Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

The UnwantedsQuests


One of my favorite series is The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. When I first read about the series in my professional journals, it seemed that the reviews contained a bit of hyperbole. The Unwanteds was described as “The Hunger Games meet Harry Potter”. When I began to read the first book, I was hooked. I continue to recommend these books to children in the intermediate grades and middle school.

Lisa McMann challenges her readers with her society of Quill where thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories. The Wanteds are the elite, and they will go off to the University. The Necessaries will also be saved to work for the good of society. The rest of the thirteen-year-olds will be The Unwanteds, and their fate is to be eliminated. When twin brothers receive different verdicts, Aaron becomes a Wanted and Alex is an Unwanted. Alex and the rest of the Unwanteds face their deaths until they meet Mr. Today and the alternate world of Artimé.

Fast forward through the seven books in the series, and Lisa McMann has written a companion series, The Unwanteds Quests (Aladdin). Once again, identical twins are the protagonists, and the girls are Alex’s younger sisters. Fifer and Thisbe Stowe don’t always control their powerful magical abilities. Alex, now the head mage of Artimé, threatens to punish them for a misdeed. When they learn that the ice-blue dragons have been enslaved, Thisbe and Fifer sneak away with a friend to save the dragons and redeem themselves. Dragon Captives is the first book in The Unwanteds Quests. The next two books are Dragon Bones and recently published Dragon Ghosts.

The Unwanteds – Book Four


4The fourth book in Lisa McMann”s series, The Unwanteds, was published last week. Island of Legends (Aladdin, 2014) has not disappointed the fans of this popular fantasy series. Our readers are responding to The Unwanteds in a similar manner to children’s reactions to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. We believe in McMann’s world of Artimé and Quill, and we are invested in the characters. In the third book of the series, Island of Fire, we were left with a number of cliffhangers that involved many characters. (No spoilers here!)

On her website, Lisa McMann explains that her inspiration for The Unwanteds occurred when her children came home one day complaining that their school arts programs were being cut. As “artistic and creative” children, they felt like they were personally being punished. McMann quotes her son as saying, “Not just punished, Mom. Sent to their deaths.” Her idea for just such a society was born.

Last spring, our fifth graders produced book trailers in their library classes by using iMovie on iPads. Two students chose to feature The Unwanteds. Enjoy their introductions, and I hope that they entice you to read the book. Thank goodness we only have to wait until February of 2015 for Book Five!


The Sisters Grimm


Some of my students and I had been eagerly anticipating the final volume of The Sisters Grimm Series. It was with a great deal of joy and sadness that I read Michael Buckley’s recently released book, The Council of Mirrors. Buckley cleverly completed his saga; while his characters matured with their experiences, they maintained their unique personalities.

This series is a must read for any child who enjoys fairy tales, adventure, humor, and magic. There is a richness to the series because readers are introduced to fairy tale characters of whom they may never have heard. Even a reader with a solid literature background, will be intrigued to learn more information about Mordred, Morgan le Fay, and Excalibur from Arthurian legend, Puck from Shakespeare, and Baba Yaga, from Russian folklore. Buckley does not limit himself from using only characters from the Brothers Grimm, but he entwines their lives with stories from Hans Christian Andersen, Andrew Lang, Washington Irving, Charles Perrault, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, Carlo Collodi, and American tall tales.

Michael Buckley describes the series in the following YouTube video, which was produced before the last book was published.

On the website for the series, readers can write their own tales by providing ideas for characters and dilemmas.

A delightfully created companion book, A Very Grimm Guide: Inside the World of The Sisters Grimm, Everafters, Ferryport Landing, and Everything in Between, has also just been published. Any fan of the series will want to check this out.




The Sisters Grimm Series (This must be read in order!)

1    The Fairy-Tale Detectives
2    The Unusual Suspects
3    The Problem Child
4    Once Upon a Crime
5    Magic and Other Misdemeanors
6    Tales from the Hood
7    The Everafter War
8    The Inside Story
9    The Council of Mirrors

Thank You Eva Ibbotson



1925 – 2010

Picture from Dutton/Penguin Young Readers Group

Born in Vienna, Austria and educated in England, Eva Ibbotson didn’t begin her writing career until she was 50 years old. Once she began to publish, children became mesmerized by her books. Ibbotson’s books still entertain today’s readers.

witchIn Which Witch? (1979) many, many witches are vying to marry Arriman the Awful, the Wizard of the North. Platform 13

The Secret of Platform 13 (1994) introduced readers to a magical kingdom of mermaids, ogres, feys, and mistmakers that could be entered under an abandoned railway platform in London. These humorous, magical books were only one of the genres in which she wrote. This prolific writer also created more sophisticated books for the young adult audience.

The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch


There are some books that become popular because readers enjoy them and tell their friends about them. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was one of those books. When it first came out, there wasn’t a lot of publicity about it from the publisher; nor were reviewers in newspapers and magazines raving about it. Somewhere along the way, readers discovered it, and they became enchanted with the world of Hogwarts. The series went on to make publishing history.

imagesThe Name of This Book Is Secret is one of those books that is becoming popular by word of mouth. It was published in 2007, and suddenly, many readers are hearing about it from their friends. The book doesn’t stay on our library shelf, and many copies are being sold in bookstores. The author is Pseudonymous Bosch, and readers know that a pseudonym is a fictitious name (or when an author doesn’t want to reveal his/her own name). From the beginning, the reader wonders what kind of author has written this book. The answer comes in the first pages of the book, even before the first chapter, when the author writes, “Generally speaking, books don’t cause much harm. Except when you read them, that is. Then they cause all kinds of problems.” Pseudonymous Bosch talks directly to the readers, similar to the way that Lemony Snicket does in The Series of Unfortunate Events. He gives warnings, tells the reader that he isn’t going to tell everything (hmm..), and displays a great deal of humor by teasing the readers with just enough information to keep them wondering where he is heading with the story.

The two main characters are definitely not traditional. Cassandra always carries a backpack filled with survival gear, has pointy-ears that give away her emotions by turning red, and is sure that there are sinister plots and ominous events that only she notices. Max-Ernest talks incessantly while practicing to be a stand-up comedian, has hair that stands straight up, and lives with his parents who won’t divorce but have divided their house right down the middle. Cassandra and Max-Ernest become unlikely partners to solve a mysterious disappearance, find the stolen box of smells, and try to outsmart some very evil villains. Oh, and then there are The Grandfathers, Cass’s mother, Max-Ernest’s Parents, and Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais. They aren’t traditional characters either; nothing about this story is traditional. It is unique, and so are the sequels, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late and This Book Is Not Good for You.

The readers who are recommending Pseudonymous Bosch’s books to their friends have found that this author’s words are very true to them. Toward the end of The Name of This Book Is Secret, Bosch writes, “Only bad books have good endings. If a book is any good, its ending is always bad – because you don’t want the book to end.”

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