Heidi

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Heidi

by Johanna Spyri

Spring 2017

I remember reading Heidi as a girl and really liking it, though I couldn’t remember quite how it ended and what exactly happened (yes, a common theme for me, which is why I started this blog).  My book club was reading it, so I was very excited to reread it. True to my memory, I loved this book all over again. It is a very simple story with morals and heartwarming events. Heidi goes through ups and downs and you ride them right along with her. There are strong religious themes throughout the book, which is nice to read. Sometimes it was a little much for me, so I skimmed a bit, but it doesn’t take away from the book by any means. It is refreshing to read a novel that is sweet and uplifting. Another theme that I absolutely loved was the power and importance of learning, specifically for reading. I am an advocate for education and the power of reading, so I loved this theme. The Grandmother in the story says to Heidi, “You see that picture with the shepherd and the animals – well, as soon as you are able to read you shall have that book for your own, and then you will know all about the sheep and the goats, and what the shepherd did, and the wonderful things that happened to him, just as if some one were telling you the whole tale.” She encourages Heidi to learn and is instrumental in helping Heidi become educated.

Heidi is an orphan girl who is staying with her aunt. However, her aunt gets a job and must leave Heidi with her reclusive Grandfather on the top of a mountain. Heidi is a cheerful, loving little girl and immediately adapts to her Grandfather’s simple, quiet life and falls in love with him, his cottage, and his goats. Heidi’s aunt feels horribly guilty, so unbeknownst to Heidi or her Grandfather, she agrees to place Heidi in the home of a wealthy man and his daughter, Clara. Clara is a cripple and needs companionship. When Heidi first moves in with them she is heartbroken (having just been torn from her Grandfather), but she does her best to be good and soon becomes friends with Clara. During this time, Heidi meets Clara’s Grandmother, who encourages Heidi to learn and read and trust in God when she is sad. Spoilers: Heidi’s depression deepens and she becomes weaker and weaker. After a scary episode of sleepwalking, the family doctor is called and he diagnoses homesickness, recommending that Heidi return to her Grandfather as soon as possible. Clara is heartbroken, but her father realizes the harm that has come to Heidi and personally takes her home. So Heidi returns home and is beyond happy. After a little while it’s arranged for Clara to journey up and stay with Heidi. She is weak, so it is quite the endeavor to bring her up in her wheelchair, but they do it. Peter, the shepherd boy for the Grandfather’s goats and good friend of Heidi’s, is very jealous of Heidi and Clara’s relationship so he maliciously wreaks Clara’s wheelchair. It all gets discovered when his conscience can no longer bear it. Happily it all works out because Heidi is forgiving and Clara (thanks to the fresh mountain air) recovers her strength and learns to walk again. It is a very happy ending, which was a little schmaltzy for me, even though I like happy endings.

Summing it up: this is a sweet, beautiful story that I definitely recommend!

All the best, Abbey

Pax

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Pax

by Sara Pennypacker

illustrated by Jon Klassen

March 2017

Pax was another recommendation from my brother. This time though it wasn’t my favorite book. It was sad (which he forewarned me about by saying to read it with a box of tissues), the father was awful, and the ending left several plot lines unfinished. While it was beautifully written, I was ultimately a little disappointed.

