As always, and especially during Cybils season, I am reading books much more quickly than I can type them up. I’m home recovering from foot surgery, and thought that the extra time might lead to more review writing… but so far, my brain has not cooperated. So, here are three shorter reviews of Cybils-nominated books, all with blue covers.
Goblin Market by Diane Zahler. Holiday House, 2022. ISBN 9780823450817 Read from a library copy.
Christina Rosetti’s poem “The Goblin Market” was one of the earliest fantasy stories in print. I’ve heard about it, though I have yet to read it through. Here, it’s adapted into a middle grade novel set in what feels like 19th century Eastern Europe. Lizzie and her older sister Minka have always been very close, though while Minka loves going to market to sell her bread, Lizzie has great difficulty with things like being touched or in crowds or with strangers. Lizzie’s world is also shaped by her ability to see sounds in color – part of what makes noisy situations so difficult for her.
But when Minka comes home from the market one day raving about a handsome boy who gave her fruit and promised to take her away – and then falls very ill – Lizzie must stretch herself farther than she ever knew she could to save her sister. What has before proven a hardship is now a strength, as Lizzie can tell the goblins apart from humans by the color – or lack thereof – of their voices. With help from a neighbor friend, Lizzie sets out into the forbidden forest to save her sister. The plot might not be very complex, but the vivid imagery and the portrayals of Lizzie’s unique worldview and sisterly affection made it worth the read for me. I’ve also enjoyed some of Zahler’s previous books, including Baker’s Magic and The Thirteenth Princess
The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson. Viking, 2021. ISBN 978-0593110379. Read from a library copy.
Twelve-year-old Poppy, who is white, has grown up in her family’s bookshop, Rhyme and Reason. While Poppy and her family live in World War II America, Rhyme and Reason is one of a network of magical, sentient bookshops that let people of many different times in to provide them with the solace that only a community bookstore can. It’s truly a magical place, with a lemon tree and flowering vines that grow, as well as a beautiful selection of books, and a chalkboard on which it writes its own quotes.
But of course, such a beautiful place can’t go unchallenged. Poppy’s father is dangerously ill, and doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong. Her older brother Al, too sickly to join up himself, decides to break all the rules of the bookshop when his best friend Carl is killed in action. After all, what’s the use of living in a time-traveling bookshop if you can’t use it to save the people you love? When things start falling apart – because of course the rules are there for a reason – it’s up to Poppy, bookshop messenger girl Ollie, and Theo, a boy from another magical bookshop, to save the day. Although the message is sad, I loved Poppy, Rhyme and Reason, and the spirited community that gathers there.
Water, Water by Cory Fagan. Penguin Random House, 2022. ISBN 9780735270039. Read from a library copy.
Rafe (assumed white) wakes in his room – which is floating, separated from his house. Only his dog Buddy is with him. He doesn’t know what happened, as he’s floating for days with no sight of land, reflecting on life and being grateful that his dog is with him. Eventually, he rescues a younger girl, Dao, from Thailand, who’s able to pick up English relatively quickly due to watching TV. There’s a brief incident with teen pirates, but mostly, this is a contemplative book, punctuated by them reading a book about a child’s relationship with a rabbit, which feels like it has the kind of reflectiveness that The Little Prince and The Boy, the Fox, the Mole and the Horse have. Three-color silk-screen style illustrations by Jon McNaught enhance this stripped-down clarity. This would take just the right kind of reader – I think it could work well as a book club selection or classroom reading because it is short (just 153 pages) but gripping and leaves so many things open to discussion.
All sound great books! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you, Valinora!