Posts Tagged ‘tweens’

I am pleased to announce Book For Youth’s first official book release. From the author of The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again comes a new and magical journey.

Story overview:
As the son of a great wizard, Traphis doesn’t understand why his mother and father have forbidden him from learning magic. Raised to tend fields, he often dreams of a bigger life–one in which he performs in front of an awe-stricken crowd.

A year after the death of his father, Traphis, now fifteen years old, spies his mother tossing a collection of magic books into a nearby creek. Unbeknownst to her, he is able to rescue them and read their contents hidden within his secret cave.

Opening himself up to the world of magic, a dark presence surfaces–one which has been seeking to track him down for years. Hidden secrets of the past unfold as Traphis joins with other trainees in hopes of learning the skills necessary to survive. The more answers he uncovers the more mysteries arise, sending him down the path of a true wizard, which is far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

My thoughts:
Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Narnia series, which was read to me at a young age. As I grew older, I was surprised at how little Christian Fantasies there were out there; the Christian bookstores had little to nothing of them. It was disappointing to say the least. Traphis, with a subtle/non-preachy Christian angle, targets fans of series like Narnia as well as secular ones like Harry Potter and Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle). It is not meant to compete with them, but to provide a new fantastical world in which youths can follow and come back holding onto messages of faith, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

Things to consider:
Since this was written to appeal to teens and young adults, there are a few places that may be considered disturbing to younger children. No foul language or sexual situations, but there is action violence–done to enhance the story rather than shock the reader with sensationalism. Nothing inappropriate for the right ages (preteen and older). This should appeal to boys and girls; there are strong characters representing both genders–though the protagonist is a boy.

Opportunities for discussion:
Forgiveness is one of the leading elements in this story. Traphis’ need to forgive God for taking his father away, and his need to forgive his own failures. Skinny Jack learns he needs to forgive his abusive father, and Falin offers grace to his brother who rebelled many years ago. One thing this story also shows is the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiveness is about releasing the power for vengeance and setting it into the hands of God, but one should not forget the past; we can learn from it and grow stronger as a result. Christians are not blind, they just learn to see with different eyes.

Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale is currently available on the Kindle and Nook for $2.99 (which is a good price for a 155k word novel). If you don’t have either a Kindle or Nook eReader, don’t worry, you can download the story and read it on your computer, smartphone, or tablet using the free Kindle software.

Purchase the eBook at:
Amazon (Kindle – $2.99)
Barnes & Noble (Nook – $2.99)

What is an eBook? It’s an electronic book format that can be read on digital devices, removing the need for paper. Learn more about the story at:


This is the second book to the Amulet Graphic Novel series. I also plan on reading and reviewing the third book soon, so stay tuned. A fourth book is scheduled for release on September 1, 2011, and I have it on my to-acquire list already. How many total books there will be, I have yet to find out.

Be sure to check out my review of the first book (The Stonekeeper) if you have not done so already.

Story overview:
After having rescued her mother, Emily travels in her great-grandfather’s portable house to a local town. Her aim is to find a doctor that can remove the poison, which put her mother into a coma.

Soon after docking in the waterfall town of Kanalis, the elves track down Emily, Navin, and Miskit. Thankfully, for them, a stranger in the form of a human-like fox comes to their rescue. This fox, Leon Redbeard, safely takes them to the best doctor in town. There they learn that the only antidote for the poison is found in the treacherous Demon’s Head Mountain.

Escaping an elf segue against the hospital, our adventurers come across a secret hidden base for a group of rebels. These rebels were put in place for the day she and her brother arrived. As Emily embarks on a journey to find the cure for her mother, Navin takes on his new position as leader of the rebel army and heads out to recover their house from the elves.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first. Finished it in two sittings, but would have probably done so in one had it not been for the NyQuil I downed an hour before (head cold). I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 in the next week or two.

Things to consider:
Appropriately aged for preteens and older, this book maintains the same standards as the first: no sexual situations, foul language, or gore–there’s no need to shock the audience with these things when there’s enough mystery and adventure to keep the reader going. I can see both girls and boys enjoying this tale.

