Book Review: Ogre Enchanted

Ogre Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 16 October 2018

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Synopsis

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

My thoughts

Ogre Enchanted is as enchanting and humorous as its predecessor Ella Enchanted, and will delight old fans and new readers alike. Ogre Enchanted is a modern-day fairytale, with a strong and independent lead character, and threads of friendship and romance. Simple and unique, this twist on a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast will delight (and possibly disgust) young readers.

Evie, though only fifteen, is a gifted healer. Her passions are herbs, healing tonics and devoted attention to her patients. In Wormy, Evie has a dear friend and willing subject upon whom she tests all her new cures and tonics. But when Wormy proposes, Evie is quick to turn him down – she has no intention of marrying young. Unfortunately the fairy Lucinda hears Evie’s refusal and transforms Evie into a hideous, very smelly and eternally hungry ogre as punishment. Evie has just 62 days to accept another proposal or she will remain an ogre forever.

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Book Review: West

West – Edith Pattou – East #2 – HMH Books – 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

My thoughts

West is a delightful fantasy novel, gorgeously pieced together with adventure and folklore it is sure to please fans of East and new readers alike.

East (though it will always be North Child to me) is one of my most favourite books. I love its beautiful writing, elegant and so very imaginative in its simplicity. I love the fairytale remix. I love the strength of Rose, her curiosity, wandering spirit and determination. I love the short chapters written from the perspectives of multiple characters which detail the story. I love the White Bear and I love Rose’s love for him. And so, when a sequel was announced, some 15 years after the publication of East, to say I was excited might have been a huge understatement. And yet, sometimes a new title after so many years, an extra part of a story which you thought completed, can sometimes be a disappointment. Fear not, because West is every bit as beautiful, magnificent and wondrous as East. It continues Rose and the White Bear’s story as if the ink on the pages of East had only freshly dried. It carries the same heart, the same creative storytelling in its unique and simple way. It doesn’t undo any of the happy ending of the first book, but simply continues the story. And it has made this reader very, very happy.

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Book Review: His Name Was Walter

His Name Was Walter – Emily Rodda – Harper Collins Australia – Published 23 July 2018

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Synopsis

While on a history excursion, an ill-assorted group of four kids and their teacher are left on a country road when their minibus breaks down. At the suggestion of a friendly tow-truck driver, the five take shelter in a nearby old, deserted mansion. There they find a little old desk with a secret drawer. Inside the drawer is a book containing a handwritten story and a series of vivid, strangely lifelike paintings. The book is called His Name Was Walter.

The story begins: ‘Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own.’ And so begins the tale of Walter – his lonely childhood, his flight from the haunted streets of the city, his discovery of Magda the witch, his quest to find Magda’s lost daughter, and his meeting with the love of his life, the mysterious, tragic girl he calls Sparrow.

As the night closes in around them and the story of Walter and Sparrow unfolds, the kids read it avidly. Slowly the outer and inner stories begin to mesh. Slowly the story of Walter draws the five members of the group together. And in the end every one of the five plays a vital role in the uncovering of the truth.

My thoughts

From master storyteller, Emily Rodda, comes a stunning new story. His Name Was Walter is part mystery, part historical, part fantasy and wholly charming -sure to delight young and older readers alike.

When a small group of school children and their teacher get stranded on a lonely road while on an excursion it makes sense for them to shelter in the large house nearby. But the empty house is hiding many secrets, among them an old book with its thrilling story of young orphan Walter and his adventures, the strange people he meets and the mysterious girl named Sparrow that he sets out to rescue. As the story unfolds, the four children will encounter mysteries, history and a tale the likes of which they would never have imagined.

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Book Review: Saving Winslow

Saving Winslow – Sharon Creech – HarperCollins – Published 11 September 2018

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Synopsis

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

My thoughts

A heartwarming story of a young donkey, the boy who is determined to save him, and the way in which small things can sometimes have the biggest impact. Lyrical and sweet, Saving Winslow is a simple but touching story for young and middle-grade readers.

When Louie is given another of his Uncle Pete’s orphan animals, a newborn donkey, everyone warns him not to get too attached, as it will probably die anyway. But there is something about the tiny, grey bundle that whispers to Louie that here is an animal who wants to survive, and Louie is determined to be the one to save him. So, Louie names him Winslow and begins raise him.

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Book Review: Sweet Adversity

Sweet Adversity – Sheryl Gwyther – HarperCollins Australia – Published 18 June 2018

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Synopsis

There’s never a good time to be orphaned – or abandoned … especially when you are twelve years old, and it’s the Great Depression.

In 1928, Shakespearean actors, the McAllisters, are forced to leave their daughter Adversity at the Emu Swamp Children’s Home.

They fully intend to return, but things don’t go according to plan.

Then, to make matters worse, Scrimshaw, a villainous theatrical agent, hears the talented Addie sing. He plots to use her in his next money-making venture, but when he turns up at Emu Swamp to collect his prize, Scrimshaw finds she’s run away.

Together with Macbeth, her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Addie is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Sweet Adversity, set in Australia during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is an exciting middle-grade adventure, complete with a strong and brave young heroine, an awesome sidekick talking cockatiel, and thrilling baddies. It is sure to delight young readers who enjoy stories about history, acting, friendship and adventure.

