Newbery winners won’t be announced until January, but booksellers and librarians are already atwitter discussing candidates for the award. Some titles are mentioned in practically every blog about Newbery hopefuls — Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate — but I’m always interested in reading some of the underdogs, so I picked up The False Prince by Katherine Nielsen. It’s on readers’ radar, but hasn’t been considered a top contender.
From the moment nobleman Conner plucks him from the orphanage to be part of a mysterious plan, street smart Sage is suspicious of his intentions, and his feelings are justified. Three more orphans are added to the group and eventually it is revealed that Conner plans to make one of them his “false prince.” Rumors have circulated that the royal family has been murdered and Conner is using this as a chance to bring back the kingdom’s long lost prince Jaron, who he will install as the new puppet ruler. The four orphans are to compete the role of prince, and they knows their lives depend on getting the part. Each has his own agenda, and lies and deceit are the only way to win the game.Each of the boys puts up a strong fight, but Sage has a special secret that may be more dangerous than anyone can imagine.
The False Prince is full of intrigue and adventure with surprising twists and turns in the plot. It takes place in an imaginary kingdom, but it has the characteristics of historical fiction, so it’s a nice blend of fantasy and realism. The great thing about the book is that it has elements that will appeal to a large number of readers, including what I think is one of the hardest audiences to write for, boys ages 10 and up.
I’m not sure if The False Prince has a strong chance of winning the Newbery, but if you’re in the mood for a page-turning adventure, it’s definitely worth a read! Look for Book 2 in the series, The Runaway King, in March of 2013.
The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer Nielsen, Scholastic Press, $17.99
If you like supernatural teen fiction, you will love Paranormalcy. Evie is a heroine with pizazz and spunk. As the only human who can see through any paranormal creature’s glamor, Evie’s job is to capture and neutralize dangerous paranormal creatures such as hags, vampires, and the occasional werewolf. While her job can be very exciting, living in an underground compound surrounded by adults and paranormal creatures can be pretty tedious. Things get interesting for Evie, though, when she develops a crush on an almost normal paranormal guy.
This is an engaging story with lots of fun characters and a heroine worth emulating. Evie is a strong girl who does not let other people tell her who she is. Kiersten White’s story is clean enough for pre-teens yet engaging enough for older teens. Parents who object to dark themes will be pleased with the tameness in this teen novel. Paranormalcy has an exciting plot, a fabulous heroine, and a great message of empowerment.
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White; HarperTeen; $16.99; Ages 12 and up
What would you do if you discovered a secret colony of fairies living in Earth’s core? Well, 12-year-old Artemis Fowl decides to exploit the fairies for their gold! A genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis kidnaps a fairy and demands a ransom of gold. Artemis’ plan seems airtight, but he doesn’t plan on his victim being a feisty, female LEPreacon officer named Holly Short. Will Artemis’ plan succeed? Will young Artemis grow a conscience and abandon his criminal plans? Artemis and Holly are joined by a whole host of fun and outrageous characters from Artemis’ bodyguard, Butler, to fairy police chief named Commander Root.
Eoin Colfer tells this magical tale with a wit and intelligence everyone will enjoy. The characters develop throughout the series, and each book contains thrilling adventures and witty comebacks that will have readers gasping and laughing out loud.
Artemis Fowl published by Miramax Books visit Eoin Colfer’s website: http://www.eoincolfer.com/ Ages 9-90
It’s a beautiful spring day, so why not pick up a few outdoor books and read them in the park today? A great choice is hot-off-the-press Sally’s Great Balloon Adventure.
Sally, a beloved family pet, gets mixed up in search of some delicious fried chicken and winds up in a hot air balloon! She travels across the city and sees the world from a great height. Told with few words and driven by unique, block-print-inspired illustrations, this story is sure to delight pet lovers and adventurers. You’ll have to read it to find out if Sally ever gets that chicken!
Sally’s Great Balloon Adventure by Stephen Huneck, hardcover, $16.95, Abrams Books for Young Readers, ages 3-6
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach (8-10)
Mystery, betrayal, secrets and masterpieces are all part of this exciting and clever story by Ms. Broach. Marvin the beetle creates a special miniature sketch of the streetscape for young James Pompaday using the ink and paper art set that James receives for his birthday. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that James created the work himself. This leads James and Martin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where James is asked to take part in a daring ruse; create a forgery of a famous art sketch to keep it from being stolen! When the real masterpiece is stolen, Martin and James both become involved in trying to foil the art thief.
A fun, involving, masterful story. I could not put this book down! Reading about Martin’s efforts to communicate with James and their near escape from the art thief just had me hooked. The sketches, themselves, add to the story. A great read for those who enjoyed Chasing Vermeer or The Shakespeare Stealer.
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Henry Holt & Co., 2008, $16.99
Higher, Higher by Leslie Patricelli, Ages 0-5
A little girl goes to spend a day at the park with her dad. What better way to pass the time than to play on the swings? As Daddy pushes her higher and higher, the little girl sees more and more exciting things. A giraffe! A plane! A spaceship! A new martian friend! When our heroine descends back to the ground and Daddy’s open arms, she has just one request–to do it all over again!
Leslie Patricelli’s text is basic and repetitive, presenting an exciting refrain of “Higher! Higher!” as the playground protagonist rises higher into the sky. The simple, vibrantly colored illustrations are delightfully playful and joyous. Young children are sure to be drawn into this wonderful adventure that climbs higher and higher into the realms of imagination! Explore the possibilities for adventure with this fantastic picture book!
