Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cats, frogs, birds and goblins

Epstein, Adam Jay and Jacobsen, Andrew. The Familiars
Nominated for the Cybils by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

Aldwyn is a street cat who gets caught by a bounty hunter and mistakenly adopted by a young wizard's familiar. He manages to keep his secret and starts to train with his owner, Jack, and the familiars of two other children, Gilbert (a frog) and Skylar (a bird). When a previous ally of their teacher becomes evil, kills him, and abducts the children, the familiars must fight against her to win their children back.

Strengths: This was a good paced, tradition fantasy. Pictures were okay, print size and book format was good. Writing is clear and descriptive.

Weaknesses: Light on plot, the story relies heavily on very descriptive turns for every monster the familiars encounter. This odd style made it seem more like a novelization of a tv series-- and when I got to the author description in the back, I found that the authors are indeed screenwriters and this has been optioned for a movie. It will be easy to adapt.

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Elliot and the Goblin War.
Nominated for the Cybils by Ruth Barshaw (review copy provided by Sourcebooks)

After saving a girl (who turns out to be a Brownie) from bullies (who turn out to be goblins)who were taking her candy on Halloween, Elliot finds himself in the odd position of having been made the Brownie king after Queen Bipsy perishes and tells her followers to name their own replacement. The Brownies are at a loss about how to effectively fight the goblins, and Elliot draws on his inner reserves to help them with the battle. There is a lot of adventure and odd situations, and the fantasy world that Elliot must keep from his family is full of characters with names like Fudd Fartwick. The narrators voice is strong and constantly telling Dear Reader that there is danger in continuing to read the book.

Strengths: The writing is brisk and the situations darkly humorous. This would probably go over well with younger readers (3rd-4th grade) or students who are enamoured of Lemony Snicket.
Weaknesses: The overly precious tone ("Dear Reader,m you may wonder why I haven't said anything yet about a character in this story names Diffle McSnug.") will make this a difficult book for older readers to take seriously.

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