Posts Tagged ‘Book’

First of all, unlike the Amulet series, it’s important to note that this book isn’t written by Kazu Kibuishi. He is the editor, not the author (although one of the stories is his). Explorer follows the style of his Flight graphic novel project, which is a collection of short stories written by different authors.

Story overview:
With box as the theme, seven different stories are compiled into this one book. The first (Under the Floorboards, by Emily Carroll) is about a young girl who finds a clay doll in a box that comes to life. The second (Spring Cleaning, by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier) is about a mysterious cube found in a boy’s closet that is apparently coveted by every wizard. The third (The Keeper’s Treasure, by Jason Caffoe) is about a young explorer who seeks for lost treasure.

Then we have The Butter Theif, by Rad Sechrist, which tells the tale of a spirit that tries to capture the thusela–otherwise known as butter–from the house of a young girl. Next is The Soldier’s Daughter (by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez): after her father dies, Clara goes after the evil Captain Vaal to exact revenge.

The sixth story, Watzit (by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham) is about a young alien who sorts a group of boxes containing a complete solar system, but in the process he is ambushed by a dark and troublesome creature. The final story is by Kibuishi (The Escape Option), where a young man is abducted by an alien who says the earth will end someday. He is offered the chance to leave and live on the alien’s home planet or to stay and wait for the destruction of the world.

My thoughts:  
I thought this was much better than Flight. The stories were less works of art and more focused on the tales themselves. The drawings were more cartoonish as well, which better fits the style of the Amulet. I wouldn’t call this a must read for Amulet fans, but it’s a lot closer to it than the Flight books are, and well worth a look.

Things to consider:
This collection is a lot more age appropriate than Flight. No sexual situations, extreme violence, or foul language. I’d recommend it for preteens and older. For those sensitive to references of evolution, in Kibuishi’s story, there is mention of the earth being billions of years old, but otherwise, I didn’t see anything questionable.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s hard to come up with a single point, as each story is very different. But since the theme here is boxes, one can easily relate them to secrets. Boxes can be used for many things, such as transportation and storage, but they can also be used to hide things. Ask your youth if they have ever hidden something in a box, and if so, what. Better yet, tell them if you have ever hidden anything before you ask them (be honest). Share the difference between hiding good things and bad things. Good things like praying to the father in secret (Matthew 6:6) or giving to the needy without recognition (Matthew 6:3-4). Or bad things like hiding sins and lying to cover them up (Proverbs 12:22). God sees everything done in secret, as Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV) says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”


A Series of Unfortunate Events - B1I have heard mixed reviews about the movie version of this story with Jim Carrey. Having not seen it I cannot share any opinions on the film myself. Instead, I decided to read the tale in its original form.
The author goes under the name of Lemony Snicket, who supposedly possesses documents about the Baudelaire orphans, using these papers he decided to write their story. This is a nice touch, as it provides a story within a story. However, this is only part of the tale; as the author’s real name is actually Daniel Handler.
Snicket/Handler states that, if you are looking for a happy story with a happy ending, don’t read this book. A comment that makes one want to read it all the more. But he is right; this is not a happy tale. Still, there’s a certain amount of charm, and there is a somewhat satisfying ending. Just enough to make the reader want to check out the next book.
Story overview:

Violet (fourteen-year-old girl,) Klaus (twelve-year-old boy), and Sunny (infant-girl,) are playing on a beach one day when a man walks up and tells them that their parents just died in a house fire.
To add to their good news, they are forced to live with a man named Count Olaf, who is a distant relative (and happens to be an actor.) It becomes obvious that Olaf only wants the children in order to find a way to get at their parent’s fortune. He treats them very poorly, giving them unrealistic chores, terrible sleeping arrangements, and even goes so far as to strike Klaus in the face. Making them call him father, Olaf himself refers to the children as orphans.
One day Olaf shows an odd act of kindness, and talks the Baudelaire orphans into taking part of a play called “The Marvelous Marriage.” Klaus finds out that Olaf’s plan is to use a real judge, give guardian consent, and have Violet say “I do.” The play is intended to be a real wedding, which would give Olaf access to the fortune that Violet is too young to access herself. Appalled, both children do what they can to prevent the tragedy while taking care to not let Olaf kill Sunny, who he had taken hostage.
My thoughts:

