Sunday, March 23, 2008


Publisher Review: Unicorn Races

by Stephen J. Brooks, ill. Linda Crockett. From Purple Sky Publishing, a small press from Missouri.

First: here's my promise about Publisher Reviews, reviews of books which, like this one, have been sent to me by the publisher for review.

Second: This book was suggested to me by the publisher as possibly fitting the category of Advanced Picture Book. Here's a little information about those in general and what they are.

This picture books announces from the sparkly-titled, purply-hued, puffy-textured front cover that it is a book for a girly girl. The inside pages, in illustration and in story, follow this through and won't disappoint the frilliest, most princess-and-unicorn obssessed of young ones.

I am, I will be honest, not a girly girl or particularly in love with overly girly stories, so my first reaction to this is not to b drawn in, but to approach with caution! Knowing this of myself, I decided to test this one on someone who is a girly girl - my daughter, Pumpkinpie, of nearly four years of age. And much as it is not what I would choose, it is now a nightly read because it is right up her alley.

The story is simple - a young girl sneaks out at bedtime in her finest princess garb, mounts a unicorn, and rides away to a magic clearing filled with fairies, elves, and unicorns, who will race in the moonlight. The princess decides the winner, and rides back to bed as the fairies begin a great goodie-laden feast. Whether this is dream or fantasy or real live magic is left unclear, and not addressed.

The illustrations are, thoughout, suffused with pink and purple and a sort of glow about the characters that suggests magic. They are, in some places, quite realistic, while in other places have a touch of impressionism about them. For someone like Pumpkinpie, who adores this sort of thing, they are quite lovely, in fact, although they are not, as I say, to my personal taste.

Although I had hoped this would be a more advanced picture book to be more in line with this site's usual age ranges, it was quite suitable for someone as young as three, like Pumpkinpie, as the content is quite gentle. I can see, though, that a girl of 7 or 8 who was reading early chapters with a girly bent such as the My Secret Unicorn series or any of a number of the fairy series available right now would love it. I certainly have plenty of girls in that older age bracket at the library still asking for slightly schlocky princess-y stuffthat makes me cringe a bit - and they would adore it!

This book is available through the publisher or from Amazon.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008



by John Van de Ruit.

Spud is the nickname granted to the 13-year-old John Milton, new arrival at boarding school, who has not yet reached puberty. While this is a source of some embarrassment, it also grants him the most beautiful voice in school, his ticket to stardom in the school play and among the girls joining his school to perform it. Besides this ongoing internal struggle, though, he has plenty of other things to deal with, for he is, as he frequently notes, surrounded by lunacy. His family is completely bonkers and embarrass him at school funtions frequently, though they seem favourites among the faculty. He finds some friends among the teachers, too, though they are rife with their own issues and quirks. And finally, he resides in a dorm that becomes known over the year as "The Crazy Eight."

The Crazy Eight are a pretty motley cast of characters, each with a nickname and his own oddity. There are, for example, Gecko, the sickly one; Fatty, the great eater; Mad Dog, the hunter; Rambo, the macho man; and RainMan, the demented one. There are ferocious rivalries with other boys that lead to occasionally vicious pranks, there are school traditions like birthday hazing to keep up with, and there are Rambo's own invented challenges, like the night swim which leads to disaster not once but twice. All this makes for one heck of a crazy school year, but one in which Spud learns a lot, grows a lot, and though his voice doesn't crack yet by the end, he is a whole lot closer to becoming the man he wants to be.

The book has heart and hilarity in equal measure, and had me often enough laughing out loud like a loon on the subway. If you like a good laugh and you don't mind the looks you get from the other transit riders when you crack up, I'd recommend this one, for certain.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Alcatraz Smedry Versus the Evil Librarians

by Brandon Sanderson.

This book is a fantasy mixed with a comedy, a sort of Harry Potter meets Daniel Pinkwater. Throw in a smidge of Lemony Snicket, for the evil conspiracies and because Alcatraz often addresses the reader in asides about writing conventions and about what sort of person he really is, after all. But the book, or Alcatraz, that is, insists that it is in fact non-fiction, an autobiography and record of true events, and written to set the record straight, although he acknowledges that librarians will bill it as fantasy to keep the lid on the true nature of their nefarious world domination.

It's silly, it's postmodern, it's rife with action and discovery of new views of the world, which is apparently run by evil librarians who obfuscate the truth to keep the people under their control. (I'll never tell if that is true or not.)

But whatever the case, it is an fun, fast-paced, and quite enjoyable read, and one I can see recommending especially to a boy who is ready to move into chapters in terms of reading level, but reluctant to move into heavier books. One who loved Jon Sceisczka or Dav Pilkey would be a perfect bet.

Labels: , , , , , ,