Reread: I Shall Wear Midnight

by Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “Why was it, Tiffany Aching wondered, that people liked noise so much?
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Content: There’s a bit more romance, and some illusions to sex (none actual), and the story’s a bit darker than the other Tiffany Aching books. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Last time I read this, seven years ago, I called it a perfect ending for a perfect series. It’s still a perfect series. But, going back and rereading this, I’ve realized that this isn’t an ending. More like a stopping place. (And I am glad The Shepherd’s Crown got published. It makes for a better ending.)

That said (follow the seven years ago link for the plot), I still loved this one. I loved that the conflict was the negative opinions of witches, the hate that is so often seen in the face of the unknown. It felt very timely. I liked that Pratchett used old lore to battle the hate (if we know and understand our history, we will better be able to fight against the dark), and having recently read Small Gods, I understood all the references to the priests of Om this time. I adore Tiffany’s practicality (and wish I could figure out how to better roll with the challenges in my life), and I love the humor. There can never be too much NacMacFeegle, and I loved the fierceness with which Jeannie (the kelda) watches over her clan.

Really, these books are such a delight to read.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

squirrelgirlby Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
First sentence: “Doreen Green liked her name.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: February 7, 2017
Content: There’s a bit of violence, but it’s mostly cartoonish. There are some complicated words and it’s a bit long for younger readers, but the chapters are short and action-packed and I think reluctant readers will take to it. It will be in the Middle Grade section (grades 3-5) of the bookstore, but I’d give it to 6-7th graders as well.

Doreen Green was born with the abilities (and tail) of a squirrel. For her her whole life (all 14 years of it) she’s been home schooled and told to keep her abilities secret. But she and her parents have recently moved to the suburbs in New Jersey, and there are Things that need to be Done, and can only be done by a superhero. And it looks like that Dorreen, with the help of her new BFFAEAE (best fried forever and ever and ever) Ana Sofia and the local squirrel contingent, is the hero her town needs.

I have to admit that it took me a bit to get into the feel of this book. I generally like the Hales’ sense of humor, but for some reason this one felt a bit too over the top for me. But, I settled into it (also: not really the target audience), and they had me laughing by the end. (I especially liked the text conversations with Rocket Raccoon.) I liked that Doreen’s parents were basically good people, and understood the need to get out of their daughter’s way. And even though the book started out slow, it finished exciting.

A lot of fun!

Reread: A Hat Full of Sky

hatfullofskyby Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “The Nac Mac Feegle are the most dangerous of the fairy races, particularly when drunk.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s a bit complex, story-wise for the younger set, but would make a great read-aloud for ages 8 and up. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.
Others in the series: The Wee Free Men

Of course when you read The Wee Free Men, you have to follow it up with reading the rest of the series. I’ve read and reviewed this once before, nearly 8 years ago, and I don’t have much else to add. Except that much of what I remember about Tiffany Aching and this series comes from this book. The bit about being afraid of depths. The definition of what a witch is. The encounter with Death. It’s all here. This is the one (aside from the Nac Mac Feegle, which really shine in the first book) that has stayed with me all these years.

Which makes me wonder: what will I think of the others this time around?

The Wee Free Men

weefreemenby Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “Somethings start before other things.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: The Nac Mac Feegle’s speech is written in dialect, which might be difficult to understand. But, I’d give it to a precocious 10-year-old, and it worked as a read-aloud to K a couple years back when she was 8. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I don’t really have much to write, since I’ve already reviewed this on my blog twice: first in 2009 and then the audio version in 2011. But I wanted an excuse to put up the pretty new cover (I LOVE IT!) and to say that Tiffany Aching wears well, and that it’s still as wonderful and as fun and as Important as it was when I first read it.

On to the next one!

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

razzledazzleby Dana Simpson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the Series: Phoebe and her Unicorn, Unicorn on a Roll, Unicorn vs. Goblins
Content: Simple, fun, colorful, and funny, these are perfect for kids in 3-5th grade. They are also perfect for anyone who likes a little silliness in their life.

I feel a little silly still writing reviews of these; it’s not a story (really; though there is a bit of an arc, it’s more like Calvin and Hobbes than an actual story) that needs to be updated. But every time I see a new Phoebe and Marigold collection, I pick it up, because I can’t get enough of them.

It’s a lot like the other ones: there’s holiday magic, there’s struggles at school (the best is when Phoebe gets in trouble for taking journaling a little too seriously), there’s summertime fun, Phoebe goes to music camp again. It’s silly, it’s funny, it’s pure delight.

If you’re not reading these, you are missing out.

Insert Coin to Continue

insertcointby John David Anderson
First sentence: ”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s talk of crushes, and some bullying. It’s got a quick pace, and short-ish chapters. It’s currently in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore, but I’d give it to the older end of that spectrum. I think 5th-7th graders might enjoy it more. (But I don’t know if it’s worth moving it.)

Bryan Biggins is a gamer. Specifically, he’s a master of the Sovereign of Darkness video game, handily beating the Demon King over and over again. It’s the best part of his day; he’s middling at school, there are a handful of bullies who call him and his best friend Oz names, and he’s got a crush on a girl that he will pretty much never get. Why not spend all of your free time perfecting this game?

Then, one day he breaks through to the secret level. He doesn’t think anything of it, until he can’t get up the next morning before feeding a coin in the slot that has magically appeared over his alarm clock. And that’s just the beginning: his life has become a video game, complete with hit points, experience points, quests, and leveling up.

It’s confusing for Bryan at first, but eventually, he figures out (sort of) how to “play” the “game”. He finds himself making decisions that he wouldn’t have before. And maybe that’s a good thing.

I’ve enjoyed Anderson’s books in the past, and this was no exception. It’s got a clever premise (a really great contemporary-fantasy blend) and Anderson has a great light, fun delivery with this. It captures the difficulty of being a 7th grader, of being someone who hasn’t quite got everything together yet, but the whole gaming element adds a level of fun that makes this one stand out. It was a unique premise, and a delightful book to read.

Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure

missypigglewiggleby Ann M. Martin
First sentence: “The most wonderful thing about the town of Little Spring Valley was not its magic shop, and not the fact that one day a hot-air balloon had appeared as if from nowhere and no one ever knew where it had come from, and not even the fact that the children could play outside and run all up and down the streets willy-nilly without their parents hovering over them.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged off the ARC piles at my place of employment.
Content: There’s nothing to cause concern. Lots of illustrations, short chapters (they’re kind of like connected short stories). It’d made a great read-aloud as well. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

I never read the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books, but I did have a couple of girls who were into them. C, if I remember right, especially loved them. So, while I was familiar with the whole concept, I hadn’t actually read them before.

In this one, Mrs Piggle-Wiggle is off to find her husband (she had a husband?) who was called away “some years ago” by pirates. Not wanting to leave the children of Little Spring Valley without some sort of positive influence (because heaven knows they need it!), she writes to her niece, Missy, to come and stay at the upside-down house and help guide these wayward children to a much happier life.

(I shouldn’t let sarcasm seep through. The Piggle-Wiggles would disapprove.)

The chapters, after the introduction, go basically like this: there is a child who has a “problem” that needs to be fixed. The parents, at their wits’ end, go to Missy who gives the kid some sort of magical solution, which exacerbates the problem, which, in turn, solves it. As an adult, I found it super didactic, but that’s just me. I’m sure that there are tons of kids who would find the solutions hilarious (I think they were meant to be…) and maybe even a few who could learn from it. (I, personally, got tired of the perfect LaCarte kids and wanted there to be something wrong with them.)

It wasn’t a bad book. Just maybe not one for grown-ups.