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Searched for books featuring:

  • Female protagonist

162 books met your specifications:

TitleAuthorConceptual difficulty ageVocabulary difficulty ageGenreYear of publication

Al Capone Does My ShirtsGennifer CholdenkoChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, autism2004
 Some books are of their times. This book takes place at Alcatraz prison in the 1930s but is very much a reflection of contemporary culture.

The first-person narrator is a boy whose family moves to Alcatraz so that his sister may apply to a school for autistic children near San Francisco.

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Among SchoolchildrenTracy KidderSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upNon-fiction1990
 My first comment on this book read: "So far I am really captivated by this book, which is interesting because I didn't really expect to like it so much..."

This feeling lasted for the entire book. The writing style pulled me in so much that the story didn't even matter, although it is really cool as well. Kidder basically shadowed a fifth grade class in a poor, rundown, public school for an entire school year and wrote about the experience.


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An American ChildhoodAnnie DillardChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upnon-fiction1988
 Annie Dillard aims her clear scientist's eyes and the evocative Voice of the Pilgrim At Tinker Creek at the lives of upper class families with children in Pittsburgh, PA in the fifties. She reveals a great deal about Pittsburgh; and just about nothing about herself.
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Anastasia AgainLois LowryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1979
 Anastasia is now 12, has a 2 year old, precocious brother, and has moved to the suburbs.
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Anastasia KrupnikLois LowryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1979
 "Mom," my daughter said to me, in response to a very bad joke I told her. "Anastasia Krupnik is funny. Anastasia Again is funny too. That joke was not."
Life and loves of a ten year old aspiring poetess.

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Angle of ReposeWallace Earle StegnerSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1971
 Elderly historian recreates the story of his grandmother's life in the American West.
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Awakening and Selected Stories, TheKate ChopinFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1899
 Hard to believe that these stories were written more than a century ago. Although they are firmly rooted in the bayous of Lousisiana just before the turn of the 20th century, the women in these stories face choices heartrendingly similar to those of women today.
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Beautiful Mind, A: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash Sylvia NasarFor grown-ups Children 12 and upNon-fiction, biography1998
 Biography of the brilliant mathematician, John Nash.
"How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?" the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

"Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did," came the answer. "So I took them seriously."

In this workmanlike biography of the brilliant mathematician John Nash, Sylvia Nasar, a journalist, describes Nash's pioneering early mathematical discoveries, his decent into madness, and his eventual recovery and receipt of a Nobel Prize in Economics.
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Below the RootZilpha Keatly SnyderSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upDystopian/religious1975
 Issues sometimes arise for gifted readers who become infatuated with books written by authors who write for both adults and children and/or with books that are in series that are unevenly targeted. Below the Root, which is a book my 9 yr. old adored, is a prime example.

Because she reacts very poorly to unhappy endings, we had decided to recommend against her reading certain novels. So, for example, after significant discussion, we decided that Lois Lowry's The Giver was too intense for her, for now at least.

But she had loved Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Egypt Game, and the illustration (by Alton Raible) on the back cover of Below the Root made us yearn to read the book, even though our resident teenager warned against it.

So we decided to read Below the Root together.


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Big If, TheMark CostelloFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2003
 Authors of novels like to think that they create civilizations using words alone. And so do computer programmers.

In The Big If, secret service people guarding the Vice President of the United States do the same. Could it be that everyone does this to survive. (Except maybe not everyone is self-aware enough to know they are doing it.)
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Blue Girl, TheCharles de Lint Sophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction 
 This is a book that can be placed under the category of "Urban Fantasy" : fairies and other fantasy creatures running around modern day cities...

Picked this up as a quick read. Not gripping per say, but interesting.


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Boggart, TheSusan CooperChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 After reading The Dark Is Rising, I never would have imagined that Susan Cooper was capable of writing a book in which all characters are not either entirely good or entirely evil. And yet, here we meet the Boggart, an Old Thing, whose purpose in the world is to play tricks on people. He never intentionally harms anyone, but he almost always acts impulsively and many of his actions result in chaos at best.

Accidentally exiled from his castle in Scotland, the poor Boggart discovers peanut butter and that playing around with electricity and streetcars in modern-day Toronto can lead to dire (unintended) consequences.

Even the gifts the Boggart bestows on his hosts, ten-year old computer nerd Jessup and his twelve-year old sister, Emily, cause terrific problems.


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Book of RuthJane HamiltonFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1989
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.

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Book Thief, TheMarkus ZusakSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upFiction2007
 Good book. About a girl during the Holocaust, but on the side we don't usually hear: She is German, but suffering as well. In the very beginning of the book Liesel's brother dies, and she is shipped off to live with "scary" foster parents. And by the middle her family is trying to keep a Jew hidden, and still "Heil Hitler" everyone they see.
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Catching FireSuzanne CollinsSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2009
 I am not a fan of cliffhangers. I knew this one would be, and went to order the next one from the library and discovered that it will not be published for a WHOLE YEAR! Anyway, I liked this one more than the first one. It had less scene by scene explanations of the horrible deaths of contestants entered in The Hunger Games.
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Charlotte's WebE.B. WhiteChildren 8 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1952
 Updated Sept. 11, 2006:

My then-10 year old daughter fixed her eyes on me, eyes that implied that she'd just realized that a Truth had been withheld from her, and she was going to get to the bottom of it.

"So, Mom," she said, "It seems as if what a fiction book is about is not really what it's about. Is it?"

"Hmmm," I answered. "What you mean is that a story is not just about its plot. Sometimes, often, in fact, a story has a message and the message is conveyed by the plot, but also by the author's choices of words. The message is sometimes called the theme of the book. It's what the author wants you to learn from reading the book. It's why authors go to all the trouble of writing books."

Which brings us to Charlotte's Web. Charlotte's Web has long been a favorite of mine and my daughter enjoyed listening to it for a year or two when she was very young. But when dear daughter (dd) was around four, her best friend was diagnosed with a disease that was, at the time, almost always fatal. We happened at the time to be listening to the audio book version of Charlotte's Web as read by the author, E.B. White. So, there we are in the car, listening, and dd asks, "Is L. going to die?" I turn the tape player off and answer that I don't know. Dd says "I don't like Charlotte's Web. And what did Cinderella's mother die of?"

I explain that in those times long ago, nearly everyone was more likely to die but that women of childbearing age were particularly at risk. Dd asked, "So, are you going to die? Am I going to die?" ....

For years after that conversation, dd did not willingly read or listen to Charlotte's Web. I believe that this is because, more than any other children's book that I have read, Charlotte's Web is about death as a normal consequence of living. And, no, I'm not saying that children/people never die in books, but they die romantically as in At the Back Of the North Wind or they die unexpectedly young at the hands of Evil Doers or they die off-screen, like Cinderella's mother. (Dd's friend lives and thrives, thank goodness.)

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Cheaper By the DozenFrank B. GilbrethChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1948
 
Skipping grades in school was part of Dad's master plan. There was no need, he said, for his children to be held back by a school system geared for children of simply average parents.

Dad made periodic surprise visits to our schools to find out if and when we were ready to skip. Because of his home-training program -- spelling games, geography quizzes, and the arithmetic and languages -- we sometimes were prepared to skip.

... The standard reward for skipping was a new bicycle.
My 12 year old loved almost everything about this true story about how a couple of pioneering efficiency experts raised their 12 children. Except the ending.

Although I tried to warn her about the ending by pointing out some of the foreshadowing and emphasizing that this is a true story, she was pretty much devastated by it.


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Children's Book, TheA.S. ByattFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 There are so many intertwining, involving stories in The Children's Book that it was sometimes hard to slow down and remember that great novels are not entirely about what they are about.

Set in the time leading up to World War I and before women's sufferage, the plot tells of a group of families and their associates and friends. There is a destitute young boy who is nurtured to become the artist he deserves to be. There are the young women who, lacking the vote and receiving conflicting messages about how to behave socially and politically, pay terrible prices. The subplots about how various characters resolve their needs to express themselves politically, even when expressing their opinions may adversely affect those they love should be required reading for anyone thinking of a career in politics.


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Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an EraCaroline MooreheadSophisticated readersSophisticated readersnon-fiction, history2009
 Lucie de la Tour du Pin was born into an aristocratic family, served as lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette in her early adulthood, then went on to marry for love (not common in those days), birth and lose many children, and survive the treacherous political turmoils that began with the French Revolution.

After reading this book, I was not certain I understood much more than I did before about the French Revolution, but I did empathize a great deal more than I had before with the French aristocracy of that time. For example, Moorehead continually implies that Talleyrand was evil (and was he so terrible compared to the many other participants of the Terror??!!!) but never quite tells us what awful things he did.


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Dark Lord of DerkholmDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1998
 "The cool thing about Diana Wynne Jones is that we've read many of her books, but her stories are all very different. She doesn't repeat herself. This one goes from amazing to intense, maybe it's even a little too intense," says my 13 yr. old.

