Myracle, Lauren. Wishing Day
May 3rd 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Natasha and her younger sisters, Ava and Darya, are being raised by their strong willed aunt, Elena and Vera, as well as their depressed and distant father after the disappearance of Natasha's mother. There is a long tradition in the family of girl's making three wishes on third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, and Natasha dutifully does this, even though she doesn't quite believe in it. Her wishes so seem to come true-- she wants to feel special, and she starts to receive a series of notes from an unknown admirer. She also captures the attention of the local "Bird Woman" who claims to have known Natasha's mother, and knows some secrets about her. Willow Hill has some odd, slightly magical happenings, and
Strengths: I loved Aunt Vera, and especially her quote about Natasha's mother running off "Depression is a luxury." Yep.
Weaknesses: I could have sworn that I was reading another book vaguely related to Wendy Mass' Willow Falls series. Small town with big traditions, odd people, the whole Willow thing. Very easy to confuse the two.
What I really think: Since the Mass series falls absolutely flat in my library, I think I'll pass. If you have lots of readers for magical realism that makes you wonder if there really is magic, go for it. This appears to be book one in a series. I do sort of want to read the next book on the off chance that the mother will come back and Vera will slap her around.
Mlynowski, Sarah. Once Upon a Frog (Whatever After #8)
December 22nd 2015 by Scholastic Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central
After Abby is plagued by horrible bully Brandon at school, she and Jonah decide to travel through the mirror again. Jonah has the fairy Maryrose's memories stuck in his head, and they make him itchy. They travel through the mirror with their dog, Prince, and Abby finds herself at the bottom of a well... with Prince Frederic, who has been turned into a frog! Despite getting no help from the bratty princess Cassandra, Abby and the prince manage to get out of the well, but don't have any luck turning Frederic back. Eventually, the group makes its way to Cassandra's palace, where a guard lets them spend the night in Cassandra's room, think they are her friend. She eventually manages to turn him back into a prince, and a lot of truths about both Cassandra and Frederic are revealed. These truths help Abby deal better with Brandon when she returns to her world, and also are helpful in clearing up Jonah's itchiness from Maryrose's memories.
Abby and Jonah have a delightful but realistic relationship; Jonah is a headstrong and impulsive seven-year-old, and Abby is a somewhat more prudent 10-year-old who feels that being able to travel into fairy tales is a tremendous responsibility. The fact that they feel guilty for disobeying their parents by going to the basement in the middle of the night is refreshing change from children who take great joy in being naughty!
These books all address various different forms of the fairy tales, which is unusual. Abby mentions that there is a Disney version of The Frog Prince, and gives a brief description of that tale. This is helpful when readers may only be familiar with the Disney version. Abby uses her knowledge of the tales to try different treatments on Frederic-- she kisses him and throws him against a wall (as they did in the Grimms' version), but stops short of beheading him, which everyone agrees is a good idea!
While the treatment of bullying is a little heavy handed, it is nice to see Abby learn that sometimes people are mean because of things going on in their own lives. Brandon is mean to Abby because his family is moving. Frederic's motivation is a little less clear!
These attractive, short books are a quick, fun read. Tweens who enjoy E.D. Baker's fairy tale retellings or Buckley's Fairy Tale detectives will want to journey with Abby through the mirror again and again. They will get another opportunity to do so when book #9, Genie in a Bottle, is published on April 26th, 2016.
Even though these are short, nine books is way too long for a series like this. I am hoping it all wraps up with number ten!