The Black Stallion’s Courage by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion’s Courage, by Walter Farley, was published in 1956 by Random House. It is an indirect sequel to The Black Stallion (by which I mean it’s number twelve in the series).

When Hopeful Farm burns down, Alec’s dreams for the future go up in smoke. How can he get the money to rebuild? To make matters worse, a strong young colt named Eclipse has taken the racing world by storm, threatening to replace the Black in the hearts of racing fans. Against all odds, Alec sets out to save the farm and prove that the Black is still the greatest race horse of all time!

Rating: 5/5

Normally when I read a series, I prefer to go in chronological order. However, my plan for doing so with Farley’s Black Stallion series was foiled when I discovered that my library simply doesn’t carry them all. So, I have to jump around and review them randomly. Luckily, only a few books in the series really need to be read chronologically—the rest stand alone and can be read in any order.

The Black Stallion’s Courage, the twelfth in the series, is not technically a stand-alone book, since it’s a direct sequel to the events of The Black Stallion’s Filly, but it’s not entirely necessary to have read that book before this one. I chose this book because it’s the Black Stallion book I remember liking the most beyond the original—and now having reread it, I might even like it more!

One of the things I like the most about the Black Stallion books is that they’re so predictable—of course the Black will win the race!—but Farley delivers on the tension and the obstacles so that in the moment, you’re feeling the anxiety of the characters enough that the predictability flies to the back of your mind. The race in The Black Stallion’s Courage is fantastic, as are all the races before the grand finale.

These books also teach a lot about horse racing and Courage spends a great deal of time stressing the nature of handicap races. And Farley does it well enough that when the time comes, we know why the different weights carried by the different horses is so important and we feel the tension with Alec and Henry about the weight the Black has to carry versus the rest of the field’s. It’s a quality of writing that I love, that ability to communicate something and get the audience to feel with the characters as they experience it. Farley is not necessarily the best writer in terms of style, but he is an effective one.

Simply put, I eat up The Black Stallion’s Courage every time I read it. I think I like it even more than I like The Black Stallion. To put it in perspective, I’ve read this book four or five times, whereas I’ve read the “prequel,” The Black Stallion’s Filly, maybe twice. It’s a fast-paced, heart-racing adventure and even with the number of times I’ve read it and its predictability, I still wonder, every time, if the Black, with all that weight, can beat the two best horses in a race.

(Also, funny story to end: I wondered while reading if Eclipse was really fast enough to beat Secretariat’s record (described as the Preakness/Belmont record in the book)—then realized this book was written some twenty years before Secretariat raced. Oops.)

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

One of the reporters touched Henry Dailey on the shoulder as the small procession neared the long green-and-white sheds. “How come you didn’t let the Black finish out the season at Hopeful Farm?” he asked.

“It seems we need a good handicap horse more than we need another sire,” Henry answered. “Satan’s there.”

“Then you think you can win again with the Black?”

“Sure. Why not?”

The reporter laughed. “Well, I can think of a lot of reasons, but I’d rather listen to you. As far as I can remember there was only one older horse that was ever able to come back after being retired and that was Citation.”

“That’s your quote, not mine,” Henry said. “I’m not worryin’ about the Black bein’ able to make a comeback, so don’t you worry, either.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2kQLdcT

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

Disclaimer: An Uncommon Courtship, by Kristi Ann Hunter, was provided by Bethany House. I received a free copy. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

When her mother’s ill-conceived marriage trap goes awry, Lady Adelaide Bell unwittingly finds herself bound to a stranger who ignores her. Lord Trent Hawthorne, who had grand plans to marry for love, is even less pleased with the match. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?

My rating: 4/5

An interesting and unique take on a marriage of convenience, An Uncommon Courtship returns to the familiar setting of the previous books in the Hawthorne House series (though explains enough that newcomers will not be lost), this time telling Trent’s story.

Perhaps not every reader will enjoy the shy, shrinking Adelaide, but I thoroughly enjoyed her—I’m tired of confident, “I know what I want” female protagonists who are as interesting as a brown paper bag. Adelaide is both as insecure as her upbringing would create and as assertive as her new situation would start her to be, in a good display of character development overall. Trent, with all of his questions and lack of confidence, was also a good character. Oftentimes male characters in these sorts of books seem a little too wise; Trent’s confusion was a nice change of pace.

