Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett, 2003

Tiffany Aching has little to help her save the world and retrieve her stolen baby brother besides First Sight, Second Thoughts, and an iron frying pan. What little she does have besides that are the Nac Mac Feegle, six-inch, sword-wielding kilted blue-skinned thieving drunkards who roam the downs and sheepwolds of the Chalk. And a determination to preserve what's hers, just as old Granny Aching had had, which might ultimately be all she needs to be a proper witch. Strong, confident, audacious, hilarious, successful fantasy and story. This reader hasn't laughed so hard in far too long. Most strongly recommended.

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 1), by Rick Riordan, 2005

12-year old Percy Jackson is used to getting kicked out of school, used to tiptoeing around Smelly Gabe, his mom's odious husband, used to getting blamed for pretty much anything that goes wrong. But he's not used to math teachers transforming into mythic monsters and trying to rip his entrails out. Nor to minotaurs trying to impale him on his way to a Long Island summer camp. But, as he soon learns, when you're the son of Poseidon the Sea God, you inherit a lot of enemies, an impossible quest, some crazy would-be protectors, and a pretty amazing ball-point pen. And you learn to get used to just about anything the gods can dish up. Fast paced, absurd, dangerous, a rollicking yarn with a distinctly-voiced reluctant hero. Strongly recommended.

The Field Guide (Book 1 of The Spiderwick Chronicles), by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, 2003

What happens when a brownie goes bad (and it's not a chocolate cookie bar)? It becomes a boggart, a tiny mischievous creature who creeps between walls and under beds, stealing and spreading mayhem and getting others blamed for it. Jared Grace knows this, and eventually, so does his twin brother Simon and even their older sister Mallory. Clues suggest that their Spiderwick ancestors knew even more. But Mom refuses to believe anyone but Jared could have ransacked the kitchen and hogtied Mallory's hair. After all, Jared has been acting up a lot since the divorce ... This first of the Chronicles reads more like a serial installment than a complete novel, but its size, complexity, and illustrations make it well-suited to 7-9 year old readers.

The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, book 5) by Eoin Colfer, 2006

Artemis Fowl, 14-year old billionaire Irish genius, has tangled with fairy-folk, reformed, and finally earned their trust, but when he attempts to decipher an unraveling magical space/time paradox that brings demons stranded in another dimension to Earth, he finds that a new terrestrial rival, French millionaire 12-year old Minerva Paradiso, has gotten there first. Diabolically clever and devilishly pretty, Minerva is almost a match for Artemis, though puberty may be his real undoing. This fifth installment takes the Artemis series to newly implausible heights of cosmic-fairy-techno-crimebusting-derring-do, with romance for seasoning and several promising hooks left for #6. Leave logic at the door and ride the roller coaster. Recommended (but reading the prequels in order is vital).