Monday, January 17, 2022
Friday, January 14, 2022
I would love to live in a world where dragons and humans could live side by side, working together. Imagine if you could hire a dragon to help you find out information about your family, or find your dog if it gets lost. In the town of Two Castles there is a dragon that provides these, and many other, services. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could work for a dragon as an investigator? I think it would, and today I bring you the story of a girl who becomes apprenticed to just such a dragon.
Illustrated by Greg Call
For ages 9 to 12
Harper Collins, 2011, 978-0061229657
The time has come for Elodie to leave her home and her family, to journey to the town of Two Castles so that she can be apprenticed to a weaver. Elodie's parents want her to take this position, but Elodie has no intention of becoming a weaver. Instead, she wants to become a mansioner (an actor) and she feels that she has a good chance of finding a place once she gets to Two Castles.
With an aching heart, Elodie boards a cog (boat) and a new chapter in her life begins. She is not on the cog long before she finds out that the business people in Two Castles are no longer accepting apprentices who cannot pay them a fee for taking them on. Poor Elodie only has enough money to pay for a few meals. She wonders if she might persuade one of the masters or mistresses to take her on for fifteen years. Surely, they will jump at the chance to have “free labor” for such a long period of time.
Soon after arriving in Two Castles, Elodie is robbed by a cat, she sees a count who is an ogre, and meets a dragon called Meenore. Elodie tries to get an apprenticeship with one of the mansioner companies, but is told that the only way she can get an apprenticeship is if she pays the master mansioner money, which she does not have. To her surprise, Meenore invites Elodie to become ITs (dragons keep their gender a secret) apprentice. Her job will be to proclaim the dragon’s “powers of deduction, induction, and common sense,” to help Meenore to prepare the skewers of bread and cheese that IT sells in the market and to help IT with IT’s “many responsibilities.” In return, the dragon will give Elodie food, lodging, and a small salary.
Elodie helps her new master in ITs daily doings, and then Count Jonty Um comes to Meenore and asks IT to find his lost dog. Elodie goes to live in the count’s castle, posing as a servant as she tries to find the missing dog. Meenore warns Elodie that the count is not well like by the people of Two Castles, and that many of them wish him ill. She must keep her eye on him as well as look for the dog. When she accepts the charge, Elodie never imagines that she will soon witness an attempted murder, and that she herself will be in mortal danger.
Gail Carson Levine truly has an extraordinary gift. She is able to create a world that is entirely credible, characters that are so alive that we feel that we know them, and stories that are captivating and addictive. Readers who have a fondness for mysteries and adventures will thoroughly enjoy this delightful tale.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Monday, January 10, 2022
For ages 7 and up
Holiday House, 2020, 978-0823447251
Once day a shepherd comes back from his work tending his sheep in a real state. It would appear that there is a dragon living in a cave on the Downs, and everyone knows that dragons and sheep just don’t mix. Luckily for everyone, the shepherd’s son is a scholarly young fellow and he announces that he - knowing more about dragons than everyone else - will take care of the scaly problem.
The boy and the dragon soon strike up a pleasant acquaintance and the boy soon learns that the dragon is a "lazy beast" who is not in the slightest bit interested in fighting knights or eating maidens. He is quite happy to rest quietly, write sonnets, and mind his own business. The problem is that the dragon simply cannot seem to grasp the idea that people have a terrible preconceived notions about dragons. What on earth is the boy to do with this reluctant dragon who won’t fight to protect himself when Saint George, of dragon slaying fame, comes to town?
Using the rich language that he is famous for, Kenneth Grahame takes us back to time when dragons were a part of everyday living and when little boys could indeed have wonderful adventures. The characters, many of whom have a touch of the South Downs accent in their 'voices,' are charming, funny, and often surprising. Ernest H. Shepard, whose drawings of Pooh are beloved by so many, has superbly captured the essence of the story in his artwork. Sophie Blackall, whose own books have won numerous awards, has written a foreword for this special anniversary edition.
All in all this is a book to treasure for years to come, and it would make an excellent addition to a collection of classic children’s literature.
Friday, January 7, 2022
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Times of hardship with a review of Ida B... and her plans to Maximize fun, avoid disaster and (Possibly) save the world
Ida B... and her plans to Maximize fun, avoid disaster and (Possibly) save the world Katherine Hannigan
For ages 9 and up
HarperCollins, 2011, 978-0060730260
Ida B is an extremely happy nine-year-old. Her parents have the good sense not to send her to a school which she hates. Instead, she is homeschooled and she loves it. She loves living on the farm with her Mama and her Daddy, and she loves her conversations with the apple trees in the orchard, and her talks with the burbling stream. She loves the games that she plays with herself, and the walks that she takes with Daddy in the evenings. Everything is "righter than right."
Then one day the apple trees warn her that hard times are coming. Ida does not want to believe them. What could possibly go wrong with her perfect life? What happens is that Mama gets cancer and everything changes. First of all Mama is sick all the time and so she cannot give Ida B the attention she is used to having. Then Daddy has to sell some of their land to pay for Mama's medical bills. Ida B is appalled. How can Daddy sell some of their beloved orchard and let strangers cut down some of her trees? Then, to top it off, Daddy tells her that she has to go to school, neither he nor Mama are in a position to homeschool her. Ida B feels completely betrayed and she decides there and then that she is never going to allow herself to trust or to love anyone again.
Monday, January 3, 2022
Dear Bookish Friends,
Happy New Year! Another uncertain year lies ahead of us, but one thing that we can be certain of is that there is a wealth of good books out there for ourselves and for the children in our lives. Thank goodness for that!
First of all, as it is the beginning of the month, I would like to direct you to the January Bookish Calendar. Here you will find a calendar on which are noted the birthdays of famous people. Many of these notations have links to books about the people in question. Special days, such as Appreciate a Dragon Day (January 16th), are also on the calendar. As I have a deep fondness for dragons, I shall be sharing several dragon books with you this month.
You will see on this calendar that January the 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday. There is a link on the calendar to reviews of books about the author. Thank you, dear man, for your stories, the worlds that you created, and your marvelous characters. In honor of his birthday I bring you a review of The Hobbit on this Classic Book Monday.
What many of you might not know is that Tolkien was an accomplished artist. The image at the top of this page is one of the pieces that he created for The Hobbit. There is a marvelous book, The art of the Hobbit that was published in 2012 in which his art for this book is showcased. I shall be buying a copy of this book for myself today!
For ages 10 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 978-0547928227
Bilbo Baggins is very happy with his quiet life in his comfortable hobbit hole under the hill. Meals areoften, abundant, and predictable, and everything is as it should be. He is therefore very discombobulated when Gandalf the wizard appears on his doorstep one day, and he tries to get rid of the disturbing old man as quickly as possible. He is even more horrified when thirteen dwarves and Gandalf arrive for tea the very next day. It would appear that they want Bilbo to join them on an adventure. The dwarves want to get back the treasure that Smaug the dragon stole from them, and they want to hire Bilbo to help them; he will be their "burglar." Bilbo very much wants to refuse this offer, and yet for some confusing reason this fails to happen. Before he quite knows what is happening, Bilbo is riding on a pony, heading off on an adventure which may very well be his undoing.
As it happens, the dwarves are very lucky that they took Bilbo with them for he saves their lives several times over. Not only is he quick thinking and brave, but he also finds a ring of invisibility, which makes it possible for him to do all kinds of remarkable things.
In the end, quiet little Mr. Baggins does indeed fulfill his role as the expedition's burglar. In the process he becomes very fond of a side of himself that he otherwise would never have discovered; he learns that he is able to out-riddle an evil little cave-dwelling monster; he can fight huge spiders; he figures out how to rescue his friends from captivity; and he even talks to a huge dragon. It would appear that Bilbo is more than just an unassuming little hobbit who likes to have his meals on time. That other side of his character helps him rise to challenges that would fell many, and he thus earns the respect and admiration of elves, dwarves, and men alike.
This is a tale that has truly stood the test of time, and it has delighted readers of all ages since its publication in 1937. Tolkien is without a doubt one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time.