“Blueberry Girl” by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (Harpercollins, 2009)

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Writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator Charles Vess have collaborated on some incredible works in the past with Sandman and Stardust.  In Blueberry Girl, the story began as a beautiful and positive wish for a friend of Gaiman’s, a mother to be.  Now with the carefully chosen words of Gaiman, and the lush, fresh, and moving art and color of Charles Vess, everyone can enjoy this tale.

It is the story of a young girl, a baby at first, who must grow to adulthood and is wished on every step of the way to be treated well, to experience life to its fullest, to follow her dreams, to have good times and bad, highs and lows.  There is some classic Gaiman mythology with the opening page: “Ladies of light and ladies of darkness and ladies of never-you-mind, this is a prayer for a blueberry girl,” a clear reference to the fates; there’s even a quaint fairytale reference: “Keep her from spindles and sleeps at sixteen.”

Blueberry Girl is a book to be cherished and kept for generations, passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter.  It is a story to inspire the best in a young girl and give parents the utmost hope and respect for her.  It is a fable that will only get better each time you read it or tell it to a young one.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 16th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow” by James Rollins (Harpercollins, 2009)

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Jake and Kady Ransom are the children of brilliant archaeologists who tragically and mysteriously disappear while on a dig for ancient Mayan artifacts.  Three years later the Ransoms are suspiciously invited to a new Mayan exhibition at the British Museum, commemorating the memory of the missing archaeologists.  It turns out to be a PR stunt, but Jake and Kady get to enjoy the special Mayan artifacts before anyone else.  It is the miniature pyramid that intrigues Jake, noticing that the doorway is an unusual shape that two pieces of a glyph – the last items the Ransoms got from their parents – fit exactly into.  When inserted, there is a bright light, then darkness.

Jake and Kady awake to find themselves in another world where there are very different people from different moments in time: Mayans, Vikings, Romans, even Neanderthals who have been there for many thousands of years.  They live in the great city of Calypsos.  Here they are protected from the dinosaurs that walk about outside looking for prey.  The Ransoms find themselves in a time long, long ago, where there are many dangers.  There is also the Skull King, once an elder of Calypsos, who is now looking to take over the city and subjugate its people.  It will be up to Jake and Kady to figure out a way to stop the Skull King and somehow find a way back home, to their time.

Bestselling author James Rollins kicks off a great children’s book series with Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, which is a combination of adventurous Indiana Jones with some fascinating history of the different cultures of the world.  Focusing on the Mayan people and their culture in this first book, the rest of the series promises to be just as action-packed and educational.  Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow is a book to be enjoyed by anyone of any age.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 7th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

For an interview with James Rollins check out BookBanter Episode 9.

“The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, 2009)

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Liam is a young boy who lives in a gray, dreary city, which is filled with lots of tall, ugly buildings, and black asphalt roads.  Then one day he discovers in an abandoned railway station a touch of color: some wildflowers and plants.  Wanting to create more color in the gray city, he tends to the tiny garden, pruning, watering, and even singing to it.  At first he prunes and waters a little too much, but learns how to be a good gardener.  The tiny garden grows and grows until it begins taking over the station and moving up and down the railway line, adding more and more color and life to the unattractive city.  Then fall and winter comes and the flowers wither, losing their color.  Liam returns in the spring and begins working again on his growing garden, except now many other people are helping, making the garden grow and grow.  Eventually the city is a colorful, bountiful place and the complete opposite of what it used to be.  The Curious Garden is a wonderful tale about what you can do if you don’t give up and really put your mind to it.  It’s also an important message about how we should be “greening” and adding color to our cities to make them better places to live in.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 7th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

“The Three Robbers” by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon Press, 2009)

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Tomi Ungerer, recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen award for illustration, and “one of the world’s most famous and best-loved children’s authors,” brings readers a fun tale that feels like something from the minds of the Brothers Grimm.  It begins dark and scary, but ends with joy and happiness.  The three robbers are feared throughout the land: “women fainted.  Brave men ran.  Dogs fled.”  With their pepper-blower (for blinding the horses), their large red ax (for chopping the wheels off the carriage), and their blunderbuss (used for threatening the passengers), they take their plunder to their secret lair.  Then on one night there is no plunder but a little girl, so they take her to their lair.  When she asks them what they do with all their plunder, they are speechless.  Deciding to do good, the three robbers buy a castle and adopt orphans and helpless children, giving them a better life.  Using a simple chalk art style with few sentences and lots of big pictures, kids will enjoy this colorful book.  The story feels like an original fairy tale with a clear message of needing to be caring to others (just make sure you ignore the fact that the money was ill-gotten).

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 7th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

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