In a futuristic dystopia, three childhood friends in a small village are made privy to the deceit of the Temple City elders and the existence of an outside world.

Happy-go-lucky childhood friends Nathaniel Rush, Orah Weber and Thomas Bradford of Little Pond have only recently celebrated their coming of age. Despite living in a tightly controlled village where dreaming is strictly forbidden, Nathaniel dares to dream of knights and bravery. Little Pond revolves around farming, but the group spends most of its time at the Not Tree, a secluded treehouse in the woods. Moreover, all three are constantly aware of the tension between being labeled a “dreamer of dreams” and the fear of receiving a “teaching” to help keep the “darkness”—essentially man’s ability to think for himself—away. When Thomas is taken for a teaching, he returns stone-faced, with an empty look that hints at the horrors unveiled by the Big Brother–like elders in Temple City. Upon glancing at Thomas’ drained facial features, Orah says, “It remains to be seen whether what’s been taken from him returns or is gone forever.” While Litwak spends the first part of the text highlighting the simple, almost primitive lifestyle of Little Pond, the narrative assumes a frenetic, action-packed pace as Orah’s own teaching triggers a series of events that tests the friends’ pact of friendship and sacrifice. They encounter Samuel, the “first keeper,” guardian of the keep—an area where magical devices have allegedly been stored for millennia—who tells Nathaniel, “There once was an age of wonder, a time of magic and strife.” On their dangerous quest to find the storied keep, Nathaniel, Orah and Thomas learn the truth about the darkness: It’s the advanced, creative thinking that underscored societies of the past, so why are the elders intent on preventing it? Ignorance has allowed peace, but is it bliss? Despite a somewhat tedious beginning, the superb storyline and continually developing characters illuminate this engaging, futuristic tale. Perhaps most intriguing is the craftiness with which Litwack portrays today’s technological devices as magical emblems of darkness and evil. For instance, in the keep, Orah discovers telescopes and man’s visit to the moon, which leaves her in shock and disbelief regarding the existence of such an advanced, “magical” universe.

A must-read page turner.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1771150149

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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