I also appreciated Hunter’s take on the convenient marriage plot; while perhaps being a little too obvious about giving marital advice, some good questions and answers were raised in a context where a majority of people are often curiously silent. Marriage in books like these tends to be treated as the ultimate destination, the ultimate summation of happiness, and maybe it is, but Trent and Adelaide’s journey seemed to me to show the hidden side of it, with its struggles, conflicts, and emotions. So, kudos to Hunter for changing it up from her first two books (and the novella) and showing something that I, at least, have never really seen before.

There’s one last unmarried Hawthorne left, and I’m curious to see if Hunter will write a final book for Griffith. That would be an interesting read, I think, so I hope she does.

An Uncommon Courtship, while not as fascinating or as gripping as I found An Elegant Façade, is a unique take on the marriage of convenience, dealing with marital guidance and how to communicate with someone you barely know, among other things. Adelaide and Trent had good characterization, and while I wish some of the other characters weren’t so underdeveloped and one-dimensional (such as Adelaide’s mother and sister, who started out the series as gossiping golddiggers and remain so three books later), I have really enjoyed Hunter’s Hawthorne House series despite that.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2kc4uGh

“Why is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” by Lemony Snicket

“Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company.

Train travel! Murder! Librarians! A Series Finale! On all other nights, the train departs from Stain’d Station and travels to the city without stopping. But not tonight. You might ask, why is this night different from all other nights? But that’s the wrong question. Instead ask, where is this all heading? And what happens at the end of the line?

Rating: 2/5

I thought it appropriate to finish this series out today since I also finished A Series of Ufortunate Events on Netflix (an excellent adaptation. They also reference this book series in it).

“Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?” was a little disappointing, which perhaps I should not have found surprising considering my problems with The End. However, I enjoyed the previous two books enough that I was hoping for more than what this final book gave me.

I enjoyed the semi-tribute to Murder on the Orient Express that this book gives, and more than anything I enjoy the way Lemony Snicket is fleshed out from a shadowy, mysterious figure in A Series of Unfortunate Events to a real-live person in these prequels. The choices he has to make, particularly in this book, are not easy, and the results of those choices are not easy to deal with. I wish that the “am I a villain?” doubting path had not been taken, though, since Violet, Klaus, and Sunny wonder the same thing in ASOUE and it only reminded me how these books pale in comparison.

Above all, this book is mostly too predictable and strange to make me feel great about it. It was blindingly obvious who Hangfire was, as though Snicket had gotten tired of throwing out obscure clues and had given up even attempting to hide Hangfire’s identity in this final book. And the thing with the Bombinating Beast at the end was strange and didn’t really fit the nature of these books, at least in my opinion. Also, I’m still mad at what that implies about what happens to the Quagmires in The End.

Overall, I thought All The Wrong Questions, as a whole, starts out weak, has good parts in the middle, and ends weak, with many questions resolved but almost no satisfaction in their resolution. Also, I thought for sure that Snicket’s obsession with Ellington would mean she would be revealed to be Beatrice at the end, but maybe that was just supposed to be a precursor or a hint at Snicket’s future and how he acts around certain people.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

“But what will you do when he’s here?” I asked, after a sip of fizzy water. “Ornette’s creation looks very much like the real statue, but once it’s in Hangfire’s hands he’ll know it’s a fake.”

“Once Hangfire comes aboard,” Moxie said, “he’ll be caught like a rat in a trap. The Thistle of the Valley won’t stop again until it reaches the city, where all the prisoners on board will be brought to trial. I have all our notes on what Hangfire’s been doing in this town. Once the authorities read my report, they’ll arrest Hangfire, and Dashiell Qwerty will go free.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2iQsLwF

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley, was published in 1941 by Random House.

Published originally in 1941, this book is about a young boy, Alec Ramsay who finds a wild black stallion at a small Arabian port on the Red Sea. Between the black stallion and young boy, a strange understanding grew that you lead them through untold dangers as they journeyed to America. Nor could Alec understand that his adventures with the black stallion would capture the interest of an entire nation.

