Fridays with the Wizards
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 12, 2017

Castle Glower #4. Author: Jessica Day George. Summary: After the complex and convoluted castle history was worked out in the last book, Celie and her friends are back in the castle safe and sound. It’s not happily ever after quite yet, though – not when the Arkower wizard breaks out and is running around on the loose! Celie needs to stop him, save her friends, and prove to her parents that she’s level-headed and mature, all while dealing with the blow of her sister’s impending marriage. My Thoughts: This is clearly an effort to combine a magical adventure with a more mundane struggle of growing up. It might work better for children in the age range intended, as they may sympathize with the character more. For myself, I found Celie grating on my nerves through the book, as she complains about not getting enough credit, shouts at her sister about abandoning them for the Grathians, and demands to be more involved with things. In other words, she lost the pleasing maturity she showed over the last few books. On the good side, it was fun to see more griffins. Content Review: Sexual content: One hug. One character asks for another’s…

The Demigod Files
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 11, 2017

A Percy Jackson and the Olympians Guide. Author: Rick Riordan. Summary: How do you handle an encounter with Medusa on the New Jersey interstate? What’s the best way to take down a minotaur? Become an expert on everything in Percy’s world with this must-have guide to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Complete with interviews, puzzles, games, and original short stories by Rick Riordan. My Thoughts: Some interesting backstory for the Heroes of Olympus (My name is Bob!) but overall the stories seemed random and unnecessary, with the quality being of a lower age-level than the books. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Non-graphic. Ghosts/monsters are stabbed and disintegrated, one monster has his memory wiped clean, some buildings are blow up during a fight. Love Triangle: No.  

Wednesdays in the Tower
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 6, 2017

Castle Glower #2. Author: Jessica Day George. Summary: Strange things are afoot in Castle Glower: new rooms, corridors, and even stables keep arriving, even when they aren’t needed. Celie’s brother Bran, the new Royal Wizard, has his hands full cataloguing an entire storeroom full of exotic and highly dangerous weapons, while Celie has her hands full . . . raising the creature that hatches from a giant egg she finds! Will they be able to find out what’s making the Castle behave this way in time? (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Another light-hearted read for the younger kids – and now we get griffins! Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Minor roughhousing with a griffin – he nips, but leaves no more than bruises.  

Tuesdays at the Castle
Middle Grade / Juvenile / December 22, 2016

Castle Glower #1. Author: Jessica Day George. Summary: Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: A fun, whimsical read for both younger and older kids. Content Review: Sexual content: Some very minor flirting. A girl asks to see the prince’s bedroom, and another character is scandalized, but the girl explains she needs to see how the castle favors him. Language: None Violence: Soldier reports that a carriage was attacked – most of his men were shot down by arrows and one horse had to be put down. Two men try to imprison a girl, who pushes them down a flight of stairs. Girl breaks man’s nose by flinging her head back while he’s trying to…

The Sun Trail
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 27, 2016

Dawn of the Clans #1. Author: Erin Hunter. Summary: For many moons, a tribe of cats has lived peacefully near the top of a mountain. But prey is scarce and seasons are harsh–and their leader fears they will not survive. When a mysterious vision reveals a land filled with food and water, a group of brave young cats sets off in search of a better home. But great dangers await them. In this unfamiliar world, faced with loners and fierce rogues all vying for territory and power, the traveling cats must find a new way to live side by side–or risk tearing one another apart. My Thoughts: It was interesting to see the arrival of the first cats. Even before they got there, the foreshadowing of the clans was clear to those watching for it, as I was. However, the characters are not as relatable, and the love-trianglie-stuff with Storm/Grey Wing/Clear Sky and Turtle/Grey Wing was weird. Background enough that younger kids wouldn’t notice, but a little weird. Content Review: Sexual content: Over the course of the book, three cats are pregnant. Two give birth, one off-screen and the other very low detail. The cats do not marry or have…

Dragon’s Blood
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / November 21, 2016

Pit Dragon Chronicles #1. Author: Jane Yolen. Summary: Jakkin is a bondboy, a situation similar to indentured servants of old – right now he’s basically a slave, but he’s paying off his debt piece by piece. But the quickest way to make enough gold to do that is by stealing a dragon egg from the nursery where he works and raising it to fight in the rings. If Jakkin wants his freedom he’s going to have to steal a dragon egg, hide and feed it, bond to it, and train it to fight – all without being discovered. My Thoughts: Well, the tone was strange. I believe it’s considered both ya and middle grade, but the constant references to prostitutes seem out-of-place for such an age range. I liked the concept of dragons bred and trained to fight in ring-fights: not one I’ve seen before, but quite logical. But I really hope Jakkin is going to get his come-uppance from Akki, because the attitude towards girls is quite strange – the final scene where Jakkin determines to ‘master Akki’ threw me off more than anything else in the book. Since Akki is determinedly independent, I can see this going different…

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 1, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: The two princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. Her deepest wish is for safety. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. Her deepest wish is to save the kingdom of Bamarre. They are sisters, and they mean the world to each other. Then disaster strikes, and Addie – terrified and unprepared – sets out on a perilous quest. In her path are the monsters of Bamarre: ogres, specters, gryphons, and dragons. Addie must battle them, but time is running out, and the sisters’ lives – and Bamarre’s fate – hang in the balance. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A girl is attacked by an ogre, rams him into a tower to escape, and ends up with a dislocated shoulder. She is subsequently attacked by griffins, who gorge themselves to death, then by a dragon who carries her off. There is a battle scene in which a dragon dies, as well as various and sundry griffins, specters, and ogres. Other issues: A human girl marries a hundred-year old sorcerer, who will live to 500. Due to the heavily fairy-tale feel the contrast is not jolting or problematic…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 31, 2016

Harry Potter #1. Author: J.K. Rowling. Summary: Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 1 d*** Violence: Fairly low. Love Triangle: No. Other: There has been some controversy over the fact that children learn magic/spells, to guard against the “dark arts”, and there are magical females referred to as witches.

The Hidden Oracle
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 22, 2016

Trials of Apollo #1. Author: Rick Riordan. Summary: How do you punish an immortal? By making him human. After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour. But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Pretty funny for a middle-grade book, even if it does seem awfully familiar after two whole series with much the same kind of adventures. This time we have Apollo for protagonist. He’s a self-absorbed jerk, but at least it’s a distinctive narrator; and honestly I found his narration very amusing. Content Review: Sexual content: Narrator comments that he’s had at least as many boyfriends as girlfriends (this in connection with two male characters dating) and adds that you really…

Escaping Peril
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 16, 2016

Wings of Fire #8. Author: Tui T. Sutherland. Summary: Peril has been loyal to Queen Scarlet, who used her fatal firescales to kill countless dragons in the SkyWing arena. Now, Peril is loyal to Clay, the only dragonet who has ever been her friend. So when Scarlet threatens Jade Mountain Academy, Peril sets off to find her former queen, stop her, and save the day, no matter what it takes. There’s just one problem: a strangely persistent SeaWing, Turtle, insists on coming along, too. Turtle is worried about his friends, who left to search for Scarlet and haven’t returned. Peril is worried that she might accidentally burn Turtle — or burn him on purpose, for being so annoying — and frustrated that she keeps saying and doing the wrong things. She can’t escape her firescales, and she can’t escape her reputation as the deadliest dragon in Pyrrhia. So when she’s offered a chance to trade everything for a second chance, Peril has to decide who she’s really loyal to . . . and whether her own scales might actually be worth saving. My Thoughts: The Wings of Fire series seems to be aiming higher in its age range, and the…