Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Fairy Tale Reform School’s seeing some changes in Tricked

Tricked, by Jen Calonita, (March 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 9781492637950

Recommended for ages 8-13

Gilly and friends return in Tricked, the third installment of Fairy Tale Reform School, but things are very, very different now. Gilly’s in school to be a cobbler, like her dad, but she really isn’t into it. Her sister, Anna, is falling in with a bad crowd: Hansel and Gretel are jerks, causing trouble all over town. They go too far with one prank that lands the three of them in – you guessed it – Fairy Tale Reform School, but the school has been through some big changes: Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked stepmother, is no longer headmistress; instead, the master dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin, is in charge now, and the classes seem to encourage the kids to be more villain than hero. Gilly, Jax, and Maxine need to get back on the inside to find out what’s going on in those hallowed halls, get to the bottom of Rump’s treachery, and save Anna while Gilly’s at it: if Anna even wants to be saved.

I’ve been a Fairy Tale Reform School fan from the beginning, and Tricked is every bit as good as the first two. I love the way Jen also manages to address some of the very real things going on in the news today through FTRS, with a trickster who excels in the art of the deal (ahem) pulling the strings and making everyone in that school either blindly follow him or disappear. When things came together for me as I read, I realized how brilliant Tricked is in every respect, and I admire Jen Calonita for taking such a timely message on and communicating it to the kids who need to understand that when something doesn’t seem normal, it really isn’t.

There are strong subplots, addressing the frustration of being in a sibling’s shadow, making your own dreams happen versus living up to others’ expectations.

Tricked is all-around fun reading with big messages for young readers.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Who’s the newest and fairest of them all?

charmedCharmed, I’m Sure, by Sarah Darer Littman, (Sept. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481451277

Recommended for ages 8-12

What happens when you’re the daughter of the fairy tale world’s version of Brangelina – Snow White and Prince Charming – and you can’t get a date for the Fall Festive school dance? This is Rosie White Charming’s dilemma in Charmed, I’m Sure. She grits her teeth and asks her mom – now a lifestyle blogger for her hugely famous brand – for help, receiving a complete makeover and magic compact from Snow White. At first, it’s great – guys are noticing her! Her friends think she looks fabulous! – but things aren’t always what they seem. Rosie swears the compact is talking to her, and it’s sounding a heck of a lot like the magic mirror that her evil step-grandmother used; next thing she knows, her friends are mad at her, and so is the cute guy she was talking up at the coffee joint. Rosie isn’t giving up, though – she’s going to find a way to get her happily-ever-after.

Charmed, I’m Sure is another fun entry into the flipped/fractured fairy tale genre for middle graders. It’s fun, has some cameos from other famous fairy tale offspring, and the characters are light and silly. There’s a nice message about staying true to yourself, and Snow White gets her message across to her daughter in a very sly way that will make you realize that she knows a lot more than she lets on. (Like most parents, am I right?)

A fun addition to your fun fairy tales collection. Talk it up with Jen Calonita’s Fairy Tale Reform School series and The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper for extra fun reading!

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

A modern twist on Cinderella: It Started With Goodbye

started-with-goodbyeIt Started With Goodbye, by Christina June, (May 2017, Blink Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780310758662

Recommended for ages 12+

Tatum Elsea’s not having a great summer. Accused of a crime she didn’t commit – she was trying to get her best friend away from her sleazy boyfriend, to add insult to injury! – she’s under her step-monster’s house arrest for the entire summer, AND her best friend won’t speak to her. She’s working on pulling invasive plants as a community service during the day, and at night, quietly launching a design business to keep from going crazy. Things start looking up when she gets a few nibbles for her design business, including a flirty exchange with a musician who needs a portfolio made to submit to colleges. Her stepmother’s mother is also staying with them for the summer while Tatum’s dad is away on business, and she brings got just a little bit of fairy abuela magic with her, whether it’s a little extra money from her bunco winnings to help Tatum out, or warming up the relationships in the house. Maybe Tatum’s summer will end on a high note, after all.

This is a very sweet, very fun, modern take on Cinderella. Tatum’s stepmother isn’t really evil, she’s just really, really strict; her stepsister is a ballet dancer that’s not as uppity as Tatum thinks she is; her fairy godmother plays bunco and watches Golden Girls while dispensing real talk. There’s a music fest instead of a masked ball, and a cute take on the glass slipper. I had a great time reading this; you’ll just feel better when you’re done. It’s very clean – my conservative readers and my tweens will absolutely embrace this – and the characters are all very likable, even if they are in need of some serious loosening up in the beginning.

