February 05, 2009


By Ingrid Law
Newbery Honor 2009
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Mibs Beaumont is turning 13 and can't wait to get her very own savvy. At the age of 13, members of the Beaumont family develop a special talent--a kind of magical ability that is sometimes uncontrollable. Mibs' brother Rocket can control electricity and Fish is able to call up storms from wind and water. But any hopeful wondering Mibs has on her birthday is smashed when her father is in a serious accident and put into a hospital miles away in Salina. A few events convince Mibs that maybe her new savvy will be to wake up her comatose father and she is desperate enough to ditch her birthday party and stowaway on a bible-delivering bus bound for Salina. Unfortunately, more stowaways tag along, including her brothers Fish and Samson and the preacher's kids, teenager Bobbi and Will, Jr., who is nursing a crush on Mibs. But when the bus turns north instead of south, the kids embark on an oddball journey that will change all of their lives. In turns, this story is funny and heartbreaking and ultimately about learning how to grow up a little bit and find your own sense of self to be happy. An unusual and highly entertaining fantasy.

February 03, 2009

Princess Ben

By Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Princess Benevolence is no ordinary princess. She doesn't have a willowy form, likes to play in the mud, and has few proper manners. But when her mother, prince father, and her uncle the king are all unexpectedly killed--perhaps by their archenemy Drachensbett who has long coveted the small nation of Montagne--the queen regent Sophia takes it upon herself to make Ben into a proper princess. Ben takes it poorly and acts out so badly Sophia locks her into a tower room every night. But there, Ben discovers a secret room with a book of spells and soon is fully involved in learning to become somewhat of a witch. When events cause her to flee unexpectedly, she crash lands in the middle of a force of Drachensbett troops and is soon forced to hide her identity as the lowliest of beings, a mere shepherd boy. She also has to deal with the heir of Drachensbett himself, the insufferable Prince Florian. Can this unlikely princess with a few magic tricks in her spellbag find her way back to save her country from invasion? Filled with allusions to many a familiar fairy tale, Ben is a heroine that is far from perfect, but whose stubborn feelings will resonate with many a reader. A completely enjoyable fantasy with an unpredictably happy ending.