Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Last year, I read Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, and I immediately became a fan of author Liesl Shurtliff’s work. I promoted Rump to my teachers and students, and every copy of this book stays off my library shelves. (It didn’t hurt that Rump was a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award and also served as one of my district’s Battle of the Books titles.)

Shurtliff’s second fairy tale retelling, Jack: The True Story of Jack & the Beanstalk, is almost as popular as Rump. In fact, Jack is so popular that I haven’t had a chance to check it out for myself yet. So when NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read Shurtliff’s latest book, Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, I jumped at the chance.

Those who’ve already read Rump know a little about the Red we meet in this novel. (She was Rump’s best friend, after all.) She is not like the Little Red Riding Hood we’ve grown up reading about. She is no sweet little miss who mistakes her grandma for a wily wolf. No, this girl is grumpy, self-sufficient, and crafty in her own right. But in Red, this young girl must face her fears while attempting to figure out what really makes someone into a monster.

Red’s favorite person in the world is probably her granny. Some people call Granny a witch, but Red knows that Granny does whatever she can to help others. She’s even tried to help Red control her own magic, but that usually doesn’t end well. When Granny gets sick, Red vows to do whatever she can to find a cure for Granny’s illness, something to ensure that Granny will live forever.

In her quest for a cure, Red meets another young girl searching for a magical elixir of her own. Goldie (better known to you and me as Goldilocks) is a hyper, chatty girl who Red finds annoying. Red tries to lose Goldie in the Woods, but a dangerous encounter brings the two girls together, and a rather unlikely friendship begins to form.

Now, the two girls are working together to find something that will help Granny. They enlist the assistance of a rather reluctant dwarf who leads them to some possible “cures.” But Red learns quickly that these magical cures come with a price, a price she may not be willing to pay…even if it means making Granny well again.

Throughout this quest, Red also finds herself growing closer to Wolf. She and this lonely animal share a special connection, and she soon realizes that he’s dealing with his own problems, namely a Huntsman who is feared above all others in the Woods. Red is familiar with the Huntsman and does not see him as a threat…until she and her friends get in his way.

Can Red, Goldie, and Wolf escape the trouble following them? What will they encounter along the way? Will Red be able to find what she needs to help her Granny and face her own fears in the process?

Forget what you think you know about Little Red Riding Hood and learn the real story when you read Red by Liesl Shurtliff!


If possible, I think I love Red even more than Rump. Red is an awesomely complicated character who shows enormous growth throughout the course of the book. She goes from a grumpy, annoyed loner frightened of her own magic to a slightly less grumpy friend who faces her fears and is confident in her abilities.

As if Red herself isn’t a big enough deal, don’t even get me started on all of the wonderful appearances from familiar characters. We have references to Goldilocks and the Three Bears (of course), as well as Snow White (who may not have been as beloved by the seven dwarves as previously thought), Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and a fantastic twist on Beauty and the Beast. I’m sure there are more allusions, but I just can’t recall all of them right now. Suffice it to say, though, that readers will delight in making these connections, and they’ll learn that there may be more than one side to their favorite stories.

Red will be released to the masses next Tuesday, April 12th, and I’ve already got students asking me when we’ll have the book in the library. (I guess I’ll be making a run to the closest bookstore after school next Tuesday.) Most of those students have already read Rump, so I predict they’ll be equally–if not even more–charmed by Red, and they’ll probably want to know when to expect the next offering from Liesl Shurtliff. (I wish I had the answer to that question myself.)

For more information on Red and other works by Liesl Shurtliff, you can connect with the author on her website, TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads. Also, check out the Red book trailer below. It covers a couple of things that I kind of glossed over in this post…and it’s really well done!

The Copper Gauntlet

Caution: If you haven’t read The Iron Trial, the first book in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, do that before continuing with this post. Also, if it’s been over a year since you’ve read book one, give it a quick once-over before proceeding with The Copper Gauntlet. (I wish I had.)