As you can tell, we here are huge fans of Diana Wynne Jones. We admire the magical worlds she creates and her characters -- human, wizard, and fantastical -- captivate us. We find the plots of her stories unpredictable but plausible, at least in the magical environments in which they take place.

Dark Lord of Derkholm is about a planet that is used as a playground by a imperial power, in the person of one "Mr. Chesney". The inhabitants are compelled to stage elaborate wargames, games in which they and the tourists who pay to join them risk losing lives, families, and livelihoods. (Lest this be thought of as a metaphor for the American adventure in Iraq, please note that this story was written back in 1998, before our Mr. Cheney lead us there.)

I have a friend whose brilliant son graduated from college and then promptly enlisted in the military. "Maybe I won't get sent to Iraq," he told her. "Yeah, and why are they teaching you Arabic?" she asked him. There are young people who need to truly understand how terrible war can be. And maybe we should try to communicate this to them before they are old enough to sign on the dotted line of that enlistment contract.

But what about the kids who have already drunk the Kool-Aid? Those who know that war is not a game. Do they need to know that mercenaries sometimes rape innocent children? That sometimes heroes die in battle? That those who sponsor the wars often profit vastly from the carnage? Maybe not. But I think I'd have been happier if my friend's son had thought about these things before he enlisted.
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Dawn Palace,TheH. M. HooverChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1988
 De-mythologization (probably not a word, huh?) of the story of Medea, including the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, from Medea's point of view.
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Dealing With DragonsPatricia C. WredeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons, fairy tale1990
 Highly politically correct fractured fairy tale about a princess who fashions a full life for herself even though she doesn't conform to the fairy tale standards for princesses.
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Deep SecretDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1999
 We here are huge fans of Diana Wynne Jones. We admire the magical worlds she creates and her characters -- human, wizard, and fantastical -- captivate us. We find the plots of her stories unpredictable but plausible, at least in the magical environments in which they take place. One of the coolest things about her stories is that although the plot of each of her novels is really unique, characters and laws of magic overlap in intriguing ways in the many worlds described in her many stories.

We enjoyed reading Deep Secret, mostly because we became interested in Nick Mallory, who is a protagonist in another of Jones' many novels, The Merlin Conspiracy. However, it is not one of our favorite Diana Wynne Jones books.

For one thing, Deep Secret seems to mostly target adults, perhaps because it seems to be Diana Wynne Jones' tribute to science fiction conventions. The plot -- regarding a Magid (a powerful wizard whose undercover job is to keep magic under control in some sector of the multiverse) in search of a student -- is certainly compelling for certain young readers. But Jones unnecessarily throws in words (such as "orgy") that young readers are likely to ask their parents about.

Anyway, Nick is a nice, seemingly ordinary teenage boy with a witch (in all senses of that word) for a mother and a touching relationship with his ne'er-do-well cousin Maree. When my daughter and I first "met" him in The Merlin Conspiracy, he was looking for someone to train him to control his wizardly gifts. In Deep Secret, Nick seems not to be consciously aware that he needs training.

We enjoyed learning more about Nick and Maree and the Magid Rupert Venables and many magical creatures, including some fascinating centaurs and phantasmagorical chicks, but might not have found ourselves so riveted if we were not already familiar with many other stories in the Diana Wynne Jones opus.
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Deep WizardryDiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1985
 My daughter and I read A Wizard Abroad first (the fourth book in the So You Want To Be A Wizard series), and then we read So You Want To Be A Wizard, the first book in the series.

Both stress the responsibilities and hazards of having great power. Both climax in a to-the-death battle between Good and Evil. And So You Want ..., much to the dismay of my daughter, proclaims the theme that self-sacrifice to the death is deemed a worthy and necessary outcome in certain extenuating circumstances. And that it might happen to a friend of yours. Perhaps because you need them to make that sacrifice. This is not a theme that my daughter much likes.


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Digging to AmericaAnne TylerFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical2006
 How does Anne Tyler do it? When she describes a person in the context of his or her family, when she makes lips move and words emerge, we KNOW that person, everything about that person. And yet, we keep reading because we know that Tyler will continue to help us learn about not only each person in her story, but also about Life and about ourselves.

As Tyler helped us learn in The Amateur Marriage, most decisions made by anyone, especially in his or her personal life, are going to be made amateurly, and some better than others.

In Digging To America, we meet two families who adopt infants from Asia.

Betsy Donaldson, the aging, opinionated ex-hippie, is never as gentle or tactful as her wardrobe might lead one to expect. The Yazdans, a young Iranian-American couple, find themselves intimidated by Betsy's suggestions, but prove to be just as caring with their young child as Betsy is to her's.


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DogsbodyDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1975
 There are just a few authors that my 12 year old and I trust implicitly.

After having raced through umpteen of her novels, we may have placed Diana Wynne Jones in that category. Sure, The Magicians of Caprona was kind of stupid.... But if you locked us in a library, with a short deadline in which to emerge with a book we were willing to read, it might very well be one by Diana Wynne Jones.

Dogsbody pre-dates the Chrestomanci stories; it's a bit more science fiction than Jones' usual fantasy. The characters and plot -- Cinderella meets Puss (or, in this case, Dog) in Boots -- are very appealing.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of a high Illuminancy, Sirius, who, because he lost his temper and (apparently) killed someone, is exiled to Earth in the body of a new-born puppy. As Sirius learns how to survive as a dog, while solving the mystery of how he was framed, we also learn a bit about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and about how controling our impulses can help us get what we need/want.
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Dragon RiderCornelia FunkeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 Lovely, gentle story about a community of fantastical creatures and a few humans who adventure together to discover a place in which to build a new life together.

One of the many delights:
The brownie named Sorrel lives to eat mushrooms. But when she doesn't like someone and calls him or her names, Sorrel uses the names of poisonous mushrooms as epithets. SO CUTE!!!


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Dragon's MilkSusan FletcherChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1989
 I enjoyed reading Dragon's Milk. It's about a girl who is different from everybody else in her little town. Kaeldra has to get milk from a dragon so that her foster-sister won't die. And that's how Kaeldra's adventure starts.

I was upset with the end of the book because it was sad but I'm still going to read the other books in the series.

-- Fizzy, age 11


DragonsingerAnne McCaffreyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons1977
 "Like Harry Potter, but better," says my daughter. "And, it's about a GIRL (Menolly by name) who goes to school to get better at something she's good at."
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DragonsongAnne McCaffreyChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, dragons1976
 I was not sure whether to be shocked or amazed at the outrage my daughter expressed when she realized that Menolly was forbidden to sing just because she was not a male. Guess gender bias has not held my daughter back as of yet. On the other hand, she LOVES this book.
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EastEdith PattouChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, myth2003
 When my daughter chose to read East, we did not know it was based on the story collection called East of the Sun, West of the Moon (EOTSWOTM) and we had not read any of the Norwegian fairy tales in that beautiful collection.

We loved East, which describes in great detail, the life of Rose (called Karen in EOTSWOTM), who, like Beauty in Beauty and the Beast, comes to love the beast (in this case a white bear) who forces her to leave her home and loved ones.


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East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Twenty-One Norwegian Folk Tales Ingri & Edgar Parin d'AulaireChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, fairy tales1939
 Beautifully illustrated, interesting collection of Norwegian folk tales.
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Eat, Drink, and Be From MississippiNanci KincaidFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2009
 Sweet story having to do with making lots of money, holding friends, family, and even former spouses close, and continuing to be able to trust both strangers and those you love while spending freely.

Perhaps coming from a small town in Mississippi helps with that?


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Egypt GameZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1967
 Realistic adventures of some children who think hard about their make-believe. The plot does involve a series of child murders, but these are not described in any detail.
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Elegance of the HedgehogMuriel BarberySophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction 
 This book is remarkable, in that with every page I read, I was more captivated.

For one thing, the author tells the story in a very interesting way: The story is narrated by two very different, but also very similar, characters. One is a 12 year old genius and the other is a 50-something year old concierge in the fancy hotel she lives in.

So that's cool, but the writing style is what really got to me. Barbery gets very deep into some philosophical questions, that at many points I found confusing at first, but once I got into my "elegance of the hedgehog mood", I really enjoyed it.

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elsewhereGabrielle ZevinChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Poor Liz Hall, she is killed in a hit-and-run car crash when she is only 15, and when she wakes up, she's on a ship traveling to Elsewhere, the world after death.

On the ship she meets the 6 year old captain who explains that once you die you go to Elsewhere and live backwards until you're a baby, then you sail back to Earth to begin a new life.

Also on the ship, Liz meets a dead superstar and another girl named Thandi who's around Liz's age, with whom she becomes friends. Everyone else on the ship is an old person.

At first in Elsewhere, Liz is angry and upset that her life had to end when she wasn't even 16 yet. She never got to fall in love or learn to drive, or anything!

But as her backwards life progresses, Liz meets a boy named Owen Welles, and she starts to feel like she could enjoy her not-life.

This book is not adventure-packed like some books, but it is in the mind of a girl, and with her you go through all her problems, like a boyfriend, a dog, sadness, happiness, and other things that a teenager girl would go through.

I enjoyed this book very much, because you really get to know the characters and the thoughts of Liz sound like what she'd actually think. This is a new version of what happens after life that I've never heard before, and I think that it's very interesting.

Before my parents let me read this they were worried that it would be too scary for me, Liz being dead and all, but it isn't like that at all. The book is somewhat sad and dreary in the beginning but it's not like it would give nightmares or something bad like that. This book really put new thoughts in my mind, new thoughts that weren't bad.

I recommend this book for maybe 6th or 7th graders and up, even though I read it at a somewhat younger age.

--Fizzy, age 12

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Equal Rites (Discworld #3)Terry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction 
 As usual with Pratchett, this book is witty, often downright, funny, but it also has to do with real life problems.

The plot follows a girl who wants (and is destined) to be a wizard, but is not allowed to be because she is a girl. Wizarding is OBVIOUSLY only for boys.

But as little kids do, she doesn't really understand the situation and so proves that she CAN be whatever she wants.

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Family MattersRohinton MistrySophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2002
 Poverty and religious fanaticism nearly destroy a Parsi family trying to care for a grandfather dying of Parkinson's disease in Bombay.

Wrenching, but the characters are so endearing that I found myself alternately clutching the book, putting it down in horror and sadness, then grabbing it up again to find out how everyone was doing.


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FeedM.T. AndersonSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction-dystopian 
 This review seems like a spoiler, but it really gives nothing away, at all...

This book really got me worried about how horrible human beings are and what we're going to do to the world... It gave me a very depressing feeling while and after reading. It is set in the (near??) future, and most people are basically controlled by their "feeds" implanted directly in their brains, which are used mostly as an excuse to constantly show them thousands of advertisements. I guess the ending is supposed to be a little hopeful, in that the main character is considering fighting the feed, when he sees its awful power over humanity, but... I think hopeful is not a word that anyone can truthfully apply to this book.


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Fire and HemlockDiana Wynne JonesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction1985
 There are just a few authors that my 12 year old and I trust implicitly.

After having raced through umpteen of her novels, we placed Diana Wynne Jones in that category. Sure, The Magicians of Caprona was kind of stupid.... But if you locked us in a library, with a short deadline in which to emerge with a book we were willing to read, it might very well be one by Diana Wynne Jones.

Fire and Hemlock is quite a bit different from other Jones' novels. For one thing, it is SPOOKY. It is, in fact, so intense, so spooky that if my daughter and I hadn't trusted Jones as much as we did, we would never have finished reading this story.

On the other hand, many of the characters do resemble other Jones characters we've met in her other stories. For one thing, every young woman of child-bearing age is at the very least utterly self-involved and uncaring about her children.


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Flight of the Dragon KynSusan FletcherChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1997
 I liked Flight of the Dragon Kyn better than Dragon's Milk because it is not as depressing. There is some tragic violence in this pre-quel, though.

Flight of the Dragon Kyn tells the story of a girl named Kara who can call birds down. The people in her village don't like her or her gift; When she was very little she came down with a deadly sickness and they left her in a cave for dead. When she came back to them, her eyes had turned from blue to green.

Some villagers claimed that a dragon gave her its milk and that that's why she had changed.

When Kara gets older, she is taken away to call down dragons for the king. Kara realizes that she and her gifts are being used to commit great evil. What is she to do  -- Fizzy, age 11

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FlippedWendelin Van DraanenChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a cool book because we get to see the same turn of events from two very different perspectives. It is about two neighbors, a girl and a boy, who switch off hating each other and being in love.
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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerE.L. KonigsburgChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1964
 A girl and her brother run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A how-to, although I suspect kids would not be able to get away with this in this day and age.
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Galileo's DaughterDava SobelChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upNon-fiction1999
 The story of Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, is mostly peripheral to the story of Galileo himself, in this non-fictional biography. Along with interesting details about what life was like for the illegitimate daughter of a famous scientist in the late 16th century, the book also concentrates on the Catholic Church's determined and successful attempt to get Galileo to renounce his conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.
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Gathering BlueLois LowryChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction, girl heroine2000
 Gathering Blue is a companion novel to The Giver, kind of like next-door-Dystopias. But this one is about a girl born with gifts, not engineered to have them.
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GiftedNikita LalwaniFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting 
 Unless you have been through it yourself, it is probably impossible to understand how challenging it is to parent a gifted child.

The gifted child in this story, the daughter of two immigrants from India, is identified in kindergarten by a teacher who seems not to understand that being a gifted child might not be an unmitigated blessing and that raising a gifted child may not be as easy as it would seem.

Rumika Vasi's father determines to honor her giftedness by yanking her out of the public school and forcing her to concentrate almost entirely on mathematics. Her mother is overwhelmed and threatened by British culture and defers to her husband.

By the time Rumika lives up to her father's dream -- being accepted to Oxford at 14 -- Rumika feels isolated, deeply resentful of her intellectual gifts, almost -- determined to throw them away.


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Girl in Hyacinth BlueSusan VreelandSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1999
 Collection of short stories about a fictional Vermeer painting.
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Girl Named Disaster, ANancy FarmerChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1996
 1997 Newbery Honor book. First person account of how a gifted Mozambiquen girl orphan survives and forges families -- with baboons, scientists, and her own kin -- for herself during a harrowing trip through the South African wilderness. Nhamo, the girl, must use all that she knows -- which foods to eat, what happens when the seasons change; how to consult/appease her spirit guardians -- to survive on her own on her long trek.

A lovely, interesting, intense survival story.


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Girl With a Pearl EarringTracy ChevalierSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction1999
 Fictionalized biography of Vermeer told from the point of view of a servant girl in his household.

Fizzy writes:

I read the book, The Lady and the Unicorn, by Tracy Chevalier about a year ago. I enjoyed Girl With a Pearl Earring more. I think that was because I felt a lot more engrossed of the history of the time and place.

The story is Chevalier's theory about how the painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" was created. It's set in Delft, Holland, and the descriptions of the city and culture, especially pertaining to class boundaries and the "rules" intrigued me.

Adult content: For mature readers, not for language, but for plot events.


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Goddess of The Night (Daughters of the Moon, Book 1)Lynne EwingChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction2000
 Very quick.

Unrealistic and puts the "high-school-girls-should-just-go-around-trying-to-get-a-boyfriend" spin on life. It's about this girl named Jennifer who discovers that she can turn invisible because she is a goddess.


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Golden CompassPhillip PullmanFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1995
 Some parents have concerns about the themes and plot of this novel and the others in this series, which involve abuse and murder of children and other adult themes.
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Golem's Eye, The (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2) Jonathan StroudChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2004
 Sardonic musings of a demon summoned by a very young, but now, successful, wizard.

Bartimaeus Book Two: The Golem's Eye is a very good book, but before you read it you should read Bartimaeus, Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand, because things in Book Two will make much more sense that way.

This book switches perspective between three very different characters:
  • Kitty the feisty commoner,
  • Bartimaeus the sardonic djinni, and
  • Nathaniel (John Mandrake) the annoying magician.
My favorite character is Bartimaeus, because he gives you footnotes to explain stuff better, tell us his very personal thoughts, and talks very funnily.

-- Fizzy, age 11

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Gone-Away LakeElizabeth EnrightChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1957
 Newbury Award winning novel. Kind of spooky adventure in which almost nothing happens but in an involving sort of way.
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Goose Girl, TheShannon HaleChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction, science fiction 
 This book is based on the Grimm's fairy tale about a princess who was betrayed by her maid and forced to be a goose girl. In the fairy tale, in the end the maid gets killed in a coffin filled with nails as revenge... I don't know why, but i expected the author to write an alternate ending to this story.
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GossamerLois LowryChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Delicate story about how the community of ideas and the community of people can cooperate to save a ravaged young life.
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GracelingKristin CashoreSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2009
 This is a super fast-paced, easy read, which was great since that was what I had expected. The book is about a girl, Katsa, who is "graced", gifted with a special talent that no-one else has... She basically has to save the world, and on the way lots of other exciting things happen too.
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Great and Terrible Beauty, A (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)Libba BrayChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 This a spooky book about a girl with powers she doesn't understand. As she tries to survive in a "we shall civilize your daughters" kind of school, she makes friends with her enemies and brings them in on her secret.

I was always on the edge of my seat with this book, because even if no magic was happening, or she wasn't being chased by a monster, the social conflicts of teenage girls can seem terrifying sometimes.


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Great Perhaps, TheJoe MenoFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2009
 This novel is a deeply Confucian, metaphorical attempt to explain the outcome of the US Presidential Election of 2004. And the explanation is that many societies and ecological niches require a bully to be in charge of them in order to function well enough to survive. The bully may well shed some blood, and may often be wrong, but at least he (and it would always, pretty much, be a he), causes stuff to happen.

The metaphors here come fast and heavy-handed. The husband, Jonathan Casper, is a nerdy scientist who forgets his promises to his family as he quests after a "prehistoric" giant squid. In her off-hours, the wife, Madeline, chases a giant man-shaped cloud. At work, Madeline investigates the pecking order of pigeons by disrupting their power structures and witnessing the devastating results. (Perhaps like many academics, Madeline neglected, before she started her experiment, to understand what a pecking order is. How lucky she is to have an adviser to explicitly explain that pigeons NEED to be dominated by moderately violent males in order to avoid rampant rape and murder by the underclasses in their society.)

One of the two Casper daughters copes with her problems with excessive piety. The other responds to the chaos at home by building a bomb and ignorantly attempting to apply the Communist Manifesto to the running of her school.


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Handmaid's Tale, TheMargaret AtwoodFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1984
 Margaret Atwood's gift is to write entirely plausible nightmares that resonate to her readers' bones. Problem is, the nightmares she drags us into are so plausible that they do seem to be coming true.

The nightmare we inhabit in Oryx and Crake is an ecological one. Intense, violent, horribly sad. Just what we expect from the best of Margaret Atwood.

The nightmare we inhabit in The Handmaid's Tale is of a society gone terribly wrong.

My daughter read this book for school. Following is her review:

Note: Definitely an adult book. The main character's job in this society is to buy food and to try to make a baby every month...

This is a very creepy, but COOL book set in an imaginary future world where women are very oppressed. Although the plot moved rather slowly, it was still fascinating to soak in all the details about the world (politics, schemes, escapees, information networks).
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Harmonic FeedbackTara Kelly Sophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2010
 I really liked this book: it's told from the perspective of a girl diagnosed with Asperger's and ADHD.

Her biggest challenge in the book was realizing that the labels "normal" and "abnormal" are nothing more than labels, and that nobody is the same, so "normal" is subjective.


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Harriet the SpyLouise FitzhughChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upFiction, girl heroine1964
 My daughter initially resisted reading this book because the movie made such an awful impression on her. But she really enjoyed this story of a girl who "wants to know EVERYTHING" and gets into deep trouble for writing down what she knows.
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Hat Full of Sky, ATerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 A Hat Full of Sky is the sequel to the Wee Free Men. It is about an eleven-year old girl named Tiffany Aching, who is training to be a witch, and the Nac-Mac-Feegle (Wee Free Men), who are fairies (but do NOT call them that unless you want to be seriously injured).

Tiffany is a very unusual witch, because she's from the Chalk Land. In fact, Tiffany is actually the ONLY official witch of the Chalk. She is also the Hag of the Chalk Land, which means that it is her job to protect the Chalk. (She tells it what it is; it tells her what she is.)

When something evil comes to the Chalk, Tiffany has to make it go away.

-- Fizzy, age 11


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Hello GoodbyeEmily ChenowethFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Not that confronting human mortality can ever be easy. But coming to realize that your mother is mortally ill must be particularly difficult for a young person old enough to understand what death is, but not yet independent.

Chenoweth's heroine, still a college student, has known but refused to know consciously that her mother's brain cancer is terminal. In a story that could have been maudlin, Chenoweth lays out a "good" way for this young person to surface the bad news: in the company of her parents' good friends, with some younger people to interact with.


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Higher Power of Lucky,TheSusan PatronChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upFiction2006
 As a lover of fairy tales, it was probably impossible for me not to love reading this sophisticated story, simply told, which pretty much turns every fairy tale convention on end:
  • When my younger daughter was around 3, she was obsessed with learning how Cinderella's mother had died. In this story, we learn within the first few pages that our heroine's mother died when she was struck by lightening.
  • In many fairy tales, the heroine's name has to do with her physical appearance. In this story, the heroine's name has to do with her fate.
  • Most fairy tales abound in generalities and their language is very simple, even bland. Some groups are pushing to ban this Newbery Award winner because the word "scrotum" appears on its first page.
  • In many fairy tales, the stepmother serves as villain. In this story, the heroine's father's first wife comes to Lucky's rescue -- she raises her after her "real" mother has died.
  • In many fairy tales, the protagonist leaves home to seek his (it IS usually his) fortune. In this story, Lucky runs away from home, only to realize that she belongs with her stepmother.
And yet, The Higher Power of Lucky is a fairy tale, albeit a new-fangled one.

A good one as well.
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HomeMarilynne RobinsonSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2008
 Beautifully written, desperately sad novel that seems to prove that love, family, friendship, faith, words, and circumstances sometimes collude to defeat well-meant efforts to escape the trap of alcoholism.
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HootCarl HiaasenChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 Smoothly written story of a young man whose family relocates to Florida. He becomes involved with two other teens attempting to save a colony of burrowing owls whose nesting area is threatened by hard-hearted developers.

My then-10 year old loved this story so much that she insisted we go see the movie as a family. Which turned into a nine hour ordeal, long story, but the movie was/is not playing in many places. The book is much, much better than the movie. Perhaps that's not saying much, though ...


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Hotel WorldAli SmithSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2001
 Extremely weird tale, told in the first person by a dead person, about the meaning of loss, love and life.
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How the Garcia Girls Lost Their AccentJulia AlvarezFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical1991
 Sometimes, by escaping a dreadful danger, people find themselves safe, but not happy. The Garcia Girls is a touching reminder that the situation in which you meet people might not, on its surface, tell you much about who they are or what they've suffered.
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Howl's Moving CastleDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 A cheerful, easy to read, but very complicated, backwards fairy tale, in which the protagonist is the oldest of three stepsisters. Nearly every character in this story, major and minor, wears at least one or two disguises. In some cases, the disguise is of his or her own choosing, but not always.
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Hunger Games, TheSuzanne CollinsSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2008
 This sounds kinda negative, and I did enjoy it, but I do have a bit of a sour aftertaste after reading this:

I'm not sure how to rate this book. It was very disturbing: The whole point is that 24 teenagers all fight to the death. Yay. But it was also very gripping and exciting, and talked about the price of freedom. It definitely kept me up with vivid images in my head...


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In Search Of MockingbirdLoretta EllsworthChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 This is a book about a girl who spends three days on a bus to visit Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Her mom died when she was a baby, and Erin, who is exactly sixteen, just wants to know her mother before her father re-marries.

When she discovers that Mockingbird was her mother's favorite book, (it's her favorite too), Erin decides to make a pilgrimage from her home in Minnesota to Lee's in Alabama on a Greyhound bus.

On her journey, Erin meets many interesting people who cheer her on and help her to discover herself.

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InkheartCornelia FunkeChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 No doubt most authors of fiction hope to evoke worlds using words alone. But what if it were possible for certain readers to actually cause people and objects to transition between fictional worlds and our world, just by reading aloud?
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InkSpellCornelia FunkeChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2005
 No doubt most authors of fiction hope to evoke worlds using words alone. But what if it were possible for certain readers to actually cause people and objects to transition between fictional worlds and our world, just by reading aloud?

This is book two of what is promised to be a trilogy.

If anything, my 11 yr. old and I liked this book even more than its predecessor, InkHeart. And, as an added bonus, InkSpell provides a touching and believable portrayal of a pair of pre-adolescents who are just about certain they are in love.

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Into the Dark Fire, (Daughters of the Moon, Book 2) Lynne EwingChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upScience fiction2000
 This is the second in a series. This "goddess" can read people's minds. She is chosen by the evil shadow king to become evil, but fights it off.
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Invention of Hugo Cabret, TheBrian SelznickChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 At the advanced age of 12, and although my precocious reader loves reading chapter books, she still misses having pictures in her books.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret solves this problem. A Dickensian fairy tale, told in words and beautiful, complicated charcoal drawings, Hugo Cabret tells the story of the rediscovery of a silent film director and a young boy in Paris of the early 1930s.


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Island of the Aunts (note: this book is also called Monster Mission)Eva IbbotsonChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic2000
 Much less cutesy than Which Witch. In-depth descriptions of the care and feeding of many interesting mythological creatures.
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Jewel Box, TheAnna DavisFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Wars have consequences, even when they don't impact those at home directly.

Not that horrors bear comparison, but the shock to the folks at home when, eventually they heard of the carnage of World War I seems to me as if it should have been mind-altering. Hard to believe they went right back to killing each other even more horribly in World War II.

The Jewel Box
describes one woman's response to the events that affected her personally during the Great War -- she adopts the persona of a flapper.
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Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly BusBarbara ParkChildren 5 and underChildren 5 and underfiction1992
 We are Junie B. Jones fans. They were WAY too easy for the 6 year old to read, so we read them to her. We didn't realize how controversial they might be until our daughter's grandfather was asked to read them to her while vacationing with us last winter. At first, he was so upset by Junie's "appalling" speech patterns and behavior that he tried to clean them up. But you really can't clean it up enough, because aside from her juvenile language, Junie B. also pushes the envelope in regards to her behavior. Finally, Grandpa rebelled and has refused to read Junie B. books to our daughter ever since.
That's why there's chocolate and vanilla. Luckily, there are lots of books in this world. Our daughter also really likes us to read her Ramona, Song Lee and Horrible Harry.

