Friday, October 10, 2008

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost

Two things attracted me to this book: its title and its cover. Diamond Willow --what kind of willow could that be? I imagined a sparkling willow tree. The author explains that Diamond Willow is no special type of willow tree. The diamonds appear on willow branches when the bark is stripped away. The diamonds form on the areas where a branch has been injured or fallen off. The dark center in each diamond is the scar of the missing branch. These beautiful, natural willow diamonds with their dark centers inspired Helen Frost to write her book in the form of diamond-shaped poems, with a hidden message printed in darker ink at the center of each one.

As for the intriguing cover art, we see mysterious blues swirling around the profiles of a young person and either a wolf or a dog. The human and the animal are facing each other, smiling, and looking intensely into each other's eyes. They are drawn to each other, forming a strong bond. I wanted to find out more about their relationship and what drew them together.

This is the story of 12-year-old Willow, who grows up in Alaska. She begs her parents to let her take the dog team to visit her grandparents. Finally the parents decide that Willow is old enough to manage the sled dogs by herself. Willow takes off enthusiastically with the dogs. In her exuberance, she races the dogs and lets them fly across the arctic landscape. But then she makes a mistake, and disaster strikes. Her favorite dog is badly injured. How Willow shows great strength and fortitude in fighting for her dog's life is beautifully told in diamond-shaped poetry. Willow also grows into her Athabascan heritage by becoming aware of and honoring the spirit world that surrounds her. Review by Trudy Walsh

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

I love re-tellings of fairy tales, and when I saw the cover of this graphic novel, I had to read it - what could be better than a braid-whipping Rapunzel decked out like a cowgirl? The story begins with Rapunzel living in a beautiful villa with the woman she always thought was her mother. The villa is surrounded by a towering wall, and Rapunzel has never seen what is on the other side. Her only companions are the guards of the villa, who befriend her and entertain her by teaching her how to throw a lasso. On her twelfth birthday, she decides she must see what’s on the other side, and uses her lasso trick to get over the wall. What follows are the events that lead to her finding out the truth about her mother, and seeking out her revenge. Shannon Hale, the author of Princess Academy and The Book of a Thousand Days, created this graphic novel with her husband Dean, with illustrations by Nathan Hale (no relation). Hale is known for having strong female protagonists in her stories, and this Rapunzel does not disappoint. I’m praying that Hale writes more graphic novel fairy tale re-tellings, because this one is a gem! Review by Katie Corrigan

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Brian's Hunt by Gary Paulsen

Since I'm a big Gary Paulsen fan, (I really enjoyed Hatchett), I was happy to come across another story about Brian in the wilderness. This one didn't disappoint. Brian is a great character who battles whatever nature throws his way. In this book he finds a wounded dog, which, using his natural instincts, he nurses back to health with only his limited supplies. Together Brian and the dog wage a really battle against nature. Review by Joyce Levine