I liked the occasional explanation of words, as they are often provided with a twist. Such as, “… money is an incentive – the word ‘incentive’ here means ‘an offered reward to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do.'” The writing is easy to read, the book not very long, and the personality of the characters is enjoyable to follow.
Things to consider:

This book is good for younger children, probably six and older, and for both girls and boys. There are no sexual references, or foul language to speak of, and violence is at a minimum, but the situations may be a little disturbing to some children. Such as Klaus being hit in the face and Sunny being hung out the window in a bird cage. All these things are used to show us how evil the count is.

Opportunities for discussion:

One of the lessons here is that life isn’t always what we want it to be, but we should try and make the best of our situation regardless. Another lesson is that it is an evil act to do ill to others for your own sake, and if someone is being treated unfairly we should do what we can to help them. Finally, one of the themes here is how adults tend to not listen very well to the concerns that children face. If only the adults in this story would have listened, the fate of the Baudelaire orphans could have been avoided. It’s nice to see lessons for parents too, even if they are within a children’s tale.

Iron Wok JanI’m going out on a limb here; even though many of the character’s abilities are fantastical, this one really can’t be considered speculative fiction. However, I thought it worth mentioning as I do have a section for manga after all–and manga has become very popular among youth today.
Let me start by saying that this is one that I’ve constantly seen on the library shelf. Every time I looked at it I had a hard time making a decision. It’s a manga about . . . cooking?
Not being much of a cook myself, this idea did not really appeal to me. Even if I did love to cook, I mean, it’s a manga about . . . cooking . . . okay, so I said that already, but really, the idea seemed so absurd to me that of course I had to give it a shot.
Story overview:

Sixteen-year-old Jan shows up at the number 1 Chinese food restaurant in Tokyo Japan. His aggressive demeanor instantly rubs everyone the wrong way, however his talent and skills soon prove him a worthy Chef.
Jan’s goal? To become the #1 best Chinese food Chef. How does he go about attempting this? By insulting, challenging, and antagonizing everyone in his path. One being a girl named Kiriko, who is another trainee at the restaurant. She insists that cooking isn’t about “competition” but “heart”.
A glimpse into the past shows Jan’s tyrant of a grandfather, which gives us an idea as to why Jan acts the way he does.
My thoughts:

I have to say that my mind is not totally made up yet about this one. There was a lot more to the plot and story than I had imagined, and a lot more action than I would have guessed, but I think I need to read a few more before I’m convinced either way (I have the next two volumes at home as we speak). I admit that it’s nice to see a manga that’s not about kung-fu, robots, girls in skimpy school uniforms, or men waiving around big swords. One thing’s for sure: this one’s unique and very original, and its easy to get caught up in the melodrama and bizarre recipes.
Things to consider:

The back of the book says thirteen and up, so I’ll stick with that. This seems to be targeting boys, but it’s worth noting that I don’t think it would offend girls at all. Nothing sexual, no extreme violence (save for a suicide scene), and the language is tame.
Opportunities for discussion:

This is a good time to challenge your children as to what their motives are in life. Do they do things based on heart? Pride? Competition? Motives are an important topic, and this manga does a great job at addressing that.

Beedle the BardWithout getting into the huge Rowling discussion, which is popular among many Christians, just remember that this blog provides an “unbiased” Christian perspective on books. If you have not done so already, please read my about section. For now, let’s just stick to the review.

As someone who liked the Harry Potter stories, in 2007, when Rowling had decided to write a book that was mentioned in the Potter books, I was annoyed to discover that only seven copies would be available. If that wasn’t bad enough, they were going to be auctioned off at super high prices. Although the money was to be donated to “The Children’s Voice,” I still wanted to read the tales.

