A Notes from the Windowsill annotated bibliography by Wendy E. Betts. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
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Last Updated 06/13/08
(Click for Fiction, ages 5-12, Young Adult Fiction and nonfiction )
The Looking Book by Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. Little, Brown, 2002 (0-316-36328-6) $15.95
Readers who enjoy “search and find” books will go to town with this story. As a boy named Ned takes a rhyming trip through the 28 pages of the book, in search of his missing cat Pistachio, sharp-eyed readers can find items to count on every page, notice silly details (signposts show it’s 6 miles from page 6 to page 7, but 7 miles from page 7 to page 6) and even spy Pistachio, constantly on his way to the next page. The illustrations use paper cut-outs, multiple fonts and odd perspectives for a zany, stylized look. (4-8)
Kipper’s A to Z written and illustrated by Mick Inkpen. Hodder, 2000; Red Wagon, 2005 (0-15-205441-3) $7.00 pb
Children who already have some familiarity with the alphabet will enjoy this book from its first page, in which Kipper the dog tells a small zebra, “We won’t need you till much, much later.” As Kipper and his friend Arnold embark on a meandering alphabetical adventure, the Zebra keeps popping in to ask for its turn. Finally, “Yy is for Yes!” it’s time for “Zz is for Zebra!” Despite the self-referential humor, this is not an overly sophisticated book: big, bright pages with plenty of white space are easy on the eyes, and familiar, frequently repeated words offer lots of potential success for beginning readers. (3-7)
Tickle the Duck written and illustrated by Ethan Long. LB Kids, 2005 (0-316-00102-3) $10.99
Any parent whose child has a love-hate relationship with being tickled will smile at this novelty book, which features a belligerent duck admonishing “Don’t you dare!” on the cover. The duck sternly tells us exactly where not to tickle her–a soft downy underarm, or a rubbery foot; “touch and feel” has never been more fun. Finally the duck admits that a little tickle is okay, and ends the book snorting, “do it again.” A nice choice for sibling reading. (2-6)
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! written and illustrated by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2003 (0-7868-1988-X) $12.99
“Listen,” says a friendly bus driver on the title page of this book, “I’ve got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” As soon as he steps off the copyright page, the pigeon pokes its head onto the dedication page. “I thought he’d never leave.” the Pigeon comments, pausing for a page before saying, “Hey, can I drive the bus?” Thus begins a book-long plea, as the pigeon comes up with every possible way to beg us to drive the bus–but of course we, the all-powerful readers, never let him. How delicious! Simplicity is at its most expressive in these illustrations, with a crayon-outlined pigeon made up of just a few simple shapes, who nonetheless manages to convey a different emotion in almost every scene, from nonchalance to disgust to wistful dreaminess. * (2 & up)
Fiction, ages 5-12
Teller of Tales by William J. Brooke. HarperCollins, 1994 (0-06-023399-0); HarperTrophy, 1995 (0-06-440511-7) $5.95 trade pb
“Valorian scratched his head. `It’s not much of a fairy tale, is it? I mean, there’s no magic in it. And it’s a little like some stories I’ve heard before, but not enough to make it amusing.'”
It isn’t hard to fracture a fairy tale; far harder is usefully mending it again. In this enchanting interweaving of stories and a story, the classic fairy tales take on new life for an old purpose–to express things that can’t be said, to show things people try not to see.
The first story, “The Emperor’s Clothes are News,” a wryly comical tale even more ironical than the original, introduces Teller, a scribe dedicated to reporting what he hears, and the little girl, a defiantly independent homeless urchin. When Teller’s reports about the emperor’s clothes–or lack of them–cause havoc in the empire, the emperor orders him to “stay away from politics and current events. Perhaps something harmless like the old fairy tales would be best for you.” And since Teller never learned fairy tales, the little girl is ordered to stay with him and tell them.
Still reporting what he hears, but now also listening to the voices inside his head, Teller reinterprets the stories–Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks–to answer his own questions: “`Why would anyone make such a foolish boast?. . . And why would the little man want a human child? And why would he admit that she had guessed his name? She had no proof, so why not just deny it?'” But the stories are far more than answers to questions: they are his only way to talk to the little girl, so scarred and angry at life that she won’t allow anyone to care about her. Only through his stories can Teller share with her his vision of who she is and who she might become, if she can break out of her shell of rage and mistrust and learn to listen to her own inner voices.
