book list · juvenile lit · recommend · young adult lit

{book list} n’s summer reading recs (pt2)

Yesterday, Natalya began her list of 20 summer reading recommendations, and today we list the second set of ten. These books are in no particular order, and they range across age and content. Enjoy!  ~L


Yes! Your favorite contributor on the blog is back! (And will hopefully keep updating and more lists and reviews.) This time around I have created a list of some of the best reads for summertime. They are listed from first to twentieth using the criteria of how light (cheerful) or humorous, how thick, how easy to read, and how enjoyable the book is overall. All the books are fantastic, even the last one is great, so you just read them all, or pick the ones that seem to appeal to you. Enjoy and continue to have a wonderful summer!

11. Bridge to Terabithiaby Katherine Paterson (HarperCollins 1977).

I know I promised to stay light, but here I go, a horribly sad book. But it is truly a classic and is still the perfect summer book, a book about two children becoming friends, whose imagination that makes you truly believe in magic. So creative and inspiring, if not bitter- really, really, bitter-sweet, it still ends perfectly–happily even.

12. Alex and the Ironic Gentlemanby Adrienne Kress (Weinstein Books 2007).

A longtime favorite, as you already probably know, I find that this book is readable in every season! But fitting my criteria, it is once more on my list, as it is filled with odd circumstances. Adrienne Kress’ characters absolutely sparkle with extraordinary personalities and her plot never ceases to amaze, no matter how many times you read it–500 times for me and I still grin with pleasure, even though I’ve memorized most of it. It really is the perfect summer adventure story.

13. School of Fear(book1) by Gitty Daneshvari (Little, Brown Books 2009).

Despite its name, this book is a light, off-the-wall, and funny read about a group of children going to a “school” to “cure” their phobias. The school is peculiar and they are not impressed by its methods, as none of them are working, but when tragedy hits and they suspect foul play. Being the only ones that can help, can they set aside their fears? A truly hilarious adventure will make you glad you read it.

[N’s omphaloskepsis review]

14. Page by Paigeby Laura Lee Gulledge (Abrams 2011)

This book is on the line between a graphic novel and a notebook full of illustrations used by our main character to express herself, as she finds a path toward opening up to her new friends, learning to ask for help, and opening up more as they spread joy through art and creativity by projects throughout the city. The author’s own unique vision and creativity makes this book a very enjoyable read.

[omphaloskepsis review]

15. Remarkableby Lizzie K. Foley (Dial 2012)

This is a fun, wonky book where in the town of Remarkable, everybody is remarkable at something, except our main character. This book has a wandering plot, with random coincidences finding connection to form a mystery that only Jane can solve with her unremarkableness. This is just a truly fun story, something light to read.

[omphaloskepsis review]

16. Nationby Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins 2008)

This book is one of friendship and some love, of responsibility and faith towards a religion. After his clan is swept out by a huge wave, a young boy is left on his home island, alone. A young girl, from England is the only survivor of a shipwreck. Speaking different languages and having different cultures, they are speaking to each other only through pictures and motions. Once other survivors come to the island, the pair soon has their own clan to take care of, and with it problems. Reading the two’s interactions is enjoyable and the author has a way of keeping the story fairly light, while still having deep morals.

17. A Tale of Two Castlesby Gail Carson Levine (HarperTeen 2011).

When you hear Gail Carson Levine’s name, you know the story ought to be good. In this book, she creates an adventure where her main character, hoping to be an actor, has to solve a mystery in the castle with only the aid of the dragon. Her brave, witty characters make this read yet another success.

18. The Tiger Risingby Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick 2002).

Though I promised to keep this list light, I could not help but add this fairly sad story by Kate DiCamill. It is a beautifully written book, full of beautiful things and ugly lives and the connection of a girl and a boy held together by a beautiful discovery, and ending with a realistic action of love. A warning: if you want to avoid something sad, I would not read this this season. But it truly is elegantly written story, unfortunately, a little overshadowed by the brilliance and popularity of her other books. If you don’t mind a few tears, you should read this book.

19. The Princess Brideby William Goldman (Ballantine 1973).

You might be familiar with this movie, it has originated from a book, and it is equally enjoyable, I can assure you. The book is a bit lengthy, exceeding one of my criteria, but it is a book of true love, and has some of the best characters and plots I have read.

20. Kingdom Keepers series (Disney After Dark, book 1) by Ridley Pearson (Disney Press 2005).

This adventure does have a little bit of a sinister side, but as long as you are not scared easily and don’t read it before bed you will be fine. The creativity of the author of the conflict is amazing and it is truly a classic, but different adventure.

author creature feature

{author} adrienne kress

I have posted on favorite illustrators, costume designers and directors. I was thinking about posting on favorite authors, but not just any of my favorite authors, but those with whom I want more readers to become familiar. This first post for this feature is a bit of a cheat, but a good one.

For last year’s TalyaWren zine, author Adrienne Kress agreed to an interview with the daughter. I translated those pages into a png file, just right click the file and open in a new tab: kress interview 1.png There are images, an intro by Natalya, a lovely interview, and brief reviews of the books referenced.

