Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Bunch o' Titles

Nichol, James. A Witch Alone (#2)
September 25th 2018 by Chicken House/Scholastic
Copy provided by the publisher

After surviving the beginning of her magical education in The Apprentice Witch, Arianwyn Gribble is spending some time in the city visiting with her grandmother and her friend Salle, who is trying to break into acting with little success. When they go to a parade for the king, the area is attacked by magical creatures, and Arianwyn is able to repel them fairly well. This brings her to the attention of the counsel, who decide that she would be a good candidate to go into the Great Wood and try to help figure out what is going on with the hex plague. She is sent with her friend Colin as well as the irascible Ms. Newam, and come across some fey who tell them that the city of Erraldur has fallen and her friend Estar might still be there. Since he has the Book of Quiet Glyphs, which might be crucial in fighting the hex, Arianwyn is doubly worried. When she returns to Lull, the Spellorium is terribly busy, so she doesn't have a lot of time to investigate larger matters, although there IS some time for some therapeutic hot chocolate and biscuits! Gimma is assigned to help, and is even meaner and more incompetent than before, although Salle and Arianwyn try to get along with her. Will they be able to help stop the hex from spreading?
Strengths: This was a cozy sort of fantasy book, despite the uncomfortable jaunts into the woods, and is more of a modern fantasy than books with medieval dragons. Arianwyn's apartments are fun, the Spellorium is a great place to work, and even the hex doesn't seem too utterly horrible. This is a great series for readers who sort of believe that if they could find the right book to teach them, they could do magic. (I wish I knew the title of the book I was always checking out of the public library, even though I never could get the spells to work!)
Weaknesses: Just not a fan of Gimma. Her tantrums serve more of a purpose in this one, but I still need to know more about the war.
What I really think: The first book has done well, so I'll be handing this to Harry Potter and Charlie Bone fans as well as any student constructing a personal grimoire during study hall.

32492271Caprara, Rebecca. The Magic of Melwick Orchard
September 1st 2018 by Carolrhoda Lab
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Isa's family has moved around a lot because her father's job transfers him, so she's glad that there latest move seems to be lasting a bit longer. She enjoys living near an old orchard, and even manages to make a friend in neighbor Kira. Luckily, Kira is very understanding, because Isa is having a difficult time. Her young sister Junie has a cancerous tumor and has been hospitalized for a long time. Her father is working long hours to pay the bills, and her mother just crawls in bed when she gets home from the hospital, too tired and depressed to make sure that Isa is cared for properly. When Isa has to walk home in shoes that are too small because her mother forgets to retrieve her from school, Isa notices a tree in the orchard that seems to beckon to her, and buries her sneakers under it. This is a problem when she needs to go to school and needs shoes, and when she visits the tree, there are different types of footwear growing from it! Isa repeats this procedure with a cookie that Kira gives her, and also a bell, so that the children in Junie's ward can perform some music. As her sister becomes more and more ill and her parents more and more stressed, Isa hopes that the tree can somehow provide the money the family needs. When selling the orchard and moving to a nearby town seems to be the only way the family can make do, Isa reads up on taking care of orchards and tries to give back to the tree that has helped her.
Strengths: This was a good mix of family problems and magical realism. Magical thinking is certainly a very common coping mechanism for tweens experiencing problems, especially something like the illness of a sibling. The bond between the sisters, despite the difference (six years) in their ages is lovingly portrayed. The parents' actions concerning Junie's illness are realistic, including their neglect of Isa, sadly. They do try to make up for it as best they can. The magic is convincing, and it's not hard to suspend disbelief and imagine the tree trying to help out. The story is generally hopeful, despite the fact that Junie's cancer is rather advanced.
Weaknesses: I was somehow unconvinced that the orchard was all that magical, and especially had trouble getting my head around the appeal of the Melwick Orchard apples. Also, pet peeve of mine-- I am never fond of mothers who neglect a child because they are depressed about another child.
What I really think: My students like very little magical realism, and the books they do like tend to be very happy ones. This would be a good choice if Ingrid Law's Savvy series or Natalie Lloyd's books are popular in your library.

1 comment:

  1. Why didn't Isa plant a $5.00 bill under the tree if they needed money? Or would the answer be a spoiler?