Book Review: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

Book Review: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer BellThe Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell
Series: The Uncommoners #1
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 31, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
4 Stars

Welcome to a world where nothing is quite as it seems…

When their grandmother Sylvie is rushed to the hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her annoying big brother Seb cannot imagine what adventure lies in store. Soon their house is ransacked by unknown intruders, and a very strange policeman turns up on the scene, determined to apprehend them . . . with a toilet brush.

Ivy and Seb make their escape only to find themselves in a completely uncommon world, a secret underground city called Lundinor where ordinary objects have amazing powers. There are belts that enable the wearer to fly, yo-yos that turn into weapons, buttons with healing properties, and other enchanted objects capable of very unusual feats.

But the forces of evil are closing in fast, and when Ivy and Seb learn that their family is connected to one of the greatest uncommon treasures of all time, they must race to unearth the treasure and get to the bottom of a family secret . . . before it’s too late.

Book Review:

THE CROOKED SIXPENCE is the first in a new middle grade fantasy series. The cover blurb calls it “part Tim Burton, part J.K. Rowling,” and I have to say, I agree 100% with that.

From the first page, I was swept along with Ivy into Lundinor, a secret city. In Lundinor, Ivy encounters common objects, such as suitcases or belts, that have uncommon abilities. You travel to another place in a suitcase and belts carry you in the air. It’s like magic to eleven year old Ivy, but she doesn’t have long to wonder about everything. She has to rescue big brother Seb, who was arrested when they arrived in Lundinor. And that’s just the beginning — soon Ivy and Seb are in the thick of solving a decades old mystery in the uncommon city.

I’m explaining it badly, but I quite enjoyed the author’s concept of common objects being uncommon and having special abilities. The explanation for uncommon objects caught me off guard, but as the book went on and I learned more about Lundinor and its citizens, it fit better.

I liked the colorful cast of characters in THE CROOKED SIXPENCE. From Ivy to Granma Sylvie, Ethel, and Violet, everyone was quirky and interesting. I particularly liked that Ivy respected older characters. Granma Sylvie’s amnesia and the Twelfth Night mystery in Lundinor went together very well, and I enjoyed the adventure of learning the truth right along with Ivy. I also have to say, I’ve never read such creepy versions of selkies, and the villains in the book were quite villainous!

Along with the descriptive writing, the illustrations really helped bring THE CROOKED SIXPENCE to life for me. Very rarely do I take much notice of illustrations, but here, I spent time looking at each one, enjoying the little details and the general style. For the first time ever, I want to look for more of an illustrator’s work.

I’m looking forward to the next volume in The Uncommoners series, so that I can return to Lundinor with Ivy and Seb!

Socialize with the author:

Jennifer Bell:

— leeanna

4 Stars
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Book Review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

Book Review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen OhFlying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh, Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Kelly J Baptist, Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Pena, Meg Medina, Soman Chainani, Tim Federle, Tim Tingle, Walter Dean Myers
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 3, 2017
Genres: Middle Grade
Pages: 225
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
4 Stars

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

Book Review:

FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES is a short but powerful anthology of diverse stories by diverse authors. Really, these stories could fit into any anthology, because the themes — sibling relationships, first crushes, friendship, etc — are universal. But these stories are extra important for young readers (and old!) who might not see themselves reflected in many books and stories.

The stories in FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES span a range of voices from a boy on vacation with his eccentric grandmother to a disabled basketball player to Sam, who’s awed by/wants to know the new girl at school. I would’ve liked to read longer versions of every story in the anthology, which for me, was a sign of each author’s success at pulling me into their characters’ lives in a handful of pages. I’m a greedy reader — I always want more when I get invested in characters.

The opening story, “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” was a bit of an outlier at first for me. Unlike the others, it’s written from the second-person POV. But after I got further into the book, I personally took Matt de la Peña’s story as a way to open my mind. Grace Lin’s story about a Chinese girl sold into slavery who escapes her fate in an unusual way… I definitely want a book about Lingsi! And Meg Medina’s “Sol Painting, Inc.” hurt my heart for Merci and Papi. “Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains” was the one story that I didn’t understand.

I didn’t find any of the stories too preachy or heavy-handed with messages. The kids are kids, doing their thing, and hopefully along the way, they’ll show the rest of us how to be more tolerant and open-minded of others who have different backgrounds/viewpoints than us. A great book for the intended middle-grade audience and adults too!

— leeanna

4 Stars
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