About a year later, this book was finally released to the general public, and the profits were given to “Children’s High Level Group”. This goes to show Rowling’s dedication to helping kids, as well as her willingness to listen to the voice of her fans.

Story overview:

There are five short–fairy tale–stories, which, legend has it, have been read to Wizarding children for many generations. Hermione Granger, a character from the Potter books, has translated these from “ancient runes” with the help of Albus Dumbledore, who wrote a commentary after each story to give a Wizarding perspective to us “Muggles” (non-Wizarding people).

The first story “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” tells of an old wizard who leaves his magical brewing pot to his son. Unlike his father, the son doesn’t use it to help others, but as he rejects each person’s cry for help, the pot recreates the symptoms of each person’s aliment until the wizard finally breaks down and decides to help.

The second story “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” tells of a magical fountain that, once a year, will solve a person’s main problem if they bath in it. Three witches, and a straggling knight, find the pool after facing three challenges. They all learn their answers in a way they didn’t expect.

The third story “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” tells of a warlock who removes his heart in order to avoid the foolishness of love. After quite a long time, he decides to marry a woman to silence the people’s talk. Before she concedes, she makes him show her his heart and convinces him to put it back inside himself, at which time the warlock becomes obsessed and ends up killing them both.

The forth story “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” tells the tale of a king, who is so obsessed with magic that he orders the capture of anyone performing it. In his ignorance, he is fooled into being trained by a non-magical user. When worried about being discovered as a fake, the supposed trainer forces an old woman named Babbitty, a true magical user, to perform her talent while hiding. Because of this the king believes that he can use magic himself. However, things go wrong when asked to raise the dead, something magic cannot do.

The fifth story “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” tells the tale of three brothers who try and cheat Death. Death grants them each a wish, but little did they know their wishes contained a curse that would only lead to their demise. However, one of the brothers fools death, with his wish for a cloak of invisibility, until one day when he chooses to pass the cloak down to his son.

My thoughts:

These are great fairy tales and reading them helps to give a little more insight into the world of Harry Potter.  Rowling had drawn the illustrations herself, and they are quite impressive. Each story is fairly short, and as mentioned, each has a commentary by Dumbledore. I found some of these commentaries to be a bit tedious at times, but overall I liked the book.

Things to consider:

Some of the stories, particularly “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” may be a bit disturbing for younger children, but overall I think they are fine. In general fairy tales tend to have at least some disturbing element to them, which is what makes them interesting and intriguing to many kids in the first place. I can see the commentaries as being a bit dull for kids who don’t know the original Potter books, and even then, perhaps still, but the tales themselves are good.

Opportunities for discussion:

Each story has a great moral lesson, if not more than one, but some that stick out in my mind are: do for others as you would have them do for you; the things you seek after may not be what you really need; do not let your heart become so decrepit that it ends up being worthless; and, make wise decisions, as foolish ones can have huge consequences. Beyond the moral lessons, this is a good chance to talk to your children about the difference between make-believe and real-world magic. If you would like to know my opinion, read this topical post here.

Rave Master v.1I’ve found that a good way to discover new stories is to just grab something that looks interesting off the library shelf. At times this has been successful and others not so much, but overall it’s worth the chance.
Rave Master is one of those that fit into the first category. When looking through the manga shelf, I saw that there were several available books in this series. I had gotten sick of finding a good manga, only to realize that the next volume is not available or has a long delay before being released. So I took a chance on this one, knowing that if I want to continue, I can.
At first, when looking at the cover, there were two things that made me hesitate. (1) the name RAVE MASTER is as close to cheesy as anything I’ve seen, and (2) the picture of a ridiculous “cutesy” looking creature, with a big round head and a snow cone nose, made me want to hurl, but flipping through the pages, seeing clips of the main character, and heck, it was free, so I went ahead and grabbed it. And I’m glad I did.
Story overview:

A sixteen-year-old boy named Haru lives on an island with his sister, and what looks to be a talking sunflower that is attached to the outside of their house.
When Haru’s sister visits their mother’s grave, he is out fishing for food. To his dismay, rather than catching a taste fish, a strange dog-like creature emerges from the water and follows Haru home. At first he wasn’t too keen on the animal, but it quickly grew on the boy and joins him when he goes into town.
In town, while hanging out at his favorite food establishment–and getting laughed at by the owner–Haru is taken aback when an old man named Shiba barges into the store. They quickly become friends, and Haru finds himself protecting the old man with the help of a stone he is given called Rave. Shiba realizes that he is no longer the chosen carrier of the magical stone, as it had chosen Haru as its new master. But can Haru go on a quest and fight against the dreaded Demon Card organization? Can he rid the world of the evil power of the Dark Stone? Or will he have to stay on the island to protect his sister?
My thoughts:

I love the humor in the story and the character attributes of Haru. He is very considerate, noble, yet humble; and kicks butt too. Not only that, but he doesn’t have totally off-the-wall anime hair (thank goodness). I will for sure be acquiring the next book in the series.
Things to consider:

There are violence scenes with blood spilling (but no “guts” type gore). So far there are no scantily dressed girls, which are common in manga, nor foul language. I would rate this for pre-teens and note that it is geared more towards boys.
Opportunities for discussion:

The main character’s example shows that one should not abandon a friend in need. In addition there’s a good opportunity to discuss when it is and isn’t good to give up something  important for the sake of someone else.

The Book of ThreeContinuing my mission of recapping books read to me as a kid, I recently picked up “The Book of Three” to get a refresher.

I remember being captured by the idea of a pig being so important, and the hero chasing after her, but I had forgotten most of the other things that took place.

Story overview:

Taran, a young Assistant Pig-Keeper, chases after Hen Wen, a pig, who escapes after sensing the presence of the evil Horned King.

Taran finds himself in the presence of Gwydion, a crown prince, and the two of them go together to find the pig, accompanied by a Gollum-like creature named Gurgi.

After being captured, Taran meets Princess Eilonwy, and the two of them find themselves escaping from Queen Achren and continue the journey in search for Hen Wen and the demise of the Horned King.

My thoughts:

Here’s another book that I knew I loved as a kid, but just didn’t get into as an adult. There were way too many places where I found I had spaced out and missed what I had just read. To me, if I’m not pulled into the story, then I just can’t say I loved it. This one, where understandably a classic, just didn’t do that for me. Perhaps it was just a little too black and white for my taste. Still, there was some very good character development. I’ll  have to read the next book in the series to see  if I change my mind, but so far I’ll just give it three out of five.

Things to consider:

There are violent scenes, but other than that the story is pretty mild. I think the age group would be good at around eight, and for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

Taran learns to understand the hearts of all creatures, even ones that appear to be detestable or mean on the outside. Use this example to help your children understand that good acts should be offered to all mankind, regardless of their appearance and/or differences.

InkspellAfter reviewing Inkheart it’s only right for me to tell everyone about the next book in the series, Inkspell.

Where that story took place mostly in the real-world, this one takes place almost entirely in the fantasy one.

Story overview:

A year after the happenings of Inkheart, Meggie can’t help but to think of the magical world she only had a small glimpse of.

Farid convinces Meggie that going to the ink world is the best thing for them both to do, and so, with a voice perhaps even greater than her father’s, Meggie reads them there. By one way or another, Dustfinger, Basta, Mortola, Mortimer (Mo), and Resa all find themselves in this fantasy world.

If they thought Capricorn was bad, then that’s only because they had yet to meet the dreaded Adderhead; tyrant of the ink world.

Among the people from the real-world is Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart, who finds that he is less in control than he would like, and so he vows to put an end to the Adderhead. With Meggie’s voice and Fenoglio’s words, they try to put things right, only to find that perhaps their attempts simply make matters worse.

My thoughts:

I liked this book better than Inkheart, and I did really like Inkheart. There are a few places where I found the story dragged on, but I wasn’t disappointed by trudging through them.

