Archive for Fantasy

The Mage of Trelian

Written by Michelle Knudsen

The third book in the Mage trilogy is fun, exciting, and a quick read. Highly recommended for summer reading.

The story opens on Calen, an apprentice mage or wizard, who has been coerced into living and working with the evil Mage Krelig. Krelig has foreseen that Calen will be more powerful than he realizes and will make a valuable tool. Calen’s goal, other than survival, is returning to his former home and friends in Trelian. Krelig is insane and unpredictable, punishing those around him harshly and for seemingly minor infractions.

Chapters featuring Calen are alternated with those featuring Princess Meg, otherwise known as the Dragon Princess. She is the princess-heir of Trelian and has been linked telepathically with a dragon, Jakl. The citizens of Trelian no longer fear Jakl, but have only just begun to discover his usefulness. Together with Calen’s former master and with Calen himself, Meg devises a plan to release Calen from Krelig’s clutches while also fighting a rival kingdom.

Naturally, everything works out in the end, but the path is often unexpected and painful.

Readers can learn a lot about the value of cooperation and the ways that friendship evolves over time and distance. Because the world of Trelian is skillfully constructed, readers can also practice literacy skills without distraction. And they may also want to learn more about medieval times or attempt to create their own worlds as extra reading activities.

Buy on Amazon

  • Mage of TrelianTitle: The Mage of Trelian
  • Author: Michelle Knudsen
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 up
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-7436-6



The Cat Who Came In off the Roof

Written by Annie M.G. Schmidt

Very feline hijinks are the theme of this recently-translated and great fantasy.

Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, Annie M.G. Schmidt died in 1995. Her books are loved throughout Europe, but especially in her home, the Netherlands. This translation stands as a delightful addition to children’s literature available in the USA.

Minou is very cattish, but she doesn’t look like a cat. And she’s not sure why. She climbs a tree when a dog chases her, and thus begins her association with Tibble, a reporter with the Killenthorn Courier and sometimes rescuer of cats in trees. Killenthorn is full of cats, and Minou finds she is able to communicate with all of them. She helps Tibble gather news and keep his job at the paper. His editor hates cat stories, but they’re able to give him news about humans from what they overhear. Mr. Ellmore is a businessman who has the entire town convinced he is a nice, compassionate man, but he’s really very nasty. Plus, he owns the meanest dog in town. Through Minou’s efforts, Tibble is able to expose Ellmore. The reader also finds out how Minou ended up in her predicament and can cheer for her to find peace in her life.

Fifth graders will enjoy the gentle humor and ridiculous situations. Meanwhile, they’ll learn about a slightly different culture and definitely a different fantasy world.

Buy on Amazon

  • Cat Who Came in off the RoomTitle: The Cat Who Came In off the Roof
  • Author: Annie M.G. Schmidt
  • Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Random House, January, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 160 pages
  • Grade Level: 5 Up
  • Genre: Fantasy, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-553-53501-3

Circus Mirandus

Written by Cassie Beasley
Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Can you see it? The tents, animals and acrobats of the circus. Can you hear the music?  If not, then you probably don’t believe enough in the magic.

Micah believes and so does Grandpa Ephraim, but Jenny, well, some, maybe, sometimes. She tries, but then, she is almost eleven.

Circus Mirandus is a special kind of circus. It has been going on without interruption since 500 BC. It can move without being seen and is capable of opening portals between our world and its.

Magic and miracles are things we all need in life from time to time. But is it always available when we really need it? Do we know how to recognize it? Do we dare ask? These are some of the questions Micah faces throughout the story and our readers will wonder, too.

Cassie Beasley’s debut novel will take you from the doldrums of everyday life and open your eyes to the possibilities around you. Hope, humor and optimism carry the story along from one adventure to another.

Micah lives with his Grandpa, but is now face to face with Grandpa’s failing health and imminent death. Aunt Gertrudis has come to help take care of them and she has no time for the nonsense of magic.

