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.
A strange explosion destroying their house is just the beginning of unexplained changes disrupting Jaide and Jack Shield’s lives. The twins are sent to live with Grandma X, a woman they have never met who is as mysterious as her name. With Grandma X, more disasters continue and Jaide and Jack soon learn their life is no longer normal and neither are they. The twins begin showing strange powers in response to the evil that seems to be closing in on them. Through a series of adventures, they learn what it means to be troubletwisters.
TroubleTwisters is a great read for fantasy and adventure enthusiasts who love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It provides the same non-stop action with mysterious and fantastical powers. Jake and Jaide are interesting characters learning about their new-found powers in a battle against evil. The action is captivating, but not too frightening for most young readers (but might be a little intense for those who scare easily).
Recommended for ages 8-11 years.
Henry York has lived a sheltered childhood with no baseball, no T.V. and no soda. He longs for adventure, but when he goes to live with his Aunt Dotty and Uncle Frank, he finds himself with more adventure than he can handle. Henry soon discovers a wall of mysterious cupboards hidden behind the plaster in his attic room. When he removes the plaster and opens some of the unlocked cupboard, strange things begin to happen. Henry and his cousin learn that the cupboards lead to different lands and places, some good and some bad.
As the story unfolds, so does the history of Henry and his family and their connection to the 100 cupboards. 100 Cupboards brings a Narnia-like story to a more modern setting. It is perfect for those who like to believe that magic lies just behind a cupboard door.
Recommended for ages—9-12.
Kate, Michael, and Emma have spent most of their young lives being passed around from one foul orphanage to another. However, Kate steadfastly claims that their parents love them and are coming back for them. When they are transferred to a new orphanage in the town of Cambridge Falls, they learn more about the fate of their parents and their own destiny.
In this new orphanage (where they are the only children), they learn from Stanilaus Pim that their parents are being held by a powerful magician known as the Dire Magnus. Kate, Michael, and Emma have been prophesied as the children to bring together the three magical Books of Beginning. The Dire Magnus wants the power from the books and holds their parents in an attempt to get the books.
In this first book of the series, the children learn about the presence of the magical world. They go on a dangerous adventure in search of The Emerald Atlas, the first Book of Beginning. Their adventures are fast-paced and reveal a much more complex story to be revealed in later books. This is a great series for families who enjoy magical stories with strong siblings and family ties. Also, Jim Dale does an excellent audio book reading.
Recommended for ages 9 and up.
When six-year-old Sarah helps an old witch on Halloween, she is given a secret, magical reward. The witch turns her costume fairy wand into a real, wish-granting wand. Unaware of her magic power, Sarah makes wish after wish, creating chaos through her neighborhood. Will the witch be able to fix her mistake before Halloween is ruined for everyone?
Witch’s Wishes is a perfect family read for the Halloween season. It has witches, flying brooms, and magic, but nothing too scary for even the youngest listeners. I read this to my four, six, and ten-year-old kids and everyone found something to enjoy.
Recommended for ages—4-11 years old
The streets of cities in the American Industrial Era are filled with hardship and struggles, especially for young people saddled with heavy responsibilities. Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician, forced to use his talent to support a cruel master. Hannah, a maid in a fancy hotel, is the sole supporter of her family of five. Frederick is an apprenticed clockmaker struggling to create something amazing. Their situations are all different, but they are drawn together through a series of adventures.
As these three build friendships, they learn to rely on each other to get through their individual trials. Together, they learn about life, compassion, and loyalty. Their story is exciting and heartwarming as they face failures and triumphs. Kirby creates an interesting picture of an America touched with magic, perfect for readers seeking reality with a little fantasy.
Recommended for ages 9-13.
When Jon Whitcroft continues to make life difficult for his mother’s new boyfriend (The Beard), he is sent to boarding school in Salisbury. Jon is determined to hate the school and everyone in it, but soon finds himself in greater trouble than holding on to his bad attitude. Soon after he arrives, Jon begins seeing ghosts—ghosts who call him by his mother’s maiden name and openly state their goal to kill him.
Ella Littlejohn hears Jon’s stories of ghosts and convinces him to call on the ghost of William Longspee, a knight supposedly devoted to helping the weak. Together, Ella and Jon meet Longspee and their adventures begin. They learn about courage, loyalty, and friendship among ghosts and humans alike.
Although the premise for this story seems dark, the ghosts are more comical than frightening. William Longspee is a hero to be admired and Jon and Ella’s friendship with him is delightful to read about. Funke writes beautifully as usual and the version I read included lovely illustrations, bringing back memories of my own visit to Salisbury Cathedral.
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
At the end of The Search for WondLa, Eva Nine has survived journeys through alien territories and being pursued by an alien hunter. She has learned lessons and is full of hope when she is rescued by her first fellow human. A Hero for WondLa brings Eva to the human city of New Attica where she soon learns that good and evil are everywhere. As Eva struggles to learn who to trust and strives to eliminate prejudice, she learns more about herself and her amazing talent to love and understand all creatures.
Tony DiTerlizzi has created a wonderful world both visually and poetically in his WondLa books. The alien creatures and futuristic world have a Star Wars type feel with a little Wizard of Oz thrown in. Eva Nine is an innocent, yet powerful heroine. In this book, Eva continues to mature and so does the story. Evil threatens more closely and Eva’s goodness continues to fight that evil. This is a captivating book for younger readers with the beautiful pictures and engaging story. However, DiTerlizzi includes a certain depth that lends appeal to older readers as well.
Recommended for ages 9-14.
The wizard is on summer holiday from running his wizard boarding school, but no one is willing to let him relax. He keeps getting called on rescue missions that begin like traditional fairy tales, but end with an unexpected twist. He goes to rescue a princess who refuses to be rescued from her dragon. One town has a problem with teenage unicorns getting drunk on fermented fruit. In the midst of all these adventures, all the wizard wants to do is save his summer garden from rabbits.
Wizard at Work is full of entertaining and funny stories for all young children, with extra subtle humor to please their parents. This is a good read-aloud with younger children, but also a great book for middle readers. There is something to appeal to all ages and genders.
Recommended for ages 5-10.