Fantastically fantastic fantasy

Tween Books - September 2005


Sandi Pedersen

Merrian-Webster’s Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language define fantasy as:

1. the creative imagination; unrestrained fancy

2. fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements

3. imagination that is more or less coherent, yet unrestricted by reality

4. to imagine; visualize

In my mind, fantasy is getting lost in the totally believable, totally terrific imaginary world of these very fun books that are, in my opinion, completely "unrestricted by reality."

SUMMERLAND, by Michael Chabon, Hyperion Books for Children, $22.95 hardcover, $8.95 paperback; ages 9-12.

Eleven-year-old Ethan Feld finds himself, along with his friends, on a mission to save Summerland and, ultimately, the world. And the only way for good to triumph over evil is through baseball. But Ethan is the self-proclaimed worst baseball player in the world. This story is packed with magic, rich with characters, vivid in detail and championed by America’s favorite pastime.

Motivated readers will love getting wrapped up in this book and will not be intimidated by its length, but it also can be a great choice for families to read and enjoy together.

DIARY OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER, by Esmé Raji Codell, Hyperion Books for Children, $14.99; ages 9-12.

Hunky Dory is a young witch who lives among the characters of our favorite fairy tales. Hunky attends the christening of Princess Aurora, has a crush on Rumpelstiltskin, can’t understand why Goldilocks thinks it is OK to enter without knocking and built her house out of chocolate chip cookie dough because it tastes much better than gingerbread. Hunky’s mother brags that Hunky will be the wickedest witch wherever the four winds blow, but Hunky has her own ideas.

This is a laugh-out-loud, easy-to-read book that offers another side to each fairy tale, based on the tales of Hunky Dory the F. G. (fairy godmother). All ages will enjoy it.

THE LAST OF THE SKY PIRATES, by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart, Random House Children’s books, $12.95; ages 10-12.

The Knight Librarians are at war with the Guardians of Night for control of the Edge. Our boy hero, Rook, is sent out on a fact-gathering mission into the Deepwoods, where he meets creatures with names such as logworms, muglumps, shrykes and banderbears. The imagination in this book is amazing. The illustrations are great. I could not stop reading. This is the fifth in a series and I will definitely go back and start at the beginning.

Some parts of this series are very dark and may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.

SPOOK’S SHACK, by Wendy Orr, Allen & Unwin, $6.95; ages 9-12.

Finn’s parents are going to New York and Finn is dumped in the middle of nowhere, stuck for the summer with his Great Aunt Agatha. Finn is positive he is destined for a summer of boredom until he finds a mysterious shack in the woods. The owner of the shack is Jack Henry, a ghost who has been dead for 100 years, and his ghost dog, Nipper. Finn teaches Jack Henry about cell phones, refrigerators and computer games. Jack Henry teaches Finn how to communicate with the animals and how to feel what they are feeling. Finn gets a lesson about the gold rush and greed. Jack Henry learns how to make up for old evil deeds.

Next time your mom makes you go visit your own Aunt Agatha, think about Finn and let your visit become an adventure.

ARTHUR AND THE FORBIDDEN CITY, by Luc Besson, HarperCollins Children’s Books, $15.99; ages 9-12.

Arthur is on a quest to save his grandmother’s house, to find his grandfather and to prove his worthiness to the beautiful Princess Selenia. That’s a lot of stuff going on for a 10-year-old boy who is only a half-inch tall and lost in the land of the Minimoys. The secret land Arthur has discovered is under the garden of his grandparents’ house. His grandfather is the only one who can help and he has been missing for four years.

This is the second book in the series, easy and fun to read and soon to be a movie.

MAGIC BY THE BOOK, by Nina Bernstein, Farrar Straus and Giroux, $17; ages 10 and up.

Our young characters Anne, Emily and Will find themselves in a land of stories. Aided by a mysterious library book they don’t remember checking out, the boundaries between the real world and the world of the stories become one. They find themselves in Sherwood Forest, battling giant bugs and chasing a villain through a scene from War and Peace. By using their memories of the real stories, they are able to conquer exciting and dangerous situations, enjoy the adventures and find their way home.

After you read this book, you will know for sure that reading is good for you. The bits and pieces you remember from all those books you’ve read will come in handy next time you find yourself up against mysterious, evil bad guys.

THE SISTERS GRIMM: THE FAIRY-TALE DETECTIVES, BOOK #1, by Michael Buckley, Abrams Books for Young Readers, $14.95; ages 9-12.

On their first day with Grandma, Sabrina and Daphne investigate a house that looks like it has been stepped on by a giant and meet Mayor Charming and three policemen who look like pigs. When Grandma is kidnapped by the giant, the sisters get help from the Magic Mirror, ride a magic carpet and transport themselves by way of red, glittery shoe power. Very soon, the sisters learn they are part of the Grimm family legacy and the mysterious fun has just begun.

This is the first in what promises to be a very fun series. The first chapter of the second book can be found at the end of this book.

Sandi Pedersen is the mother of four and online editor for Chicago Parent.


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