This is a marvelous tale of unexpected friendship and ingenious planning to accomplish dreams.   Fifth grade readers and sixth grade readers will enjoy reading it on their own while fulfilling literacy skills. Librarians and teachers will want to include it in their collections for students to have a chance to read it before the movie comes out.

Buy on Amazon

  • Circus MirandusTitle: Circus Mirandus
  • Author: Cassie Beasley
  • Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
  • Publisher: Dial Books/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 292 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-525-42843-5
  • Genre: Fiction, fantasy
  • Grade level: 4 to 7

Deviants: The Dust Chronicles

Written by Maureen McGowan

Buy on Amazon

Get ready for a fast-paced read through a well-thought out dystopian world. Glory, sixteen years old, is left alone in a harsh post-apocalyptic society, not only to fend for herself but also to take care of her crippled brother.

The book follows  the well established tradition of dystopian novels going all the way back to the 18th century, and maybe even earlier. The Brave New World, 1984, The Chrysalids, Fahrenheit 451The Giver are but a few of the novels that depict a society trying to cope with a world gone awry. In more recent memory we have The Hunger Games.

Maureen McGowan crafts a detailed world for her characters to live out their lives. Asteroid showers and volcanic eruptions have almost destroyed the earth. The population of this novel lives in the domed city of Haven. As in all dystopian novels there is the inside, in this case Haven, and the outside. But is inside a comfortable place? The inhabitants comprise the Management, living a life of luxury; the Employees, eking out a miserable existence; the parasites who do nothing; and the Deviants of the title, whose life is in danger. Discussion points can be many; for example, the rise in the number of dystopian novels, world-creation and the evolutionary path.

Brief descriptions paint the complete picture: “Impossible to believe that one family lived alone in the nearly 5000-square-foot space.” This in today’s McMansion world! There is an ease of comprehension.

Glory is a Deviant, her gift (?) that, if emotionally aroused, she can kill merely by making eye contact with another, be it rat or human. Her brother has a different Deviance, and is a parasite besides. In Haven’s harsh society he would probably be expunged. Glory hides him away from the authorities, scrambles to find food enough for two on rations for one. It is a hard world, and a cruel one. The threat of being thrown ‘outside’ where the Shredders roam, and the dust destroys is ever-present.

The story moves along briskly. There is friendship and betrayal, heroism and sacrifice; above all a feisty heroine who keeps us glued to the page, even though we fault her for her faulty decisions. A great read.

  • DeviantsTitle: Deviants: The Dust Chronicles
  • Author: Maureen McGowan
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:   312 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-6121-83671
  • Genre: Novel
  • Lexile Score: 970

Garden Princess

Written by Kristin Kladstrup

Buy on Amazon

Princess Adela wishes everyone would stop treating her like, well, a princess. She would rather dirty her hands in the garden than learn how to embroider or waltz or drink tea. As Queen Cecile nags her to pretty herself so she can land a suitor, Adela dreams of traveling the world to collect and study exotic plants. So when her friend, Garth, receives an invitation to review the enchanted garden of the mysterious Lady Hortensia, Adela worms her way into the party.

The rumors are true: Hortensia’s garden is indeed magical. Colorful spring and summer flowers burst in full bloom even though it’s October! But as Adela tours the grounds on her own she makes an astonishing discovery. Hortensia has been turning all the beautiful female guests into flowers and pocketing the gems and jewels they leave behind. Then she casts a spell on the handsome male guests, making them swoon over her like lovesick puppies.

Hortensia’s thieving servant, a talking magpie named Krazo, becomes an unlikely ally as Adela tries to figure out a way to escape from this witch’s lair. Krazo believes a secret treasure buried underneath an attacking rose tree could break Hortensia’s spell, but she catches Adela first and transforms her into a weedy dandelion to be clipped and tossed into the rubbish heap. Krazo rescues her and transforms back into the young man he once was. Adela and Krazo fall in love and, in an untraditional fairy-tale twist, they do not rush to get married, but instead choose to travel the world together.

