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: Daphne and Sabrina have bounced among foster homes for the past few years ever since their parents passed away. Their latest foster mother is an eccentric old woman calling herself Mrs. Grimm and claiming to be the girls’s grandmother. She takes the girls to her old house stocked with eccentric items and, in time, strongly hints that the girls are part of an old family tradition of keeping fairy tale characters–known as everafters–in line and out of sight. The girls are mostly skeptical until the grandmother and her chauffeur are kidnapped by a giant. It’s up to Daphne and Sabrina to track down their grandmother, solve the mystery of why this giant is terrorizing the town, and live up to their family name of Grimm.
My Take: This light hearted romp featuring a cast of characters from well known fairy tales and children’s literature is a good choice for children looking for a fun read. Buckley manages to balance the right amount of realism and zaniness so that even when the book incorporates darker elements, it never takes itself too seriously.
One Interesting Note About the Author: According to his website, Michael Buckley attempted to be a stand up comedian and lead singer of a punk rock band before going to college.
The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less: Georgie Burkhardt is a 13 year old girl living with her mom and grandfather in Placid, Wisconsin in the 1870’s. When the book opens, Georgie is mourning the death of her older sister Agatha whose body has turned up miles away near Dog Hollow. The body is too decomposed to be recognized, but it is wearing Agatha’s distinctive dress. Georgie refuses to accept that her sister is dead and slips away one night with Agatha’s former beau Billy McCabe on a journey to Dog Hollow. But seeking answers will put them in great danger and test Georgie’s bonds of sisterhood.
My Take: This is an excellent YA mystery set in the mid west in the 19th century. The characters are well developed and I did not find them artificial as I so often do in YA fiction. Timberlake does an excellent job of expressing that Georgie is a strong female without making her into some over the top Katniss Everdeen. I did think that the ending could be more mournful and therefore more poignant and open ended, but people love happy endings. One Came Home makes me want to read more by Timberlake. Ages 12+
One Interesting Note About the Author: Passenger pigeons play a large role in this book. Timberlake’s inspiration to write One Came Home derived from her discovery of the rich history of this extinct bird. In 1871, the largest nesting of pigeons ever recorded occurred in south-central Wisconsin. The entire length of it was 125 miles long!