Opportunities for discussion:
The amulet seeks to consume Emily and take control of her body. It claims that this is for her own good as doing so will give her great power. Yet Emily fights against this desire and demands that she be the one in control, regardless of the consequences. I liken this to anger and rage. There are times where we feel that, if we let go and let our anger take control, it will make us stronger. The problem with this is that, if we do, we more often than not hurt those we care about. Giving in to our rage may provide a temporary satisfaction, but when the dust settles we must face the consequences of our actions. Consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV) “. . . [love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Emily understood that she would lose these things if she gave into the amulet. Help your children to understand that they too will compromise their standings if they give into anger.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

I came across this book on Amazon and thought, wow, a cool looking Graphic Novel that isn’t a manga produced by Japan. After doing a little more research on it, I had to laugh. Where it is true that it was written as an American graphic novel, the author was born in Tokyo.

Note: There also looks to be a Warner Brothers movie adaptation coming in 2012.

Story overview:
Two years after having witnessed the death of her father, Emily, along with her mother and brother (Navin), move to a small town and into a broken-down house (once owned by her great-grandfather). Still dealing with emotions from her father’s death, Emily finds that her mother is also doing all she can to hold herself together.

When rummaging in her great-grandfather’s old room, Emily comes across a mystical-looking amulet. Shortly after putting it around her neck, an otherworldly intruder enters their home and captures her mother. When Emily and Navin chase after the creature, they find themselves transported to a different world.

Now Emily is faced with the burden of losing another parent. Only this time there’s something she can do to stop it. Having met some unlikely friends in this new world, Emily and Navin are given the resources necessary for chasing down their mother’s captor. Having activated the amulet’s power, Emily wonders if the cost of such help might end up costing her more in the end.

My thoughts:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style of drawing. It was, different. But the longer I looked at it, the more it grew on me and I started to appreciate the artistic brilliance, particularly within the scenery–Kibuishi’s use of lighting is clearly his greatest strength. As far as the story goes, it hooked me right away. Heartfelt, mysterious, creative, and gripping are just a few of the words that come to mind. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting; couldn’t put it down.

Things to consider:
It’s marked for grades 4-7 (which is basically children aged nine to thirteen). I can see that; there are a few elements that may be considered too scary for younger children. But, I think 13 is too soon to cut it off; teenagers of all ages and many adults would appreciate this as well (I’m in my 30s, and I loved it). No hit of sexual references. No gore or even blood for that matter. There is action violence, some disturbing scenes involving a spider-like bug creature, and a few deaths (including Emil’s father, which practically had me in tears–thinking as a father myself). This should appeal to both boys and girls alike.

Opportunities for discussion:
The voice of the amulet told Emily that there was no time for faith. Yet her great grandfather did tell her there was another way. As a reader, I’m glad she listened to the amulet; I wanted to see the adventure unfold and to see what would happen with the stone. But as a believer I completely understand the temptation to reach for a quick and easy solution rather than listen to the voice of faith. The author shows us that the amulet might not be in the right, but leaves that thought open–likely to resurface in a later book. Since I don’t know the final outcome, I can’t say if choosing the amulet was a good decision. For all I know the amulet might have brought the creature to capture her mother in the first place. Therefore, with the story, we have yet to see, but for our own lives, let us consider this Bible verse Prov 19:2 (NIV) “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Ask your children about the last time they rushed into something, and what the outcome was. Challenge them to stop and assess the situation before jumping in next time. Sometimes trusting and having faith avoids worse consequences down the road.

The next book in this exciting manga series continues after Kaguro’s attack against our favorite Kekkaishi: Yoshimori and Tokine.

Story overview:

The General Manager of the Kokuboro (the bad guys), Byaku, sends some of his team members to track down the current Master of the Karasumori site (the school). This leads them to Lord Uro, but not only are they unable to get to Lord Uro, they discover that he is the master of the land just outside of the Karasumori site, not the master of the site itself.

In the mean time, Gen and Yoshimori continue to strengthen their bond. Yoshimori meets Gen’s “tamer” from the Shadow Organization, Atora, who is a young and spunky lady that manages to keep Gen in check—in the process she greatly embarrasses the poor boy. In an attempt to improve the teamwork of Gen and the two Kekkaishi, she challenges them to catch her in the time of an hour. They were able to meet her demands and so she goes back to the Shadow Organization satisfied that they will work well together.

