Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

Reason for Reading: Trying to keep up with my nephew's reading. :)

Genre: Children's Fantasy

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock, the famous Dragon-whisperer of lore, had to learn about dragons somehow - and this book chronicles his growing pains. He and a team of similarly-aged kids must capture and train baby dragons in order to be accepted into their Viking clans as adults. They face expulsion if they fail! But Hiccup's dragon simply isn't cooperating. First of all, it's tiny and toothless - which is humiliating for the dragon of the son of the Chief. Second, it has an attitude problem: it refuses to be trained. It looks like Hiccup might be expelled from his Viking clan! But then some sea-dragons emerge from the depths of the ocean - and only Hiccup (well, with help from his dragon and his friends) can save his people. 

This was a hilarious book. My nephew, who isn't a fan of reading, just gobbled this one up. He even sounds excited to read the next one. :) There are funny pictures drawn throughout the story, and the narration itself is laugh-out-loud funny it a childish way. I really enjoyed this book. 

I also loved the 2010 movie which was VERY loosely based on the book. The basic setting was the same - a Viking boy named Hiccup must save his clan from destruction at the teeth of hungry dragons - but that's about all that's the same. In the movie, dragons are creatures to be hunted. They aren't kept as pets. Both the book and the movie are very cute and very funny. But in order to enjoy both, you need to be the type of person who is willing to accept that just because the plot is different, doesn't mean the story is bad. (This is difficult for many people to admit!)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My new Teacher and Me!, by Al Yankovic

My New Teacher and Me!

Written by Al Yankovic, Illustrated by Wes Hargis

Reason for Reading: I met Weird Al Yankovic when he was at Barnes and Noble for the signing of his new book My New Teacher and Me! I was impressed at what a nice person he seemed to be - he smiled and laughed and joked for 4 hours straight as hundreds of people flocked up to him to get his signature, babies pulled his hair, teens pressed phones to his ear so he could talk to someone not present, and so on. I loved watching his facial expressions - his face is so animate! And, clearly, I had to get his signature on a few copies of his book - for the children of friends. :)

Genre: Children's Picture Book

Billy is excited to meet his new teacher Mr. Booth - but Mr. Booth isn't too excited to meet Billy. Mr. Booth questions Billy about why the boy is covered in dirt, and Billy launches into an imaginative story about how he was digging in his backyard and found a dinosaur. When Mr. Booth expresses skepticism, Billy's story gets wilder and wilder. Finally, Billy teaches Mr. Booth a lesson that the most inventive people in the world were also the most creative thinkers - they were people who didn't yield to hard-set rules set by color-within-the-line leaders. This is a fun story, with great illustrations, and something to think about. Perfect for little kids. :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Stonekeeper's Curse, by Kazu Kibuishi

The Stonekeeper's Curse, by Kazu Kibuishi

Reason for Reading: My nephew loved this series :)

Genre: Children's Fantasy Graphic Novel

In this second book of the widely popular children's graphic novel series Amulet (see the review for the first book here), Emily and Navin's mother is still in a poison-induced coma, and the kids must journey to a dangerous forest to find the cure. They are led by a fox-man Leon Redbeard, who says that it is his job to bring them safely to a lost city of guardians. They are chased by the Elf King's son Trellis, whose loyalties are questionable. This was a cute second book in the series - though the plot is still very childish and light. The kids (especially boys!) love it. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chasing the Prophecy, by Brandon Mull

Chasing the Prophecy, by Brandon Mull

Reason for Reading: I love Brandon Mull! :)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

In the final book of the Beyonder's trilogy, Rachel and Jason's group must separate into two teams - each against "impossible" odds. Jason's team goes in quest of a lost prophecy while Rachel's lays siege upon Maldor's fortress. All must learn to have faith in each other - a task which is much more difficult than it seems. 

I loved the Beyonders series. I eagerly awaited the publication of this book, and read it the moment it was released. I wasn't disappointed. Brandon Mull has a vivid imagination - he's created a world that's very different from the standard epic fantasy - most of his creatures are of his own design, and follow a very creative set of rules. This book is much like the classic epic fantasies like The Hobbit in that there's a lot of traveling/walking, and most of the action takes place while on the move. Personally, I've always liked that format of fantasy - not sure why it appeals to me so much, but it does. :) 

I can't wait until Mull publishes another book! :)

See my review of the second book, Seeds of Rebellion. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Merlin's Blade, by Robert Treskillard

Merlin's Blade, by Robert Treskillard

Reason for Reading: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Genre: Young Adult Christian Fantasy

Merlin has been living peacefully as the blind son of a village blacksmith when druids invade the area with an evil stone that usurps the minds of the villagers and turns them against God. Merlin is the only villager who is unaffected by the stone's powers. His problems become worse when the High King Uther and his infant son Arthur arrive in the village and are attacked by the druids. Merlin must save his village as well as the young prince. This was a fun retelling of the young Merlin's back-story. It's marketed as a Young Adult Christian Fiction, though I think it could be enjoyed by a wider audience. Merlin's Blade isn't "preachy," which is a complaint of many Christian Fiction books, though it does (understandably) perceive the worship of a stone to be an "evil" act. The druids are portrayed as mostly bad (or at least mislead) people, but I appreciated that some of the druids were actually rather likable. I'm a fan of Christian fiction writers who are able to see the humans behind the non-Christian characters. So, if you're a fan of retellings (especially YA retellings), I think this is a book you might enjoy. It took some interesting liberties with the story of Merlin and Arthur, but it was also rather fun to see how that sword got stuck in the stone to begin with. :)

I'll be waiting for the next book in the series! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

Reason for Reading: To keep up with my nephew's book reports

Genre: Children's Adventure / Fantasy

After the tragic death of his parents, James has been living with his horrible neglectful, hateful aunts Sponge and Spiker. One day James is given a magical bag by a mysterious stranger - and in his excitement he trips on the root of a peach tree and dumps all the magic on the tree. Soon a peach larger than a house has grown out of the tree. James crawls into the peach and begins the adventure of a life-time. 

This is another classic kids story that I read as a child and haven't picked up since. I'm glad I had a reason to pick it up again, because it was really funny and silly and it had a lot of nostalgia for me. Dahl has just the right amount of humor and whimsy in his books. :)

After reading the book, my nephew and I watched the 1996 stop-action movie. It was a cute movie that followed the basic story-line well enough. But it was a bit too sentimental and it lacked the dark humor of Roald Dahl's story. Cute for an hour's entertainment, but nothing I'm going to watch again and again. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lone Wolf, by Kathryn Lasky

Lone Wolf

Written by Kathryn Lasky, Narrated by Erik Davies

Reason for Reading: I rather liked the Ga'Hoole books, so I thought I'd try this series out, too. 

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy / Anthropomorphism

As an infant cub, Faolin was taken from his mother and abandoned to die. He was found by a bear who nursed him through childhood. Now as a young wolf, Faolin is once again on his own and he must find a way to rejoin his own kind. This was a cute little story, and I enjoyed it. But I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much if I hadn't read the Ga'Hoole books first. Although the story of Faolin is independent of the three story lines in the Ga'Hoole series, Lasky's world-building in this book was a bit dependent upon the other books. The world would have seemed confusing and frustrating to me if I didn't already know all about it from the Ga'Hoole books. This is why I gave the book only 3.5 stars even though I thought it was really sweet. I will continue with this series myself, but I recommend to all of you - continue with this book if you loved the Ga'Hoole books as I did. But if you haven't read the Ga'Hoole books, start there. :)