Princess Violet, last princess of the Andulan Realms, is not a fairy tale princess. She is plain, bold, and outspoken, but truly loved by her people. The Mirrored Kingdom enjoys peace and the intelligence of their royal family, but an ancient evil is trying to break into the kingdom. When Violet and her best friend Demetrius find a hidden library with a forbidden book and an evil painting, some of the evil begins to find its way in. Soon, unrest and discord filter into the hearts of the people. Kindness is replaced with resentment and the peace is shattered.
As war and disaster take over the land, it is up to Violet, Demetrius, and the kingdom’s last dragon to overcome the evil and restore the peace. Together, they learn the importance of trust and friendship in a world that is falling apart. Iron Hearted Violet presents a fairytale-like story with strong characters and important life lessons, great for a family read aloud or older independent readers.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Sam can’t remember life before his Grandpa Mack, but sometimes his memory brings up snatches of a cold and angry place. Although he is happy and safe with his grandpa, when Sam finds a newspaper clipping in the attic, he begins to question if he is where he belongs. The article talks about a missing boy and the picture looks like a three-year-old version of Sam. The problem is Sam can’t read the article. Dyslexia causes words to jump on the page and Sam can only figure out a few, key points.
In an attempt to puzzle out the article and learn about his past, Sam befriends Caroline, a new girl at his school. The two fifth graders build a strong friendship as they try to rebuild Sam’s past. Their experience teaches lessons about love, loyalty, and learning to belong even when life is hard. The author creates a compelling mystery and two great characters finding their place in the world. Her approach to the struggle of dyslexia is also compassionate and realistic, a good way for readers to understand that very real learning trial.
Recommended for ages 10-12.
In the sequel to The False Prince, Jaron has taken the throne of Carthya but his rule is precarious. War threatens his kingdom and his own regents question his ability to lead the country. After surviving an assassination attempt, Jaron becomes desperate to prove his strength and his dedication to Carthya. He ultimately flees his kingdom in a foolhardy attempt to overcome the threats on his own.
As Jaron infiltrates the Avenian pirates, he learns his own limits and the importance of true friendship. Nielsen creates strong, loyal, and complex characters as well as an entertaining story. Although some of her plot lines are typical of the fantasy genre, she manages to provide twists and interest. Where the story is slightly weak, she adds strength through her characters and deft description.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
For lovers of quirky British comic fantasy and fans of Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde’s new young adult series is a perfect fit. Jennifer Strange lives in the alternate present of the Ununited Kingdom. In her world, magic and sorcerers used to rule, but magic is fading. Now those same sorcerers are pressed to find jobs magically rewiring houses or, worse yet, performing at children’s birthday parties. However, with flares in magic and strange predictions of the death of the final dragon, it feels like the world is on the edge of change.
In an attempt to stop the death of the world’s last dragon, Jennifer finds herself caught in the middle of political and magical upheaval. She struggles to do what is right, but learns that life never goes the way we plan. Fforde creates a compelling story about the dangers of greed and judgmentalism in the midst of truly ridiculous British humor. This is a fun read, but be prepared for British intelligent silliness.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Bob, a cobbler, and Joan, a laundress, live a quiet and predictable life in their small town. When they open their door to a lost, young boy one night, their lives change dramatically. The boy claims he was once a rat and shows no knowledge of normal human manners or eating habits. As Bob and Joan try to teach the boy they name Roger, they come to love him and think of him as their own little boy. Unfortunately, less charitable people want to exploit Roger for his differences. Soon, prejudice clouds the city, and the people cry for Roger, ‘the sewer monster’ to be exterminated. Will love or prejudice prevail?
With a fairy tale feel and simple story telling, Philip Pullman tells a powerful story about the dangers of judging others. He includes elements of well-known fairy tales, but manages to create an entirely new story. I originally picked this to read to my young boys, but while it is a light story, Pullman includes some of his trademark darkness. It is a perfect story for fantasy and fairy tale lovers of 8 years or older, but a little scary for younger readers. A quick read with some illustrations, it still teaches important lessons and makes young readers think.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.
When Emmy Blue’s father announces his plan to move his family to the mountains of Colorado, Emmy looks forward to the adventure. The Wild West sounds much more exciting than becoming a lady and learning to quilt. However, she learns that adventure also means sacrifice and hard work. After leaving friends, family, and her pet cat, Emmy starts a new life on the trail to Golden, Colorado.
On the wagon train, Emmy and her family experience hardships and strengthening experiences. They make friends and even some enemies in their journey to a new land. At the request of her grandmother, Emmy is forced to learn to quilt as she travels, but her quilting soon becomes soothing and a way to record memories. In her first children’s novel, Sandra Dallas gives a realistic and detailed view of wagon train life. She also tells an interesting story of a child finding her place in a new world.
I recommend it for 10 and up, because there is some discussion spouse abuse. Nothing is discussed in detail and it is age appropriate, but it can be a hard subject and might take a more mature reader to understand.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
This is not a young adult novel and not fully historical fiction. However, the heroine is seventeen and this regency romance is so much more appropriate than most popular young adult fiction these days, I feel it is appropriate to include on my site.
After the death of her mother, Marianne Daventry is sent to live with her grandmother in Bath while her father takes his grieving heart to Paris. Marianne’s twin Cecily, goes to London for her debut in society and to search out the gentleman she intends to marry. Eventually, both sisters are invited to Edenbrooke, the estate of their mother’s friend, Lady Catherine. While in route to Edenbrooke, Marianne encounters a mysterious and flirtatious gentleman who both intrigues and angers her. He turns out to be Sir Philip, the son of Lady Catherine.
Trouble ensues as Marianne becomes friends with Philip, but learns he is the same man her sister intends to marry. Patterned after the manner of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Edenbrooke is perfect for Regency period readers. It doesn’t have the same level of wit or writing as Jane Austen, but it captures the feeling of that time period and a classic, clean romance.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.