Entries Categorized as 'All Ages'

Tree Castle Island

Our rating: ***

Jack loves the Okefenokee swamp where his Uncle Hamp lives. He’s just built his own canvas canoe and he has permission to stay out in the swamp with it, so he goes exploring. But when an alligator causes a shipwreck and Jack is stranded, he discovers a secret about himself that he never thought was possible.

Tree Castle Island starts out with all the components of a leisurely paddle through the swamp and then, like a meandering river, turns to the plot about halfway through. Though the story is interesting and the author masterfully works into the story all kinds of facts about wildlife in a swamp, the ending feels a bit rushed. For a story with a problem that builds and plagues the characters for a solution for so long, it certainly feels abrupt to have the solution spelled out in one short chapter with no real resolution.

The Whisper of Glocken

Our rating: ***½

Five years after the invasion of the Mushrooms, a new problem has arisen. The Watercress river, flowing through the valley of the Minnipins, has changed direction and begun flooding the towns. Five unlikely heroes, Glocken, Silky, Scumble, Gam Lutie, and Crustabread, are commissioned by the five old Heroes to journey outside the valley and find the source of the flooding. With them goes the ancient Whisper Stone, which has been passed down through Glocken’s family for generations, and contains the secret for finding the legendary Whisper of Glocken, a bell now known only in pretend-stories.

This was an interesting read, but I don’t like it as much as its prequel. Some important parts of it seemed a bit vague and confusing, and sometimes I’d get turned around and couldn’t figure out exactly where the main characters were. It’s also more strange than the first book, because the Minnipins spend most of their time outside the valley, where they meet strange creatures and plants, and even full-size humans. Overall, not as good as The Gammage Cup, but it might be worth reading just for the sake of reading it.

Secret Water

Our rating: ****

The Swallows and Amazons return for another imaginative adventure! This time the Swallows’ youngest sister Bridget comes along on an exploring and mapping expedition as the children are “marooned” by their parents on the islands of Secret Water. However, mapmaking is threatened by war when the Eels, a “savage tribe” of four other children camping on one of the other islands, want the islands to themselves and attempt to drive the Swallows and Amazons away.

Let’s deal with my one problem with this book first. The “savage tribe” of Eels imaginatively goes the whole nine yards into playing savages, including a pretend human sacrifice to the Great Eel and a very un-pretend blood brotherhood ritual. Anybody with a sense of humor will find these parts funny, but some might consider them a bad influence. I’m in the former camp, so with that out of the way, let me tell you what I like about Secret Water.

It’s a charming, witty, exciting story full of lots of imagination and humor. Adventure? Plenty. Marooned explorers, unexplored islands, attacks from savages, and thrilling escapes. There’s something here for everybody, and you can’t help but wish that you were inside this story.

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea

Our rating: ****½

While awaiting Commander Walker’s return in Harwich, John, Susan, Titty, and Roger make friends with the sailor of the Goblin. Mrs. Walker gives them permission to sail up and down the river for a few days until their father arrives. When the sailor disappears ashore, however, and the anchor drags, the Walker children find themselves being swept out to sea on a very real adventure.

Whereas most of the other books contain more imaginative, light-hearted adventures, the dangers in this story seemed more present and real. The children are, after all, at sea by themselves. It’s an exciting read, though sadly the Amazon pirates never show up. Nevertheless, it’s probably one of my favorite Swallows and Amazons books.

Houseboat Girl

Our rating: ***½

Pasty Foster has spent most of her life on a houseboat because her father cannot bear to stay on land. After two years in a regular house, the Fosters are set for another trip down the Mississippi river. Although she is excited to be on the river, Pasty misses her friends and wishes to live in a real house again.

Houseboat Girl is not a fast-paced story by any means. The moments of adventure are over in a few pages at most. This isn’t Lenski’s best book, but the characters are realistic and the setting is different than what is found in most books, making it an enjoyable, light read.