“Furthermore” feels like a mesh between The Secret Garden and an Alice in Wonderland retelling, something only compounded by the main character being named Alice, as well. In the land of Ferenwood, everyone is blessed with an abundance of bright colors, from their eyes, to their hair, to their skin, and the more color they have, the more magic they can command. Alice is almost completely white, except for a bit of brown around her eyes. She has always hated this; hated that she wasn’t as colorful as everyone else. And when her father vanishes (three years ago from the story's start) she hates her lack of color and her talents even more. With a mother who ignores her and seems to not like her, and with a town that rejects the talent she offers them, Alice runs away with her “friend” Oliver to bring the only person who ever understood her and loved her just as she was back: Father.
You know, I don’t think enough people really gave “Flunked” a chance, or they forget that MG books are meant for, you know, middle graders so things being “obvious” to an adult are, well, a no brainer. This book was meant for younger children, and as such, it’s actually a really cute, fun, and charming read! “Flunked” follows Gillian Cobbler, you know, the family that lives in a shoe that has so many children they don’t know what to do? Yeah, that family. Gillian’s family is struggling, so more often than not her younger siblings are going hungry. As the oldest, Gilly takes up thieving to help feed her family. I really liked that distinction, because yes, stealing is wrong, but her intentions are never evil. Still, it’s no surprise that when she gets caught for the 3rd time, she’s sent to the Fairy Tale Reform School where ex-villains—such as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Snow White’s wicked queen, and Red Riding Hood’s big bad wolf—have all changed their ways and now strive to keep troubled youth from bringing more evil into Enchantasia. Or have they? As soon as Gilly arrives, she’s suspicious of all her teachers, something feels off, and Gilly is determined to find out what, and get out of Reform School and back to feeding her family as soon as possible.
This is a surprisingly cute and interesting take on a dystopian fantasy that is almost perfect for MG readers. I say almost because with the characters ages, I believe the author wanted this to be a YA fantasy, but with how the main character, Franklin, views the world and just the sheer whimsy of the mages, warlocks, oceanus, were-panthers, and how the limitations of the magic system and classes aren’t well defined, and are kind of left up to the gods, I think this makes for a much better middle grade book, so that’s how I’m rating it. “Zarmina and the Book of Oceans” is the first in the series, so it spends a good portion of the book introducing the reader to this new world, and why humans live on the star-side—aka, in the frozen dark—of this planet, and why the evil warlock, Javan, has banished them to such a harsh place.
“The Elf and the Amulet” is a charming fantasy-adventure story with the makings of a coming-of-age tale as our three main characters age throughout the series. Often, this book had me thinking of the journey in “The Hobbit” where it starts as just a fun adventure on something that sounds like a grand quest, only to show early on just how in over their heads the characters have become, and how much they underestimated the perils of their journey. Well, everyone seemed to underestimate the perils, because, after all, these are kids and the adults send them into the world with pretty much nothing.
I am trying to be better about reviewing middle grade books as my niece and nephew are getting to the age where they are voracious readers, and I want to be able to talk to them about their books. So here goes! “Keepers of the Flame” is the story of seven kids (all 13 years old) embarking on their birthright. This birthright states that all first born children are to become Keepers of the Flame: an order dedicated to protecting, serving, and bettering their communities by offering religious guidance. Over the decades, many people have gotten away from this birthright through taxes, or they join the order but aren’t true to their god—Jaoal. This has allowed something dark and vile to grow strong on the mountain where the young Keepers are trained, and by the time our main characters get there, the battle between good and evil is about to begin. There are so many important themes that are touched upon in this book that it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll be sharing with the young kids in my family!
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