ARC Review: The Phoenix and the Carpet

phoenix-and-carpet

Book: The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
Author: E. Nesbit
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Rating: 5 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: The five children from Five Children and It are back! This time their magical adventures come in the form of a Phoenix and a flying carpet. And there may (or may not) be a special guest appearance by everybody’s favourite Psammead!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s not often that the sequel is as good as the original, but this book is the exception to the rule. We get more great magical adventures featuring Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Robert. And of course, the Lamb. How can you forget the Lamb!

2) I love the chatty Phoenix, so different from the grumpy Psammead from the first book. Also, the Carpet’s a nice, silent, companionable foil. Love how that works into the plot at the end of the story.

One of my favourite lines in the book:

“Then we’ve lost the treasure,” said Cyril.

And they had.

“But we’ve got the carpet and the Phoenix,” said Anthea.

“Excuse me,” said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, “I do so hate to seem to interfere, but surely you must mean the Phoenix and the carpet?”

(The Second Chapter)

3) E. Nesbit is the queen of magical realism. The magic always has a bit of a twist or causes some sort problem for the children. I love how that works. (Even though it’s rather frustrating to the children!) It makes for a great story.

4) I love how the kids work together and bicker and tease. I love their adventurous natures.

5) My favourite episode is probably the chapters that involve the Topless Tower. (Treasure. Towers. What more could you ask for?) Although the bit with the Burglar near the end is also hilarious!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Can’t think of anything to put here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – This is a wonderful, magical tale. And it still holds magic even though the story was originally published over 100 years ago. This makes a great re-aloud.

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Quick Pick Reviews #10

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle // by Betty MacDonald (1957)

Genre: MG, Magical Realism

hello-mrs.-piggle-wiggleMy Thoughts: I love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I love reading about her cures for unruly, unhappy, and unfortunate children. I just happened upon this book at a used book sale and picked it up for a bargain. This is the fourth book in the series and I don’t know if I’ve actually read this one before now. I don’t recall any of the stories.

I do think the stories in the first books are slightly better than these ones. There’s definitely a formula in MacDonald’s writing and I can imagine she was starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it came to writing this one. Still, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle at her worst is still worth the read!

It’s always fun to see the creativity for how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will solve the problem at hand. The final story is, I think, my favourite in the book. It ends with, not only the original child getting a change of attitude… but the whole family! [3.5 Stars]


The Land of Stories: Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales // by Chris Colfer (2016)

Genre: MG, Fairy Tales

treasury-classic-fairy-talesMy Thoughts: I’ve never read the Land of Stories series before. I’m guessing they’re books that retell fairy tales, which means they probably give their own spin to the original stories. One thing I’ve noticed with such books, they don’t mean much if you aren’t familiar with the original accounts. So, my guess is meant to remedy to that… By giving us the famous fairy tales and folk tales like: Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks, etc. (Each tale does mention whether it was based on the Grimm Brothers’ retelling or Hans Christian Andersen’s story or whatever.)

Most of the stories were exactly what I remember them to be, which was nice. However, there were a few little things that bothered me. I don’t understand why the author changed some strange details. Now, it’s possible that I don’t remember these details… like Rapunzel having a child during the time when she’s parted from the prince (before he finds her after he’s blinded). (What?! Why?! What is purpose of this baby?!) Or there are some little details that he got wrong, like when Snow White’s mother pricks her finger on a knitting needle. Does the author even know what a knitting needle is? No knitting needle I’ve ever seen is so sharp as to draw three drops of blood?

But those things weren’t major and overall I did enjoy the stories! [3.5 stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Review: Granted

GrantedBook: Granted (2018)
Author: John David Anderson
Genre: MG, Magical Realism (Fairies)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the story of how wishes are granted. Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a fairy who’s on a mission. It’s her job to grant the wish of a girl, but she needs the coin that the girl wished upon. The problem is that the coin keeps getting out of her reach. With the help of a new-found friend, a dog named Sam, Ophelia’s determined to make sure the coin’s wish comes true.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love how the fairies are named in this story world! They get their middle name first (from the flower from which they are born); their last name next (based on one of their characteristics/quirks); and their first name last (luck of the draw)!

2) Ophelia is a fun, feisty fairy. Even when she loses the power to fly, she doesn’t give up. I love that kind of gumption. 🙂

3) Sam is adorable. He’s the kind of sidekick who is so enthusiastic, but also kind of clueless. I like how he teams up with Ophelia.

4) The elusive coin is like another character in the book. There are a lot of great scenes involving the coin and Ophelia’s efforts to retrieve it. Love what happens near the end… An event that gives Ophelia a real wish-granting dilemma.

5) It’s interesting how the same family (a brother and sister) keeps popping up in the story. At first I thought this was a little too coincidental, but once I understood where it was going, I really liked this continuity. It was a storyline that added a nice, poignant touch to the book.

6) The cover of this book is what drew me to this story. I love it!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) This book took a long time to start! The plot really doesn’t start until after Chapter 10… And even then, it meanders all over the place.

2) This book has a little more bathroom humour than I like. I can handle about one such joke. More than that and I start rolling my eyes.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this book about how fairy wishes are granted! Even though it had a slow start, it was fun to follow Ophelia and Sam on their adventure with that elusive coin! 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The Magic of Mary Poppins

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I just finished listening to the audio book for Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers.

(By the way, Sophie Thompson, an amazingly gifted actor, reads the story. I love it!)

mary-poppinsAnd as I was listening, I got to thinking about all the magical elements to the story, and particularly Mary Poppins herself. I guess this is an early incarnation of what we now know as the Magical Realism genre.