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Just EllaMargaret Peterson Haddix and Rene MilotChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1999
 Just Ella explains what happened to Cinder-Ella after her first happily ever after. She finds out that Prince Charming is not what she wants, but she has to find a way out of marrying him.

Ella doesn't like the palace either, it's too stuffy, but she does manage to make some good friends who end up saving her from a life of for ever just looking pretty and sewing all day long.

I liked this book; it was a don't-put-down-'til-you've- read-it-all book (To me, at least).

--Fizzy, age 11



Kristen Lavransdatter trilogySigrid UndsetFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1923
 Undset won the Nobel Prize in literature for this work set in 14th century Norway.
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Language of Good-Bye, TheMaribeth FischerFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2001
 A novel about unexpected consequences.
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Last Report on the Miracles at Little No HorseLouise ErdrichFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2001
 Woman is mistaken for a priest, and ends up adopting his identity and ministering to an Indian reservation in the early twentieth century. It's interesting to learn the background of some of the characters we met in Love Medicine.
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Last Samurai, TheHelen DeWittFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2000
 This hilarious novel starts as a not-quite-five year old's mother gets so sick of answering his questions that she promises to teach him Japanese after he's read the Odyssey in the original Greek. Which he does. Should be required reading for parents of gifted toddlers, but parents of gifted toddlers probably wouldn't have the time. An excerpt.
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Letters From RapunzelSara Lewis HolmesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2007
 Abandoned by her parents (her father, a long-time sufferer from chronic depression has disappeared; her mother is just not around), constrained by overly restrictive homework assignments that she can't or won't complete, condemned to spend long, long hours in detention, terrified that now that she has been identified as gifted, she will be forced to hang out with the nerds in the gifted pull-out class, Candace frantically tries to metaphorically grow hair long enough to provide an escape.

While not a fairy tale in the ordinary sense, Letters From Rapunzel brilliantly demonstrates the power of those ancient stories to help us understand our seemingly mundane lives.


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Lightning Thief, TheRick RiordanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 Learning that he's the son of a Greek god clarifies some things for contemporary 12 year old Percy.

High concept, but not as stirring in its execution as I'd expected.


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Linnea in Monet's GardenCristina BjorkChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical/art1987
 Young girl visits the places Monet lived and learns about how he translated his life into his paintings.
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Little WomenLousia May AlcottSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1864
 Four sisters grow up poor, but mostly, with dignity, during the Civil War.
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Love, StargirlJerry SpinelliChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 It had been one of those errand-intensive Saturdays. On the way home after much driving, with groceries in the car, my 13 yr. old said, in a studiously casual way, "Hey Mom, you know the sequel to Stargirl is out." One of the pathetic things about us is that we forget our own phone numbers, but know by heart the precise coordinates of every bookstore and/or library in our current vicinity (where ever in the world that might be) and their hours. We checked Love, Stargirl out of the library within 15 minutes.

If you have a gifted child, particularly a girl, who is about to enter high school, or who is already in high school, and who has not already read Jerry Spinelli's amazing novel about the glory and the pain of being orders of magnitude different from one's peers, go now and read Stargirl. And then hand it to the child.

Love, Stargirl, which takes the form of a letter that Stargirl writes to the boyfriend who was insufficiently tolerant of her uniqueness, is not really a sequel that can be fully appreciated unless one has already read Stargirl. In her letter, Stargirl describes the process by which she rediscovers her joy in creatively reaching out to others.
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Mairelon the MagicianPatricia C. WredeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1991
 My daughter says, "I really, really like the way the characters use magic in the world the author has built."
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MakaiKathleen TyauFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical2000
 The Chinese-Hawaiian narrator tells, in her own (sometimes-pidgin) words, what it was like to come of age as an Oriental, but not Japanese, in Hawaii in the days just before and after Pearl Harbor. Eye opening.
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Mango-Shaped Space, AWendy MassChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction 
 I loved this book. It is about this girl named Mia who has this syndrome called synesthesia. Some different parts than usual are connected in her brain, so that letters and sounds have colors (this is real!) Her cat's name is Mango. In the book she learns that she is the "weird" one in her school and has to deal with it, because at first she thinks she's crazy.
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Map of Glass, AJane UrquhartSophisticated readersSophisticated readersFiction2006
 Three plot arcs in which:
  • An autistic-spectrum woman carries on a lengthy affair with a geologist afflicted with Alzheimer's disease intersects with
  • a 19th century capitalist assault on a bog and
  • a 21st century romance
lead us to muse on the faultiness of memory and the ways in which artists, artisans, and denizens of the planet change the world by loving and hating and working and evoking and exploring it.

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MarsboundJoe Haldeman For grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2009
 Very sci-fi. Interesting take on the future.

In this setting the future seems just like now, except for updated space travel and things like that. It doesn't get toooo into details on the world, because almost all of it takes place in space. Anyways. The story follows Carmen, who is the first to discover inhabitants on mars. I like her as a character because she is very questioning of the rules and is just an interesting perspective to view the book through. Within the book there is also a romantic strand, so I'd more recommend this for women then men.

This definitely contains adult content.

-- Fizzy



Mercy Rule, ThePerri KlassFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction, parenting2009
 The Mercy Rule is a rule instituted in some amateur sports leagues that requires that if one team is so far ahead in points as to be uncatchable by the opposing team, the game is ended earlier than it otherwise might.

In this extremely gentle, wise, moving story, Lucy, a physician who is also a mother and a graduate of the foster care system, unconsciously applies this rule to her family and work life.


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Merlin Conspiracy, TheDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 Once, one of my daughters was interviewed for an article about gifted children. "Sheesh," she sighed when she got off the phone. "People don't realize that just because a person is smart, that doesn't mean that she knows everything. We still need to learn things and learn how to do things."

Diana Wynne Jones is one author who understands that many children have the potential to be great wizards, but they need guidance or they can go wrong. And although they are able to teach themselves many things, in order to reach their full potential, they often crave time with mentors.

In The Merlin Conspiracy, we meet three potentially great wizards. Roddy and Grundo are children of the royal court of Blest. Roddy is the daughter and granddaughter of wizards; her grandfather in particular is dauntingly illustrious. Grundo is the scion of a single (evil) mother. Roddy babies Grundo because of his learning disabilities; could it be that she coddles him too much? In another universe, Nick Mallory longs to learn from Romanov, a wizard who was hired to kill him, but who decided to let him go. But everything Nick does seems to harm Romanov rather than ingratiate him. The Merlin Conspiracy is the story of how all three get to know each other and find ways of getting educated about their worlds in an organized way.
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Mermaid's Chair, The Sue Monk KiddFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2005
 What a let-down after The Secret Life of Bees. Gross.

Midnight ChampagneA. Manette AnsayFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 Romantic story with a spooky sub-plot, about the marriage day of a couple who know they are right for each other, despite the misgivings of the bride's family. If you want to validate someone who believes in love at first sight, then this is a book for them.
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Millicent Min, Girl GeniusLisa YeeChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A must-read for gifted girls, especially those in middle school or grade-skipped into high school.

Eleven-year old Millicent Min will be a senior in high school in the fall, but at the beginning of the summer we read about, she is teacher's pet in a community college poetry class and students ranging in age from high school age through college take advantage of her as a tutor but don't treat her as a friend. "Sooo sad!", my 10 year old sighs, empathetically.

Lisa Yee claims to not have skipped five grades in school, but she certainly understands what many of the issues that might confront a sensitive, gifted, 11-year old high school senior might be.

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Missing MayCynthia RylantSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction1993
 This short, poetic novel, which won the Newbery Medal in 1993, gently but persuasively puts forth the theory that it's worthwhile to learn from experience and from others, even others who may not seem very impressive from the get-go. It is not difficult to read, is pretty short and the text is pretty large.
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Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure (Book 3)Georgia ByngChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2005
 We had not read the first two books of this series when we read this one, and that was not a problem. Apparently, earlier in the series, Molly Moon escapes from the dreary orphanage in which she is confined by becoming a master hypnotist and defeating her uncle, who is an evil madman.

In this episode, Molly must learn to travel through time so she can rescue her beloved dog, Petula, her friends Forest and Rocky, and her earlier selves, all of whom have been kidnapped from the present to India in the 1870s.

The plot is twisty and interesting and Molly is a wonderful role model for gifted children. She has obviously had to work hard to learn to be a great hypnotist in previous books. Now that Molly is possibly the best hypnotist in the world, there are still other challenging skills she needs to work hard to learn. Skills that some adults around her have mastered and other adults are just adequate at doing. Time-travel for one.

Another endearing trait that Molly has is that she is very aware both of her great abilities and of her shortcomings. The all-knowing narrator of the book takes especial care to let us know what Molly is thinking when she masters her self-doubts, carefully thinks through her options, and then puts her all into implementing whatever solution she thinks will work best.


