Genre: Family

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on May 13th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 13 and up

The Book: Cadence is part of a privileged family: the Sinclairs. But like many families, this family harbors secrets. Summers find Cadence with her family on their private island off the coast of Massachusetts. There, she becomes part of the “liars,” a group including herself, her two cousins, and a grafted in “cousin,” Gat. They sneak out together, they get in trouble together, but when the summer ends, they each go their separate ways. Except for one summer. What secret is the family holding back from Cadence of that fateful summer, and what happened that she is desperately trying to remember?

Spirituality in We Were Liars: Topics like greed, racism, and dysfunctional family relationships in a story can certainly make room for spirituality. Without giving anything away, I will point out that the issue of materialism surfaces in the story—and one character’s response to this excessive greed is an interesting aspect of the narrative. Feel free to let me know in the comments your thoughts on these aspects of the story!

Who Should Read This Book: If you can read and you like a beautifully written story with a mystery at its heart, you need to sit down with The Liars. You owe it to yourself to visit this island off the coast of Massachusetts, and learn about the Sinclairs with all their flaws. Whether you like a good contemporary realistic novel or a thought-provoking mystery, I’m certain you’ll find something in this story to enjoy. This is the kind of book that kept me close to the page, tracing it for hints as to what really happened during “Summer 15” for the Liars.

The Final Word: Lockhart’s prose is clever, crisp, and beautiful. I hadn’t read anything by her before, but now I plan to change that. I appreciate her style, and I was glued to this story for several days. My only regret is that it had been longer. Now, I’m planning a re-read, especially since I want to return and scour the pages for clues. An unreliable narrator can really make a narrative more fascinating, and Lockhart expertly weaves a story that you will be thinking about long after you have closed the book.

 

 

 

four-stars
What Katie Read

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie Lloyd

Sacred Stories & Melted Ice Cream: A Snicker of Magic (2014) by Natalie LloydA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Published by Scholastic Inc. on February 25th 2014
Genres: Family, Fantasy, Friendship, Middle Grade
Pages: 320
Goodreads

Suggested age range: 8 and up

Source: Copy Won from Emily at Oh Magic Hour

“Home isn’t just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you’re brave enough to love people.” (p. 302)

The Book: Felicity Pickle wants a home—but her family, which includes her mother, sister, and dog, Biscuit, has been prone to wander from town to town, until her mother gets the itch to pack up and move again. Settling in Felicity’s mom’s hometown for a bit, Midnight Gulch, means several things: Felicity finally has a best friend, she gets to live with her aunt Cleo, and her mom works in an ice cream factory that makes the town smell like waffle cones come evening time. Felicity has a magical way of seeing words and spinning them into poetry, but she fears public speaking; when her new best friend, Jonah, encourages her to enter the “Duel,” the town talent show, Felicity has to make a choice about whether she is going to face her fears or duck out. Will the town ever get rid of its curse? Will Felicity and her family finally settle down? A snicker of magic might be left in Midnight Gulch, and Felicity pursues that hope with everything she’s got in this delightful middle grade fantasy.

Spirituality in A Snicker of Magic: Where do I begin? This story reflects multiple spiritual dimensions, and certainly engaged my own spirituality as I was reading. Humans are built for relationship and authentic community with others, and this idea is woven throughout the narrative. Even Felicity’s longing for a home and community reflects an aspect of her spirituality—Jonah’s offering of friendship early in the story is almost impossible for Felicity to believe, but there’s a kind of “magic” still alive in Midnight Gulch. The mystery and role of “The Beedle,” for example, is another spiritual dimension of the book, which could certainly be discussed with readers more after the last page is turned. What about believing in people when they have given up on themselves? This is another valuable spiritual aspect of the story and could connect to readers in countless ways.

Exploring this Book with Readers: This book holds great potential for the upper elementary classroom and even beyond the classroom. It’s a pity I’m not teaching at the moment, for I know my 6th graders would have loved this story. The emphasis on playing with words and creating poetry in the narrative means that responses to this book could include the creation of poetry and other word inventing activities. For example, Felicity sees words over people—students could generate words for each other, and with those words, create poems or stories or artwork. The possibilities really are endless with the rich themes the book illuminates—I certainly intend to create some specific language arts curriculum with this book.

The Final Word: If you enjoy books like When You Reach Me, Hope is a Ferris Wheel, and When Audrey Met Alice, you will most likely enjoy A Snicker of Magic. This is a new favorite of mine! I first saw a review of the book on The Midnight Garden, and could tell this was a book for me. When I won a giveaway from my blogging friend, Emily, this was one of the books I picked. What a delightful surprise at such an enchanting and moving story! I had a kind of profound reaction to this book, that showed me even more strongly why spirituality and children’s literature is so fascinating to me. There is still so much I don’t know, but so many beautiful paths of exploration yet to discover.

What Katie Read

An enchanted world, a powerful book, and three children of destiny: “E” is for The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings (2011) by John Stephens #AtoZchallenge

An enchanted world, a powerful book, and three children of destiny: “E” is for The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings (2011) by John Stephens #AtoZchallengeThe Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Published by Random House Children's Books on April 5th 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Siblings
Pages: 432
Goodreads
five-stars

Called “A new Narnia for the tween set” by the New York Times and perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series, The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world. These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage. Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about. Until now. Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.From the Hardcover edition.

The Book: An enchanted world filled with monsters, dwarves, and evil countesses. A book of power called The Emerald Atlas. Time travel. All these elements make up this story featuring three orphans, Kate, Michael, and Emma. Three special children who have moved from one orphanage to the next since they were very young, the trio are convinced their parents are alive somewhere and will eventually return for them. However, upon the discovery of an enchanted book, the three find themselves transported back in time, and race to save an entire town from the evils of a countess who will stop at nothing to find one of the “books of beginning.” During their journey, Kate, the eldest of the children slowly begins to realize that she and her siblings may have a far greater purpose and destiny than she had ever imagined.

Spirituality in The Emerald Atlas: The relationships among the siblings represents one spiritual aspect of the story that I appreciated. I think that Stephens portrayed the significance of the bond between brother and sisters very well, and I don’t always read stories where I am especially moved by the strength of the family connection. Kate’s strong sense of justice and wanting to make things right was another dimension of the story that resonated with me, as well as the way she has a glimpse of her mother at one point in the book. The interaction between the two is an amazing moment, and I appreciated the way Stephens portrayed Kate as working through issues of abandonment that she surely must have felt.

Who Should Read This Book: If you enjoy fantasy stories like Narnia or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, you must read this book. I enjoy both C.S. Lewis & Philip Pullman’s work, and I was sucked into the world Stephens created. The story is filled with twists and turns and some recognizable aspects of a fantasy story, but the novel retains a uniqueness that kept it refreshing and exciting. There are moments to laugh and to cry. I haven’t read the second book yet, but I have hopes that it will be as interesting as the first.

The Final Word: I had been planning to read this book for over a year and I am so glad I picked up the audio book first, and then checked out the book from the library. It’s a delightful read and a fantasy you can really get lost in. I will definitely be recommending this book to young readers who love an exciting fantasy with an ending that leaves you wanting more. The characters are memorable—especially the dwarf, Hamish. Enjoy The Emerald Atlas!

five-stars
What Katie Read
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