Once Upon a MarigoldOnce Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
HMH Books for Young Readers

A Review by Anna Heinly, Age 8

A forest troll named Ed finds a young boy named Christian. Christian had run away from home. He did not want to go back. Ed says Christian can stay with him for one night, but Christian ends up staying in the cave with Ed and his two dogs, Bub and Cate until he grows up. One day while he was looking in his telescope, Christian saw a princess named Marigold. Christian wrote her a letter and sent it by pigeon. Marigold read the letter and p-mailed back. They became best friends. Ed was worried. Soon it was time for Christian to get a job. He got a job fixing things at the castle and had lots of adventures.

Marigold’s mom, Queen Olympia, was forcing her to get married. Marigold was upset. She did not want to get married. Christian was sad, too because he wanted to marry her, but she could only marry royalty. Christian would have to find a way to be with Marigold.

I loved everything in the story. Ed always gets idioms mixed up. It is hilarious. Bub and Cate and Marigold’s dogs (the three floor mops) are silly. Queen Mab is the Tooth Fairy. She always gets lost on her way to collect people’s teeth. That is funny, too. Queen Olympia orders everyone around. That was entertaining. It was also funny when Rollo the guard got mad because Meg kissed Christian. There is nothing about this book I do not like. It is the best book in the world!

A Review by Kasey Giard

Christian is a young inventor living in the forest with his foster father, a troll named Ed. Life is pretty sweet until the day Christian discovers the lonely Princess Marigold and decides to send her a message via carrier pidgeon (p-mail). To Christian’s surprise, the princess replies to his message and the two become best friends. If only that were enough for Christian. As he comes of age and sets out to make his way in the world, Christian seeks work at the castle where Marigold lives, even though he knows he’ll never be able to have a relationship with her since he will be no more than a servant. Then Christian uncovers a vicious plot to kill Marigold, and he can’t sit by and do nothing. But how can a commoner do anything to save the princess?

Once Upon a Marigold is a spunky, cute fairytale story about having courage to do what’s right to protect the people important to you and the meaning of true friendship. Ferris cleverly weaves a whimsical world in which a forest troll wants to break the Tooth Fairy’s monopoly on collecting teeth, even though she constantly gets lost. Full of silliness and heart, this is a great story to share with middle readers.


Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
The princess is under a curse of uncertain origin: when someone touches her, she knows their thoughts. She and Christian briefly discuss their astrological signs, and the fact that they share the same sign is viewed as a confirmation of their relationship.

Violent Content
A flying machine crashes, causing some minor injuries. A character is struck with an arrow that must be removed. Nothing graphic.

Drug Content

Anna Heinly, Kasey GiardAbout the Bloggers
Anna Heinly is a third grade student. She enjoys reading, riding her cousin’s scooter, playing with her cousins, and having adventures. She also enjoys riding bikes with her cousins. This is her first review.
Read about Kasey Giard here.

Divergent by Veronica RothDivergent

Veronica Roth

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior lives in a world in which faction comes before family. Upon turning sixteen, each society member must choose to commit life to one of five factions. No turning back. Though Beatrice loves her family, she can’t imagine living out the rest of her life wholly committed to serving others selflessly as the Abegnation faction members do. But if she chooses to leave her faction, she will lose her family for good.

Beatrice discovers making her choice puts more at risk than her connection to family. Her mind carries within it a deadly secret, one she must keep at all costs. As she prepares to join the faction of her choice, she renames herself Tris and braces herself for the battle of her life.

Roth’s debut novel packs quite a punch, drawing readers into a world in which survival depends on securing one’s place within a group and virtue is everything. But while the virtues chosen by each faction may have started in purity, time has warped some so that instead of coming together to form a society that is a balanced whole, some factions have become twisted and parasitic.

Though the early chapters spend a lot of time setting up the story, the pace picks up quite a bit once Beatrice/Tris chooses her faction and the initiation rites begin. From that point on, the reader scarcely has a chance to pause for breath, and may need intervention from friends and family in order to put the book down for things like dinner and sleep.

Series fans are already eagerly anticipating the March 2014 release of the movie starring Shailene Woodley based on this first book in the Divergent Series. The series will conclude with the release of Allegiant on October 22, 2013.

Language Content

Sexual Content
While romantic tensions run high between Tris and her boy, both seem committed to taking the relationship slowly. Lots of kissing scenes and one pretty intense make-out scene in a train, but nothing goes beyond that.

Spiritual Content
The Abegnation faction believe in God and serving others. Though she has always struggled to live up to the pure virtues of her faction, Tris returns to those beliefs in a moment when things go horribly wrong.

Some initiation rituals are a bit violent. Other initiates, motivated by jealousy, attack their rivals and even attempt to kill them. Divergent climaxes with an intense sequence of battles, but graphic details are limited.

Drug Content
To celebrate or mourn, Tris’s new faction members drink alcohol. Tris herself doesn’t participate. Faction leaders use a serum to create simulations in the minds of the initiates as part of the process of admittance into the faction.


Lauren Oliver

In a world with closely controlled borders, seventeen-year-old Lena counts down the days until she receives the cure for what her government labels, “the deadliest of all deadly things,” or Love. Lena can’t wait to finally be cured, to know she’s safe from this vile and unpredictable thing. Then she meets Alex, and everything goes sideways. She isn’t sure what to think about the disease or the rumored uncured people living outside the safe borders of the town or Portland. And Alex is different. Special. Before she can stop it, her attraction toward him blossoms into something deep and forbidden, and for once, dutiful Lena doesn’t care if she’s breaking all the rules. How could anyone not break rules when they feel so wonderful?

But her procedure date approaches, and once it arrives, her feelings for Alex will be gone. Alex knows how to live away from town, but leaving means walking away from her family and her best friend Hannah. How can Lena do that? With time quickly running out and enforcers so close to discovering her secret relationship, Lena must decide what to do and find a way to escape before it’s too late.

Since her stunning debut Before I Fall, Oliver has delivered sharply brilliant prose framed around powerful characters and themes. Her exploration of love rockets readers through a dangerous world in which love is a disease scientists are now able to cure. Lena’s roller coaster ride of emotions becomes a little difficult to believe at times, as she both carefully controls her stoic public face and privately reels from the wild emotional highs and lows of her infatuation with Alex. Her best friend’s perfect understanding and lack of jealousy at being ditched for the boyfriend also felt a little hollow. Despite this, the story is intense and its narrative finely honed. Lena’s recollections of her mother and the descriptions of the Wilds beyond Portland are deeply captivating.

Language Content
Infrequent but severe.

Sexual Content
Whether or not Lena and Alex engage in sex is left pretty vague. Lena describes her feelings at allowing Alex to see her without a shirt, and how before that moment she felt awkwardly put together, but his opinion of her as beautiful changes Lena’s perception of herself. The couple frequently kiss one another.

Spiritual Content
Some biblical characters and references are altered, as if they’ve been rewritten by a government with an agenda against love. Deeper spiritual pursuits are not really explored.

Police with weapons and dogs surround a house filled with people listening to forbidden music. They attack the party-goers, attempting to punish and subdue them. Some details are intense and a little grisly. A girl infected with “the Deliria” is bound to her bed until she can receive surgery to cure her from the disease of love. Later, police chase down a young couple trying to escape and attempt to shoot them.

Drug Content
Lena’s sister gives her a tranquilizer pill to calm her. Lana believes it is ibuprofen.

Goddess TitheYesterday we had the pleasure of seeing the next lovely cover in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. (Click here to see reviews and other earlier posts about the series.) Today I’m pleased to bring you an excerpt from the novella itself, with an opening description by the author, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Enjoy!


Here is an excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring:


“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

AESAbout the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.


Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

Here’s a peek at the gorgeous cover of the next book in the wonderful Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The cover image is accompanied by the back cover copy below:

Goddess Tithe

The Vengeful Goddess

Demands Her Tithe

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya’s only hope to return safely home.

