The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, by Cylin Busby

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, by Cylin Busby
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review
Jacob Tibbs is the runt of his litter. He watches as, one-by-one, sailors buy and bear away his brothers and sisters to be ship cats on other ships – leaving only him and his mother. The captain’s daughter begs her father to save Jacob despite his small size and his white paws (that are glow-in-the-dark beacons to the ship rats). And it’s a good thing the captain saves Jacob, because he has his mother’s talent for predicting weather…and a huge storm is brewing. 

I know I bragged about how awesome my last NetGalley book was, but this book was equally awesome for different reasons. This was just an adorable and fun book to read. I actually learned some interesting tidbits about ships from this book – Busby must have done a lot of research. I’m a cat person, and I loved the way Jacob always explained his actions with cat-like anthropomorphic reasoning (instead of just sounding like a human mind in a cat). I was surprised at how much action could be packed into a book this short. There was always something going on that made me want to read the next chapter. This book was so sweet and fun! I wish I had an appropriately-aged kid to read it to. 

I highly recommend this book for middle grade readers starting with precocious third graders. While you’re getting it for your child, read it yourself. You won’t regret it. 

Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Blood Ties, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy / Adventure Series

Reason for Reading: I’m already reading this series, of course, but I was happy that Scholastic provided an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis (May contain some light spoilers for earlier books in the series): Meilen has run away from the Greencloaks to search for her father in her homeland of Zhong. Conor, Abeke, and Rollan quickly follow – they hope to recover their friend and get the Slate Elephant talisman from Dinesh, the Great Elephant. But Zhong has been conquered, so the kids must fight through armies of enemies to find what they seek. The Devourer is gaining power, and he will stop at nothing to take over all of Erdas with his nature-defiling bile. 

My thoughts: Another great installment of the series. And they just keep getting better and better! (Not, of course, because the authors are changing, but because the plot and characters are developing as the series progresses.) Like in the earlier books, Blood Ties shows the power friendship – of working with your team rather than trying to fight evil alone. It encourages trust – of your partners, your friends, and the power of Good to conquer Evil. Most of all, the story is fun. It’s a delight to watch as the kids’ distinct characters develop, and how each character adds to the dynamics of the team. The world-building is also a lot of fun – it has both a familiar and a novel taste. For instance, Zhong is the Erdas-equivalent of Asia. The comparison is undeniable, and yet Zhong’s culture and scenery are also delightfully unique. And, of course, this book is filled with adventures, intrigue, and battles – which any lover of middle grade fantasy / adventure books craves. I’m looking forward to the release of the next book in the series, Fire and Ice, in July.

Hunted, by Maggie Stiefvater


Hunted: Spirit Animals Book 2, by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Middle School Fantasy / Adventure

Reason for Reading: This is the second book in a so-far excellent series

Synopsis: (May contain slight spoilers for book 1). Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan hike across Eura on quest to capture the talisman of the Great Boar before the Conquerors get their hands on it. But the Conquerors have a few surprises up their sleeves – they are now able to force an unnatural bond between humans and animals! They now have the advantage of superior numbers of bonded warriors. In order for our heroes to survive, they must learn to trust one another and fight as a team. 

My Thoughts: This was an excellent follow-up to Brandon Mull’s Wild Born (reviewed here). The characters are developing – and so is the philosophy. In this book, our heroes struggle with trust. It’s a story of strengthening ones bond with friends – how such a bond can never fully be broken, even when trust fails. It’s a story about following your heart, even when your heart leads you astray from logic (a fitting theme given my thoughts on doubt last month!) I’m eagerly awaiting the third book in this series, Blood Ties, which comes out in March.

This is my first book by Maggie Stiefvater, and I’m eager to pick up some more now! I like the way this series is designed – with a different author for each book. That way, I am introduced to authors that I might otherwise never gotten around to reading. 🙂

Spirit Animals: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull


Spirit Animals: Wild Born, by Brandon Mull

Genre: Children’s Fantasy, appropriate age range 8-10.

Reason for Reading: Brandon Mull is one of my favorite authors, and so of course I had to read this book as soon as it came out. 

Review
In children’s eleventh year, they undertake a ceremonial transformation into adults by calling their “spirit animals.” Most children fail to call any animal at all, but none in history have ever called one of the Great Beasts. So when four children call the spirits of the four Great Beasts who died years ago in a brutal war to save humanity, the kids are quickly swept up into an adult world of conspiracies and danger. 