Pax is the story of a young boy and his pet fox who have been together since Peter found the kit all alone. Peter named his fox Pax and all Pax has ever known is Peter and life as a domesticated fox. Their life is turned topsy turvy when Peter’s father enlists and makes Peter return Pax to the wild. Peter’s mother is dead, so he will be living with his grandfather. It is a sad day when Peter tricks Pax into leaving by dropping him off at a wood and throwing Pax his toy to chase before driving away with his dad. The rest of the story follows Peter and Pax as they struggle to live apart. Spoilers: as soon as Peter leaves Pax, he knows he did the wrong thing and plans to go back and find him. He runs away from his grandfather and before long breaks his foot and is found by Vola, a former soldier who lost her leg and now lives alone in the woods. They form an odd pair as Vola nurses Peter and Peter draws Vola out of her shell and back into society. Meanwhile, Pax figures out what Peter did and is lonely and confused. He’s never lived in the wild and is frightened by the environment and strange noises. He is determined to wait where Peter left him, knowing that Peter will return. As the days pass, Pax becomes dehydrated, hungry and discouraged. One day an older fox finds him and he gradually becomes integrated into his pack with a female fox, Bristle and her brother, Runt. He begins to bond with them and immerse himself into the life of wild foxes. Their life is full of heartache as their home is being overtaken by the army, which causes the older fox to die when he steps on explosives. Pax bonds more and more with Bristle and Runt through all their difficulties. In the end, Peter recovers enough to search for Pax and after traveling a few days, he finds him in the woods with Bristle and Runt. Pax recognizes Peter and runs to him, but they both realize that Pax belongs in the wild with his new family. The ending was fitting, but sad. My biggest complaints were the father . . .he was checked out the entire time and had no support or understanding for his son. And there were several loose ends. What about the grandfather: did he ever look for his grandson or care that he was missing? And Vola? Did she integrate with society or go back to being a hermit?

A huge plus were the charming illustrations:

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Summing it up: I enjoyed reading it to an extent, but in the end, I was sad and disappointed. I’m on the fence for recommending it, since it wasn’t “bad,” but it wasn’t amazing.

All the best, Abbey

Wonder

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Wonder

by R. J. Palacio

February 2017

I’ve seen Wonder in the library for ages and the cover always caught my eye. However, I wasn’t compelled to read it because of my huge piles of books at home. But when the librarian said, “you have to read it” and my brother also said it was good, I decided to add it to my pile. I’m happy I did (my usual refrain, I know). I loved Wonder. It was beautiful, moving and inspiring. I loved the characters, the tone throughout the book, and mostly I loved the message.

Wonder is about a fifth grade boy, August, who was born with a grossly deformed face. For his whole life he’s had surgery after surgery and has been homeschooled. Now he’s at the point where the surgeries have died down and his parents think it’s a good idea for him to get out more and choose going to school as the best way to do so. At first August is apprehensive, but after visiting the school and meeting a few students who aren’t repulsed by him, he accepts it and starts to enjoy. Things are very difficult though, from bullying to betrayal to constant guarded looks and whispers (spoilers: Julian is a nasty bully starting the game, “plague” which says that anyone who touches August needs to wash their hands immediately so they don’t get the plague, and Jack Will befriends him, but then admits that he did it only for show). There are high points as well from his sister’s love and parents’ encouragement, to making true friends, to gaining respect from those around him (spoilers: his true friends are Summer who liked him from the start, Jack Will who realizes he genuinely likes August not just because he was asked to, and eventually the school as a whole who rally around him after he gets bullied by older kids). At the very end, the principle is speaking at the fifth grade graduation and quotes J. M. Barrie’s book The Little White Bird saying, “Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” I love this quote and it sums up the message of the book, which I adore. I am inspired to be kinder than is necessary after reading this beautiful book. And I hope that you are too.

Summing it up: I simply loved this book and I highly recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Horten’s Incredible Illusions

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Horten’s Incredible Illusions

by Lissa Evans

February 2017

After finishing the first Horten book (Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms), I was excited to start the second one, Horten’s Incredible Illusions. As expected, it was just as cute and clever as the first. I think I actually liked this one a little better. I already loved the characters and it was a little easier of a plot to follow. I especially loved the ending.

