Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Five Children on the Western Front/Frail Human Heart

27774446Saunders, Kate. Five Children on the Western Front
August 2nd 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
Library Copy

This is a continuation of E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, which I read a long time ago and don't really remember. 

Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane are too old for Psammead and his adventures now, especially since WWI is brewing and they are all old enough to be drastically affected by it. Luckily for Psammead, the sand fairy, the Lamb and his younger sister Edie are just the right age. They dream of the sort of time and space travel that their siblings experienced, and make inadvertent wishes that last only until nightfall. They are on the fringes of the bigger picture, where their brothers go to war and their sisters get on with their lives as best they can. It's England, during WWI, and we know that it is not going to end happily. 

I love classic children's literature, and Saunders does a superb job of capturing the feel of the 1902 original while updating the situations. It was sad and beautiful, and ties together the story wonderfully. I cried at the end. 

If I could locate a nice hardcover of Five Children and It, I would probably buy this for my hard core fantasy readers who love C.S. Lewis since Saunders has a solid fan base in my library. 

Cover image for Five children and itAnd this might tip me over the edge! Look how pretty! Now I have to investigate all of the Penguin Drop Caps!

From the Publisher
It all begins with a letter. Fall in love with Penguin Drop Caps, a new series of twenty-six collectible and hardcover editions, each with a type cover showcasing a gorgeously illustrated letter of the alphabet for each author's surname. N is for Nesbit. While exploring their summer home, five brothers and sisters find a Psammead, or Sand-fairy, in a nearby gravel pit. The Psammead is magical and every day, the ancient and irritable creature grants each of them a wish that lasts until sunset. Soon they find their wishes never seem to turn out quite right...

29092952Marriott, Zoe. Frail Human Heart
November 8th 2016 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After The Name of the Blade and Darkness Hidden, Mio is back, and the threat to London is still dire. Monsters are roaming the streets, terrifying residents, and only Mio and her small group of friends know what's going on. Shinobu is gone, and Mio must rely on her father, Rachel, Jack, Hikaru and others to save London from the fight between Izanagi and Izanami. Along the way, Mio must travel under London into the sewer-like entrance to the land of dreams, and decide whether she wants to stay there in safety with Shinobu, or risk her own life to save her friends and family on their plane of existence. More of the history that she shares with Shinobu is revealed, explaining why the two warriors have such a strong bond. 

This is a great urban paranormal romance choice for fans of Amy Plum's Revenant series, Aprilynne Pike's Wings books, and De La Cruz's Blue Bloods saga. It had fascinating bits of Japanese mythology, which is such a welcome change from the standard Anglo-Germanic basis for most mythologically rooted books. 

The romance amidst the destruction will be appealing to readers. Mio's  inexplicable connection to Shinobu is not treated lightly, and we do learn why it is such a compelling force in her life. There is an interesting interchange between Jack and Hikaru-- in his human for, the kitsune puts the moves on Jack, only to find out that she prefers women. This is not a problem for a shapeshifter, and Hikaru changes to a female form. The explanation of gender fluidity is matter-of-fact and handled well. There is a brief interlude when Mio and Shinobu share a moment that ends with Mio acquiring some grass stains, but there is nothing instructional that would prevent this from being appropriate for middle grade readers. 

Mio is a strong but conflicted character who doubts her own strength but is ultimately able to summon it against the odds. I appreciated the fact that her parents both play a role in the book, and that she is both protective of them while wanting their approval and protection as well. Rachel gains power after her attack from a supernatural being in a previous book, and helps to save the day. Incidental characters like Mr. Ebisu add depth to both the mythology and the story in a satisfying way-- I want to hang out at Mr. Ebisu's book store! 

Frail Human Heart is a brilliantly titled and satisfying conclusion to The Name of the Blade Trilogy that will have fans sighing with relieved contentment and waiting to see what Marriott will write next. 

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