MAGIC AND MYSTERY

From the Magical Mind of Mindy Munson

Written by Nikki Bennett

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I am delighted to take part in the Blog Tour for this book for which I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. It is an interesting middle grade chapter book story that combines so many wonderful elements.

This story relates what happens to the Munson family after their parents are killed in a car accident. Susie, the eldest at age eleven, narrates the tale. Other members of the family include Tucker, age nine, and twins Jesse and Mindy, age five. They have recently moved into a dilapidated house purchased by their Aunt Julie, who is now their legal guardian. Mindy has been traumatized by her parents’ death and refuses to speak. Her only communication is occasional whisperings to her twin Jesse. All the children still see a psychologist weekly.

Their adventures are told by Susie even though most the imaginary characters are seen through the mind of young Mindy. Oh, yes, this house is haunted. There are monsters, spiders, ghosts, dragons, a leprechaun and something sinister that lives in the basement. Together with Danny and Anna, the kids who live next door, the children spend the summer exploring the huge backyard and house. The older children suspect that Mindy is imagining all these things, yet they hear the noises and see the clues left behind like a toy triceratops and a red feather. When the new school year comes around, the children are apprehensive about beginning all over again. At first Mindy is bullied because she does not speak. The winter brings more adventures like a new boarder named Adam who lives in the cottage, an abominable snowman, and a close call when Tucker falls through the frozen pond.

In little more than one hundred pages, Bennett manages to deal with so many issues: death, bullying, unsolved mysteries, coming of age, blended families, and childhood fears. The story is told with lots of humor, authentic dialogue, and well-developed characters. Chapters are short; many have charming pencil drawn illustrations. This keeps the book interesting for the younger reader. Length of chapters make it a good choice for a classroom read aloud. Highly recommended for boys and girls ages seven through twelve. Don’t miss it!

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DIGGING DOWN DEEP

Minecraft: Herobrine and the Nether Dragon

Written by World of Minecraft

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I recently discovered this series which is trademarked to accompany devotees of the Minecraft game and characters. There are a whole series of books available online and at their website www.minecraftstories.com. This particular selection features Herobrine, a young man who is distinguished by the fact that his eyes are pure white and his fascination for building things. Because of these traits, others think of him as a sorcerer or wizard.

At the beginning of the tale, Herobrine is preparing to build an amphitheater made of black obsidian. He had spent much time underground locating the mineral. Herobrine thought that this black building would contrast nicely with his white leaning tower of cobblestone located nearby. While he was lighting torches to keep the zombies away one night, Herobrine sees a mysterious purple light and a figure with a pig-like face emerge from a portal. Herobrine did not realize he had created a portal. The pigman screams at him to close the portal. Too late….a dragon emerges and with one loud roar succeeds in destroying Herobrine’s castle and both buildings. Now Herobrine must ally himself with Peg, the pigman, and figure out a way to destroy the dragon before he destroys the rest of their world.

Their adventure will lead them to beaches, volcanoes, and a band of pirates headed by Captain Dedwang, who is interested in treasure, not dragons. Will Peg and Herobrine find a way to survive all these threats and defeat the dragon? Fans of the minecraft game including reluctant readers will find this book, as well as others in the series, an interesting read. The text is not difficult and the dialogue moves the plot along quickly. Recommended for boys and girls age eight and up. The book also makes a good read aloud for classroom teachers.

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STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

Sleepover Zoo

Written by Brenda Kearns

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This book tells the tale of a sixth-grader named Toni who has just moved into the town of Renforth. Her parents are animal lovers; they work for the animal shelter. They don’t stop with their day job. At home the family takes care of injured wild birds until they are recovered and able to be set free. This makes for a somewhat extraordinary household! Toni has made a new friend named Megan at school, but the rest of the girls find it strange that bird seeds coming flying out of Toni’s lunch box. One of the girls named Leona presses Toni to come over for a sleepover; Toni hopes that her parents will say no. How can she possibly describe their house? There are mice in the freezer, a macaw named Mortimer that drinks coffee and eats pizza, a snake, and a cat named Avery that steals food from your dinner plate. I think you get the picture. Toni’s teenage brother Bruno friends tells her not to worry, but Toni is dreading the visit.

That visit does not start out auspiciously. Leona is knocked down by their dog, Duke, who promptly chews up her scrungy, knots her hair and messes up her dress. Leona can’t believe the chaos that these animals present. When they hear a scream in the bathroom, Bruno realizes that the goose in the bathtub feels threatened by the stranger. Toni’s parents try to make their guest comfortable by surprising the girls with pizza and ice cream, which they never serve. Will Leona run away and tell everyone at school that Leona lives in a “crazy house” or will she learn that every family is different and that being different is not necessarily a bad thing?

This book contains just the right amount of humor and absurdity to appeal to middle grade students so desperate to fit in. The characters are well developed, the chapters are short, the text is not overly difficult. For this reason, the book makes an excellent chapter book appropriate for a reluctant reader. If the book contained more pictures, it would have appeal for younger children. Older readers will enjoy the story as well because it rings genuine and true to life. The book teaches us that everyone does not have to conform to the mold; our community benefits from diversity.