Reminiscent of Eleanor Farjeon’s classic fairy tale-about-fairy tales, Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, Teller of Tales is similarly satisfying in its use of echoes and allusions to enrich a very poignant story. Teller of Tales is lighter, funnier and takes a far more enlightened view of romance, but it is also a truly magical book. * (8 & up)
Step by Wicked Step by Anne Fine. Little, Brown, 1996; Dell Yearling, 1997 (0-440-41329-X) $3.99 pb
Five barely acquainted children, picked at seeming random, arrive ahead of the rest of their school at old Harwick Hall, a desolate–some say haunted–mansion. In the light from a flash of lighting they discover a hidden room, and in it, a dust-covered manuscript: the tragic life-story of Richard Harwick, who ran away from home after his mother’s remarriage and lost his entire family.
Sounds like the beginning of a bad gothic novel, doesn’t it? But as Claudia, Pixie, Rob, Ralph and Colin read Richard’s story, they realize just what it is that the five of them have in common: each of them, like Richard, has a stepfamily. And what had seemed to be a night for horror becomes instead “a night for stories”: their own stories about stepparents, told “step by wicked step.”
An unusually believable and insightful look at the aftermath of divorce and remarriage, Step by Wicked Step leaves almost no story untold. Claudia’s story is a fairly simple one of deciding that it’s not fair to hate her new stepmother; Pixie comes to a more complex understanding that her new stepmother is having as much trouble “adjusting” as she is. Ralph shares the problems of having more than one stepmother come and go; Rob describes the unexpected outcome of his sister’s antagonistic relationship with their stepfather. The saddest story is Colin’s: as far as he was concerned, his stepfather was his father–but his mother saw things differently.
Step by Wicked Step shows that sometimes stepfamily stories end happily ever after and sometimes they don’t–especially when, as too often happens, children’s feelings are unnoticed, ignored or not taken seriously. But as the five come to realize, Richard Hardwick’s solution is never the right answer. * (8 & up)
I, Trissy by Norma Fox Mazer. Delacorte, 1971 (OP)
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one father to give his daughter a typewriter… she knows it’s a bribe…” types Trissy. Although she has no intention of being bribed into accepting her parents’ separation, Trissy can’t help using the typewriter to express what’s on her mind: her “nine practical suggestions” to her mother to “increase your chances of persuading my father to come live with us again,” her badly mislaid plans to make up with her angry best friend, and her dramatic and messy response to finding a cake–attached to a note from an unknown woman–in her father’s apartment.
Telling her story through her typing of original fairy tales, plays, “news bulletins” and even comical illustrations, Trissy believably and sympathetically reveals herself as an imaginative, impulsive girl who can’t seem to stay out of trouble despite her best–or sometimes worst–intentions. And through her creative efforts, she also tells us the truth about her life she is trying to hide from herself, inadvertently exposing the traumatic effects of her fierce denial of reality.
Trissy’s outspoken comments are so funny, and the structure of her story is so lively and clever, it’s easy to miss how serious this book actually is. Its light but hardly superficial examination of a painful subject is a wonderful example of how sophisticated writing can save a familiar “problem novel” subject from the trap of dreary didacticism. In a subtle, ironic ending, Mazer also reveals that Trissy’s typewriter was in some ways a dangerous tool, making it far too easy for her to rewrite her history; Trissy’s switch to a handwritten diary at the end exemplifies her decision to “from now on, stick to the facts.” It will probably be much better for her–but certainly wouldn’t make as good a story. (10 & up)
Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson. Viking, 1997 (0-670-86954-6) $13.99
“Choosing a new book was like looking for a treasure. Theo always took a good long time. First she examined some paperbacks on a revolving stand. But they were mostly novels about one girl or one boy with a problem… That wasn’t what she wanted… This new library was the best kind–it didn’t throw out its old books. They looked ugly, with their thick, plain covers. But the dull outsides concealed the best stories.”
