Monday, March 24, 2014

Book review of "In Grandma's Attic"

In Grandma's Attic, by Arleta Richardson

4.5 stars

Description: Growing up in the early days of America -- complete with horse and buggy, one-room schoolhouses, and a barn full of cows -- sounds idyllic. Not so for young Mabel. Unhappily for her but luckily for us readers, her growing up years were chock-full of mistakes, mishaps, and just plain embarrassing moments. As the grown Mabel recounts tales of her growing-up years, she treats her readers to a riotous romp through the fields, forests, and schoolhouses of yore in this series of short stories. Who knew hoop skirts could cause such horrors in church, of all places???

Concerns: None.

Summary: If you set down the irrepressible Anne from Green Gables into the setting of Little House in the Big Woods, you would be rewarded with something like this book. The series is wonderfully funny, none the less so because our hapless heroine just never quite seems to come out on top. But although the stories usually feature the embarrassing consequences of her own silly choice, "Grandma" takes the lesson  in stride, and can even laugh at her old mistakes. If you've ever wondered how to lose a buggy, bake a cake, or even bake your clothes (yup!) don't miss these humorous but sweet tales from yesteryear.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review of "Escape to Murray River"

Escape to Murray River, by Robert Elmer

4 stars

Description: Patrick McWaid isn't looking for trouble. Neither is his family. But when Patrick's father is accused of a crime he didn't commit, the entire family is thrown into an adventure that will take them half-way around the world to the prison colony in Australia! From desperate attempts to communicate with his jailed father to a lost-at-sea brush with sharks, Patrick's escape to Murray River is an adventure he never could have imagined ... and it only gets worse when he realizes he is being followed by his family's worst enemy.

Concerns: None.

Summary: The first in an eight-book series, Escape to Murray River is a enthralling journey. The time and place aren't familiar topics in children's literature, and the snippets of Australian life can catch you off guard (um, no, those tasty things aren't almond sausages!). It was a favorite when I was younger, and I remember being sad to see it end. It takes the author some time to hit his stride in this book, but once he does it is high adventure all the way.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review of "The Cabin Faced West"

The Cabin Faced West, by Jean Fritz

4.5 stars

Description: The West might be a land of opportunity, but Ann Hamilton isn't impressed. For her, the West is ... lonely. Ann longs for the comfort of her Gettysburg hometown, the companionship of her cousin Margaret, for any occasion special enough to use a tablecloth and real china -- highly unlikely in a forsaken wilderness. As time progresses, Ann's attitude begins to change; even though she understands the lure of western promise for her parents and brothers, which "home" has a stronger pull on her heart when she has the opportunity to make her own choice?

Concerns: None.

Summary: The trials and tribulations of Ann's everyday life on the frontier make for a fascinating read. Although readers aren't likely to find themselves in a quandary over fetching a coal from the neighbors to start a fire or fighting a monster-storm to bring in food from the garden, Ann's own personal failures and triumphs are still easily relatable to today. This is a fast read and a rewarding one, so join Ann as she stumbles and grumbles her way to discovery of... contentment!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review of "Princess Academy"

Princess Academy, by Sharon Hale

4 stars

Description: Miri is a small girl growing up in a tough mountainside village. Winters are hard and life isn't always easy; but Miri loves the unbounded freedom of the mountain -- except for one thing. While her father, sister, and neighbors contribute useful work in the village quarry, Miri is always the one left behind to tend the goats. When the girls of the village are coerced into joining a Princess Academy, Miri begins to wonder... is there more to life than goats and pickaxes?

Concerns: Quarry-speech is somewhere between an innocent fantasy along the lines of the-dog-can-talk... and something a little more supernatural. Hard to tell.

Summary: It's a little formulaic, but formulas are around because they work, right? Miri lives a tough life, but the challenge makes her stronger, and it's fun to see her grow and learn to use her wits to better the lives of herself and her village. It's not an idyllic journey; the Princess Academy challenges everything Miri has ever known, and her new-found confidence is tested when she comes face with a life-and-death situation for her and her classmates. This is a fun read for those who enjoy stories of discovery, family and friendship with a little adventure mixed in.