Friday, July 03, 2009


THE GENIE SCHEME by Kimberly K. Jones (McElderbery)
The genie knit her brow. "So why do you call yourself poor?" She gestured around the room. "You have a nice place to live, warm clothes, food. Where's the poor part?"

"Well, I'd like to order out for pizza whenever I want to. Everybody else does. Do you know that I've never been to Disney World?" Janna continued, unaware of the odd look that crossed the genie's face. "I don't even have an iPod, and we don't get cable."

"How do you ever survive?"
No blanket wishes ("Make everybody nice to me"). No wishes to create emotions in yourself...or others. And no cash gifts in excess of twelve thousand dollars (darn that IRS). Apart from these minor limitations, when a bag lady who turns out to be a genie is poised to return a small kindness, the sky's the limit for a little girl grousing at the Goodwill over having to buy a used coat. Though the number of wishes are limitless, the magic "wattage" isn't. Impulsive Jenna quickly learns the dangers of frittering away what's been given to the world of magic, and in her ordinary life as well. Witty, natural repartee is a face-paced pleasure, and the modern backdrop will be readily recognizable to readers. A straightforward message seems more timely than heavy-handed; we wish that the spoiled Jenna who starts the book would be different at the end, and that wish gets granted, too. The theme of appreciation and the idea that what we get might take away from others is high-calorie food for thought, and fodder for great book club discussion. Fans of the strong realistic fiction style of Claudia Mills, the fantasy arc of Bill Brittain's THE WISH GIVER, the resonant moral code underlying Robert D. San Souci's THE TALKING EGGS and Hunky Dory's snarky streak in DIARY OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER will find that poof! The wish for a new favorite author has been granted. (11 and up)

Also of interest:
More novels to make your summer reading wishes come true.

WISHWORKS INC. by Stephanie Tolan (Arthur Levine/Scholastic)
As the new kid in town, with parents who have split up and a bully on the prowl, Max is naturally a boy with lots of wishes and dreams...the perfect customer for the store we all dream of, one that grants our fondest desires. In a world with no guarantees, how reassuring to come across a store that offers just that! This story has some comfortable, well-worn motifs (the tough kid with the red buzz cut a la A Christmas Story, boy-gets dog-boy-loses-dog, one wish left to make things right), simple yet sensitively shared, with special appeal to boys and easy enough for new chapter book readers in second and third grade to approach independently with success. What would you wish for in such a store? I have a feeling this award-winning author will plan for more customers to ring that bell over the door. (7 and up)

HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury) All right, a little more young adult than our usual fare here (and if I could get my prude on, why publishers insist on showing adolescent girls' midriffs suggestively on covers I do not know, I'm sure its appealing on some level but does Gloria Steinem have to die a thousand deaths to satisfy marketing?). Still, the pull into the story is strong; who could resist the concept of a personal fairy, kind of like Philip Pullman's daemons, only flightier? The hitch is you don't get to choose; maybe you'll be lucky enough to be paired wit an All-the-Boys-Like-You fairy, or a fairy that can help you find all the deals when you shop, one who can help you score on a team or pass a test, or even a fairy who impersonates you so you can loll about in bed with a good book? Or maybe you'll be like Charlie, stuck with a parking fairy when she doesn't even drive. If your personal good luck charm isn't bringing you the luck you need, perhaps it's time to pair up with someone whose fairy can help you fare better...but maybe it takes more than that to make and keep a friend. Gender-emancipated roles and active, sporty kids make this book fresh and appealing, and the buzzy imagination and humor don't hurt, either. (12 and up)

A FINDER'S MAGIC by Philippa Pearce, illustrated by Helen Craig (Candlewick)
Old Miss Gammer thought. "I could start the story: 'Once Upon a Time..."
"No, no! That makes it sound like a fairy story, but everything really did happen. Here. Today."
"So perhaps I should just begin: 'There was a boy...'"
"That's it. And at the very end of your story can be my picture of the cream tea party---or the boy and his dog together again."
Old Miss Gammer said, "I think the writer should have the last word, or words."
Miss Mousy said, "Oh?" Then, "What are these last special words?"
"Only two," said Miss Gammer.
Ohh, nice, nice, nice, here's an author who knows what she's doing, who tastes her sentences on her own tongue before she serves them to others, like a fine chef who delivers a delicious read-aloud dish. A magical finder leads Till on a quest to find his lost dog, encountering different characters on the quest as one would come across new friends on a meandering stroll. A charming, old-fashioned pace to the story is reminiscent of the great Eleanor Farjeon's style in ELSIE PIDDOCK SKIPS IN HER SLEEP, or even Kate DiCamillo's TALE OF DESPEREAUX, in those shadowy moments when someone is just learning about the world, and hoping it is good. This last book written by the beloved British author was written for her grandsons, and it is such a special pleasure to have a gentle story with a male protagonist; this book is indeed a find. (7 and up)

Though not a novel, it's worth noting the release of pun-master Margie Palatini's GONE WITH THE WAND, illustrated by Brian Ajhar (Orchard Books), perhaps the author's best work to date. When it seems that fairy godmother Bernice Sparklestein is burned out ("Frankly, it looked like she didn't have enough bippidy left in her to salacadoo one more pumpkin"), a tooth fairy steps in with some career counseling, facilitating a comeback that requires more than the simple wave of a wand. Whew! Well, after all, what are friends for? Wacky, caricatured illustrations are the most fun since Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger's THE WIZARD, THE FAIRY AND THE MAGIC CHICKEN, and that's a lot of fun. (5 and up)

And wait, wait! That reminds me of an oldie but marvelous-ie: MOLLY AND THE MAGIC WISHBONE by Barbara McClintock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) When Mama is in bed with a bad cold, helpful Molly goes out to buy fish for the family's dinner, and ends up meeting her fairy godmother who advises her to save the bone she finds in her portion and use it for one magic wish of her choice. Her brothers and sisters have many exciting suggestions which are elegantly illustrated on a double-page spread, but Molly yields not to temptation. In the days that follow many occasions arise that warrant a good wish, but Molly prudently solves the problems in other ways. What makes Molly finally use her wish? Barbara McClintock deserves more recognition as an illustrator, exercising a cross between the mastery, imagination and elegance of John Tenniel (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and the sweetness and strong characterization of Ernest Shepard (Wind in the Willows). The story is loosely based on the Charles Dickens' story "The Magic Fishbone," which is cleverly alluded to in the cover illustration depicting Dickens' "Fresh Fish" shop. If I had that wishbone, I'd wish this book was back in print, or that we read aloud such perfect stories so much that they'd never go out. It's available used in the meantime. (6 and up)

On a personal note:
Have you seen this wonderful post from gifted author and beautiful lady Laini Taylor about where fairies live? Just look at this picture from the Ann Arbor Public Library, on the folk and fairy tale shelf. Oh, come on!!! So great!!!!!!!

Also check out the cute little fairy doors from Red Shoes. Note to self: improve real estate in the PlanetEsme Bookroom to welcome the little people. (And this time, I don't mean the children.)

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Amy@Let's Explore said...

These books are perfect for my girls and nieces - thanks for the recommendations! :)

Chandra said...

I'm so thrilled to see Barbara McClintock featured on your blog! She is one of my absolute favorite author/illustrators! I fell in love first when I read Dahlia and I've loved everything else I've read so far. Another favorite is Adele and Simon and The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle. Also, since I've never commented before I wanted to tell you how fabulous I think your blog is! Thanks for all the hard work you put into it!! It's a wonderful thing you're doing!

Rawley said...

Hi Esme! A FINDERS MAGIC has been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust for quite some time, but I believe you've just saved it from a hard case of forgotton-book-syndrome.
*Also...I just finished reading the copy of DIARY OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER that you sent earlier this year. (Again, I tend to stack and forget...) LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it! Oh, how I wish I had moved it to the top of my "to-read" pile in April when we were in the throes of our fairy tale unit. Can't wait to share it with my students next year! We are making Booger Cookies this weekend--I think my husband is more excited than the 7-year-old. Do you mind if I post the recipe on Sweet Reads?

Claudia said...

What a grand blog. I write plays and just finished adapting THE MAGIC FISHBONE for young students. I want to read them all!

KSP said...

For some really fun fairy stuff, check out

bookshelves said...

It's a good thing for children to have their own bookshelf since they are little. They will later on appreciate reading more.

margie palatini said...

Thanks for your great review, Esme. Bernice and Edith are smiling too. A nice salacadoo.

Stories for Kids said...

Thank you for recommending these books. It looks like I will have to expand my kids book shelf


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