Child’s Garden: A Story of Hope

A Child’s Garden: a story of hope by Michael Foreman

This story of a child’s world reduced to rubble and devastation is one that will ring true with children of war, and ring warning bells with children who have not witnessed it.  A young boy lives in ruins, separated from the green hills he loves by a fence.  In the rubble, he discovers a shoot of green which he nurtures.  It becomes a grapevine that covers the barbed wire fence, bringing butterflies and birds, and sheltering shade.  The soldiers tear down the vine, leaving it dead.  It isn’t until the next spring that the boy sees green sprouts on the other side of the fence and a little girl tending them.  Then green sprouts appear on his side of the fence, where both vines grow to cover the fence in between.

Told simply and with great respect, this slim picture book manages to evoke hope, growth, change and community.  Using imagery to make his case about war, Foreman has created a book that is accessible and profound.  What a great image of green vine covering stark wire, life absorbing death, connection replacing coercion.  At the same time, it can be read by small children as a vine, and a vine alone without losing much of its power and statement. 

Perfect for discussing peace and community with classes, this book naturally starts dialogue and questions about the world, our own prosperity, and violence.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Sacred Scars

Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey

I adored Skin Hunger when it came out, despite it’s precipitous ending.  Remember those debates?!

Now the second in the series has been released to help people recover from that ending.  And it picks up right where the last book left off, in the midst of the drama and tension.  The book has two interconnected story lines which are set 200 years apart.  Readers get to see the rediscovery of magic in one of the lines and the harsh reality of it in the other.  In both stories is Somiss, the aristocrat who struggles to find the key to magic and after finding it, runs a diabolical school to train young magicians.  Franklin, his servant, also appears in both story lines, as servant, unwilling helper, and magician.  At the heart of the stories is Sadima, who learns magic by reading Somiss’ documents and eavesdropping on his recitations.  She yearns to escape with Franklin, her love, and the street urchins they have kidnapped and caged.  But in this brutal world of magic, there are only desperate choices, evil around ever corner, and constant deception.

Nicely the novel manages to not rehash the first book at all, yet readers who have had a gap of a few years between the novels will find it offers just enough to allow you to remember the first novel.  Duey’s writing is gripping, tense, and engulfing.  She has created a world that is so dark, yet it has piercing moments of light, love and truth.  Duey excels at creating characters with depth and dimension, then immersing them into a twisted story.  It makes for a book that is not only impossible to put down but makes it difficult to breathe deeply while reading.

This novel is filled with violence.  Violence so shattering that it is hard to read, harder to process, and impossible to understand.  She is an author who pushes it to a new limit, daring the reader to read on, dancing on the knife’s edge.  All to great and dazzling effect.  She is an author I don’t trust to keep my favored characters alive.  In fact, I am constantly checking to see which of the stories is written in first person, hoping that guarantees survival.

Though I have used some of the most powerful words I have to describe this novel, it is far more dark, disturbing and taut than I can express.  Teens will love this world, react to its harshness, and eagerly await the third and final book in the series.  Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Happy Blogversary!


A huge thank you to everyone who reads and supports my blog.  I’ve been blogging for six years now! 

Originally this was a blog about children’s literature news, movies, etc.  Gradually it has turned into more of a review blog with small bits of news scattered amongst the reviews. 

Originally, I was a director of a tiny Wisconsin library – I am now a director of a mid-sized Wisconsin library. 

Originally, I was one of a handful of children’s lit bloggers – now I am so happy to be a part of the growing kidslitosphere.

Originally, I had a two-year-old and six-year-old – now my boys are 8 and 12.  Whew!  Now that time went too fast!

What has never changed is my amazement and joy that people read my blog.  So thank you.  It has been a pleasure to write about children’s books for this long for such an amazing group of readers. 

Kirkus Fall Preview

I love paging through glossy sheets of paper filled with tantalizing glimpses of upcoming titles!  Kirkus has a nice fall preview filled with debut authors and lots of adult fiction and nonfiction.  Head towards the end and you will find debut authors in children’s and YA along with some featured reads. 

I’m looking forward to Siobhan Dowd’s Solace of the Road, Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, and The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson.