Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Phillip Reeve
Decorated Throughout by David Wyatt
Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books, 2008

As the third installment of the Larklight series, this is Mr. Reeve and Mr. Wyatt's greatest achievement yet. But you simply must read the other two books first (see reviews no. 1 and no. 2).

In this episode, the Mumby family's Christmas Holiday is spoiled, first by a visit from the voracious pudding worm and then by a call to investigate a mysterious and sinister silvery cloud which is rapidly approaching the solar system. Can Art Mumby and his friends save the British Empire from the most powerful and evil villain they've ever met? Can they do it by New Year's? Well, they've always managed before...

With fantastic battles, hungry space creatures of all sizes and shapes, deluded missionaries, amazon lizard women in full armor, and enough giant moths to set any wool sweater aquiver with fright, Mothstorm is a jolly romp for all readers age nine and up.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Keturah and Lord Death

Martine Leavitt
Front Street, 2006

Sixteen-year-old Keturah Reeve has one simple dream - a true love of her own, a cottage of her own, and a sweet wee babe of her very own. But one day she wanders into the woods and is lost. When Death comes for her as a cold and comely young lord, she pleads for her life with a tale like the ones she tells around the village fire. Intrigued by her story, Death grants her another day in which she must find her true love or be taken.

So begins this lyrical fable, a story of life and death, hope and transformation. I marvel that so much wisdom and beauty can be packed in two hundred pages. Keturah's shabby village throbs with life, full of characters that seem to have been plucked from a fairy tale but then given real-life hearts and souls. The prose is exquisite - Keturah has the eye of a poet and the voice of a storyteller. Her quest to find an everlasting love takes so many turns it kept me guessing right up until the end. After closing the book I felt like I'd woken from a dream that meant more than I was ready to understand.

Highly recommended for readers age twelve and up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fablehaven 4: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Brandon Mull
Shadow Mountain, 2009

This book begins horribly. For the characters, that is. As the reader, I adored it. Seth and Kendra Sorensen may have been looking forward to a quiet Christmas vacation, but the Society of the Evening Star is on the move. Caught up in a race to claim the key to a magical object that will help the Society open the demon prison Zyzyx and unleash unstoppable magical destruction on the peaceful, utterly oblivious modern world, Seth and Kendra must travel to the treacherous dragon sanctuary Wyrmroost. Hopefully they'll survive long enough to make it home for New Year's.

Zyzyx - Wyrmroost - aren't these great names? When I learned to type using the Dvorak keyboard, which is supposed to be ultra-efficient for speedy typing, I found that the letters fantasy writers like to use in made-up names were in hard-to-reach spots. I had a character named Jyvwin, and picking out the letters for his name were a real pain. I thought I should come up with a new keyboard which was ultra efficient for fantasy writers. The home row was YWZXJLVKR. Needless to say, it never caught on.

But I digress. In this fourth book of the Fablehaven series, Brandon Mull delivers a story full of inventive magical creatures, amazing settings, heart-wrenching plot twists, intrigue, betrayal, clever traps, even cleverer escapes, friendship, family, and Yatzee. I enjoyed seeing Seth come into his own, discovering talents that match and compliment his sister Kendra's. The dragons were marvelous - all different, all amazing. Time was, I wouldn't pick up a book unless there was a dragon in it. If this book had been published back when I was thirteen, it would have been a dream come true.

But I still think Grandma was better off as a chicken.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Phillip Reeve
Illustrated by David Wyatt
Bloomsbury, 2007

In an alternate Victorian age where the British Empire stretches from cloudy Venus to the moons of Jupiter, young Art Mumby finds himself embroiled in one interplanetary adventure after another. His previous encounter (recorded in the volume Larklight) with an ancient race of giant spiders bent on dominating the solar system turned out remarkably well, thanks to Art's quick thinking, the bold deeds of his rakish pirate-captain friend Jack and his alien crew, and, surprisingly, Art's intolerably properly prudish sister Myrtle, who shocks everyone, including herself, by ultimately saving the day (a deplorably unladylike thing to do - she swears never to repeat it).

But now Art and his allies face an even greater threat. An unexpected invitation to a recently opened sea-bathing resort in the asteroid field draws Art along with his mother and sister into a tangled plot of stolen time machines, poisonings, espionage, and brain-wave sucking hats. More jolly characters join the cast, as well as killer maniacal sea-side amusement machines, and most of our old friends from the previous volume make an appearance as well, even though some of them, sadly, spend most of the book having been turned into trees. Anyone who loves a good yarn will want to join this journey to the very cold, dark end of time to save the good old nineteenth century (huzzah!) from dismal destruction. Recommended for ages 10 and up.