Things to consider:

Meggie is older, and she falls in love with Farid. Nothing inappropriate there, but they do find themselves romantically involved (nothing beyond kissing). I’d say the rating and age group is the same as Inkheart, which would be around the pre-teens.

Opportunities for discussion:

Like the first book, this one questions whether or not one should take a hand at “playing god”. Talk to your children about dating, and what you believe is appropriate. Another good discussion point is about sacrifice, though I don’t want to mention why without you first reading the book.

EragonI’ve caught up on all three of the current Inhertitance cycle books, but I hate to post reviews of books out of order. So let me share with you the story of Eragon.

When I stumbled across this book, I was surprised at how much I liked it. In fact I liked it so much that I did research on the author, Christopher Paolini, just to see what I could learn about him. What I discovered truly amazed me, as he was only fifteen when he started writing. This encouraged me to get back to writing for myself, as I had started “A Wizards Tale” when I was thirteen. The challenge was to improve my writing skills, and Paolini’s personal story talked about how he tackled projects by educating himself. This motivated me to acquired the same books on the craft that he read, but it didn’t stop there. Since then I have greatly expanded my studies on the art of writing, and now I have even published my own book as a result. Thanks Chirstopher!

One final note: I thought the movie version of Eragon was awful. It had none of the complex character dynamics that I liked so much in the book; such as the tension between Eragon and Arya. I do not recommend the movie.

Story overview:

Fifteen-year-old Eragon, who lives with his uncle Garrow and cousin Roran on a farm, finds a polished blue stone, which appears right in front of him one day as he wanders in a wilderness called the “Spine”. To his surprise, several days later a dragon hatches from it.

Eragon learns that the dragon, Saphira, has chosen him to be her rider, and Eragon’s uncle gets killed because of it. He travels with a man named Brom to a place called Teirm in order to find the murderous Ra’zac who did the deed. Along the way Brom trains Eragon in magic, sword fighting, and the Ancient Language.

After many events, he discovers a captured elf, Arya, and frees her. They flee to the Varden, which is a group of people forming a rebellion against the tyrant Galbatorix. The Varden is invaded and Eragon finds himself fighting alongside them.

My thoughts:

I know that this story is not particularly original, in fact there are many elements of “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” used here. However, the situations and characters kept me wanting to know more. At first I didn’t like Eragon, but as he grew so did I grow to like him, and I particularly liked the werecat, Solembum, who is an extremely interesting character.

Things to consider:

There is a lot of violence in this story, however the language and any sexual situations are very tame, if not totally non-existent. My thought is that this is more of a boy’s story; though, I do understand that a lot of girls like it too. I would age rank this one into the early teens.

Opportunities for discussion:

You can explain to your children that, even though unpleasant, difficult situations are what mold a person’s character and helps them to grow up. You can explain to them that in the Bible, God often allows things to happen so that good will abound in the end. Another good point to bring up is the importance of companionship, as Eragon and Saphira become closer and more dependent on each other. I should point out too that, this is a good opportunity to share your thoughts on fortunetelling.

A Wrinkle in TimeMany would consider this a classic story, and understandably so. This was read to me as a kid, but it wasn’t until recently that I picked it up to read for myself. Actually, I listened to the unabridged audio book version, which was read by the author herself.

I can’t help but wonder if Cornelia Funke didn’t borrow a lot of ideas from this story for Inkheart. If you read them both close together you may see what I mean:

A Wrinkle in Time: main character is Meg
Inkheart: main character is Meggie

A Wrinkle in Time: father is mysteriously missing
Inkheart: mother is mysteriously missing

A Wrinkle in Time: a stranger shows up on a stormy night (Mrs. Whatsit)
Inkheart: a stranger shows up on a stormy night (Dustfinger)

And that’s just the beginning…

Story overview:

A bad-tempered teenage girl lives with her mother (who is a scientist), her five-year-old brother (a nascent genius) and two ten-year-old twin brothers (who have very little to do with the story). Where is her father? Well, that’s a mystery as he has been missing for more than a year.