This is an adorable first book in a series. It is appropriate, both in maturity and reading level, for an 8-10 year old – and it would be equally enjoyable to boys and girls. The children’s adventures are exciting, but not violent or scary. Some interesting questions of ethics are brought up: for instance, should we support the people who have always been in power and who appear to fight for “good,” even when they haven’t ever helped us? 

I look forward to the rest of the books in the series. 

Thoughts
Although this book was in no way overtly religious, it definitely has the savior vs. super-powerful-creature-of-evil allegory which is common in epic fantasy. I doubt there is any explicit religious intent with this allegory, and I think it’s fascinating how this allegory slips into our literature so smoothly. It seems that our minds are programmed to search the world for saviors and for physical manifestations of evil. One could as easily interpret such naturally occurring patterns either as the cause or the effect of religious beliefs. I mean, it’s as easy to say that we search for a savior because in our hearts we know He is out there as it is to say that we believe in a Savior because that’s the mechanism our brains have developed to cope with life’s difficulties. But whichever way you believe (and most people have an opinion on the subject), it is undeniable that we crave such stories. 

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

Reason for Reading: To keep up with my nephew’s book reports

Genre: Children’s Adventure / Fantasy

Review
After the tragic death of his parents, James has been living with his horrible neglectful, hateful aunts Sponge and Spiker. One day James is given a magical bag by a mysterious stranger – and in his excitement he trips on the root of a peach tree and dumps all the magic on the tree. Soon a peach larger than a house has grown out of the tree. James crawls into the peach and begins the adventure of a life-time. 

This is another classic kids story that I read as a child and haven’t picked up since. I’m glad I had a reason to pick it up again, because it was really funny and silly and it had a lot of nostalgia for me. Dahl has just the right amount of humor and whimsy in his books. 🙂



After reading the book, my nephew and I watched the 1996 stop-action movie. It was a cute movie that followed the basic story-line well enough. But it was a bit too sentimental and it lacked the dark humor of Roald Dahl’s story. Cute for an hour’s entertainment, but nothing I’m going to watch again and again. 
 

Lone Wolf, by Kathryn Lasky

Lone Wolf

Written by Kathryn Lasky, Narrated by Erik Davies

Reason for Reading: I rather liked the Ga’Hoole books, so I thought I’d try this series out, too. 

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy / Anthropomorphism

Review
As an infant cub, Faolin was taken from his mother and abandoned to die. He was found by a bear who nursed him through childhood. Now as a young wolf, Faolin is once again on his own and he must find a way to rejoin his own kind. This was a cute little story, and I enjoyed it. But I don’t think I would have enjoyed it half as much if I hadn’t read the Ga’Hoole books first. Although the story of Faolin is independent of the three story lines in the Ga’Hoole series, Lasky’s world-building in this book was a bit dependent upon the other books. The world would have seemed confusing and frustrating to me if I didn’t already know all about it from the Ga’Hoole books. This is why I gave the book only 3.5 stars even though I thought it was really sweet. I will continue with this series myself, but I recommend to all of you – continue with this book if you loved the Ga’Hoole books as I did. But if you haven’t read the Ga’Hoole books, start there. 🙂 

The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis

2012 Book 153: The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis

Reason for Reading: Fifth Book (publication order) of the Chronicles of Narnia

Review*****

Shasta grew up as practically a slave to his “father,” until he meet a talking horse. Bree (the horse) has been kidnapped from Narnia, a foreign land that Shasta has never heard of. Bree is convinced that Shasta, too, has been taken from Narnia. They escape together, and have many adventures on the way to Narnia. This book takes place during the original reign of High King Peter and his brother and sisters. It was a delightful little book, and complements the Narnia series quite well. I DID have a good laugh at the rather xenophobic treatment of Archenland–most people from this land were portrayed as corrupt, degenerate, and evil. By the way they dressed and some of their habits, Lewis clearly meant for Archenland to be similar to the Orient. This snafu made me chuckle a little bit, since I took into consideration the age in which Lewis was writing…and that he was writing about a fantasy land. In the end, I enjoyed this book just as much as the other books in the series. It is fun, cute, and a delight to read.