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Molly Moon's Incredible Book of HypnotismGeorgia ByngChildren 5 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 "Why don't they make books like THIS one into movies?," my 12 year old exclaimed. I was listening to this book on tape and dear daughter, who had read the book a few years earlier, was lured into listening.

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism like Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, which we read a while back, narrates the story of Molly Moon, an orphan, and her best friend Rocky.
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  In context....

Mozart SeasonVirginia Euwer WolffChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, girl heroine1991
 The Mozart Season is the story, told in the first person, of a young girl who comes to understand, deeply understand, the depths of good and evil in the world. This coming-of-age novel describes the process by which Allegra comes to cherish the eccentricities of her grandmother, (who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor), her mother's brilliant best friend (who lost her child and her equanimity in a dreadful accident), a street person (Mr. Trouble, who lost his brain to lead poisoning and his quality of life to an indifferent system), and Mozart's Fourth Concerto.
  In context....

My Father's DragonRuth Stiles GannettChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfiction1948
 Three whimsical tales; adults may feel that they are so whimsical that the plots become downright arbitrary, but the story involves young readers and the words are not hard. The hardcover presents the intricate black-and-white illustrations beautifully.

My Sister's KeeperJodi PicoultSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2004
 I am not very satisfied with the ending to this book. The whole thing is very sad, and Picoult just HAD to add one more horrible twist... ANYway, this book is good, but as I said, horribly depressing, as you may expect from a book about cancer. The idea is that 13-year-old Anna has always been just a vessel of bodyparts to contribute to her leukemic sister for various surgeries, and she decides to sue her parents so she doesn't have to donate a kidney.
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Mystery of Breathing, ThePerri KlassFor grown-ups For grown-ups Fiction2004
 Repulsive. Read The Mercy Rule instead.
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NationTerry PratchettChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2008
 My daughter has been censoring my reading lately. She refuses outright to allow me to read certain books, like Brisingr, the third book in the Eragon series and Inkdeath, the third book in the Inkheart series.

As for Nation.... "You won't like this book," my daughter said as she handed it to me. She meant that SHE did not like this book. "I usually would give every Terry Pratchett book I read a 10 out of 10. I give this one a 6, maybe. He is usually at least amusing, even when he is grim. This one is mostly just grim though."

My assessment is more generous than my daughter's. Nation is intense. And contains significantly more mayhem, death, and destruction than most Pratchett stories, for adults or children. And rage at the universe. Along with Pratchett's customary skewering of the silliness of every society and religion he happens across. With, perhaps, a little more bitterness than usual.

I could not put Nation down. And as I parsed each angry word, I thought that if I were Terry Pratchett, brilliant author of unforgettable stories, and I had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, well I would be raging at the Universe as well.


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Nine Lives of Aristotle, TheDick King-SmithChildren 8 and upLearning to readfiction2003
 Cat barrels through eight of his nine lives and finally settles down.
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Nobody's PrincessEsther FriesnerChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2007
 Kinda cute... the princess doesn't want to be girly, but wants to learn to fight and hunt and other things that only boys are allowed to do. The book is about Helen of Sparta before she was queen or beautiful.
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People of Sparks, The (Books of Ember) Jeanne DuprauChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a story about a city of people who escaped underground while humans basically destroyed themselves with war... In the prequel the people from the underground city of Ember emerge into what seems like an empty world of sunlight. But in this book, they find a village that attempts to adopt them. In the end there is almost another war, because some of the people are just cruel.
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Peter and the StarcatchersDave BarryChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2004
 This great book may seem a little silly at first while you read it, but it's an exciting story anyway. In fact both my parents and my uncle liked it just as much as I did.

It starts as an orphan boy, Peter, (who doesn't know his last name or even how old he is), and his four friends: James, Thomas, Prentiss, and Tubby Ted are in an old smelly wagon cart on their way to a ship called the Neverland, being shipped into their adventures.

On the Neverland Peter meets a girl named Molly, (who he thinks is VERY pretty) who needs his help protecting the magical trunk the Neverland has on board. Peter doesn't hesitate in saying yes. During their voyage, they are being followed by the wickedest pirate on the seven seas, Black Stache, who is after their ship and its mysterious cargo.

In this prequel to Peter Pan, you discover how the pirates, the mermaids, the flying, the croc, and all the other puzzles of Peter Pan came to be (according to Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson).

I liked this book very much, and I feel that it does a good job of explaining how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. This book could appeal to anyone from 8 years old to full grown adults, especially if they like the story of Peter Pan.

--Fizzy, age 12


Pilgrim At Tinker CreekAnnie DillardChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1974
 I have always been squeamish.

And yet, Annie Dillard's beautiful yet clear-eyed vignettes about the resplendence and horrors of the natural world captivate me.


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Pinhoe Egg, The: A Chrestomanci Book Diana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 In this, the latest episode in the life of Cat Chant, Cat has truly settled in to preparing for his future. The story reveals that he has come far in his apprenticeship to Christopher Chant, (the current Chrestomanci -- Chief Enchanter) and his family.

Cat has learned how to learn from a very gifted nine-lived enchanter who is (obviously) very talented, but possibly not as talented as Cat is. Throughout the book, Cat works on identifying skills Chrestomanci has that Cat still needs to learn, on when to solve problems on his own and when to call for help, and on how and when to intervene in the lives of the less gifted inhabitants of the universes he is destined to govern.

Like the plots of many other stories in the Chrestomanci series, the plot of this novel explores the problems of a gifted child (in this case a girl) who is made to feel inferior because she is special.

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Pippi LongstockingAstrid Ericsson LindgrenChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1950
 My daughter was hooked the moment Pippi started explaining about how everyone in Egypt walks backwards all the time.
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Pirates!Celia ReesChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction2009
 I don't think the exclamation point in the title is warranted.

I picked it up because I saw "based on a true story", and wanted a glimpse into what pirate life was really like, but throughout the book I felt like it was very fictional.
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Poison: A Novel Susan Fromberg SchaefferFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2007
 Grown-up fairy tale about how the grown children and former lovers of a philandering novelist unite to defeat his widow, the children's evil stepmother, and secure his money and his legacy.
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Possession: A RomanceA.S. ByattFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1990
 Intricate and, yes, romantic, story of the work and loves of a motley community of poets and researchers, in this century and in the past all exploring pieces of a literary puzzle.

These nerdy people, all obsessed with doing the arcane thing that they do very well, figure out how to combine their efforts for the good of the group and themselves.

Not for children, but similar in theme, although vastly more ambitious than, Dragonfly. Highly recommended for gifted adults.

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Pride and PrejudiceJane AustenSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction, historical1813
 It is amazing how a book that was written nearly two centuries ago can ring so true to this day.
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Prince of the Pond, The: Otherwise Known as De Fawg PinDonna Jo NapoliChildren 5 and upChildren 5 and upfairy tale1992
 A deeply imaginative, if sad, deeper look at the story of the Frog Prince.

In this version, narrated by the frog who becomes the prince's wife while he is a frog, the prince gradually adapts to his watery environment and becomes content in his amphibian incarnation.


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Princess AcademyShannon HaleChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, science fiction2005
 Nifty re-thinking of the Cinderella story.
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Prophet of Yonwood, The (Books of Ember) Jeanne DuprauChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Very preachy and had a LOT of people blindly following orders, which bothered me. The book was written as if the reader was like five, which also bothered me.
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Proud Taste for Scarlet and MiniverE.L. KonigsburgChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical1973
 Eleanor of Aquitaine and some of her friends hang out in heaven and discuss Eleanor's life and loves.
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Ptolemy's Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3) Jonathan StroudChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2005
 Sardonic musings of a demon summoned by a very young, but now, successful, wizard.

Book review: Part 1

Spoiler alert

I hate spoilers. However, I wish I had known more about the third volume in this trilogy before my daughter and I started reading the first one. (This would not have been possible when we started the first volume, because the third volume had not yet been released.)

That being said, I highly recommend all the books in the trilogy and I am glad that my daughter and I read them together.

This review is being presented in multiple parts; each part may provide additional information that, taken together, might give away some of the plot twists of Volume 3.

On the other hand, those helping highly sensitive readers select books might want to read through all the parts of this review before recommending books in this trilogy to them ...

Book review: Part 2

My 11 year old really loved these books. But they are a bit of a departure for her -- there's real murder and mayhem in them, which, until recently, she would not have tolerated.

As in previous volumes in the Trilogy, this book switches perspective between three very different characters:

  • Feisty Kitty is one of the commoners who are mistreated by the ruling elites and the demons they employ and are devastated by the economy and grief that result from the incessant wars the elites wage on foreign shores. She realizes that she must do something. But how much can one person do and can she live with the devastating consequences of her actions on her friends and colleagues?
  • Bartimaeus the sardonic djinni, who stands back and makes sarcastic comments about the other characters and the plot, even when he's right in the middle of it all, and
  • Nathaniel (John Mandrake) the gifted but annoying magician who has been co-opted by an Evil government because of his great intellectual abilities. Most of the time, the djinni has to obey the boy's commands, and a lot of the humor/sarcasm comes in when the djinni explains to the reader how morally compromised the boy is becoming. (And, to his credit, the djinni doesn't hesitate to tell the boy either, not that the boy listens most of the time.)
There is a complex relationship between these books and slavery too. The djinni is a slave, and even though he respects the good qualities of his boy master, he also hates having to obey his commands. Most of the time, the djinni makes this clear. But he's sometimes more supportive of his master than I think an average slave might actually be.

