Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Oh what an exquisitely written book!

I was completely engaged by the reality and inhabitants of Goredd, a world populated by dragons and humans. An uneasy peace between the two groups has prospered over the last 40 years. Just as the anniversary is approaching, a royal prince is murdered.

Seraphina, the protagonist, is half dragon and half human. Her life depends upon keeping this secret. Yet her gift for music, inherited from her dragon mother, has brought her to the notice of the human court.

She is drawn into the murder investigation as companion to the royal guardsman, Prince Lucian Kiggs, to determine if dragons were involved in the prince's death. Eventually they discover that this is just the first move in a convoluted plot to destroy their world as they know it.

I was gripped by the plot, but seduced by the passages about music. I became the musical instrument wherein Hartman's words played haunting refrains and melodies.

I can't wait for the sequel!

Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Last Airlift won the non-fiction Red Cedar Club Award this year. All the students at Dickens who have read it enjoyed it immensely. I even have a couple creating a book trailer for it.

Because I hadn't yet got around to reading it, last weekend I took it home. It is indeed a great and emotional read. (Imagine me sitting on the ferry trying to surreptitiously wipe tears from my eyes.) It deals gently with a difficult topic.

It is the true story of Tuyet, a young girl who was on the last plane taking children (mostly babies and toddlers) out of Vietnam just as the war was coming to a close. According to the notes at the end of the book, the Vietcong were planning on fostering all the children with families and killing the ones that were either half American or not perfect. Tuyet, because of her deformed leg and foot, was sent with the rest of the younger children out of the country. This book follows her on her journey from her home in the orphanage to a new home in Canada. It helps us understand how challenging it was for her even when she reached the safety of her new country and a loving family.

This would make a great companion book to Inside Out and Back Again

Variant by Robison Wells

I am nearly converted to science fiction fandom after reading this book. Like many of the titles I have been reading recently, it was recommended to me many times by students. We have two copies in the library and it is almost always checked out.

I snatched it up on Thursday to bring home and read on the weekend. I lied and told one of the kids that I had no idea where it was.

I'm really glad I did. I was surprised by how easily I slipped into Robison Wells' world. I started and finished it in one session.

Benson, a 17 year old foster kid, applied for a scholarship to Maxfield Academy, a private boarding school, and got in. He hoped his life would improve. Once there he discovered that not only is life more restricted, it is also dangerous. People are not who they seem to be. Escape seems impossible, yet not escaping will probably mean certain death.

I admit to being terrified on more than one occasion. This book has it all: hints of romance, suspense, tension, and violence.  It has a remarkable plot twist. It was indeed a great read. However, I must admit that I am now freaked out that some younger readers in grade 4 have been reading (and recommending) it.

I read somewhere that adults read differently from children. As an adult and a parent I am keenly aware of what might happen to the characters. Children on the other hand read the same material as a great adventure. I hope this is true.

Still I am in a quandary since it has been on a shelf to be read by any student. Now I am not sure this was a good idea. I don't think I can remove it, but I might get younger readers to get their parents' permission before reading it.

The Girl Who Could Fly

Sometimes a great book needs its time. This is true about this one for me. I tried a couple of times to get into it and kept getting stalled at the part where Piper McCloud and her parents were at the the July 4th picnic, Piper's first social outing.

I have been told by numerous readers (including my mother!) that it is a really really good read.  I conceded that they might be right since since the two copies we have in the library are always checked out.  I used this as an excuse to not try it again. Truthfully, I probably still wouldn't have read it except for two things. First, a grade seven girl at the school returned a library copy and asked if I had read it. I confessed I had tried but couldn't get past the picnic. She told me that is the closest thing to boring in the book and that it got a lot more exciting after that. Second, on the very same day, Piper, a grade 3 girl at our school actually brought me her copy to read. I believe the Gods and Goddesses  were trying to tell me it was this book's time for me.

I came home from work and started to read. I stopped to eat supper and clean up the kitchen afterwards. Then I went back to reading.

I apologize for not finishing this book earlier. It is indeed brilliant. 

Piper McCloud's parents had been married for 25 years before Betty discovered she was pregnant. Piper arrived soon after. She seemed to be a normal baby until she started floating off her bed and around the house. Then there was a time that she floated outside the house and was carried off by a storm. Betty and Joe attempted to keep her a secret by home schooling her and keeping her away from other people. They forbade her to fly, but Piper couldn't stop herself. 

Eventually she was discovered and taken to a facility called I.N.S.A.N.E. by Dr. Hellion. There she met other children who possess special powers. At first Piper was content. Soon she came to realize that things at the facility were not what they seemed and that they were all in terrible danger.

The book is brilliantly written. I have no excuse for not becoming enthralled by it earlier. The Midwestern farming setting is beautifully portrayed. All the characters, even the evil Dr. Hellion are well developed. Piper is a spunky indomitable character you can't help but admire. It is nearly impossible not to fall have in love with Conrad. I dare you to read this book and not care about all of them. Forester has created a story that has such an authentic feel to it, you can nearly believe it is real.

On the one hand this book is an engaging adventure novel. On the other it is about learning to accept who you are. It is about coming to terms with the fact that life and people are full of changes. It's about friendship and love and the power we wield when we embrace them.

I am going to be pushing this book at all the readers at the school.