I’ve read a handful of children’s books this year already, and they’re all good ones, so have some mini-reviews!
Earwig and The Witch by Diana Wynne Jones:
Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who makes me flail and go ASDFGHJKL; no matter what she does, so it’s hard for me to review her books. I am striving to remain objective about this book because I loved it to pieces, but I know it has some flaws. So, flaws first: There are several characters and a couple of plot threads that are introduced in this book which then disappear or taper off by the end of the book. This was her last book so I am guessing that if she had lived (RIP forever) to finish it, she would have fleshed out those better. In any case, there is still a complete story here, but it feels like there should be a sequel or more chapters for sub-plot/characters.
Besides that, though, this book is flawless. Earwig is hilarious, bossy, and clever, and sets herself to taking control of her household in a forthright manner that you can’t help but root for. It reminded me of a kids’ version of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (another EXCELLENT book, by the way). The illustrations were really fun, too, and matched the feel of the story. The characters are all shown as varying degrees of “ugly,” but they’re so unique and expressive that it’s fabulous.
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien:
This was a reread, and was so much better than I remembered! I mostly remembered lots of tramping through the wilderness and Bilbo derping all over everywhere, but Bilbo is seriously epic. The dwarves are still really difficult to keep track of.
One thing that I appreciated more this time around was how the seeds for the final confrontation (I don’t mean the dragon) are sewn much earlier in the book than I remembered, and the entire story is very cohesive within itself. It can seem like an episodic travelogue, but there are a lot of themes and threats that interweave through the whole story and make it very complete. It’s awesome.
I may or may not have cried at the end.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente:
Fairyland, the series that this book belongs to, is a really great romp of a story. It’s a brilliant postmodern take on the older child-in-Faerie/Alice-in-Wonderland stories, so if you’re familiar with those, there are constant hilarious subtle (or not so subtle) references to those. Valente likes turning all expectations on their head and twisting tropes into pretzels. But even if you don’t “get” that layer, like I said, there’s still a fun, hilarious, dark, awesome story in the forefront.
I didn’t like this one as much as the first (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) but it was still fabulous. The Mad Scientist and her inventions was probably my favorite bit, but the Duke of Tea is not to be missed!
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan:
After the perfection of Son of Neptune, the sequel had a hard time standing up to it. The plot was a lot smaller scale(even though there were plenty of bad guys and angry Romans for our heroes to deal with), which made me just want the book to be over so they could get back to dealing with The Big Bads of the series. It was good to have Annabeth back in the forefront, smarter and more badass than ever, and I was happy to have a Leo POV again, too.
My favorite part of this new series is how Riordan brings in the Roman gods—they are still the older Greek gods, but with different personalities and/or powers. In this book, Athena/Minerva and Dionysus/Bacchus stand out as really clever reimaginings of the characters we’re already familiar with.
PS: Nico is very special to me and I demand more page time for that boy.