I decided that my first book of the new year should be one that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Truthfully, I’m shocked at myself that I didn’t devour The Copper Gauntlet the minute it came out. (It’s no big secret that I’m a Cassandra Clare fangirl.) This second book in the Magisterium series was released on September 1st, and it’s been staring at me reproachfully from the top of my TBR pile ever since. Thankfully, I’ve now taken care of that little problem.

Since it had been a while since I read The Iron Trial (November 2014), I had forgotten much of what happened in that book. (I’m serious about doing a brief re-read before starting book two.) For that reason, it was a little difficult for my reading of The Copper Gauntlet to pick up momentum at first. Once I got into it, though–and was reminded of the events of the first book–things really got moving, and I was just as invested in this book as I was its predecessor.

Callum Hunt isn’t what one would call a normal kid. Sure, he’s spending the summer at home with his dad, playing with his dog, and getting ready for another school year, but that’s not exactly the whole story.

See, Call is about to enter his second year at the Magisterium, a school for mages, a school that his father absolutely loathes. Also, his dog is actually a Chaos-ridden wolf named Havoc, and this pet could do some serious damage if he really wanted to. Finally, Call might just be the vessel for the Enemy of Death (the big, bad guy in the world of mages). Yeah…Call threw “normal” out the window a while ago.

When Call discovers that his father has some disturbing, dangerous plans for both Call and Havoc, he runs away to the only home he has left…the Magisterium and the friends he’s made there. He finds refuge with his friends, Tamara and Aaron, but he doesn’t reveal his deep, dark secret to them. They wouldn’t understand the whole “I actually possess the soul of the Enemy” thing. Call barely understands it himself. There has to be more to him than he’s been led to believe, and he’ll do whatever he can to convince himself that he won’t turn out to be an Evil Overlord.

When the Alkahest–a powerful copper gauntlet–is stolen, Call knows it’s up to him to find this magical object and return it to the Magisterium. Why? Well, his father may have something to do with it, and Call needs to get to him before either the Magisterium or the minions of the Enemy do. (Also, the Alkahest could be used to destroy Call and his best friend, Aaron. No pressure there.)

Of course, Call can’t possibly get away without his friends and Havoc (plus one more kid he can’t stand), so he goes on the run with some company, and, as one might imagine, the group finds more trouble than they ever expected.

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I’m going to stop before I give too much more away. I will tell you, however, that for every question answered in this book, dozens more pop up. There is some resolution at the end of The Copper Gauntlet, but, given that there are three more books to go in this series, we can deduce that it won’t last.

Speaking of future books, the next installment, The Bronze Key, is expected to be released in September of this year. Book four, The Golden Boy, will be out in 2017, and the final chapter, The Enemy of Death, is expected in 2018. Lots to look forward to.

Like The Iron Trial, I think The Copper Gauntlet is a great read for those in upper elementary grades on up. Fans of Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s books will delight in this series…and will surely make some interesting comparisons. (The similarities between The Magisterium and Harry Potter are undeniable.) I added this book to my own elementary library collection, and the response has been nothing but positive.

For more information on The Iron Trial, The Copper Gauntlet, and the rest of the Magisterium series, visit the official website. It’s got lots of interactive goodies that you may enjoy.

Now, I must leave you. (Not for long, so no worries.) I return to the “real world” tomorrow, and I have one day left to do all the stuff that I meant to do during my two week break. I can hardly contain my joy.*

*Where’s a sarcasm font when I need one?

Summer of the Wolves

I’ve never been an outdoorsy kind of gal. Getting in touch with nature? Not my thing. Even as a kid, I disliked being outside, and I hated being forced to read books that had a big focus on nature. The books that stand out the most are Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, and Julie of the Wolves. I know these are great books, but they just didn’t do it for my younger self.

