Day: May 5, 2014

Review: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

night gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

A book sure to create some shivers, this is a thrilling gothic horror book for children.  Molly and Kip are two Irish children abandoned by their parents as their family fled to England due to the Great Irish Potato Famine.  No one will hire Molly as a servant until a man hires them to work for his family at their isolated and decrepit mansion.  It quickly becomes apparent that things are not what they seem in this family.  Molly finds a painting done of the family a year earlier, and they have changed considerably with their hair turning black and dull to their skin losing all color.  Perhaps it has something to do with the locked green door in the house, a door that Molly yearns to find out what is behind.   But opening that door unleashes a terrible force, one that answers your wants but destroys you in the process.  How can two children stand up to a centuries old curse?

Auxier’s storytelling skill is incredible.  He weaves a world of darkness, creeping misery and despair so cleverly that readers will feel the chill on their skin before it reaches their thoughts.  The children are steadily drawn into the strangeness surrounding the house and family, succumbing to the temptation of safety, the illusion of a home, and not seeing the proof around them of what is happening.  For the reader, this is a book that steadily builds and builds as the tension mounts and the nights get more frightening.  It is a wonderfully creepy read, one that simply can’t be put down.

The themes of the book are beautifully crafted.  The book speaks to the importance of love and family, but even more so it is about what happens when greed becomes consuming, literally.  It also is about the power of storytelling and stories, the way that they can teach, terrify and soothe.  And finally about the terror when a story comes to life right in front of you. 

An extraordinary horror novel for children, this book will be enjoyed by young readers but maybe not right before bed.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet.

Review: Count on the Subway by Paul Dubois Jacobs

count on the subway

Count on the Subway by Paul Dubois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Told in a bouncy rhyme, this picture book counts its way through a trip on the New York City subway.  It starts with a mother and daughter heading down the steps into the subway and counting their one MetroCard.  They go down 2 flights and catch the 3.  Onward the story goes, merrily counting the turnstiles, the people, seats and stops.  Once the book reaches ten, it counts its way right back down again, ending when the pair climb there way up into the one and only Union Station. 

The rhyme here is completely infectious.  It bounces along, skips and dances.  It appears effortless and free and is very readable.  In fact, it is hard not to read it aloud.  The illustrations by Yaccarino show the main characters in full color while the others are one solid color and a black outline or just a colored outline.  It makes for a book that is bright and bold. 

Perfectly paced and brightly rhythmic, this counting book will be enjoyed by all sorts of children, not just the ones who have taken a subway before.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.