Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Great New Fall Releases! (Enter to Win!)


Sylvan Dell Publishing will release five educational science or math-themed children’s picture books Aug. 10, 2011.  As with all Sylvan Dell books, these new titles offer a complete reading experience with exceptional prose, art, and free educational features both in the back of the book and online at www.SylvanDellPublishing.com.   Sylvan Dell holds all books to state educational standards, making them a valuable tool both in the classroom and at home.   Click HERE to learn about these titles and to enter to win.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Middle Grade Fantasy: A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two CastlesSummary of A Tale of Two Castles
Elodie, a 12-year old farm girl, journeys alone to Two Castles the capital of the kingdom to secure an apprenticeship.   She longs to be a mansion (actor/storyteller), but her parents want her to be a basket weaver.  On her way to the capital, she finds out that free apprenticeships are no longer available.  Alone and penniless, Elodie attempts to win over the master mansioner.  Despite her talent, she is turned down for her lack of money to pay for it.  Fortunately, a lone dragon befriends her and offers her an apprenticeship where she learns how to induct and to deduct in order to find things, read people, and solve mysteries.  Elodie is quickly swept up in solving a mystery involving a mannerly ogre, a sweet princess, a selfish king, a dashing thief, a kindly couple, and many other remarkable characters.  Her mother warns her to watch for the sepulcher, or one who seems good but is evil.  Will she find out who it is in time?  Will she finally be able to follow her dream to be a mansion?

Evaluation:
I was drawn to A Tale of Two Castles because it is written by Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted.   Two Castles is an enchanting realm with ogres, dragons, and mystical cats, but much of the rest is reminiscent of the medieval times.  The protagonist Elodie defies traditional gender roles.  She is brave, hard-working, and determined as well as compassionate, intuitive, and generous.  While she is slightly concerned about fashion, she is far more interested in action and adventure.  Most importantly, she is on a quest to fulfill her destiny.  Elodie plays a pivot role in solving the mystery of the kingdom and in saving the lives of others.   Along the way, she learns how to use her natural gifts and her talents to do what is necessary, but she does not give up on her dreams.  Eventually, she redefines what her ambitions are as she grows as a person and in her relationships. The mythical creatures in A Tale of Two Castles are more human than beastly.  They are benign and reflective— challenging some of the common stereotypes about them.  They each help Elodie grow into maturity.  The plot is full of mystery and suspense—moving at a steady pace.  Like many middle readers, it is broken up into short chapters.  Each ends with a revelation or further layer to the mystery, prompting the reader to continue.  The novel is light and entertaining.   It does tackle the motif of prejudices and labels, but it never gets too serious or provocative. This novel is ideal for readers ages 8-12.  Parents and educators may use the novel to discuss friendship, family, trust, self-identity, dreams, stereotypes/prejuidices, fantasy, and perseverance.

Check out other middle grade books on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.