Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

When Salamanca convinces her grandparents to take her with them to Lewiston, Idaho, she never expected to pour out her heart about the real reason she has for going there. And she also didn’t expect to retell her friend Phoebe’s story and discover the similarities with Phoebe’s story and her own.

‘Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his mocassins’, the mysterious message on Phoebe’s porch said. That was almost directly before Phoebe’s mother disappeared, and just before the lunatic appeared. Not to mention the strange Mrs. Cadaver, with wild red hair and a voice like dead leaves on the pavement, who Phoebe suspects is an axe-murderer and kidnapped her mother against her will.

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I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: Sharon Creech’s writing is eccentric, and this book is perhaps the oddest out of all the other’s I have reviewed. You must begin the story with an open mind; the first time we listened to it on audio, and we just couldn’t get over some of the strange symbolisms.

For example: in the story, Sal loves trees because her mother loves trees. Why this is is never mentioned, but their behavior towards trees is a little weird. Again, you have to look past the actual behavior to see Sal’s reasoning.

I would not recommend the audio. The story is sweeter when you have time to think about it.

Was I the only one laughing at my own description?  There was something endearingly Ramona-esque about Phoebe’s imagination. If I made it sound creepy, it was all in her head. And maybe yours, too.

One thing I never care for about Creech is all of her main characters from book to book are basically the same person, with a different set of circumstances. None of them are particularly original, but all the cute side stories along the way are what build up overall plot and character growth.

Ok, last thought: I also don’t like how Creech’s stories are always about girls, and how there is always a boy that they have a crush on. In this book, whenever Sal is around this boy the only thought she has is about kissing him. He doesn’t really help her grow in anyway. There is nothing I hate more than a useless romance.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 1/10 (other than Phoebe’s musings as to all the various murderers in the world)

Language: 2/10 (is old person swearing considered swearing? Gol’ dang, and the like)

Inappropriateness/Romance: 2/10 (above notes, and the over-enthusiastic English teacher makes the briefest reference to sex)

Audience: Ages 11 and up (why 11? I don’t know)

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A Murder for her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner

When 11-year-old Alice witnesses her father’s murder, she flees to the city fearing for her life. The murderers are agents of the Queen. Who knows? Maybe they are after her as well. Not to mention that she knows who they are.

She ends up disguising herself as a boy among the choirboys, who come to her aid upon hearing some of her circumstances. Some. The truth never fully reveals itself, until Alice realizes that the assassins may know where she is…..and are still looking for her.

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Truth be told, I think the title is a little dramatic for a children’s book. I know you are probably raring to hand a book about a murder to your child, BUT this is actually a very sweet book. With the murder frustratingly nondescript, it enlarges the age range of enjoyability quite a lot.

The mystery was not a very good one. The main question should have been ‘Why was my father murdered?’, but it was never very clear that they actually came to a conclusion on that.

So this book was surprisingly clean for a ‘murder story’, the only possible problem being that it was a bit suspenseful when Alice realizes the murderers are after her.

Oh, and it was quite funny that the speech of the priests in the church is not all that clean for a priest. Not exactly swearing, but you would think they would take an offence at saying the Lord’s name in vain…..

All in all, the book was mostly well written. If you use Goodreads, all the readers of the book gave it a very high rating, averaging between 4 and 5 stars, which is very unusual.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 3/10

Language: 1/10

Innappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 10 and up (as long as they can handle a little suspense; Alice’s fear is very plausible)

The Last Sin Eater, by Francine Rivers

Cadi Forbes, 10 years old, has lived with the sin that has weighed her down and destroyed everything she holds dear. To rid herself of sin, she seeks out the Sin Eater, the man who takes away the sins of the people after they die. To Cadi, this is all that matters, the only chance to be free from the guilt that seperates her from her mother.

But the Sin Eater can never be looked upon, and what Cadi does not know is that the Sin Eater is searching for answers too. His own sins, and the sins of all the people, weigh upon him. For when he dies, it is he who will burn in hell to save the rest of them. The ultimate question: can the Sin Eater himself find salvation?

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While the main character is 10 years old, THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK!

