“Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall” by Aaron Safronoff (Neoglyphic Entertainment, 2016)

In a galaxy far, far away is a unique blue world composed mostly of a single massive ocean, upon which island flotillas are the only forms of land. But upon these flotillas are rainforests of mighty trees reaching into the sky, housing a thriving ecosystem of the many species living in the trees on the world of Cerulean.

A young Listlespur named Barra has once again snuck into her father’s study. He has been gone for some time, so coming here is one of the few places she can feel at peace and remember him. She finds her father’s journals, ones that have never been seen before. Bursting with excitement, she begins reading.

The world of Cerulean, deep within the trees, is a somewhat dark place and this is how it has always been, it is thought. Within the journals, Barra learns of a secret blight, a mysterious plague. The trees thrive on water and light, and this creeping vine has been staunching and strangling this flow bit by bit, gaining more and more territory, and turning it into a dark and withered place. Barra has always suspected something, and here is the proof from her father, who told the Elders, and yet nothing has been done about it.

Along with the help of two close friends, a wiry Rugosic named Tory and a cute and cuddly Kalalabat named Plicks, Barra begins her investigation, traveling to unfamiliar locales. They also pass down into the dangerous—and forbidden—Middens. It is there that they see physical proof of the black vine plague taking over the trees. Suddenly, they are attacked and do their best to evade getting infected. Before they know it, they are plunging down beneath the Fall and into another part of their world that they have only ever heard legends about. There they will learn many wonders, face new enemies, as well as gaining new friends, and hopefully find a way to combat the plague. That is if they can ever make it back to their home.

When reading Sunborn Rising, one cannot help but think of Avatar, with this strange world of colorful creatures. But this story goes so much more further with its characters and plot than the movie ever did. The author does a great job of creating not just an ecosystem with the trees and flora, but showing in the ways of the character’s lives: in their food, how they talk, the language they use, the world they live in that is influenced and in many ways controlled by the arboreal world. It also shows in the vocabulary and words Aaron Safronoff uses that adds to the whole ambiance of the novel.

The book also features 40 full-color works of art and 80 unique illustrations that add more to the setting and feel of the book. Readers are shown what the colorful characters and environments actually look like, while the illustrations provide important details that help to get the thoughts solidly in the reader’s head. The way the book is written, it could be aimed and enjoyed by a middle reader, but also by adults as it does what every fantasy book should: present a unique world with interesting characters and a fascinating story that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end.

Originally written on February 7, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the San Francisco Book Review.

To purchase a copy of Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“The Marvels” by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2015)

Brian Selznick’s two previous works of incredible illustrated historical fiction (The Inventory of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck) revealed his talent for creating this new genre and art form, as indicated by their bestsellerdom and garnered awards. In The Marvels, he does the same thing again, making the reader anxious to get to the end to find what is fact and what is fiction, and what is the whole story behind everything . . . But at the same time they want to savor every page and never want it to end.

The Marvels is a book of two stories. The first is told almost completely in continuous imagery, a flickering movie-like effect of the boy Billy Marvel in 1766 who survives a devastating shipwreck and begins work at a London theatre. Then the reader gets to enjoy the Marvel family through the generations and the many great actors that are spawned until young Leontes Marvel who wants nothing to do with the stage.

In the other story, nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis has run away from school and home and is looking for his uncle in London to stay with for a while and get away from everything. When he finds his uncle, he convinces him to let him stay in the wonderfully unusual house of Albert Nightingale which is kind of a combination of Hearst Castle and Winchester Mystery house, filled with wonders and delights, along with some spooky artifacts that all tell of the great history of the Marvel family.

If The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a tale of history, and Wonderstruck was a tale of love, then The Marvels is a thrilling mystery tale that you won’t be able to put down.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Marvels from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Wonderstruck” by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2011)


Brian Selznick last shocked and delighted the world with his incredible work of art, The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a tour-de-force in combining word, illustrations and photos to tell an unforgettable story.  The book not only became a bestseller, but went on to win multiple awards, including the 2008 Caldecott Medal, a Quill Award, and was on numerous best book lists, including the New York Times, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.  And the great news is Selznick is back with another incredible story employing his artistic and writing talents once again in Wonderstruck.

In Wonderstruck, Selznick tells two stories simultaneously: one in strong and powerful words about a boy named Ben in 1977; the other in moving illustrations and pictures about a girl named Rose fifty years earlier in 1927.  Ben discovers an important clue to the identity of his unknown father, and then the home he is in is struck by lightning, passing through the telephone he is holding, turning him deaf for the rest of his life.  But he still needs to discover who his father is, no matter what it takes.  He runs away from the hospital and travels to New York City, following the clues, which take him to the American Museum of Natural History.  There he will find some answers, as well as some new friends, while exploring this incredible place.  Rose’s journey also takes her to New York and the museum, in search of a loved one.  As to how Selznick links the two stories, bringing them together in a powerful plot  . . . you’ll just have to read the book yourself.

Selznick manages to convey so much detail and emotion in his artwork, even though they are black and white, as to tells as much of the story as the pages that feature his words.  He uses the same method from The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with multiple pages of illustrations unfolding a captivating tale.  Readers of Hugo Cabret will find just as much magic in Wonderstruck; and for those who are picking up Selznick for the first time, this book will sweep you away to a miraculous world that you’ll never want to leave.

Originally written on October 13, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Wonderstruck from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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Invention of Hugo Cabret