Generally speaking, I tend to stay away from fantasy series, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying Kamilla Benko’s The Unicorn Quest, the first book in an exciting, brand new series.
Claire and her family move into Great Aunt Diana’s treasure-stuffed mansion for the summer, hoping to box its contents up for an estate sale. No one knows what happened to Great Aunt Diana, who spent her life traveling the world and collecting beautiful and rare things for her home, Windermere Castle. Claire hopes that this time together will help restore her close relationship with her older sister, Sophie, who has just recovered from a serious illness. But, their summer gets off to a terrifying start when Sophie convinces Claire to climb up the ladder hidden within a fireplace in one of the mansion’s most daunting rooms. That ladder leads to another world – one that is both enchanting and terrifying.
Sophie and Claire barely escape from their first foray into this world, so when Sophie is missing Claire knows that she must travel there, too, and rescue her sister. Claire discovers that Arden, the name of this magical land, is in the midst of great troubles: the Unicorn Harp has been stolen and her very own sister has been accused of the crime. But, where is Sophie? And how can Claire, who knows nothing about the complicated customs. laws, and geography of Arden, find her?
I love the way Kamilla Benko is able to write the world of Arden into existence, so that bit by bit it becomes very real to the reader. I know that my sixth graders will love the twists and turns in this story, as well as the engaging and well crafted characters. They will be looking forward to the next book with just as much anticipation as their teacher!
Gaia Cornwall’s Jabari Jumps is one of those lovely picture books one can read at any age and fall completely in love with. Jabari is not quite ready to jump off the diving board. His father reassures him that it’s okay to feel a little scared when trying something new, and that sometimes trying something scary can feel like a surprise. That convinces Jabari to try, because he loves surprises…and he learns that he loves diving, too!
This sweet story is enchantingly illustrated, and I can see reading it aloud in classrooms of all ages and extrapolating on the central idea: we learn all sorts of important things about ourselves when we are brave enough to try.
we learn all sorts of important things about ourselves when we are brave enough to try.