This fantasy adventure is the third book in the "Ranger's Apprentice" series by John Flanagan and is published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
The Icebound Land is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Will, an apprentice Ranger, and Evanlyn (secretly Cassandra, Princess of Araluen), were captured by Erak and his crew of Skandians in book two. Now, terrible storms pummel the ship on which they're sailing and force the Skandians to winter on a small island. When the ship finally reaches Skandia, Will and Evanlyn become slaves. Will's tasks are particularly strenuous and require him to work in freezing water. One of the other slaves gives him an herb called warmweed that seems to heat up his body. Soon, he is addicted and becomes mentally and emotionally vacant. When Erak sees what's happened to Will, he helps him and Evanlyn escape. Erak gives her food, directions to a cabin where they can spend the winter and a small supply of warmweed so she can wean Will off the drug. Evanlyn cares for Will for months until he begins to overcome the addiction.
Meanwhile in Araluen, Will's mentor, Halt, gets drunk in public and slanders King Duncan. This forces the King to release Halt from his Ranger duties and banish him from Araluen so he's free to hunt for Will. Will's former schoolmate, Horace, joins Halt on his journey. As Halt and Horace travel through Gallica, they encounter many freelance knights who block bridges and byways. The knights insist travelers either pay or fight them to get through. Since Horace is an excellent swordsman, he begins to challenge the knights and defeat them. He gains a reputation, and a local warlord named Deparnieux decides to make an example of these two Araluens. He captures and imprisons them for months until they trick him into a duel with Halt. Halt kills Deparnieux, and he and Horace continue their quest to find Will.
King Duncan, Evanlyn's father, is a beloved ruler. He reluctantly banishes Halt from the kingdom for treason, but he understands the Ranger's desire to find his apprentice. Deparnieux is an evil leader who rules by instilling fear. He taunts and tortures people to keep his reputation. Halt guides and looks out for Horace while passionately seeking to rescue Will. He lies to Horace (to protect the boy's innocence) and gets drunk publicly (to gain an audience with the king).
Superstitious folks believe the Rangers are black magicians. In reality, they are just trained to be stealthy and conceal themselves well. Reflecting on the bleak landscape, the narrator says it's as though whatever gods the Skandians worshiped had removed all color from this place. Characters frequently wish each other good luck and call other fortunate situations "strokes of luck." An old woman makes a strange criss-cross gesture at Halt after he refuses to give her money. In a dangerous situation, Evanlyn's sixth sense causes her to hesitate and saves her life. One of the Skandian plunderers has taken a vow to three gods of vengeance called the Vallas. This Vallasvow means the Skandian plans total vengeance, in this case on King Duncan and his entire family.
The Lord's name is taken in vain a few dozen times, and words such as d--n and h--- appear, too. Evanlyn mutters an "unladylike swearword" and Deparnieux "curses violently." While Will works as a slave, he sees one boy brutally lashing at another with a rope, causing immense blood letting and bruising. Deparnieux keeps people in cages along the roadside for months at a time, allowing them to waste away. Birds tear at their flesh and pluck out their eyes.
Halt and Horace encounter some attractive girls in skimpy clothing as they pass through Gallica. The naïve Horace asks why their skirts are so short. Halt tells him the girls are couriers, and the short skirts allow them to run faster to deliver urgent messages. Halt reasons that Horace has plenty of time later to learn about the seamier side of life. Evanlyn kisses Erak's cheek to thank him for helping her and Will escape.
Aurealis Awards Highly Commended Book, 2005
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
Alcohol: Halt gets drunk in a local tavern and begins slandering the king. The Skandians, cooped up waiting to sail home, spend most of their time gambling and drinking to the point of drunkenness. This leads to mean behavior toward each other and toward Will and Evanlyn. Halt and Deparnieux drink wine with their meals. Evanlyn drinks wine with Erak when he's helping her plot the escape. She realizes she hasn't had alcohol in many months and should watch her step.
Drugs: A Skandian slave leader controls his slaves by getting them addicted to a drug called warmed.
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This humorous play by Oscar Wilde is published by Penguin Classics and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by high school classes.
To escape his country home and a young ward named Cecily, Jack Worthing creates a fictional brother named Earnest, whom he must visit often. When in town, Jack actually uses the name Earnest for himself. He's forced to admit his deception to his friend Algernon (Algy) early in the story, and Algy visits the Worthing estate posing as brother Earnest so he can meet Cecily. Jack proposes marriage to Algy's cousin Gwendolen and returns home determined to end his imaginary brother so he can be an honest man for his beloved. Gwendolen knows Jack as Earnest, and Cecily knows Algy as Earnest. The women meet over tea and believe they're fighting for the same man. Jack and Algy each set up appointments with a local clergyman to be christened Earnest. In the end, Jack and Algy admit their true identities. Jack receives Gwendolen's mother's approval for marriage, and the couples appear headed toward a life of "happily ever after."
Jack and Algernon call on the Reverend Canon Chasuble to christen them so that their Christian names will be Earnest. The reverend agrees, and when Jack is hesitant about immersion, Chasuble suggests that, given the weather, sprinkling is all that's necessary or advisable. Chasuble also boasts about his "manna in the wilderness" sermon, which can be adapted to any situation, whether happy or sad. Cecily and Gwendolen express amazement that Jack and Algernon would go through such a "fearful ordeal" as being christened simply to win their hearts. Overall, critics feel Wilde was jabbing at what he perceived to be the shallowness of Victorian-era religion.
Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's mother, represents Victorian upper-class society (or Oscar Wilde's mockery thereof). She asks Jack strange, convoluted question about his views and background as she tries to determine whether he's suitable for her daughter. Jack serves as Cecily's guardian, setting a questionable example for her with his lies and fabrications about a wayward brother. Miss Prism, a family servant, reveals in the end that she accidentally left baby Jack in a handbag at the train station years earlier.
Wilde uses this farcical comedy to mock the manners and social decorum of the period. (It's worth noting that Wilde's own beliefs proved quite contrary to the day's social norms. The author was known for his participation in the Aesthetic Movement — a faction of writers and artists critical of the moralistic Victorian culture. Wilde wore garish clothing, behaved in outlandish ways and was eventually jailed for practicing homosexuality.)
This suspense-thriller novel is the first book in the "I, Q" series by Roland Smith and is published by Sleeping Bear Press.
Independence Hall is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness..
Thirteen-year-old Quest Munoz is known as Q and wants to be a magician someday. His mother, Blaze, who is a singer, marries a man named Roger, who is also a songwriter-singer. His daughter is 15-year-old Angela. Her mother, Malak, was a Secret Service agent, and Angela excels in observation and Tae Kwon Do. Their parents' first CD hits platinum, so the parents and children choose to go on tour in a large bus; the kids are home-schooled. When the bus breaks down, a roadie named Tyrone Boone, who is really an ex-Secret Service agent, becomes their driver. When Q and Angela's parents leave to make guest appearances on talk shows, Boone watches the kids. The two realize they are being followed and eventually learn that Boone is a private agent working with other former Secret Service agents. They are there to protect the kids because there is a question as to whether Angela's mother is still alive. An Israeli intelligence unit has been trailing Q and Angela because they think Angela's mother is alive and is a terrorist. After many clues, a few scuffles and a lot of spy tricks, Angela and Q meet her mother who is deep under cover to stop terrorism. They are not allowed to tell their newly married parents about her, and there is a promise of more adventures to come.
Q's mother and Angela's father gave up their careers to raise their children. Q's father is known as being an unbalanced but brilliant musician, and Angela's mother was a Secret Service agent. Blaze and Roger have returned to the stage, and they intend to bring their kids with them as they travel to new gigs. Yet, with the wedding and publicity rounds they make, they don't have too much time to spend with the kids. Therefore, they do a lot of calling and texting. Tyrone Boone is an ex-Secret Service agent who has the kids' best interests in mind. He initially lies to them about his secret identity, but eventually tells them the whole truth about his role in their lives and lets them decide how they want to proceed. In a couple of places, Boone explains how government agencies, such as the FBI and the CIA, are ineffective.
A few darns are present. There is mention of a man being tortured and killed, and a bomb goes off that supposedly kills Angela's mother. There is an intentional car wreck where the kids' driver is hurt and has blood on his face. Angela uses her Tae Kwon Do, causing one man's face to swell and a woman's shoulder to pop out of joint. The Massad talk about kidnapping a woman, and there is a lot of mention about terrorist cells.
At one point, Q asks Angela whether their parents (Blaze and Roger) are legally married if Malak is still alive. Angela looks worried, but says that Malak has been pronounced legally dead. The subject isn't mentioned again, and Blaze and Roger are not told that Malak is alive.
Note: The home schooling in this story consists of kids occasionally doing things over the Internet, which isn't a true representation of home schooling.
This fantasy book in the "Inkheart Trilogy" by Cornelia Funke is published by The Chicken House, Ltd., an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. and is written for kids ages 10 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Twelve-year-old Meggie hasn't seen her mother in nine years and wonders why she must live such a secret, transient life with her father, Mo. When a strange man named Dustfinger appears at their house one stormy night, Mo is forced to reveal his many secrets, beginning with the fact that he can "read" characters into and out of books. Dustfinger, Meggie learns, is a character out of a fairy tale called Inkheart. Nine years earlier, Mo accidentally read him out of the book — as well as a villain named Capricorn and his henchmen — and read Meggie's mother into the story. Now Capricorn stalks Mo, trying to force him to use his reading powers for evil. Meggie and her father, along with a long lost aunt named Elinor and Inkheart's author, Fenoglio, must free themselves from Capricorn's clutches and determine how to return the villain to the world he came from.
Meggie mentions a time she went with Mo to visit a pastor or priest. Since Mo restores old books, he presumably went to the priest's house to fix the bindings on books the man owned.
Although Meggie trusts her father, she learns that he tells a lot of lies, even to her. He involves her in his deceit when he asks her to tell lies so she can miss school. He is generally portrayed as a loving, devoted father who tries to shelter his daughter from a terrible secret. The fairy tale villain, Capricorn, instills fear in the hearts of others, making them feel insignificant. He likes to "play God or the devil as the fancy takes him." Aunt Elinor — who idolizes her books — dislikes children and curses a lot (according to Meggie). She initially shows disdain for her great niece; by the end, Elinor grows fond and protective of Meggie.
Mo teaches Meggie that "human beings invented the devil." Several characters (especially Capricorn's head thug, Basta) are superstitious. They fear bad luck, ghosts, demons and more. Dustfinger tells Basta he (Dustfinger) is putting a curse on him [Basta]. Mo and Meggie have the magical ability to "read" characters out of books. Fairies, trolls and other enchanted creatures are read out of a book in the final chapters of Inkheart. One of the quotes at the beginning of a chapter comes from a book called The Satanic Mill.
Characters use h--- and d--n and take God's name in vain a number of times. Capricorn's thugs frequently threaten violence and hold weapons on their prisoners.
The book contains no overt sexuality. The text briefly mentions that some of Capricorn's men have the women they fancy move in with them. Since Capricorn likes one maiden, he has her help him get dressed.
Mo and Fenoglio drink a bottle of red wine between them.
Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review.
This historical book is the first in the "Chronicles of the Scribe" series by Ginger Garrett and is published by David C. Cook.
In the Shadow of Lions is written for kids ages 16 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
An angelic scribe tells an unnamed woman that a guardian angel has watched over her and the women in her family for many generations. He tells her about two women who lived during the Protestant Reformation in England, in order to help the unnamed woman in her spiritual journey. The first, Anne Boleyn, struggles to obey God's laws, while also submitting to the demands of King Henry the VIII, who wants her to be his mistress. The second, Rose, a woman with a shameful past, is a governess to the children of Thomas More, a man who is working to stop the distribution of William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament. Although Anne is initially frightened of the book, she uses it to challenge the actions of church leaders once she becomes queen. King Henry blames Anne for failing to produce a male heir, so he has her beheaded as a traitor. Meanwhile, in another part of the country, Rose has a dramatic encounter with Christ after hearing God's Word read from Tyndale's book, and she plays a pivotal role in bringing the text to America. Hearing the scribe's story (and learning that Rose is her ancestor), the same unnamed woman has a change of heart, and she seeks forgiveness from Christ before her death.
Although an angel dictates this story, the angel's actions and position do not seem to align with either the doctrine of the Catholic Church or the Church of England. The majority of the characters in this story value religious rituals and esteem the Catholic Church, but only a few embrace a true knowledge of God. Henry seeks the Lord's mercy as he suffers the loss of a stillborn son, but he openly disregards his marriage vows and seeks supreme authority over the Church to justify his desires. In order to dissolve his marriage to Catherine, he declares he has violated a passage in Leviticus, which states a man should not marry his brother's wife. Although More is generally the picture of godly devotion at home with his family, he believes that Scripture in the hands of common people can only lead to evil and takes violent measures against those who oppose him.
Anne's family does little to protect her from Henry's advances. Instead she is left with the responsibility of raising their fortunes through her role as his mistress and then queen. Henry desires ultimate authority in his realm, but his word is unreliable, and his subjects do not respect his actions. More is a loving father who has created a safe haven for his children, but his compassion and concern do not extend beyond the walls of his home. Other church leaders prioritize wealth and power over the needs of the people and violate God's law in a variety of ways, including having mistresses of their own.
A nun who claims to see the future and speak for God is invited into the Boleyn and More homes. The people of the court are often superstitious and believe certain actions can keep witches away, ward off evil or lessen the pain of childbirth.
Anne bemoans the fact that she will be remembered in history as a whore. Men and women caught with Tyndale's book are burned at the stake. More has the body of a dead priest, who was deemed a heretic, exhumed, violently beheaded and then burned.
Rose makes her living as a prostitute before entering the More home. Prior to meeting Henry, Anne imagines undressing before her betrothed on their wedding night. Henry and Anne share a handful of passionate kisses, and she places his hand between her breasts. Declaring she is tired of waiting for God to act on her behalf, Anne later visits Henry's bed and becomes pregnant before they are married and while Catherine is still alive. Catherine's status as a virgin before her marriage to Henry is brought into question, and a joke is made regarding her possible past sexual relations. Henry later takes on another mistress and speaks of caressing her in his bed. More, although married, is tempted to kiss Rose. Later, while drunk, he is about to force himself on her, but he is interrupted. In an attempt to save Anne's life when she is accused of treason, her brother George admits to being a homosexual and is beheaded.
Note: Characters consume alcohol throughout the book.The author's book Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther was honored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as one of the top five novels of 2006.
This first fantasy book in the "Warriors" series by Erin Hunter is published by HarperCollins Publishers.
Into the Wild is written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Rusty is a bored housecat, until the ThunderClan tribe of wildcats from the nearby forest invites him to train as one of their warriors. Renamed Firepaw, the cat learns how to hunt prey, recognize the scents of enemy clans and respect the hierarchy of the wildcat world. As one rival clan begins making trouble, Firepaw proves his wisdom and prowess in battle by protecting his clan from enemies — including some living among them. After Firepaw saves his clan and another from evil leaders, his mentor, Bluestar, makes him a full-fledged warrior and renames him Fireheart.
Firepaw's owners give him dry, bland food and funny-tasting water. Cats talk about how other felines who've been taken by their owners to see "the cutter" are never the same again. Bluestar, the leader of ThunderClan, rules judiciously and gives outsiders like Firepaw and Yellowfang a chance to prove their loyalty and capability. Tigerclaw and ShadowClan leader Brokenstar deceive, manipulate and kill to better their status.
StarClan is the heavenly tribe of dead warrior cats that watches over all the cat clans. Each star in a thick band of stars called Silverpelt represents one dead warrior. New clan leaders, or leaders seeking wisdom from StarClan, journey to the Moonstone —a rock deep underground that shines in the dark. The clan leaders must spend a night sleeping near the stone so the spirits of StarClan can share with them and give them special dreams. This is also where they receive the gift of nine lives. Firepaw essentially prays to StarClan to protect Bluestar, and other cats make statements like "StarClan knows" (like "God knows"), or "Thank StarClan." StarClan speaks to Spottedleaf, the medicine cat, prophesying that the clan would be "saved by fire."
The clans engage in many battles where skin is torn and ripped, cats are bitten fiercely and blood is shed. Several cats lose their lives. The cats' survival system (being in clans, killing each other, preying on smaller animals, etc.) may be considered somewhat reminiscent of gang warfare in our society.
Firepaw grooms the base of Yellowfang's tail. Not much is made of it, but he could have groomed some other part of her, and it would not have taken away from the story. Some may see this as sexual, and others may see it as her way of putting Firepaw down by giving him a demeaning job. Also the clans show great disdain for male cats that are neutered. There are about a half dozen mentions of neutering — going to the cutter — and implications that neutered cats grow fatter and lazier after the operation.
Note: Since male cats are often neutered in our culture, the attitude of the clans in this book toward neutered cats may cause children to be upset with this practice.
This third historical fiction book in the "Viking Quest" series by Lois Walfrid Johnson is published by Moody Publishers.
The Invisible Friend is written for kids ages 10 to 14. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Bree's life as a slave is off to a rough start because she insults an influential woman in the community. As Bree is introduced to her new home, God reminds her that He has her there for a reason. He has not forgotten her. Her brother Devin returns with ransom money, but her master Mikkel declares that Devin is still his slave. Devin is forced to remain until the following spring when his fate will be decided. Meanwhile, Bree and Devin are reunited with their sister Keely, who was taken by Viking marauders six years earlier. During the long winter months, Bree shares Jesus with her captors and others in the community. To her amazement, Mikkel's grandfather and grandmother tell her that they have been waiting for someone to tell them about Jesus. In the spring, Devin is granted his freedom, and a ransom is paid for Bree, but Bree exchanges her freedom for that of her sister and a friend.
The novel focuses on how God does not make mistakes. God knows that Devin and Bree are enslaved, and they realize that God has them in Norway for a reason. Even though they do not like where they are, they both come to the conclusion that God can use them in spite of their situation. The theme of sacrificial giving permeates throughout the book. Bree tries to explain how Jesus wants to be with people even though they have not acknowledged Him. Then she gives her freedom in exchange for her sister's and offers a ransom for a friend. Bree frequently explains what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and slowly, some of the main characters are able to see the emptiness of their gods and acknowledge the love of the true God. Bree emphasizes that although she is a slave, she is free in Christ and that those who choose to serve false gods are the ones truly enslaved.
Mikkel shows respect to his father and mother. Even though he goes against his father's wishes, he desires to be wise and imitate his father's ways. Bree shows honor to those she serves. Also, when she gives her word, she keeps it.
The whole village goes to a religious ceremony where they call upon their gods for a ship's safe return. Bree is required to go, but she feels the dark coldness that comes from serving false gods and quickly leaves. Grandmother has dreams where a goddess in a fog is trying to take her, and she is petrified. Bree shares the Gospel with her, and when Grandmother accepts Christ, her nightmares disappear. As Bree tries to figure out what Grandmother's dreams are about, she asks Mikkel about their view of the afterlife. He shares with Bree that brave warriors go to a large and magnificent place that is filled with food and fighting. The old and the sick go to a place that is neither night nor day. Just, honest rulers go to a location that is filled with people like them.
Devin and Bree kiss and hug each other as brother and sister.
This historical fiction book in the "I Witness" series by Avi is published by Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, an imprint of Disney Publishing.
Iron Thunder is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
During the Civil War, 13-year-old Tom Carroll's father is killed while serving in the Union Army. Living in a tenement in Brooklyn, Tom's mother asks him to help support the family. Through her contacts doing laundry for Union officers at the nearby Navy Yard, she arranges for Tom to meet with the yardmaster to discuss job options. He is told of a project underway to construct the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy. Tom meets with the designer of the new craft, John Ericsson, and although Tom doesn't know what to expect, he quickly gains the respect and admiration of Ericsson. His newfound job places Tom in the midst of the epic battle between the Monitor and Merrimac.
None with the exception of one line that says, "God's blessing no one was killed."
Although Tom is skeptical of the Union's forces after his father is killed, he follows his mother's direction in pursuing a job related to the war effort. He also demonstrates loyalty and courtesy to both Ericsson during the ship's construction and later to Capt. Worden as the ironclad heads to battle.
Tom uses Lord in one exclamatory expression. Set during the Civil War, the story includes descriptions of the wartime weaponry and skirmishes between the Monitor, Merrimac and other maritime vessels. In addition, the story line includes minimal details of soldiers who are wounded or killed during battle.
This historical book by Sir Walter Scott is published by Penguin Classics and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by kids ages 16 and up.
England is in turmoil: Hostilities have intensified between the Normans and Saxons, and Prince John mans the throne in fear that his brother, King Richard, will return alive from the Crusades. Ivanhoe, after being disinherited by his father, Cedric, has joined King Richard — so his reappearance at a jousting tournament shocks Prince John and his allies. On their return home from the joust, Cedric, his ward Rowena (whom Ivanhoe loves), Rowena's betrothed, and Isaac and Rebecca (a Jew and his daughter who help Ivanhoe in secret) are all kidnapped by John's adviser, Maurice de Bracy, who wants Rowena for himself. All are freed by Robin Hood and the Black Knight except Rebecca, whom Knight Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert has fallen for and kidnapped. Templar leaders, believing Rebecca has bewitched Bois-Guilbert, put her on trial for sorcery. Ivanhoe saves Rebecca, the Black Knight reveals himself as King Richard, and Ivanhoe and Rowena are married.
Critics note Scott's not-so-subtle criticism of the medieval church in Ivanhoe. Bois-Guilbert, who belongs to the holy Templar order of knights, kidnaps Rebecca and threatens to force himself on her. One clergyman, Prior Aymer, has a reputation for his worldly behaviors such as carousing with women, and another friar drinks excessively. The church is highly political and hostile to the Jewish race. In fact, anti-Semitism plays into Bois-Guilbert's decision to put Rebecca on trial. Rebecca, a Jew, proves to be the most genuinely faithful and God-fearing character in the book.
Scott portrays King Richard as a thrill-seeker, more concerned with crusading than with his kingdom and subjects. His brother, Prince John, is power-hungry and intends to ensure that Richard doesn't live to retake the throne. In his zeal to see Saxons return to power, Cedric disinherits his son when Ivanhoe falls for a woman Cedric plans to give in marriage to a Saxon of noble blood. Religious leaders (like Prior Aymer) demonstrate repeated hypocrisy rather than serve as examples of faith and piety. Bois-Guilbert (a knight) and de Bracy (an adviser to Prince John) kidnap the women they want to marry.
The Grand Master of the Templar believes Rebecca must be a witch; why else would a Christian knight behave so erratically over a lowly Jew? Though the book seems to indicate she simply was trained in the art of healing, like a physician, the Grand Master attributes her ability to help the sick to sorcery and Satan. Sir Walter Scott uses Isaac and Rebecca to demonstrate some of the standard beliefs and behaviors of 12th century Jews — the treatment they receive from many other characters reveals the anti-Semitic atmosphere of the age.
Words like a-- and d--- appear once or twice. Isaac makes frequent vows and exclamations using the name of God and other biblical characters.
The narrator suggests that Norman men during this time period were so lawless that their wives and daughters often sought shelter as nuns to preserve their honor from the "unbridled wickedness of men." Bois-Guilbert, through innuendo, threatens to rape Rebecca if she refuses to submit to him.
Note: This book was published in 1819.