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A lot of things can be said about Owen Birmbaum [SLOB by Ellen Potter] Book Review

Slob

 

 

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.

 

SLOB

By Ellen Potter

Publisher: Philomel

ISBN: 978-0399247057

Hardback: 199 pages

Recommended for Ages: 9-12

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Filed under Book Review, Mid-Grade, Tween

Wizarding Genesis [The Lost Years of Merlin book 1 by TA Barron] Book Review

Lost Years of MerlinThe Lost Years of Merlin is the initial installment of the five book series chronicling Merlin’s life as a boy, a prequel to Arthurian legend. It follows the ambiguous details of Emry’s obscure youth and the path he followed leading to the emergence of his magic and the wizarding name he proclaimed of Merlin. Barron’s imagineering of this portion of the great wizard’s life gives new depth to the renowned character as we see his life through the eyes of a young boy.

 The story opens with a dream sequence foreshadowing a time magic escaped his fingertips to unleash a fire kindled in Branwen’s defense (the woman claiming to be his mother) the very fire whose flames took his sight leaving him blind until he learned to use his gift of “second sight”.

 Emrys, now 12, is desperate to know of his past and why he has no memory of a time before five years ago when he and Branwen washed upon the shore. She claimed to be his mother but would not speak of their past or where they came from. Instead she taught him the lore of the Celts, Druids and those more ancient. She felt his lost memory was a blessing, the young boy considered it more of a curse. The pair shared a lowly hut they constructed themselves on the outskirts of a small village. Whenever anyone from the village was ill or injured, they would come to Branwen bartering for her services as a gifted healer as she was well acquainted with the old ways and herbal remedies. When in need of her services the villagers sang praises to her unique talents, but the truth of the matter was, they were afraid and thought her to be a sorceress or demon. One day the village bully came to their hut and set fire in an attempt to free the village of this “she-demon”, as he and two of his minions grabbed Branwen by the legs and began dragging her into the fire, Emrys’ fear and rage swelled within, coursing and raging as he ran forward trying to help his mother. He could not control it any longer and felt the bully, Dinatius, should burn for this. He could envision the fires and wished they would consume the bully. At the thought, an enormous tree branch shuddered and cracked as if struck by lightening; it fell upon the young bully trapping him as the branches exploded into flames. As the spine shivering shrieks erupted from the inferno Emrys knew what he had done as he plunged into the flames trying to save the boy. His dream vision had come to pass.

 As the young half-blind Emrys struggles to learn the secrets of his past, the magic within him, and his true identity he comes to the realization he must leave this place, returning to the place he had washed upon the shore to make the attempt to voyage back to the mist-shrouded isle of Fincayra, an enchanted isle that lies between earth and sky. He asks the woman who calls herself his mother to join him in his quest. With great sadness she declines, but takes a jeweled pendant from her neck, presenting it to him. She calls it the Galator and tells him its power is great – if it cannot keep him safe it is only because nothing outside of heaven can. Mighty waves crashed over his feeble raft tossing it about as a mere twig on the outraged sea. The storm swelled and he thought about calling upon his powers to save him but after the last fiery encounter with his magic, he became less afraid of the violent storm than trying to unleash a magic he might not be able to control. The waves pounded over him and when he felt he could hold onto his little wooden raft no more the mysterious shrouded isle appeared and he is again washed upon the shore.

 As he comes to and regains a bit of strength he ventures further into the strange land. The colors are so vivacious he can sense them, even through his half-blinded eyes. He can feel the plushness of the forest floor and he meets a merlin, its wing broken in battle with a rat, a strange girl of the forest called Rhia, and a tiny but brave giant named Shim. Emrys discovers that blight has come upon the isle that is somehow entwined with his own destiny.  He must decipher the riddle of the dance of the giants to change the fate of this land and discover the secrets within himself.

 This is an engaging and enjoyable tale you will want to experience many times over. It explains the roots of the greatest wizard of legend and myth in an epic saga filled with wonder and adventure.

 

THE LOST YEARS OF MERLIN (book 1)

By TA Barron

Publisher: Philomel

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy

ISBN: 978-0399250200

Hardback:  336 pages

Recommended for Ages:  9-12

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Rebel in Blue Jeans (Beverly Stowe McClure) A Must Read for Your YA Library

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In the blink of an eye, Rebel Ferguson’s world turned upside down and shattered. Her mother’s announcement that she was leaving the family behind…to be with the drummer of a rock band came as quite a shock. This simply couldn’t be happening – after all, parents don’t run away….do they?

 

What an attention grabbing opening scene!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Rebel and would most definitely recommend it. Ms. McClure has an amazing sense of the relationships between her characters. The characters in this novel are very realistic and easy to identify with. The story is told from the sixteen-year-old protagonist’s point of view and you are immediately pulled into her world. Having to cope with the imminent divorce of her parents, a budding romance with a childhood friend, and all the attention she is getting from a very cute college guy (who just happens to have a really bad reputation), Rebel Ferguson finds many challenges being thrust upon her and faces them with courage and humor. She is lucky to have the help of some compassionate friends that are determined to help in her time of need by providing the support and voice of reason she needs to get her past the feelings of betrayal and anger.  

 

I think the author definitely knows her audience and young adult readers will relate to the contemporary theme of dealing with the parents’ pending divorce, the support system of friends and family teens rely on, dealing with new relationships and established relationships that take an unexpected turn into something completely new. Suddenly, it seems like everything Rebel depended on in her world has changed. She feels as though there isn’t anything she can count on – people are not what they seem and nothing is turning out the way she always thought it would. The author shows some tender moments where the teen identifies very strongly with her love for animals and all the pets she keeps in the country home.

 

Ms. McClure has done an excellent job of capturing the range of emotions the young protagonist is going through, the roller coaster of feelings from the cornucopia of life events she is experiencing. In the midst of all the serious and intense story threads woven into this tale, Ms. McClure has built in many humorous antics from some of the characters in this book to lighten some of the scenes and make this a very enjoyable read. I definitely give this book a five star rating and a place on my bookshelf with my other favorite books.

 

Rebel in Blue Jeans can be found at retailers where books are sold, online at Amazon, and through the publisher.   

 

 

REBEL IN BLUE JEANS

By Beverly Stowe McClure


Publisher: Twilight Times Books

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com

Genre: YA Fiction
ISBN:  Paper: 978-1-933353-49-4

                        1-933353-49-X

                        1st edition October 2008

 

 

 

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Rock of Realm (by Lea Schizas) Modern Day Fairy Tale for the Whole Family

 

 

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Rock of Realm by Lea Schizas is an exciting tale full of adventure, excitement, and surprises.  While written for a young adult audience, the tale is ageless and makes for a great reading experience the whole family can share.

 

Fourteen year old Alex Stone and her best friend, Sarah, have just finished a babysitting job and are heading home. With Alex’s frisky pet German Shepherd Butch, and Butch’s pet squirrel Pops by their side the girls decide to take the shortcut through the park.  Out of nowhere, a small pink stone falls from the sky hitting Alex on top of her head. Nearby the girls find a pouch with gold glitter. While both items seem innocent enough, the girls joke about the possibility of them being magic and recite a chant they had read in a book written by their favorite English teacher. Suddenly, nothing would ever be the same.

 

Being of royal lineage in a parallel world (a little detail her parents had not discussed with her) Alex finds she and her friends have been transported into the alternate realm and are on the adventure of a lifetime. In this world Alex and Sarah can understand everything Butch and the wise-cracking Pops say. They meet new friends who help them on their quest and learn powerful lessons of friendship and love as their adventure unfolds.  Join Alex and her friends as they learn things are not always as they appear.

 

Lea is an amazing storyteller. Her characters are so interesting and colorful you find yourself wrapped up in their tale and encouraging them on their quest from start to finish.

I can hardly wait for the next adventure in this series!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fantasy, Uncategorized, Writing, Young Adult