Reviews

Ride like the wind, Pegasus! The Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn

O’Hearn, Kate. The Flame of Olympus. Aladdin, c2011. 385 pages. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-1-44244-409-6; PLB $13.06, ISBN 978-1-53793-452-5; TR $5.19, ISBN 978-1-44244-410-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology Retelling

Part of a series? Yes — The Pegasus Series

Plot Summary:

Olympus is in danger. A merciless group of monsters storms the gods’ home and wreaks havoc on everything in sight. Olympians — accustomed to immortality — find themselves no match for these dangerous Nirads. Paelen, a thief and disliked by all on Olympus, decides that the chaos of this deadly battle is the perfect time to steal Pegasus’s bridle and become his master. While he promises a dying Mercury that he will do his best to help the Olympians defeat their attackers, his desire for power is too great.

As Olympus battles this evil force, a storm rages in New York City. Emily, a young girl whose mother has died of cancer only three months previously, must weather the storm on the top floor of her apartment building alone while her police officer father tries to help keep the peace in the city. During the terrifying storm, a pounding on her roof calls for her to investigate … only to find that Pegasus has landed on her home! He is badly injured, and she knows she will need help to set his wounds. Against her better judgment, she reaches out to troubled classmate Joel, a huge kid with a lot of anger issues who also happens to love mythology. United in their purpose of helping this amazing being, Emily and Joel begin to see each other as allies and even friends. Emily immediately bonds with the wounded Olympian and realizes that the fate of her new friend’s home rests on her shoulders…can she help Pegasus find the Flame of Olympus and save all of the Olympians?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book was recommended to me by students, so I was eager to learn more about the world of Pegasus. I was taken by surprise that O’Hearn combines Roman and Greek terminology and figures; while it was jarring to me as I started, I didn’t find it to be a problem. This book has it all — danger, adventure, heists, and drama. Emily will stop at nothing to help those she has sworn to protect, and seeing a human girl face off against giant monsters, evil government agencies, and other foes makes for a great read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this book to anyone looking for a readalike for Percy Jackson and the Olympians. There are lots of mythology retellings out there vying for readers, and this is one that definitely delivers.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Reviews

HOROBOD, or would that be HOROWOD? Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer

Springer, Nancy. Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. Read by Emily Gray. Playaway All-in-One Audiobook/Findaway World, 2010. 4 hours. Playaway $54.75, ISBN 978-1-44071-207-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this audiobook? Yes

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Rowan Hood series

Plot Summary:

Rosemary’s mother is gone; burned to death by people who think she’s an evil witch simply because she is the descendant of the Elfin people, Celandine sends her daughter a spell of protection as the house is lit ablaze. Motherless and homeless, thirteen-year-old Ro disguises herself as a boy (“Rowan”) and leaves for Sherwood Forest to find her father, Robin Hood. Along the way, she offends Guy of Gisborne when she refuses to hand over her outlaw arrows (simple bolts of sharpened wood). She also meets Lionel, a giant minstrel; Tykell, a wolf-dog; and Ettarde, an escaped princess. Will finding Robin Hood solve Ro’s problems? 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

For this book, I listened to the version narrated by Emily Gray. Gray’s voice was lilting and engaging, and her accent was perfect for listening to a Robin Hood story. The only problems I had as a listener were understanding some of the magical words Springer uses; for instance, I thought that Ro’s mother was one of the “Alpha” and had “Alphin” magic. It was not until I turned to Google (having no hard copy of the book at hand) to check the spelling and find it to be “Elfin!” This is a very minor issue, however, and Gray gracefully performs every voice and sound. Her voice for Lionel captures his spirit perfectly, and it’s never confusing when Ettarde and Ro speak to one another. The chapters are broken up well, and the Playaway was easy to use.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this audiobook to any student who wanted a new way to experience fantasy. Listening to this story is a lot like sitting at a campfire (perhaps in an outlaw camp?) and hearing ballads of old heroes. This is a great pick for students who prefer to listen to books over traditional reading, but this is also a fun choice for any reader. The pacing is excellent, so while it might not be perfect for listening on a run, this is also a good book for students to listen to while cleaning or doing chores. (Idea from myself).

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 4/15/01

Reviews

Retelling Time! The Jumbies

Baptiste, Tracey. The Jumbies. Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 234 pages. Hardcover $13.61, ISBN 978-1-61620-414-3; Tr. $5.96, ISBN 978-1-61620-592-8

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Folktale Retellings

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

An intricate tale, Baptiste’s novel adapts a Haitian folktale into a middle grade novel. Corinne isn’t afraid of anything … not the dark, not the bullies, and certainly not the Jumbies that everyone else fears in the forest. As her father says, Jumbies are nothing but a fairytale…until, of course, the day a Jumbie follows her out. Will Severine, the Jumbie woman, steal Corinne’s father from her? Will the Jumbies destroy Corinne’s village? Or will Corinne harness the power within herself to save her family and her people?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

A novel about friendship, bravery, and empathy, this story is a powerful addition to any library’s middle grade collection, particularly with a focus on folktale retellings. When so many retellings nowadays reflect Western versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and other “Disney” topics, this exciting Haitian story (based on “The Magic Orange Tree”) really offers something new. The development of the novel is a bit slow, but once the Jumbies creep out of the forest, the story launches forward, full steam ahead! Hand this one to your readers who want to read fairy tales in a new light.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A fun book club exercise would be to talk about stewardship of the earth. Green activities such as planting something on campus (a tree! Or, if not possible, maybe some flowers or other small plants), holding a recycling drive, or other eco-friendly activity would be a great way to act upon the message of stewardship that runs throughout the novel. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

Review referenced:

Bird, E. (2015, Apr. 28). Review of the day: The jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Review of the book The Jumbies). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2015/04/28/review-of-the-day-the-jumbies-by-tracey-baptiste/

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, Jan. 20). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/

Publishers Weekly. (2015, Feb. 9). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/