Castle in the Attic

Makenzie and Tori's Review

The Castle in the Attic, by Elizabeth Winthrop, is about ten year old William who is on a quest to save the Silver Knight who has been shrunk by the evil wizard Alastor's spell. Also, he must make his nanny, Mrs.Phillips, big again with the lost half of the magical token that shrunk the Silver Knight and Mrs. Phillips.

William begins the story as a baby. He is ten years old but unable to care for himself. Instead of trying to keep Mrs. Phillips from leaving, he should have worked harder to keep contact once she did leave. What he chose to do instead was childish and inconsiderate. By the end of the story, William is forced to learn to care for himself when he finds himself all alone in the dangerous and magical forest.

I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers because of the Through the Cabinet theme. William leaves the safety of the modern day world and travels through time to Medieval England to experience life as a squire.

A New Site in the Making



So, I told Miss Makenzie she was to start writing journal entries for History and as usual, she’s an overachiever. Instead of creating  a simple entry into a notebook each day, Makenzie has decided to host yet another web page. After each quick K12 lesson, she will do a bit more research and post a blurb about it on The Nerdy Place. (Do you like the name? Fits, huh.) Take a minute to check out the landing page since we haven’t created the individual journal pages yet, but you can get a feel for the plan from the landing.


The Mayans lived in Mesoamerica around the years 2600 B.C.-900 A.D. During this time, they made calendars, wrote hieroglyphics and carved stone slabs  that resemble totem poles called stelae. The Mayans also developed astronomy, the first calendars and their own writing. The Mayans are known for their pyramids. They lived on the Yucatan peninsula and some of the land around it. Around 900 A.D. the Mayans suddenly stopped carving stelae, stopped making calendars and abandoned their cities. Some thrived until the early sixteenth century. No one knows what happened perhaps a famine or a war occurred.

People from all over the world go to see the ruins in Mexico and surrounding countries drawn by the infamous pyramids. The lost Mayan city of Mirador holds the largest known pyramid by volume in the world. 


This is a kids site that tells about the Mayans.

Tori's Gathering Blue

I am happy to say, I just finished Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. First, I would like to take a minute to clarify Makenzie’s confusion with a quote from Lowry herself.
“Gathering Blue postulates a world of the future, as The Giver does. I simply created a different kind of world, on that had regressed instead of leaping forward technologically as The Giver has. It was fascinating to to explore the savagery as of such a world. I began to feel maybe it coexisted with Jonas’s world… and that therefore Jonas could be part of it in a tangential way. So there is a reference to a boy with light eyes in the end of Gathering Blue. He can be Jonas or not, as you wish.” –Lowry, afterward.

Gathering Blue tells the story of Kira, a highly talented artist in a fictional society ruled by fear and brutality. The story begins four days after the death of Kira's mother. At roughly twelve, Kira is not an orphan child. but because she has a useless leg that keeps her from doing any physical work, Vandara wants to have her taken to the Field. The Field is where the dead and wounded are taken to be given over to the Beasts. As the story progresses, Kira is given a new home and the materials to encourage her gift to flourish.

One primary lesson within Gathering Blue is to be weary of what seems to good to be true. Kira and her new found friend Thomas soon learn that their luxurious life may not be as great as it appears. Yes, they live in comfort and yes they eat like kings, but what are they losing in return?

Gathering Blue may not be a perfect sequel to The Giver, as Makenzie so clearly points out. Deeply contrasting Jonas's sterile living environment, two-syllablepeople within this society are given another syllable to their name when they reach certain benchmarks in life. Kira lives in a savage community where tykes are harshly punished and the very poisonous plant, oleander, grows like a weed within the community.

Readers are forced to think about situations created within the story. Subtle illusions are made about characters with just enough information to start the wheels of imagination but not enough to give a decisive answer. In my parental/ educational opinion, this companion to The Giver is a wonderful tool to force students to use their cognitive abilities without the realization that they are doing so.

IL: UG - BL: 5.0 - AR Pts: 7.0

Massachusetts Honor Book 2001

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Makenzie's Review

Gathering Blue is the sequel to The Giver but it is very difficult to understand how. Unlike the normal series, Lowry makes everything different in Gathering Blue than in The Giver. I would expect Jonas and The Giver to be in Gathering Blue but they are not. Instead, Kira and Thomas are introduced. However, Lowry does make a reference to Jonas on the last page:

"His eyes be a very amazing blue," Matt said importantly, as if it might matter". (Lowry 214)

Gathering Blue is about an orphan named Kira with a twisted leg. Kira lives in a world where the wounded are given to the beasts and the talented are taken advantage of. The part that stands out in my mind the most is when they try to give her to beasts just because she had a twisted leg.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend this book for people who like fantasy.

Makenzie: Midwife's Apprentice

Makenzie's Review

"I am Alyce. Not Brat or Dung Beetle or Beetle. Alyce." -Cover, The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, is the story of Alyce, a young girl on her quest to find an identity for herself. Along the way, Alyce comes across many ups and downs in her path.

My favorite part was when Alyce finds that she is white under the layer of dirt always piled on her. When she finishes washing the sheep at the manor, she sees her hands are white when they are clean. I think it is funny that Alyce didn’t know she was white.

I would recommend this book if you like historical realistic fiction because the story takes place in Medieval England.

The Midwife's Apprentice: Karen Cushman

Tori's Review

I have to admit, as I began the The Midwife's Apprentice, I was a bit leery. Within the first chapter, readers meet Alyce, an orphan child who is forced to sleep in a dung heap to keep warm. Sadly, she is awoken by a group of horrid boys and a grown woman who kicks her in the stomach. However, after finishing the story, I applaud Karen Cushman for her grim introduction of the Alyce and the villagers.

A ridiculously simplified synopsis, to quote Shelfari, would be to say, this is the story of an orphan girl's quest for identity and belonging in a harsh environment. In typical quest for identity novels, the antagonist at least begins the story with a bit of self-knowledge. At the beginning, Alyce has no name, no recollection of family and no name. In fact, the name Beetle is given to her due to her choice of sleeping locations.

Readers travel with Alyce through a year of self-discovery in Medievil England. This voyage is rather cut and dry. First she is given a home and job as the Midwife's apprentice. Then, she choses her name, Alyce. Third, she happens upon an orphan boy and points him in the right direction, essentially forming a family for herself. Most importantly, she runs from everything that has come to be meaningful to her thus giving her a chance to reflect upon her life and see where she belongs. Lastly, Alyce makes her decision and chooses her rightful place in the world.
This list is quite simple because the story itself is rather simple. I do not say this to be taken negatively. The simplification of the storyline, in my opinion, allows the printed book to be a mere 117 pages thus attracting the apprehensive reader with it's size. Densely packed, the reader will then receive a valuable lesson in the value self-identity, the importance of a strong will as well as a brief history lesson.

I must warn parents, just as the title says, Alyce is in fact a midwife's apprentice. She helps with expecting mother in labor. If this is not a sensitive topic, however, I strongly suggest this story to girls between the ages of eight and twelve.

1996 Newbery Medal Award
IL: MG - BL: 6.0 - AR Pts: 3.0
Karen Cushman on Amazon

Upcoming Reviews: Take a part?

Makenzie and I went to the bookstore to gather Newbery Award and Honor Novels. We are happy to announce we now own 30 of the much larger amount of Newbery Award books chosen since 1922. We hope to bring to you in the very near future the books that follow. Of course we have MANY more up our sleeves but for now, this is our selection.


biconAlthough we are just up and going, we would like to reach out to any reader, young or old in the words of Makenzie, eager to assist in our voyage through the seas of discovery through reading. All we ask is you read the book and write a brief summary and opinion of the book. We will add photos and links to your text before posting it to Book-Attic. Makenzie would like to ensure you have full credit for your summary so simply type your name as you would like it posted online. And most importantly, read what you like as long as it is considered children’s literature.


"I should also warn thoughtful readers that DragonWings is more a historical fantasy than a factual reconstruction. " -Yep, DragonWings
With the words of Laurence Yep duly quoted, parents must have an open mind when launching into this historical novel with their young readers. As the story opens, American's are referred to as "demons." Further into the story, Moon Shadow assimilates to the American lifestyle, American's become less demonized and more human to the father and son Tang family.
DragonWings tells the story of a Tang boy and his father trying to build a life in America. Yep includes the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 through the eyes of the young teenage prontagonist. In fact, Yep uses this event to bring Americans and Tang immigrants together in their time of need. newberyhonor
Readers also learn that parents will stop at nothing to keep their children safe. This is shown when Windrider gives all the family savings for Moon Shadow's well being. Though he makes this sacrifice in the name of his son, it takes the help of a friend to ensure they are not homeless.
From a mother and teacher's point of view, DragonWings is a great story for young readers. The American Library Association sure thought so in 1976 when they chose the novel for a Newbery Honor. Yep approaches important subjects such as hostility toward others, assimilation and brotherhood in such a way that young readers are oblivious to the didactic value of the story line. I am also impressed with the subtle embedding of historical events as well.
This novel has been placed in the fantastic genre simple because Windrider believes himself to have been a dragon in a previous life. In order to return to the dragon life, he must approach every challenge as if it is the test to return him to that land. Otherwise, Yep has created realistic characters living in a real place in history.
Dragonwings on

