Books We Are Loving – January 2021

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Dragon Daughter – Liz Flanagan

Dragon Daughter is about an adolescent girl called Milla who lives on an island of legends and civil unrest.  She has no history of her own, but she can clearly see what the future holds if the Norlanders won’t find a way to accept the Sartolans as equals.  A murder, a mysterious package and a fortune-telling stranger will plunge Milla into the true history behind the island’s legendary dragons and their dragon riders.  She will find herself in the most precarious social situations with her best friends whilst trying to care for and guard her very own dragon.

I read this book aloud to my Miss Seven who is dragon-mad.  She loved every minute of it and Mister Eleven couldn’t help but come along for the ride.  The cringe-worthy social situations Milla finds herself in with both her Norlander and Sartolan friends, trying to help them understand the other’s point of view, were too realistic for me!  Had Liz Flanagan fleshed out the plot a bit more this would have made an amazing YA novel reminiscent of Game of Thrones (the power struggles, not the salacious stuff).  But as it was written for ages 9-12, I am willing to overlook the skeleton plot and fully appreciate this is a complex story that maintains age-appropriate content.

The Midnight Swan – Catherine Fisher

Seren Rhys has escaped the Tylwyth Teg (the Welsh fairy folk) by the skin of her teeth for two novels now (The Clockwork Crow, The Velvet Fox).  Her luck can’t last forever.  In The Midnight Swan, her luck finally runs out.  Believing the Jones family intend to return her to the orphanage, Seren offers herself to Them in exchange for the one magical item that can return her friend, the clockwork crow, to his human form. 

Seren’s plight is harrowing.  It was hard not to get choked up reading some of the pages of this book.  I love how Catherine Fisher strings together simple words to create beautiful scenes that are both real and surreal, mundane and yet magical.  Her work is a joy to read aloud.  Miss Seven and Mister Eleven shout, ‘One more!’ at the end of every chapter, so you know it’s good.    

War Horse – Michael Morpurgo

Morpurgo wrote War Horse back in 1982.  It’s a horse’s-eye-view of World War I.  This simplified picture book version came out just last year, in 2020.  It’s the bare essentials of the original story with some characters and their scenes morphed into one and some characters and their scenes omitted entirely.  So, if you really enjoyed either the original story or the film, beware this is not quite the same.

That being said, it gives children a really good idea of the jobs horses did during World War I as well as the noisy, muddy, lonely conditions they lived in.  It wraps up happily with Albert taking Joey home to retire in the love and care of his first friend and master.  Miss Seven and Mister 11 both enjoyed this.  Though it’s a picture book, its also very wordy – the best of both worlds for my lot.

Unicorn and Yeti – Sparkly New Friends
Heather Burnell

Unicorn and Yeti are the stars of their own series of emergent-reader books.  Sparkly New Friends is the first in the series.  The stories are laid out in panels, like a graphic novel, and the words are all simple dialogue.  I picked it up from the library because it didn’t look like your usual emergent-reader and I thought Miss Seven might appreciate something that looked a little more grown-up due to the comic book style.  Plus, it had a unicorn in it so she was bound to pick it up and flick through it at least once. 

The words could be challenging but not so advanced as to put her off entirely.  The stories (there are 3) were of a length that she felt the need to pause in the middle, but interesting enough to her that she persevered in reading the book through, twice.  I call that a win and I would slip another of the series into her library book pile.

What are you reading this month?

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