Yet another installment of Shorter Musings brought to you by recent Cybils reading.
Ambassador by William Alexander
I really enjoyed Ambassador for the most part. It is an intriguing concept. A young boy is chosen to be Earth's ambassador in intergalactic affairs by a mysterious envoy. Gabe is chosen because he watches others carefully, knows how to diffuse tense situations, and is diplomatic in his interactions. At the same time Gabe is dealing with the mysterious ships that have entered the galaxy, he is also having to worry about the imminent deportation of his parents and older sister. I thought the clever way Alexander dealt with the themes of modern day immigration and melded them with science-fiction elements was genius. I adored this book until the end, which is abrupt to say the least. I'm sure there will be a sequel, but there is a difference between leaving things unanswered for a sequel and leaving almost everything dangling with no resolution. I am thoroughly sick of the latter.
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett
There were aspects of The Children of the King that I really appreciated. I enjoyed the story and, of course, the story within it. I found the characters differing attitudes toward WWII and England's place in it to be well done and nuanced. I very much enjoyed the characters of Jeremy, May, and Uncle Peregrine. There were several aspects that annoyed me as well though. Cecily is twelve, and until she announced that at that the end of chapter two, I thought she was around six. She acts like it through the entirety of the book. What. A. Brat. There's no growth there either, but I don't really have so much a problem with that as some people are brats and that never changes. I did think she acted far too young for her age though. However, the aspect that bothered me the most was the story within the story which is about the infamous Richard III and the princes in the tower. Peregrine was telling this story and it was like his audience had never heard it. ????? Keep in mind this audience consisted of a 10 year old, a 12 year old, and a 14 year old. I'm sorry, but what sorts of schools were these children attending? I went to an American school while living in England during elementary school and we all knew this story. I can understand Cecily not knowing as she's a feather brained idiot, but Jeremy has clearly been snoozing in all of his history classes if he didn't know this. Unfortunate, since I'm sure his snooty parents pay out the nose for his education.
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey
This is a quest book about a girl who needs to rescue her father and save the dying trees in a forest. There are perils, nefarious characters, and ghosts. I was bored for a lot of it though, and it never truly engaged me as a reader. If you are looking for this same type of spiritual/ghost element, Stroud's Lockwood books are better. If you are looking for the type of fantasy that deals with forest ecology, Sage Blackwood's Jinx books are better. (I think that is because Blackwood is good about not making it didactic, where this one sort of came across as more blatantly about that one aspect.) I would very much like to know what some Native readers think about the depiction of the Lupine as well. I'm not well-versed enough in Native cultures-which are diverse-to speak of this with any authority, but several elements about their portrayal bothered me. This certainly wouldn't be the first book I would recommend to young fantasy fans, but it's one I would keep in mind for the reader looking for a very specific type of story.
Pathfinder by Angie Sage
Pathfinder is a fun book and works well as the beginning of a new series. There are a lot of adventures, great magic, and brave characters. I do feel like I may have enjoyed this slightly more if I had read Sage's Septimus Heap series. I felt like there were a lot of inside jokes and information I was missing and always felt removed from the story as a result. While Tod's story and character were vastly interesting to me, enough time was spent on the characters from the other series that I didn't really feel as engaged as I might have.
The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberly Griffiths Little
The Time of the Fireflies is an engrossing read. I was quite pulled into the story and fascinated by the secrets Larissa was uncovering about her family. I love stories that have old family history elements. I thought the mystery here was played out well, and the doll was certainly creepy enough to keep kids awake at night. Larissa as a character was sympathetic, but far from perfect. The hardships of her family were a nice balance to the more fantastical elements. I wanted to like this book more than I did because it did really draw me in. Little is a talented storyteller, but too many of the magical elements didn't make sense for me.