Posts tagged ‘novel’

September 7, 2011

Book Review: The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

by stryson

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple – Karen Cushman

Recommended for: early middle school

I fell in love with Karen Cushman’s writing as a teenager, when I first came across her novel, Catherine, Called Birdy.  I was slightly disappointed by The Midwife’s Apprentice, but I absolutely adored The Ballad of Lucy Whipple.

Summary:  California Morning “Lucy” Whipple is a twelve year old girl who finds herself in California despite her best intentions and efforts to the contrary.  Following through on an old dream, her mother packed the entire family up and moved them to Lucky Diggins, California, after Lucy’s Pa died.  We follow Lucy’s experiences as she learns to cope with her new living situation, as she pines for her hometown in Massachusetts, and as she grows into a strong young woman.

I love historical fiction, and I was incredibly disappointed by living in California when I moved there, so this book was a natural fit for me. Thankfully, I found it was a good fit for my fifth grade reading class last year, as well.  The kids really got into the Old West setting, and could relate closely with Lucy’s struggles.  Common themes of family and responsibility carry through well.  I used the Novel Unit book for homework questions and some guidance for discussions and vocabulary, and it all went quite well.

You can view the Amazon page for the book here: The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

The Amazon page for the Novel Unit books are here: Teacher’s Guide and Student Packet.

Finally, the other Karen Cushman books I’ve read: Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice.











July 30, 2011

Book Review: The Princess and the Hound

by stryson

The Princess and the Hound – Mette Ivie Harrison

Recommended for: teen

This book was not quite what I was expecting. The title suggests that the book will center around a princess. The back cover suggests that it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with the Beast as a woman. The story really is neither, though that does not entirely prevent it from being an enjoyable read.

Summary: We open to find ourselves in a land where magic is not only possible, but a specific kind of magic involved in communication with animals is of particular concern. Local people, kings and commoners alike, fear this “animal magic,” and persecute those who possess this power. The first catch we encounter? The queen of the land and her son both have this animal  magic and are forced to hide it.  Indeed, very shortly into the tale, the queen dies as a result of her magic – not from an angry mob, but from the withdrawl effects she suffers while concealing her gift. Left alone with his father, who does not truly understand his son or his son’s gift at this point, the boy grows and becomes educated as a prince would expect to be. Soon he finds himself bethrothed to the princess of a rival kingdom, part of a peace agreement between the two nations. He resolutely insists that he is fine with this situation, as he’s closed off his affections since the death of his mother.  Likewise, the embittered, mistreated princess he is to marry has no illusions of ever being loved. The prince, however, finds himself intrigued by her, particularly because of her close companionship with her hound. Soon we find that she, too, has something to hide…

I’m particularly drawn to fractured fairy tales, retellings of fairy tales, and fantasy in general, so I expected to enjoy this story. It was largely well-written, with well-developed characters, but I would’ve liked a more dramatic climax to the book. It’d be a good book to use to encourage a reluctant reader interested in fantasy, and could easily spur a conversation about mob mentality and prejudice.

If you’re interested in reading this book for yourself, you can purchase a copy here.