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Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Perhaps everyone could use a miracle, but very few will find the one they truly need.
        Amid a war torn land and hidden deep within an enchanted forest lays an orphanage where miracles abound. It’s a magical place created years ago by a resolute king who must defeat an evil sorcerer waging bitter war against his land and his people. He knew that in order to save his people, victory would require a miracle.
       A young girl named Kelsey also desperately needs a miracle. She sets out on a quest to find the whispered-of orphanage. Along the way she’s joined by several traveling companions, including an over-sized snow leopard and a boy who cannot speak. In a land under a spell cast by the evil sorcerer, it's difficult to know the difference between what's real and what isn't … and what a true friend looks like. Join Kelsey and her companions as they embark on an extraordinary adventure and a quest unlike any other and take a peek inside The Orphanage of Miracles.


Disclaimer: Novel received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.


The Orphanage of Miracles is a middle grade novel that can best be described as an allegory. A magical alternate world is used to create metaphors and impart many lessons: doing what is right, the importance of cooperation, working hard, thinking for yourself, and not believing stereotypes. All of these messages are wonderful, especially for a middle grade audience, it is the way the messages are imparted that I take issue with. 

         We follow two main characters: Kelsey, on a journey to the Orphanage to gain the means to save her village from economic ruin; and Nicholas, a resident of the Orphanage who struggles to create the miracles the place is known for. Of the two narratives Nicholas has by far the more compelling one. His experiments and observations, along with those of his friends Maggie and Jovan, have a wry humor that makes for a great reading experience. The three children have distinct characteristics and ways of viewing the world, and their friendship holds the narrative together even though all other characters are underdeveloped. 
         Kelsey's quest narrative on the other hand is burdened with too much talk and not enough action. It primarily consists of Kelsey receiving lectures by a series of people as she goes on her way. There are a set of three sisters whose only purpose is to stand at various locations and deliver unsolicited criticism to our heroine. The bulk of the middle of the novel is given over to a talking leopard named Megan literally delivering moral lessons interspersed with cryptic statements. Kelsey is told not to do something, does it anyway, is punished, as as she learns from it Megan is there to tell her what she should do and point out where she went wrong. Maybe it's me, but I found this entire section of the story extremely tedious. Maybe I'm too far outside the intended audience to appreciate it, maybe it's because I like my character growth to be better integrated into the story and not so by the numbers. 
           The novel has some interesting imagery and ideas, the lessons it imparts are valuable, but ultimately I felt that it was bogged down by a need to explicitly sermonize. The deus ex machina does't help either.

Recommended for: children age 9-12 who enjoy fantasy and don't mind a slower story. 

Three out of five jars of memories. 


     

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: The Orphanage of Miracles By Amy Neftzger

Perhaps everyone could use a miracle, but very few will find the one they truly need.
        Amid a war torn land and hidden deep within an enchanted forest lays an orphanage where miracles abound. It’s a magical place created years ago by a resolute king who must defeat an evil sorcerer waging bitter war against his land and his people. He knew that in order to save his people, victory would require a miracle.
       A young girl named Kelsey also desperately needs a miracle. She sets out on a quest to find the whispered-of orphanage. Along the way she’s joined by several traveling companions, including an over-sized snow leopard and a boy who cannot speak. In a land under a spell cast by the evil sorcerer, it's difficult to know the difference between what's real and what isn't … and what a true friend looks like. Join Kelsey and her companions as they embark on an extraordinary adventure and a quest unlike any other and take a peek inside The Orphanage of Miracles.


Disclaimer: Novel received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.


The Orphanage of Miracles is a middle grade novel that can best be described as an allegory. A magical alternate world is used to create metaphors and impart many lessons: doing what is right, the importance of cooperation, working hard, thinking for yourself, and not believing stereotypes. All of these messages are wonderful, especially for a middle grade audience, it is the way the messages are imparted that I take issue with. 

         We follow two main characters: Kelsey, on a journey to the Orphanage to gain the means to save her village from economic ruin; and Nicholas, a resident of the Orphanage who struggles to create the miracles the place is known for. Of the two narratives Nicholas has by far the more compelling one. His experiments and observations, along with those of his friends Maggie and Jovan, have a wry humor that makes for a great reading experience. The three children have distinct characteristics and ways of viewing the world, and their friendship holds the narrative together even though all other characters are underdeveloped. 
         Kelsey's quest narrative on the other hand is burdened with too much talk and not enough action. It primarily consists of Kelsey receiving lectures by a series of people as she goes on her way. There are a set of three sisters whose only purpose is to stand at various locations and deliver unsolicited criticism to our heroine. The bulk of the middle of the novel is given over to a talking leopard named Megan literally delivering moral lessons interspersed with cryptic statements. Kelsey is told not to do something, does it anyway, is punished, as as she learns from it Megan is there to tell her what she should do and point out where she went wrong. Maybe it's me, but I found this entire section of the story extremely tedious. Maybe I'm too far outside the intended audience to appreciate it, maybe it's because I like my character growth to be better integrated into the story and not so by the numbers. 
           The novel has some interesting imagery and ideas, the lessons it imparts are valuable, but ultimately I felt that it was bogged down by a need to explicitly sermonize. The deus ex machina does't help either.

Recommended for: children age 9-12 who enjoy fantasy and don't mind a slower story. 

Three out of five jars of memories. 


     

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