Chapter Books: Children's Lit.

By Amariah Dixon
Published in 2013

Why I chose this book:
I would like to expand this blog to include chapter books before T is actually reading chapter books. When a review opportunity arose to review a YA Christian fantasy novel, I was interested. I accepted a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


You know that dream where something ominous is after you, but you don't know why? That is what sixteen-year-old Riley faces repeatedly in The Star: How the Magic Began. His story begins with abuse by a group of bullies at his school. Shortly thereafter, he wakes to find a star imprint over his eye. He hides this from his parents, but cannot avoid showing it to his friend Kelly. Almost immediately thereafter, they are chased by a malicious ghost army. Riley escapes from one horrific encounter only to be thrust into another: evil clowns, mad scientists, ghouls, grim reapers, and the like. Each creature must be battled, be it in Colorado, an alternate dimension, or the magical land of Zefa, which Riley and Kelly enter through a mysterious door in the forest. In Zefa, he is able to use magic against his adversaries. Although most new characters are abusive bullies, some are victims of bullies; these individuals he befriends. The novel concludes with many questions left unanswered; it is clearly intended to set the stage for another installment.

Billed as a Christian book, The Star is primarily a story of good vs. evil. Riley is pitted against various "evil" characters, many of whom avow their loyalty to the Vile One outright. I have asked myself why Riley must experience animosity from almost everyone he meets, animosity that leads to attempts on his life. Perhaps we are meant to read Riley as the messianic figure in this story: he is selected by the One of Light and comes into his power as a young adult, he stands against abuse of the weak, and he acquires followers as he travels through Zefa (and those followers become as close as brothers themselves). I wonder if he will need to die in a future novel in order to fulfill the purpose for which he was marked with the star.

By D. E. Night
Published 2017

Why I chose this book:
I would like to include more children's reading levels than just picture books, so when I saw that reviews for this children's chapter book were sought, I responded. The publisher provided a copy for review.

Mom's Review

High fantasy, sorcery without the sword. This magical mystery adventure features enchantments performed with quill pens and enchanted gems. Ivy Lovely, the sixteen-year-old protagonist, runs away from her lowly job in the castle kitchen, to be picked up by a representative from a magical school. She learns that she is enrolled to begin learning magic in a number of days, although she has no idea how this could come to pass, almost reminiscent of Harry Potter. Despite the improbability, she recognizes an opportunity not to be missed.

Ivy's school year progresses as you might expect, with magical mishaps, a bully, a secret crush, and an unfair teacher. What sets this novel apart is the magic and mystery. Ivy is studying to become a scrivenist. This means that she can perform magic using a quill pen, has a particular talent for realistic drawing, and has magic flowing through her blood. Although I am a bit unclear on how exactly the students harness their magic and use their quills or gems, suspension of disbelief came easily. Ivy's studies, as well as many strange events, lead her to research an older scrivenist by the name of Derwin Edgar Night. Her investigation leads to more questions than answers, a search into her own history, and exploration of several forbidden places. She ultimately confronts the Dark Queen in a magical battle, learns her own history, and sets Derwin free from his enchanted prison. Excitement abounds in this novel for tweens and teens. I had fun reading it now, and I know I would have gobbled it up as a kid.

Reading The Crowns of Croswald as an adult, I particularly liked the depiction of Ivy's relationship with her roommate. Although they came from vastly different backgrounds, they were fast friends and always their authentic selves. Furthermore, each was ready to do what was right despite others' opposition. It's a prime example of supportive, healthy friendship between girls for a young audience to see.

Written by Gennifer Choldenko
Expected Publication: May 8, 2018

Why I chose this book: 
I received a copy of this through a GoodReads giveaway.

Mom's Review

Before beginning high school, Moose struggles to join the baseball team and care for a sister with autism, all while living on Alcatraz Island.

Moose is the son of the assistant warden on Alcatraz. He encounters many obstacles to joining a baseball team during the summer before his freshman year. Moose must look after Piper, the warden's troublesome daughter. He must convince an unreasonable baseball captain who wants Alcatraz souvenirs to let him play. And first and foremost, Moose must care for Natalie, his sister with autism who turns 17.

Heart-pounding action and authentic characters grab the reader and don't let go until the end. The real strength of Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is Moose and Natalie's relationship. Moose loves his sister dearly, becomes exasperated at times with her behavior, and balances their individual goals. Natalie, meanwhile, asserts herself as a young lady and develops many new social skills. Readers with siblings who have differences, be they social, mental, or physical, can identify with Moose's feelings, thoughts, and reactions to his sister. I read this book at every opportunity over the past few days, and I cried when it ended. The other children's books that made me cry were Wonder and Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Son's Review
(age 2 years and 11 months)

Son, seeing Mom open the mail and this book appear: Is that for me?

Mom: Not yet, but you can read it when you are older.

Son: Okay.  Can I have the bookmark now?
(It came with an Alcatraz series bookmark.)

Mom: How about when I'm done using it?

Son: [takes it anyways]

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