A fun, light romance to add to your collections or pass along to teen romance readers. There’s some fun content coming down the pike from author Christina June, including a graphic design contest, playlists, and launch party in the DC area. Keep an eye on Christina’s author page and Blink’s webpage for updates.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Fairy Tale Reform School – but are the teachers scarier than the students?

cover54597-mediumFairy Tale Reform School: Flunked, by Jen Calonita (March 2015, Sourcebook Jabberwocky) $15.99, ISBN: 9781492601562

Recommended for ages 10-14

Gilly isn’t bad, really. She’s just a little light-fingered. But she’s doing it for her family – her father’s a shoemaker, and she’s got a LOT of brothers and sisters. (Sounding like a familiar tale yet?) Unfortunately for Gilly, she gets caught one too many times, and ends up at Fairy Tale Reform school, where Cinderella’s stepmother is the headmistress and faculty include the Evil Queen (Snow White’s stepmother) and the Big Bad Wolf. Gilly makes two friends, Kayla and Jax, who give her the inside scoop on FTRS; just as Gilly’s gut told her, there’s more going on than meets the eye. There’s one villain on the loose, and she’s bringing the fight to the school. Are the teachers really reformed, or is there someone on the inside helping the wrong side?

I’m a big fan of this flipped fairy tale trend happening in juvenile and YA fiction. It’s a great way of keeping a little spark of childhood wonder with us, and there really are some great stories to build on. Flunked – which reads, at points, like Scared Straight for fairy tales – is an interesting entry into this genre. We’ve got the big guns: Cinderella, Snow White, and their antagonists here, and we have one of the children of the old woman who lives in a shoe. We’re firmly rooted in the mythology, so we can slip right into the tale.

Gilly is a likable character; she’s the thief with a heart of gold, the maligned daughter who just wants to help her family. She’s the most developed character, but there are reasons for that which become clear as the book progresses. There were some good plot reveals and characters that you never quite trust – it’s a good suspense, where the reader is left to guess where loyalties truly lie. I’m interested in seeing where future stories take us, now that we’ve got an established storyline, characters, and plot.

Jen Calonita is a popular tween/YA author. Her Secrets of My Hollywood Life series is hugely popular at my library, and I’m super-excited, because I just found out that she will be speaking to my son’s middle school, Russell Sage JHS in Queens, on March 13th!

While you’re waiting for your copy of Flunked, check out the book’s website, and find your FTRS mentor. Professor Wolfington is mine, which makes me pretty happy. The book’s Facebook page offers fun shots of the “police blotter”- news clips that appear, along with newspaper articles about incidents taking place within the school and the village, in Flunked. This could lead to a fun program at a library or in class – create your own newspaper article with a modern-day spin on a fairy tale! There’s a great activity kit with some ideas that I may use in my own library for Summer Reading.

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs is a laugh-out-loud retelling (that every mom will love)!

cover60102-mediumSnow White and the 77 Dwarfs, by Davide Cali (April 2015, Tundra Books) $17.99, ISBN: 9781770497634

Recommended for ages 3-8

In this hilarious retelling of the classic fairy tale, Snow White escapes the Evil Queen, and ends up at a house that belongs to 77 dwarfs. They let her stay on the proviso that she helps with the chores. For 77 little men. Not only does she have to remember everyone’s name, but she’s got to do their laundry, help with their grooming, tell every single one of them their own, personal bedtime story, referee all the quibbling – is being on the run really worth this, Snow?

Every mother will appreciate this, whether she’s wrangling multiple children, hosting a playdate, or acting as class mom. I’ve got three kids, and on some days, I swear there are 77. Snow White, I’m right there with you.

This book is adorable, with bright, cartoony illustrations that kids and grownups alike will enjoy. Snow White’s expressions are priceless (and oh, so recognizable), and the multitude of dwarfs, with all their word balloons, will strike a chord with any parent whose found themselves surrounded by children.

Look at me, I’m reviewing this book for parents. But we’re the ones who read them first, so why not? Kids will love this book because it’s flat-out funny, with eye-catching art. They’re most likely already familiar with the story of Snow White, so they’ll have a good frame of reference for Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs. And if you read this book as dramatically as I plan to? You’re going to have a lot of giggles and cries of, “Again! Again!” This is going into my bedtime rotation and my storytime rotation. Don’t miss this book.