Foundling Family Book Review – Issue 11

The 11th issue from Celia McGee is here!


Unbreakable: The Legion, Book I, by Kami Garcia (Little, Brown) Ages 12 and up  


   Evil takes many forms, inhabiting the world around us, but also threatening the good in people from within. When this double whammy takes on supernatural forms, as it does in this first solo novel by Kami Garcia, coauthor of Beautiful Creatures, beware—and be prepared to be sucked into an incredibly suspenseful book. And it’s just the first in an interlocking series Garcia has planned. Kennedy Waters, the teenager at its center, is living a mostly carefree existence blessed by a wonderful mother and a stalwart best friend—though there is that boy who just dumped her, and distant memories of a father who took off when she was little with strange words about wanting “a normal life.”  But then her vital mother dies under puzzling circumstances, and appearing on the bereaved Kennedy’s doorstep—her tear-stained mascara “like fingerprints at the scene of crime”—are two handsome twins, Jared and Lucas Lockhart. They inform her of her ancestral ties to the Legion of the Black Dove, a secret society that must count five members at all times, and her obligation to fight with them against a timeless evil, a demon named Attas. But as Kennedy helps combat supernatural “vengeance spirits” and shiver-inducing ghost (some as innocent -looking as a little girl with a doll) on a trail through haunted mansions, a creepy magician’s shop, down a dank well, and in the bowels of an abandoned orphanage, she is not only torn romantically between Jared and Lucas, but questions the legitimacy of her membership in the legion, which is rounded out by the rich, beautiful black girl Alara (possessed of spells inherited from her Haitian grandmother), and Priest, a youngster with a knack for devising weapons for vaporizing otherworldly attackers.  As signs, symbols and horrifying adventures take them closer to Attas’s realm, Kennedy starts to realize that the photographic memory she’s always taken for granted just might be her special strength. Yet she is still faced with the knowledge that “the only person she belonged to now was herself.” How this will serve her, and if it will change, remains an open question in this cliffhanger of a novel.


The Sultan’s Tigers, by Josh Lacey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Ages 9-12

The Sultan's Tigers

   From the beginning, young Tom Trelawney declares that he “I come from a long line of liars, cheats, crooks, bandits, thieves and smugglers.” Though you’d never know it from his loving, trusting, strict but kindly family, he has taken that heritage on faith from his Uncle Harvey, a charming scoundrel if ever there was one. Whether this too will prove to be Tom’s case is a quiet question running throughout this book by the author of The Misfitz Mysteries and Grk series, and Island of Thieves, the Tom Trelawney novel that preceded this one. Things are not looking good for the better parts of Tom’s character when he runs away from home to join his uncle on a quest to find a jewel-encrusted, golden tiger figurine looted in a battle in India by an earlier, unscrupulous Trelawney. Originally part of a set of eight surrounding the throne of a grand sultan, seven are now the pride of the collection of the internationally powerful Indian tycoon Jalata Jaragami. He will stop at nothing to get the last tiger, including sending an assassin after the Trelawney pair. The hunt becomes a question of who will find the tiger first. Or does it? Lacey paints a rich, multi-layered portrait of disparate parts of modern-day India, and his sense of plot and the human frailties even among the high and mighty never disappears. Tom is also exposed to his first impressions of freewheeling adult liaisons, crushing poverty, and the pricks of conscience. Safely back home, the call of adventure still sounds for him. What this means for this intrepid young lad will be revealed in Lacey’s next Tom Trelawney book.


The Mysterious Traveler, by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick Press) Ages 5-8

   There are times when a snippet of history, the sound of a legendary city’s name, and curiosity about people of a vanished culture, take hold of a writer’s imagination and won’t let go. This happened to Elspeth Graham whenever her thoughts turned to the illustrious, half-mythical metropolis of Timbuktu, in West Africa’s Mali, where once camel caravans carrying traders in salt and gold crossed paths on their way north and south through the treacherous Sahara Desert. Out of this fascination, she and Mal Peet have created a story about an almost preternaturally gifted but aging guide, Issa, whose unmatched foresight and bravery really come from his deep understanding of his natural surroundings, and his ability to judge the human landscape as well. But even he is at a loss when a baby girl, apparently kidnapped in some gruesome blood feud, comes into his life in a basket atop a camel in the aftermath of a deadly sandstorm. He names her Mariama, and teaches her all he knows, from tracking, to hardscrabble survival, the ways of the animal kingdom, and his gentle Islamic faith. These are buoyantly accompanied by P.J. Lynch’s finely-tuned illustrations. Still, the mystery of Mariama’s origins lingers, along with half of a star-shaped pendant she was wearing around her neck when Issa found her. As Issa grows old, though, Mariama must face that he has gone blind, and she becomes his eyes and his guide, and a testament to her own acquired self-reliance and resistance. Those qualities are tested when three strangers appear with unknown intentions, and both danger and another desert storm threaten. Mariama and Issa, though, adhere to their inseparable bonds, and are rewarded in ways they never could have dreamed of.


The Tiny King, by Taro Miura (Candlewick Press) Ages 2-5

The Tiny King

   Take a close look at the front cover of The Tiny King, by the acclaimed Japanese writer and illustrator Taro Miura, and you will see a few words reporting that the little ruler is shown at “actual size.” That makes him 10 inches tall (including crown). No wonder he rattles around in his big castle, is dwarfed by the dining table and all its goodies stretched out before him, keeps falling off his large white horse, gets no pleasure out of his bathtub with its own bubbling fountain, and feels especially lonely when he gets into his big, wide, fluffy bed. We’ve all experienced loneliness in one form of another, and we know that making friends or falling in love, no matter what the person’s size or color, is a wonderful solution. The tiny king and his domain, adorably brought to life by illustrations that, through collage and cut-out shapes, give the impression of a saga  charmingly unfolding through building blocks, have a lot to learn on that score, but caring and sharing finally come his way through one very big and a cheerful number of smaller surprises. It is fair to say that everyone and every thing, whether foot soldier, white steed, dining hall table or the tallest tower and steepest staircase in the castle, live happily ever after. 

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