The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland, #2)

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I liked this book a lot. I read the first one (The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) last year. I loved it, but by the time I was finished, I was not chomping to move on to the next book in the series, as I often am when I find a series that I like.

Last week I needed a sure-thing, a happy read, and picked up the second book in the series. The whimsy and imaginative use of language and characters did not disappoint. I love the escaped shadows who are enjoying their freedom from their corporeal people and creatures. I loved that September is growing up, learning to stand up for herself and understand the gray scales in life. The text is packed with delightful details. I love how clothing is sentient and adjusts to the wearer’s needs. Every sentence is beautiful and skimming is not an option.

If you love Lewis Carroll, you will love these modern twists on the fantastic fairytale.

That said, I have to admit that the next book will be sitting on my shelf waiting for a while until I need a sure-thing read. These books, for me, need to be savored and I seem to have a limit for how much I can enjoy, kind of like eating a pile of candy. At the moment, I am ready to brush my teeth and dig into something different.

It is good to know there are a few more books on my shelf ready for when I need a deep-dive into imagination.



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The Plastic Magician

The Plastic Magician (The Paper Magician #4)

The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am enjoying the world the author has created with these books–a world where magic is like a science to be learned and discovered. Those who are “magically inclined” are apprenticed to magicians who train them to take the exam that makes them a magician in their own right. Magic can be done on only man-made materials and this book focusses on Alvie, a young American woman who likes to wear pants and take apart cars, in the early 1900s. Alvie travels by mirror to Europe and London where she learns the art of polymaking–or magic with plastics.

The book chronicles Alvie’s apprenticeship and growing romance with a fellow apprentice in the art of paper magic.

There is not a lot of action during the first part, but then it picks up when Alvie is kidnapped and has to use her wits and magic to escape. The book has a sweetness and innocence that is rare nowadays. The Kiss didn’t happen until the 75% mark.

I can’t say this book was un-put-down-able, but it was a lot of fun to read.




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The Sun is also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this YA novel. It is a romance with two smart and likable characters. The book is timely for its discussion on immigration, deportation, and racism. I enjoyed and learned from the sidebar chapters explaining the scientifically and culturally relevant information.

The story takes place in New York City over the course of one day. Natasha is a science-minded girl who spends the day trying to keep her family from being deported and worries about losing her friends, her dreams and her future. Daniel is a romantic poet who spends his day trying to get Natasha to fall in love with him by exploiting her love of science.



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Refractionary–An Investigation into a Character Name

One of my reluctant reader teen students, Rory*, needs to read three books over the summer. The first book he chose was Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Rory listened to the audiobook quickly—and immediately started the next—high praise indeed! He dubbed it a “page turner” which we thought funny since he is listening to it. I read my copy on my Kindle and I liked the option of highlighting and returning to ideas for exploration with Rory. I like reading along with my students so we can discuss the books and I often use words or themes for further study.

One of the things I like about using this book as a launching pad to our tutoring sessions is how the names of many of the Epics (superhumans who take over and rule the earth) have names that were morphological treasure troves. The first name we explored was Refractionary, an Epic who is a “Class A Illusionist with invisibility capabilities.” She is a lesser Epic and has difficulty maintaining her illusions. There is always a tell-tale shimmer as if light is reflecting on her.

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We began this investigation by finding the base of the word. Rory is an experienced word investigator with  gifted level verbal abilities and was able to analyze the word into a word sum <re + fract + ion + ary>  or maybe <re + fract + ion +ar(e) + y>. In any case he teased out the <fract> as the probable base and we went to Etymonline to search out the meaning of the base. We did not find <fract> but our search showed us <fracture>. Was there a possible relationship?  I suggested he try adding back on the prefix <re-> and we found our trail.

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We found that refract is a verb meaning “to bend” and is a back formation from refraction, from Late Latin (1560s.) Refraction is a noun of action, <re> “back” + fract “to break up, possibly with a sense of undoing” + ion (a noun making suffix).  The Latin word it is derived from is the combining form franger “to break” which in turn appears to come from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root *bhreg-  “to break”

Following the PIE Root led us to find connections that did not fit in our matrix to other familiar words such as brake, fragile, frail, and fragment.

We agreed that <fract> must be a bound base because it shared the same meaning in the word fracture. We agreed that this was a fitting name for our Epic, because she shimmers as she refracts the light.

Next, we went to Wordsearcher and found words that we thought would be related and began to construct a matrix. We decided to leave any exploration of <ary> versus <ar(e) + y> for another day and use <ary> in our matrix.

As we put each word into the matrix, Rory defined words, used them in sentences, and explained how they had a sense of “breaking.” Words we were unsure of, we looked up in a dictionary to get a better understanding.

To finish off our session, we played one Jenga block after writing out a word sum This is Rory’s favorite part of the lesson and we get very competitive. We keep playing until we run out of words to build or our tower falls down.

*Names and details changed

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As a specialist in literacy and dyslexia, I have been distressed not only by the illiteracy of many of our students but also by aliteracy, kids who can read but choose not to. Gallager outlines the problem of over-teaching and over-testing on student’s love of reading. He offers many strategies for teachers to continue to support students when reading difficult works, but to also allow students to get into the flow of the text. The writing was repetitive at times and he was “preaching to the choir” as I am sure the majority of readers will be teachers who see the same problems. I recommend this book to teachers of Language Arts, particularly new teachers who need specific strategies to find their own way of conveying their love of reading to students.




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