In Ptolemy's Gate, Bartimaeus also develops a touching relationship with Kitty and an awareness of kinship with the commoners whom most djinn scorn if they consider them at all. So much for cooperation between oppressed masses.

 
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Queen's NoseDick King-SmithChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, magic1983
 Involving contemporary account of a girl who is granted seven! wishes, more or less.
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Red Tent, TheAnita DiamantFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction, historical1997
 Riff on life of biblical woman, Dinah
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Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (London Stage Revival)Rogers and Hammerstein  Children 12 and upChildren 8 and upmusical1999
 X-Men have been, and remain, our favorite super-heroes. We watch the movies; have not gotten into the comic books. Have recently also enjoyed Hellboy. Some of us really admire The Incredibles (but some of us do not).

We must write our homage to X-Men someday. After all, this is a group that thinks that hiding out in a school for the gifted will somehow shield its members from bullies. A creative, if foolish, concept.

Plus, they have both Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. And very cool superpowers. And great special effects.

We are waiting with great anticipation for the release of the latest X-Men movie, Wolverine. Although, judging from the previews, it's probably going to be depressing as anything. And meanwhile, since we love and admire Hugh Jackman (have started watching Australia), and we love and admire musicals, we sat down and watched this production of Oklahoma.

Plot spoiler alert: plot spoilers follow below...
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Ruins of California, TheMartha SherrillFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2006
 Not a travel book (Ruin can be taken to mean many things in the story, including the last name of the girl narrator), but a fairy tale about parenting in the maelstrom of drugs, sexual freedom, alcohol, style, and serial divorce that was California in the 1970's (and perhaps still today).

The moral of the story? Perhaps that teaching one's children to observe closely and act on their observations is more important than preaching a strict morality that is no longer adhered to by grown-ups, teenagers, or even those who preach it.

-- Emily Berk


RulesCynthia LordChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, autism2006
 In Al Capone Does My Shirts, the first-person narrator is a boy whose family moves to Alcatraz so that his sister may apply to a school for autistic children near San Francisco.

In this less anachronistic modern-day Newbery Honor Book, the first-person narrator, Catherine writes down rules for her autistic brother, David, although she's learned from experience that he routinely ignores them.

Written by the mother of two children, one of whom is autistic, the plot, written with the help of Lord's non-autistic daughter, clearly demonstrates how much the parents of the autistic child demand from the one who does not suffer from that disease.

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Secret Life of Bees, The Sue Monk KiddSophisticated readersSophisticated readersfiction2003
 Huckleberry Finn in the 1960s and with all girls and the Goddess. I would have liked to have felt more Joy but my friends tell me that the 14 year old narrator is still in shock from all that she's learned. Anyway, the bees and the Sisters June, May, & August make this book well worth reading.
  In context....

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, TheAnn BrasharesSophisticated readersChildren 8 and upfiction2001
 A magical pair of pants, pants that are equally flattering on each in the Sisterhood, remind a group of four young women of their bond. And the pants also very creatively tether the four separate plot lines together.

Very well written chic lit.


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Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 1)Kathleen DueyChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2007
 Okay, I picked this book off the shelf because I thought it was funny to name a book "skin hunger". You can't really judge a book by its name.

The book is not about people eating each other, but two separate story-lines. One is about a girl named Sadima who can hear the thoughts of animals. The other is about a boy named Hahp sent to a gruesome magical academy. The only thing the plots share in common is a man named Somas, who owns Sadima's kind-of boyfriend, and lets Hahp's friends die of starvation.


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So You Want to Be a WizardDiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1983
 My younger daughter and I have been lucky in that we have often failed to start at the beginning of a series, and when we have, it has often worked out well for us.

We read A Wizard Abroad a while back, enjoyed it, and were advised to start at the beginning of the series. If we had started at the beginning of the series -- hmm -- well, we might not have continued.

Like A Wizard Abroad, So You Want To Be A Wizard stresses the responsibilities and hazards of having great power. And like Abroad, it climaxes in a to-the-death battle between Good and Evil. Unlike Abroad, but not unlike the third book in the series Deep Wizardry, and much to the consternation of my daughter, self-sacrifice to the death is deemed a worthy and necessary outcome in certain extenuating circumstances.
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Song of the LarkWilla CatherChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upFiction1915
 I am always blown away when a novel that is nearly 100 years old speaks to me as compellingly as Song of the Lark did. The story of Thea Kronborg, one of many children in a family
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Songcatcher, TheSharyn McCrumbChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical2002
 The book is actually the history of a song, rather than a story about a person who catches songs. And/or it's the story of how a song gets caught.
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Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, TheKaren ArmstrongSophisticated readersSophisticated readersNon-fiction: Autobiography2004
 Thoughtful autobiography of a former nun turned writer about religious thought.

StargirlJerry SpinelliChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2000
 An amazing fiction book that confronts the issue of a gifted child trying to fit in. My 10 yo and I loved this VERY sad but VERY funny and VERY true novel. We read it to each other this summer, alternating chapters, and every time my older daughter caught us, she'd hang out and listen.
Stargirl is a brilliant and highly eccentric high school girl. The novel is written in the narrative voice of the boy who loves Stargirl with and for all her eccentricities and yet despite himself wants her to fit in at school so he can fit in too.

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Step From Heaven, AAn NaSophisticated readersChildren 12 and upfiction2003
 I'm not sure how to rate this book, because the narration ranges from a five-year-old's perspective to that of an 18-year-old one. This is really interesting, but leaves most of the book as a very easy, lower-level read. However, this story about abuse and immigration is intense and scary.
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Stravaganza: City of MasksMary HoffmanChildren 12 and upChildren 12 and upfiction2002
 City of Masks is about a teenaged girl named Arianna who lives in 16th century Talia, who wants nothing more than to be a mandolier, and a boy named Lucian, who lives in 21st century England, and has an incurable case of cancer.

As Lucian suffers, his dad gives him a beautiful notebook from what seems to be very early Italy. When he fell asleep one night holding the notebook in his hand, he finds himself in 16th century Italy (Talia).

There he meets Arianna, and learns that how he got there was by what the experts call stravagation (which is how he was transferred from his world to this new one). So quite suddenly he is thrown into living two lives, one as a sick kid in modern England during the day, and the other as a perfectly healthy young man in Talia.

I recommend this exciting, kind of mysterious book for people who like fantasy and books that you don't want to put down.

City of Stars is an amazing book, the first in a series of 3. It is so wonderful for many reasons, one of which is that this book surprises you, (in a good way). While you're reading it's hard to guess what is going to happen, until it does, or nearly until it does. 
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Subtle Knife, ThePhillip PullmanFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 This book is really cool: it doesn't have very much big vocabulary but it really goes deeply into the ideas of what is human or not and how our souls manifest themselves.

It also approaches the question of faith versus science, and blindly following versus scoping out your paths.

-- Fizzy, age 14

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Surviving the ApplewhitesStephanie S. TolanChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 Joyous, involving story about a family of stereotypically gifted but stereotypically self-involved Artistes and the stereotypically Troubled Youth who benefits by becoming swept up in their passionate pursuit of Art.
Stephanie Tolan takes wonderful advantage of the fact that we all know the Sound of Music so well we can hear the music in our heads, and those stereotypical personality types move the story along efficiently and with great humor. The characters themselves know they are stereotypical; and their self-awareness is one of the things that saves them and the story. Not a great book, but one we are very glad to have read.
We particularly LOVED the way butterflies weave the various plot elements together.
Excellent portrayal of the joys of homeschooling.

-- Emily Berk
  In context....

Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets, TheJean Craighead GeorgeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upnon-fiction1996
 The perfect book for the young reader who wants to adopt every stray creature he or she sees.

In this non-fiction collection, Jean Craighead Geoge, author of My Side of the Mountain, describes the many wild animals she and members of her family have adopted over many years, their adventures and how they fared in captivity, and (for most), how they came to be released.


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Thief Lord, TheCornelia FunkeChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 This interestingly imagined story describes how a group of children and a pair of carefully chosen adults build a community in the magical city of Venice.
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Thirteen Orphans, Breaking the WallJane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2009
 Very cool idea for a plot. Although this book is pretty long, I finished it in two or three days (despite the need to do other, more useful, things).

The story is about the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, with a person who represents each animal. A girl named Brenda discovers early in the book that she is the future Rat, and she has to help regain the memories of her father and other "animals" whose memories of their identities have been stolen. Brenda is forced into a battle she hadn't been aware of until just weeks before, and although only a "Rat-ling", she must help the twelve and the grandson of the original emperor.