Ms. Kress has written an essay for The Girl who was on Fire, has a story in Corsets & Clockwork: Steampunk Romance stories, and has a new (steampunk) YA book coming out in December: The Friday Society; she does Steampunk well. Alex and the Ironic Gentleman is still a favorite of Natalya’s, and its companion Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate is not too shabby either.


links to Adrienne’s website and blog.

her page at Weinstein Books (from where the above image hails and whose photo originated in Tom Tkatch’s camera.)

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · Tales · Uncategorized

Cohagan and The Lost Children

Found this one browsing the Library shelves with the daughter.

Was caught by the title and the ominous looking building.

And then there were the 387 pairs of gloves.

The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan

Aladdin (Simon&Schuster) 2010.

313 pages (hardback).

Josephine Russing owns 387 pairs of gloves. She’s given a new pair every week by her father, a sullen man known best for his insistence that the citizens in town wear gloves at all times.

A world away, the children of Gulm have been taken. No one knows where they might be, except the mysterious and terrifying leader of the land: The Master. He rules with an iron fist, using two grotesque creatures to enforce his terrible reign.

When a peculiar boy named Fargus shows up on Josephine’s property and then disappears soon afterward, she follows him without a second thought and finds herself magically transported to Gulm.

After Fargus introduces her to his tough-as-nails friend Ida, the three of them set off on an adventure that will test everything Josephine has ever thought about the rules of the universe, leading to a revelation about the truth of the land of Gulm, and of Josephine’s own life back home.~publisher’s comments.

I was fairly certain The Lost Children, the debut novel by Carolyn Cohagan, was going to have the charming ridiculousness that I enjoy in a Children’s book—well, actually any book. I was right. To my continual delight there are plenty of strange quirks to keep me transported.

The narrative is third person, and limited based on whichever character point-of-view the story requires. A change in chapter marks the change in point-of-view. It isn’t difficult.  Josephine is the protagonist, but the other characters lift from the page via their own turns at story-telling. Cohagan carries the movement of the novel off smoothly.

Cohagan writes a fairly dark and perilous tale and I am thinking of putting her villains up in the top ten of the Most Creepy and Chillingly Invented Villains in Juvenile Literature; a high honor to be sure. The Master has me in mind of the Ironic Gentleman from Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress. The Brothers, the aforementioned “grotesque creatures,” are marvelous creations!

It is not just the villains are wonderfully realized, but the others in the cast are engaging as well. Most interesting is how the protagonist Josephine comes out as the least concrete character of them all; not saying she is flat by any means, just that the others are so much more the draw. Josephine is so much in the “becoming” stage that she is hard to anticipate—not a bad thing, just notable. Indeed, much of the story is about Josephine coming into herself, drawn away from the negligence of her own reality.

Josephine falls through a “crack,” a moment that reads like a bit of a Lucy Pevensie, Dorothy, Alice concoction. From here, there is no realization that family and friendship is important, we already know this from before falling through the “crack,” but Josephine gets to participate in the actualization of this idea. If anything, she understands that she has to be more assertive, that she needs to fight for what she needs and wants. This other place equips her in a sense, at the very least it rescues her.

I won’t read much more into themes or meanings. The adventure is entertaining, creepy and daring, and holds a nice turn at the end. One of those you don’t think about until the author shows you and you say, “of course. How nicely done, the way you sneaked up on me.”


Cohagan has a definite voice of her own that fans of Kress and Roald Dahl will appreciate; yet the dark edges to her tale is more Cornelia Funke or Kate DiCamillo. The Lost Children favors the darkling humor not at all and the baldly unpleasant realities of Tales and real life more. A sense of whimsy still pervades. And a sense of the theatrical. I was not surprised to read that Cohagan grew up in Theatre, and continues to.  By theatrical, I am inferring that guarantee of brilliant chapter endings and characters with presence (very expressive) and well-timed entrances and exits.

The Lost children is an engaging story that is wonderfully imaginative, decisively original. The 313 pages are light and easy to turn. And the voice begs a read-aloud, even if the reader is alone in a room. There is a lot of sadness but hope as well; a sense of healing in the relationships we do have, even as we linger over the ones lost. There is great deal of humor and a sweetness to balance out the less glittery elements of the story. The proposed audience is 8-12 and the novel seems to keep that younger end in mind. The Lost Children is a welcome book for those anticipating the slightly more perilous adventures found in works by Adrienne Kress, Francis Hardinge, Cornelia Funke… If past 8, still include this one in the to-be-read pile. I’m am adding it to the daughter’s already and was glad to have enjoyed it myself.


note: some would consider this in relation to their child (if not themselves): a character’s parents are shot and killed, another’s father drowns himself out of grief, The Master’s mother’s death is quite hideously imagined. A part of a tale, a fact but not dwelt upon. I suppose there is a moment of torture, just remembered that. There are terrifying figures, Cohagan sets a fine mood of fear and impending doom. I would still uphold the as-young-as-eight age, but I am aware that some would distrust me for not adding a few “warnings.”

For boys and girls alike. There are plenty of things to delightfully gross a body out : snot, refuse-filled moat, and pigeon droppings to name a few.

If you like Alex and the Ironic Gentleman you will like this… and if you haven’t read Alex than you are missing out; it has a bit of an Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) feel that even those who don’t actually care for Alice might still enjoy.