Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

    The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle, the second book in the series by Christopher Healy, is about how the League of Princes must come back together for another daring adventure. Prince Liam is forced to marry the horrible princess Briar Rose. What Liam soon learns, is that there is more to his marriage than uniting two kingdoms, Briar Rose has bigger plans for him and for herself. Liam must call upon his scattered friends to help him in his quest to stop Briar's scheme and save all of the kingdoms from destruction. Will they be able to put together another plan, or will their history and self-doubt open them up to failure? 

     Christopher Healy's gift as a writer is being able to twist classic fairy tales into new adventures we can't help but love. For example, Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty) was one of my favorite princesses, but in this story you love to hate her. She turns out to be a villian, which is the complete opposite of the stories I grew up with. I also love that he writes books about strong girl characters who are sometimes braver than the boys. Princes like Fredrick and Duncan, who in the old stories are handsome, daring, and strong, turn out to be scaredy-cats and dim-wits in this book. So much humor comes from how they don't act "princely" most of the time. If you love the classic tales and are looking for a humor-filled twist on what you know, this is the series for you. 


     Switch, the third in a series of companion novels by Ingrid Law, continues to tell the story of the Beaumont family and their incredible Savvy powers. This time, the story focuses on Gypsy, the younger sister of Mibs, and how she develops her Savvy during a difficult time for her family. What is most shocking, is not that Gypsy develops a special power, but how her special power, and the other Savvys in her family, get switched around for a reason they can't yet understand. Will Gypsy's "switch" allow her to stop a horrible vision from taking place, or will even her amazing powers not be enough to change fate? 

     As I said above, this is the third book in the "Savvy" series. I was so excited when I learned this book would be hitting shelves because Ingrid Law has an amazing way of weaving the fantastical with the real. By this I mean that she has a great balance of fantasy, like 13 year olds developing special powers, and real life situations, like dealing with crushes, bullying, and sibling rivalry. Gypsy is a fantastic main character because she is learning how to appreciate herself throughout the story. She seems shy and unsure of herself, but as the story progresses, she learns what she is truly capable of and truly comes out of her shell. It is always fun to watch a character change in this way, and because Ingrid creates characters you love, you are invested in seeing what happens to them. This is a must read if you enjoyed Savvy, the books just get better every time. 



      Pluto: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio is another incredible story about those people who have been impacted by knowing Auggie Pullman. The main character of this story is Auggie's childhood friend Christopher. The short story details not only how Auggie and Christopher became best friends, but how their friendship was tested throughout the years. Their friendship looks very different now that both of them are finally in school and Christopher and his family have moved away. What Christopher must learn is what it means to be a true friend, and while he is figuring this out, will his friendship with Auggie survive?

     What I love so much about all of R.J. Palacio's stories is the heart she puts into them. No character is perfect, all of them have flaws, but in the end all of them rely on their hearts to make the best decision. Christopher is no different, he is a normal boy dealing with balancing friendship, being accepted, and school work. I may not have agreed with everything Christopher did throughout the story, but I understood his choices because as humans we all make mistakes. At the end of the story, Christopher finds a way to step up to the plate and show his true colors and that is all I can every ask of anyone in my life. It isn't about being perfect, it is about learning from our experiences.

Flying Solo

     The realistic fiction story Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher tells a detailed story about how a classroom of students have a substitute teacher who doesn't show up so they try to prove they can teach themselves. The debate becomes, will they tell or won't they tell? What the students don't know is that by running their own classroom they will learn more about each other and themselves. Can this class come together and rule the day, or will they fail and end up in big trouble?

     The theme of this story is that it is never too late to get to know someone better. So many of these students have known each other for a long time, but on this day they realize there is still so much more to learn about each other if they are willing to listen and give each other a chance. I love this message because we can all get set in our own ways and it encourages us to open our ears and hearts. Rachel had no voice through most of the story, but by the end everyone got to know her and understand even more through events that happened in their classroom. This is a wonderful story full of emotion, humor, and real-life situations.