Every once and awhile I need to read a middle grade novel that doesn't bother the fussy, persnickety man I've become. It often seems when I'm reading books meant for kids that I'm being too particular, that not all books can be 'Harriet the Spy' or 'Stepping on the Cracks', deceptively simple stories that leave the reader open to the possibilities of fiction.
Will 'Small Spaces' become a classic? I don't know, but its a supremely effective scary story with few, if any, of the pitfalls I often find in modern kiddie stories.
Ollie has recently lost her mother and has had trouble reconnecting. School has become difficult, her father doesn't have all the answers, and books are the only places where she feel a little good about things. Unfortunately the books she likes don't seem to have any girls in them, but she's willing to put up with that.
One day she stumbles upon a distraught woman about to throw a book into the river. Ollie rescues it and runs away, ignoring the woman's warnings. Its an old book, about a smiling man who grants wishes for a price....
Ollies school is headed on a field trip to a local farm that has recently become prosperous, but has rumors of a dark history. On the way home the bus stalls by cornfield filled with scarecrows, and the strange bus driver warns them to get moving before nightfall. That 'they' are coming. Only Ollie and two others head into the woods, but there adventure is only beginning.
This was fun to read and I think kids will respond to Ollie, who is different in a real way from her peers as opposed to the quirky manufactured heroines that populate much of YA. The problems and puzzles that beset Ollie and her companions are scary to contemplate, but surmountable. Young me would have loved it, and older me approves.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy. Vasya finds herself in a situation where she is disguising herself as a boy. She earns the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, so she must keep her secret at all costs.
This story starts where The Bear and the Nightingale ends. I fell in love with Vasya. I love her determination. With beautiful prose and a fantastically created world, Katherine Arden is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I can't wait for the last book in this trilogy.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is the first book in the Winternight Trilogy. This story is based on a Russian fairy tale called Father Frost. This version of the tale is about a frost king who is after a girl named Vasilisa.
Plot 5/5: I have never heard any Russian fairy tales, so this was quite the treat.
Characters 5/5: The characters are interesting. I loved learning some of the ways of the Russian people and their folklore and beliefs.
World building 5/5: The descriptions of the village had me feeling the harsh winters and the expectations of spring in this wonderfully created village world.
Pacing 4/5 The pacing was steady and a bit slow, but Arden kept me rapt in the story.
Writing 5/5: The writing is beautiful and lyrical.
"I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me." - Vasilisa
Favorite characters: Vasilisa and Morozko
This was a fabulous story and I cannot wait to read the next installment.
I don’t have much to say about this book. The story is slow and boring for ¾ of it, and I struggled to get through it. I thought part of that might’ve been due to insomnia making my brain sluggish, but no, it was still boring after a decent night’s sleep. The only difference sleep made was that I was able to read it faster. After taking three days to get a third of the way through, I finished the rest in one sitting this afternoon. I could have been done with this days ago if insomnia hadn’t fried my brain. Damn you, insomnia.
It’s not a bad story, slow boring bits notwithstanding, and I really liked the Russian fairy tale vibe and enjoyed the descriptions of the house and forest spirits. I think I might have liked this book more if I hadn’t recently read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, but alas. The Bear and the Nightingale pales considerably in comparison. I’m not going to bother with the rest of the trilogy.
I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 A Grimm Tale square.