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown’s garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl talks about the beautiful cover:

I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (www.phatpuppyart.com), whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.

The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.

You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

About the Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.


About the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.


Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

The Raven BoysThe Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, Inc

Premonitions and warnings about the future have always been a part of Blue Sargent’s life in her small home shared by several psychic women. It’s why she stays away from boys: the first boy she kisses will die, according to the predictions of the clairvoyant group.

Staying away from them has never been difficult for Blue. Especially staying away from the over-privileged boys of the Aglionby school. That is, until an unexpected vision on St. Mark’s Eve and a forgotten journal pull Blue into a dangerous and mesmerizing quest led by one of Aglionby’s finest students.

Though she is at first repelled by Gansey’s flippant attitude about money, something deeper flashes beneath the carelessness and bravado, and Blue can’t help but be captivated by that Gansey.

If only she can find a way to keep him from dying.

Filled with memorable characters and fresh wit, The Raven Boys is a wild ride from start to finish. Readers familiar with Stiefvater’s Shiver will find this a much more highly developed work, though toward the end the pet phrase, “for a long moment,” reappears several times. Despite this, it’s difficult to imagine readers beginning this series and not eagerly anticipating the second book, which will release in September 2013.

Language Content
Sparse but severe.

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Blue’s mother and her friends use psychic ability to make their living and to predict what will happen in Blue’s life and the lives of her friends. Much of the story centers around belief in these abilities and in magic, spirits and rituals. Blue and her friends befriend a ghost and help him maintain a presence. Blue is gifted with the ability to strengthen psychic energy.

Two brothers engage in a brief fist-fight. One boy suffers physical abuse at the hands of his father, and another boy defends him. The scene is brief. A man is trampled to death, but no details are given of the event. A woman plans to murder a man as part of a ritual. Characters fight over possession of a gun in two different scenes.

Drug Content
One of the boys has a tendency to drink alcohol and get into trouble. It’s not really featured in any scenes.

Sky JumpersSky Jumpers

Peggy Eddleman

In a small town scratching out survival beyond Word War III, twelve-year-old Hope Toriella vows to make a place for herself among the townspeople as an inventor. Despite the horrible flops her past attempts have been, she is certain that this time, she’s got a winner ready for unveiling. While Hope hasn’t developed a talent for inventing yet, she certainly has a gift for trouble, and that’s just what she gets when she answers the challenge put forth by the mysterious newcomer, Brock, who dares her to jump through a deadly pocket of Bomb’s Breath that surrounds the town in the aftermath of war.

While Hope and her friends have attempted this feat before, most consider it certain death, and Hope has to lie to keep herself and her friends from getting into trouble. Just as she wiggles out of one mess, another drops into her lap. Strange men threaten to hurt the townspeople unless they turn over an irreplaceable antibiotic. With an outbreak of disease already beginning, Hope knows her people cannot turn over the medicine. Instead, she and her friends must escape through ice, snow, and the deadly Bomb’s Breath to a neighboring settlement to bring back help.

Eddleman creates a fascinating post-apocalyptic world in which the earth’s magnetic fields have been disrupted by the use of a Green Bomb during a massive world-wide war. Many of the technological advances of the last several hundred years have been lost, and the surviving settlements in the story are largely agricultural and isolated. What is left unexplored is what happened to the winning nations of the war? Are they as decimated as American cities seem to be? Are other more important areas occupied by soldiers of this other group? Or has the change in the earth’s atmosphere destroyed those in power as well? The reader is left with little time to wonder, however, because the rest of the story moves at a rapid pace, and is filled with other creative elements which are tightly woven into the story.

Language Content

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content

A few brief and pretty sterile references to death. Some scenes contain brief instances of violence on the part of bandits attacking townspeople. One man is shot in the leg.

Drug Content
Hope and her classmates are tasked with finding a local plant which is then turned into a valuable antibiotic.

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