Tag: Fantasy / Sci Fi

by Randall Jarrell

A quiet little book, about a found family. It starts with a lonely hunter who lives in a cabin in the woods, no other people around. One day he hears strange singing near the beach, and discovers a mermaid. He gradually gains her trust until she accompanies him home. She is delighted and intrigued by all the strange things in his house and the very different way he lives. They learn each others’ language, though he can never properly make the mermaid sounds so pretty much she uses English with him all the time. I really liked how it showed the strangeness of life of land as it appeared to the mermaid. For example, she was baffled by the hunter’s desire to take shelter from rain, detested sweet foods (thought honey was a horrifying thing trying to choke her), and didn’t understand that fire could hurt. I did find it odd that the story never said how she got from place to place (she doesn’t have legs after all) until near the very end, it mentioned how she had to drag herself across the land. Before then, it was just casually mentioned how she went here or there, without any note of the difficulty. Sometimes the hunter would carry her. She often remarked how the sea people thought her odd and eventually shunned her because she liked to visit the land, so then she spent all her time with the hunter. It seemed they longed for a child, and then one day the hunter killed a mother bear in self-defense (he got too close, too suddenly, in very close quarters) and brought home her orphaned cub. The couple were very happy raising the bear. Later on the hunter stole a lynx kitten from its family (there were five, so he figured the mother lynx wouldn’t miss one) and brought that home too. And near the end of the book, they find a young child on the beach after a shipwreck. So then their family feels complete, with a man, mermaid, bear, lynx and boy. It’s really lovely to read about how they all learned from one another- the bear and lynx behave very differently from people and have their own kind of needs, but they all found ways to make adjustments and get along. The boy learned from the hunter how to be human, from the mermaid how to swim excellently, etc. It really is a gentle and heartwarming story (if you ignore the fact that the animals were basically abducted from the wild by this lonely hunter). Nothing much happens in terms of plot, it’s just their day-to-day life and it ends in contentment.

Borrowed from the public library. Completed on 5/16/24.

Rating: 3/5
180 pages, 1965

More opinions:
Shelf Love
That Book Broad

the Graphic Novel

by Madeline L'Engle, adapted by Hope Larson

The original, which I loved and re-read numerous times (but the last so long ago it isn’t featured on my blog yet) is among my favorite books. I was hesitant to read this version at first, because afraid it wouldn’t at all live up to my memories, or the pictures in my own head. Happy to say it was a good read. Different, and not everything quite depicted as I expected, but enough rang true to how I experienced the original that I liked it and didn’t feel slighted. All the dialog feels taken straight from the pages of the novel, and since the only text in this book is dialog, that made it feel perfectly full of quotes. All the good ones, too. I’m sure something was left out, but I couldn’t tell what. I wasn’t terribly keen on the artwork style, it was rather plain, but I did like that color shifts made it easy to tell when the characters were talking about or remembering the past- very helpful. Charles Wallace with his big baby blue eyes, innocent face and sophisticated way of talking, Calvin looked just like I’d imagined. A few parts felt too brief, a few drawings a bit goofy but overall I’m so glad I read it, it’s so very heartwarming through all the frustrations and fears the characters face.

I suppose now I have to tell you what the actual story is, in case you don’t know (and I really didn’t like the film version, by the way. Don’t know why that didn’t sit well with me, but I never even tried to watch it, after seeing a trailer). Meg belongs to a rather odd family: her parents are scientists, her little brother Charles Wallace brilliantly precocious (and with something of a sixth sense for how people are feeling) and her in-the-middle twin brothers so ordinary and pleasant they’re nearly perfect. She herself feels out of sorts and is often frustrated by her personal flaws, and the criticism the community seems to latch onto her family. Especially since her father went missing- rumors go around that he left the family, the mother knows better (he went off on a secret scientific mission and hasn’t returned). Things start to change when Meg meets a very nice boy her age who lives nearby- and thinks her family is just awesome. Charles Wallace meets some strange old ladies staying in an abandoned house in the woods, and it turns out they have otherworldly abilities. They are kind and generous, and take Meg, her little brother and her new friend Calvin on a strange journey through time and space to confront a horrible evil entity that is making things lifeless- and also possibly to find her father. I can’t really explain more than that, because part of the joy in this novel is the weird discovery of what happens. But it’s more than just an odd blend of fantasy, science, and what some might call a New Age feel. It’s about finding yourself, embracing your faults (which might turn out to be inner strengths) and just overall standing up for and being good.

I really wish I could write more eloquently about this right now. However I do feel spurred by this to read the original (off my own shelf) again soon, and then I will find more words.

