Saturday, November 15, 2008

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Anne Shirley of Anne and Green Gables fame turns 100 this year, but her popularity doesn't seem to be waning at all. In her honor, Budge Wilson wrote a brand new prequel titled appropriately Before Green Gables relating the trials and tribulations of growing up a red-headed and freckled orphan. The story opens with Anne's parents, Bertha and Walter Shirley, and readers recognize almost immediately Anne's spunk in her mother. But tragedy strikes as they die of a fever shortly after Anne's death. Although her life is riddled with disappointment, it's relatively stable as she lives out most of her childhood between two very child-crowded homes. She gets over-worked and over looked at both of them, and finds comfort in her times at school, where she can escape from the babies and multitude of house work. The three months at the orphange get glossed over as a horrible event before the inevitable salvation and travel to her beloved Prince Edward Island. The writing and reading is beautifully done, and captures the spirit of the original novels. Although Anne's percocious nature seems forced in some areas as she talks in complete sentences throughout the entire novel, regardless of her age, it makes the reading easier than dealing with an evolving child's vocabulary. Fans of the original stories will recognize some of the details, such as her friendly echo and Anne's unique way of praying. Our copy of the audiobook, read by Renee Raudman, provides a soothing and unhurried look at Anne's beginnings. Located in the adult area, it's a wonderful book that I would recommend to children as young as twelve.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French

A gorgeous velvet robe with blood-red petticoats and embroidered skulls is just what Lady Lamorna needs to look simply magnificent. But her treasure box is empty and she has no way to pay the powerful crones who have agreed to weave her robe. Lady Lamorna hatches a diabolical plot to turn all the princes and princesses of the five kingdoms into frogs and then charge a pile of gold to change each one back again. With the help of her troll Gubble and a mysterious and untrustworthy beauty named Foyce, Lady Lamorna sets out for the five kingdoms. It will take the help of good-hearted Gracie Gillypot, the adventurous Prince Marcus, talking bats, and the old crones themselves to save the royal families. Children in grades 4-6 who love stories full of macabre motifs but without all the horror will love Vivian French’s amusing adventure, The Robe of Skulls.