The Plot: Iris and Lark are 11 year old twin sisters who have been close all of their lives. As they enter 6th grade, they discover that, for the first time, they will have different teachers. Both girls struggle in the new school year to fit in and find their identity. Iris takes solace in an after school camp, the local library, and visiting the gentleman that runs the local antiques shop. As the sisters’ relationship comes under strain, Iris looks for ways, some of them fantastical, to heal the division between them.
My Take: This book was an enjoyable read with a few minor problems. I appreciated Ursu’s development of the closeness of the bond between the sisters, but I found that there was a little too much exposition. Some of the first third of the book could be removed and the storyline would not suffer. I also found that the fantastical elements seemed like an awkward fit with the realistic tone in the rest of the book. Still, I would recommend this to readers looking for a book on the bonds between sisters along with a hint of magic.
One Interesting Note About The Author: Anne Ursu’s profile handle on twitter describes her as an “obscure children’s book author with three cats and a murderous rage.”
The Plot In Five Sentences Or Less: Every year the members of the Proctectorate have taken an infant and left it in the woods as a sacrifice to the witch. Unbeknownst to them, the witch, who name is Xan, has shepherded each baby to another town so that it can be raised by a loving family. One year, however, Xan accidentally feeds a baby with moonlight, thereby enmagicking it. She names the girl Luna and raises her by her side. As Luna’s powers develop, her past comes calling in the form of two women: one that has gone insane and another that feeds on sorrow and prowls with a tiger’s heart.
My Take: This was an engrossing read and worthy of its winning the Newberry Medal. Barnhill has the ability to create a fantasy world that is convincing but not indulgent. Her writing moves the narrative along at a good clip while also taking the time to build the characters. I particularly appreciated that so much of the story revolves around, in several forms, a mother’s attachment – or lack thereof -for her child. You can tell that Barnhill enjoys exploring this subject from several different angles, ultimately arriving at a positive answer.
One Interesting Note About The Author: On her website, Barnhill describes herself as a “former teacher, former bartender, former waitress, former activist, former park ranger, former secretary, former janitor and former church-guitar-player.”
The Story in 5 Sentences Or Less: Rump lives with his Gran in a village in the mountains where people pass their miserable days working the gold mines to receive their weekly food rations from the town Miller. Rump’s life changes when he salvages a spinning wheel that was once his mothers and soon discovers that he has the power to spin straw into gold. At first, the greedy Miller demands all of the gold that Rump spins, but soon the King wants his cut too and mistakenly kidnaps the Miller’s daughter, Opal, thinking that she is the one performing the magic alchemy.
My Take: I found this book to be an interesting take on the old Grimm’s fairy tale. Shurtliff presents Rump as an unlikely hero on a journey of adventure and self discovery. Despite the use of well worn juvenile fantasy elements, (castles, trolls, witches, etc.), I found myself pulled along by the character of Rump. I was with him all the way as he grappled to control his power and unearthed more secrets about his past. I would recommend this book for kids grades 3 and above who like fairy tales and fantasy.
One Interesting Note About the Author: According to her website, Shurtliff grew up in Utah with 7 brothers and sisters. The license plate on the family van was “8SGREAT.”