ pretty, kind, energetic, and beautiful. Agatha is the hag, the witch’s daughter, ugly, and sour. They live in a village where every year two children are kidnapped. One is a good person that everybody loves and the other is the ugly, unlikeable person that nobody likes. And every year the village receives new fairy tale picture books that sometimes have characters inside that look uncannily similar to children kidnapped years ago. So when it’s Sophie’s and Agatha’s year to potentially be kidnapped, Sophie is sure that she’ll be put into the School for Good and Agatha will be put into the School for Evil. Sure enough, one dark night Sophie and Agatha get kidnapped. But somethings strange happens, Continue reading

The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi

Turtschanioff, M. (2017). The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi. London: Pushkin Press.

This smart fantasy brings us to an island, a safe haven from harm, where women live together.  The book opens with seventeen year old Maresi writing about the events that 28818217happened while she was thirteen. Back then, she was carrying out a content existence as a novice at the Abbey working under Mother. Beginning with a lot of description, the first book in The Red Abbey Chronicles does a good job of world-building, notably incorporating vivid descriptions of seasonal foods. I love books with maps in the front, and this one is especially helpful to gain a sense of their world: the silo-shaped Moon House, the centralized Temple of the Rose, the stone Novice House, etc.

However, the pace of the book picks up and
we are swept into a suspenseful whirlwind after Jai arrives torn and tattered, fleeing from danger. Maresi and Continue reading

The Lie Tree

Hardinge , F. (2015). The Lie Tree. New York: Amulet Books.

Costa Book Award for Children’s Book (2015)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2016)
Andre Norton Award Nominee Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy (2016)
Carnegie Medal Nominee (2016)
Costa Book of the Year (2015)
YA Book Prize Nominee (2016)

Faith Sunderly’s family flees Kent, England for a small and unknown island in order to avoid social gossip surrounding her father’s work, thus providing a dreary backdrop. Historical fiction from the Victorian 26118377Era, The Lie Tree takes the adventure story and flips it on its head with a feminist twist. Gender stereotypes are annoyingly prevalent, yet Faith is a strong, intelligent character (“When every door is closed, one learns to climb through windows.”), reminding me much of the young, budding scientist, Calpurnia in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly. Except The Lie Tree is a fantastical fairy tale. Let me explain.

Faith’s father is a natural scientist and is found murdered on the island shortly after the family moves. Investigations lead Faith to discover Continue reading

Into the Forest

414098 Browne, A. (2004). Into the Forest. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. Author illustrator Anthony Browne has amassed an impressive collection of award-winning picture books. Known for his postmodernist approach, Into the Forest is no exception.  A boy is awoken in the middle of the night by a storm, establishing a sense of foreboding. The diagonal lines in the shadows immediately put us on edge, and we turn the page to discover the father is Continue reading