Fifth grade girls will appreciate Princess Adela, who stays true to her convictions despite how others think she is supposed to behave. Her down-to-earth nature and self-reliance makes her easy to route for and a good role model for this age group. Most of the characters in the story are in their late teens, but the romance scenes are modest (hand holding, swooning) and appropriate for a fifth grade reading level. With themes of self-esteem and beauty on the inside, readers who enjoy magic, talking animals, light romance, and yes, happy endings won’t be disappointed with Garden Princess. 

  • Garden PrincessTitle: Garden Princess
  • Author: Kristin Kladstrup
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5685-0
  • Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
  • Lexile Score: 1070

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice

Written by Chris Moriarty

Buy on Amazon

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is a fun, complex, and delightful mystery chapter book for fifth grade level readers and above. The story involves early twentieth-century New York atmosphere and history fictionalized to keep the reader engaged in the activities of the main character, Sacha Kessler, who has the keen ability to see witches and witness magic. These skills are of utmost importance to the police department’s star inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf.

Sacha’s abilities earn him the apprenticeship to the police department and he becomes one of the main investigators to find who wants to kill Thomas Edison. This investigation leads the fifth grade reader on a wild adventure through New York City’s finest neighborhoods where magic prevails in most interesting and secret ways. The story weaves Jewish history and language into the plot, making this a spring board for further lessons on Jewish culture and history, always a great plus for teachers of 5th grade level students.

Although the author includes additional information regarding the parts of New York history that has been fictionalized, the 5th grade level reader will come away with a feeling of knowing more about New York and it’s famous Jewish neighborhoods. And even those students who don’t like reading about witches and magic will enjoy the overall mystery and detective work that the main character encounters.

The book has a twist at the end, and the 5th grade reader will come away with more experience in reading and comprehension of a complex plot, reading fictionalized and interesting history, and how magic and superstition plays an important part in the lives of many. The fifth grade reader will also come away  wanting more of the main character and his inquisitor apprenticeship activities. Kudos to the author for writing what this grade level wants to read. This book is a great addition to the 5th grade level classroom library.

  • Inquisitors ApprenticeTitle: The Inquisitor’s Apprentice
  • Author: Chris Moriarty
  • Illustrations: Mark Edward Geyer
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-5813-4
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Edition: Hardback, 345 pages
  • Genre: Juvenile fiction, mystery, magic

The Adventures of Titch & Mitch: The King of the Castle

Written by Garth Edwards
Illustrated by Max Stasyuk

Buy on Amazon

Garth Edwards’ amusing and whimsical story follows the exploits of two pixies who can’t help but get themselves into hilarious trouble. The characters are funny and charming, and totally engaging for young readers. The beautifully illustrated book captivates the reader and pulls him into the magical story.King of the Castle is the third book in the series, The Adventures of Titch & Mitch. In this book, Titch and Mitch are at it again! But this time, they are kidnapped by the King of the Castle to make pixie stew.

The grammar and vocabulary levels of this book are appropriate for the 5th grade reader to promote reading comprehension. Students will be captivated by the witty, off the wall story and they will not want to put this book down. The King of the Castle fosters children’s imaginations through magic and adventure.
This book is a real page turner! It makes a wonderful addition to any classroom, school or home library. The Adventures of Titch & Mitch: The King of the Castle should be included in any school’s fifth grade reading list.

It would be great to include The King of the Castle in a unit about adventure stories. Students will be learning writing techniques and literary genres and would benefit from having this book on their reading list.

Check out the author’s website,, where you can meet the characters from the books, read about the author, and download pictures for coloring!

  • King of the CastleTitle: The Adventures of Titch & Mitch, The King of the Castle
  • Author: Garth Edwards
  • Illustrator: Max Stasyuk
  • Publisher: Inside Pocket Publishing
  • Reviewer: Alessandra Oliveira
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-9567449-7-5
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Lexile Score: 1140