Review: The House with Chicken Legs

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.

33832945Wow.

I was surprised when this book arrived from the library to see that it was classified as children’s. I was not sure what this would mean in terms of my enjoyment of the book. However my one word  review is WOW.

This book was folk tale and fairy tale all rolled into one. It was amazing. It follows the story of 12 year old Marinka who feels like she does not belong in her grandmothers world, or the world of Benji or Nina. At it’s heart this is a book of self discovery that leaves Marinka firmly knowing where she belongs.

Although this book is much lighter than The weight of a thousand feathers or Moonrise I think that this may be my favourite book from the longlist that I have read to date. It feels like the most relatable. We have all felt that sense of isolation before, not really sure if or how we belong. For Marinka, the fantasy nature of the story left her with bigger issues to contend with than most of us. But not only did she battle with her loneliness but with her physical isolation and also the bigger worry about whether or not she belonged and her destiny was right for her.

Marinka in the book is 12 years old, but as a 35 year old I could relate to her. My eight year old daughter started reading this book, although did not get far, I would have been interested to know how she related to the character.

Sophie Anderson writes with so much compassion. My heart was absolutely breaking for the character of Marinka in the beginning.  But also for the old Yaga and both houses. I loved the epilogue, and the finding of a place to belong.

This book would be great for young readers and would fit in so well to a study of fairy tales and what makes a fairy tale. I really cannot recommend it enough!

Mrs K
Genre: Folk Tale, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, adolescent fiction, teenage fiction, family, adventure

 

Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood. Written by Melissa Albert

Ok. So while I was reading this book I quite enjoyed it. However the longer that it has been since I read it, the more I question if I really did enjoy it.

This book was about fairy tales. I enjoyed the early part with the mystery, however the speed and the wildness of the ending was less appealing.

I am fascinated though by the nature of fairy tales and their cult following.

I feel a little disappointed that I don’t have more to say about this book. It has been a week since I finished it, and I barely remember anything. (Despite having written some notes about it while camping).

I wonder if actually my true thoughts can be summed up when I consider that when I saw the #1 next to it when I clicked onto goodreads my first thought was – well I will not be reading any more!!

Overall it was an enjoyable read, but nothing to write home about!

Mrs K

Genre: fantasy, young adult, speculative fiction, fiction.

Review: Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School)

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School #1) by Jen Calonita

This popped up on my suggested Kindle reads the other day when I was purchasing some 21996359other books, and I was intrigued enough to buy it. Having finished Princess Thieves this morning I was keen to continue with my fairy tale theme and chose to read this next.

I really struggled with a suggested age group, I see that on Good reads, it is suggested as a Middle School read (Which I believe is age 11-14 roughly). I thought that there were definite themes that could apply to 14 year olds, every so often it read very simply, and reminded me of the books I read my daughter (6 years old).

Despite this though I really loved this book. It was not so much a retelling of fairy tale but was instead a continuation of multiple well know fairy tales. I think it really goes to show the role of fairy tales in literature, not just having to be for children. Once upon a time has certainly done this lately, and Princess Thieves also offered a nice adult interpretation.

When authors other than Disney take over, we also get to see some of the darkness that was behind the original Grimm brother fairy tales.

I think one of the things that I liked most about Flunked was that the hero was not one of the princesses, but a mere human. Gilly was an awesome heroine. I loved her at the beginning as a common thief, but I possible loved her even more at the end, as she had in fact reformed.

Gilly our heroine was also our narrator, and she felt like a genuine, reliable narrator who also had a great sense of humor. One of the things that I really enjoyed was that this story took you for a fast paced adventure, but still managed to surprise me. It steered away from being cliche and instead offered a beautiful action packed story with a very strong moral message at the end.

Despite it being set for a younger age group than I initially expected I think I will seek out the sequel.

