Book Review: The Wizard of Washington Square by Jane Yolen
Book Reviews / December 17, 2005

David and his terrier, D. Dog, have only lived in New York City for a week when they go for a walk in Washington Square Park. David is feeling lonely and bored until he meets Leila, a girl his age who still believes in things like wizards. Grudgingly, David goes along with Leila on an adventure to discover the little, forgetful, second-class wizard who lives under the fountain in Washington Square.

Book Review: The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick
Book Reviews / December 17, 2005

Samuel “Skiff” Beaman, Jr., is twelve years old and small for his age; but he carries a lot of responsibility. Since his mother died, his father doesn’t do much except drink beer and watch TV. Even when the family’s fishing boat sinks on the last day of school, Big Skiff doesn’t lift a finger. So it’s up to Little Skiff to raise the sunken Mary Rose and repair the damage to her hull. Then he sets out to earn enough money to rebuild her diesel engine by single-handedly fishing 200 lobster traps in a 10-foot skiff, powered by a 5-horsepower motor.

Book Review: The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
Book Reviews / November 20, 2005

Walter Edmonds specialized in historical fiction, set in colonial New York. Some of his adult books have achieved near-classic status, such as In the Hands of the Seneca and Drums Along the Mohawk. But generations of children know him mainly as the author of this brief story, which won the 1942 Newbery Medal.

Book Review: The Dragon Guard by Emily Drake
Book Reviews / November 12, 2005

This third book in the series that started with The Magickers continues as the most obvious “American answer to Harry Potter” — one that even makes references to Harry Potter, as well as Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings. Set in Southern California, the series follows the adventures of a group of “talented” children who first found out that they were Magickers while attending Camp Ravenwyng for the summer.

Book Review: The Curse of Arkady by Emily Drake
Book Reviews / November 12, 2005

Here is Book Two in a series that could be billed as, “If Harry Potter were an American.” What a difference that would make! Instead of an underfed, mistreated, Quidditch-playing orphan named Harry Potter, he would be a bullied, soccer-playing boy named Jason Adrian whose step-stepfather is rather nice, and whose stepmother worries about him so much that it causes problems. Instead of owls, he and his friends from the past summer’s Magicker summer camp keep in touch over the internet. And instead of a safe (???) boarding school where young wizards and witches can study magic together, they attend their own separate schools and the school of life, while a mysterious curse and a deadly enemy seek to take advantage of their lack of training.

Book Review: The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Book Reviews / November 12, 2005

As this book begins, 10-year-old Robin is helpless and alone. Duty to the king and queen have taken his parents away from him, plague has taken his servants, and a mysterious illness has taken the use of his legs. His dreams of being a page and, some day, a knight seem dashed beyond repair.

Book Review: Wizards at War by Diane Duane
Book Reviews / October 16, 2005

The Young Wizards series has always been among my top recommendations when Harry Potter fans ask what to read next. So, I was already thrilled when I found out that this eighth book in the series was coming out. Then I got an even bigger thrill when Diane Duane HERSELF “owled” me through the COS Forums. Do you dig that, people? The author of So You Want to Be a Wizard is a member of your forums! And she has read my reviews of her books! And now, in spite of a badly-timed vacation and a lot of fuss with DHL, I have in my hands an autographed copy of Wizards at War. Feasting! Rejoicing!

Book Review: The Skull of Truth by Bruce Coville
Book Reviews / October 16, 2005

In the other three “Magic Shop Books,” the adventure begins when a child, running from some bullies (or at least, from a girl who wants to kiss him) finds himself on a strange street, in front of a strange shop owned by Mr. Elives. And then the child spends a handful of pocket change to buy a magical item that can help him or her deal with his own special problem. Charlie Eggleston’s adventure begins a bit differently. Charlie has a problem with the truth, and perhaps it is the streak of dishonesty in him that leads him to shoplift a skull from Mr. Elives’ shop.

Book Review: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
Book Reviews / October 16, 2005

The four “Magic Shop Books” by Bruce Coville are united by certain patterns, almost rituals, such as the hero child’s discovery of the mysterious shop where Mr. Elives sells powerful magic objects for pocket change. Another thread that runs through the books is that each child finds just the kind of magic that will help him deal with his own special problem – a problem that many of us faced at that age.

Book Review: Jennifer Murdley’s Toad by Bruce Coville
Book Reviews / October 16, 2005

We should all be so lucky as to have a teacher or a father like Bruce Coville – if for no other reason than to hear the stories he tells, and to meet the characters he creates (some of them actually came to visit his classroom from time to time). But perhaps the best reason to wish for a Bruce Coville in your life is that he seems to understand the awkward problems children live with.