Bridge to Terabithia

Our rating: **½

Jess is surprised when Leslie, the new girl at his school, chooses him as her only friend. However, he is soon very happy to have met somebody who actually cares about his hobby of drawing and understands him. Together they “discover” the imaginary land of Terabithia and retreat there from all their problems. But how long can it last?

I found this one intriguing. It starts out as a slice-of-life story and a neat one at that. But about halfway through, with hardly any foreshadowing, the plot takes a turn you won’t expect (unless, like me, you had it ruined for you ahead of time). There’s definitely room for lots of discussion about the ending, which strikes me as sad for reasons the author didn’t quite intend.

Roller Skates

Our rating: ****

Lucinda Wyman’s parents are going to Italy for health reasons, leaving ten-year-old Lucinda with two spinsters for a whole year. Lucinda is excited about her “year of orphanage” because she will be allowed to roam the streets of New York City without being tied to a French governess. Her freedom allows her to make many friends, from the poor family in the upstairs apartment to the Italian street vendor.

Roller Skates is wonderful in that Lucinda is given so much freedom to explore and make friends, within bounds of reason, allowing her to come out of the shell imposed on her by her high-class, snooty, and somewhat uncaring family. There is one loose end that is upsetting to Lucinda and to the reader that is never tied up in the end, but most of the story is a good read with no lack of the subtle emotions of a young girl whose feelings have been hidden for so long.

Ella Enchanted

Our rating: ****½

Ella has a problem. At birth, a foolish fairy granted her the gift of obedience. Now any command she receives, however big or little it be, she is compelled to obey. This has obvious disadvantages, and if the knowledge of her curse falls into the wrong sort of hands… well, it could be very bad indeed. However, Ella is not one to simply accept her fate. She determines to find the cure, no matter how long it takes.

This is a delightfully fun read. It’s lighthearted, but at the same time isn’t meaningless fluff. The story is cleverly written, and I found it almost impossible to put down. In short, Ella Enchanted is… enchanting! I’d say it’s best suited for ages 12 and up, but it could be a good read aloud book, too.

My Brother Sam is Dead

Our rating: ***½

Tim Meeker lives in a small town with his parents and his only sibling, Sam. The town is sympathetic to the Tories, so Mr. Meeker is astonished to hear that Sam is going to fight on the American side in the coming war for independence from Britain. Once Sam leaves, Tim has to take on more responsibility. Not only does he have to do Sam’s chores at the family tavern, but he also needs to choose which side he will support in the Revolutionary War. Should he side with Sam, or should he side with the rest of the town?

This story, told through Tim’s eyes, is a good account of what the ordinary civilian would experience during the Revolution. I marked it for older readers because, although it doesn’t take place on the front lines of battle, there are some unpleasant details. Altogether, My Brother Sam is Dead is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

The Golden Goblet

Our rating: ****½

Ranofer, a young Egyptian boy, wants nothing more than to become a goldsmith like his father was. But his cruel half-brother Gebu has other plans, and soon Ranofer is bound to a dreary life in the stonecutter’s shop. When suspicious acts of Gebu’s turn up, though, Ranofer—with the help of his only two friends, Heqet and The Ancient One—determines to prove Gebu guilty. Dangers await, but Ranofer is willing to risk everything for his freedom.

The Golden Goblet impressed me as a very good book. It’s easy to get caught up in Ranofer’s plight, sympathizing with him and wondering how it will turn out. It also provides a neat look into ancient Egypt and what things were like then, yet it does so without distracting from the story at all. I’d say it’s an excellent read, and definitely worthwhile.