Tag Archives: children’s chapter books

Book Review: The Defenders of Practavia, by J. A. Menzies

The Defenders of Practavia, by J. A. Menzies (That’s Life! Communications, second edition 2021)

Two twelve-year-old friends—and a Talking Camel—may be the only hope for a kingdom in danger in this middle-grade epic fantasy novel from author J. A. Menzies.

We have a princess who’s so strong-willed even her mother calls her Princess Persnickety. And we have her unlikely friend, Stefan the stable boy. Soon, they’re joined by Creed the Talking Camel (in a kingdom where Talking Animals are the stuff of fairytales) and the adventure begins.

This book would be ideal for a child who’s an avid reader and isn’t afraid of adult-level words like “persnickety,” or for adults who enjoy reading to children. The narrative has a definite read-aloud feel, with perhaps more description than I expect most kids to want to tackle. Having said that, I heartily encourage them to tackle it—it won’t take long for the story to hook them.

There’s plenty to appeal to kids—and kid-like adults—with the children taking front stage in the action despite the adults’ attempts to keep them out of danger. There are satisfying moments of bad guys being conked by frying pans or running into just-shut doors. There are the previously mentioned Talking Animals, along with a secret history of the kingdom.

For the map-lovers among us, there’s also a map. And for the series-lovers, book 2 is in the works. This story finishes with this book, but there’s definitely scope for more. There’s still a potential threat to the realm, and Stefan, an adopted son of loving parents, finishes book 1 with a growing desire to discover his family history.

J. A. Menzies is the alter-ego of author N. J. Lindquist. Between the two names, this Canadian author has produced mysteries for adults, contemporary coming-of-age stories for young adults, nonfiction material, and now a middle-grade epic fantasy. For more about the author and her books, visit jamenzies.com and njlindquist.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Mrs. B Has Cancer, by Glynis Belec

Mrs. B Has Cancer, by Glynis M. BelecMrs. B Has Cancer, by Glynis Belec (Angel Hope Publishing, 2013)

Tristan has a bit of trouble learning in school, but his tutor, Mrs. B, makes learning fun. Now Mrs. B says she has cancer, and she won’t be able to teach him for a while.

That means less homework, which is great. It means school will get harder. Not so great. Worse still, his grandfather had cancer, and he died. Will Mrs. B die?

In this chapter book for early readers, Tristan and his friends ask a lot of questions. They also decide to do something to help: they’ll hold a “Cancel Cancer” party to raise money for research and encourage Mrs. B.

Cancer is something we don’t talk a lot about, especially to children. But when it affects a loved one, kids’ questions and reactions may be different from adults’. This story looks at the issue from a child’s-eye view and is designed to take away some of the fear.

Although Mrs. B Has Cancer is fiction, it comes out of the author’s personal journey through ovarian cancer and some of the material is drawn fairly closely from real life.

This is a book to benefit any school library or family bookshelf. No cancer in sight? So much the better. That’s a safer time to explore the subject.

Canadian author Glynis Belec has also written for adults about her cancer experience in the anthology, A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. She’s the author of the children’s picture books Jailhouse Rock and Jesus Washes Peter’s Feet, as well as a number of other anthology pieces for adults. To learn more, visit Glynis M. Belec on the web.

[Review copy provided by the author.]