The Magical Animal Adoption Agency: Clover’s Luck by Kallie George

clover's luck“Going into the Woods to chase her bird was one thing.  Going to apply for a volunteer position was quite another.  Who would run an animal adoption agency in the Woods?  Weren’t beasties supposed to be the only creatures that lived here?”

Clover was supposed to be a lucky girl.  After all, isn’t her name the luckiest of names?  But all the charms and finger-crossing in the world can’t change things:  she’s actually terribly unlucky.  When her canary escapes, it’s just her luck that she flies into the forest, a forest that Clover has already heard is full of beasties.  But still, Penny was her bird, and Clover has to take care of her!  So she ventures into the woods after her flyaway pet, and discovers a place full of the most fantastic pets she has never heard of before.

When she sees a posted flyer seeking volunteers at the Magical Animal Adoption Agency, Clover knows it’s the place for her.  She begins volunteering, and is soon feeding squashed flies to magical toads and trying to avoid being toasted by a baby dragon, who’s still learning to control his fiery breath.  When the owner of the agency is unexpectedly called away, Clover is left in charge of the magical animals.  There’s a lot to do! Not only do all the creatures need food and care, but she also has to make sure the people coming in to adopt her precious animals are good families who will treat the animals well.  When a sneaky witch almost spoils everything, Clover has to save the day-and she learns that she’s not as unlucky as she thought.

Fairy ponies! Baby dragons! Enchanted mood toads! It was enough to get me to review this book, even though it’s for an audience a bit younger than I typically review for.  This one’s for the under third-grade crowd, or those kids who can’t get enough glitter fairies.

If you like this one, why not try:

The Imaginary Veterinary #1: The Sasquatch Escape

Sarah’s Unicorn

The Candy Fairies Series

The Enchanted Files #1: Diary of a Mad Brownie

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Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson


Photographs locomotion

There’s two of me and Lili.

We were little them, dressed up at Easter time

Big smiles-me with two front teeth missing

and my head shaved Easter clean.

Here’s Mama and Daddy dancing,

Mama’s blurry foot lifted up in the air.

Look how she’s laughing.

When I look at the picture I can hear it.

Here’s the four of us

Everybody smiling at the camera but

me. I’m looking away from it

frowning

Like I see something coming

that ain’t good.”

Lonnie’s parents died when he was seven, and now he and his sister live in different foster homes. He gets to see his sister, though, and his foster mom turns out to be a really nice lady, even if he was afraid of her at first.  Still, he longs for his life back before the fire that killed his mom and dad.  However, he’s learning a new way to cope.  Now Lonnie is eleven, and he’s learning about poetry in school.  His teacher says it helps people sort out their feelings.  He writes so many poems, the good kind of poems-those natural, thoughtful poems that feel like breathing-that it fills up a book.  Lonnie’s story.  You’ll love it even if you don’t love poetry, I promise.

Teachers will love the book’s natural fit for teaching forms of the poem: students will be introduced to the sonnet, haiku, and free verse as Lonnie learns them.  Students will love the book because it is a concise 100 pages, and of verse, at that: it’s an easy triumph for young readers who are exhausted by marathon reads. I love it because the poems are just right: accessible, full of concentrated emotion, and well-written.  I also love it because of Lonnie’s capacity for rejoicing in a world that hurt him badly.  If you’ve got a bit of time, I invite you to see what the world of an eleven-year-old poet in foster care looks like.

Happy reading!

Author’s website

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Speak, 2003. 100 pp. Ages 11-14.

If you liked this book, you’re in luck! There’s another, called Peace, Locomotion, and it looks great.  Actually, here is Jacqueline Woodson’s whole long list of books, just in case you’d like to see what other things she’s been up to.  If you are really into the poetry novels, try Make Lemonade.  I just reviewed the second one in the trilogy!

 

True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff

True Believer“Well, my plan from before

looks so scrimpy now.

It looked so big when I was a littler girl.

It was I was going to go to college

and get a job, get out of here

and not live with garbage and stink on my street

and nasty criminals in the neighborhood,

shooting.”

LaVaughn is fifteen years old and lives with her mother in a dangerous, dilapidated apartment complex.  Sometimes gunshots wake them in the night, and shootings happen at her school, too.  LaVaughn’s got a plan, though: she knows the only way to a safer, happier life is her education.  However, her plan is really the only non-confusing thing in her life.  Her  best friends have changed, putting all their belief into a life that LaVaughn doesn’t want for herself. Her mother is dating a new man, all these years after her father died.  Also,  LaVaughn’s handsome neighbor Jody is back again, and she needs to sort out just how she feels about it all.