Meg discovers that a tesseract is a fifth-dimensional phenomenon and finds that her father was working on it when he disappeared. She encounters a schoolmate, Calvin O’Keefe, and finds him, herself, and her genius brother, Charles Wallace, traveling through space by means of tesseract with Mrs. Whatsit and her strange, angelic-like friends.

They find that Meg’s father is trapped on the planet Camazotz, which is dominated by a dark and evil force: The Black Thing. They go to rescue him and encounter many strange and peculiar obstacles along the way, one of which is a man with red eyes who casts a hypnotic spell over their minds, and Charles Wallace becomes taken over under its influence, which puts Meg’s love to the test to free both him and her father.

My thoughts:

Madeleine uses some interesting arguments on how her “tesseract” theory works, and there are some interesting worlds that the characters travel to, but personally I had a hard time getting into it. I believe, as a kid, that I enjoyed it. After all the story is very creative in a lot of ways, but it just didn’t do if for me this last time. I didn’t like the cheesy opening, “It was a dark and stormy night” and I just couldn’t get past my dislike for the main character, Meg. She did have a kind heart, but if she was only a little less, well, irritating/obnoxious, I’d probably have liked her a little better. Also, some areas just seemed to lack important details and didn’t pull me into the pages. Still, many people loved this story, so I encourage you to find out for yourself.

Things to consider:

I think the content of this story is appropriate for most ages, however the subject of it may be a little more advanced in understanding. Also there are some frightening situations which may be too much for some kids. I’ll say that 13 is a good age for a child to read on their own, and good for both boys and girls. This book does hold some strong Christian themes in it, so much so that I’ve read complaints about it being “too religious” and “pushy”, but they are most likely coming from “non-Christian” readers.

Opportunities for discussion:

People cannot live as machines, they must be free to be individuals; both friendships and family are very important; and love can prevail over seemingly impossible circumstances.

RedwallI remember one Saturday morning, as I was surfing channels, I happened across a cartoon called “Redwall”. There were mice walking around on their back legs and talking as if they were human. At first I was a little unsure of what to think, but after sticking with it for the entire half hour, I found myself enjoying what I saw. Several weeks and episodes later I was hooked.
One day, while browsing a table of books at an “Animal Humane Society” rummage sale, I saw a cover with a little mouse holding a sword and shield. The name “Redwall” jumped out at me and I instantly remembered the cartoon. It was then that I realized the story was first published as a book series, and needless to say, I purchased it right away–for only a buck too. Shortly after, my collection began to expand with other titles from the series.

Story overview:

A horse drawn hay cart, out of control and filled with a band of nasty rats, ends up toppling over not far from a peace loving Church.  However, these rats are anything but peace loving, particularly the evil-one-eyed warlord, Cluny, the Scourge, and so they invade the Church and capture it, taking the residents prisoner.
Not far away is, “Redwall Abbey”, which is a place of prosperity and good natured animals. One of which is an awkward little mouse named Matthias.
Cluny realizes that the “Redwall Abbey” would be a great fortress, and so he gathers rats, ferrets, stoats, and weasels to take it over. However, the inhabitants, though uneducated in the ways of war, fight to keep the invaders from breaking through their Abbey walls. As Cluny and his gang lay siege, Matthias goes on a mission to recover a legendary weapon to use against Cluny. During his journey, Matthias creates bonds with various animals and finds himself up against many unexpected trials.
My thoughts:

This is a cute story. I enjoyed the characters and situations they were put in, particularly the scavenger hunt (to find the legendary sword) that takes place in the Abbey, along with the antics of Basil Stag Hare.
Things to consider:

I would say that this story would be good for both girls and boys around the age of eight. There are some violent scenes–much more vividly depicted in the book than in the cartoon, deaths (not in the cartoon that I remember), and a few instances of excessive drinking, but otherwise this is a nice, clean story.
Opportunities for discussion:
You could share with your children, that even though they may feel a little clumsy and unsure of themselves, God can use them for great things. Also, you can share your thoughts with them on drinking and the need to kill (not murder) in situations of war when protecting the lives of those around you.