Yoshimori’s grandfather becomes worried about his friend (a seventy-year-old retired university professor), who may have dug a little too deep into the Kokuboro. Sure enough, they sent an assassin to kill the old man. It seems as if the assassin succeeds, but he secretly escapes by fooling everyone with an Ayakashi in human skin. Having thought to succeed, the Kokuboro are not done with their plans. They intend to take their princess to the Karasumori site in order to save her life.

My thoughts:

We are thrown a clue about the Kokuboro being run by the “Monster Fox of the black pampas grass.” More mysteries are unfolding, including the fact that it is the land itself that choose a Master to coincide with. If the land suffers, then the master will die, but if the master suffers the land will chose a new one (but it seems there’s a time limit before the land cannot survive without one). This is why the Kokuboro plan to bring their princess to the site; in hopes that the land will accept her as its new master. Interesting approach to the story. Watching the plot unfold is exciting, and as always, the character interaction is superb.

Things to consider:

Nothing really questionable. The series rating stays consistent at ages thirteen plus. A few minor curse words and action violence. And these are well placed; not gratuitous.

Opportunities for discussion:

The bond between Yoshimori and Gen has increased. They are in the process of becoming good friends, yet both would probably not admit it. Friendships are important in life, as no one is an island, but there is little else out there that can influence your teen in a positive or negative way. Talk to your teen about the difference between destructive friendships and ones that mutually benefit each person. Then ask them if they have any friends they think could be one or the other.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)
5) Kekkaishi (Volume 5)
6) Kekkaishi (Volume 6)
7) Kekkaishi (Volume 7)
8) Kekkaishi (Volume 8)

When at the library, I checked over the manga section to see if anything struck my fancy. I came across this interesting looking cover, so I figured I would try it. And I am glad I did.

Story overview:

In a land of perpetual night (called Amberground), there is no sun. The world is heated from something called Spirit Amber, which is a source of energy that is buried deep beneath the ground. Light (low as it is) seems to come from either the stars in the sky, or a small man-made sun that hovers above the capital, Akatskui (which is restricted only to the “elite” and those with a special Capital Crossing Pass).

An eighteen-year-old man named Gauche Suede, along with his dog, Roda, travel from place to place to deliver messages. This position is called a Letter Bee (basically, they are a postal service). Gauche comes across a town that has been burned down, and to his surprise he finds a package in the form of a young boy (named Lag Seeing). On their journey, both Gauche and Lag inadvertently (and in a strange way) exchange glimpses into each other’s hearts. They form a bond, which five years later, brings Lag to go off on his own to become a Letter Bee himself.

However, that is not Lag’s main goal. You see, the elite of Akatskui captured his mother, and now he seeks to find a way into the Capital. Gauche promised Lag that he would look into the issue, but there was no word from him over these past five years (after Lag was safely delivered to his aunt). Therefore, Lag goes out to have an interview to become a Letter Bee. In the process, he comes across a strange animal-like girl who he ends up helping, which causes him to miss his interview. But in doing so he gains one of the Letter Bee requirements, a “dingo” (a companion, usually a dog, that has a contract with the Letter Bee).

My thoughts:

There is a lot I left out in the overview above, but I did not want to give away too many spoilers, even if I did, there is not enough room to list all that went into this story. One of my requirements for a great story is that it has to have heart. This has that and more. I was refreshed to find a manga with artwork in the elegant and clean style that I appreciate so much. But that’s not all. I love the characters, and a story about a dark world without any sun? It can’t get any better for a speculative fiction buff. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the next one once it comes out.

Things to consider:

This is rated “Teen” from Viz Media, but honestly, I can see it being appropriate for younger. There is the typical action violence, but it is done without any gore, and there were no inappropriate nude or sexual scenes. The closest was where Lag sees that Nichi is a girl, but this was done in good taste. Now, I cannot say anything for the series as a whole (as they are not yet released in the US), but this one gets a preteen (tween) safety stamp from me.

Opportunities for discussion:

Heart is one of the dominant themes in this tale. Heart is what powers the guns of the Letter Bees, but that is not all. Heart also powers the drive of the main characters. A good discussion topic would be to ask your teen what it is their heart is driven by right now. If the opportunity is open for it, share with them the Bible verse that states, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-24.)

I came across this book a little while back at a used bookstore. I picked up a copy for my Aunt as a Christmas gift, but had not yet had a chance to read it myself.

Since I was thoroughly disappointed with The Alchemyst (which had practically nothing to do with alchemy), I was a little worried about yet another Irish novel. Thankful, like most biases, these were unfounded, and Artemis Fowl could not be anymore night and day.

This is the first book in a three book series (update: 04/13/10 – there are currently seven known books in the series), and I can say for sure, I will be adding the next to my list.

Story overview:

Artemis Fowl II is a twelve-year-old boy genius, who comes from a family with a long history of being professional thieves. With his father missing for some time and his mother not in her right mind, Artemis is free to roam about—with help from his abnormally strong manservant, Butler—and execute his latest scheme.

His current ambition is directed at the race of elves in an attempt to acquire their gold and restore his family’s fortune. To accomplish this, Artemis locates and tricks an elf into letting him make a copy of their (the race’s) secret book. After translating this book, the young boy genius plots out a way to find and capture another elf to use as a hostage.

We learn that Leprechauns are actually known as LEPrecon, who are a special recon force that live miles underground. Captain Holly Short, the first female member of LEP, had nothing but problems trying to keep her position with Commander Julius Root always breathing down her back. If this was not bad enough, she finds herself as Artemis’s captive. Commander Root makes this his priority case to (1) save Holly, and (2) protect the hidden identity of their race. Artemis may have gotten a little over his head on this one, but somehow manages to stay on target.

My thoughts:

I quite enjoyed this one. Normally I am not a big fan of constant point-of-view switches, but these are done smoothly and sensibly; not disjointing at all. The characters are great fun to follow along, and the story had me wanting to jump right back in to see what happened next.

Things to consider:

This is a pretty harmless tale. Good for boys and girls in their preteens and older. There is a gory scene when Butler fights a Troll, some slight mentions to curses (done with good humor), and crude descriptions of a Dwarf’s gas, but all are done tastefully.

Opportunities for discussion:

The moral question arises of how one should treat their enemy. As did Artemis, who struggled with the human-like appearance of his captured elf, Holly. It was Holly who showed Artemis how one should treat their enemies, as she tried to save Artemis and his crew. This reminded me of the Bible verse, Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This opens a good discussion for you and your children/child.

Gahoole_Capture_b1In my search for popular children’s books I came across the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. Currently, it appears there are fifteen books and a September 24, 2010 movie scheduled to be released.

The author, Kathy Lasky has written more than fifty fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. She is quoted as saying, “I want young readers to come away with a sense of joy for life. I want to draw to them into a world where they’re really going to connect with these characters.”

For the most part she achieves this with The Capture.

Story overview:

A young Barn Owl named Soren finds himself falling from the warm nest of his parents only to land at the bottom of the tree. Unfortunately for Soren, his parents were out hunting for food. Only his little sister, unhelpful (& deceiving) brother, and blind snake-servant remained.

Soren is captured by an Owl patrol and taken to St. Aegolius’ Academy for Orphaned Owls. It did not matter that Soren wasn’t really an orphan because, as he discovers, the Academy’s true aim is to conquer the Owl kingdoms. Soren learns of the true horrors of Moon Blinking—which destroys an Owl’s free will—hard labor, punishment for asking questions, and the terror of Owls who yield to Vampire Bats.

With the help of his Elf Owl friend named Gylfie—and a few un-blinked Owls at the Academy—Soren escapes. They are joined by a male Great Grey Owl named Twilight, who helps both Soren and Gylfie to find their homes, but unfortunately they have been deserted. Now a new and greater adventure lies ahead.

My thoughts:

There is a slight Redwall‘ish feeling to this tale; if you like one you may like the other. For some odd reason newly born Owls have an instant British vocabulary, but overall it is a cute and charming adventure. Personally, I got bored with it. My attention kept dropping off and the events seemed to drag on longer than I would have liked. However, I think the right audience would love it. Particularly those who are between 6 to 12 (six to twelve) years old.