Caveat: after reading some other readers’ reviews, I realize this might not read well for people who aren’t familiar with the original. So much of the context is gone, if you only get simple pictures and dialog. My head didn’t have to fill in any blanks, because I had them all stored in memory, but I can well imagine that for a lot of readers new to this story, they might not have any idea what the heck is going on at times. Due to the mystical and unexplained events, phenomena and strange beings encountered. I still liked it though. But I do prefer the novel.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
392 pages, 2012

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #18

by Dana Simpson

The unicorn reacts to a butterfly as if it’s a bad omen, and tells of many more. She tries to jump over the moon. Marigold frets over a minor social faux-paus she made long ago, that nobody else remembers. There are two pages in this book exactly the same as in the last one! (when they pretended to be princesses with swords). Odd. I don’t think it’s a printing error, as the panels are arranged slightly differently (but have the exact same artwork and text). Phoebe scrapes her knee and wants Marigold to produce magic tears that will instantly heal it. Phoebe and Marigold magically switch places for a day: Marigold-as-human has even odder-than-usual conversations with Dakota, and struggles to perform fine motor skills with her fingers. While Phoebe as a unicorn enjoys frolicking, delights in having a tail, then botches some magic (but harmlessly). Back to normal, they find an unidentifiable small magical creature, that turns out to be another unicorn’s pet and has to get returned. This is difficult for Phoebe, who quickly became attached to it. Todd the candy dragon decides he wants to be scary and garner some respect, but no matter what he’s still cute (reminded me of Spike in an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic). Phoebe and Marigold solve a ghost mystery. Dakota reconnects- briefly- with the goblin queen. And realizes it’s still good to just let the end of that friendship lie. Phoebe worries that some of her friends will drift apart from her when they’re older. Her parents reflect on how some things from their youth can never be revisited- because they’re now considered offensive. And Marigold offers an (absurd) unicorn equivalent.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2023

More opinions: Schizanthus Nerd
anyone else?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #17

by Dana Simpson

I thought the cover of this one was really fun, but the punk rock part of the storyline was very short, and the unicorn’s accessories far fewer. That part comes about near the end of the book, where Phoebe and Marigold are at yet another summer camp and putting on a musical performance. Phoebe and a new friend Stevie play some actual punk music, whereas Sue and Marigold just want to smash things! A much greater portion of the book was taken up by ongoing interactions with an alternate-universe Phoebe + unicorn pair, via a magic portal. Their alternate personas are supposed to be evil– but they’re not really. Which says something deep that I just didn’t quite get.

I like all the little snippet parts better. Such as when they meet a very dorky, unattractive unicorn named Prince Aspirational Arrogance who is very full of himself (the complete opposite of Lord Splendid Humility) but it’s funny. Later Phoebe worries that her book report on a graphic novel won’t count because Dakota says “those aren’t real books,” but happily her teacher is a fan of the same series! Phoebe and Dakota get lead parts in the school play together- but end up arguing on stage (and the star role is a snail which somehow inspires Marigold). Phoebe tries to understand why she procrastinates and sometimes can’t focus. She and Marigold meet another male unicorn- one even more self-centered than Marigold is. The unicorn tells Phoebe another fable, how the clouds are selfish unicorns blocking the sun. They pretend to be princesses wielding swords together, arguing who gets to save an imaginary kingdom. And more!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2023

More opinions: Schizanthus Nerd
anyone else?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #16

by Dana Simpson

Marigold’s presence attracts other magical animals and beings to Phoebe’s house- resulting in pixies flitting around and a phoenix temporarily blocking the doorway, demanding answers to riddles. Phoebe uses “unicorn rules” to play chess with Max- she’s cheating, but he still wins. Marigold and Phoebe visit a corn maze, for completely different reasons. Phoebe is excited when she finds out that Marigold knows an actual ghost, and wants to meet it. The ghost is very small, which is disappointing. Marigold gets blocked by a tree gnome. Dakota misses the goblins, so Marigold and Phoebe try to help. They do not manage to patch things up, and finally decide that sometimes it’s better to just let things be, when a friendship ends. The first school dance comes around, but Phoebe doesn’t go. Her dad bemoans changing online platforms (I can relate). The unicorn tornado event only happens on the last few pages, it wasn’t a whole long storyline like I was half-dreading, so that was okay!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2022

More opinions: Schizanthus Nerd
anyone else?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #15

by Dana Simpson

Phoebe and her unicorn get a treehouse and try to start a club in it with Max. Phoebe gets in (slight) trouble for doodling on her math homework (and Marigold makes the doodles animated, which was fun). Marigold envies humans’ opposable thumbs, but won’t admit it. Phoebe looses her shadow for a day. The unicorn gets invited to a family reunion, and feels anxious about attending. When she finally meets her parents (no explanation why her earliest memories start at boarding school), they’re all so nervous they exude excessive sparkles. Marigold is shocked to find how much she resembles her parents and determines to go through a rebellious phase just to stand out- but she’s pretty bad at it. Marigold then decides that Phoebe is an honorary unicorn and gives her a new name (to be used in formal, magical situations) but Phoebe is mildly insulted. Phoebe finds out that many unicorns believe humans simply don’t exist. Unicorn conspiracy theories, ha.

