Before I get to the Newbery Honor book that I want to mention, I want to tell you a bit about Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I think this book is fabulous. It is exceptionally well-written. There are many well-turned phrases that please my literary soul.
There is suspense. There is action. There is romance. And it’s all deftly woven into a glittering tapestry of a tale.
This story is based on a forgotten fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It is re-set in central Asia (think Mongolia) and is about a maid and her lady that are shut in a tower for 7 years because the lady refused to marry a man. This man happens to be despicable but nonetheless, her father shuts her up.
The maid struggles to keep them fed and comfortable. Things become bleak. Then, a terrible battle takes place and all hope of rescue is gone. So, the maid finds a way to free themselves from the tower. They travel to the maid’s home country only to have the maid find herself in a hopeless situation. The plot goes from one hopeless situation after another. There doesn’t seem to be any way out. But the author is so clever and the plot is so well written that everything ends well. (I hope this doesn’t spoil it for anyone!)
To me, the mark of a great young adult novel is that adults like reading the book, too. The only difference from a good adult novel and a good young adult novel should be vocabulary. A young adult book should have a lower vocabulary level than an adult novel but otherwise be just the same — good writing, good plot, good characterization. And this book definitely has it all.
I recommend that grandmothers read this book themselves and also consider giving it as a birthday present or Christmas present or a present to celebrate the 17th of April (or for any other random reason to give a good book to a granddaughter)!
Oh, by the way, this is not a paid endorsement. Sheesh, the author (nor her publisher, book marketer, or best friend from the 6th grade) doesn’t even know I exist. I can’t imagine why . . .
Now on to the Newbery Honor book.
Princess Academy, also by Shannon Hale, won the Newbery Honor book award in 2006. Did you catch that date? That was only 6 years ago. Like I said, so many books and so little time. (If anybody has a job where I could get paid to sit around and read, I’d love to apply . . .)
The plot of this story is that all of the girls (of a certain age) in a small village on Mount Eskel are commanded by the king to attend a princess academy. At the end of one year, the prince will visit them and select his future bride from those at the academy.
The academy mistress is harsh. The competition between the girls is stiff. And then bandits come to capture the future princess. All of the girls are held hostage. One wrong step and their lives could be snuffed out. How in the world will they survive?
This, too, is a well-written book. (However, Book of a Thousand Days is my favorite of the two.) Hales has such skill and prowess as a writer. I am very impressed with her books.
Now I must make a confession. I do not like reading fantasy books. I have never cared for them. I remember trying to read one in days of yore (a.k.a. in my youth) and just couldn’t get into it. I believe that is the only book that I ever started and never finished.
Oh, wait. I tried reading Ivanhoe when I was about 11 years old and didn’t finish that. But in my defense, it was a tad above my reading level at that time . . .
I think that granddaughters would also enjoy reading Princess Academy. Maybe you could get both of these books for your granddaughters.
Methinks I should read Shannon Hales’ The Goose Girl next. (Shannon’s books just might change my mind about reading fantasy!)