Ok, while there isn’t anything particularly unclean about this book, the overpowering weight of sin is a recurring theme that is a bit heavy, and the whole idea of a Sin Eater who is rumored to be a monster is a little creepy.

The premise of the book is amazing. The plot was well thought-out, and the characters were very deep and believable. It is interesting how Rivers chose to make sure each person had a sin strong enough to feel the guilt, even the minor ones.

The only problem I had with this book was that, about 2/3 of the way through it started to get a little preachy. While Rivers was trying really hard to just get across what Cadi was hearing, it tended to last for quite a while when Cadi’s reaction was compelling enough, not neccesarily what she was being told. And going with this theme, Cadi and her friend, after hearing the news that they were saved, started talking differently. After this part, when Cadi starts talking to anyone about it she sounds remarkably like an old pastor.

Oh, I didn’t mention it above, but this is historical fiction. All the characters have Scottish emmigrant roots, and live in an isolated clan somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1850’s.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Audience: Ages 14 and up.

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

Dashti, a lowly mucker maid, finds herself the lifetime companion of the Lady Saren when she is locked up in a tower for seven years with her mistress. A tower with no windows, doors, or any way to let light in. The darkness takes its toll on them as they wait out the long sentence. Dashti is constantly wondering if, had her mistress Lady Saren decided to marry the Lord Khasar, where would they be? Is the darkness worth it?

Of course, there is more to it than that. Dashti is left to her own devices when she finds that her mistress does not even want to leave. Being bound by an oath to serve and obey her lady, Dashti strives to carry out Saren’s orders while fighting with her conscience and her heart.

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I picked up this book at the library, intrigued by the title. I thought it was…interesting. I can’t decide whether to label it historical fiction or romance. It was sort of a little of both, but not enough on either side to categorize it. The reason it isn’t historical fiction is Hale tried to set it in Mongolia, but in fictional places and no dates are mentioned. That was probably one of the weirder aspects of the story I wasn’t expecting was the ‘Asiatic flare’.

There is one note I would like to make on why I rated the romance section the way I did….there were two seperate parts in which a person was naked. It was more symbollic of submission than anything but *ahem*….it was still there. Nothing descriptive.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Violence: 3/10

Language: 0/10

Romance: 4/10

Audience: Ages 12 and up

The Second Mrs. Giaconda, by E. L. Konigsburg

While we all have seen the famous painting of Mona Lisa, have you heard its story? Most people are sitting around twiddling their thumbs, wondering why she is smiling. That is not the important question. The real mystery is this: why would Leonardo Da Vinci, the most famous artist of his time, choose to depict an unimportant merchant’s wife when royalty all over offered for him to name his price? And even those were refused.

Why? Is the mystery of the Mona Lisa lost, the history pages glancing over the true story? No. The answer lies with Salai, Da Vinci’s apprentice. Lies with Salai is a fitting sentence, for his honesty is questionable. The missing piece to the puzzle is only understood by him, and him alone. It is he that this story is about.

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When I first heard this story, I was about 12. I just finished reading it, and it was almost as good as the first time.

While the premise of the story is only a guess as to answer of the true question, “Why did Leonardo paint this picture at all?”, it is interesting how Konigsburg chose to make this a children’s story. The story is not about Mona Lisa, nor why she is smiling, because that is beside the point.

It is written in a children’s style, but the overall theme was far from a simple kid’s book. I kept finding things in the pages that stood out that had a deeper meaning, and kept drawing things from the dialogue that were very interesting. So, in a sense, I almost wish she had directed the book towards an older audience and written it accordingly.

Because I heard it when I was younger, I know that, even then, I liked it a lot. However, reading it later, it is then that the story strikes me, but the reading level doesn’t quite catch up what the story left me with.

Aside from those notes, the only thing I didn’t care for was Salai as a character. Sure, he was quite funny, and if you have read the False Prince you may recognize that type of mischief-making scamp, but he was also a bit impersonal. He obviously has a back story, and he also has a sister and father at home, yet he never speaks of them. It could have been interesting, not to mention making the story a tad longer (it is quite short, albeit fascinating).

Note: While this book is interesting, do not take it as fact!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 0/10

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: Ages 7 and up, enjoyable for most.