Lewis Barnavelt features in almost a dozen of John Bellairs mystery books and he is, without a doubt, my favorite thing about The House With a Clock in Its Walls. Orphaned at age 10, Lewis must relocate to New Zebedee to live with his Uncle Jonathan. This popular trick of orphaning the main character gives Lewis the usual freedom of an unsupervised child. And, while Lewis does make the mistakes any ten year old would without the guidance of an adult, it is how he copes that opened my heart to him.
Lewis is a big kid. Not in height but in girth. The story, set in 1948, has little to do with that but because of his shape Lewis is ridiculed and mocked. And, of course, the one friend he does make manages to get him into supernatural trouble. Still, Lewis does not become mean or spiteful. Instead, he takes comfort in good books and hot cocoa. And he recognizes when the one friend he has is not worthy of his time. Ah… to be so wise at ten.
Perhaps this is I loved this book. It wasn’t scary or even spooky. Instead it was more like any other well written children’s book – a story about one thing with an important life lesson deftly nestled inside of it. Because of this I would absolutely recommend this to an all-ages audience. And, it has enough magic and ghosts to be a light Frighteningly Good Read.
I am headed to see the film tomorrow and I can predict with a near certainty that I will love Jack Black as Uncle Jonathan. But I am already disappointed that Lewis is a slender and standard looking child actor. I would have loved to see Hollywood tackle this angle.
One of my 2018 challenges was to not purchase any books until I had read my already owned whole shelf of books. I did really well in January and February and then fell off the wagon….hard. I wrote down my newly purchased books for some of March but then I just couldn’t even keep track. Now I am not even trying. Recently, I went into Barnes and Noble to wander around (the lie all book lovers tell themselves upon entering a book store). I stumbled across an a few must-purchase books and I could not resist the sweet premise of Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass.
Five years ago Olivia (Livy to her friends) visited her Gran in Australia. Now that she is back she can’t help but feel that she is forgetting something. Something really, really important. Maybe it is the little green man dressed in a handmade chicken suit hiding in her closet. His name is Bob and he has been waiting for her all this time. She promised to help him and now its time to keep that promise.
This sweet little book left me sighing with pure happiness. Olivia and Bob’s friendship is pure and wrapped in the protective bubble of childhood that seems to disintegrate slightly during adolescents. The mystery of what Bob is and why Livvy struggles to remember him only adds to their bond.
This adorable book is well written and sweet. For adults, this is a one hour read. I can imagine this book would be a one week to ten day read aloud. Either way, it really make me think about memories, friendships, and how childhood adventures can sculpt our future lives.
Tell me, please!
Was there a childhood moment that defines magic to you?
I picked up The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi from a used bookstore after I started seeing it everything. It was on display in bookstores, at the library and on required reading lists at the local schools. I must confess, while I hated required reading when I was in school I have grown almost fanatical in my desire to read everything on those lists in my adulthood. This might just be my “adult” reason for reading excellent children’s literature.
Charlotte is not a book I would have chosen without other encouragement. Frankly, I might still not have read it except for the lure of the used book store price. Even then it sat on my shelf for close to a year before I finally started the story. My reluctance stems directly from my fear of boats and more specifically being stuck on boats. And the synopsis only added to my fear.
“An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences.”
“Not every thirteen-year old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guiltygbv. But, I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.”
I was as terrified for Charlotte the whole story long as I was enchanted by the prior owner of this books use of sparkly pens to circle unknown vocabulary. Charlotte is stuck on a boat, friendless and at sea and we know someone will be murdered. I just kept thinking, “if sparkly pen can see this to the end so can I!” Otherwise, I may have stopped reading when the boat first left the shore.
And Charlotte is more than a historical fiction story about murder at sea. I was once a thirteen-year old girl myself. Charlotte’s voice and experiences may have happened nearly 200 years ago but all thirteen-year old girls struggle to emerge into womanhood the way Charlotte did. We want to be treated like adult women and admired in our society in one way or another but the illusions from our childhood and nativity can twist our understanding of our role. For most young women awkwardness is the paramount sensation. For Charlotte, her life was at stake.
This is an beautifully written story that I found terrifying and lovely all at once. I grew to adore Charlotte and the crew and I was elated to discover that the author has put Charlotte in other books. All in all, I am thrilled that it is my first book of 2018!
Recently I was coerced into watching the Amazon original show, The Worst Witch. Truthfully, this is not the best filmmaking I have ever seen. The “magical” moments were definitely not million dollar blue screen shots. However, the story telling was absolutely on point. It follows a girl struggling to better herself even though she is considered “the worst” in her class. It was so endearing that I watched the remainder of the entire series.
So, when I saw The Apprentice Witch I had to check it out. This book by James Nicol begins with our witch, Arianwyn, flunking her Witch’s assessment. However, since there is such a great need for Witches she is assigned to a little town called Lull as an Apprentice Witch. There she works she learns to become more and more confident in her abilities. And, it is working. With each spells cast and charm mended Arianwyn becomes more confident in her abilities. Then, sinister darkness appears out of the woods and Arianwyn is challenged by a force that would thwart even the most talented and seasoned Witch.
Maybe this selection takes the Frighteningly out of the FGR but it was such an adorable and fun book that I had to add it to my selections for October 2017. Arianwyn is a good person who chooses friendship over personal success and makes mistakes while learning.
For me, the supporting characters are often the biggest draw in a book. And these supporting characters come in all shapes and sizes. Arianwyn has to cope with being assigned her first post while on Witching probation and a long term visit from her rival Witch from school – Gimma. Gimma was a great foil for Arianwyn and her blossoming friendship with Salle. Truthfully, people like Gimma have managed to manipulate me my whole life and I went back and forth between hope that they would finally become friends and cheering for Arianwyn to crush her.
There was also Wyn’s new friendship with Lull townie Salle that had the realistic element of awkward hope that seems to be true of all new friendships – no matter how old you become. And maybe this is what I enjoy the most about children’s books. They allow us to learn over and over again what every child and adult needs to know. How to become a better person.
Tell me, please!
Are there any not-so-spooky stories on your TBR for this month?
I have been seeing this book everywhere. It is on display at all of my favorite bookstores both major and minor. I didn’t pick it up because I was sure it was going to be bad-sad (that sadness that feels foisted upon you by authors). Finally, I requested it from my local library because I wanted to give it a chance. I am so glad I tried it.
This book is Ada’s story but it so much more. Ada is nine (maybe) and her brother Jamie is six in 1939 when Hitler has begun to threaten England. Children are being sent to the country for safety. We have all read this story haven’t we?
But, this is where author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley changes the tune. Ada is not just poor and unloved by her cruel Mother. She was born with a clubfoot. In 1939 having a clubfoot was treatable but Ada received no medical attention for her’s and has been kept in her one room apartment in London nearly her entire life.
Whenever I read stories of London’s children being sent to the country during World War II I am struck but the terrible decisions families made to keep their children safe. As a kid, I couldn’t dream of being away from my parents. As an adult, I cannot imagine handing a child over to a stranger on the other side of a train.
But, for Ada, could this separation might be her salvation? Since the book is called, The War that Saved My Life, it is a good guess that the answer is yes. But, what I think made this book really magical was the way being in the country affected Ada.
I loved this book so much I had to own it. I cannot wait to read the sequel The War I finally Wonbecause all of these characters because very dear to me. So, if you enjoy historical fiction or are participating in the When Are you Reading Challenge like I am, this is a fantastic juvenile fiction novel.
I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye. And the tag line on the front reads, “The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog.” I was sold. It took me a fair bit of time to get around to reading it but I just finished it and I must recommend it to all of you. It was a lovely story!
The Inquisitor’s Tale is set in 1242 and features three unique children from different backgrounds and a dog. The dog, Gwenforte, is a white greyhound who has died (don’t stop reading! Remember, its a Holy dog!). The peasant, Jeanne, is fierce and honest and has visions that show her glimpses of the future. Jacob is a young Jewish boy and his story touched my heart the most. Then there is William, a young monk with tremendous strength. These children are “magical” or blessed with “powers” but their story really comes from the people who met them.
The combination of the setting, France in the Medieval Ages, and the way the story unfolds was quite reminiscent of Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales. Throughout the story someone is collecting the stories of these children. We hear about them through a Nun, a Brewster, a Librarian, and many other interesting people all of have gathered in a small French inn. The dog’s story and that of the children was woven together so well and so smoothly. But, I also enjoyed the peek into the mannerisms and lives of all the characters who told their tale.
Adam Gidwitz really captures the time period in this book. If you read the note at the end, the author’s explains the inspiration and background for the story. I didn’t need that to help me understand how much work had gone into this book. The whole thing really felt like I was in Medieval France.
This was a really enjoyable tale. I have a difficult time finding well written Children’s Historical Fiction and this is one of the best I have read yet. The fact that it checks the box in my pre-1500’s When Are You Reading Challenge is just the halo on my holy dog.
Tell me, please!
Children’s Historical Fiction – Does it interest you?
I did a ridiculous amount of driving this week and so I popped in an audiobook to make my travels less arduous. I had read The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood several years ago but I could not remember how it ended. Typically, even a bad audiobook is made easier for me to enjoy when I have already read the book. However, I was surprised to find how delightful this book was as an audiobook! Katherine Kellgren narrates the story in a clipped British accent and gives all of the characters their own voice.
If you are familiar with the story of The Incorrigibles then you know that giving a voice to the children is no easy feat. “The Incorrigibles,” as they are dubbed in this first book, are three children found in the woods of Ashton Place that have been raised by wolves. They are brought into the home of newlyweds, Lord Frederick and Lady Cornelia Ashton, neither of which want anything to do with the raising of the children. So, they hire Miss Penelope Lumley.
This is Miss Lumley’s first position as a professional governess having recently graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. Thankfully, she is no ordinary governess and seems to be uniquely suited for turning the children from wolves into proper people.
I remember the story as being cute. A large cast of characters is introduced in this first book in order to be used in later stories but there is still an active plot with action and great character development. Also, just as Lemony Snicket does in A Series of Unfortunate Events this this book utilizes functional defining. I could see where parents enjoying this story with children would appreciate this device but it always seemed to interrupt the story for me when employed by Snicket. However, in this book, the author seamlessly uses larger words in sentences and almost in a *wink wink* manner defines them for the audience without loosing the story’s momentum.
But, narrated, the story really comes alive. Especially since the narrator has to howl so much! When she does the voices of the children, softly talking to the governess with their odd and adorable little speech mannerisms I just fell in love with this story.
I was also happy to discover that you can search by narrator on audiophilemagazine.com and now I have over 100 books narrated by Katherine Kellgren to look forward to, including the rest of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series!
Have you ever experienced this, an audiobook that really brought a book to life?