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Friday, September 4, 2009

Young Reader Capsule Review 1 (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Almost everyone agrees that reading is very important in children. Sometimes reading habits that are encouraged in youth can carry on into adulthood. For that reason there are many young reader fantasy books out there. For one reason or another I don't feel that I could devote a whole review to most of these book but I do believe that many of the titles out there should be featured.

It's interesting to look at what younger kids are reading, and sometimes the books even appeal to adults! For that reason I have picked 3 titles that I have read and wanted to showcase: The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael Spradlin, The Dragons of Wayward Crescent: Gruffen by Chris D'Lacey, and World's End by Erica Verrillo.


The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael Spradlin

A young orphan, Tristan, joins the Knights Templar as a squire to one of the main knights. The Knights Templar are in the middle of a crusade to free the Holy Land from the Saracens. During a critical attack, Tristan is entrusted with a very valuable Holy Grail. As he is capable of sneaking out undetected he is the only hope of getting the Grail back to Britain safely and without the other side knowing of it. Tristan meets many obstacles along his course to Britain and even teams up with Robard Hode, and Maryam.

One of the hardest parts when writing a historical fiction book for younger readers is making sure that if you are using historical facts that they be presented but not preachy and make the children feel as though they are reading a factual book. Michael Spradlin did a great job of having fictional characters but also tossing in a lot of facts that might not be otherwise known to readers. As I don't remember a lot about the Crusades I found it enlightening and little informative.

The tossing in of the whole folklore of Robin Hood really did come as a surprise but a good surprise. It didn't seem forced and while to older readers they know that it's Robin Hood, younger readers might not be as aware of the similarities. However it's a very nice addition to the character, Tristan that readers follow.

The biggest drawback to the book was the ending. The Youngest Templar is a trilogy and the book just ends at a very critical part. There is no closure or winding up of plot lines the book just ends. To me this was a bugger because to find out what happens readers are forced to read the next installment.

However, I'd recommend this book especially to young boys as it has some action and follows a young boy that is roughly their age.


The Dragons of Wayward Crescent: Gruffen by Chris D'Lacey

Lucy is afraid of monsters in her room. To solve the problem her mother creates a monster in order to guard her from the monsters in her room. Gruffen, the new dragon, must help guard Lucy from the monsters and also figure out what is the real problem behind the monster.

Chris D'Lacey is is known for his Last Dragon Chronicles. Here he presents young readers with very cute dragons that help out in situations.

This is definitely a book for young young readers. The story is a very simple and straight forward. At 104 pages it has lovely drawings to go along with the storyline. It's a great way to introduce dragons to children which are such a staple to fantasy stories everywhere.

There are more books in the series, each where the mother designs a dragon to serve a specific purpose.


World's End: Book Three in the Phoenix Rising Trilogy by Erica Verrillo

, a young girl has gone from being a simple apprentice to learning that she is really a princess. In the third installment of the trilogy Elissa begins to learn about life in the castle and about being the future heir to the throne. Until she learns that her father really plans on having her marry someone she doesn't know, in order to move him up politically. Elissa runs away, and as fate will have it is guided into helping fulfill the prophecy of the Phoenix.

Phoenix Rising Trilogy had a great concept going. A young girl finding out that she has some sort of special powers and must use them in order to fulfill this prophecy that has been going around. However I felt that it was lacking in a lot of areas. The magic that is involved isn't really explained and the bulk of the novel is more about the adventures of Elissa and her running away. When she does use any type of magic it is very vague and not fully developed enough to understand what is going on.

There are talking animals, and many odd human creatures that appear in all three of the novels. The characters are fairly one sided in that readers can almost tell from the beginning who is good, who is bad, and how they will act. Older readers might become frustrated by Elissa's attitude as she doesn't appear to want to change or give a little, and it appears her only solution to problems is that of running off.

The writing is very beautiful. It doesn't feel choppy or watered down, which sometimes happens in younger books. The author had potential in the series it just didn't feel as though this series lived up to what I kept expecting to happen in it.
A younger less critical reader will find nothing wrong with the series and would probably enjoy it.

As this is a young reader book this would be a very nice start for young girls into a fantasy world, as it does have castles and talking animals (lots of young girls love those in stories), and for that reason it's an interesting trilogy for younger readers. However, for the reasons I gave there might not be the appeal to the adults that some young reader books have.

The first book in the series is titled Elissa's Quest and the second book in the series is titled, Elissa's Odyssey.


Jeff C said...

I got the first 2 Youngest Templar books in the mail last week and was wondering how they are. Sounds like I should at least check out the first book..thanks!

Charlotte said...

Thanks for sharing these, Cindy--I'm always looking for books for my son to try, and the Youngest Templar in particular looks like a good one!

Cindy said...

You're very welcome Charlotte!

I've had the Youngest Templar on my to review pile for a while. It really would appeal to boys as it's got learning to use a sword and basically big macho guys in it :).

Jeff; I've actually recommended the Templar book to some of my friends that have boys in that age group and they enjoyed them. The only problem they had was the ending of the first book :).


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