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

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Lockhart, E. (2008). The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. New York: Hyperion Book CH.

National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2008)
Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2009)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E.Lockhart, showcases Frankie, our highly intelligent heroine, who arrives as the new kid at private school her father used to attend, where he participated in a super secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. The 22745205esteemed society intrigues Frankie to no end and she suspects her new boyfriend, Matthew Livingston, of not only belonging but also being president.  Frankie has quickly raised her social status by dating Matthew, who is wildly popular and good looking, but their relationship is nowhere near perfect. Matthew is arrogant, secretive and he transparently puts his friends’ needs above Frankie’s.

Frankie longs to make her mark, and becomes quietly outraged that girls have historically been excluded from the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. She’s disappointed that the boys seem only interested in partying and their reputations, and she determinedly sets off to figure out the club’s oldest, forgotten secret. Frankie’s sleuthing around at night and single handedly pulling off extreme, brilliant pranks around campus are the really fun parts of the book. However, the true strength of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is the straightforward and interesting manner E. Lockart presents issues of power, gender, and risk taking.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

img_7297Fox, J. (2016). The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. New York: Viking.

When I was reading this book I couldn’t keep my eyes off it, to the point where I was so immersed, everything else was ignored. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is an enchanting mystery of a young girl and her siblings when they were sent off to an eerie Scottish boarding school during World War II in order to avoid the London Blitz. Soon they hear stories that the castle is haunted, and while the main character, Kat, begins to realize something very strange is happening in Rookskill Castle – ghosts, mechanical screeches, Continue reading

The Leaving

Altebrando, T. (2016). The Leaving. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.26073074

Out of the blue six kindergarteners disappear one day, and if that isn’t enough of a mystery, five of them magically reappear eleven years later. At sixteen years old, they return to their homes and are expected to adjust to a normal life, yet they can not even remember where they’ve been, what’s happened to them, or why their friend, Max, is not with them anymore.

The story is told from varying points of view and does become discombobulating. The forced romance doesn’t help to clear anything up either, but The Leaving remains addictive until Continue reading

A Time of Miracles

Bondoux, A. (2010). A Time of Miracles. New York: Delacorte Books for Young Readers.7932010

Koumaïl’s story begins with the Terrible Accident. Gloria is picking peaches in the Republic of Georgia when she hears a screeching noise, looks up to see an explosion, and runs to discover a trainwreck. She unearths a French woman who is about to die, holding a baby to her chest, begging Gloria to care for him. That baby is Blaise Fortune, and Gloria takes him and calls him Koumaïl.  Koumaïl loves Gloria, who is a giving, no-nonsense, strong woman. He often asks her to tell his story, and she does – “always in the right order” as she says. It’s actually these stories which end up helping him survive and which demonstrate that hope is fundamental.

They are desperately poor and life gets much more difficult and complex five years later when the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides she and Koumaïl, or Monsieur Blaise as she sometimes affectionately refers to him, must flee as refugees from the civil unrest, determinedly making their way westward toward France. This begins a five year journey on foot across the Caucasus (between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea) and Europe where they meet many unforgettable people and have many dangerous experiences. But there is a secret about Blaise’s past. The story he slowly learns about the truth of his family is entangled in the violence during the civil unrest, and revolves around Gloria’s love. She has been a good mother to him all these years, sacrificing and finding extraordinary means to give him the best she can. Continue reading