Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L'Engle

Meg Murry is a brilliant student, although all her friends and teachers tend to regard her as a troublesome kid.  Her parents are scientists, and her genius father has been inexplicably missing for several months.  One stormy night, Meg and her brother Charles are having a late snack when their eccentric new neighbor, Mrs. Whatsit, bursts in with an amazing announcement.  Mr. Murry is apparently still alive, although his research has somehow caused him to be propelled off through space and time into a mysterious fifth dimension known as a tessaract.  Armed with this new knowledge, Meg sets off with Charles and her school friend Calvin in an attempt travel through space-time and rescue her father!

I’ve never been a huge reader of science fiction, but this book is an example of a story that transcends the genre.  It’s been a perennial favorite for readers of all ages, no doubt due to its amazing story and well-thought-out plotline.  I’ve made it a personal goal to read further on into Ms. L’Engle other books in the series, collectively known as “The Time Quintet”, and if you’re looking for an amazing adventure then you’re more than welcome to join me!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The BFG, by Roald Dahl

Sophie is a young girl who lives in a crowded, noisy orphanage.  Her ordinary life is interrupted one late night when she sees a large, cloaked person on the street outside her building.  Shocked at being discovered, this person carries Sophie off to his homeland in Giant Country!  There, Sophie and the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) quickly become friends, and find themselves on the frontlines of a coming war between England and the other, evil giants!

One reason that I liked this story (even though it included a girl as the main character!) was that Mr. Dahl challenges the reader to reconsider their preconceptions.  Most giants that we’ve read about before are evil, and based on this story it looks as if that notion is correct.  But what happens when one of them is secretly good, and spends his nights blowing peaceful dreams into the minds of sleeping children?  “The BFG” is an absolutely lovely adventure for readers of all ages, and I’m sure it’ll quickly become one of your childrens’ favorite books. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lord of the Files, by William Golding

During a wartime evacuation, a plane full of prep-school boys crashes on a remote island in the Pacific.  Two of the boys, Ralph and Piggy, quickly set to work taking care of the survivors.  The initial relief to be alive quickly passes, however, as the boys turn to focus on the day-to-day work of survival.  Conflict arises when the group breaks up into two separate, competing camps, leading to an epic ending that no reader could possibly see coming!

While this book is a classic and a staple of most schools’ required reading lists, it’s important to know in advance that “Lord of the Flies” has several disturbing parts.  Violence is not glossed over in this story, and I think that Mr. Golding shows his readers a lot of respect by not doing so.  Whenever you’re ready for it, pick up a copy and dive in.  I guarantee, this is one story you’ll never forget!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

I expect an unusual amount of adventure from my books if the main character is a boy named Huckleberry, and this classic surely didn’t disappoint.  Huck Finn lived in the town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, a frontier town where danger waits on its borders.  When Huck’s alcoholic father kidnaps him from his new court-appointed guardian, it’s up to Huck and his friend Tom Sawyer to make their escape.  Once free in the wild, the boys partner up with Jim, a runaway slave, and set off on a mission to help him free his own family.

One fact that’s often overlooks in this classic adventure story is the downright brutality of everyday life in the frontier South.  The original book has been banned many times for its use of the word “nigger”, and subsequent versions have been edited to remove this phrase.  As with most of Mr. Twain’s other works, though, the author is not known for pulling any punches with his writing.  His stories and books are often gritty, but they are always honest.  Huck Finn, one of the best examples of Mr. Twain’s writing, is certainly no different.  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

This book tells the story of Milo, a bored young boy who unexpectedly receives a tollbooth as a gift.  Not knowing quite what to do with this present, he drives through it in his toy car and arrives in the Kingdom of Wisdom.  There, he meets two troubled princesses named Rhyme and Reason, and sets off on a quest to restore order to the Kingdom.  Along the way, Milo rediscovers his love of learning while exploring the literal meaning of many common idioms.

This story is a great adventure on the surface, but what really makes the book is the epic quantity of puns inside.  Anyone who enjoyed the wacky antics of Amelia Bedelia would probably love The Phantom Tollbooth as well, particularly the part where Milo finds himself “jumping” to an island called Conclusions.  This is a smart, funny adventure for young men of all ages, and if you haven’t read it already then you’re missing out.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander

Taran is a young boy who dreams of being a grand hero, mostly as an escape from the drudgery of his real job:  that of assistant pig-keeper at Caer Dallben.  Taran’s responsibilities include caring for a mystical pig named Hen Wen, who one day runs away into the forbidden forest.  Taran gives chase, an act which leads to an epic adventure with an absent-minded sorceress named Eilonwy, a mighty prince named Gwydion, and an odd man-beast known only as Gurgi.  Together, the group faces off against The Horned King, an evil warlord who rules the land with an iron fist.

One of the reasons that I love this series is that all of the the five books follow Taran through his adventurous childhood in the land of Prydain.  The wide-ranging cast of characters is based largely on Welsh mythology, a country where Mr. Alexander was stationed during World War II.  Although Mr. Alexander wrote over forty books for children, the Prydain series are his best-known works.  If you’re looking for a way to escape the drudgery of your own “normal” life, just pick up a copy of The Book of Three from your local library and stand by to be swept away!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

Moose Flanagan is a young boy whose family moves to Alcatraz Island for his father’s new job in the infamous prison.  When he’s not busy caring for his autistic sister, Moose becomes close friends with the warden’s troublesome daughter Piper.  The two come up with a number of money-making schemes, including convincing other kids that for a price, they too could have their laundry done by one of the world’s most dangerous gangsters…Al Capone!

Although parts of this book are just as hilarious as the title, the story is more than just a barrel of laughs.  The most touching parts are about how Moose tries his best to care for his autistic sister, Natalie, or how his parents make such huge sacrifices to provide a better life for their kids.  This book is an amazing story built around a unique setting, and it’s no wonder that Ms. Choldenko eventually wrote two sequels for us to enjoy!