In the classroom, it would be great as part of a fairy tale unit or connections report, for year 9-11 students, especially if paired with some more complex texts, such as episodes of Once Upon A Time, or other novels. So many ideas swirling to make this unit a reality!

Mrs K

Genre: Pre-teen fiction, speculative fiction, fairy tales, adventure, mystery, magic

Review: The Princess Thieves (New Century)

The Princess Thieves (New Century) By Alexander Shaw

download (1)So after my mammoth effort of a few weeks ago I needed a break before I read anything else! (And after reading at least one book a day for nearly two weeks I needed to do things like housework!)

So work finally quietened down and I found myself a new novel. Or rather my husband found me a new novel. (Disclaimer: although both my husband and I are both avid readers, and even tend to read from the same genre we are often at different ends of the genre and rarely read the same books – so if we insist that the other reads something – then it has to be something good.)

The Princess Thieves was originally in audio book format – and that was how my husband ‘read’ the book. I am very pleased though to have read the novel adaption. It has been a long time since I have laughed out loud with a book! (Yeah I was THAT crazy lady!) and was screen-shoting and sending snaps to my friends as fast as I could.

This book has EVERYTHING! As I said it is absolutely laugh out loud funny, but it also offers everything else you could want from a fantasy adventure book. There is a princess, and a bodyguard, they visit Camelot, Robin Hood is there, and while you are busy enjoying all the zany fun along the way suddenly you find yourself at an ending that really leaves you an emotional wreck and questioning everything you know.

I struggled a little bit at the beginning, as we were introduced to each group of people, each group felt a little disconnected and I was left a little confused. However I instantly liked the characters, especially the Princess, Viola, Oberon and Robin.

The fourth wall breaking was an interesting feature, and one that I definitely feel was probably more effective in the audio version. My favorite character over all was actually Viola. I liked that she really seemed to know the balance of looking after the princess but also allowing her to live life and do things that she wanted.

The world that the book takes place in was very well described, some of my favorite moments were the tunnels inside the castle, and the description around there.

I feel like I need to share some of my favorite lines as I really did love them so much!

I felt that there was a really balanced approach to gender in this novel. Something that I really appreciated, this moment below literally had me laughing out loud, it felt so real, yet also real within the world of the book.

“Watch your tone, woman.”

“You just wasted four seconds gawping at my rear” she called back without turning “Toodle-pip”

From the same tone I found this quote below immensely thought provoking.

“I merely decided to harness female energy this time around. It felt like the appropriate course of action in this proud, masculine society. Being a woman felt… right.”

To me it has aspects of being able to go against the norm, and perhaps stand out a little bit. But it also told a story to me about power. As the female characters in the book have so much power, within their masculine world, it shows that you can indeed stand up and be who you want, the world does not have to hold you back.

The quote below really tickled my fancy as an English teacher, so often we get those over written stories about things that happen in a breath-taking flash… I also love though that it felt like Shaw was able to laugh at himself a little bit with lines like this.

In a breath-taking flash…

Absolutely bugger-all happened.

Absolutely nothing profound to this quote – other than this is perhaps the best  (and most accurate!) description of beer that I have ever heard in my life!

“A pint of your least uriney beer please, good sir.”

Overall, the ending of the book was the most powerful, it was a nice reminder that change, real genuine change can happen with the smallest little spark. It also showed that a real happily ever after tale, comes about only when you take action and make it happen.

The afterward by the author also nicely linked these ideas to the sometimes scary world that we are currently living in.

In terms of teaching – I love the idea of doing a connections report around fairy tales. There could be some amazing conversation about if the messages are still relevant to children/teenagers today, and how perhaps we could adapt them. A book like this would also go amazingly alongside poetry such as “Leaving Prince Charming Behind”, and looking at other re-tellings of classic fairy tales. I think they still have such a powerful message, and could be so interesting to study as a class.

Overall – you should definitely read this book. Highly recommended!

Mrs K

Genre: Speculative fiction, fairy tales, fiction, adolescent fiction,