Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Far Far Away

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. Published 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Fairy tales give us warnings, they tuck us into bed at night and reassure us that good prevails. Fairy tales are also old, dark and spooky. Fairy tales have a power all their own. What happens when the real world twists and turns like the creepy corners of a dark tale. This novel by Tom McNeal explores this concept. The ghost of Jacob Grimm narrates the tale of his friendship with a boy who can hear the voice of ghosts in a small American town. The rich language of Jacob Grimm moves the reader through the tale, but it's the mystery of the missing children and the strange bakery that delivers Prince Cakes after a green smoke emits from its chimney that keeps us wondering what will happen in this tale.

A mystery, romance, dark fairy tale and more. The beautiful narration and the fully imagined characters make a novel that is complete and satisfying from start to finish.

Interest level: Grades 6-8
Genre: Mystery, Horror

Questions to Readers: Would you want to have the same talent as Jeremy? Why or why not? What would you have done if you were on the TV show and in Jeremy's shoes?

Read-alikes: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan. Published 2005 by Alfred A. Knopf.

This is a sweet tale of budding high school romance but not with your usual cast of boy meets girl. As the title tells us, this is boy meets boy. How do you deal with a romance that is new? How do you learn to trust each other? How do you let go of a hurt past? These are all questions similar to anyone no matter what type of relationship you're in. This book, while realistic fiction, also seems to live in the author's version of the perfect world. I know I can't wait till a time when drag queens will also be respected football quarterbacks.

If you're looking for a tale of romance with friends helping out other friends, go not further than this title. Butterflies in the stomach, breakups, heartache, winning the love of the's all here.

Interest level: Grades 6-8
Genre: Romance, Realistic Fiction, LGBT

Question to the Readers: Have you ever been hurt in the past and not wanted to trust your friends or loved ones? How do you choose to trust again? Describe the feelings of having a crush.

Read-alikes: The Summer I Learned to Fly by Reinhardt, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Bad Unicorn

Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark. Published 2013 by Aladdin.

Unicorns are not all sparkles and kindness. They do not prance and they do not grant magical wishes. If this book is to be believed, unicorns are ferocious magical beings with an appetite for human flesh who wish destruction upon all the world. They enjoy a good frobbit meal here and there as well.

Max is your regular underdog at school with one friend who he enjoys playing fantasy-based games with, until he discovers that the book he's been reading from has magical powers and only he can control it. Max and his friends find themselves whisked away to the future where machines control the world and not a single human is left thanks to one bad unicorn.

Wow! How can all this fit into one novel? Time travel, magic, unicorns, machines, reality television, did I mention unicorns? But if you're looking for a clever twist on a magical tale, something with a little humor as well as action, give Bad Unicorn a try. The book has a natural ending but also sets itself up for a series.

Interest level: Grades 3-6
Genre: fantasy, humor

Question to the Readers: What choice would you have made if you were in Max's shoes: try to make it back to the past or face Robo-Princess? What do you think will happen in the next book? Did Robo-Princess deserve her fate? Why or why not?

Read-alikes: Cold Cereal and The True Meaning of Smek Day both by Adam Rex