Tag: fantasy

A Middle Grade Delight: The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd

by Júlia Sardà, Natalie Lloyd
Published by Katherine Tegen Books Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade

What I Loved:

So much to say about The Problim Children! After reading and adoring Natalie Lloyd’s first two books, A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, I can say she never fails to awe and astound me with her delightful prose and meaningful narratives.

The Problim Children is a fantastic story! I was immediately enamored with the seven Problim children from the very first pages of the novel, and each character carries a unique and vibrant personality, infusing the story with color and delight.

“thea believe in signs. wendell believed in wonders. He’s always felt sorry for people who didn’t believe in miracles. How could anybody live in such a weirdly wonderful world and not see magic tangled inside it?”

Transition arrives with a boom for the seven children when their home in the Swampy Woods is no longer fit for habitation. While the children’s parents are on an archaeological expedition, the seven head out of their familiar territory to claim their grandfather’s mysterious mansion in Lost Cove.

“I know your grandpa was a good man, though. He was a dreamer. He was a wild adventurer. He believed in living all the days of his life. And if tha’ts what folks claim is mad, well–then I think madness is a fine way to be remembered, don’t you?”

Upon arrival they face a fierce foe in the form of Desdemona D’Opinion, a woman who has her eye on discovering a treasure she thinks is hidden within the grand house. She possesses evil plans to farm the children out to various places so she can perform her dastardly deed and claim a treasure that rightfully belongs to the Problims.

However, the Problim Children and their faithful pig, Ichabod, have other plans! They set out to connect with the community around the house and to investigate their grandfather’s abode for clues and insight. At first it seems the surrounding families are slightly scared of the children and their unique ways. But the children persist in sharing themselves, of their joys and giftings, and humorous antics prevail!

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Like Natalie’s other two novels, which feature rich and multi-layered spiritual geographies, this one is no exception. One of the relationships often mentioned in terms of children’s spirituality is that of the very deep and transformative connections we can have with other people. That aspect of spirituality emerges in this text, specifically through the relationships among the children. Their connections with one another drive the narrative, and also serve as a catalyst for multiple events within the story.

“Look at someone heart-first,” mama problim always said. “there’s never an excuse to be cruel. when you meet someone new, think first about all the good and the sad and wonder and worry that’s probably blooming in their heart. just like yours.”

Another spiritual aspect is what I would call “profound courage”—the manifestation of courage in a character who must overcome some huge, almost insurmountable challenge. Perhaps this courage arrives through the character’s relationship with another character or through the emergency of some tremendous inner strength. That notion of “profound courage” is certainly present in the problim children, and I appreciated following the inner journeys of multiple characters in the story. i don’t want to give too much away so will leave you to uncover which characters I’m talking about.

Who Should Read This Book:

Young readers will love this book! Older readers will adore it! I recommend snatching up the beginning of what is certain to be a delightful series to most everyone.

Now I just have to settle down and wait for the next installment!

What Katie Read

Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR

Spring 2017 will see a handful of anticipated books published, and so today I share with you some of the titles that are on the top of my TBR. I picked up a handful of them at ALA Midwinter, so that means I can jump into many of these right away. But…I also share a few backlist titles that I’m adding to the stack.

It’s as it has always been: So many books and so little time!

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and Bookish—check out their blog and join in any week you like.

Here’s what they have to say about Top Ten Tuesday: “Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly link-up in the community where we provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in on it with their own top ten list. Feel free to have less than 10 or more if you need to at times and put a spin on the topic if you need to! Just please link back to us if you are participating :).”

STRANGE THE DREAMER

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of this at ALA Midwinter and I’ve already started reading it. Suffice it to say that however high your hopes are about this one, you can elevate them higher.

A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN

I’ve been holding off reading A Court of Mist and Fury but you can bet I’ll have read it by the time this title is released. I’m anxious to know how Feyre’s journey is going to unfold.

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

We know this won the National Book Award, and everything I have heard about this book convinces me it will be a heartrending and emotional read, but it will be worth it.

THE WOMEN IN THE CASTLE

I’m really looking forward to another historical novel set just after World War II. I can’t get enough fiction set in this time period, especially if it is well-researched. The Goodreads description says this fits readers of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans. I loved all of those books!!

HOUR OF THE BEES

Another title I’ve wanted to read for awhile about “family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.”

BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA

I read an ARC of this and I give it all the stars. I can’t wait to hold a finished copy in my hands and I will work to convince every reader to pick this one up!

