This is the first novel in the Pit Dragon Trilogy that continues with Heart’s Blood. The author has also written a Young Merlin Trilogy and a Tartan Magic trilogy, as well as a Starscape book entitled Briar Rose.
Ms. Levine’s first children’s novel is this 1997 Newbery Honor Book, which has recently been made into a movie. (Robbie’s note: Whoops. Don’t go to see the movie after all. It really stinks.) And in a way, it’s nothing new. It’s another version of the classic Cinderella tale, which has been made into countless movies (like Ever After), books (like Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister) and even operas (La Cenerentola by Rossini). But this version has some fascinating twists that make it quite its own tale, and its heroine will win you over.
Though this book won the 1985 Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature, it is a rather grown-up book. I suppose that proves that a book doesn’t have to be about children, or even necessarily written for children, to be enjoyed by young readers.
From the Wolves series, featuring Dido Twite, I had already come to regard Joan Aiken as a wonderful writer with a flair for colloquial British speech, humor, adventure, and the clash of titanic forces of good and evil. From Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret I had come to regard the Starscape series (penned by a variety of authors) as being possibly the best-kept secret in young-adult fiction. Both of these impressions are confirmed by The Cockatrice Boys, a Starscape book by the daughter of American poet Conrad Aiken.
The author of Ben and Me and illustrator of Mr. Popper’s Penguins won a Newbery Medal in 1945 for both writing and illustrating this story. And in my opinion, it should be a children’s classic.
There are several good reasons not to include a review of “the Good Book” on the Book Trolley. First, MuggleNet does not sponsor any particular religion, and my views about the Bible are not necessarily the views of MuggleNet, its webmaster, its editors, or its devoted readers. I’m sure they have no intention of letting this site be used for religious propaganda. Second, it might seem beneath the dignity of the Bible, to those of us who regard it as the Book of Books, to place it alongside such literary works as The Cricket in Times Square and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. And third, though I would argue there is nothing sacrilegious or satanic about the magic in Harry Potter and most other fairy-tale/fantasy stories, I certainly don’t want to put the mighty, historical acts of God on par with storybook magic.
This is a companion book to Sounder, and in my opinion, an even more moving book. Perhaps its power lies in its personal, intimate nature. Unlike Sounder, this book is full of characters with lifelike names. It does not come across as a universal parablethough it may be thatbut as a portrait of a handful of very specific, individual people. People who are bound together by loss and by love, by hard work and the enjoyment of stories, by the unfolding of natures beautiful secrets, and by the grim reality of the ugliness that remains in the heart of man.
This is a still, gentle story about loss, waiting, and searching, set in the Southern U. S. around the turn of the 20th century. It mostly concerns a family circle–particularly the mother, father, and oldest boy–and their coon dog, Sounder. Touched by tragedy and racial injustice, it puts a high value on hope, on the love of nature, and on the love of words.
Written in 1906 to benefit a London children’s hospital, this classic has gone through such a wringer of stage, film, and animated adaptations, not to mention picture-book retellings, that reading or hearing the original text is now somewhat unusual; but not nearly as unusual as the story itself, which is by turns witty and bizarre and melancholy and gruesome, and always narrated in a uniquely teasing way.
Second-grader Ramona Quimby is distressed when her father loses his job. This brings changes in her family, which includes an older sister “Beezus” (given name Beatrice) who is going through that “difficult age,” a cat who snubs cheap cat food, and a mother who has to work so hard to support the family that she doesn’t have time to do things like sewing a sheep costume for the Christmas program. But what worries Ramona most is her father, who is moody and smokes too much.