ARC Review: The Wizards of Once (Cressida Cowell)

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Genre:
Childrens, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Series: The Wizards of Once #1
Publication date: September 19th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 384

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Blurb:
From the bestselling author of How to Train Your Dragon comes an exciting high-adventure series – set in an ancient, magical time, full of Wizards, Warriors, Giants and Sprites.

This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure …

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods.

Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish.

And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

In a whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must visit the dungeons at Warrior fort, and face the evil Queen.

But something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring …

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I received a proof copy of Cressida Cowell’s upcoming new series The Wizards of Once. Famous for her works in the How to Train Your Dragon series, in which movie I loved by the way, I was super excited to read this. I rarely read Children’s books. Their language and plot are a bit simpler than that of Middle Grade. So in an attempt to properly review this book, I put myself in the shoes of a pre-school/primary school child to see if this book would appeal to me had I read it back at that age.

Wizards of Once is the tale of a Wizard and a Warrior who met in an unusual circumstance and had to help each other out in order to save both human and magic world safe from the evil clutched of the Witches.

Hands down, Cowell is a great storyteller and illustrator. Despite being short, I felt thoroughly entertained with the adventures of Xar and Wish. The illustrations are so beautiful that I loved looking at them for long periods of time to memorize every little detail.  However, being a proof copy, some illustrations were incomplete and yet to be included in the book. I was a bit sad about that but I’m sure the finished book is going to have an abundance of beautiful drawings that will entertain its young readers for hours.

Xar, the Wizard, wasn’t really my favourite character from this book. He’s annoying, disobedient (as mentioned by everyone), arrogant and self-centered. I don’t know how this kind of character would portray to a child but I do appreciate that Wish is the opposite of him. The book depicted how well two very different personalities can become friends. Wish is truly a special girl, and I want her to be my friend. Someone who is kind, loyal and caring is very hard to find.

The plot was very simple in a way that a child will be able to follow through easily and be amazed at all the wonderful new words that Cowell has created in this world. We see tough situations bringing Xar and his companions closer on a quest to save their world. It shows resilience, teamwork and perseverance bring out the best in us. And I think Cowell is great for this – for engaging a child’s mind to question beyond fiction. And see that these characters aren’t so different from us at all. We all have moments of cowardice and selfishness, but finding the silver lining in every situation makes us grow into kind human beings.

If you’re a parent reading this review, or an older sibling/aunt/uncle and you want your young ones to start reading, I think The Wizards of Once is a great series to begin with. Its language and plot are simple to comprehend, the illustrations are on point, and there are so many questions you can ask your young reader to make them think beyond the story.

I definitely would have enjoyed this book if I came across it during my preteen years.

I’d definitely recommend reading this during bed time. The voices and impersonations you can make while reading this aloud is just amazing. Believe me, I’ve tried.

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★★★★☆

Thank you Pansing Malaysia for providing me a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Wolf Hollow (Lauren Wolk)

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Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal
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Blurb:

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

Review:

“The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.”  

Wolf Hollow is a middle grade historical fiction based in Pennsylvania, US during the second world war and focuses on the devastating impact of bullying, neglected childhood, and the importance of bravery to stand up for those unable to do so for themselves.

I fell in love with the cover of Wolf Hollow in an instant. This story had the perfect mix of 1940’s America caught between one of the most brutal wars of our time and the simple farm life that became the setting of this story.

It tells the tale of Annabelle, an 11-year old girl who comes into contact with a mean and evil-spirited girl, Betty, set on ruling her school and her life. This story gave us a complicated insight to fighting prejudice, facing conflict in the best way possible and having courage to help others when all hope seems lost.

Annabelle developed a beautiful friendship with Toby, the war veteran that eventually became the target of Betty’s torments. To see that kind of friendship develop in the most trying of times was emotionally gripping and allowed us to see that beyond appearances and judgement, each person has a story to tell. A worthy one, too. Annabelle teaches us the power of kindness, resilient and firm believe in the kindness of strangers and the good human condition that makes us the people we are today.

I love how well written this book was emotionally and plot-wise. The characters were so well presented that they were created simply for the young readers to easily identify bullies and how they create conflict in a society. How sometimes, bullies and tormentors look innocent and can spew lies against those who are odd or a bit strange.

This book is meant for middle graders but I believe it appeals for adults as well. Because sometimes, we need books with simplicity such as Wolf Hollow to remind us that prejudice has existed for the longest of time. And only kindness and bravery can endure it.

“And I decided that there might be things I would never understand, no matter how hard I tried. Though try I would. And that there would be people who would never hear my one small voice, no matter what I had to say. But then a better thought occurred, and this was the one I carried away with me that day: If my life was to be just a single note in an endless symphony, how could I not sound it out for as long and as loudly as I could?”

I would recommend Wolf Hollow for all lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and Pax (Sara Pennypacker)! They have similar vibes to Wolf Hollow and this book will leave you in emotional heartbreak at what awaits you at the end of the book.

RATING: ★★★★★

Have you read this? What did you think about it? 🙂

Review: Matilda (Roald Dahl) 

Genre: Childrens

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

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Review: Pax (Sarah Pennypacker)


Genre: Middle Grade

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

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