Sharon Reads: Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody is a new look at the time of Robin Hood, from a completely new angle. Thirteen year old Will Shakley is the son of a lord, and has led a fairly charmed life. However, when his father is off at war fighting beside King Richard the winds change and treason is in the air. Will ends up in the forest struggling to survive. It is there that we all met up with a group of bandits. Through their trials and adventures young Will is a part of Robin Hood’s rise to power and fame.

This is an exciting tale that will keep boys and girls from around 9 through high school interested. The story follows a thirteen year old struggling with his own identity and values. He faces challenges many of us cannot directly relate too, like fights with wolves, crazy chases through the woods, facing off with a bandit leader, and quite the fire. However the story also brings up things anyone today could face, such as dealing with an over protective mother, coping with an absentee father, and trying to live up with the exceptions others have for him. The adventures of Will and the unlikely crew of comrades he acquires has moments that made me want to hold my breath to see how things turned out, while others just had me reading faster so that I discover how everything would turn out in the end. Cody certainly offered a fan of the Robin Hood legends a fresh look at Rob, Little John, Sir Guy, the Sheriff, and the rest. I also appreciated the addition of Much, who really pulled through and saved the day on more than one occasion. I think readers new to the legend might find this a great motivator to take a look at other versions of the story.

I highly recommend Will in Scarlet to all middle grade readers. The book had serious elements, excitement, and humor. Above all else, Cody does not dumb anything down just because he is writing for children and young adults. It is intelligently written, with a authentic feel in the dialogue. The details and politics of the day are well described, because they are central to the plot, but in a way that might inspire further research or reading more historical fiction rather than feeling educational. I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  (This review was originally published on Sharon the Librarian.)

Sharon Reads: The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson

The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson is a children’s chapter book. This is a previously unpublished work from a well known author, following a family of yetis who are forced to leave their home in the Himalayas and make their way across Europe to a possible new home. Siblings Con and Ellen shepherd the yetis along their eventful journey, with the help of Perry, a good-natured truck driver. Through a mountain rescue in the Alps and a bullfight in Spain, the yetis at last find their way to an ancestral estate in England—only to come upon a club of voracious hunters who have set their sights on the most exotic prey of all: the Abominable Snowmen.

The Abominables is a fun story full of crazy incidents that keep the reader turning pages. As a child, Abigail is stolen from her father’s tent while on an expedition. Her kidnapper means no harm, only needs some help raising his young adominables. This introduction to the world of the adominables brings readers to a place where what most consider imaginary monsters, to be very much like man. Abigail teaches the adominables that she lives with to read, speak, and have good manners. When tourism threatens their home, Abigail sends her ‘family’ to her original home in search of safety. The journey is much more exciting than the travelers were prepared for. Just think about a long trip in the back of a truck with four adominables and a very confused yak. The illustrations scattered throughout the book from Fiona Robinson add a level of humor and aid the imagination perfectly, without overwhelming the reader.

I would highly recommend The Abominables to readers that are fans of the late, great Eva Ibbotson. Readers that enjoy animal stories, humor, and adventure will greatly enjoy the story. I am a little unsure on my age recommendations as I think readers around 8 and older would be my best guess. However, there is quite a bit about animal rights and cruelty so some of the youngest set might be upset by. However, (spoiler) every character gets their happy ending so that might be enough to make the mild upset worth the big happy that is sure to follow. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.