Rating: 5/5

I attribute my love for horse racing when I was younger (that still lingers slightly today) completely to The Black Stallion and its sequels. I think the only series on horse racing I read more was Joanna Campbell’s Thoroughbred series. The Black Stallion is equal parts shipwreck story, animal-bonding story, and horse racing guide. It might not be as monumental or memorable as Black Beauty or other famous horse books, but this book will always hold a near and dear place in my heart.

The Black Stallion is the reason I was so moved by Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. That “wild horse that only one person can tame” aspect resonated with me when I read The Black Stallion when I was young, and it resonated again reading Stiefvater’s work. I’m not going to compare them beyond that, but they’re both special to me for that reason.

Walter Farley may not be the best writer, and stereotypes abound in the areas Farley clearly is not familiar with, but The Black Stallion is a dear book from my childhood, and I love it for that reason—and for many of its sequels, which are even more informative about horse racing and at times even more exciting and suspenseful than the original shipwreck story (and then there are the last couple of books, but we won’t talk about those). It’s not the best horse story, but it holds a special place in my heart all the same.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s

That night Alex lay wide awake, his body aching with pain, but his heart pounding with excitement. He had ridden the Black! He had conquered this wild, unbroken stallion with kindness. He felt sure that from that day on the Black was his—his alone! But for what—would they ever be rescued? Would he ever see his home again?

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2iyLXUj

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2014 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to “When Did You See Her Last?”.

Is Lemony Snicket a detective or a smoke detector?
Do you smell smoke? Young apprentice Lemony Snicket is investigating a case of arson but soon finds himself enveloped in the ever-increasing mystery that haunts the town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Who is setting the fires? What secrets are hidden in the Department of Education? Why are so many schoolchildren in danger? Is it all the work of the notorious villain Hangfire? How could you even ask that? What kind of education have you had? Maybe you should be in school?

Rating: 4/5

“Shouldn’t You Be in School?” is another good addition to the Wrong Questions series, a series that I’m enjoying more with each book. It almost makes me want to reread “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” because I might enjoy it more than I did the first time.

Beyond cameo appearances and explaining more about VFD, this book really cemented in my mind the fact that the Wrong Questions series is really just to show how incredibly clever and resilient Lemony Snicket is. It’s a wonder he never caught up to the Baudelaire children at all (except for possibly The Penultimate Peril, if you believe the theory that he was the taxi driver and took the sugar bowl away from Hotel Denouement) because as a thirteen-year-old he’s outsmarting, in some way, his enemies and his friends. The whole blank-book-library at the end kinda blew my mind a little, even if it didn’t really accomplish anything in terms of giving the protagonists a leg up on Hangfire.

This book also brings back some old, tried-and-true issues: who can you really trust? How far will someone go to protect/find someone they love? How incompent are the adults, anyway? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how meaty these books have been, despite their silliness. And the mysteries in them are good, as well.

I’m still a little worried that the series will end without complete resolution in terms of the Bombinating Beast, Hangfire, Ellington Feint’s missing father, and all the other numerous little mysteries (Kit! The secret in the library! Ink! The music box! Books!), but I think at this point I’m too invested (and too aware of how these books go) to ultimately care much if it happens. I simply hope that the last book is as fun and as enticing of a mystery as I found “Shouldn’t You Be in School?”

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

“The arsonist is a moth-hater, all right,” Sharon said, sipping limeade, “and my new best friend Theodora was telling me that she knew just who it was.”

“We saw him this morning,” Theodora said, “swatting moths as usual.”

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “Dashiell Qwerty is a fine librarian.”

“I’m as shocked as you are, Snicket,” Theodora said. “In our line of work we’ve learned to trust, honor, and flatter librarians. But Qwerty is clearly a bad apple in a bowl of cherries.”

“Dashiell Qwerty wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Moxie said.

“You’re not listening, girlie,” Sharon said. “He’s hurting moths.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2ipMHcH

“When Did You See Her Last?” by Lemony Snicket

“When Did You See Her Last?” by Lemony Snicket was published in 2013 by Little, Brown and Company. It is the sequel to “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”.

“I should have asked the question ‘How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?’ Instead, I asked the wrong question — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.” In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.

Rating: 3/5

“When Did You See Her Last?” is a surprisingly delightful little mystery—after the problems I had with “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” I was expecting the worst. But this second “Wrong Question” was not nearly so jarring as the first book, possibly because I was already prepared. I still think these are not nearly so memorable or as subtly brilliant as A Series of Unfortunate Events, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Lemony Snicket (or Daniel Handler) is good at absurdist humor and makes an absurd world (mostly) work.

For once, I didn’t really question the incompetence of all adults in this book—I think I’ve finally accepted that in Lemony Snicket world, children are the people who get things done and adults are either villainous, incompetent, useless, or plot devices.

I’m very curious to see if Beatrice makes an appearance (or Olaf!), if we find out what Kit was stealing in the museum (the sugar bowl, possibly?), and if these books will turn more towards “let’s reveal lots about VFD” rather than just have VFD as the shadowy organization where you never find out what it’s about or what it wants. And to be honest, I kind of hope it keeps up the mystery of VFD because it fits better with this series than it did with ASOUE. Probably because these books are much more film noir.

Also, it took me far too long to realize that “Partial Foods” was a play on “Whole Foods.”

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Mystery, Children’s

Hungry’s was a small and narrow place, and a large and wide woman was standing just inside the doors, polishing the counter with a rag.

“Good afternoon,” she said.

I said the same thing.

“I’m hungry,” she said.

“Well, you’re probably in the right place.”

She gave me a frown and a menu. “No, I mean I’m Hungry. It’s my name. Hungry Hix. I own this place. Are you hungry?”

“No,” I said. “You are.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2g8jej8

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1939. It is the sequel to Anne’s House of Dreams.

Anne is the mother of five, with never a dull moment in her lively home. And now with a new baby on the way and insufferable Aunt Mary visiting – and wearing out her welcome – Anne’s life is full to bursting. Still, Mrs Doctor can’t think of any place she’d rather be than her own beloved Ingleside. Until the day she begins to worry that her adored Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore. How could that be? She may be a little older, but she’s still the same irrepressible, irreplaceable redhead – the wonderful Anne of Green Gables, all grown up… She’s ready to make her cherished husband fall in love with her all over again!

Rating: 4/5

Anne of Ingleside is another “fill in the gaps” Anne story. It’s also technically the last Anne story, as it was published last, after Anne of Windy Poplars. Since it was published after Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside (the books that chronologically come after Ingleside), it actually hints at—to be honest, more like downright spoils—events that occur in those books, most noticeably what happens to Walter in Rilla of Ingleside.

As a “fill in the gaps” book, Ingleside is much, much better than Windy Poplars. We don’t get much of the familiar Anne except at beginning and end, but her children are just as ridiculous and loveable as she was in Anne of Green Gables, so they’re an almost suitable replacement for our beloved Anne Shirley, who becomes “mother” Anne for the rest of the series.

Of the “children” novels, I think I like Rainbow Valley best, but Ingleside has lots of fun shenanigans, some heartbreaking moments such as Ronny and his dog (which made me tear up) and some slightly over-the-top but enjoyable nonsense such as Anne becoming worried that Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore.

My main quibble with this book (and with Montgomery’s portrayal of Anne’s children in general) is that, while Montgomery is quite deft at giving each child his/her own personality and story, she completely leaves one of them by the wayside to the point where I wonder why even have him in the novels at all. I’m talking, of course, about Shirley, who is mentioned briefly at the beginning and almost never mentioned again. Each child of Anne’s gets his own narrative (or even two!) in Ingleside, except for Shirley. Each child gets his own thoughts interjected into the overall narrative, except for Shirley. It makes Anne seem the slightest bit neglectful of one of her own children, and Montgomery’s possible explanation for why Shirley barely makes an appearance only makes it worse.

Ingleside serves its purpose well: as a transition from the series being focused on Anne to the series being focused on her children. It blends both Anne-related things and children-related things neatly together, paving the way for the children-centric Rainbow Valley and the Rilla-centric Rilla of Ingleside. My only complaint is that Shirley is neglected, and as a result, a completely unnecessary character.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Susan! What has become of Gog and Magog? Oh…they haven’t broken, have they?”

“No, no, Mrs. Dr. dear,” exclaimed Susan, turning a deep brick-red from shame and dashing out of the room. She returned shortly with the two china dogs which always presided at the hearth of Ingleside. “I do not see how I could have forgotten to put them back before you came. You see, Mrs. Dr. dear, Mrs. Charles Day from Charlottetown called here the day after you left…and you know how very precise and proper she is. Walter thought he ought to entertain her and he started in by pointing out the dogs to her. ‘This one is God and this is My God,’ he said, poor innocent child.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2gHUkw9

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall, was published in 2015 by Alfred A Knopf. It is the sequel to The Penderwicks at Point Mouette.

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and with it comes all the joyful chaos of the Penderwicks. The brood has grown to six with the addition of Lydia, the new youngest sibling, and there are surprises in store for all. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business, which has resulted in her spending an inordinate amount of time with Duchess, a very fat dachshund, and Cilantro, a wrinkled shar-pei with a bark like a lovelorn tuba. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. The timing is perfect: Rosalind will be home from college, Skye and Jane will put their bothersome teenage worries aside to celebrate, and Jeffrey, honorary Penderwick and Batty’s musical mentore, will be visiting from Boston. But when an unwelcome surprise arrives, the best-laid plans fall apart. Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that have come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what’s hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.

Rating: 5/5

Full disclosure: I cried shamelessly while reading this book.

Birdsall did the absolute best thing for the Penderwicks series when she decided to make The Penderwicks in Spring take place several years after The Penderwicks at Point Mouette. We’ve had our Rosalind, Jane, and Skye stories—now it’s time for Batty to take the limelight, and oh, boy, does she. Every single aspect of this book—from the sorrow and angst of Batty’s hidden worries and guilt to the fun and humorous interactions between the characters—was perfect.

To be honest, this book left me a little speechless, and even trying to find something to say beyond “perfection” is a struggle at the moment. I love how the exact timeframe the books take place in is never narrowed down. It’s definitely modern, yet the kids don’t have cellphones, don’t really use computers, and there is no mention of video games or television. There is a mention of a war but it’s never called by any name. It might very well take place in the 80s, but what makes this book (and the others) so great is that it doesn’t matter what decade they take place in because the heart of the books reach beyond that.

The Penderwicks in Spring reads very much like a last book to me. There’s a decisive finality to it, even more so than the previous books. The past is finally cleared, the way forward for the Penderwicks is apparent (and it will end with Skye/Jeffrey, thus I declare), and, to be honest, I doubt another Penderwick book could ever surpass the pleasure and emotion I experienced while reading this one. If Birdsall decides to write another book (about Lydia, maybe?), then I will gladly snatch it up and read it—yet TPS is such a perfect way to end the series that I might feel disappointed if another book did get published.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s

And then it happened—her sprite tried to sing. Batty clapped her hand over her mouth and hoped Ben hadn’t noticed.

He’d noticed. “What was that sound?”

“What sound?” is what Batty said, except that it sounded like whu sohn because her hand was still over her mouth.

“That sound you just made.”

“Maybe your stomach was growling.”

He stared at her suspiciously. His stomach hadn’t’ growled. “There it goes again!”

“Maybe it’s my stomach!”

She started to push him toward the door, but he resisted. “If it’s your stomach, why is your hand over your mouth?”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2eGFXlH

Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

Anne’s House of Dreams, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1917. It is the sequel to Anne of Windy Poplars.

Anne’s own true love, Gilbert Blythe, is finally a doctor, and in the sunshine of the old orchard, among their dearest friends, they are about to speak their vows. Soon the happy couple will be bound for a new life together and their own dream house, on the misty purple shores of Four Winds Harbor. A new life means fresh problems to solve, fresh surprises. Anne and Gilbert will make new friends and meet their neighbors: Captain Jim, the lighthouse attendant, with his sad stories of the sea; Miss Cornelia Bryant, the lady who speaks from the heart — and speaks her mind; and the tragically beautiful Leslie Moore, into whose dark life Anne shines a brilliant light.

Rating: 3/5

Anne’s House of Dreams makes up in some ways for the forgettable, unnecessary Anne of Windy Poplars that came before (and yet after) it, but still struggles with what I’m going to term “Montgomery sound-byte-ism,” which is the tendency of Montgomery to have chapters completely dedicated to one character’s quirky stories. Now, if you like those quirky stories, then you’ll have no problems with this. I, however, tend to think that they get very tedious, very quickly. I ended up skimming most of the parts where Miss Cornelia kept going on and on about one thing or another. If that is someone’s favorite aspect of Montgomery’s stories, then I apologize—but it’s not mine.

