Category Archives: Myths & Legends

Tall Story

By Candy Gourlay

Published by David Fickling Books

Copyright © 2010

 

Not your typical tall tale, but “Tall Story” delivers on the tall in a giant way. Michael Jordan eat your heart out.

Bernardo and Andi are brother and sister, but they haven’t seen each other in 10 years. The reason for this is that Bernardo lives with his Aunt and Uncle in the Philippines, and Andi lives with her mom and dad (Bernardo’s step dad) in London. Bernardo has been waiting for the day that the British government will tell him that it is okay to come and live with his mom in London, while Andi grows up on the other side of the world hoping this long lost brother will come home soon and will like basketball as much as she does.

 

As Bernardo gets older his wish to go to London gets much more difficult. A strange chain of events has cast him in the role of the local savior, and he worries that if he leaves it will bring doom to his friends and family in the town of San Andres. The sheer weight of this is often too much for Bernardo. Only when he finally gets to London will this weight be lifted for good.

 

Written from the viewpoint of both Bernardo and Andi, Candy Gourlay has written a story with so many levels that I almost don’t know how to describe this book. While reading it I sometimes lost focus on what the story was about or what the author was really trying to say. Is it about family relationships, miracles, legends, basketball, illness, being different, or etc. There is just so much going on I couldn’t really get a clear message from the story.

 

That being said the story did hold my attention and was generally enjoyable. I think the thing that I like most about “Tall Story” is that while it is full of sadness Bernardo seems to have such a positive attitude, at least when he isn’t blaming himself for the way things turn out.  There are the death of a mate, a child being left behind, the struggle to be reunited, bullies, sickness, and earthquakes all in one story. There is so much to be depressed about and yet Bernardo comes off as relatively happy, even if conflicted. This book is set in the Philippines and the United Kingdom, and the main characters are big on basketball. This book is definitely worth a read for kids 10 and up who are interested in basketball or foreign countries.

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Filed under Communities, Cultural, Families, Junior Fiction, Multicultural, Myths & Legends, Sports

Guys Read: Thriller

Edited by Jon Scieszka

Published by Walden Pond Press

Copyright © 2011

Writer Jon Scieszka is devoted to getting guys to read more. That is why he started www.guysread.com a web based literacy program whose mission is to “help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.” To further that initiative he has begun the Guys Read Library of Great Reading.

The second book in the Guys Read Library is entitled “Thriller.” It contains 10 stories by M.T. Anderson, Patrick Carman, Gennifer Choldenko, Matt De La Pena, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Bruce Hale, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Anthony Horowitz, Walter Dean Myers and James Patterson all well know children’s and young adult authors in the Thriller genre. In addition Brett Helquist lends his illustrative genius at the beginning of each story. This volume features stories of detection, piracy, bullies, mutants, and the supernatural. One thing that they have in common is smart and courageous boys who often do what is right even under scary or confusing circumstances.

I really liked quite a few of the stories in this book, but my favorite had to be “Nate Macavoy, Monter Hunter” by Bruce Hale. It is the story of Nate and Jeremy who are aspiring monster hunters. Jeremy has gone missing, but his mom isn’t worried. She thinks that his father has taken him, but Nate believes differently based on some texts Jeremy sent the night before. So, Nate embarks on a quest to find Jeremy and whatever monster took him. I love stories about Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Moth Man so this tale is right up my alley.

On the down side 3 out of the 10 stories in this book are ghost stories (which I don’t care for), but otherwise the stories are well written and mildly suspenseful; on occasion they are even slightly funny. Short stories are a great way to get boys to read because one story can usually be read in one sitting and the story moves quickly right towards the resolution, which provides some instant gratification. This is a great book for boys (or girls) ages 9 and up. Be sure to share this with your reluctant readers today.

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Filed under Adventure, Elementary/Middle School, Fantasy, Junior Fiction, Myths & Legends, Short Stories, Suspense

The Son of Neptune

The Heroes of Olympus Book 2

By Rick Riordan

Published by Disney Hyperion

Copyright © 2011

Fans of the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will be happy to see that Percy Jackson is back. In book one of “The Heroes of Olympus” we were introduced to a Roman demigod named Jason Grace. He showed up at camp half-blood with amnesia and was selected by Juno to go on a quest, because once again the world of the God’s is in danger. Juno is up to her old tricks again, and she has given Percy amnesia and sent him on a cultural exchange to the Roman Camp, Camp Jupiter. He, along with two Roman demigods, will go on a quest to prove that the God’s really do need the demigods help in defeating their common foe.

The defeat of the Titans has angered their mother, Gaea. Gaea is the earth goddess, also known as mother earth, and she isn’t as friendly as her title makes her sound. She and her son, the giant Alcyoneus, have captured the gatekeeper of the dead, Thanatos, and now anyone that Gaea sees as useful is being freed from death and are wreaking havoc on the gods and demigods. Monsters just won’t stay dead no matter how many times they are killed, and they are being gathered together under the command of Gaea, Alcyoneus, and her other son the giant Polybotes.

