Keagan’s Review of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

My twelve-year-old son wrote this for his homeschool book club, and gave me permission to share it.

The Giver is a science fiction book written by Lois Lowry. It’s intended for middle-grade readers. The story’s setting is a future version of Earth where there’s no starvation, but the government strictly controls everything.

Jonas is a typical boy about to turn twelve. He is part of a community that does not know much emotional pain. But when the Giver selects him at the ceremony of twelves to be the new Receiver of Memory, a job held in high honor, Jonas learns that there will be more pain and suffering throughout his training than he has ever experienced.

What I like about the story is that there is no starvation, everyone enjoys their job, and the weather is controlled. However, there’s no snow and the government controls everything, including killing people who don’t fit in with the genetic standard.

The Giver had some emotionally intense moments, but overall, I really enjoyed the story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about determination and the preservation of life.

About The Giver

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After studying at Brown University, she married, started a family, and turned her attention to writing. She is the author of more than forty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Several books have been adapted to film and stage, and THE GIVER has become an opera. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Maine and Florida. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at www.loislowry.com


A Review of “Minecraft: The Island”

“Minecraft: The Island” by Max Brooks is the first book in an official Minecraft, multi-author, multi-adventure series aimed at middle-grade readers.

Imagine playing Minecraft in survival mode for the first time. You don’t know how anything works, and, in this scenario, no one is there to help you. No gamer guides. No online communities. Just you. Dropped into the middle of the ocean. Now imagine it’s real. That’s this book.

My son, who’s twelve and an avid reader and player of Minecraft, loved this book. In fact, the moment we finished the audiobook my son went straight for the second book in the series and was twenty to thirty pages deep by bedtime.

As a Minecraft fan myself, I enjoyed the story. It’s well-written and immersive. It did feel a little sparse and heavy-handed at times, but, it was intriguing to image real life in the world of Minecraft. And Jack Black as the audiobook narrator—Oh, Wow!—it’s impossible to imagine a more perfect match for this story.

Young fans of Minecraft fiction will enjoy Max Brook’s “Minecraft: The Island.”

“Minecraft: The Island” is available from Amazon and other book retailers.

Content Guide

Romance (low)
None.

Violence (moderate)
Fighting zombies, spiders, and other dangers. A breakdown moment where chickens are harmed. Emotional, but not graphic.

Language (low)
Name-calling, discussion of bodily functions, and a few instances talking about saying bad words, but not saying the words.

Sensitive Topics (moderate)
Survival situation where the character considers the moral dilemma of eating animals to survive.

About “Minecraft: The Island”

The first official Minecraft novel! The author of World War Z tells the story of a hero—stranded in the world of Minecraft—who must unravel the secrets of a mysterious island in order to survive.

Washed up on a beach, the lone castaway looks around the shore. Where am I? Who am I? And why is everything made of blocks? But there isn’t much time to soak up the sun. It’s getting dark, and there’s a strange new world to explore!

The top priority is finding food. The next is not becoming food. Because there are others out there on the island . . . like the horde of zombies that appears after nightfall. Crafting a way out of this mess is a challenge like no other. Who could build a home while running from exploding creepers, armed skeletons, and an unstoppable tide of hot lava? Especially with no help except for a few makeshift tools and sage advice from an unlikely friend: a cow.

In this world, the rules don’t always make sense, but courage and creativity go a long way. There are forests to explore, hidden underground tunnels to loot, and undead mobs to defeat. Only then will the secrets of the island be revealed.

Visit Amazon or Goodreads for more reviews.

About Max Brooks

The New York Times bestselling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, Max Brooks has been called “the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism.” He lives in New York City but is ready to move to a more remote and defensible location at a moment’s notice.

Max Brooks’s The Zombie Survival Guide formed the core of the world’s civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War. Mr. Brooks subsequently spent years traveling to every part of the globe in order to conduct the face-to-face interviews that have been incorporated into World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Connect with Max Brooks through his website (maxbrooks.com).


A Review of “Vincent in Wonderland”

Vincent van Gogh meets Alice in Wonderland—literally.

C.E. White’s Vincent in Wonderland is a middle-grade fantasy reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. We follow an eleven-year-old Vincent van Gogh through a burrow into Sian. There he encounters the white rabbit who introduces him to Alice. With their special abilities awakening, Vincent and Alice learn they have been brought to the newly created Sian to use their gifts to defeat the Jabberwock.

A delightful tale, Vincent in Wonderland sweeps the reader away into a world awash with vibrant color. Stunning imagery and inspiring words breathe fresh life into an adventure that includes a few familiar faces.

While the beginning pace was a little slower than I expected for a modern tale, it is quiet reminiscent of the original classic in that respect—moving along in a dream-like state. The excitement increases as the final battle scenes approach, culminating to an end ripe with heartfelt intensity and meaning.

It’s a tale fans of the original classic are sure to love. And each chapter offers a Vincent van Gogh.

Vincent in Wonderland is available on Amazon.

Content Guide

Romance (low)
Hand holding.

Violence (low)
Characters encounter death. Two battle scenes with the Jabberwock. Nothing graphic.

Language (low)
Four instances of stupid, one instance of idiot, and one instance of imbecile.

Sensitive Topics (low)
Death and grief. Suitable for intended audience.

About Vincent in Wonderland

A prequel to The Worlds Next Door.

11-year-old Vincent van Gogh discovers a curious new world through a tunnel on the moor. A mysterious white rabbit introduces Vincent to Alice, and their quest begins—defeat the dreaded Jabberwock before it consumes all of Wonderland. 

A slithy tove, an ill-tempered caterpillar, and the Cheshire cat meet them along the path as their adventures take them through fields dancing with flowers, tangled forests, and looking-glass pools.

But all is not what it seems in Wonderland, and Vincent may not have— and may not want— what it takes to succeed. Destroying the Jabberwock may cost more than he’s willing to give.

Visit Amazon for more details and reviews.

About C.E. White

C.E White is an author and collage artist living in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and two cats. She loves whimsy, fairy gardens, and the Oxford comma. She also delights in rainy days spent on her porch with long books and large cups of coffee. Vincent in Wonderland is the prequel to her first book, The Worlds Next Door.

“One of the most impactful things I’ve learned from reading other-world stories is contentment. So many of my favorite characters had to travel to other worlds to find that what they wanted most was right in front of them. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis taught me about faith and perseverance and forgiveness. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which I remember reading in one sitting as a child, taught me about hope and resilience and friendship. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie taught me that we all have to grow up, and that maybe that’s not a bad thing. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle taught me to be OK with not fitting in. I don’t think I ever read a story that made me a worse person.” – C.E. White

​Connect with C.E. White on Instagram (@cewhitebooks), Twitter (@cewhitebooks) or on her website (cewhitebooks.com).