Tag Archive: adventures

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon

Archer lives in a house that his grandparents filled with all of their discoveries from exploring the world. That’s the closest that Archer has ever gotten to having his own adventure. In fact, he’s really not allowed to leave the house except to attend school because his mother is afraid that he has “tendencies” towards exploring. And she is right! Even though he is stuck in the house, Archer manages to make two close friends in Oliver and Adelaide. The three of them begin planning to rescue Archer’s grandparents from the iceberg where they were last seen two years ago. They have to avoid detection from Archer’s mother as well as their horrible teacher who also lives in their neighborhood. As they plan their escape, the three friends are in for the adventure of a lifetime.

It is amazing that this is Gannon’s debut book. It is written with such surety and clarity. The plot is very strong, one that readers can count on answering questions after allowing the reader to puzzle and stew a bit. The writing is lovely, creating a setting that is clear and crisp. The house itself is a world separate from the rest, filled with mounted animals, surprising gifts, and red trunks. Descriptions are used to create this world and paint it before your eyes. They manage to not slow the pace of the book, which moves from leisurely storytelling to a wild mania at the end.

The illustrations too are exceptional. Done in old-fashioned full-color panels, they are filled with wonderful details. You get to see the various houses depicted in minute detail. The characters too are shown in a wonderful delicacy that shines with lamplight and sun. Even the darkness of the classroom is lit from the side, glowing with a wonder that matches the storyline.

An imaginative and wonderful read, this book is one to snuggle up with and share aloud. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (InfoSoup)

Feo lives with her mother in the Russian wilderness, away from any civilization. They are the people who are sent the wolves who have been reared in luxury in Russian homes. It is bad luck to kill a wolf, so the wolves are given to Feo and her mother to release into the wild. Feo has three wolves who are very special to her, Black, White and Gray. The three live in a nearby chapel that is slowly decaying. They are fully wild, but love Feo too, accepting her as part of their pack. Things are changing in Russia and some people don’t like wolves and the damage they do to livestock. So soldiers come and threaten Feo and her mother, including a man named Rakov who is brutal and cruel. Feo and her mother get another pampered wolf and when she gives birth a young soldier of Rakov’s emerges from the tree and is enchanted by Feo and her wolves. Feo will need his help when her mother is taken to prison in a far-away city and Feo sets off on a quest to free her.

Rundell is one of my favorite authors writing today. Her books are so different from one another, set in completely different times and places. Yet the thing that binds them all together is Rundell’s exceptional story telling. All of her books have strong young heroines, girls who have been raised in unusual circumstances and have grown to be wild women of the very best kind. Feo is the epitome of a wild woman, a girl who raises wolves, who teaches them to be wild and free, who adores the cold and snow, and who is brave enough to cross Russia to save her mother. Feo is not perfect. She is prickly and often unable to express her emotions. Her hugs are brutally hard, her determination unshakeable even when leading her straight into danger, and yet she is loyal and immensely big hearted in a way that will have all readers cheering her on.

Rundell’s writing is exceptional. She writes with her own ferocity, words tumbling and creating such strong imagery and amazing juxtapositions. She creates an entire snowy world for Feo to inhabit, filled with wolves who love deeply, hills to ski down madly, and trees to climb to safety. Here is how Feo sees her snowy home:

Feo loved it. The land around the house shook and shone with life. She had seen people pass by her wood bewailing the sameness of the white landscape, but, Feo thought, they were just illiterate: They hadn’t learned how to read the world properly. The snow gossiped and hinted of storms and birds. It told a new story every morning. Feo grinned and sniffed the sharpness of the air. “It’s the most talkative weather there is…”

Another amazing read from Rundell, get this into the hands of any young wolf girls you know. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Simon and Schuster.


Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson (InfoSoup)

Violet and her family live happily together in an asteroid belt where her mother is a clothing designer and her father salvages items from outer space. Then Violet’s school is eaten in a space whale feeding frenzy and she has to go to work with her mother. While they are there, more whale attacks happen and her father disappears. Violet decides that she has to find out what happened to him. She gathers two friends together, one of them a snazzily dressed chicken and the other the last of the Lumpkins. But there are many dangers in space and Violet and her friends get set upon by space gangs, have to traverse a ring of trash, and then must figure out why the whales are on a rampage. It’s up to Violet to save her dad and she just might save the entire galaxy along the way.

Thompson is the acclaimed author of graphic novels like Blankets and Habibi. This is his first graphic novel for young readers and with it he demonstrates his immense skill in writing for any age. Violet is a strong and fierce female protagonist who is the one running into danger to save others, and I love a girl who works to save her father in space. It’s a great feminist twist on a more traditional structure. Louis, the chicken, is also a great male character who also is non-stereotypical and loves his clothes and not adventuring in space. Additionally, the book uses humor constantly, creating a book filled with puns and laughter, just what I’d want in any space adventure.

Thompson’s art is wonderfully strong. He takes the time to show young readers not only the outside of the spacecrafts but the insides as well using cutaways of the hulls. The various worlds and space structures that they visit are unique and diverse, creating a full sense of adventure as the book moves along. Thompson never forgets that this is a science fiction book, keeping the art and the story fully grounded in that world and setting. He also manages to include themes of environmentalism and individuality very successfully.

Another strong girl to join Zita the Spacegirl in taking readers to space and the stars. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from ARC received from GRAPHIX.

Dragons Beware by Jorge Aguirre

Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Released May 12, 2015.

Join Claudette on her second quest as a warrior. This time it is Claudette’s father who heads out alone into battle, attempting to get his sword back from the dragon who swallowed it along with his legs and one of his arms. But Claudette is determined not to be left behind in town and heads off with just her dog with her. Her best friend Marie and her little brother Gaston join her a little later. Together they are all captured by the evil wizard Grombach and his army of stone gargoyles. Grombach has encased the entire town army in amber, using his ability to turn things to stone. When he is distracted by the Apple Hag, the children rescue people along with the Apple Hag who in turn is the one who finds the Gaston could be a magic user. The children continue on toward to dragon’s lair, managing to sneak past the dragon’s offspring and deep within the mountain. There they discover Claudette’s father trapped by the dragon and set out to rescue him. But it will take more than the power of the sword and fighting to get them out alive.

I adore Claudette, a girl who wants to be a warrior and never shrinks away from any battle no matter how outnumbered she is. She is entirely herself, proud to be the girl she is. At the same time, I love that she has Marie as her counterpoint. Marie is a girl who loves pretty dresses and worries about her hair, but she too heads into battle in her own distinct way, this time with diplomacy. Then there is Gaston, the boy who loves to cook but also wants to make his father proud so he’s working on warrior skills like creating swords. He’s not very good at it.

These three protagonists make this book a marvelous adventure. It is filled with their large personalities, laugh-out-loud funny puns and one-liners, and lots and lots of adventure, danger and battles. Claudette’s father fights despite being in a wheelchair and characters of all colors appear in the story. This is a celebration of diversity on the page thanks to the art by Rosado which ranges from completely silly to blazing fight scenes.

A very strong female protagonist is the center of these books and she will thrill children with her bravery. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and First Second.


Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen

The Lumberjane scout camp is for “hardcore lady types” who celebrate “Friendship to the max!” Five friends are spending their summer together here and they are in for unexpected adventures as they earn their badges. When they head out to get their nighttime badge, they encounter the first of the supernatural monsters, a pack of three-eyed wolves. Luckily the friends, Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley, are also elite fighters so they manage to defeat the wolves. Back at camp, their counselor marches them to the office for discipline, but the head of the camp seems more intrigued than surprised by their find. As the summer progresses, the girls face hipster yetis, polite boy campers with a dark side, stone statues that come to life, and plenty of traps. Summer camp has never been this full of wild creatures and epic battles, all done by a group of amazing girls.

I first heard about how wonderful this comic book was when it was not yet a graphic novel, and I am so thrilled that the first four comics have been turned into this novel that is perfect for libraries. I had high expectations for this comic and was still dazzled by it and rather twitchy to get my hands on the next one. The characters are phenomenally well done, each girl having her own distinct personality and style. Add in the delight of finding a budding lesbian love story and it’s pure magic. I love kick-ass heroines, and this series has FIVE to fall for.

The art is well done too with its own vibe. It has the friendly feel of a Telgemeier combined with more edge that make the battle scenes really work. There is plenty of action and humor to make the book race along. I love the addition of extra art at the end done in a variety of styles. It invites fans of the characters to draw them and create their own stories about these great girls.

This is a graphic novel to devour in one sitting and immediately turn to the beginning and start again. Pure girl-power perfection. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

ms rapscotts girls

Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera (InfoSoup)

Ms. Rapscott runs a board school for girls that is all about adventure, courage and birthday cake, with candles. When a new summer term begins, five little girls are mailed to the school in their boxes. Mailed because their parents are some of the busiest people in the world and can’t be bothered to drop their children off at school in person. Four little girls make it safe and sound but the fifth has fallen out of her box because it wasn’t sealed properly. Ms. Rapscott has to teach her remaining students some of the basics of life like bathing, brushing teeth, and the importance of stout boots when going on adventures. But most of her lessons are much more fun and involve things like riding the wind into the sky and skimming the surface of the water on seals. As the girls learn how to take care of themselves and embrace adventure, they are also locating the missing student, by trying not to find her.

Funny and delightfully whimsical, this book is at its heart a book that shows that little girls can be just as daring, naughty and adventurous as boys. These are girls who have flaws, like shouting all the time, being a know-it-all, and just wanting to spend time watching TV or asleep. But in each of them is a little adventurer who if fed enough attention and cake will rise to the opportunities before her.

The art in the book adds a delightful richness to the tale as well as breaking up the text so that the book is more approachable for young readers. Done in full double-page spreads, the illustrations show the different parts of the school as well as important moments in the story. At the beginning and end of the book, they appear in a series of illustrations that welcome the girls to the school and then send them home at the end with a promise of adventures to come.

Enter a world of magical wonder in this book for young readers where adventure awaits everyone. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

blown away

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

Penguin Blue has a brand new kite but when he flies it, it lifts him right off the ice and up into the air. Two other penguins try to help and get swept along too. Wilbur the harp seal tries to catch them and joins the group flying along. Blue calls out for help from a polar bear and then Clive is riding along too, his boat and all. They are finally dropped on a lush warm jungle isle where they all agree it is way too hot. Blue has a great solution though, it will just take Clive’s boat, leaves and vines and one good gust of wind that is provided by the elephants on the island. Soon the group are back in their icy home, but there is one stowaway from the island who now needs to figure out how to get back to the warmth of the jungle.

This romp of a picture book is filled with a positive feel throughout. Each new challenge is playfully presented and merrily dealt with through clever solutions. The text rhymes and creates a jaunty cheer that makes this book great fun to share aloud. The rhyming story is written very strongly with a great story arc that solidly supports the humor. This is a book that is immensely satisfying to read.

The design of the book is stellar with playful word design and placement that enhances the strong illustrations. The book is beautifully illustrated with images filled with strong graphic elements, deep colors and also small playful touches. Children will enjoy lingering over the illustrations and spotting the penguins waiting for the bus on an ice floe and the bear losing his map immediately. The combination of strong vivid illustrations and small details make for a book that has its own unique vibe.

A great read-aloud for any penguin story time, this picture book will be enjoyed by preschoolers looking for a complete and playful story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

fork tongue charmers

The Luck Uglies: Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham

This second book in the Luck Uglies series continues the rollicking story of Rye and her family and friends. With a new lawman in town, Rye and her family have been targeted as outlaws. It doesn’t help that Harmless, the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies, is her father. When her mother’s shop is burned to the ground, they take refuge in the inn that belongs to one of Rye’s best friends family where lawlessness is already embraced. But that safety is breached as the soldiers march upon it and Rye and her family are sent across the sea to the safety of the Isle of Pest. It is where Rye’s mother and father first met and where her mother’s father still lives. But Pest will not be the safe haven that they are looking for as they are pursued there as well, putting the entire island in danger. It is up to Rye to figure out what exactly is going on and who the new lawman actually is.

Durham has written another great read for middle graders. He has a knack for creating stories that are fast-paced and wildly exciting. At the same time, his feel for world building is impeccable. Here he creates a new island world for readers to explore even as he continues the story of Drowning and its people. The new island has its own quirks and Durham builds it with such skill that they all make sense and feel natural.

Rye grows even further as a heroine in this second book. Her pluck, courage and grit show on every page. She is clearly the daughter of her parents, who people who don’t back down or ever cower, though they face enemies in different ways and styles. Rye’s relationships with people continue to be the heart of the story from her dear best friends to her budding relationship with her grandfather. It is these moments that add depth to the book.

A great second book in a marvelous series, I can’t wait to see what happens next and neither will young readers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperCollins.


Quest by Aaron Becker

This follow-up to the Caldecott Honor winning Journey continues the wordless travels of the two characters from the first book.  The two children head off on a fantasy quest this time after a king comes through a door and hands them a map.  He is dragged off by soldiers but as he goes, he drops his orange crayon, one that is just like their red and purple ones.  The two children go through the door and find themselves in a new world.  They embark on a quest to bring all of the crayons together, venturing into the depths of the sea, onto desert islands, to pyramids and temples.  At each one they gather another crayon color until they reach the pinnacle of the temple where the bad guys almost get them…

Becker has created a wordless book that has the same appeal as the first book.  The pace here is rapid, giving only a few images for each color that is gathered.  That offers the wild pace of an adventure novel or film, so it suits the subject.  The fast ride adds greatly to the appeal here, never bogging down and always revealing new visual wonders to explore. 

Becker’s art shines on the page.  He creates entire worlds that have real depth to them, that take readers on amazing adventures.  There are great details of color on the page, and I love the way that the various creative ideas of the children all remain in place at the end of the book, completely come to life. 

A celebration of art and creativity, this book along with its predecessor will become beloved reads.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

over there

Over There by Steve Pilcher

Shredder lives all by himself in the big forest.  He has a cozy bed in a matchbox under a maple tree, he has plenty to eat which means worms since he’s a shrew, and he has a pet acorn.  But acorns can’t talk and Shredder felt that something was missing.  So he sets off to see if there is something more out there.  Seeing a twinking in the distance, he heads out to see what it is.  After a long journey all night, it turns out to be a tiny silver boat and Shredder climbs aboard.  But the boat doesn’t float for long.  Happily, just as Shredder disappears under the water, a hand reaches out to save him.  It’s a mole, named Nosey.  As the two of them spend time together, Shredder starts to realize that he has found “something more” after all.

Pilcher’s story is straight forward and speaks directly to loneliness and the journey to find a new friend.  He incorporates clever elements that create wonderful quiet moments in the book.  The time that Shredder spends with his silent acorn pet, the question of what the shining thing in the distance is, the floating moments on the water, the warmth of new friendship. 

What is most special about the book though is the art.  Done by Disney Press as part of their Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase, it will come as no surprise that the entire book reads like an animated movie.  The backgrounds on the page have a cinematic depth to them.  Shredder himself is immensely likeable as a character, a tiny shrew often dwarfed by the world around him. 

A fine picture book, this book is very appealing thanks to its friendly art and the jolly adventure at its heart.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


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