It begins with two quirky kids, best friends since they were babies, each the only child of a single parent. Lottie Cook lives with her kind, slightly magical, widowed father Eldon in a sprawling, home-made home full of points of interest like a room that spins around until you get dizzy and fall down, and a giant room full of furniture that makes you feel doll-sized. Since the first day of first grade, she has worn pajamas and slippers to school every day, out of protest against having to go to school at all.
Being able to see fairies isn’t all sparkly dust and tinkly bells. Tanya has been able to see them since she was a baby, and it’s a living nightmare for her. Her parents are fed up with what they see as serious behavioral problems. And the winged creatures that visit her on moonlit nights do not bring wonder and enchantment, but threats and punishment when she doesn’t do what they want. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t nice. There’s no one Tanya can tell about them.
In the sequel to “The Secret History of Tom Trueheart”, the youngest of seven brothers in the last surviving family of storybook heroes must, once again, set out to save the older six. Not only that, but he must rescue five princesses who were spirited away on their wedding day before the helpless, horrified eyes of their wedding guests. Also, he has to stop a renegade Story Bureau scribe, now styling himself the King of Unhappy Endings, from marching an Army of Darkness against the Land of Stories.
Una Fairchild is a lonely little girl from our world who, one day, finds a book in the library purporting to be the Story of Una Fairchild. Even more amazingly, the book’s blank pages begin filling with text before her eyes, as though she were part of a story being written down as it happens in real time. Before she has a moment to stop and consider what is going on, she finds herself really inside the story—or rather in Story—gate-crashing two students’ practical exam in heroics.
Oliver Finch is an all-American boy who likes wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt, and a New York Yankees baseball cap. But thanks to his father’s career as a journalist and his mother’s interest in archaeology, he finds himself living so far from Yankee Stadium that, in his time zone, the night games start at 5:00 the next morning.
This book is what happens when a New York City schoolteacher stitches together nine fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to form one coherent story—while, at the same time, restoring much of the original versions’ weird, scary, and bloody bits. And although the narrator often pulls the reader aside and begs him to make sure there are no small children in the room to hear the tale, the entire book demonstrates an amazing faith in kids’ guts, brains, and hearts—not only that they can understand and appreciate such strong stuff, but that they are brave enough to take it, worthy to enjoy it, and keen to learn from it
This sequel to “The Name of This Book Is Secret” features a recipe for roast villain, instructions for a magic trick, an explanation for why you can hear voices across a lake at dawn or dusk, and an interview with the author, by the author—and that’s just the appendix!
The sixth book in the “Sisters Grimm” series features another “fractured fairy-tale” to delight middle-grade readers. Sabrina and Daphne go through a lot in this installment. While Sabrina finds herself reaching the age where she can’t help worrying about how she looks, Daphne suddenly—and, to Sabrina, irritatingly—takes to imitating her older sister.
And now, in Book 3 of the “Norumbegan” Quartet, Brian, Gregory, and a clockwork troll named Kalgrash travel to the new homeworld of the fey Norumbegans, seeking their help to save Earth. Instead of a nice, straightforward planet, however, the boys find themselves somewhere in the innards of a world-sized creature—the Great Body, as its inhabitants call it.
I was so overwhelmed by the strangeness and originality of this book’s fantasy conceits that, in spite of several clues, I got halfway through it before I realized that it is a retelling of the Arthurian legend. Color me embarrassed!