How Niels and Festie Faced the Skyfire by Oliver Atlas tells the story of a boy who goes on an extraordinary adventure when he befriends a young phoenix. Daring Niels has his own laboratory deep in the earth, accessed by an elevator, and is always up for anything. By contrast the phoenix-with-a-very-long-name—shortened to Festie—is timid and insecure. She comes from a family of noble birds for whom fire is a natural element. From their headquarters in a lofty sequoia, the great birds chase down lightning—the skyfire--before it can strike and be destructive. Festie is afraid of lightning, but after she and her new human friend travel the world chasing three secret mythical fires, she’s ready to prove herself as a huge storm bears down on her home.
A crisply-written story laced with beautiful, poetic descriptions, How Niels and Festie Faced the Skyfire brought me into a soaring story of friendship and courage against a majestic world of clouds, pyramids, sunsets and rolling storms—even the Moon! Oliver Atlas really captures what going on adventures with a fiery phoenix would be like and made me feel like I was flying and getting in the thick of things along with Niels as he helped Festie search for the Sandfire, the Icefire, and the Moonfire. But the sweep of action with an exuberant dose of fun is combined with a quite real, child-like little phoenix who just needs a friend and can’t begin—she’s sure—to live up to the grand expectations of her family. More than just an adventure story, the book has some outstanding characters who propel the plot through their chemistry together, making a fulfilling tale that winds to a wonderful conclusion.
Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship by Metin Karayaka is an exciting action-adventure story that’s perfect for tweens. A boy named Levend lives in the fishing village of Yalova with his aunt and sister Ayshin. The empire they live in has fallen into disorder as a cruel king and a pirate chieftain fight for control. The children of Yalova apprentice to adults who teach fishing and Levend is drawn to a brilliant fisherman who keeps to himself, named Mr. Ben. But Mr. Ben isn’t all he seems and it isn’t long before Levend finds himself aboard a pirate ship among swashbuckling intrigues and a wild quest to locate a sunken treasure that holds the Zanzibar Elixir. Danger isn’t the only thing Levend will find, though—this is an adventure that will change his life.
This solid, carefully developed story kept me involved through its excellent writing and never-faltering character development. Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship is one of those rare books that really does appeal to the whole family, and while boys will get a kick out of the faintly gruesome pirates and dangerous adventures, Ayshin and her friends offer some strong female leads and adults will love the good lessons about not making the wrong decisions when life offers challenges or you believe all is lost. As in the case of the story’s dashing, well-rounded focal point, the pirate BarbaRossa, a character that’s awesome to read about but who you wouldn’t want to imitate. Metin Karayaka creates a strong conversation about friendship, compassion, and courage, and the tale grows in the telling as throughout the book Levend recounts his adventures to others and passes on the lessons he’s learned.
The Rock of Sarraka (A Spirit Animal Adventure) by Gary Karton is the second book about Brody Boondoggle, a boy who—thanks to a rare creature called an Akaway—can assume the physical abilities of any animal he thinks of and help connect other children to their spirit animals. Spirit animals form a special bond to a child and guide him/her through adventures and the spirit animal realm, Sarraka, is reached through portals from our world. But Brody’s former best friend, Rudy, has become jealous of Brody’s powers and turned against him. Brody and his team must race to stop Rudy from stealing the Rock of Sarraka. Something bigger is threatening Sarraka and the whole realm is in danger of being destroyed.
The Rock of Sarraka is great entertainment for young children. With numerous obstacles for Brody to face and inventive puzzles for he and his gang to solve on their desperate journey to get into Sarraka, the tale rolls along nicely. Rudy was a charming little jerk I was almost tempted to root for a couple of times and I liked the way characters who at first appeared simple were made surprisingly complex, such as Rosalina’s supposedly evil grandmother La Tarantula. But Brody’s relationships with his friends (including Punching Crab, the world’s cutest comedy crab) kept him at the center of the story. Gary Karton also manages to work in a lot of facts about the natural world, so it doubles as a light educational resource on extinct animals, who appear often in the story, and on vocabulary--humorously and painlessly introduced. A really nice book.
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.