Finally one that made me laugh out loud again. I even showed pages of it to my husband, and he got a few chuckles too.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2022

More opinions: Schizanthus Nerd
anyone else?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #14

by Dana Simpson

Phoebe sees the news online on her dad’s computer and despairs at the sate of things, but takes comfort in her unicorn’s friendship. Phoebe and Marigold find out they really don’t appreciate each other’s favorite songs, which is dismaying at first: how can they like each other, if they don’t like the same music? (Wow, I’ve had this happen, a partner who was mortally offended that I disliked his music). Dakota gets challenged to a popularity contest with the goblin queen, but when she realizes what that entails, refuses to take part. So she parts ways with them. Marigold wants to meet more of her relatives, and they get a visit from Infernus, who is non-binary, which the unicorns find completely normal. Marigold takes lessons in humility from Lord Splendid Humility- and they don’t really stick. Dakota tries to be nice, inviting Phoebe to sit with her friend group at lunch, but they all think her remarks are weird. Then Phoebe asks Dakota to join her and Max at recess, but that doesn’t go smoothly either. She decides that her different friends just don’t mix well. More happens! This is just a sampling, because I wrote in a hurry.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2021

More opinions: Schizanthus Nerd
anyone else?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn # 13

by Dana Simpson

I wondered at the cover of this one: it’s not like Phoebe to want fame and tons of attention, is it? Phew, not it’s not really, she’s pretty much the same Phoebe- geeking out over the excitement of what they learn in school, over-excelling on her homework, discussing things with her unicorn friend. Who creates a brief unicorn fad of wearing t-shirts proclaiming that humans are cool, and goes on a unicorn radio program to show off her “expertise” on humans. Phoebe is offended when she hears it. There’s stuff about the tooth fairy being real (and having ulterior motives), about Dakota’s inexplicable popularity with the goblins, and how useless certain chores are- but they make you feel accomplished. Phoebe and Dakota finally admit maybe they can actually be friends, though Dakota is very blunt about the fact that she’ll still make fun of Phoebe in public if it boosts her social status. Phoebe and Marigold go to a waterpark, where the unicorn releases her “shield of boringness” so everyone will stare at her and Phoebe can skip ahead in line (was that the ‘famous’ part?) Phoebe frets about why she cares what Dakota thinks of her, and reflects on how people are too attached to their smart phones. She makes her own Halloween costume, and it starts to fall apart in the middle of a parade, but turns out great anyway.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2021

by Natalie Babbitt

There’s a disagreement in a small kingdom, about which food should represent the word ‘delicious’ in the dictionary being compiled. A boy is sent to poll everyone in the kingdom and see if they can come to a consensus. But not a single person agrees on exactly what ‘delicious’ means. And there’s something at far greater stake than just settling a word definition. Someone else is riding ahead of the boy, spreading little words around that sow further disagreement between the people, until every place he goes is in an uproar. The boy Galen is just trying to do his job- but then he also finds himself trying to solve the meaning behind a fragment of an old song, and right an ancient wrong done to a mermaid who still weeps. Is she still alive somewhere? Can Galen return to her what was lost? Even more importantly, can anything be done to stop the civil war that seems on verge of erupting?

This was quite silly- or rather, it showed how very absurd human egos can be. It’s got some great characters and is wonderfully written, but it just didn’t quite grip me. It’s one I really wish I had read long ago as a kid myself. I found it a bit hard to see how the two disparate parts of the story- one about strife and argument over words, and the other more like a fable, involving the mermaid- were related. They felt very different in nature. It did weave together at the end, but felt oddly unsatisfying. And I’m sad that at the end of the story, people were still arguing over what best defined a word- now it was about the color ‘yellow’ (yellow is a sunset, no a daffodil) but more mildly now- agreeing to disagree I suppose.

It’s worth keeping on my shelf for a future re-read though. I think I might have just been in an irksome state of mind.

Rating: 3/5
168 pages, 1969

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #12

by Dana Simpson

This was cute, and fun, and sometimes a bit insightful or ironic, like all the books in this series tend to be. Phoebe feels scrutinized by other unicorns, who are trying to figure out why Marigold spends so much time with a mere human. Phoebe temporarily gets a unicorn tail, and is disappointed when the spell wears off. She’s also temporarily phone-less after drops hers in water and has to wait for a replacement. The unicorn tries out for a part in a play. Phoebe gets frustrated with piano practice. The unicorn demonstrates pronking. Phoebe tries to get better at playing handball. Unicorn has a conflict with the pet cat over the purpose of a yarn ball. And more. I liked this one. Sorry I can’t find much to say about it though!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
178 pages, 2020

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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