Book Reviews

Book Review: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf

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Translated from Swedish by Velma Swanston Howard In 1909, Selma Lagerlöf became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years earlier, she wrote this delicious book that weaves true lessons of the history, geography, and wildlife of Sweden into folk tale or fairy tale episodes. It is sometimes exciting, suspenseful, and scary. Other times it is witty or silly. And now and then, it is so wistful and even tragic that ... Read More »

Book Review: Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

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You may have seen the very excellent film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, a curiously titled film, so named because it is loosely based on two different books by the same author. Patrick O’Brian’s long series of naval novels about a British captain in the Napoleonic Wars begins with this book; the one called The Far Side of the World was the tenth of twenty books, all of them centering on the exploits of ... Read More »

Book Review: The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt

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This “gothic novel for young readers” won the Edgar Allan Poe award and comes from the Newbery-medal-winning author of Dicey’s Song. Set in the late 1800’s, it is the tale of a thirteen-year-old girl, raised by a schoolmistress “Aunt” (who actually isn’t a blood relative) who is hired to spend the summer sorting out the family papers of a cold and forbidding widower named Mr. Thiel at his secluded mansion in the New England countryside. Jean ... Read More »

Book Review: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

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All right, I’ve finally done it. After 4,322,845 e-mails begging, bribing, threatening, and demanding that I read something by Tamora Pierce and review it for the Book Trolley, I finally took the hint. Now PLEASE don’t say I never listened to you! And pleeeease believe me when I say that I WILL read more books by Tamora Pierce and review them in due time. So please be patient! I would only make this last promise ... Read More »

Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

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George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish Congregationalist minister whose tolerant views caused him so much trouble that he switched to a career in writing. Even so, it wasn’’t until late in his career that he began writing stories for children, which are mainly what he is remembered for today. To MacDonald’s eleven fairy-tale-loving children, we owe not only the pleasure of reading their father’s books, but perhaps even Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, which were read ... Read More »

Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

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The 1981 winner of the Newbery Medal takes its title from a Bible verse that says: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.” Like the twins of Biblical lore, there is a bitter rivalry between Caroline and Sara Louise——at least, there is in Louise’’s mind. As the nation goes through the anguish of World War II, she is having a rough time of her own. The years of puberty and growing up are full ... Read More »

Book Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl

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The Witches by Roald Dahl A little orphan boy, being raised by his cigar-chomping Norwegian grandmother, comes to an English resort hotel for a seaside cure. While he is training his pet mice (William and Mary) to do tricks, he makes the horrifying discovery that all his Grandma’s stories about witches are true. They really do have square, toeless feet, pointy teeth, claws on their fingers, and eyes that glow purple, and they think children ... Read More »

Book Review: Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

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E is short for Edith, a British-authoress of magical stories for children who also happened to be an outspoken feminist and socialist in her time (late 19th century, early 20th). This one is regarded as her masterpiece. It really is quite a lot of fun. It mostly has to do with four children, really, though from time to time their helpless baby brother also gets involved. They are siblings, two brothers and two sisters from ... Read More »

Book Review: The Red Fairy Book Editor Andrew Lang

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This was the second book of Lang’s historic collection of fairy tales from around the world. It is evident from the brief preface that Lang considered it an afterthought—not up to the standards of the Blue Fairy Book, but filled with good stories that readers would enjoy, even if they were not as well-known. Well, clearly, being well-known isn’t the only test of a great story. And just as clearly, some stories that were well-known in ... Read More »

Book Review: Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer

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Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer From the author of Hope Was Here comes this acclaimed 1998 book about 16-year-old Jenna Boller, who knows a lot about selling shoes and a little about driving. On these qualifications she gets the unasked-for job of driving Mrs. Gladstone, the President of the shoe-store chain she works for, from Chicago to Dallas for the big shareholders’ meeting. And though her mother isn’t keen on letting Jenna go, the fact ... Read More »