Nutshell: Gracie is a force of nature. She’s broken her collarbone, she terrorizes her older sister, and once she tried to touch a dragon and nearly got crushed. She does things the loud way, takes no guff from anyone, and if something isn’t right, she beats it until it is.
But she can’t beat a Dark Cloud.
Dark Clouds come for people who are about to die, to take them to the afterlife. Gracie’s little brother, Sam is always sick, and the Cloud comes practically up on to their doorstep. Trying desperately to save him, their Dad buys a camper and loads them all in: Mom, Millie, Gracie, Sam, and the neighborhood runaway, Oliver, and takes them on a journey. They’re trying to find the Extraordinary Land, a place where there is no magic and people live easier lives. Lives without Clouds to carry them off.
The trouble is, only crazy people believe in the Extraordinary Land.
Readalikes: This reminds me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, by DiTerlizzi and Black. The Thirteenth Child, by Patricia Wrede is also about a hostile, magical America, in a very different time. This book is difficult to categorize because I, at least, have not read very many “whole family” adventures. The world itself is most like either Terry Pratchet or Douglas Adams.
Author: Noël Streatfeild (What an unfortunate spelling!)
Nutshell: Pauline, Petrova, and Polly are not exactly siblings. They are all orphans who were collected by the very eccentric man they call Great Uncle Matthew (Gum, for short.) In the course of his 1930’s English Gentleman’s habit of exploring the world and bringing home assorted bits of it, he picked up these three girls and sent them home to his niece, Sylvia, who, with the help of Nana, the cook, the maid, and assorted boarders, must somehow fashion a living for the girls. The girls are Sylvia’s delight, but she despairs of finding the money to educate them, now that Gum has gone missing. Then one of the boarders suggests that the girls might be able to go on scholarship to The Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, and in a few years time, earn a bit of money from stage performing.
This unlikely method of earning money is nonetheless met by delight from the girls and reserved willingness from Sylvia and Nana, and the girls are enrolled in Madame Fidolia’s Academy, where they will have lessons not only in acting, singing, and dancing, but also in hard work, doing your best, and finding your dreams.
Read-alikes: When I thought of books similar to this one, I came up with the Chronicles of Narnia, Louisa Alcott’s books, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books, the Series of Unfortunate Events, the Boxcar Children, the Emerald Atlas and the Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I think I would collect these books under the genre “Silbing Adventures”, and they tend to read very similarly in character interaction and plot motion, but only the Alcott’s and Burnett’s books read really closely to Ballet Shoes in terms of theme and style.Read More »
Nutshell: Meg Murray has woes. Her father disappeared during a science experiment. Her younger brother is bullied. Her teachers think she cheats. And she is at the age where she is growing into everything, gawky, flyaway, peering at the world through glasses. She wants her father to come home and solve all her problems. She’s about to find out that sometimes instead of being rescued, you have to be the rescuer.
A strange woman comes to visit Meg. The visitor, Mrs. Whatsit, seems to have an uncanny connection to her little brother, and a profound knowledge of Meg’s father. Intrigued, Meg and Charles Wallace meet Mrs. Whatsit and two of her friends at their home to talk about their father.
It turns out, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which aren’t people, and they aren’t from earth. They’re from distant planets, and Meg’s father is trapped out there. The children must travel across the galaxy to save him.
Readalikes: The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis, is like this. Very like. The Giver, by Lois Lowry and the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie are the closest of the dystopias to the dystopia section. Read More »