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Through Wolf's EyesJane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2002
 This is a book about a girl who was brought up by wolves, before being "rescued" by "civilized" people. The catch is that they think she is next in line to the throne of an ailing king. As her new friends try to teach her manners and human customs, a war is breaking out, and traitors work against everyone but themselves.
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Time Traveler's Wife, TheAudrey NiffeneggerFor grown-ups For grown-ups science fiction2004
 Is being "unstuck in time" a gift or a curse? As it did for Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, the inability to lead life in order from beginning to end does present its challenges to Henry, the time traveler and to Clare, his wife.

Our teenager had many more misgivings about this book than I did. And, thinking back on it, I think she's right.

Fizzy's review:

A bit too mushy for me, and it bothered me that the man-woman relationship was based on the traditional beliefs that men are brave adventurers and women stay at home and worry and do housework while they cry and wait for their husbands to return...

BUT. I really liked the fact that Niffenegger took an interesting view on Time, similar to how I've always thought about it. She portrayed Time like a recorded tape, so you could rewind or fast forward (time travel), and each moment would always stay the same, not be totally changed because of your presence, or contain an infinite set of possibilities.

I really enjoyed the book from that perspective, reading about her interesting and unusual theory about what time travel would be like (if it was possible) emotionally for the traveler, and its physical qualities.

For older readers. Their relationship is very heavily based on sex....


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Tree By Leaf Cynthia VoigtChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1988
 A gloomy book about the effects of war and weather on real bodies and minds. And about how a child can come to feel responsible for the acts of man and nature.
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Tree Grows in Brooklyn, ABetty SmithSophisticated readersSophisticated readersautobiographical fiction1943
 Autobiographical novel about a girl growing up in abject poverty.
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True BelieverVirginia Euwer WolffChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, girl heroine2001
 Virginia Euwer Wolff impresses me with her ability to capture and express the needs, wants, temptations, fears, motivations, and ways of life of her fictional heroines.

True Believer is the second first-person fiction I've read by Wolff; the first was The Mozart Season, another great favorite of mine. Like The Mozart Season, True Believer is told in the voice of an entirely believable girl.

But unlike Allegra Shapiro, heroine of The Mozart Season, LaVaughn, narrator of True Believer, has so many worries in the present day that she cannot dwell on her past or the past of her family. LaVaughn describes her day-to-day life in the inner-city projects, a life so relentlessly hard that keeping her eye on her future becomes nearly impossible sometimes, in free verse so compelling that it reads like prose.


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Tuck EverlastingNatalie BabbittChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 This is a beautifully written book about a family of people who never age and never die.

From the perspective of 10-year-old Winnie, Babbitt shows us many details rich with color and motion that Winnie notices at first only through the bars of her fence. As she strays out of her yard for the first time, she comes to know the Tucks, who enchant her (as well as us).


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Understood BetsyDorothy Canfield FisherChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, historical1916
 Written in 1916, it's the story of an orphan girl who adjusts to life on a Vermont farm.
  In context....

UnlessCarol ShieldsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2002
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute.

...

Unless and What To Keep convey more nuanced messages. In Unless, a mother is beside herself at her daughter's transformation from promising college student into street person. Eventually, the mother reassures herself that not every activity she undertakes is invested with deep meaning and that she is not responsible for every anguish that afflicts every member of her family.

...

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Velvet Room, TheZilpha Keatly SnyderChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction, history1965
 Gentle but involving story about young girl whose family has lost its farm, but not its love, principles, or dignity, in California in the Great Depression. One of the notable and wonderful things about this novel is that most of the adults, and most of the children, consistently act in honorable and thoughtful ways. The plot is driven principally by the harsh circumstances of the times.
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Warm Place, TheNancy FarmerChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction1996
 Gentle tale of a young giraffe who is stolen away from her home and marshals a multi-species group of friends to help her find her way home.

As in other Nancy Farmer stories, many of the bad guys in this tale are space aliens.


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Wee Free Men, TheTerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 The Wee Free Men is a very enjoyable book about a nine year old girl named Tiffany Aching and her unexpected friends, the Nac Mac Feegle. I liked this book VERY much and it was fun to read. It is wacky in a normal way.

Tiffany lives on a farm peacefully if not a bit bored-ly until she meets the Feegles, and together they have to save the day.


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What To KeepRachel ClineFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2004
 The daughter of a brilliant but flawed neurosurgeon learns to appreciate the imperfect life her mother has helped her to lead.
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Where I'd Like To BeFrances O'Roark DowellChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A group of children abandoned to a group home and an apparently Asperger's-spectrum, intellectually gifted child, are united by a love of architecture, or building, at least, scrap-booking, and the stories told by an overly-imaginative housemate.

Not hard to read, although the stories of how the children came to live in the home are sad.


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White OleanderJanet FitchFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction1999
 "What did Cinderella's mother die of?," my daughter asked me, when she was 4. I myself had never troubled to think about this. But I came to realize that, in stories for children, from fairy tales to adventures to Walt Disney musicals, the mothers' presence is usually notable for its absence. Their deaths are required so that plots can unfold.

And yet, I have recently come across a few novels that consider thoughtfully the role(s) a mother may play in her daughter's future. In the two grimmest, White Oleander and The Book of Ruth, the power of the mothers to destroy their daughters despite great distance, time, and, in the case of White Oleander, despite tall prison walls, is absolute. The sorrows of mothers, say Janet Fitch and Jane Hamilton, are visited on their daughters.

...

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Wife, TheMeg WolitzerFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2003
 First person fiction in which the wife of a famous author describes the events that lead to the end of their marriage.
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Wild RobertDiana Wynne JonesChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 A girl whose family manages a historic castle in England summons a witch, Robert, who was buried 350 years earlier. Although Robert's behavior is impulsive and assertive, he usually has reasons for enchantments.
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WintersmithTerry PratchettChildren 8 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2006
 Sometimes a precocious person uses her gifts in a way that have dire consequences. Whether or not the harm was intentional, that person should take responsibility for the problems she creates and try to resolve them.

Early in this tale, Tiffany Aching, a very mature and gifted if reluctant witch, makes the awful mistake of arousing the romantic attention of the Wintersmith (God of Winter), and nearly simultaneously but through no fault of her own, loses her teacher and home.

Wintersmith is the story of how Tiffany:
  • Rectifies (with the "help" of her silly blue friends the Nac Mac Feegle and her not-quite-as-silly boy?friend, Roland) the wrong she's done,
  • Learns to fit back into her home, and
  • Comes to appreciate, understand, and learn from other mentors.


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With Or Without YouCarole MatthewsFor grown-ups For grown-ups fiction2005
 "There are pink tents and pink high-heels on the cover of that book, Mom. Are you reduced to reading chic-lit?," my most opinionated daughter demanded. Don't know how exactly I ended up reading With Or Without You, but there I was. And, once you start reading a book like this, it's easier to just finish it than it is to put it down.

And, yes, the standard required elements of chic-lit are provided:

  • Insecure heroine
  • So-so job
  • Unfulfilling romantic life
  • Moralistic philosophizing


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Wizard Abroad, ADiane DuaneChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction 
 Fourteen year-old wizard Nita's parents are worried about her "relationship" with her wizarding partner (a boy), so they ship her off to Ireland, where she gets into much more harrowing situations (and a romantic one as well) than those she might have experienced if she'd just stayed put in the USA.

My daughter and I loved the way the tiny Bard Cat interacts with her less gifted human allies. The seeming contradiction between the way wizards look -- ordinary -- and what they have to do -- extraordinary -- might be heartening to a child who feels that his or her specialness is not reflected in appearance or circumstances. And, the cameo appearances by Celtic mythological beings are fun.

The discussions of Nita's romantic thoughts (nothing graphic, but probably not of great interest to younger children) and the responsibilities that go along with great power, and the excitement, mayhem, and death that inextricably mix with battle might make this book appealing to adolescent readers, rather than to younger readers.

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Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart (Wolf, Book 2)Jane LindskoldChildren 12 and upChildren 8 and upfiction2003
 My daughter will read nearly any book that is put in front of her, and she knows just about intuitively when one is "good" or not. In other words, we are entirely in sympathy with, for example, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, in which he explains that there are really only a few stories to be told and the important thing is to tell the tale creatively and well.

On the other hand, my daughter and I have noticed that in many young adult book series, nearly every book in the series uses, not only the same basic plot, but also the exact same plot elements in the exact same order. This is truly frustrating, because, once we've caught on to this failing, basically, not only do we know exactly how each book will end, but we also know pretty much what the twists and turns will be before the end. This is even more frustrating when the characters are as interesting and unique as they are in Jane Lindskold's Wolf Series. And, even worse, Lindskold's plot twists seem to always include a planned rape, described, not too graphically, but at length, and then a protracted and bloody battle.

So, what can we now say about Wolf's Head, Wolf's Heart, the sequel to Through Wolf's Eyes, which we raced through just a while ago?
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