This novel is written in free verse, and you won’t believe it’s written by a grown-up.  Virginia Euwer Wolff portrays the uncertainty and anxiety of being a teenager with stream-of-consciousness poetry, which reads just like you are listening to LaVaughn’s thoughts.  Even though this is the second novel of a trilogy, the story is complete on its own and you won’t have any trouble following what is going on.  Now, there are several special things about this book.  First, I am often suspicious of stories like this, about inner-city teenagers trying to succeed against seemingly-insurmountable odds.  I find that stories like this often seem to gloss over the obstacles in place, and suggest that anything can be achieved through sheer willpower.  That seems unrealistic to me, and also didactic, as though it is telling us the magical formula for success, and implying that everyone who doesn’t succeed has simply not tried hard enough.  But LaVaughn’s story isn’t like this at all; it doesn’t talk down to you or minimize the oppressive situation.  Furthermore, Wolff’s portrayal of LaVaughn’s friends is compassionate, no matter what their situation.  Also great:  Jody.  I can’t spoil anything, but Jody’s situation and the way it is treated is really outstanding, and definitely National Book Award-worthy. You’ll love this one!

Happy Reading!

Wolff, Virginia Euwer. True Believer. Simon Pulse: New York, 2001.264 pp. Ages 14-18.

Author’s website: http://www.virginiaeuwerwolff.com

This book is the second in the Make Lemonade trilogy, though it is perfectly okay to read it on its own.  If you want to read the first one, it’s called Make LemonadeThe third one is This Full House.  If you’d like to read other stories about young people struggling to finish school against the odds, you will probably like Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok.  Home of the Brave is another verse novel, and is about a young refugee going to school in Minnesota, so while the plot is slightly different, the format is similar.

The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey

 

“‘Observe the frontal lobe, Will Henry.  The sulci-these deep crevices you see covering the rest of the brain-have all disappeared.  The thinking part of his brain is as smooth as a billiard ball.’

I asked him what that meant.

‘…We may assume it is a manifestation of the toxin.  This aligns perfectly with the literature, which claims the victim, in the final stages, becomes little more than a beast, incapable of reason but fully capable of a murderous, cannibalistic rage.  Certain indigenous tribes of the Lakshadweep Islands report whole villages wiped out by a single exposure to the pwdre ser, until the last man standing literally eats himself to death.'”

Dr. Pellinore Warthrop is a monstrumologist, a scientist specializing in horrors, a monster-hunter.  He and his apprentice, Will, are current on the trail of the “Holy Grail of Monstrumology”-a beast whose very saliva causes those infected to lose their faculties for reasoning, and become filled with the desire to destroy and eat each other.  The search brings them to the locus of the infection, a remote island where packs of the sick roam, preying on each other.  Together, the pair faces a nightmare beyond anything they’ve experienced.

I am the kind of person who keeps her eyes clamped shut during bloody scenes in movies, and I’ve only read one Stephen King book.  Horror just isn’t really my thing.  That said, I am powerless in the gravitational pull of The Monstrumologist series.  This is the third installment, and it didn’t disappoint.  Rick Yancey crafts a gory, chilling literary world full of original monsters, literary references, and characters so real that you’d know them instantly if you saw them in the street.  The books are narrated by the young Will Henry, the son of Dr. Warthrop’s previous assistant.  Will was orphaned and the doctor took him in and began initiating him into the world of furtive autopsies, international travel in search of things that undoubtedly want to kill them, and scientific research on the stuff comprising nightmares.  It’s not a life for a child, but Dr. Warthrop is all Will has in the world. Where else would he go?

The brilliant part of the series is the setting: the stories take place during the later half of the nineteenth century, during the Industrial Revolution. This is the time of scientific societies, Darwin, and empiricism (only believing in what you can measure with numbers), concepts that form the backbone of Dr. Warthrop’s belief system.  Reason is his deity, and the scientific method is his salvation.  Will and Dr. Warthrop live in a gritty New England, with frequent trips to the dirty, rough London that appears in Sherlock Holmes stories.  Actually, Dr. Warthrop is a contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the poet Rimbaud. (They both make appearances in this story!)  The books are saturated with the scientific beliefs of the time; the interweaving of philosophy and moral issues adds another level of appeal.  In short, these are gruesome horror stories told by a master who carefully frames his gore in a meticulously accurate historical setting. Horror fans will want to stay up all night, and the writing is compelling enough to snare poor non-horror lovers like myself, too.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so: the first book in the series is a Printz award winner.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.rickyancey.com

Yancey, Rick. The Isle of Blood. Simon & Shuster: New York, 2011. 558 pp.  Ages 16 and up (a brave and unsqueamish 16).

If this sounds like a good book, you should try the others in the seriesThe Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo.