Barnacle Is Bored by Jonathan Fenske (InfoSoup)
Hanging off of the bottom of a dock is not the most exciting life. Barnacle has times of day when he is cold and wet and other times when he is dry and hot. The tide comes in and out, the waves roll in, the sun goes up and goes down. Barnacle is particularly jealous of the merry life of a polka-dotted little fish nearby. He knows that the fish has to have a lot more fun than Barnacle does. He must go diving with dolphins and frolic with other fish. Just as Barnacle is completing his fantasies about how much better the little fish’s life is than his own, an eel comes along. Gulp!
Put this down as another rather dark picture book that I adore. I must admit to having a type and this one is particularly pleasing with Barnacle being entirely jealous of what another fish has that he does not. It’s an emotion that children will relate to readily. The text is very brief and fast-moving. Barnacle’s voice is a pleasure to read aloud, from his slow tones of boredom through to the joys of being a fish and all the way to the end when he realizes what he actually has going for him.
The illustrations are very appealing and have the feel of a cartoon. Done in flat colors, they play up the facial expressions of Barnacle and the other fish to good effect. The looks of boredom are particularly clear and take it so far that it’s humorous. The page turns are nicely done as well, adding to the theater of the book.
Perfect for the boredom of summer days, this seaside book will surely refresh or at any rate give everyone a good jump at the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan (InfoSoup)
The first in a series, this teen novel is a breathtaking blend of magic, witchcraft, mythology, and Victorian England. Julia is spying on the wealthy people she is pretending to work for as a maid. She is really working with the group of thieves and con artists that she was raised by in the squalid world of the Twist. Julia is an ideal spy because she has the ability to step between worlds and disappear. This well-paying job though has her spying on people who protect those who have magic from a society that drowns witches, including Julia’s own mother who was killed years ago. As the mysteries around Julia grow, her own life is in danger and she must decide what side she is on and who she is going to become.
The world building in this book is exemplary, truly capturing a twisted version of England filled with forbidden witchcraft, people with extraordinary powers, black market deals, and a lovely touch of steampunk as well. Add in mysteries that have people being murdered on the streets who are clearly being hunted and yet bear no connection to one another, and you have a world ripe with fear for our young magic user. As the mystery is solved, more arrive so that the richness of the world continues to grow as the novel concludes.
Throughout the novel, characters turn out to be far deeper than one might expect. Readers will identify a wolf man as a character far earlier than Julia does, but his character does not end there. Aristocrats and lowly old women alike turn out to be amazing creatures. Steampunk touches herald both heroes and villains. Among this cast of characters, there is Julia who herself is incredible, not just for her powers but for her strength, her ability to be detestable at times, and her determination not to be what one expects her to be.
This is a thrilling and impressive novel that bends genres and will delight fantasy fans. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from library copy.