Monday, October 31, 2005

The Empty Mirror

James Lincoln Collier authored this book as well as 50 others including My Brother Sam Is Dead.

Nick Hodges seems to always be in trouble. He is an orphan whose parents died in the flu epidemic of 1918, and he lives with his uncle in a small New England town. It is 1931. Nick and his friend Gypsy go to Briggs Pond. "Then my backbone went cold, and a chill rose up and shivered across my head. Gypsy's reflection was there, all right. But there was no reflection of me." (p. 23) As the story continues, Nick is accused of being places where he hasn't been and of causing trouble he has not caused. The acts he is accused of seem to be getting worse -- first just mischief then more violent acts. Every time one of these things happens there is a witness who swears that Nick was there.

In an effort to explain the strange happenings, Nick begins to look into some of the deaths during the flu epidemic -- he finds something strange. Is this what has taken Nick's mirror image?

The book is a good mystery and ghost story that reads very quickly.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Dog's Life: the Autobiography of a Stray

Ann M. Martin is the author of this short novel.

Squirrel and her brother Bone begin their lives in a garden shed behind a summer house. They live in an old wheel barrow feeling safe and content as their mother teaches them how to survive as stray dogs. They become aware of the other inhabitants of the shed, cats, birds, and mice. They are learning to hunt but are not really ready for the day when Mother is suddenly taken from them. She doesn't return from searching for food and leaves the puppies orphans, not quite old enough to be ready to take care of themselves. These puppies find out that the world is a cold, cruel place and that people can be mean and brutal as well as kind and caring. Squirrel and Bone become separated. The reader follows Squirrel on her trek -- her name is changed several times. She meets two wonderful friends who change her, Moon and Rachel. Moon, another stray, teaches her never to give up and to look forward to the days when things will get better.

There were parts of this book that brought me to tears and parts that made me feel joy and happiness for Squirrel.

You can read an excerpt.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I, Coriander

The novel is set in 17th century London and in a fairy world. Reading about this era in London takes me back a number of years (we won't say how many) to my study of English history with Dr. A.J. Henderson. Oliver Cromwell was not royalty, and yet he was able to bring Charles I to trial and execution. Cromwell was a follower of the puritan faith. Oliver Cromwell remains one of the most disliked figures in British history.

The story is told by Coriander Hobie, the daughter of a wealthy silk merchant in the 1650s. The Hobie family were not supporters of Cromwell and his followers; they were Royals. The young girl writes this story from the light of seven candles -- each section ends when one of the candles goes out.

Her mother, Eleanor, dies when Coriander is very young. early in the story Coriander indicaates tot he reader that there is some connection with the fairy world through her mother. Thomas Hobie feels forced into marrying Maud, a puritan, to save his family from being jailed by the Cromwell government, the Puritans. Maud is in league with a radical puritan minister, Arise. Together they bring nothing but grief to Coriander's life. Her father flees for his life, and Maud and Arise put Coriander in a chest to die. She enters a fairy world from this chest where time is meaningless. To everyone's amazement Coriander is alive and well when she is removed from the chest at the age of 17. The book is a page-turner with kidnapping, murder, and romance and a cast of striking characters.

Sally Gardner has presented us with a novel that is part fairy tale and part historical fiction. An interesting fact about the author is that she is severely dyslexic - she never learned to read or write until she was fourteen.

You can read an excerpt.

Puritans play a role in many historical fiction novels set during this time period.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


"In the year 1692, life changes forever for ten-year-old Abigail Faulkner and her family. In Salem, Massachusetts, witches have been found, and widespread fear and panic reign mere miles from Abigail's home of Andover. When two girls are brought from Salem to identify witches in Andover, suspicion sweeps the town as well-respected members of the community are accused of witchcraft."

Kathleen Duble has taken a different approach to looking at the witchcraft hysteria that was pervasive in Massachusetts in the late 17th century. She introduces the reader to the Faulkner family and the members who were accused of being "witches". The Faulkners, Aunt Elizabeth, Uncle Daniel, and Granpappy Dane (a minister in the Puritan church) are all swept into this madness and have no control over what happens to them. The author takes the reader into the Salem Town jail where the accused "witches" are chained in deplorable conditions. This book is based on actual events from the author's family history.

Read an excerpt.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Indigo's Star

Hilary McKay has written a companion novel for Saffy's Angel.
"Indigo awoke with a strange feeling of doom hanging over him. It was a minute or two before he realized what it was. Monday. His school clothes were draped across a chair, black and shadowy gray."

School bullies -- Indigo has experienced their wrath -- have you heard of a "swirlie"?

Indigo Casson has missed most of a year at school because he had mononucleosis. He is not looking forward to going back to school. Indigo is not pleased when his sisters, Saffy and Sarah, step in to defend him as the bullies are ready to attack. Then, he meets Tom, an American living with his grandmother, who does not let the bullies get to him. This friendship helps Indigo face his fears.

Listen to an excerpt or read an excerpt.

Other books that deal with the theme of bullying:
  • The Girls by Amy Koss
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Hoot by Carl Hiassen
  • Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks
  • Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardener
  • Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli
  • Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
  • Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Monday, October 03, 2005

Silver Fin

I was first attracted to this book because of the cover, yes, we are all intrigued by interesting and unique book covers. This is a James Bond adventure by Charlie Higson.

Silver Fin is a prequel to Ian Fleming's adventures of James Bond, 007. Meet James Bond as he begins boarding school at Eton in the 1930s. This is where he first meets the dastardly American, Lord Hellebore, and his son. He takes the train to the Scottish Highlands for a holiday with his aunt, Charmian, and his uncle, Max. On the way he meets Red Kelly. The reader is also given some introduction to James Bond's parents who were killed in an accident.

Once in Scotland, the mystery thriller really develops as Red and James investigate the disappearance of Red's cousin Alfie. This leads them to Lord Hellebore's castle and his plot to take over the world. If you read the School Library Journal review of the novel, you will find they did not like it. Though it was slow at the beginning, I ended up staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Obviously, I don't agree with the SLJ.

If you would like to read an excerpt, go to