Tag Archives: Magic

A Lesson in Narrative Voice

I have survived another holiday season. I apologize for my self-imposed blogging silence. I have tons of posts to write and have not settled down to write them.  Until now.

I finished a book, way back in December, called, The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (I have to look up how to spell Pseudonymous every single time I write it).  The book is quite enjoyable (a great first book to the series). It follows two  precocious children, Cass and Max-Ernest. The book (I will refer to it as “the book” because it has a long title) is about kids solving a mystery and saving the day but it is also about the existence and even intrusion of narrative voice.

In general, the narrator in a book can blend so perfectly into the storytelling that you have to remind yourself someone or something is telling the story and it is NOT the author.  Sometimes the narrator is a character, well the narrator is always a character, but sometimes it is a character in which the action is happening directly to.  And sometimes the narrator is just there, hovering and watching the characters from above.  Understanding the importance of the narrator was key in my literature education. The Name of This Books is Secret is a wonderful example of narrative voice and specifically unreliable/ridiculous narration. The narrator is simply hilarious (even when s/he does not mean to be).

Cassandra (also known as Cass), the survivalist enthusiast, and Max-Ernest, the non-stop talker, join forces to discover the secret hidden in a box called The Symphony of Smells, or at least they try to discover the secret. The box leads them to discover the evil workings and diabolical plans of Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L. The book is filled with adventure, intrigue, and a great sense of humor. Read it and be prepared to get hooked.

Age Group: 8/9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy / Mystery
Themes: Magic, Friendship, Discovery, Secrets
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group



Filed under Middle Grade Books

Adventure, Fantasy & Jim Dale = The Emerald Atlas


I love listening to audiobooks (as you may have discovered from a previous post, Listening to Words). When I found out that Jim Dale, the reader for the Harry Potter audio series, narrated a new book called The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, I practically squealed with excitement. I had heard great things about The Emerald Atlas (especially from Erin at Random Acts of Reading). I was excited to read the book, but learning of the audiobook I became even more excited. I was not disappointed.

The Emerald Atlas is delightful. Maybe delightful is not quite the right adjective. “Delightful” makes it sound unassuming and “nice.” The Emerald Atlas is exciting, intriguing and wonderfully written.

The Emerald Atlas is about three precocious siblings who are whisked away from their parents at a very young age to protect them from a merciless evil. Kate, the oldest, is the only one to remember their parents. Michael, the middle, is quite nerdy and loves everything that has to do with dwarves. Emma, the youngest, will be the first to bully her brother and the last–if anyone else tries to bully him then they will have to talk to her fists. The three kids are passed from orphanage to orphanage until finally landing in a mysterious town called Cambridge Falls. There they find an enchanted book, a kind of emerald atlas. This book transports them to a past time in Cambridge Falls where they must defeat a wicked Countess. The world of The Emerald Atlas involves dwarves, giants, wizards, and witches. It is a great fantasy book and if you have enjoyed the Harry Potter books then you must pick this one up. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Non and I had the privilege of meeting John Stephens at The Why Chromosome Event, hosted by Bridge to Books. Stephens was delightful; and this time “delightful” is exactly the right adjective. I told him that the audiobook is fantastic (as if he needed my validation). We spoke briefly about how amazing Jim Dale is as a reader. Stephens described a dinner outing with Jim Dale in which Dale would order food using various Harry Potter character voices. I only wish I could hear Dolores Umbridge order a burger with fries (I’m sure this is not what Jim Dale ordered).

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy
Themes: Family, Siblings, Time, Magic, Dwarves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House


Side note: Audiobooks in general are amazing. If you haven’t tried listening to one then get some recommendations from friends or myself so that you start the experience out right. There have been times when a reader has not captured the world or voices correctly (or at least in my opinion). Neil Gaiman has started an amazing audiobook production called Neil Gaiman Presents, which can be downloaded/purchased from Audible.com.  He matches readers with books and understands the importance of a well-read audiobook. See a review of one of the adult titles, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel (from Bookriot.com).


Another side note:

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway! Win a signed Andrew Smith book! The giveaway ends December 10th at midnight, PST.


Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.


Filed under Book-Related Stuff, Middle Grade Books

The Books of Elsewhere

Summer is coming to an end while school days, a Southern California fall (that means just hot wind), and Halloween begin creeping back into every child’s and parent’s psyche.  What better way to end a summer and head into the fall than with Jacqueline West’s book, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  The Shadows features a young girl named Olive.  When Olive’s family move into their newly bought home she starts noticing strange shadows that move across the paintings.  Her parents, who are quite mathematical in every aspect, accuse her of having an over-active imagination.  Olive explores the old home, which still contains all of the previous owners belongings (the paintings included).  Eventually, Olive discovers a pair of spectacles that allow her to travel into the paintings!  Morton, a boy from one of the paintings, tries to convince Olive that he is a real person and not part of the painting.  Her mission in the story is to discover the truth behind the house, the paintings, and the three talking cats.

Jacqueline West marries the mystery and the ghost story perfectly in The Shadows without it being too scary for younger readers.  The book includes awesome illustrations, by Poly Bernatene, which help to entice the more reluctant readers and contribute to the overall story.

Age Group: 8 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Reader
Themes: Haunting, Fantasy, Magic, Ghost Stories
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, imprint of Penguin Group


Filed under Middle Grade Books

Books I Remember: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in TimeI remember my Mother reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time first.  I remember her enthusiasm about the book and her eagerness to get me to read it.  I also remember my stubbornness.  I did not want to read it.  I did not want to read it because my Mother recommended it.  It is strange how that Mother-daughter relationship works at times.  As we grow up we fight for our independence, even at eleven years old I knew – or I thought I knew what I liked.  I did finally give in and read A Wrinkle in Time and it has been one of my favorite books of all time.  My Mother was right.

In A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle creates a rich and highly developed world where there is a Mrs. Whatsit, a Mrs. Who, and a Mrs. Which.  Not to mention, there is the clever protagonist fourteen year old Meg Murry, as well as her extraordinary little brother, Charles Wallace Murry.  These two, along with Calvin O’Keefe, must travel to an unusual place called Camazotz, an alien planet dominated by the “Black Thing,” to rescue Meg’s and Charles Wallace’s father.  Meg’s independence and fierce protection over those she loves is what makes me love her so very much.  Madeleine L’Engle’s vivid and complex storytelling makes A Wrinkle in Time a great read for those of any age.

Age Group: 9+ (Great story to read aloud)
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Available in various editions
Reading Level: 4.7


Filed under Middle Grade Books