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Dealing with Dragons (Book 1 in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles) by Patricia C. Wrede (1990)
By Piranha T.
Cimorene is far from a normal princess. To the consternation of her tradition-loving parents, she has had various people at court teach her fencing, magic, cooking, and all sorts of other things before the king and queen have found out and put a stop to it. Finally, in an attempt to get her to settle down, her parents arrange a marriage for her with the prince of a neighboring kingdom. Cimorene’s response is to run away.
On the advice of a talking frog, she journeys into the Mountains of Morning and volunteers to become princess of the dragon Kazul. There, she finds all kinds of excitement—from a plot among the dragons to the suspicious activities of the neighboring wizards, to the troublesome number of princes who come to Kazul’s cave to try to rescue her, assuming she got there by force and not by choice. Cimorene’s life is now far from the boring monotony she’d experienced at the castle—and when she learns more about what’s going on in the Mountains of Morning, she realizes it’s about to get even more interesting still.
Dealing with Dragons is a hilarious, entertaining read. Patricia C. Wrede spoofs classic fairytales in a unique way which is extremely funny. Cimorene is a strong, interesting and determined heroine who is just about as far from a stereotypical princess as you can get. I would highly recommend Dealing with Dragons to readers ages ten and up.
First Test (Book 1 in the Protector of the Small Quartet) by Tamora Pierce (1999)
By Super Kitty
Ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan plans to become a knight like her hero Alanna the Lioness, who, years ago, disguised herself as a boy so she could train for knighthood. The law forbidding girls from entering the training changed ten years ago, and Kel becomes the first to take advantage of the new decree, making history as the first girl to officially become a page—but not everyone is happy about it. Lord Wyldon, in charge of training pages and squires, even insists on putting her on probation, which no other page has ever had to endure.
Faced with nastiness, bullying and heated opposition in addition to the already demanding training schedule, Kel has been given a far more difficult test than any boy has ever had to experience. Whether or not she is able to prove herself will determine not only her own fate, but that of any other girls who wish to follow in her footsteps. Fortunately, Kel is more than up for the challenge…
I’ve read a lot of Tamora Pierce’s books, including many of those set in the Tortall* universe, and the Protector of the Small Quartet is my all-time favorite. The author is known for her powerful female protagonists, and out of all of them I’ve liked Kel best. She’s tough, brave, smart and is an excellent tactician—she’s very human, and is all and all the sort of shero I love to read about. Also, unlike Alanna, she doesn’t have magical powers or a legendary destiny; she’s just an incredibly skilled young woman who’s willing to deal with the prejudice that the first openly female knight must face in order to pave the way for other Lady Knights.
Like Alanna, Kel ages quickly over the course of the quartet—in First Test, she’s ten, but by book four she’s about twenty, and the series gets progressively more ‘Young Adult’ in the later installments. So I although I would recommend First Test for ages 10 and up, younger readers may lose interest after the first two books. But it’s a great series, and older readers shouldn’t be put off by the fact that Kel is younger in the first book—she’s an awesome character, and I would highly recommend the Protector of the Small Quartet to readers who love fantasy, action, and strong, fearless heroines.
*Note: Although the quartet is set in the same world as many of Tamora Pierce’s other books (The Song of the Lioness Quartet and the Trickster’s Choice Duology), you don’t need to have read any of them before starting Protector of the Small (we didn’t!)
By Piranha T.
In beautiful poetry, Newbery honor winner Jacqueline Woodson narrates the story of her childhood as an African-American girl in the south. In the sixties and seventies, when the Jim Crowe laws were still in effect in many places in the south, the author was told not to simply accept that way of living. Instead, during her journey from Ohio to South Carolina to New York City, she’s taught to stand by her beliefs and learn who she is.
In Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson combines lyrical poetry with an incredible autobiography. Each poem is like a tiny work of art, a glimpse into her life, scraps of stories which sweep together into a moving, mesmerizing narrative. It tells not just the story of a girl discovering who she is but also what it was like as a Jehovah’s Witness, as someone who never felt quite at home, as a young writer discovering the power of words. It doesn’t have to be action-packed, like many books are today, to be impossible to put down. Jacqueline Woodson’s poetry—and the story she tells in it—is truly incredible. Even though this book is an autobiography, it reads like a story, which is why I placed it under the fiction tab. I would highly recommend Brown Girl Dreaming to readers ages ten and up.
Book Reviews By & For Kids
Everyone knows that Rapunzel spent her early years locked up in a tower. We’d like to think she read plenty of books to while away the time, and that she’d appreciate our own favorites.
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