Higher, Higher, Leslie Patricelli, pub. March 2009, Candlewick Press
Let your imagination soar with a good book!
Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale
You may think you know the story of Rapunzel and her long, beautiful hair, but you’ve never heard it quite like this. Rapunzel was living a pretty happy life with her mother, Gothel, until she finds out the truth: Mother Gothel isn’t her real mother, she’s an evil witch with the power to make plants grow, or die, at her fingertips. When Rapunzel finds out the truth, she is thrown into a magical tree tower that has been bewitched by Mother Gothel. Gothel’s growth magic is so strong that it makes Rapunzel’s hair and nails grow super fast. With nothing to do but think, Rapunzel spends the next four years locked in the tower reading, training, and plotting her revenge. Her hair gets so long that she can use it as a lasso, and one day she decided to break free.
Rapunzel has a plan: find and free her real mother and then make Gothel pay for everything she’s done. With the help of her new friend Jack, she tackles a wild boar, kidnapping gangsters, the terrifying Devourer, a pack of ferocious coyotes, and a giant water serpent. Armed with nothing but her long braids, Rapunzel finds courage, adventure, friendship, and love in a world tormented by Mother Gothel and her evil sorcery.
Rapunzels Revenge, Bloomsbury Publishing, $14.99; ages 12 and up
Are you tired of being picked on? Do you wish that you could be the strongest, prettiest, or most popular kid in school? Then you will love Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop Books. These books are full of humor, fantasy, and adventure, and they don’t have to be read in any particular order. For ages 8 and up!
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher Jeremy Thatcher knows a thing or two about raising animals. But after he leaves Mr. Elives’ magic shop with a strange marbled egg, it soon becomes clear that this is one pet he wasn’t prepared for! How is he supposed to keep a flame-breathing dragon with razor-sharp teeth and an out of control appetite in his bedroom? But if the playful baby dragon is ever to grow up to become a magnificent beast of myth and legend, it needs Jeremy. And though he doesn’t know it yet, Jeremy needs a dragon.
Jennifer Murdley’s Toad Jennifer Murdley had always wanted to be pretty. That’s why she’s so surprised to leave Mr. Elives’ magic shop with a particularly ugly toad. As her worst enemy says, “A toad for a toad.” But this toad can talk. And what it has to say sets Jennifer off on a journey that leads her into the company of the Immortal Vermin and straight to the Beauty Parlor of Doom…where she comes face-to-face with her deepest fears and dreams. Jennifer would give anything to be beautiful. But sometimes anything is too high a price to pay.
The Monster’s Ring If ever a kid needed to release his inner monster, it’s Russell Crannaker. He’s bullied at school and he’s bullied at home, and when he stumbles into Mr. Elives’ magic shop, he’s even bullied into buying something he didn’t know he needed. His purchase–a strange green ring– promises a monstrous magic that will make Russell bully-proof for the rest of his life. The directions for the ring are very simple: Twist it once, you’re horned and haired; Twist it twice and fangs are bared; Twist it Thrice? No one has Dared! Russell has been feeling daring lately…
Other Magic Shop Books: The Skull of Truth ; Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. Harcourt Brace/Houghton Mifflin Books
The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles: Book I) by Marie Rutkoski
From the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to read this book. I loved the Harry Potter series and this is a great book to read for those who love fantasy and adventure. The main character is twelve year old Petra Kronos. Petra’s dad, Michael, has the magical gift of being able to move metal with his mind. They own a shop called “The Sign of the Compass” where he sells metal trinkets and pets. Petra’s life is happy and simple until Michael is commissioned by the Prince of Bohemia to make the world’s finest astronomical clock. When the clock is completed, the Prince has Michael’s eyes magically removed and sends him back home. Petra is determined to get her father’s eyes back, and against her father’s wishes, she goes to the Prince’s castle in Prague to do just that. She makes friends that help her on her journey, like a boy whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets. On this voyage, Petra learns a lot about herself and just people in general. She’s a smart girl, but very naive at the same time, which doesn’t mix too well with her tendency to make impulsive decisions. This is a book for ages 10+ and is a great read-aloud as well.
Kronos Chronicles Book 1, Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkoski, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.95
Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan
I have to admit, I resisted reading this book because of the cover, which has a rather sinister looking hooded figure on it. I don’t like scary books, but as it turns out, this isn’t a scary book. You’d think that after all these years I’d have learned not to judge a book by its cover!
This the first book in a series about a young boy name Will who is the 15 year-old ward of Baron Arald. There is a Choosing Day for wards after they turn 15, when they are either apprenticed to a Craftsperson or sent to work the farms. Will wants to be chosen for Battleschool, but is passed over as too small. Instead, he’s chosen to be a Ranger’s apprentice, a decision that first confuses and disappoints him.
There is evil lurking in the kingdom, and Will and his master Halt will have a pivotal role to play in the battle to defeat Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, and his platoon of half-human Wargals. The story follows Will as he learns his craft and begins to gain confidence and take pride in his accomplishments.
This is a great book for adventure-lovers 10 and up. I enjoyed it, but felt that the female characters got short shrift. Hopefully, they’ll be better developed in future volumes of the series. There are five Ranger’s Apprentice books out in paperback right now.
Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan, Puffin Books, $7.99