It should surprise no one, then, that I was rather reluctant to read my latest book, Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles. Pitched as “Julie of the Wolves meets Hatchet,” I was almost immediately turned off. If this book were not a nominee for this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award, I never would have picked it up. (I did put it off as long as I could.) When I finally started the book, it was rather slow going. I found any excuse I could think of to put the book down. Eventually, though, I made myself sit down and read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. Now, I’ll never be a nature-lover, but I did appreciate this story and the main character’s quest to find her place in the world.

Twelve-year-old Nika should be used to change by now, but nothing prepares her for leaving her latest foster home in California and spending the summer in the wilderness of Northern Minnesota. Nika and her little brother are staying with an uncle they’ve never met in a place that is totally unfamiliar. Nika’s brother, Randall, seems excited about this new adventure, but Nika is anxious. She wonders why her uncle never contacted them before now, how he feels about caring for two kids all summer, and what will happen to them when the summer ends.

Something happens, though, that gives Nika a sense of purpose in her new surroundings. Nika and her uncle find an orphaned wolf pup and decide to care for him. Nika grows attached to the pup–who she names Khan–and she does whatever she can to make sure the little wolf is healthy and happy. She even entertains thoughts of keeping him for her own.

As Nika cares for Khan and learns more about wolves and the wilderness around her, this lonely girl finds herself growing closer to her uncle and making something of a life for herself in Minnesota. For the first time since her mother’s tragic death, Nika feels like she belongs somewhere.

But what will happen when Nika realizes that she and Khan can’t stay together? Will separation from the wolf pup erase everything Nika has come to love about this place? Can she accept Khan’s fate as well as her own?

Read Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles to learn how one young girl’s relationship with a wolf pup helps her discover her own inner strength, her connection to nature, and what being part of a family really means.

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The synopsis above is not one of my best, and I don’t think it captures even a fraction of what occurs in Summer of the Wolves. This book, while exploring the complicated life of one girl, also highlighted the plight of wolves and other wild creatures. Where does one draw the line when it comes to studying and appreciating wild animals and leaving them alone? (Anyone familiar with the controversy surrounding SeaWorld knows this is a big issue.) Maybe this book and others like it will help young readers examine their own interactions with animals and learn more about how they can help wild animals around the world.

Summer of the Wolves could be a good novel study for upper elementary or middle grade classes. I see it supplementing science units on animal behavior and habitats. Reading this book could lead to extensive studies of wolves in the northern United States. (I do wish this book had included a “further reading” section for students who wanted to learn more about wolves. There is a little more information on the author’s website, including a Common Core teacher’s guide to this book, but something more accessible to students would be nice.)

Wolfsbane

Caution!!!  You absolutely MUST read Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade before reading Wolfsbane.  (Even if you have read Nightshade, it might be a good idea to re-read some of it.  I wish I had.)  Wolfsbane will make no sense at all if you don’t know what happened in the first book.  Trust me.

It is no secret that I loved Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.  The characters were rich and complex, the story itself was intense and gripping, and the writing was poetic and beautiful.  When I finished reading it, I couldn’t wait for the next book, but wait I did…nearly nine months.  I forgot a lot in that amount of time, so it was a bit jarring when the sequel, Wolfsbane, picked up almost immediately where Nightshade left off.  I went back to my review of Nightshade to refamiliarize myself with a few things.  I even skimmed through the first book, but I simply lost a lot of details.  While reading Wolfsbane, though, things gradually came back to me, and I was again enraptured with Calla’s story and her struggle to do what is right while trying to figure out what she really wants.

As Wolfsbane begins, Calla is awakened by screams.  It takes her a while to realize the screams are her own.  She is in an unfamiliar room, and she is just beginning to realize the implications of leaving everything she’s ever known behind.  Why did she do it?  To save Shay.  Was it worth it?  Only time will tell.

Calla is now in the realm of the Searchers, sworn enemies of the Keepers and their werewolf Guardians.  Calla is uneasy around the Searchers.  She’s unsure of their motives, and she wonders why they are so interested in her and Shay.  Why would Searchers want anything to do with a couple of Guardians?  Well, it turns out that Calla and Shay–Shay, in particular–are essential to the Searchers’ plans to wage war against the evil Keepers.  Calla is intrigued by what is being suggested, but she is also determined to get back to her pack.  Can she convince them to join in the war against the Keepers, or do they feel betrayed since she left them to save Shay?

