Tag Archives: adventure

Day 182 – Sea Story (Brambly Hedge)

sea-storyIs there a day summer day – or any day, really – that isn’t made better by reading aloud together about the mice of Brambly Hedge? Today’s book, “Sea Story,” is another outstanding entry in Jill Barklem’s Brambly hedge series, telling the story of Dusty, Poppy, Primrose and Wilfred who set off for the sea in Dusty’s boat, the Periwinkle to stock up on salt.

The mice set off together on a beautiful, breezy and warm summer day to pay a much-needed visit on their cousins, the Sea Mice. Along with a little bit of peril on the “high seas”, this lovely little tale has some delightful vocabulary, charming characters (with interesting names), and of course Ms. Barklem’s intricate and fascinating illustrations! We were once again quite impressed not only by the care apparent in Ms. Barklem’s artwork, but by the colorful details of everyday life that she works into the narrative – details which really help to bring her characters and the world of Brambly Hedge alive.

Can’t wait for the next time we get to pop in on Ms. Barklem’s friends!


Day 112 – This is Sadie

Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination whose days are never long enough for all her adventures, and “This is Sadie” by Sara O’Leary is her story. The book is clever and exuberant, and Ms. O’Leary’s characterization of the imaginative and playful little Sadie (named after her own grandmother) rang true for us. Julie Morstad’s brilliant illustrations are a perfect fit, enhancing the feeling of childlike, carefree joy that Sadie exudes.

For Sadie, a big cardboard box in her room is really a tall ship with which she ventures out on great journeys of exploration. Through the day she pretends to be the Mad Hatter hosting tea, a boy raised by wolves, a mermaid, or a hero in a fairy tale. She climbs trees to chat with birds, uses her wings (because “of course” she has wings) to fly high in the sky before coming back home. Sadie can create amazing things out of all kinds of pedestrian things … boats out of boxes, and castles out of cushions – she’s got that kind of an imagination. More than things, however, she likes stories “because you can make them from nothing at all.”sadie

This is another book that I have been looking forward to reading simply because of the cover – the picture of the little girl with a fox mask just looks too verdant and playful to pass up. (I did think it was interesting – as an aside – that when you pull the dust jacket off, the picture of Sadie on the cover loses her mask). We found a lot to enjoy in this darling book. Our oldest daughter liked the fact that Sadie chooses to be the hero in her fairy tale. I enjoyed the way in which Sadie “cleans” her room by shoving everything under the bed, or acknowledges that “old people need a lot of sleep”…while hammering and listening to records in her room early in the morning. In both cases, actually, the humor is played up because what she is really doing in the picture is not referenced in the text… This goes back to my comment above that Ms. O’Leary’s characterization of an imaginative little girl rings true; it feels as if the words on the page are exactly what Sadie is thinking in that picture. Our consensus favorite scene however, was when Sadie is playing in the pool, spending a “perfect day” with friends…some of whom live on her street and some of whom live in the pages of books.

I am very happy to have this book as part of our collection and look forward to reading it again (and again!). It’s the kind of book that makes me smile, because of the little precocious and creative girl Sadie is in the book, and because of the way in which facets of Sadie’s personality remind me of our own little (and not so little) girls.

The Real Boy

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu is definitely one of my favorite books. In this novel for middle grade readers, Ms. Ursu has spun an enchanting fantasy tale, which emphasizes the importance of friendship and of believing in yourself. I was hooked from the first paragraph, completely engrossed in the magical world she created.real

The Real Boy of the title is Oscar, a ten-year old orphan who lives in the village of Barrow on the island of Aletheia. Aletheia is a magical island with two major cities, Barrow and the Shining City. Barrow is a working class town with working class residents, while the residents of the Shining City appear to be perfect in every way. At an early age, Oscar was taken in by the Barrows magician, Master Caleb, to be a shop hand. Oscar feels a strong connection to plants and to magic, and he enjoys his day job of grinding herbs and making tinctures for Master Caleb. But Oscar has a secret: late at night when he is, according to Master Caleb’s one very strict rule, supposed to be in bed, he stays up reading in the library. Over time he has gathered much information about herbs and magic – enough to manage the shop himself – although it is the magician’s apprentice Wolf who is in charge in Master Caleb’s absence.  When Master Caleb has to leave to visit the continent, Oscar is left under the supervision of Wolf, who constantly mistreats Oscar. Then one day after a trip into the woods, Wolf returns dead and his companion, the village guardian’s apprentice, is never found.

Left on his own to run the shop, Oscar eventually begins to rely on the help of a new acquaintance, Callie, the healer’s apprentice, who helps him talk to the shop’s customers. While Oscar and Callie are becoming friends, Aletheia begins to fall apart in several ways.  The seemingly flawless children from the nearby Shining City begin to show troubling flaws: one can’t speak, another can’t eat, and still another can’t remember anything. Meanwhile, the shops in the Barrow village are being ravaged by a monster with an insatiable hunger to consume anything to do with magic. It is up to Oscar and Callie to determine the cause of these catastrophes and to put a stop to them. Through the course of the novel, Oscar realizes that the City people are not what they seem, and that it is the “real boy”, the working class orphan from the blue collar town of Barrow, who is needed to save the day.

I first heard about Ms. Ursu and her books on the Read Aloud Revival website through their Live Author Event for one of her other novels, Breadcrumbs (a spectacular book, itself). I loved how open she was about her experiences, her creative process, and the amount of time and effort that goes into writing a book. I am really looking forward to my next Anne Ursu story!