Here is what I had written on my even-less-sensical blog “the coloring book.” The excerpt is from March 27, 2009 posting, “Frivolity.”
“I was alarmed, in searching my blog, that I hadn’t mentioned the first book to which the second book that I read belonged. I hadn’t told you about R.L. LaFever’s Theodosia books. Well, I suppose she isn’t for everybody, but when has that stopped me.
“The first book is called Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, and the second is Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. As you know by now, I like stories with good female protagonists (if the protagonist is female, and good as I define it from my somewhat feminist viewpoint). Theodosia is wonderful. She is extremely intelligent, resourceful, and determined. She is also a little girl who wants her parents attention, love, and affection. LaFevers does well to create a uniquely interesting 10-11 year-old-girl; of course the setting helps.
“The books are early 1900s London, England. Theodosia’s father is head curator (runs) the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, and her mother is an American Archaeologist whose primary interests are Egyptology. The books are steeped in Egyptian legend and lore. Theodosia not only knows a great deal on the subject, but she has special abilities: most particularly her sensitivity to the presence of dark magic (evil spirits, curses, etc) that surround the objects entering the museum.
“Trouble follows Theodosia, and complications arise; such is adventure. The protagonist makes for a great narrator and is the source of the humor in the book. I like her dry wit, which finds its premise in the fact that she is just a child, and that this is set in a prim and proper society.
“I mention Theodosia, but there are plenty of other well-rounded characters as well. (I like the street urchin Will, Theodosia’s cat Isis, and Grandmother Throckmorton in particular.) All are well-imagined and designed to create drama and adventure.
“The book is sold as independent-reader, 8-12. Despite the fact that I am 30 and found it amusing (alright, I love them), I am guessing the earlier end of that age range would appreciate it best. 3rd and 4th grade? if your young reader is already reading a little ahead. But I should bring up the fact that peril is very present in these books. Theodosia develops some serious enemies by the end of the first book, who will reappear as terrifying figures in the second. Also, Egyptian mythology and history is not rosy–there are mummies and jackals and snakes, etc.
“I like the books (I am assuming there will be more): I like the time period, the subject matter, the humor, and its well-paced, well-crafted adventure. I agree with the School Library Journal when they say that Theodosia is “A combination of Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones.” They sum it up well.”
What I found for Esperanza Rising? September 25, 2009 “End of Summer Reading” post off ‘the coloring book’, where I highlighted (in brevity) some of the books I had read. So, to follow is the brief commentary on Esperanza Rising among a few others I decided to go ahead and copy/paste.
“Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan. I picked this up from an end-cap and thought it sounded charming. A girl who makes lists, how could I resist? And it was charming, and heart-wrenching. I cried, but she doesn’t leave you to linger over the sad parts, but the triumphant moments of a brave little girl and her incredible brother and grandmother. It gives true glimpses into the real world, the cruel difficulty of it, and is determined to find beauty. A fairly quick read, but recommended for perusal by parent unless your child is already 10.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. This was written and awarded before Becoming but I read it second because of my affinity for the first. Life is not easy in this book either, and it truly is a fairytale in that sense. The fact that the author draws from a reality her own Abuelita faced makes it richer, but is not necessary to know. The story is complete in itself…and is very informative. A good follow-up to this book would be to pursue the times and temperament in which the story is set.
“The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. another end-cap find. Wonderful main character set in an interesting time for such a strong female lead…and the fact that she is so young. I like the authors premise, the young sister of Sherlock Holmes. It is fun, and interesting, and makes for great conversation on patriarchal societies and cultural ideologies. Really, I think it frames important historical facts to the benefit of an intelligent and resourceful heroine. Oh, and the mysteries are good too. There are 4 so far, and are best read in order.”