Almost from its beginning, I knew Awake and Dreaming was going to be a story that would resonate strongly with me. Like its heroine, I was a poor child of a single mother, moved around a lot, and found most of my comfort in books, especially stories about large, happy families. (The above passage ends with Theo joyfully discovering All-of-a-Kind Family.) But even as I relished the description of Theo’s attitude towards books, I was struck by its irony: because Awake and Dreaming already seemed very much a “one girl with a problem” kind of story itself. To my delight, it turned out that that very paradox is actually the heart of this unusual and fascinating story.
Neglected by her mother and too miserable to make friends, nine-year- old Theo lives in books as much as possible. “Her favorites were stories about families or stories about magic. Perfect books combined both.” And Theo knows exactly what she would do, if somehow she could find some magic: “There would be four children, two boys and two girls. She would be the fifth, cozily in the middle with an older brother and sister to protect her, and younger ones to play with. There would be a calm mother and father who never yelled or hit…” It is just when Theo needs magic the most, when her mother is leaving her with an unknown aunt while she goes off with a boyfriend, that she finds her wish coming bizarrely true; somehow her mother disappears and she is at home with the Kaldors, the absolutely perfect family of her dreams. But is it actually a dream? And if it is, what will happen when she wakes up?
I can’t dwell on the plot of this book without destroying a number of beautifully wrought surprises. But this isn’t simply a story that makes you gasp at its clever twists and turns; contained within them is a wonderfully insightful examination of the lines between reality, fantasy and fiction, and of the meanings of fiction in children’s lives. The latter is something I’ve been trying to explore in nonfiction for years; it is astonishing and deeply satisfying to see it explored in fiction itself.
Awake and Dreaming isn’t a perfect book, partly for reasons which are inherent to its structure: it is actually necessary that several portions of the book be rather dull. It’s also flawed by some implausible dialogue and too much “telling” instead of “showing”; perhaps, on the whole, it really is more satisfying as a commentary on fiction than as fiction itself. But even just as that it offers terrific rewards–especially for lovers of children’s literature, who may find new ways to understand why these books mean so much to them. (8 & up)
Love from Your Friend, Hannah by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky. DK Publishing, 1998; HarperTrophy, 1999 (0-06-440746-2) $5.95 pb
I hope it may be a sign of a change in the mood of children’s fiction, that the two happiest books I’ve read in ages are set in a poor urban neighborhood (Jonah the Whale) and during the Great Depression. If there’s one thing this book is not, it’s depressing; I smiled all the way through it.
Hannah Diamond is looking for someone to write to: her best friend Aggie has moved away and never answers any of her letters. But trying the “pen pals” box at school only gets her “two measly lines and an unfriendly P.S.” from a BOY. So Hannah decides to take her problem straight to the top, asking President Roosevelt to help her find a pen pal. It’s the beginning of some wonderful correspondences, as Hannah finds herself writing to the president, his wife and his secretary, as well as to her grandmother, a friendly drifter who stopped by her parent’s restaurant, and the recalcitrant Aggie. And by the end of the book she has found the pen pal she most wanted, a true friend, in a most unexpected place. Writing about the world around her–her parent’s roadside diner, her secret spot on top of a mountain, her Jewish grandparent’s candy store–as well as her thoughts and feelings, Hannah creates a distinctive time and setting. It’s a world that has its share of troubles, but the mood of the times is optimistic–and we see the ultimate benefits of that optimism played out throughout the story.
Hannah’s letters, and their replies, also create relationships; even the characters who never write letters themselves, like Hannah’s mother and father, acquire clear personalities, seen through Hannah’s eyes. Hannah herself is the most vivid personality: her warmth, imagination and sincerity are unmistakable. Her reluctant pen pal Edward Winchley is a match for her, a wryly funny boy whose letters slowly reveal the sadness of his life. When Edward begins to change, in response to Hannah’s letters, we believe it, because we believe in both of them.
I can’t wait to read more books about Hannah. I wish she would write to me. * (8 & up)
Intermediate and Young Adult (10 & up)
Twin Branch, Kentuck may be a small town, but it’s full of interesting characters just waiting to be turned into stories. So when Bobby Lee Pomeroy sees an ad for a mail order writing school–“Turn stories into dollars!”–she’s sure it will change her life. And in it’s own way, it does. This fresh and funny epistolary novel chronicles a young girl’s growth from a naive dreamer who thinks of writing as a way to get rich quick into an educated young woman who has learned to value herself and her talent. Along the way she has many funny and bittersweet tales to tell about small town life during World War II, in a voice that’s lively, wry, yet homey: “I saw the two of them up at the Five and Dime looking into each other’s eyes like they were counting the specks.” “My heart was fluttering like paper caught in an electric fan.” Although Bobby Lee’s voice has some narrative limitations and is even occasionally marred by anachronistic slang, she is a memorable and inspiring character. (10 & up)
This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis. Little, Brown, 2007 (978-0-316-01363-5) $16.99
I’m glad I can show the cover of this book here, because I think it could be considered part of the title–that colon is quite deliberate. A lot of this book is about not saying anything, and how in a way, that is still saying something.
This… is a sort of mystery–it’s a little reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in spots–and I have to confess that I read ahead to discover the secret, because the suspenseful slow reveal was just killing me. Once I knew what had actually happened, I was able to settle down and enjoy reading. Narrated by thirteen year old Logan, it is a terse, disturbing story, told in dribs and drabs of statements and reported dialogue, a far bit of which is blank:
Patsy: You must be Logan. Me: Patsy: Well, I've got a son your exact age. His name is Bruce. Me: Patsy: You are just going to love him. He's a doll. Me: Patsy: Are you okay?
Logan does talk, some of the time, but much of his life is spent not knowing what to do or say; particularly now, when he is burdened both by being a target of severe bullying and by tremendous guilt about a time in his life when he failed to act.
Logan writes in short vignettes, which are separated by small graphics on each page. There’s a kicker at the end of almost each one, such as this:
He was sort of riding slower than usual. I should have guessed then. I should have known something was going to happen. Why did it have to happen, Zyler?
That example is one I thought a bit overdone for effect, but mostly the style is very effective. It feels like we’re in someone else’s mind, a mind which moves a little differently than ours perhaps.. It works to draw us into an outsider’s perspective and create empathy for someone we might otherwise despise a little.
This… is a shocking story at times, and also very sad, but very worth reading. The ending has a triumphant aspect, but is far from pat. Although Logan has no diagnosis (that we are told about, anyway), I think it would be especially interesting to readers looking for stories about special needs kids, and/or about bullying, though it could be enjoyed by most readers just as a suspenseful and emotional read. * (13 & up)
3 NBs of Julian Drew by James M. Deem. Houghton Mifflin, 1994 (0-395-69453-1) $14.95; Avon Fkare, 1996 (0-380-72587-8) $4.50 pb
“ABBREVs + NOs: 170V3them. THEY don’t sound like words. THEY don’t look like words. THEY sound + look like secret code. THEY don’t scare me or my pen.”
Four years ago, under great stress, Julian Drew chose to have “a mouth that could not produce many words,” a mouth kept tightly closed to “stop words from falling out.” Sometimes, though, the urge to communicate is stronger even than the urge for self-preservation, and so Julian turns to a notebook, struggling to let out the secrets he has learned to keep inside, using his own form of code to step around the words that hurt too much.
Writing to someone from his past he calls U, whom he desperately misses, Julian describes how the adults in his life, “43” and “543,” abuse him–barely feeding him, constantly accusing him of wrongdoing, and keeping him locked away in a garage with no bathroom. Only his love for his little sister Emma keeps him from running away. Then he realizes that Emma is happy as she is, with no memories of the past that haunts him–and there is no longer anything to stop him from getting away, from trying to get back, so he can find U once more.
This fascinating, compelling novel well repays the initial effort of deciphering it. Julian’s strange writing–not that difficult once you’ve gotten the hang of it–gives us the story in tantalizing bites, becoming more and more revealing as he slowly conquers his need to distort his own words. But the code is more than a gimmick to obfuscate the plot: it is doorway into a very troubled mind. From the start, there is an element of uncertainty as to whether Julian is genuinely being abused or is just psychotic; his mental measuring of cereal bowls every morning–“mine always has less. Sometimes a lot less, sometimes only a little”–sounds more like paranoia than child abuse. He himself recognizes the difficulty of making his problems seem important: “How can I do this? How can I write a (true) sentence that explains what it is like to be cheated and tortured with a small bowl of cereal and a glass of water?” I’m not sure that Julian–or the author–does quite succeed in explaining it; although the picture of neglect, indifference and active malice against Julian does becomes clear, he seems more disturbed than events alone really justify. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant portrait of a troubled person, and of the ways even a troubled person can find to help himself–perhaps the strongest part of the portrait is that despite everything, Julian is far from helpless. The ending is especially insightful, offering hope for Julian’s survival without denying the damage that may never be healed. * (12 & up)
Zap by Paul Fleischman. Candlewick, 2005 (0-7636-2774-7) $16.99
A play-within-seven-plays, this frenetic comedy begs to be staged, but is also very fun to read. For easily bored modern audiences, this “world premiere performance” allows audience members to vote to change to one of seven different plays whenever the action flags. But as the changes become more frequent–and as one of the plays, an improvised performance art piece, reveals far too much about the actors in the other plays–scenes and actors begin to collide. A bit reminiscent of the farce Noises Off in its illusory breaking of the fourth wall and absurd backstage revelations (artificial buttocks; regretted sex-change operations), Zap is also similar in having no real closure; it’s just for laughs. Luckily it succeeds well in providing them. (12 & up)
Donorboy by Brendan Halpin. Villard, 2004 (1-4000-6277-2) $12.95 trade
The set-up–teenage girl goes to live with completely unknown biological father after her two lesbian mothers are killed by a truck carrying Turducken–seems to be aiming for the surreal, but this story is well grounded in the realities of grief.
Rosalind and her “father” Sean have never met, though he knows her a little better than she realizes: as a one-time donor for two women he admired, he felt unable to take on the responsibility of being a father to her, but has kept tabs on her life. Now Rosalind is parentless and Sean, also left motherless at a young age, feels both empathy for her and a yearning to do something meaningful with his somewhat empty life. As Rosalind struggles through the mix of pain, numbness and anger that has become her life, Sean struggles to deal with being the parent of of a hostile, rebellious teenager who can’t forgive him for not being her moms.
Told through a “grief journal,” emails, and recordings from school conferences, this is a poignant story that also astutely uncovers the kind of biting humor that arises from situations of deep pain. Although parts of the story don’t always ring true–particularly Sean’s almost instantly deep and unconditional love for an almost stranger who is being an utter shit to him–it is compulsively readable. Donorboy wasn’t published as a YA book and includes (gasp!) adult perspectives, not to mention the word “fuck” around every other sentence, but mature teen readers will undoubtedly take it to their hearts. (14 & up)
Letters to Julia by Barbara Ware Holmes. HarperCollins, 1997 (0-06-027341-0) $14.95
Imagine a contemporary YA novel written by an author channeling L .M. Montgomery and you might get a feel for what Letters to Julia is like. The soul of “Emily of New Moon” pervades this epistolary novel about a beauty-loving young writer trying to cope with her obsessively feuding parents and finding the mentoring she needs from a sympathetic editor.
Liz Beech is fifteen when she first writes to Julia Jones–the editor of her English teacher’s best friend’s sister–but she already knows that she is destined to be a writer, and she is already suffering the loneliness of a misunderstood artist. “No one ever seems to care whether things are interesting or beautiful. Or else their idea of interesting and beautiful is so different from mine that I can’t relate.” Julia Jones agrees to read Liz’s work, and her encouraging letters give Liz a sense of connection she desperately needs, living in a world where, “there’s nobody here from my tribe.” But Julia, who is feeling lonely and directionless after the death of her parents, also needs something from Liz’s friendship, perhaps more than Liz is able to give.
Told in the form of Liz and Julia’s letters, chapters from Liz’s novel and entries in her journal–which she tries, but fails to keep as “The Journal of a Literary Person” and not a diary–Letters to Julia is a stimulating look at the growth of a friendship and the blossoming of an artist. I was sometimes disappointed in the plot, which goes in some unexpected and (to me) unsatisfying directions, but the individual characters of Liz and Julia shine brightly and sincerely through their letters. The less sympathetic characters aren’t as successful–in particular, Liz’s crazy family never seems real–but Liz and Julia’s passionate responses to the beauty of literature and poetry and art are so compellingly drawn, other young artists will yearn to be able to join in their conversation. (11 & up)
Totally Joe by James Howe. Atheneum, 2005 (0-689-83957-X) $15.95
I have often found Howe’s books sweet–in the best possible way–and this time he had me going “awww…” in various different tones practically through the entire book. This follow-up to The Misfits is narrated by Joe, aka Jodan, aka JoDan, who is writing an “alphabiography” for school. A is naturally for his good friend Addie, another of “the misfits,” B is for boy, a concept he has always had some trouble with, and C, amazingly enough, is for Colin, his BOYFRIEND! (Being twelve and as yet unthrilled by the idea of “exchanging saliva,” for Joe having a boyfriend is mostly about hanging out together and dressing up as Bert and Ernie for Halloween–after deciding it’s too unnerving to be the lovers from “Titanic,” on the driftwood.) As Joe works down the alphabet, he tells a story that is equal parts funny, touching and fabulous, as he comes to accept himself and fight for his right to be different.
A walking–or as he would insist, dancing–effeminate stereotype, Joe’s genuine emotions transcend his love of bridal magazines and Cher, making him a hero anyone can relate to. * (10 & up)
Letters from the Inside by John Marsden. Houghton Mifflin, 1994 (0-395-68985-6); Laurel-Leaf, 2006 (0-440-21951-5) $5.99 pb
Tracey placed her pen pal ad “for a joke.” Mandy answered it because “it’s a boring Sunday here.” Both are just ordinary teenage girls, writing to each other for fun. Or are they? In this brilliant, shattering novel, the epistolary form is materfully used to develop plot and character as two girls–strangers to each other–by turns conceal and reveal their deepest secrets in their letters. For each, the correspondence offers a possibility of hope and change that they desperately need–but it may not be enough. This is a gut-wrenching, unforgettable story about damage and despair, about the human need to cry for help and the dark forces that destroy chances for salvation. * (14 & up)
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jacklyn Moriarty. St. Martin’s Press, 2001 (0-312-26923-4) $16.95; Griffin, 2003 (0-312-228736-4) $12.95 pb
Elizabeth Clarry’s life is full of letters: notes from her mom, who always seems to have just gone out, required letters to a stranger in another school, and the caustic internal messages she gets almost constantly from organizations like “The Cold Hard Truth Association,” “The Best Friends Club,” and “The Association of Teenagers,” almost all of which find Elizabeth pretty much a failure at being who she’s supposed to be. But when some of these letters lead her to new and unusual places in the real world, Elizabeth discovers some truths about friendship that the “Best Friends Club” never told her–and some truths about herself that leave “The Association of Teenagers” eating her dust.
I’m a sucker for high-concept YA books, but this one strained plausibility a bit too much for me at first–especially the little notes of Elizabeth’s mom, who always seems to be just around the corner of Elizabeth’s life. But the book perks up so much with the arrival of the letters of “the complete and utter stranger,” Christina–“I think the best way to forge ties between our schools is for us to swap homework”–that the many coincidences and dramatic absurdities of the plot seem relatively unimportant, and the general mood of the book is upbeat and fun.
Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. 1988; Harcourt, 2003 (0-15-204615-1) $17.00; 2004 (0-15-205300-X) $6.95 pb
A Regency England in which magic is commonplace is the setting for this lighthearted romp. Separated during Kate’s London Season, cousins Cecelia and Kate accidentally run afoul of several wicked magic-doers, causing many hair-raising adventures, which they faithfully detail to each other in their frequent letters. The convoluted, action-filled plot is not always ideally suited to the epistolary format, but the tone is generally amusing. I can’t imagine why, having quite reasonably decided to reprint this as a book for young adults, the publishers gave it such a dreary, albeit historically accurate, cover.
The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Harcourt, 2004 (0-15-204616-X) $17.00
The sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia (see above) joins our now married heroines on their joint honeymoon, as recounted in “the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality.” Despite their respectable married state, trouble is still never far behind Kate and Cecy, who inevitably stumble across some dangerous and magical mysteries on the Continent. Sometimes delightfully funny, and with the occasional romantic interlude–this is a honeymoon, after all–this sequel should please fans of the first book. I’m glad to see a more appealing cover this time around; hopefully older readers won’t be put off by the fact that the heroines now look about thirteen years old.