Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Horses and Unicorns

Morpurgo, Michael. War Horse.
Albert's horse Joey is the delight of his life, so when his drunken father sells Joey to the army to help in World War I, Albert vows to find his friend. Joey travels widely-- he is sent to France to the front lines, where he befriends another horse and manages to survive many of his riders. He spends some time with a French family, hauls wagons for the Germans, and eventually ends up with an English unit again.

There are few books written about WWI, which always surprises me, since it was such a pivotal war from the point of view of weaponry, and was so devastating. This book is a good balance between descriptions of fighting, which the boys want to read, and details of how harrowing the every day life was and how difficult fighting in a battle really is. I was afraid that a book from the horse's point of view would be difficult to read ( like Kadohata's Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam), but Joey's perspectives are largely human. The scene where a German and English soldier flip a coin to see who gets Joey sent chills down my spine, and I must admit that I cried at the end (which was happier than one would suspect). I have this author's Private Peaceful, and do so wish that more of his titles made it to the US.

McKenzie, Nancy. Guinevere's Gamble. (Sequel to Guinevere's Gift)
Guinevere is still more interested in riding horses and meeting with Llyr, her guardian from the old ones, than she is in being a lady or marrying well, although her cousin Elaine is distraught at the marriage of King Arthur. When the two get a chance to visit the king, they're thrilled, but the king's sister, Morgan, takes a dislike to Gwen and makes things difficult for Llyr. Royal politics, intrigue abound in this excellent twist on Arthurian legend. One confusing point-- Guenwyvar of Ifray, the bride of Arthur, whom I do not remember from The Once and Future King. Gwen also marries Arthur, as a nice note in the back points out, and there are two more books coming in this series.

Coville, Bruce. Dark Whispers. (The Unicorn Chronicles, Book 3)
Warning: It helps to reread Song of the Wanderer (1999) and Into the Land of the Unicorns (1994) to get up to speed. Considering that I read both of those almost 3,500 books ago, most of my time was spent figuring out the characters and different worlds. This will not matter to students, who will also be eager for the conclusion to the series, The Last Hunt, due out 1 June 2010.

Beloved is still hunting unicorns because she thinks one killed her father, but Ian, Cara's father, has decided the unicorns are not evil and is trying to find Cara and free his wife from the Rainbow Prison, where Beloved has imprisoned her. Beloved is also trying to take over Luster, the land where the unicorns live. This is high fantasy, and very intense, but can't be beat for the unicorn lore.

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