Review 4 star
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Ollie and the Starchaser by Tanya Southey brings children’s adventure to outer space in a delightful novel. Shy young Ollie lives in Australia with his loving, but busy parents and unfriendly, teasing sister. School is hard and lonely, and he’s often picked on. Ollie’s greatest treasure is his grandmother, a pioneering and eccentric woman with a strong personality and a passion for astronomy. Nanoo has overcome every obstacle to chase her dream of exploring the stars—and when she disappears and a glowing blonde boy who could be his doppelganger falls from the sky, Ollie discovers that the planet of Terenza Nanoo keeps telling him about is about to become a big part of his life.
Tanya Southey really pulled me into the world. The hot, rugged landscape of Australia sprang up before my eyes vividly, surrounding nuanced characters each one of whom gets just the right amount of space. A real little boy with typical, everyday needs that any kid can relate to, Ollie struggles to accept his grandmother’s absence, and the story deals out a good message about parting from someone you love, developed in an effortless way that keeps the story rolling and grows naturally out of it. With the help of two faithful dogs—one made of pliable jelly crystals, one much more Earthlike—and a marvelous boy named Starchaser who can fly on meteorites and isn’t afraid of anything except loss, Ollie faces a situation that’s not only an aspect of this world but transcends it into Terenza too. Ollie and the Starchaser was a very enjoyable book.
Review 5 star
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The Book of Snow (Flurry the Bear Book 4) by J.S. Skye is part of a series of children’s adventure stories about a bear who lives with humans in the form of a stuffed toy so he can learn humility and life lessons. After defeating the evil panda bear Jack Frost, Flurry returns home to his human parents and fellow stuffed animals carrying a magical book Santa gave him. When Flurry and the cranky, inarticulate rabbit Honju are sucked into the book, they find themselves in the past. Jack Frost’s menacing reign of terror is in full swing. The outcast, kick-butt Nikolas Kringle is a long way from being kindly Santa. And if Flurry and Honja can’t rescue the majestic red panda warrior, Tomodachi, all the panda warriors will be wiped out and Jack Frost’s reign will be eternal.
A thoroughly enjoyable adventure tale. With a bumbling, self-centered protagonist who creates plenty of comedy in the midst of an epic adventure, and a well-structured, authentic Asian feel, The Book of Snow has a little Kung Fu Panda and a lot of The Hobbit—an exciting story to be read for the sheer fun of it. J.S. Skye keeps the story running briskly and manages each character so they are developed in a minimal amount of time, but still have a strong emotional connection to the reader. I cheered for overconfident Flurry even when he got on my nerves (which was often!) and sour little Honja, who could only speak his own language, was a great balance for him as they plowed through an action-packed ride. An excellent fantasy novel and a great story for young and old alike.
Review 5 star
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Esme's Wish is a captivating, excellently-written middle-grade novel. Author Elizabeth Foster did a great job of keeping me reading as I followed Esme’s journey to investigate the disappearance of her mother, a brilliant painter. A messenger bird and a trail of clues in her mother’s art diary lead young Esme through a portal to the dimension of Aeolia. In Aeolia, the city of Esperance rises from an enchanted ocean. Water is the heart and soul of Aeolia’s being—and as Esme begins to discover water is the core of her being as well, she finds clues about her mother’s doings here. But Esperance is in trouble. Earthquakes are tearing the city apart and time is running out for Esme to solve the puzzle.
This colorful, well-constructed tale is as much detective story as fantasy and deftly blends both elements into a page-turning plot that hooks the reader in. I was fascinated by the creative water-world of Aeolia, described in Elizabeth Foster’s limpid, seductive prose. As Esme learns, “The history of Aeolia is writ in water,” and I liked the elaborate, detailed spin the story took on this idea. People in Esperance can live underwater, breathe underwater, walk on water, and manipulate water, and most people are born with a special magical Gift. The world’s lushly described architecture, mythology, sirens, and dragons create the allure of being whisked away into a great adventure, and every chapter offers another piece of Aeolia to explore. Esme’s Wish ends on a bit of an abrupt note, leaving room for more tales of Esperance yet to come.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.