While Calla is wrestling with thoughts of who she can or cannot trust, she’s also torn between two loves.  She loves Shay and does not regret saving him, but she can’t forget Ren.  He was destined to be her alpha mate, and he risked his life to help her save Shay.  What has become of him since her escape?   How could she leave Ren and her pack to face the consequences when she left?  Calla does not have the answers, and her guilt is eating her alive.  She can’t truly be with Shay when her feelings for Ren and her packmates still cloud every thought.

As tensions mount, Calla and the Searchers unite to save her pack and battle against the Keepers that have imprisoned them.  But all may not be as it seems.  There is betrayal in unexpected places, sacrifices that tear lives apart, secrets that have long been buried, and friendships torn asunder.  How can Calla and those around her cope with everything hitting them at once?  Who can they trust?  It’s hard to say, but, despite all of the turmoil in her life, Calla is sure of one thing.  She will do whatever it takes, even if it means sacrificing herself, to save those she loves.  Read Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer to discover how far one young woman will go to make things right.

Like many second books in a series, I felt that a lot of Wolfsbane was transitional–a way to bridge the gap between the first and last part of the story.  A few questions were answered, but dozens more popped up to replace them.  The story was full of turmoil and angst, and there wasn’t a tidy ending.  Not that I expected one.  This book did exactly what it was supposed to do…it whetted my appetite for more.  I wish the third book, Bloodrose, was in my hands right now.  I want to know where Calla’s story goes from here and how Shay, Ren, Calla’s pack, and the Searchers fit into that story.  I’m invested in this world, and I can hardly wait to find out more.

FYI, Bloodrose is expected to be released on February 21, 2012.  Too long.  But the first chapter is up on Andrea Cremer’s website at  http://nightshadebook.com/.  Also, check out the cover of this highly anticipated book.

I just know this book is going to be worth the wait.

Forever

Warning!  This post will be about Forever, the third and final book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  If you have not read Shiver and Linger, you may want to do that before proceeding.  That is all.

 

I almost hate to write this post because it means that this series, which I have grown to love, is officially finished.  I feel like I’ve gotten to know Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole, and I hate to say goodbye.  But life goes on, and, like these characters proved in Forever, it may not be what you always thought it would be…

In Shiver, we got to know Sam as both human and wolf, and we saw the depth of his connection with Grace.  In Linger, while Sam was getting used to the possibility of a future with Grace, Grace was facing life as a wolf, a life she never expected.  Now, in Forever, Sam and Grace are fighting to stay together, in whatever form that takes.  They have many obstacles to face–hunters determined to eliminate the wolves of Mercy Falls, people thinking that Grace is missing and Sam is to blame, a rogue wolf bent on destroying anyone who gets in her way, the cold that forces the wolves to shift and tears Sam and Grace apart–but they, as well as their friends Cole and Isabel, are determined to everything possible to overcome the trials that face them.

Sam must confront his own past.  Why did Beck choose him?  How would his life have been different if he’d been allowed to grow up without the wolf inside of him?  Would he change things if he could?  And how can he hope to save the wolves without unleashing the beast inside himself?

Grace must come out of hiding and let people know that she’s still alive.  She can’t let Sam be blamed for something beyond his control.  Will her parents accept her vague explanations?  Will anyone find out what she really is?  Can she build a life with Sam when so many people are determined to come between them?

Cole is confronting his own demons and trying to find a cure for the “disease” that plagues him and those he’s come to care about.  Can he get past his own issues and save himself and his new family?  Will he be able to do what everyone has told him is impossible?

Isabel finds herself in the middle of a war.  On one side is her father, determined to wipe out the wolves that he believes killed his son.  On the other side are her friends, the very wolves her father wants to kill.  What can she do to stop her father from committing murder?  How can she help her friends–including Cole, a guy she’s coming to love–without losing her family?

As Sam, Grace, Cole, and Isabel fight to save the wolves of Mercy Falls, they find help in unlikely places, but will help come in time?  How can they look to the future when the present is so uncertain?  Will Sam and Grace be able to have the forever they’ve always dreamed of, or will forces conspire to keep them apart?  Find out when you read Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.

Like I mentioned before, I am sad to see this series end, but I will say that this final installment was kind of satisfying.  While there wasn’t a crystal clear resolution, some questions were answered, some relationships were resolved, and there was at least a possibility of happily-ever-after.  That’s the kind of ending I like–one where the author doesn’t try to tie up every single loose end and leaves something to the reader’s imagination.  All in all, I am happy with Forever and how this series concluded.  I will miss the wolves of Mercy Falls, but I know that I can revisit them anytime I want…or I can continue their story in my own mind.

If you’d like more information on the Wolves of Mercy Falls series or author Maggie Stiefvater, I encourage you to visit http://maggiestiefvater.com/.  She has a new book, The Scorpio Races, coming out in October that looks pretty interesting.  If it’s as good as the series I just finished, I will be one happy reader.

Nightshade

I don’t even know where to begin.  When a book is so good that a person contemplates skipping work to finish it, you know you’ve got a winner.  (No, I didn’t actually do this…but I thought about it.  I did take the book to work with me, and I read it during my too brief lunch break.)  Nightshade by Andrea Cremer is the book I’m talking about.  It is absolutely amazing, and I cannot begin to express how much I loved it.  The cover alone is a work of art, and the writing is just as artistic and beautiful.  I highly recommend this book to teen and adult readers alike.

In Nightshade, readers are introduced to Calla Tor, alpha female to a pack of werewolves (for lack of a better term).  Calla has always known and accepted her destiny.  She knows that, come Samhain, she will join with Ren, her chosen alpha male, to form a new pack.  Calla is secure in her role as a Guardian, and, though she sometimes cringes in the presence of the Keepers, masters of the Guardians, she realizes that the Keepers provide for her pack and depend on the wolves for protection of their most sacred sites.

Calla’s certainty, however, begins to fade when someone new enters her life.  When Calla is on patrol in her wolf form, she saves a human’s life and reveals her true self to him–a major violation of the laws of her kind.  Imagine her surprise when he shows up at her school the very next day.   Shay is new in town, and no one knows much about him.  No one knows of his first meeting with Calla.  He is human, but he lives with Bosque, a feared and unknown Keeper, in a sprawling and secret-filled estate.  Will he reveal how Calla saved him?  What is his connection to the Guardians and Keepers?  And why are the Searchers–the enemies of the Guardians and Keepers–so interested in him?  Calla is intrigued by Shay, even though she knows she shouldn’t be.  She’s promised to another, and getting close to Shay can only lead to trouble. 

Well, it seems that trouble is what’s in store for Calla and Shay.  As the time of her union with Ren draws near, Calla and Shay begin to uncover the many secrets of the Keepers and Guardians.  Calla does not know what to do with this new knowledge, and she’s torn by her duty to her pack and Ren and her growing feelings for Shay.  As Calla goes against her nature and the very laws that govern the Guardians, she grows closer and closer to the truth.  Will her discoveries cause her to drift from what she’s meant to do and the people she cares about the most?  Will these truths change how she views everything around her–including who she should spend her life with?  Unravel the mysteries when you read Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.

If this post hasn’t made it abundantly clear, I adore this book, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in future books.  The second book, Wolfsbane, will be released in the summer of 2011, and the third book, Bloodrose, will come out in the spring of 2012.  A companion novel to Nightshade is also in the works for the fall of 2012.  There’s lots to look forward to, but if you just can’t wait to learn more about Nightshade, upcoming books, and author Andrea Cremer, I encourage you to visit http://www.andreacremer.com/index.html.  I hope you enjoy this wonderful book as much as I did.