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.
As a family, we listened to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart on a long road trip. Usually we need breaks from our audio books, but this story entertained all ages from four to thirty-seven so well that we listened to the last four hours straight through. It is a good family book, either for listening or reading out loud. (We listened to the recording performed by John Curless. Apparently there is another audio book out there).
Tom’s six older brothers are all adventurers in the Land of Stories. They go on exciting missions and return home to share their tales with the world, but Tom stays home with his mother. When his brothers fail to come home in time for Tom’s twelfth birthday, both Tom and his mother fear that something has gone terribly wrong. Soon, Tom receives his own mission from the Story Bureau. He must enter the Land of Stories and discover the fate of his older brothers. As he journeys on his mission, Tom creates his own story and finds that he is an adventurer with as much courage and determination as his brothers.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart is an entertaining story of magic and adventure. With elements of multiple well-known fairy tales, it contains familiarity with some wonderful twists. The excitement and action keeps older readers interested, but nothing is too dark and frightening for younger readers.
Recommended for ages 4 and up
A brilliant, modern rendering of Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Ellen Potter manages to capture nearly all the elements of the classic children’s story, but weaves her details so deftly that the story remains alive and new. Like the garden in the story, Potter breathes life into a wonderful tale of hope and healing.
After the death of her dysfunctional family, Roo Fanshaw is sent to live with a rich uncle she never knew existed. He lives in a strange island home which used to be a tuberculosis sanatorium. As Roo explores her new surroundings, she finds secrets about her family as well as her new home. Potter’s characters are mysterious and often mistrustful, but also very heartwarming. The Humming Room is intriguing for 8-10 year-old readers or good for a family read-aloud.