We find Horten right where we left off. He found his great uncle’s magical workshop and his 5 illusions, along with a metal star. The local museum takes in the illusions to make an exhibition out of them and the curator makes Horten a junior curator, putting him in charge of making plaques with descriptions. The only problem is that Horten doesn’t know what each illusion does, so he enlists April and they get to work. Spoilers: they figure out the pattern: they must learn how each illusion works, then find a star indentation to place the star, they magically get transported to a different place and must solve a puzzle in order to return home. Each time, the star loses a limb, and after each puzzle is solved a letter appears. The goal is to find each letter in order to find Tony Horten’s will (whoever finds it will be the owner of the illusions). The puzzles get more complex until in the second to last one, April and her sisters get left behind. In the last one, Horten must solve the final puzzle in order to rescue the 3 girls and Uncle Tony’s dog. It gets down to the last second, but Horten does it (and grows an inch and a half in the process). While all this is going on, Horten gets calls from a mysterious old lady who wants to buy the illusions after Horten finds the will and becomes the legal owner. She wants to make him exceedingly wealthy, which is very tempting. When he and April finish putting together all the letters from the illusions, they find the will in the Wishing Well and take it out together in order to be co-owners. The old lady’s lawyer confides in them, explaining that her client’s great grandmother wanted her to buy them, melt them down, and put them at the base of a statue of herself (the great grandmother was the Mayor from the first book). Once this is clear, April and Horten refuse to sell, instead giving the illusions to an up and coming magician (Clifford, the one who was duped into taking magic class after class by the Mayor in the first book). Because of their generosity, Clifford and his lighting assistant, Elaine (who is soon to be his wife) go on to have great success in their magic act! It is such a sweet, cute ending and a very fun and clever plot. I really loved it!

Summing it up: I highly recommend this cute, clever book, especially if you read the first one!

All the best, Abbey

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

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Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

by Newt Scamander (aka J. K. Rowling)

February 2017

I finally got a hold of Fantastic Beats & Where to Find Them. It was so exciting to fall back into Harry Potter’s world. I loved this little book and reading about all the magical creatures Newt Scamander came across. That is essentially the plot. Scamander, a wizard, traveled the world finding magical creatures and then wrote a book on them, classifying them based on how dangerous they were. I loved the key to rate their danger level.

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Also, Harry’s notes were hysterical. I’m once again floored by Rowling’s writing ability and imagination.

Summing it up: I definitely recommend this book!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

by J. K. Rowling

December 2016

I decided to leap into reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child since I finished the original series. I didn’t want to draw it out. I have mixed feelings about this book, and not because it was a script. I actually didn’t mind the format. However, I learned in reading this that I really don’t like time travel plots: At. All. Now, in the end, I liked the book, but I didn’t enjoy reading it. It was a relief to be finished and know how it ended, because I hated the time traveling angst. That being said, I loved the characters, both old and new, and I loved how they grew and learned and became better people. I’m definitely a fan of J.K. Rowling!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and Ginny have three children; James, Albus, and Lily. Hermione and Ron have a daughter, Rose. And Draco and his wife have a son, Scorpius. This year is Albus, Rose, and Scorpius’ first year at Hogwarts and Albus is especially nervous about which house he’ll be in, but he’s grateful for Rose and for finding a friend in Scorpius. Spoilers: Albus and Scorpius get sorted into Slytherin while Rose goes to Gryffindor. Albus and Scorpius take no time in becoming fast friends which makes many people unhappy, including Rose, who basically deserts Albus. Albus struggles with being in Slytherin and resents his dad because he’s “the Harry Potter” and he has to live under that shadow. Needless to say, Harry and Albus do not have a great relationship. One day, Harry is approached by Cedric’s father asking if Harry can go back and change things to allow Cedric to live (a Time-Turner was found after they were all thought to have been destroyed). Harry sadly refuses, but Albus overhears and decides to do it himself. He works with Scorpius and Cedric’s cousin, Delphi to sneak into the Ministry of Magic as Hermione (the Minster), Harry (the Head of Magical Law Enforcement), and Ron (Hermione’s husband) in order to steal the Time-Turner. After much hullabaloo, they get it and thus begins a crazy, intense, unsuccessful series of attempts. Albus and Scorpius go back to the Triwizard Tournament multiple times at multiple points. They go back, change events, return to the present to find that Cedric is still dead and their actions altered other events, like Ron and Hermione never getting together and having Rose, and Voldemort not dying. Finally, they realize a few things. There has been a rumor circulating that Scorpius is actually the son of Voldemort. He is not, but Voldemort did father a child before his death: a girl named Delphi! When Albus and Scorpius figure this out, Delphi captures them and leaves them in the past with no Time-Turner. At first they are helpless, but then they start forming a plan. They realize she took them to a few days before Voldemort killed Harry’s parents. They decide they need to get a message to Harry, whom they’re sure by this point will be looking for them. Then Albus remembers that recently Harry tried to reach out to Albus by giving him the only thing he has left of his parents: his baby blanket. Albus was disgusted and threw it, knocking it into a love potion Ron gave him as a joke. He and Scorpius find a reactant to the love potion and write a message on the blanket. Sure enough, in present day Harry finds it and the message. Thankfully, Draco has a secret Time-Turner, so Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Harry, and Draco go back in time to save Albus and Scorpius and distract Delphi so she can’t interfere with history. They suspect that she wants to meet her father because she loves him, so they use that and Harry transforms into Voldemort to take her attention. After a close call, they are able to capture Delphi in order to take her to Azkaban. Then, they watch as Harry’s parents are killed before going back to the present. Albus accepts his place in Slytherin, without shame, and he and his father begin to accept each other and start a better relationship. Albus and Scorpius stay best friends and Rose begins to accept Scorpius instead of hate him. It is such a good ending! I loved it.

