A delightful and enthusiastic adventure that should appeal to a wide range of readers.

THE DRAGON'S CAVE

A freak accident sends a 12-year-old boy to a medieval world, where he’s on a quest to claim the fabled treasure from a dragon’s lair, in this middle-grade fantasy debut.

Seamus Letterman is Sunnyfield Middle School’s cross-country star. He’d “rather be skateboarding,” especially since he’s a stronger runner than his pal Andy Peterson, and the latter’s envy sparks the occasional fight between the two. A thunderstorm hits during practice one day, and Seamus is apparently struck by lightning before blacking out. He’s awakened by Coach Peterson (Andy’s dad), only it’s Sir Peter, dressed as a knight and speaking with a Scottish lilt. Andy’s there, too—well, Andrew; he and Seamus are both squires sporting bows and arrows. They’re part of a group of roughly 30 men on the way to a dragon’s den at Turquoise Mountain, with a reputed treasure inside. Seamus is a natural archer, which makes facing the massive black dragon slightly less terrifying. But when he and Andrew are separated from the others and tending to an injured Sir Peter, Seamus manages somehow to communicate with the majestic creature. Befriending the king’s enemy may be considered treason, however, and gets Seamus no closer to his ultimate goal of getting home to Sunnyfield, Arizona. Lyttle’s story quickly moves the protagonist to the medieval setting and carries over the engrossing drama from the contemporary opening. Andrew, for example, is jealous of Seamus’ archery skills, while Sir Peter, like his coach counterpart, is a paternal figure for the hero, who lost his firefighter dad. The prose is perfectly suited for younger readers, filled with stark imagery: edges of a cliff “so ragged they looked like teeth” and an ailing Seamus, whose “head weighed a thousand pounds.” The invigorating Lacey Stocker, who surpasses Seamus in cross-country, unfortunately has a smaller role, though her medieval version does eventually make an appearance. A strong ending teases sequel possibilities, but the engaging book can easily stand on its own.

A delightful and enthusiastic adventure that should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Pub Date: April 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-87182-9

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Wilrose Dream Ventures

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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