Okay, so I have a question for you. If you could choose ONE of the following Mary Poppins attributes, which would it be?

  1. The ability to slide UP the banister.
  2. The carpet bag that weighs nothing and looks like it has nothing in it, but can carry just about anything.
  3. The power to float up like a balloon (as MP does to join Mr. Wigg and the children for their tea near the ceiling).
  4. The ability to speak to and understand animals (as MP does with Andrew the Dog).

So, which would YOU choose?

As for me, I think I’d pick #2… the carpet bag. Just think of the things you could carry without straining your back!

P.S. The photo above is the real umbrella from P.L. Travers that inspired Mary Poppins’ own umbrella. Its home is now at the New York Public Library in Manhattan (along with Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends).

Quick Pick Reviews #5

The theme for this set of Quick Picks is that of Magical Realism. These books are about kids who live real lives, but there is some sort of magical element that appears.

Note: Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Odessa Again // by Dana Reinhardt

{0F0CBFDF-EAE8-45E0-9405-6D224FD326B2}Img100 Odessa’s mom and dad are newly divorced and that means a lot of changes for Odessa and her brother, Oliver. Her new attic bedroom gives her the ability to allow for her change things about her day. I like the magic in this book and also the realism. In some ways this book was trying to be a little Parent-Trap. (And I love The Parent Trap movie!) But I like how it ultimately didn’t quite go that route with the happily-ever-after ending. Not that the ending was miserable. Just… realistic.


All the Answers // by Kate Messner

61v2HSzjk9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ What would you do if you found a blue pencil that gave you all the answers to your questions? That’s exactly what happens to Ava. She starts with answers to math questions, but then she goes on to asking some tough questions. At first, I wasn’t sure about Ava sharing this knowledge of the pencil with her best friend, Sophie. But I soon realized that Sophie was able to get Ava to ask some crazier questions than she’d normally have done. And then, I liked how it came to Ava asking some crazy questions herself… especially the question about cancer.

The only thing I didn’t really like was the revelation of how the blue pencil works. To me, this is unnecessary. It brought me out of the story. If there is some magical element in a story, I don’t need an explanation, I should accept it on its own terms.


Joplin, Wishing // by Diane Stanley

Joplin, wishingJoplin inherits a mysterious broken platter from her grandfather. She has it pieced together, only to discover that the little dutch girl in the pattern, Sofie, has come to life. I liked this book well-enough. Joplin and Barrett make a nice team. And I really liked the neighbour, Chloe. I almost wished there were more of her. The “antiques dealer”, Lucius Doyle, makes a good antagonist. And the fact that he’s been around for a long time is really fascinating. And creepy. I didn’t “like” him, but I did like how he was portrayed. (Note: The ending was a little weird to me regarding how they solve Sofie’s problem. It felt like it didn’t quite belong in this book… more realism than magical.)


Review: The Seventh Wish

theseventhw.jpgBook: The Seventh Wish
Author: Kate Messner
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic plot: Charlie goes ice fishing and ends up catching a fish that grants her wishes. But the wishes all sort of backfire on her. When news hits the family that Abby, her sister, is facing the struggle of a life-time, Charlie’s determined to make one more wish…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love the opening with the ice flowers. That was a beautiful image to start the book. Especially with introducing the sisters, Charlie and Abby. (I do wish Messner that done a little more with this imagery later on in the book. So much potential there! This is where an Epilogue would have worked so nicely. A year later… Charlie and Abby go in search of ice flowers…???)

2) I loved the Fairy Tale element of this story. It had a Fisherman-and-his-Wife vibe. I love how the wishes don’t quite work out. (Like with Bobby vs. Roberto!)

3) I also loved the dramatic element. I don’t really want to reveal it in a spoiler, so if you want to find out, you will have to read the book yourself.

4) The word-game that the family plays was fun. “I’m thinking of a word…” It was truly heart-breaking when, in the second-half of the book, the dad tries to play the game, but the mom just can’t do it. It’s very touching when he reveals the word.

5) I love the Serenity Prayer and I like how it was worked into the story.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) There are some really tough themes in this book. And it’s coupled light-hearted fare like Irish Dancing and a Wishing Fish. This felt a tad disjointed to me. It’s like the book didn’t know what it was… A Fairy Tale? A Drama?

2) The drama element is well set-up, but then poorly executed at times. Especially when the mystery is solved half-way through the book. Charlie finds out right away, at the same time as her parents. I wish Messner had dragged this mystery out a bit longer. Let Charlie worry a bit more. Let her wonder why her parents are always whispering about something, or speaking in low tones on the phone. This wasn’t HORRIBLE, but I thought it could have been drawn out a bit more to better effect.

3) I can’t believe the mom and dad let Charlie go alone with Abby to the dance competition. I don’t want to give a spoiler here, so I won’t explain… other than to say that suddenly explaining that the dad had a flu bug or food poisoning was NOT the best set up. And there is NO WAY the mom needed to stay behind to bring him tea, water, etc. He’s an adult. He’d probably sleeping most of the day while they were gone. Frankly, I was not convinced. So much so that it brought me out of the story (which is not a good thing). It just seemed like the author needed some excuse to make the parents stay home. Well, in my opinion, it didn’t quite work. 😦

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 stars (out of 5) – This was an odd mishmash of genres. I loved the Fairy Tale element of the wishing fish. I like the drama element. While I’m not sure if Messner fully pulled it off, I did like the book and it’s good enough to get 3.5 stars from me.