Although slightly old-fashioned and unflashy, Sakelson’s debut is a worthy addition to the canon of medieval fairy tales.

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Gwendolyn and the Seeds of Destiny

An old-fashioned fairy tale of curses, magic and selflessness, complete with a kindhearted heroine and misunderstood monsters.

Twelve-year-old Princess Gwendolyn longs to sail the seas, but her family has been imprisoned on their home island of Valmar ever since the evil King Sköll of Merovia’s army invaded years ago. However, Gwendolyn gets her chance at adventure when a gryphon warns her that Merovian forces plan to attack the island again, this time wiping out not only her own kingdom, but a neighboring kingdom of giants as well. Undaunted by the historical strife between the giants and the Valmarians (or the disapproval of her parents), Gwendolyn sets out to restore peace between the kingdoms so they can join forces against the Merovians. Complications arise, however, when an ancient dragon seeks revenge against Gwendolyn’s family for stealing from him years before. As Gwendolyn strives to protect her kingdom, she calls upon her shrewd younger brother Aelthelred and her mysterious tutor Polonius, and faces cruel trolls and deceptive kings. Along the way, she discovers her own power and strength as she deals with nearly impossible predicaments. Spirited and altruistic, though not faultless, Gwendolyn is a thoroughly enjoyable female heroine. Although Sakelson’s moral lessons on courage and unselfishness may feel heavy-handed to adults, they aren’t so blatant that they’ll turn off middle-grade readers. The author’s well-paced tale has hints of The Lord of the Rings series and Welsh and Irish mythology, and in a literary landscape of post-apocalyptic trilogies and tortured heroines, this graceful main character feels refreshingly uncomplicated and wholesome. The lack of a romantic interest, too, gives the tale a more modern feel. Its clever plot twists, likable characters and twists on common folklore will intrigue readers familiar with fairy tales and delight readers who are new to the fantasy genre.

Although slightly old-fashioned and unflashy, Sakelson’s debut is a worthy addition to the canon of medieval fairy tales.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985586416

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

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The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and...

WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO

Inspired by Colombian librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez, Brown’s latest tells of a little girl whose wish comes true when a librarian and two book-laden burros visit her remote village.

Ana loves to read and spends all of her free time either reading alone or to her younger brother. She knows every word of the one book she owns. Although she uses her imagination to create fantastical bedtime tales for her brother, she really wants new books to read. Everything changes when a traveling librarian and his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, arrive in the village. Besides loaning books to the children until his next visit, the unnamed man also reads them stories and teaches the younger children the alphabet. When Ana suggests that someone write a book about the traveling library, he encourages her to complete this task herself. After she reads her library books, Ana writes her own story for the librarian and gives it to him upon his reappearance—and he makes it part of his biblioburro collection. Parra’s colorful folk-style illustrations of acrylics on board bring Ana’s real and imaginary worlds to life. This is a child-centered complement to Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro (2010), which focuses on Soriano.

The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.   (author’s note, glossary of Spanish terms) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-353-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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