Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

I came across this book in the library, and it sounded interesting, so I checked it out. There are four books in the original series, followed by another series of four more called The Circle Opens. It finishes off with a standalone named The Will of the Empress.

Born into a hillbilly family, Tamora Pierce understood what it meant to be “American poor.” She fell in love with books at a young age and started writing when she was only 6 years old. It is said that many of her stories contain feminist themes. If you’d like to know more, you can read her Bio at http://www.tamora-pierce.com/bio.html .

Story overview:
Four children with three completely different backgrounds come together at a place known as Discipline Cottage. Other than being troublemakers, the only thing they have in common is the ability to control magic.

Sandry–the book’s namesake–comes from a noble family. She has the ability to work with threads. Tris, a heavyset merchant girl, told from a young age that she had no magical abilities, discovers a dormant power that can manipulate weather conditions. Daja, the lone survivor of a terrible shipwreck, learns how to master metals as a smith. And, finally, Briar, a young street boy and thief, who is given the name of a shrub due to his divinity with plant life.

Under the supervision of Niklaren, and a few other magical users, the four children learn what it means to form unlikely bonds under abnormal circumstances.

My thoughts:
Tamora fans, please understand that I’m only saying how I honestly felt about this book. That doesn’t mean others won’t feel differently. Firstly, I didn’t like how I was thrown into the heads of four different children. It got confusing at times, and I can see how younger children may feel the same way. I also didn’t care that much for the story progression. There was a plot, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel mapped out; the story mainly centered on the individual progression and relationships between the characters. I know this isn’t a bad thing, but for me, I became bored not having the supporting goal to pull me along. I wanted to see where I was going. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, then the book was over. I’m sure this was done to introduce the following books in the series, but honestly, the first book didn’t make me desire to continue on to the next. So, this will probably be my only review of the Circle of Magic. I just couldn’t get into it, but I can see others doing so, so don’t take my word for it.

Things to consider:
No sexual situations or extreme cases of violence. The most I remember hearing in the way of foul language was a few made-up insults. There are instances of meditation, but I didn’t get anything overly creepy out of it. Good for teens and older, though, as I mentioned above, may be a little confusing to some. Probably targeted more toward girls, but overall is equally acceptable for boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
The children learn to overcome their differences and focus on what they have in common. Whether it is race, gender, ethnicity, wealth, status, age, or whathaveyou, the world has known, and still knows, what happens when people find contention with one another. Where we know that some differences are beyond our control (and in some cases, are good), all humankind is seen as equal in God’s eyes. It is good for us as believers to be reminded that humility was one of the most frequented subjects in the Bible. Loving our fellow men and women should not be restricted by external observations. Just remember, unless you are a Jew, you were not among His original chosen people. Remind your children that God allowed the possibility of all gentiles into His family. No one should consider other human beings as being below him or her. Finding what we have in common, and growing upon that, is sometimes the only way we can really extend God’s love.

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Technically, this is not speculative fiction, but I decided to make a rare exception in this case. As a former childcare teacher and children’s pastor, Holly Howard extends her passion for helping young girls by writing a book that addresses some of the issues they face on a daily basis.

Story overview:
Jan may have a large and loving family, but it comes with a price; they don’t have a lot of money to go around. Jan is forced to wear less than ideal clothing, which paints a target on her. Three snobby rich girls, who attend the same 5th grade class as Jan, make it their personal hobby to find ways to put her down.

When a new girl shows up, Jan is surprised to find that she (Mindy) is even less fortunate. Not only are her clothes ratty, but she smells like a skunk. It doesn’t take long for the bullies to give Mindy the nickname Skunk Girl. Pretending to befriend her, they use Mindy as leverage to make Jan feel even worse.

When Jan learns that the bullies have a weakness, she finds the courage to challenge the leader to a battle of the wits. In doing so, Jan grows closer to Mindy and realizes just how good her own life really is.

My thoughts:
The characters are well constructed and I enjoyed the internal monolog of Jan (the protagonist), particularly when she was addressing her invisible diary. There were times I could feel the same sense of dread that I experienced back in my own childhood days.

Things to consider:
Skunk Girl is a good story for young girls, particularly ones that deal with bullies. Written by a Christian author, there is a message of salvation worked into the plot. No foul language or sexual situations. Especially good for ages 9-12.

Opportunities for discussion:
A good item of discussion comes from Jan’s refusal to be mean to the ones being mean to her. She exercises the commandment, Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In the process, she learns how to become stronger, and shows a good turn to someone who had always put her down. Ask your children if they have ever experienced a time when they returned evil with evil. If they say yes, ask them how it made them feel in the end, then suggest they try an alternative path the next time, as Jan did.