Today I’ve got three sequels to books I’ve previously loved and reviewed. And such a variety! An adventurous fantasy, a sweet chapter book series, and a graphic novel.
All of them require reading the earlier book/s first, so I’ve linked to those reviews.
Beast of Stone, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by James Madsen
published in 2018 by Harper
I happily blitzed my way through this finale of Linda Sue Park’s Wing & Claw trilogy and heartily recommend, again, this riveting tale by one of today’s finest authors. Find reviews of the first two volumes here and here.
Set in the land of Obsidia, the storyline has taken us along a treacherous path with Raffa Santana, a young boy from a line of apothecaries. Raffa is skilled in harvesting botanicals from the Forest of Wonders, then extracting, distilling, and combining them to produce healing agents. One of Raffa’s discoveries, a purple vine with surprising potency, has been snagged by the evil Chancellor of Obsidia and used to raise an army of wild animals trained to attack citizens on command. The climactic moment has now arrived, the worst of the Chancellor’s motivations are revealed, and a beleaguered few are faced with the monumental challenge of confronting her and saving their land.
Park focuses much of her attention on the numerous virtuous characters, allowing us to become completely endeared to Raffa, several stalwart friends, one irresistible bat, a couple of charming raccoons, and an array of others who win our affection with their courage, self-sacrifice, loyalty, friendship, forgiveness, gentle hearts, and heroic defense of outcasts.
Although she certainly began this trilogy years ago, it speaks uncannily to current impulses of fear and animosity towards the newcomers in our societies being expressed around the world. This and other thought-provoking elements mean that besides being a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy, it’s a great springboard for meaningful discussions. Highly recommended for ages 9 and up.
Swing it, Sunny, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
published in 2017 by Graphix, Scholastic
We last met Sunny during an extended stay with her Grandpa in Florida while her parents dealt with the fallout from her brother Dale’s substance abuse issues.
Now Sunny is back at home. We’re still in the thick of the 70s, complete with Gilligan’s Island, frozen TV dinners, and Donny and Marie Osmond 45s. And, much to Sunny’s dismay, we’re still in the thick of the confusing, sad impact of Dale’s life choices.
Sunny navigates her way through life with so much heart and such a delightful attitude, you cannot help but loving her. Her baby brother, middle school friendships, and a yearful of holidays make up the bulk of day-to-day life. Woven throughout, though, is Sunny’s loyal love for Dale and her aching desire to fix the broken pieces of his life. Which of course is beyond her power to accomplish.
These wise, upbeat, and honest graphic novels are fantastic for ages 10 and up.
Heartwood Hotel: Better Together, written by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2018 by Disney Hyperion
This is the third episode in a darling series set in the Heartwood Hotel, a lovely woodland resort nestled in an enormous tree and catering to birds and insects, squirrels and skunks, voles and porcupines. Catch the first two episodes, taking place in fall and winter, here.
This installment picks up the story as the supremely wise and kind hotel owner, a badger named Mr. Heartwood, heads off for a much-needed respite from work. Spring cleaning and preparing for the next of the seasonal galas are left to the trusty staff.
Our beloved heroine, Mona, has finally carved out a place of belonging at the Heartwood. That’s threatened, however, by the arrival of a little chap named Henry. And the reputation of the entire hotel seems threatened when rumors of a rival resort drift their way. Just the right mix of imaginative, miniature worlds and zesty adventure make this series perfect for reading aloud to 5 & 6 year olds, handing to an advanced-but-young reader, or enjoyed in the hammock by kids who prefer their fiction more charming than spine-tingling.