Sunday, August 16, 2015

MMGM- Diary of a Mad Brownie and Hamster Princess

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

My daughter (who started her senior year in high school) and I were discussing books she read in elementary school, and Coville's Magic Shop series was one she greatly enjoyed. I hadn't realized that The Monster's Ring came out in 1982! While I get a bit fed up with all of the fantasy books that are published, we'll definitely let Mr. Coville keep writing them! Can't say I have any books about brownies, but Coville always has a way with words... is it The Monsters of Morley Manor where the mother talks about deciding between "having a midlife crisis or a midlife monkey"?

Coville, Bruce. Diary of a Mad Brownie
June 30th 2015 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ARC from the Publisher

Angus the Brownie (do NOT call him a "little man"!) is attached to the McGonagall family because of somethis ancestors of both did years ago, and when Sarah, whom he has served for many years, passes away, he must journey to the US to serve the youngest female (over the age of ten) of the clan. This happens to be Alex, who is very disorganized. Alex's family is also a bit odd-- her younger sister claims that she has a goblin as a friend, her older brother writes horrible poetry, and her father would like to be a rock musician. After Angus journeys through the Enchanted Realm and makes his way to Alex's, he starts cleaning her messy room, since that's what Brownies do. Alex thinks she's losing it (given her sister's goblin problem!), but realizes there might be some advantages to having a magical servant. That is, until the curse of the McGonagall's descends and her father and brother want to chuck everything in order to be true to their inner poets. Ever since the Princess of Sunshine fell in love with a McGonagall and left the Enchanted Realm, her mother the queen has carried out the curse, hoping to get the princess back. Alex finds help from an unlikely source, and is able to figure out all the details of how to return the princess before her family falls into financial ruin!
Strengths: Told in diary and letter format, this is a fun, magical romp. Many young readers will identify with Alex's disorganization and wish that help would come from such a humorous source. Angus' Scottish brogue is not overdone, and the adults in the story (realistically) do not believe in magical creatures. Even Alex is doubtful at first, which makes the story more believable.
Weaknesses: Because of the different journal entries, letters, etc. the narrative is a bit fragmented, and it was a bit harder to figure out what the curse was all about. I would have preferred it to be explained up front, I think.
What I really think: Since magical realism is becoming increasingly popular, most elementary libraries and some middle school libraries will want to look into this. This also reminded me that Coville's Into the Land of the Unicorns (1994) series has been neglected by my readers. Must remedy that, since I have the whole series now.

23281892Vernon, Ursula. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible
August 18th 2015 by Dial Books
Copy received from the publisher

Have to say that I was a little more excited just to get this book! Dragonbreath is so funny, and I knew this would be good!

Harriet is cursed soon after birth by the evil fairy Ratshade to prick herself on a hamster wheel when she turns 12. When she is ten, her parents tell her, and Harriet thinks it's great: she is invincible for two years. She takes off across the country, cliff diving, slaying mean Ogrecats, and generally having adventures. When she comes home, her parents are still fretting about the curse, but when Ratshade comes to gloat, Harriet surprises her by thanking the evil fairy for the opportunities she's had. Expecting begging and pleading, Ratshade is caught off guard, and the curse falls on her! Because of the intervention of good fairies, the entire castle falls asleep and thorns grow around it. Harriet must find a prince who is willing to kiss everyone in the castle awake! This is hard to do, but when she talks to the mother of Wilbur, a prince who has been cursed to be stranded on the top of a glass mountain with a hydra, Harriet decides to save Wilbur. He is willing, if not excited, to wake the castle, and the two set off to undo the curse. What next? We'll find out in Of Mice and Magic, but we have to wait until March 2016!
Strengths: So funny. The Ogrecat changes his diet after he hears about the crazy hamster princess, and talks about how they make "A pretty good person-flavored tofu." I love how Vernon took a pretty insipid fairy tale and gave it a fantastic feeling of empowerment. I want to be Harriet for Halloween.
 Weaknesses: While the writing was absolutely brilliant, I didn't like the pictures as well as Dragonbreath. Hamsters must be hard to draw.
What I Really Think: I am so excited to have this to use in conjunction with Princess in Black. Even though this is aggressively pink, I think the boys will be more than happy to read it. Absolutely cannot wait for the sequel!


  1. Love the titles of these two. Sounds like they will find an audience including me. I've certainly enjoyed both these authors in the past.

  2. These both sound pretty good. Harriet sounds like a great character. Thanks for the reviews.

  3. Anonymous10:30 AM EDT

    I'll pretty much get anything that Ursula Vernon does for my library. I love her stuff.

  4. Hamster Princess looks really interesting - reminiscent of Babymouse. :)