The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Two masters of the fantasy genre come together to create a strong new series for middle graders. Call was raised by his father to fear the Magisterium and magic itself. When he accidentally split the sidewalk wide open with his powers as a child, his father was not pleased. So when Call is required to go through testing for entering the Magisterium, he makes a plan to fail. But the tests are not what he expected at all and soon he is entering the dreaded Magisterium, a place where he believes people are imprisoned against their will and killed for the sake of magic. As Call joins the students, he finds himself making friends for the first time in his life. But all is not what it seems, even for the nightmares that Call has thought up. It is the ultimate battle of good and evil, but not in the way you’d ever expect.
Black and Clare play with similarities with the Harry Potter series, since theirs is also set in a school for magic. But the magic here is different, as is the school itself. Call too is no Harry, being a prickly and unusual protagonist who is at times quite nicely unlikeable. This book is also set during a magical war, one that is actively being waged. There are tests that are literally as dull as dirt, others that have the students battling elementals, and then there is a student who tries to escape the school.
Black and Clare have great pacing throughout the book. They have also created a very strong setting with the book, the school has a feeling of eternity about it, though we also know that Call is somehow very special. It is that specialness that makes the book’s twists work so well. They are completely surprising, shocking even. In a genre like this where readers will come to it with a certain jadedness, it is great to read a book with that kind of zapping electrical charge.
Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy both the differences and similarities here, though readers of Percy Jackson will also find themselves right at home. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Scholastic and NetGalley.
I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson
A little girl gets to know a bear who comes from somewhere that he calls The Land of Bears. Breakfasts there are sweet as honey, the land is vast, and the rivers are lovely for swimming. Even the naps are better there, they go on for months. But he can never return there, since he is in a zoo. So the little girl has an idea, something that will let him feel a connection with the wilderness and something that she can set free. It’s a powerful idea too.
Johnson tells this story in very short sentences, which one might think would be terse but instead feel slow and Zen-like. It is a book about a girl who is forging her own connections with animals, making her own decisions too. There are no adults in the story, just one little girl and one huge hairy bear. It is a book about small choices making a big difference in the world. It is simple and luminous.
Johnson’s illustrations have a wonderful light touch to them. The pages with the huge bear can be dark and filled with fur, but then the book opens to a new page filled with white and lightness. They are studies in contrast but also create a book that is a joy to read through with changes of feel from one page to the next.
An empowering story about one little girl and her connection with one big bear and the beauty of freedom. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.
Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:
16 Facts About ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ | Mental Floss http://buff.ly/WmlMzM
Comic Con: Shannon Hale is tipping the superhero scales for women | The Salt Lake Tribune http://buff.ly/1nG3EbZ
Emma Carroll’s top 10 circus books | Guardian http://buff.ly/1xNQ7c9
Go Forth and Re-Read Your Favorite Books From Childhood: A Dare – BOOK RIOT http://buff.ly/1wc7vFI
Horton Meets A … Who? Introducing The Kwuggerbug, From Seuss’ ‘Lost Stories’ : NPR http://buff.ly/1ojdTCV
Middle-grade BFFs – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1uHAXj1
Minecraft now a publishing sensation | The Kansas City Star http://buff.ly/1lFBvpV
Misty Copeland On Broadening ‘Beauty’ And Being Black In Ballet : Code Switch : NPR http://buff.ly/1xEw6oh
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis ill
@gilbertford is outstanding nonfiction. http://bit.ly/1lWUaOc @HMHKids
Q & A with Molly Idle http://buff.ly/1ou6xwD
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Flora’s Back!A Visit with Author-Illustrator Molly Idle http://buff.ly/1qlCbRA
Here’s Why We Need to Protect Public Libraries – http://buff.ly/1otYXlw
Girls on the edge – The Horn Book http://buff.ly/1lU7t26
These Six Maze Runner Clips Kind Of Got Us Excited About This Movie http://buff.ly/1oxlGgB
Why we love writing the epic Magisterium series together – Holly Black & Cassandra Clare | Guardian – http://buff.ly/1owM4qZ