THE SHADOW CIPHER (YORK #1)

I read and loved Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP so if she’s written a Middle Grade novel, you bet I’m going to be excited about it.

THE PEARL THIEF

A prequel for CODE NAME VERITY! I have no words.

FLAMECASTER

I know Shadowcaster is due out this spring, but I still need to read Flamecaster, and that is quickly becoming a priority.

SONG OF THE CURRENT

This sounds thrilling and look at that luminous cover. I see that the early reviews are positive so I’m planning on reading this one ASAP.

This is an amazing list, I know! I’m curious to know if any of these titles are on your lists or if there are any books you think I absolutely must add to my Spring TBR. Do tell! Happy Reading!

What Katie Read

Picturebook Trio: A Night Gardener, a Gryphon, and a Whisper

Genres: Picturebooks

There are picturebooks…and then there are Picturebooks. I bring Three special titles to you today.

THE NIGHT GARDENER

This picturebook might be my favorite picturebook of 2016. THE NIGHT GARDENER is absolutely gorgeous in its design, word/image interaction, and limited but rich textual narrative. It is a gift waiting for the reader to open, and I would not be surprised to hear that others have had profound experiences with this story.

First, I noticed that the way the book opened was unique. Whereas in other stories there might be a buildup to a grand event, this narrative stepped into its beginning rather quickly—in fact, on the second page. At the same time, the build up begins with the extra-textual materials of the book, which I loved. The copyright page itself features an important double page spread.

In other words, the book designers don’t waste any space in advancing and illuminating the meaning of the narrative.

And there are multiple meanings one might take away from this gem of a book by the Fan Brothers.

For example, the Night Gardener is bringing a kind of reformation and revival of beauty to the small town in the book. But two characters are affected in the story—our protagonist, William, and then the town as a whole. First, William is awed by the work of the Night Gardener and eventually pursues and finds him, deciding to help him in his work. Then, William plays a role in continuing the important work of the Night Gardener within the town. The magic and beauty and wonder that the Night Gardener brings through his “transformations” and “works of art” begin to change everyone—in a lasting way. There is a lot more to say about this simple and yet profound story, but I’ll stop there.

IF I HAD A GRYPHON

This book is actually written by a friend of mine, Vikki Vansickle, whom I met in Toronto when she was a bookseller! What we both shared in common is that we had both completed an MA in Children’s Literature and we always had wonderful bookish chats when we met. I’m absolutely thrilled to say that If I Had a Gryphon is lovely, charming, and whimsically wonderful!

The rhyme and rhythm of the narrative pairs perfectly with the pictures, and there is much to see in these illustrations! Whimsical, bright, and vivid—these illustrations pop off the page and pull you into the dreamlife of our protagonist. The fact that the story is told in verse adds another enjoyable aspect to the book.

Read the words out loud and you’ll be captivated by their rhythm, humor, and ability to bring these mythical creatures to life on the page. Poetry for young people can sometimes be daunting and hard to understand, but the rhymes of this book remove any stress related to poetry and provide a fantastic experience with verse. Sometimes a poetry book might have stellar illustrations but mediocre text, or wonderful text, but pictures that are not as strong as they might be. If I Had a Gryphon receives gold stars on both fronts!

THE WHISPER

The Whisper is a new addition to my school library and it is gorgeous! Whimsical, imaginative, and full of wonder, this gem of a picturebook tells a story that invites endless interpretations and curiosity. Its cover boasts a girl in a red hood, holding an open book with a crown on its cover, a crown floating above the girl’s head and also a fox at her side. A bunch of grapes hover over the fox’s head, slipping in an intertextual reference to Aesop’s fables (a preview of something that will happen later in the story).

Everything about the book promises a luxurious experience—pictures filled with detail that will keep you reading for a long while, and if you are looking for an opportunity to create your own stories, you will look no further. The endpapers alone kick off the story and provide a puzzle for the reader to unlock. My favorite part in the story is the double page spread at the beginning when the girl is rushing home with the special book on loan to her from her teacher. The fox balances on a wheel as he “scoops” up the words of the story in his net.

Each picture in the book invites its own narrative…or all the stories connected? No matter—your imagination is the key to unlock it all, and it becomes a marvelous experience the more you read.

Why is it called The Whisper? Well, you’ll just have to find out.

Have you read any of these picturebooks from 2016? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please tell me what you thought of these beautiful titles!

What Katie Read
%d bloggers like this: