Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Book Reviews / May 20, 2005

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 to the MacDonald children before they were published, with encouraging results.

Book Review: Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Book Reviews / May 4, 2005

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.

Book Review: The Witches by Roald Dahl
Book Reviews / April 5, 2005

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 smell like dog droppings. This poor, petrified boy (who interestingly remains unnamed throughout the book) only learns that these stories are more than stories when he stumbles on the fact that his hotel is filled with a Witches’ Convention.

Book Review: Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
Book Reviews / April 5, 2005

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.

Book Review: The Red Fairy Book Editor Andrew Lang
Book Reviews / March 9, 2005

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 1890 and others that weren’’t, have changed places by now. It seems that Lang’s vision for his collections changed, for by the end of twelve “fairy books of many colors,” he had brought together an astounding wealth of folklore, along with hundreds of splendid illustrations by H. J. Ford.

Book Review: Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Book Reviews / January 30, 2005

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 that her alcoholic father has come back to town ensures that she needs some time away.

Book Review: Max the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Book Reviews / January 30, 2005

This is the sequel to Freak the Mighty, featuring the surviving half of that tragic duo. Maxwell Kane is still big and strong, a loner living in his grandparents’ basement, and generally thought of as stupid; but at least, thanks to his late friend Kevin, he can read, and he no longer worries much about his father, aptly nicknamed “Killer Kane,” coming to get him.

Book Review: Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
Book Reviews / January 30, 2005

Newbery medal-winning author Robin McKinley is well-known for her novel-length adaptations of fairy tales, such as Deerskin, Beauty, and Rose Daughter. This wonderful fantasy book is her version of “The Sleeping Beauty.”

Book Review: Gold Unicorn by Tanith Lee
Book Reviews / January 30, 2005

The sequel to Black Unicorn finds young sorceress Tanaquil–whose gift is mending things–nearing the end of her travels to see her world, accompanied by a very patient camel and her adorable, talking pet peeve. As she turns toward home, toward the castle of her eccentric mother, Tanaquil strays into the path of a conquering horde–an army bent on subduing the entire world–and the icy young Empress who believes she is bringing peace and perfection to an imperfect world.

Book Review: Black Unicorn by Tanith Lee
Book Reviews / January 30, 2005

Tanaquil is a red-headed girl from a long line of red-headed sorceresses. But to her mother’s vast disappointment, Tanaquil is no sorceress. Not that Tanaquil is any happier with her lot, cooped up in a castle reeking with unruly magic, with only guards and servants for company, and a desert all around that burns by day and freezes by night. The only thing she has going for her is a talent for fixing things.