Montgomery really went all out in terms of description for House of Dreams, something I don’t remember her doing in the previous books (but I could merely be forgetting).  I do know that description in the earlier books mostly came through Anne’s eyes and mouth as she told us what she saw or described how she saw it. However, in House of Dreams, while we may be “seeing” through Anne’s eyes in terms of her being the main character, Montgomery is the one describing things like the sea and the house, and quite beautifully at times.

House of Dreams is also the first Anne book to have a major tragedy. In Green Gables and Avonlea, there is a death, but Joy’s death in House of Dreams is even more heart wrenching. That, coupled with the overall tragedy and gloom of Leslie’s backstory, makes House of Dreams one of the “darkest” Anne novels so far, if not the darkest. And to be honest, I like that adult-Anne’s world in House of Dreams is not as full of rainbows and sunshine as child-Anne’s world was in Green Gables. Plus, some of the theological questions that arise in this book are spot-on and are maybe even better explained through the use of a story that just stating it flat out (especially when trying to explain such things to children).

Anne’s House of Dreams, while not holding a candle to the first three books, is an improvement over the regrettable Windy Poplars, and its inclusion of more mature story elements makes it more nuanced than even the books that came before it. It’s too bad “Montgomery sound-byte-ism” made the whole thing a little tedious.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Let’s introduce ourselves,” she said, with the smile that had never yet failed to win confidence and friendliness. “I am Mrs. Blythe—and I live in that little white house up the harbor shore.”

“Yes, I know,” said the girl. “I am Leslie Moore—Mrs. Dick Moore,” she added stiffly.

Anne was silent for a moment from sheer amazement. It had not occurred to her that this girl was married—there seemed nothing of the wife about her. And that she should be the neighbor whom Anne had pictured as a commonplace Four Winds housewife! Anne could not quickly adjust her mental focus to this astonishing change.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2flqtF7

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall, was published in 2011 by Alfred A Knopf. It is the sequel to The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.

When summer comes around, it’s off to the beach for Rosalind…and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend Jeffrey. That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)—a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind’s directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Jane’s Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty—contrary to all accepted wisdom—the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls…these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?

Rating: 5/5

I was a little disappointed with The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, but I am happy to say that The Penderwicks at Point Mouette was lovely, a return to the joy and heartfelt times captured in the first book. Point Mouette also did wonders to improve upon Skye, who I didn’t particularly like as much as the other girls in the first two books, but who really blossoms in this one (as being the OAP would do.)

Jane continues to be the girl after my own heart, and one paragraph of her thoughts perfectly encapsulates my entire pre-teen and teenage years. I do like how each Penderwick sister has their own distinct voice, as sometimes families in books can get muddled together until one sibling is virtually the same as the next. But Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty are so distinctly individual, yet also have a great unity that shines in the little family jokes and the heartwarming moments—and boy, were there plenty of those.

My one, teeny, tiny quibble is that the plot is a little convenient—but at the same time, it created such heartfelt and poignant moments that even while I was thinking, “What are the odds?” I was also sniffling and tearing up and too engrossed in the moment to care much. And that’s the best sort of thing an author can do when the plot is convenient: suck the reader in so deeply that he or she no longer cares about things like mechanics and simply loves the story at the heart of it all.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is a lovely, beautiful book about the joys and stresses of summer vacation, all captured with near-perfect voice and unforgettable characters. These books make me happy to read them, and I come away from them with a smile on my face. I am very, very pleased that I decided to pick up Jeanne Birdsall’s books.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s

“Blow up,” she read. “I wonder what that means. Maybe that Batty could blow up, with hives or something?”

“We’re sure to find out, since we can’t read what we’re supposed to do or not do about it! This is a nightmare. What was everyone thinking, Jane? I make a terrible OAP.”

“Daddy thinks you’ll grow into it. I heard him tell Iantha so.”

Skye looked like she’d been thrown a lifeline. “He really said that?”

“Yes, he really did.” Jane was telling the truth—she had heard him say that. She’d also heard him say he wasn’t sure exactly when Skye would grow into it. But Skye didn’t need to hear that part.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2faZMmJ