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DRAGON DIMENSIONS

Serpents of Sky:Nine Stories of Dragons

Written by Heidi C. Vlach

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The author takes her fascination with dragons to new heights in this well-written diverse collection of stories. Most cultures living in our world have imagined dragons in some form, whether they be god-like, monsters, guardians or sinister fantasy apparitions. Vlach portrays dragons in all these modes using well-developed characters in diverse plot lines. The tales are of varying length; some of them are included in other works. This collection is a treat for any lover of dragon stories or fantasy in general. Readers age ten and above will find them enjoyable.

I write about a few of my favorites to provide a flavor of the collection. “With Less Lament” introduces the reader to an elderly lady named Eloise working in her garden mindful that there is a dragon advisory. She nervously glances at the sky while humming a song. Little need to worry, “The dragon was as inevitable as rain, or taxes.” A hummingbird suddenly pauses in front of her, just as the wind picks up and the sky turns ominously black. Eloise shuffles toward the basement as the dragon strikes. Will she survive the attack? In the story “Cardiology,” a young genetic engineer named Theodore has been studying biotechnology in his lab where he has created an army of twelve dragon specimens. They are about to embark on a campaign to infect the human race with a deadly virus. The story, “Another Odyssey” moves in a different direction. At the outset me meet a dragon who is personified living in a human house, feeling hunger, and grocery shopping. Her human neighbors complain because she growls too loudly. This dragon becomes upset with her human lifestyle and sets out on another course. My last example is one of the stories of the Aligare, in which three peoples who are not human live peacefully together with no racial strife or war. They reward the reader by sharing their legends of shared wisdom. As they go through their lives, each of them must face challenges and obstacles. In “Korvi’s Limbs,” the god of fire named Fyrian explains how the korvi evolved from simple lizards to dragons of the sky. Fyrian gave them a set of challenges. As the korvi met each task, they were rewarded with arms, legs and wings.

As you can see the short stories are a mixture of science fiction, legend, fantasy and adventure. Just the book to curl up with for an hour or two on a stormy afternoon!

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Check out my chat with Clancy Tucker…..

Check out my in depth interview with Clancy Tucker http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/16-august-2014-barbara-ann-mojica-guest.html

PENGUIN AND FINN

Diary Of A Penguin Napper: How much trouble can one little penguin cause?

Written by Sally Harris

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Well, we are not exactly talking crime of the century, but for two eleven year olds named Marty Finn and Scot Trudman, the penguin caper was a big deal. This book is a middle grade fiction story that combines all those elements of crucial importance to children of that age. Marty has the usual problems adjusting to school, learning to cope and fit in with peers and adults, and finding a way to understand and deal with his first crush. His good friend, Scott owes him due to the fact that Marty has rescued Scot from embarrassment more then once, including the time Scott lost his trunks while diving into the swimming pool.

The story begins at the end. Marty is sitting in his living room reading his diary explaining the details of the kidnapping to two police offices he calls Fat and Skinny. That crime of snatching a penguin from the Australian zoo has been thwarted because his mother has discovered the penguin in the attic bathroom. Why would he possibly want to steal a penguin? He needed the money to go on an overnight school trip to the nature center so that he could work with his assigned partner, Jessica, who just happens to be the girl he has a crush on. Marty’s mother had informed him that she did not have the money for the trip; after several attempts to raise money by doing chores and securing a loan at the local bank, the boys realize they have run out of options. But an unexpected opportunity springs up when the wealthiest student in the school offers them $500 to bring a wild animal to his little sister’s birthday party. So Marty and Scott hatch their plot and succeed in bagging the penguin. The end results and punishments have both predictable and unforeseen consequences.

This story is written mainly for middle grade students. Fans of Diary of A Wimpy Kid will appreciate the clever entries in Marty’s diaries, the names used for characters, and the offbeat humor. The plot, humor and dialogue are age appropriate and genuine. In addition, the cover is an eye catching design which intrigues the reader. If you are looking for an amusing pleasant read, spend a couple of hours with this one.

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BE A MAGICIAN AND CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING

In The Magician’s House

Written by D M Potter

Cover design by Marcus Thomas Design

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The author begins by stating that you will be told how the book starts but that YOU will be the one to decide how it ends. Setting for the reader is a magician’s house where you live and work. There is always a mystery as you explore its rooms.. The reader might be asked to find things or go to places in the house. Dreams are always lurking, and you might be transported to places outside the house. In short, one never knows what will happen or where you might end up. A scenario is painted for you and you must choose your destiny.

Most days you would start by eating breakfast, but finding the kitchen is not always simple. On the first morning, the reader wakes up in his turret in the tower of the house. When you feel something cold on your face, it turns out to be a frog. You get dressed in the dark and hope the stairway will lead to the kitchen. This morning you have found a corridor that stretches to the left and right. On the left you find a suit of armor, to the right there is a hole in the floor with a ladder sticking up from it. Now you must make your first choice! Depending on your decision, you will continue to stop and investigate or remain on the path that you currently pursuing. Throughout the book the reader has numerous choices and paths to follow. You might find yourself in a classroom, a tenement, or meet a character in history. Will you succeed and find  Mrs. Noogles, the cook, making your breakfast or perhaps find yourself in another part of the house or even some other place? If you don’t like your choice the first time, you can always go back and start again.

This book of nearly one hundred pages provides lots of entertainment and adventure for readers age nine and above. Because of the diversity of outcomes, a child will want to reread and revisit it over and over again. Boys and girls in the middle grades will particularly like the element of being in control over the outcome, but I would venture to say many parents and adults will enjoy reading it as well. Highly recommended book for lovers of magic or adventure.

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