Book Review: Nurse Matilda series by Christianna Brand

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Nurse Matilda Nurse Matilda Goes to Town Nurse Matilda Goes to Hospital by Christianna Brand These three books are now available in a single-volume edition titled Nanny McPhee, in honor of the 2006 motion picture that is more or less based on them. I am stubbornly refusing to put that title above this review, however, because the name “Nanny McPhee” never once appears in these books, and the poor author is no longer around to say ... Read More »

Book Review: Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

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Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, has called this book an “anthropomorphic fantasy.” His own book is another example of the type: fantasies that get inside the minds of animals, that explore their relationships and experiences as if they were people–yet in a grown-up, semi-realistic way. I mean, the animals act mostly like animals. They don’t walk on their hind legs, wear clothes, drive cars, and so forth. But they talk to each other, have ... Read More »

Book Review: Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede

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This book includes an original story from the Enchanted Forest as well as 9 other short stories from every stage of Wrede’s writing career, most of them previously published. The stories represent an entertaining mixture of styles, and the author’s note gives an intriguing explanation about how each was written. Lovers of fantasy and fairy tale, as well as aspiring young writers, really must read this book. The first story is “Rikiki and the Wizard,” written for ... Read More »

Book Review: Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

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“Now a major motion picture,” says the cover on the paperback, above an adorable picture of the actor who played Damian Cunningham in the film based on this book. Or rather, the film on which this book was based…er… It’s like the old chicken-or-egg question. Which came first, the book or the movie? It seems that the book was still being written when the movie was being filmed. Yet the book is certainly more than ... Read More »

Book Review: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

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The winner of the 1989 Newbery Medal is one of the most attractive, yet unusual, books ever to win that award. That much you can gather from the front cover, with its drawing of a butterfly playing a tambourine. It is a short book, and it doesn’t have a plot, so there isn’t much to say about it in summary, except for four points: The book contains 14 poems, each written in 2 parallel columns, ... Read More »

Book Review: Dragon’’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde

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Alys is the daughter of a village tinsmith, who is too poor to afford an apprentice, and too ill to do his work alone. So Alys violates the social norms of her society by learning to make tin buttons for her father. She is guilty of no more than that. But one day a covetous neighbor levels a wicked accusation against Alys, and a sleazy inquisitor condemns her as a witch. Abandoned by her friends, ... Read More »

Book Review: The Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson

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I have long enjoyed the books of Mr. Dickinson’s wife, Robin McKinley. Until now, I have never read anything by Dickinson himself, though his titles include the winners of 2 Carnegie Medals, 2 Whitbread Awards, 4 ALA Best Book for Young Adults awards, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, a Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Award, and other honors. His books include The Ropemaker, Eva, AK, A Bone from a Dry Sea, and many other enticing fantasy titles. I believe The Tears of ... Read More »

Book Review: Whispering to Witches by Anna Dale

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Here is a funny, scary, and exciting story about a lonely boy who rides a train into the middle of a magical adventure with good and bad witches. If this sounds like a description of Harry Potter, you may be in for a surprise. Apart from some standard witch equipment such as brooms and a similar flair for creating character names, the similarities between this story and the Harry Potter books go no further. The ... Read More »

Book Review: The Battle for the Castle by Elizabeth Winthrop

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Two years have passed since Mrs. Phillips went away. But as William turns twelve years old, he is still small, slight, and gentle-hearted. He still has the toy castle that Mrs. Phillips gave him when he turned ten, though he rarely plays with it now. He is still the star of the gymnastics team, but he isn’t sure he likes the sport any more. And he is more lonely than ever, as his only friend ... Read More »

Book Review: The Time Quartet (or rather, Quintet) by Madeleine L’Engle

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In four books published between 1962 and 1986, American author Madeleine L’Engle created a unique world of cosmic fantasy, with the six members of the exceptional Murry family caught up in the classic battle between good and evil. Mr. and Mrs. Murry are renowned scientists. The father is constantly being called to Washington to consult with the President, or to Cape Canaveral to consult with NASA. The mother is doing her own private experiments in ... Read More »