This brings us to Percy’s quest. Thanatos must be freed so he can do his job and mighty Alcyoneus must be destroyed. There are problems though, Alcyoneus is keeping Thanatos in a land beyond the reach of the Gods; he is being kept in… Alaska! To make matters worse, Alcyoneus cannot be destroyed while he is in his own land.  Fortunately, Percy will have two demigods with him that will be more than up to the task. Even though Hazel and Frank are members of a cohort 5, a Roman military group at Camp Jupiter which seems to be reserved for losers, they have powers that will be more beneficial than anyone can know. They are the only ones who can possibly help bring Alcyoneus down.

I’m not going to give away who Frank and Hazel’s parents are or what powers they possess; that is half the fun of Riordan’s books. I will however reveal that Hazel has a very close connection to Alcyoneus, and that Frank has one of the coolest powers yet revealed in any of the Olympian/Olympus books due in part to his Chinese heritage.

There is nothing new in Riordan’s plots: A riddle describing a job that needs to be done along with the perils it will bring will be read, and three demigods will go on a quest to defeat some evil God/Titan/Giant/Monster/Etc. There will be battles and one or all of the three quest members will at some point have to make a difficult decision which will in the end help them defeat their foe.

As plain and simple as this may sound, Riordan continues to make it special because he always adds something new. For instance in this book he has delved a little deeper into Roman Myth. He has introduced a new camp and a new enemy. As with Camp Half Blood, the members of Camp Jupiter have gods for parents and they have different powers too. In addition Riordan has set this new quest in the Pacific Northwest; a place very much different from New York or San Francisco. If that wasn’t enough, he throws in the aforementioned Chinese ties and some Amazon action.  Riordan blends these things so effortlessly that you can’t help but be interested.

The Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series are not the most compelling books that I’ve ever read. But there is something to be said for the level of comfort he creates with the characters, while still giving us tons of action, and enough new material to suck us in. Now I’m ready to see how the prophecy unfolds in his next book:

“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,

To storm or fire the world must fall.

An oath to keep with a final breath,

And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.”

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Filed under Adventure, Adventure, Fantasy, Fantasy, Friendship, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Myths & Legends, Myths and Legends, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

Freak the Mighty (Must Read)

By Rodman Philbrick

Published by Scholastic

Copyright © 1993

Max is big and dumb at least that’s what he thinks of himself. He hates school, he has no friends, and he is always picked on. But things are going to change when he gets new neighbors Gwen and her son Kevin. Kevin has a disease that has caused him to remain small, but he is the smartest and most fearless person that Max has ever met. Max and Kevin form a tight friendship that will help them both cope with their personal struggles.

“Freak the Mighty” is a moving book about two teens with different disabilities and abilities that complement each other. Max has a learning disability and emotional scars from the death of his mother; while he is physically imposing the reader can tell that he is quite obviously gentle and kind. Kevin on the other hand has a genetic disorder that causes among other things a small stature, abnormal spine curvature and heart, lung, and liver problems, however Kevin is extremely smart and inventive. These two have obvious physical and mental differences, but such things don’t stop either one from helping the other and forming a friendship that Max will never forget. And when Max needs help the most it will be Kevin who comes to his rescue.

This book will quickly move to the top of my favorite books list. There are no superheroes, faries, vampires, or mutants. This is just a beautiful story set in reality that shows how friendship and imagination can help people endure life’s struggles. I highly recommend this book for youths age 10 and up and for all adults.

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Filed under Coming of Age, Elementary/Middle School, Families, Friendship, High School, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Myths & Legends

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

By Neil Gaiman

Illustrations by Brett Helquist

Published by Harper

Copyright © 2009

Odd was a young man of twelve who had a peculiar way of making people angry – he smiled. It wasn’t the smile that angered people, it was that his was a knowing smile, in that he knew but he usually didn’t tell anyone what he knew. In a small Norse village where everyone knew everything about everyone else, especially since there wasn’t much else to do in the dead of winter, Odd’s smile and quietness didn’t always sit well. Given this, and Odd’s miserable circumstances, he decides to leave the village for his father’s cabin in the woods. On his first day there he meets a fox, an eagle, and a bear. Oh wait… I mean a talking fox, a talking eagle, and a talking bear, and from this point forward his life will never be the same.

Neil Gaiman has a written an imaginative novel inspired by Norse Mythology. Odd, who lives in a small village in Ancient Norway, has fallen on tough times and he feels it is time to leave the village and his mother whom he loves. He will take a journey that bridges his home in Norway and the realm of the God’s, Asgard. I really enjoyed this book not just for the incorporation of myth and legend, but because the protagonist has a certain thoughtfulness about him. Odd lives in world where men are MEN; they drink and fight and they don’t have much use for thinking or feeling. Odd, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be blessed with the size and strength of most Norsemen, in fact he is basically crippled, and yet he is able to save large animals and defeat giant foes without the use of force. Odd reminds me a little bit of Hiccup in the movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” (Sorry I haven’t read that book series yet. So many books so little time.)  If you liked the story in that movie then you should enjoy this book as I did. I must say, I would love to see this book as a movie, but I would settle for Neil Gaiman writing a sequel to this book.  Before I finish, kudos to Brett Helquist for some great black and white illustrations that helped us to visualize many of the characters. I don’t really analyze illustrations all that much, but I know what I like and Brett’s work is first class. Great addition to a great story. Recommended for children ages 9 to adult.

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Filed under Adventure, Coming of Age, Communities, Cultural, Fantasy, Junior Fiction, Loss/Death, Multicultural, Myths & Legends