Tag Archives: Gregory Maguire

After Alice

Author: Gregory MaguireAfter Alice

My rating: 5 of 5

Have you ever wondered what happened back in Oxford after Alice disappeared down the rabbit hole? Perhaps her best friend Ada was coming over to visit her and happened to fall into the same (or another nearly identical) hole into Wonderland. Perhaps her older sister Lydia thought she was just being Alice, off on a lark again–or maybe she was just too distracted with the complications of being caught in the gap between girlhood and womanhood to worry about her sister. Perhaps the visit of the notorious Mr. Darwin had the household in too much of a stir to properly look for a wandering child. Perhaps there were more interconnected stories relating to Alice’s adventures than we have ever before imagined. . . .

Gregory Maguire’s treatment of the tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in his book After Alice is absolutely brilliant. He takes the classic and focuses on people who were barely mentioned in passing in the original, people who were side characters, and others who were never even pictured at all. And in doing so, he creates a vivid picture, not only of Wonderland, but of 1860’s Oxford as well. The imagery of his phrases is elegant and subtle such that each sentence is a delight to read–this is one of those books that makes me aware afresh how much I love language, words themselves. Moreover, his characters are a delight–conflicted, changing, sometimes morally ambiguous, but always so very human. And the way in which Maguire captures Victorian mores and opinions through his characters is not only enjoyable but educational. I will say that I would recommend this for an adult audience, not really because there’s anything inappropriate (or rather, anything inappropriate is couched in such Victorian propriety that it would go right over a child’s head) but because the story is rather complex and meant to be thought-provoking to adults, so kids might get bored–although there are probably also children who would adore this. (Okay, I would have loved this book if I had read it as a child.) In any case, After Alice comes with high recommendations, especially for those who liked the Carroll or who enjoy retellings or Victorian era literature.

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The School for Good and Evil

Author: Soman Chainani

Illustrator: Iacopo Bruno

For years, children have been disappearing from the village of Gavaldon only to appear later in the storybooks as fairy-tale princesses and princes, witches and monsters–snatched from their homes to enter the School for Good and Evil. Most do their best to avoid being taken, but Sophie is different; she seems the ideal princess, and she’s determined to get into the school and become a princess in fact. She’s sure her best friend Agatha will get taken as well–to be a witch–she’s certainly got the looks and personality for it, plus she lives in a graveyard! But when the two girls do get taken to the School for Good and Evil, it seems everything goes wrong as Agatha is placed in the School for Good to become a princess (and it’s immediately clear she doesn’t fit there at all!)  and Sophie is dumped straight in the School for Evil (which she thinks is, in no uncertain terms, a dump itself and no fit place for a pretty girl like her). The two must struggle to survive–and if possible escape (Agatha’s idea) or switch places (Sophie’s). But will their friendship survive the trials of their situation . . . and was their placement perhaps not such as big mistake as they thought?

I found The School for Good and Evil to be a completely engrossing story from the captivating cover through the final, unexpected plot twists. I think if J. K. Rowling and Gregory Maguire wrote a book together, it might turn out something like this wonderful book. The characters are amazing, and the best part is that they grow and change throughout the story–often in ways that surprise themselves! The setting and concepts are novel, credible, and fanciful enough to be truly fascinating. And the plot itself is a gripping blend of adventure, dark humor, enigma, and pathos. I would highly recommend The School for Good and Evil to anyone upper elementary and older who enjoys a good fantasy, especially if you’ve a taste for a slightly darker, more mysterious tale.

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Half-Minute Horrors

Editor: Susan Rich

Do you love the sort of short, startling stories that are best told late at night around a campfire? Or maybe you’re the sort that doesn’t really think it’s possible for a story to be properly scary in only a page or two, but you’d like to see them try. Regardless, this collection of one- to two-page short stories is sure to horrify–and possibly change your outlook on closets, lasagna, and strawberry bubble bath forever!

Half-Minute Horrors was a lucky find at a used bookstore for me–I’ve never seen it anywhere else. This collection features (extremely) short stories (and a few comics) by some of today’s leading authors and artists. The variety is impressive, yet they all prey on our deepest fears, utilizing surprise, disgust, and the ever-useful twist to create stories that are sure to leave the reader, well, horrified. Yet even while being certifiably creepy, these stories are honestly appropriate even for elementary-age children–as long as they don’t get freaked out too easily or have nightmares. I definitely enjoyed this collection, and would recommend Half-Minute Horrors to anyone who likes scary stories–especially if you don’t have much time to enjoy them.

Featured Authors/Illustrators: Lemony Snicket, Jerry Spinelli, Kenneth Oppel, Richard Sala, Erin Hunter, James Patterson, Sonya Sones, Tom Genrich, Michèle Perry, Angela Johnson, Jon Klassen, Arthur Slade, M. T. Anderson, Yvonne Prinz, M. E. Kerr, Adam Rex, Dean Lorey, Sarah Weeks, Gloria Whelan, Holly Black, Faye Kellerman, Lisa Brown, Pseudonymous Bosch, Nadia Aguiar, Sienna Mercer, Jack Gantos, Stephen Marche, Brad Meltzer, Lane Smith, Carol Gorman, David Rich, Jenny Nimmo, Margaret Atwood, Mariko Tamaki, Brian Selznick, Francine Prose, Ayelet Waldman, R. L. Stine, Adele Griffin, Aliza Kellerman, Mark Crilley, Allan Stratton, Sarah L. Thomson, Katherine Applegate, Avi, Gail Carson Levine, David Stahler Jr., Carson Ellis, Tui T. Sutherland, Abi Slone, Joseph Delaney, Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist, Josh Greenhut, Neil Gaiman, Lesley Livingston, Jon Scieszka, Vladimir Radunsky, Alison McGhee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Melissa Marr, Chris Raschka, Stacey Godenir, Dan Gutman, Alice Kuipers, Frank Viva, Libba Bray, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Connelly, Lauren Myracle, Barry Yourgrau, Aaron Renier, Gregory Maguire

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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Editor/Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburgthe chronicles of harris burdick

My rating: 5 of 5

The basic premise behind this fantastic collection of short stories is nearly as odd as the stories themselves. Supposedly, a person calling himself Harris Burdick came to editor Peter Wenders sometime around 25 years ago, dropping off a collection of 14 drawings with titles and one-line descriptions. This Burdick then left, promising to bring the accompanying stories  the next day, only to never return. In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a group of incredible authors take these illustrations and create the stories that might have accompanied them.

Whatever the truth about Harris Burdick and his illustrations may be, this is an excellent collection of stories from a brilliant group of writers. In keeping with the concepts of the illustrations there is an eerie, Twilight Zone sort of feel to the stories. Mostly, they’re about fairly ordinary people to whom some extraordinary events occur. There is a spine-tingling quality to these stories that is simply delicious. Anyone who likes the unusual, or who simply likes short stories, should check out this creative collection.

Featured Authors: Sherman Alexie, M. T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Chris Van Allsburg, & Lemony Snicket

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