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.
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.
It wasn’t unusual for people to compare Tom Harriman to a superhero, but they never knew how right they were. Zach Harriman knew his dad was special, but he didn’t realize how special until after Tom’s death in a mysterious plane accident. With his father dead, Zach starts to exhibit powers he never had before. He knows when danger is coming. His senses are heightened and he can move with amazing speed. On top of that, Zach keeps finding himself and those he loves in dangerous circumstances.
Now Zach learns the bedtime stories his father told him about ‘the Bads’ may not have been stories after all. ‘The Bads’ are real and, with his father gone, they are after Zach. For all comic book and superhero fans, Hero is a perfect blend of fantasy and real life. Zach Harriman is an everyday kid learning to be a superman. The action is fast-paced and the characters are believable. It is mild enough for younger readers, but interesting enough for an older audience.
Recommended for ages 10 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.
In late winter 1858, Early Whitcomb and his family were struggling to save their farm. After a dry year and poor harvest, their savings were barely enough to pay the mortgage. Threats from the bank were becoming more severe and financial ruin seemed inevitable. About this time, the farmers began to hear rumors of gold found out West at Pike’s Peak. Early’s Uncle Jesse is caught up in the gold fever and is sure that digging for gold will solve all their problems.
When Jesse disappears, Early joins a wagon train to follow his uncle and join the rush for gold. This I Witness book gives a realistic look at the culture and struggles of emigrants and gold diggers in the Old West. Avi includes illustrations and photographs that help teach history as well as share an intriguing story.
In the country of Carthya, the royal family lies dead and civil war is imminent. The nobles of the country are grasping for power in their own ways, but one chooses deception. Conner is far from a place on the throne, but he plans to produce the missing and presumed dead Prince Jaron. In an attempt to create a false prince, Conner chooses three orphan boys near the prince’s age and attempts to train them to become royalty. Through his chosen prince, he will rule the country.
Sage is one of those boys pulled from an orphanage and forced into Conner’s treasonous plan. Even while he struggles to avoid enemies and fight against Conner’s plan, Sage knows he must be chosen as the false prince to survive. The False Prince is a story of adventure and intrigue, but also about self-discovery and being true to what you believe. Both the characters and story are entertaining, making the book an exciting read for tweens and teens alike. I enjoyed the ending that resolved while still leaving room for further development.
Recommend for ages 11 and up.
It is the summer of 1910 and wildfires are raging through northern Idaho and Montana. Sixteen-year-old Jarrett Logan signs on to fight the fires and is forced to quickly grow up in ways he never imagined. Private Seth Brown learns the army is much more frightening work and less glory when his division is assigned to fight the fires. Lizbeth Whitcomb realizes the true beauty of the wilderness as she sees it burning before her eyes. Through these perspectives, Ingold shows the bravery and the horror that characterized what is now known as ‘the Big Burn.’
The characters are ordinary teenagers living in an extraordinary time of history. Their relationships and their struggles against nature are both compelling and inspiring. The Big Burn is an interesting retelling of history as well as a very captivating story. It is a good read for teenagers, especially those interested in fire fighting.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
Another Pan is a much darker version of Peter Pan placed in a more modern age with hints of Egyptian mythology sprinkled throughout. Wendy and John Darling are students at Marlowe, an elitist New York high school, because their father is a member of the faculty. They are embarrassed by their father’s obsession with Egyptology until they begin working on a special exhibit arranged for the school. They meet Peter, a mysterious new RA, and his gang of boys who refer to themselves as the LBs. Soon Wendy and John are swept up in Peter’s quest to find ‘bone dust’, a dust in the bones of certain mummies and purported to bring eternal life. Strangely, these bones are found in a part of the Egyptian underworld that has relocated to beneath the Marlowe school.
For readers expecting a flying and light-hearted Peter with a harmless crush on sweet, motherly Wendy, this is quite a different story. The evil in Another Pan is much deeper than bumbling Captain Hook and Peter’s selfish desire for immortality is more cutting. In spite of the darker feel, the story is well constructed and exciting to read. I listened to the audio book excellently read by Katherine Kelgren. The story is clean and appropriate for teen readers, but a little too dark and suspenseful for younger children.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder writes great stories for readers between 8 and tween. Her stories feature strong, child heroes having fast-paced and intriguing adventures. However, she keeps the stories appropriate for young audiences in subject and content. Another great thing about Snyder is the number of books she has written. If you enjoy one, there are many more to choose.
In William S. and the Great Escape, William Baggett is a precocious and creative kid trapped in rotten family. With an angry and lazy father, mean stepmother, and a seemingly innumerable group of bullying older siblings, William longs for escape. His plans are altered when some of the older kids flush his younger sister Jancy’s pet guinea pig down the toilet. At that point, she insists that they and the two youngest Baggetts hit the road. Their escape is filled with adventures and close calls as four neglected kids try to find a better home.
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is a profound story about loyalty and adversity. With his experience as a family therapist, Chris Crutcher knows and reveals the ugliness of cruelty, prejudice, and human suffering. He writes about issues like child abuse, abortion, depression and suicide with raw honesty. However, his books also show the beauty of personal strength, true compassion, and loyal friendship. His stories aren’t for readers who want a fairy tale version of the world, but his reality shows the victory of people helping each other through inevitable hard times.
Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune have been friends since junior high. Their friendship began because Sarah’s scars and Eric’s fat made them outcasts and allies. Eric relied on Sarah Byrnes’s tough disregard for public opinion or authority. But when Sarah Byrnes ends up in the Sacred Heart psychiatric ward, it is up to Eric to save her from herself and others. This novel is uplifting, but deals with hard issues. I recommend it for older teenagers, mature enough to understand hard life lessons.