A lot of things can be said about Owen Birmbaum. He is twelve years old and the fattest kid in school. It’s not mean – it’s statistics. He hasn’t always been this way – only for the last two years. Another thing you can say about Owen is he is an easy target for bullies – even his gym teacher has targeted him as a source of personal entertainment and new feats of humiliation are orchestrated with each and every class.
Owen is not the only one having trouble. He is very close with his little sister Jeremy. Her name is actually Caitlyn, but she belongs to a club called GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys) where the girls are required to refer to one another by boy names, wear boy clothes, and cut their hair short. Things have not always been this way for Owen and Jeremy.
One thing Owen has going for him is he is smart. Really smart – he has an IQ one point shy of genius status, but he doesn’t brag about it. This eccentric kid invents really cool things like the Nemesis – a device kind of like a TV that shows things from the past, and Owen really needs to see something from a specific date and time in his past because that is when everything changed so dramatically for this brother and sister.
This story is laden with the trials, tribulations and miseries of middle school life told directly from this quirky kid with a heart that is even bigger than he is. Throughout all the humorous events of the story, the author engages you with this tale of two compelling kids that you can’t help but root for, particularly as snippets of their past are slowly revealed and Owen discovers the answers are not in the past, but in the present, and this is what will determine the future.
This story is humorous, honest, and above all else heartwarming. SLOB has been awarded the Junior Library Guild Award and, in my opinion, is destined to receive many more accolades.
By Ellen Potter
Hardback: 199 pages
Recommended for Ages: 9-12
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This series is a prequel of sorts to the legend of Merlin beginning in the early years when Merlin is first coming into his magical powers. This is the second story in the five book series chronicling the great wizard’s youth.
As the story opens, Merlin is 13 years old and has the privilege of attending the great council meeting with the ambassadors of nearly every race of fantasy that reside on the enchanted isle as they must decide what to do with the Treasures of Fincayra. He has been charged with the guardianship of the Flowering Harp to heal the lands for the harp only responds to a heart true and wise – the heart of a wizard.
Having toppled the evil King Stangmar (his estranged father who was bewitched) and freeing Fincayra from a terrible blight Merlin sets out with the magical harp to restore the enchanted world into a flourishing Merlin has only one month to complete a quest to find the soul of the Seven Songs of Wisdom and journey to the Otherworld in order to obtain the elixir that can save his mother’s life. On his quest he makes a number of discoveries not only about his past, but about what lies within. The challenge is enormous. He has begun to discover the powers within him, but has not as yet mastered the ability to control these emerging powers. He has learned some of the stories of the wisdom of the Druids, the Greeks and the Celts, but us far from truly understanding the true meaning of it all. He has learned his true name and pieces of his past but now must also learn the secrets that sleep within his innermost being. He has already lost his father in the battle, and now his mother, poisoned by a deathshadow meant for her son, is the first victim of the renewed surge of evil sweeping the land.
Merlin is an emerging personification of yin and yang. He is full of contradictions that compliment each other and open his eyes to the possibilities of what destiny has in store for him as he follows the winding path to wizardry. Contradiction and controversy are rampant in the epic Arthurian legend, and Mr. Barron has imagineered an early life worthy of these legendary roots as the keeper of knowledge, particularly of the arcane secrets.
As in all epic journeys, great adventure and unfathomable danger lie in wait for the boy who would be wizard. He must battle the ogre Balor He is accompanied on his great quest by a merlin hawk named Trouble, the forest girl Rhia, and a mournful jester named Bumbelwy. There are captivating characters and backstory for the Arthurian legend that begin to emerge through this tale. This is a tale that will not disappoint the most demanding Merlin fan. It will engage you and take you of the ride of your life.
THE SEVEN SONGS OF MERLIN
By TA Barron
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy
Hardcover: 336 pages
Recommended for ages 9-12
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