Summing it up: I really liked this book and I’m happy to have read it, but I’m glad I’m done with all the angst! I definitely recommend it, but block off a night to read it on one sitting. 😉

All the best, Abbey

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

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Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

by Lissa Evans

December 2016

My brother recommend this book for me and once again it was a good recommendation (this is the same brother who “made” me read my new favorite series, The Penderwicks). Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms was a short, sweet, clever little book with fun, quirky characters. I loved their personalities and the innovative plot.

Horten and his parents have recently moved to his dad’s home town. Horten is understandably upset because he’s leaving his friends behind and will have to wait all summer to make new friends at his new school. When they arrive, his father tells him stories about his great uncle who used to have a shop in town with all sorts of wondrous mechanisms. Horten is curious and one day decides to visit his great uncle’s old house, only to find it dilapidated. He decides to try and learn as much as possible about his great uncle. Horten learns that his great uncle mysteriously disappeared years ago and no one knows where he went, or what happened to his shop. He left Horten’s father a special box that Horten discovers has a secret opening with a letter and coins. The letter tells Horten’s father that if he’s worthy he’ll be able to find the shop and be the new owner. Horten’s father never found the letter, so Horten takes up the quest. He follows clues, using the coins along the way for various mechanisms, which lead to more clues. Horten runs into friends and foes as well, from a sweet old lady who was friends with his great uncle; to a nasty woman who is trying to find the shop; to a pushy, clever girl next door who insists on helping Horten. Spoilers: Horten finds his great uncle’s hidden shop with his greatest mechanism: a real magic wishing well, but he inadvertently leads the nasty woman to it as well. Horten wishes to learn what happened to his uncle and finds out that back when his uncle was inventing the wishing well, he had a fiancee and she (not believing it was real magic) wished to live at a simpler time and disappeared into history. Horten’s great uncle realized her mistake and wished to be with her, thus disappearing forever. Horten is thrilled to learn the truth and even more thrilled when his great uncle tells him that he is worthy and the shop is his. The nasty woman was able to follow Horten, but in perfect timing/cleverness, Horten is able to leave her in history while he returns to the present. It was the perfect ending for everyone.

Summing it up: this book was so clever and fun and I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey