Creaky Old House

Creaky Old House: A Topsy-Turvy Tale of a Real Fixer-Upper by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Michael Chesworth

A large family lives happily together in a big old house despite its creaking, leaking and cracks.  Everyone has their own favorite spots in the house that they treasure.  But one day, Pa heads out the front door and the doorknob comes off in his hand.  They find a screw, but it doesn’t fit.  So they head to the hardware store where they eventually find a doorknob to replace the old one.  But it doesn’t fit.  So they have to replace the entire door.  The new door though is too wide for the existing hole.  So everyone’s minds start to race, mentally repairing all of the house, moving the kitchen, lengthening halls. They finally come up with a favorite design, until everything is solved by the smallest child and they realize that their beloved house is still just fine the way it always has been.

The pleasure of this book two-fold.  It is in the family.  This large family of different personalities who all live together happily in one big home.  A family that dreams big dreams, but returns to loving what they always have.   It is also in the house itself with its colorful front door, winding staircase, dark attic, nooks and crannies. 

Ashman has written a book with a great sense of place, a wonderful romping pace, and nice humor.  Chesworth’s illustrations bring the family and house to life, especially in the cross-sections of the house that reveal so much to appreciate within its walls. 

A charming story of a tight-knit family and their aging house, this book will have readers wishing wistfully for their own Victorian.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Ice

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Cassie has been told the story of the Polar Bear King and her mother making a deal with him for years.  When she matured, she realized it was a fairy tale to explain her mother’s death.  But when she sees a very large polar bear out on the Arctic ice and he walks through solid ice, she has to admit that the story may be true.  It becomes even more real when Bear begins talking with her and then takes her away to his ice castle past the North Pole.  Cassie has grown up surrounded by ice and bears in her father’s Arctic research facility, but nothing has prepared her for the magic that suddenly surrounds her.  Cassie is caught in her own fairy tale, where she has to brave true love, harsh weather, protective prisons, and frightening trolls before she understands what love and family are really about.

I am a fan of Durst’s previous novels and their twists on fairy tales.  Nothing in those however, prepared me for the wonder and magic of Ice.  Durst has taken my favorite fairy tale of all time, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” and transformed it into a modern novel.  There have been other retellings of this story, but Durst has reached new heights.  Bear is immediately appealing, large and protective, and readers fall for him long before Cassie does.  Their relationship with its tumult and trust issues rings so clear and true. 

Durst’s largest accomplishment in this novel is its heroine, Cassie.  Her inner voice carries this novel as she struggles not only with Bear and the magic, but with real forces that would keep her docile.  Her bravery is amazing, but never off-putting.  She is definitely a modern heroine caught in an old-fashioned fairy tale, which makes the book even more marvelous. 

Durst’s story takes readers from the Arctic to the tundra to the boreal forest and back again in the arms of the wind.  Through it all, she creates settings that are vivid and tangible.  Bear’s ice castle comes to life in minute details and crystalline beauty.  The Arctic wilderness is frightening, white and barren.  The boreal forest is spectacular in its diversity. 

Highly recommended, this novel is a magnificent swirl of romance, ice crystals and warm fur.  Perfect to curl up with in front of a roaring fire.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copies received from publisher.  Copies will be placed in library collection.

Also reviewed by Bib-Laura-graphy and Laini Taylor.

National Book Award 2009 Finalists

The National Book Award finalists for 2009 have been announced:

Deborah Heiligman for Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith

Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

David Small for Stitches

Laini Taylor for Lips Touch: Three Times

Rita Williams-Garcia for Jumped