THE FIRE OF ARES

SPARTAN QUEST, BOOK 1

This first in a series explores ancient Sparta and the tensions between the ruling Spartans and their slaves, the Helots. Young Lysander lives as a slave with a secret: He possesses a mythical jewel that his ailing mother insists he must never lose. Ford weaves an exciting if somewhat implausible story around the theft of the jewel and Lysander’s rise into freedom and inclusion in the Spartan system of barracks-style education. If the plot raises an eyebrow, it doesn’t prevent Ford from illustrating daily life in Sparta quite effectively, making its history palatable to young readers. As Lysander struggles with the demands of his tutors, he feels conflicting loyalties to both the Spartans and Helots. Ford includes plenty of thrilling fights and footraces as he propels his story toward a sequel. Blood and sweat enhance the book’s appeal. A useful introduction to ancient history for its target audience. (Historical fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8027-9744-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

BEHIND THE BLUE

A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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H.I.V.E.

THE HIGHER INSTITUTE OF VILLAINOUS EDUCATION

How do super-villains become super-villains? Apparently, graduating from H.I.V.E. would be a good start. This fun romp starts with the arrival of a new class of students, kidnapped out of their daily lives and whisked away to an unknown hidden island. Whether sent by super-villain parents or snatched out of an orphanage because of a precocious prank on the Prime Minister of England, these teens must adapt to a new curriculum, consisting of Villainy Studies and Stealth & Evasion 101 in lieu of the traditional three Rs. Of course, some things never change—living up to a parent’s reputation, dealing with the bullies from the Brute Squad and making new friends are part of every teen’s life. And while some students are clearly happy to be where they are, there are those who are looking for a way out—any way out. This is a fun, intelligent and rapid read, an astringent breath of fresh air, in counterpoint to the sweetness of Hogwarts. Technology replaces magic, and brains are the key asset. This is Walden’s first novel, but clearly not his last, as this is a six-year program. Let the adventure begin! (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3571-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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