Adversity McAllister knows she belongs on the stage. Acting alongside her parents and her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Macbeth, is all she wants to do. But money and food is short, so her parents leave Addie at an orphanage, with plans to collect her when they can. However, the orphanage operator, Matron Maddock, plans to sell Adversity to an evil theatre agent. Addie must flee from the orphanage with Macbeth, and, with the help of many friends along the way, embark on an epic adventure to find her freedom.

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Book Review: Guff

Guff – Aaron Blabey – Penguin Australia – Published 2017

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Synopsis

A delightful book for anyone who’s ever had a little fabric friend.

My thoughts

Aaron Blabey is the author of many delightful, hilarious children’s picture books, and Guff is no exception. Guff is sure to delight children and parents alike, with its whimsical take on the special bond between child and stuffed toy.

Meet Guff. He is the special friend of one little girl who has known and loved him since she was little. She recalls the adventures they have had together – and sometimes apart.

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Book Review: Lintang and the Pirate Queen

Lintang and the Pirate Queen – Tamara Moss – Lintang #1 – Penguin Random House Australia – Published 31 July 2017

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Synopsis

Lintang dreams of escaping her island home and having adventures on the high seas. She gets her chance when she and her best friend, Bayani, face a deadly mythie and survive, attracting the attention of the infamous Captain Shafira. Lintang’s bravery earns her an invitation onto the ship of the pirate queen, who is on her way to hunt down a nest of vicious sirens.

But they’ve barely left the island when Lintang discovers that Bayani has risked his life to stow away. Worse, he won’t tell her why. Lintang must choose whether to be loyal to Captain Shafira and continue with her adventures, or be loyal to her best friend and lose everything she’s ever wanted.

My thoughts

Lintang and the Pirate Queen is a book of epic quests, mystical creatures, and a brave young girl who dreams of exploring. It is the perfect book for middle-grade readers who enjoy a touch of magic mixed with plenty of adventure.

Lintang has always wanted to explore beyond the borders of her island home. At home, she can never seem to do the right thing and is constantly getting in trouble for her wild storytelling and epic sword fights. But when the infamous Captain Shafira saves Lintang’s life, Lintang is granted the opportunity to accompany the pirate queen on her voyage. When Lintang discovers her best friend, Bayani, has joined them as a stowaway, Lintang is determined to discover the secrets he is keeping from her, even if it means putting at risk her chance to fight sea monsters and sail the oceans.

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Book Review: Wishtree

Wishtree – Katherine Applegate – Charles Santoso (Illustrator) – Feiwel & Friends – Published 26 September 2017

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Synopsis

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

My thoughts

“Trees can’t tell jokes. But they can certainly tell stories.”

I was in love it this book before I even read it. I loved the concept: a story about a tree with a story to tell, a story of friendship and acceptance, a story about community, dreams and, of course, wishes. And reading Wishtree only made me fall more in love.

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Book Review: Esme’s Wish

Esme’s Wish – Elizabeth Foster – Esme Series #1 – Odyssey Books – Published 30 October 2017

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Synopsis

When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother, Ariane – so why can’t she?

But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.

After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.

My thoughts

Esme’s Wish is a delightful fantasy that captures the beauty of a watery, magical world, the trust of true friendship, and the strength of one girl’s loyalty to her mother.

Esme longs to discover what happened to her mother, who disappeared several years ago. Everyone else, including her father, have moved on, but for Esme, the unanswered questions plague her. Until, in her search, she finds herself magically transported to the world of Aeolia. There she discovers that her mother had an extra life full of art, magic, and danger. With her two new friends, Esme begins to uncover the mystery of what really happened to her mother.

I had Esme’s Wish sitting on my bedside bookshelf (thanks very much to the author for a copy) for a month before finally getting around to reading it. Why, oh why did I delay? Because Esme’s Wish is delightful right from the very first page. And I loved that first page. Hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.

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Book Review: Nevermoor – The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend – Nevermoor #1 – Hachette – Published 31 October 2017

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Synopsis

The book tells the story of Morrigan Crow, a girl born on Eventide, who’s fated to die at midnight on her ninth birthday. She is spared when rescued by a mysterious stranger ,and after they are chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, they escape to a secret city called Nevermoor. Morrigan’s rescuer, Jupiter, owns the eccentric Hotel Deucalion and has chosen Morrigan to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious society. The young girl must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent.

My thoughts

A delightful, whimsical and purely imaginative fantasy, Nevermore is sure to capture the attention of readers of all ages. Nevermoor is reminiscent of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Unwanteds, and yet has a quality that is unique to this charming story. I was captured by the very first chapter, enchanted by the mysterious and colourful Jupiter North, and intrigued by the magic of Nevermoor, but it was the brave heroine of this story, Morrigan Crow, who truly won my heart.

Morrigan Crow is a cursed child, doomed to die on the last night of the age, Eventide. But before she can meet her untimely end, she is whisked away by the strange and colourful Jupiter North, who takes her to a magical, secret city called Nevermoor. Here she discovers that Jupiter has put forward her name as a candidate for the illustrious Wundrous Society – but to gain entry she must first pass four trials. However, Morrigan soon realises that while the other competitors each have a special talent (from dragon riding to magical singing), she herself does not (being cursed doesn’t count). Morrigan must discover her talent and pass each trial if she is to stay in Nevermoor.

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