Anne of Green Gables

anne_coverAnne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, an eleven year old orphaned girl. When Anne arrives at Green Gables, her adopted mother Marilla Cuthbert does not meet her with kind open arms. Expecting a boy, Marilla debates whether to send Anne back to the orphanage, but after extensive consideration, she decides to give Anne a home. The situation is not always pleasant and often times leads to a bit of conflict, but in the end Marilla becomes devoted to Anne.
The key elements of the story are imagination and emotion. Anne lets her emotion get the better of her quite often. The worst of it being when she refuses friendship with Gilbert Blythe out of pure anger over a childish incident. Even after Gilbert helps assist her down from a tree stump, Anne still refuses to befriend him.
Readers watch Anne grow from a talkative day dreamer to a young lady. As Anne grows, she is able to pay attention more and daydream less. She still day dreams but, the results are not as disastrous. Instead of accidentally giving a friend wine in place of Raspberry Currant, mistakes become less detrimental such as using improper ingredients in cake.

Important Characters:
Anne Shirley: antagonist
Marilla & Matthew Cuthbert: adopted parents
Diana Barry: Anne's bosom friend
Rachel Lynde: town busy body
Gilbert Blythe: Anne's rival

The Giver: Lois Lowry

The Giver is set in a dystopian society in which everyone is conditioned to act properly. Through this conditioning, emphasis is placed on the outward appearance and characteristics of each individual. Growing up in this man made society, Jonas faces many difficult decisions. While everyone around him seems to be accepting the life that has been laid before them, Jonas begins to wonder why things are as they are. Soon he realizes things are truly not as they seem.

Jonas has been chosen for a special job within the community; a job that is rarely assigned. He will be the Receiver of Memories. In short, he will be the only being in this small society allowed to know any truths or histories of the outside world. With this job, comes many hardships. He begins to question everything he has ever learned.
Based on a rather generic theme of individuality, Lois Lowry gives readers new ways to approach what it means to be unique. While The Community places quite a bit of importance upon physical difference while maintaining similar personalities, Jonas focuses on what each person is like separately. This leads readers to begin reflecting upon themselves and their society.
Somewhat more complex is a theme that links quality of life with knowledge. A majority of the citizens living in the community live it the dark and therefore can't conceive living another way. Sadly, even the community government is completely ignorant. The Giver, being the only one granted the privilege to read books and hence study outside cultures, then becomes the advisory for the government. While the absence of memory and knowledge allows the community to live peacefully and painfully, readers are able to see through Jonas' point of view why memory is important, memory is the key to knowledge.
The ending leaves readers guessing. It is unclear whether Jonas is witnessing the action or drifting off into a memory. Lowry recreates the first memory transferred from the Giver causing the reader to wonder what happens to Jonas. The only way to know is to read Gathering Blue.

The Ugly Duckling

Disney is known for taking classic stories and creating movies or cartoons for children. Disney chooses classics that teach something. An example would be The Little Mermaid which teaches children about growing up and the importance of making thoughtful decisions. Disney sometimes changes a few things to make the show appropriate for the audience. In the case of Hans Christian Andersen's stories they might change things like wild geese getting shot. Disney omitted this because if wild geese got shot it would be inappropriate for children. So the question at hand is does Disney change the message in The Ugly Duckling.

Andersen's message is that no matter how much people make fun of you there is still a place for you in the world. The message is not changed in the cartoon though Disney changes it a bit. Take the time to read The Ugly Duckling and see for yourself.
Ancient civilizations such as Norsemen, Greeks and Egyptians created fantastical stories about Gods and Goddesses, monsters and heroes to explain the world around them. Before science, gods were the only possible explanation for such phenomenon as the sun moving across the sky (explained through the existence of Ra in Ancient Eqypt) or thunderbolts (explained through Zeus's anger in Ancient Greece). Many Native American tribes believed a giant turtle carried the Earth on its back depositing it at the current location.

Each civilization has its own mythology unique to their specific culture. Though, science today has replaced this extravagant resource, this does not mean the stories do not remain a staple for many authors today such as Rick Riordan or the infamous J.K. Rowling. The ability to draw upon this rich cultural history and spin it into a whole new story creates an irresistible research opportunity in itself.

Think of it this way. An apprehensive reader chooses Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone simply because all of her friends have read it. Now that young reader is able to discuss the book with friends as hoped but, a character within the story has drawn some interest. Firenze is a Centaur, pulled from Greek mythology. Other authors, Rick Riordan for example utilizes centaurs or A Wrinkle in Time has a centaur on the cover.