Things to consider:

As mentioned under my thoughts, I think this is appropriate for children between six and twelve, and for both girls and boys. Note that any youth beyond tweens runs the risk of becoming bored with it. However, I do want to caution that there are a few disturbing situations that may be considered frightful to some children. Off the top of my head these are: vampire bats drinking the blood of willing Owls, a few violent deaths, and a horrific act of Cannibalism. Overall this is a clean story, and is free from any sexual references or profanity.

Opportunities for discussion:

The theme of brainwashing is fairly dominant here; such as moon blinking and the restriction of asking questions. Yet belief is also mentioned (in a positive way) when talking about the legends of Ga’Hoole. It is easy for the world to relate Christianity to brainwashing, and granted in some cases there are brainwashed Christians, however this is not the intended path of believers. Brainwashing comes from conforming without testing or questioning, but it is the job of the believer to understand where he or she stands. We believe in individuality, not conformity. We all have unique gifts, personalities, and ways of looking at things. This is why the Bible talks about people being a different part of the same body. A discussion topic for your child would be to ask them what they believe makes them unique. Ask them what beliefs they hold onto, and then ask them if there are any questions they would like to share with you. Then be willing to listen and respond (non-condescendingly.)

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.

The White MountainsWhen I was in elementary school, I can remember coming home from school in anticipation of watching a BBC series called “The Tripods.” If I remember correctly, each episode ran for thirty minutes, and they always left me hanging at the end. The music was superb, the effects outstanding (for the day), and the story was spectacular. I just had to see the next episode to find out what was going to happen next; only to be rudely disappointed when the show suddenly stopped airing.

When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher–who was also a fan of the series–was nice enough to show them to the class. We got through two seasons, and like before, I was left hanging at the end. It wasn’t until many years later–after I created the first Yahoo Group Tripods Fanclub–that I learned the show was canceled before they produced the final season–the third book in the series.

Not only that, but when the first season was put into VHS format, they never released the second season other than what was shown on TV. This made things difficult for a fan who wanted to watch it again. To make a long story short, just this very month there was a release of both seasons on DVD with music from Ken Freeman that would have been used in the final 3rd season. It’s in Region 2, PAL format, which won’t work on US DVD players or televisions, however it will work on your Computer and they hookup nicely to TVs now-a-days.

Story overview:

Thirteen-year-old Will and his cousin, Henry (one month younger than Will) live in a small English village. Will’s other cousin and best friend, Jack Leeper, is “of age” to receive what’s called a “cap”–the boy is raised up into a three-legged alien ship (thus, Tripod) and has a metal cap placed on his head, which is used to control his thoughts. The villagers understand this celebration as a coming of age ceremony. It’s considered a great honor.

Once Jack received his cap, Will became horrified to discover that his friend was no longer what he once was. Being only a year behind “of age” himself, Will happens across a mysterious vagrant who goes by the name of “Ozymandias” (vagrants are supposedly people who had a capping go wrong). He convinces Will to escape to a place where there are “Free Men” living in seclusion at the “White Mountains” (actually the Swiss Alps, literally translated from the French Mont Blanc).

Henry learns of this, but rather than turn Will in, he demands to go along. Even though the two boys never really got along in the past, they go together with a common goal. Sailing to France they meet up with a boy named Beanpole, who becomes the third member of their party. Rummaging through the remains of Paris, hiding from Tripods, getting side tracked at a manor owned by a wealthy French count; they follow through many adventures on their way to the “White Mountains.”

My thoughts:

I had acquired a fondness for these stories ever since I was a kid. The TV show was never completed, but thankfully the books were. The idea of our world in the future, gone downward rather than forward due to aliens enslaving mankind by controlling their thoughts, is one of both intrigue and wonder. The discovery, adventure, and fight for freedom are ones that can spark the imagination of any boy.

Things to consider:

I don’t remember anything questionable in the story, but there are elements that may be a little disturbing to young children. I would say this is a great book for pre-teens (tweens) +, and is mostly targeted toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

The main theme in this story is freedom. Let your kids know that there are many people and groups out there that will try and force their opinions on them, sometimes by manipulation and sometimes by force. Tell them to keep their minds sharp and not let anyone else control them. Tell them to never stop questioning, testing, and examining the things in their lives. Share how true freedom is obtained in Christ, and that even though people can live content lives without, deep inside they have become prisoners to the things and ideals of this world. The story also speaks of the struggle to maintain ones own creative faculties.