MrsK's K-8 Books Worth Reading

my best-reads-for-k-8 shelf:
MrsK Books's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (best-reads-for-k-8 shelf)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

A Plague of Unicorns
ISBN: 9780310746485
Publisher's Synopsis:
Young James, an earl’s son, is a bit bothersome and always asking the oddest questions. In despair—the last of James’ tutors having quit—his mother sends him off to be educated at Cranford Abbey. She feels the strict regimen will do him a world of good. But Cranford Abbey has its own problems. It has been falling into disrepair. The newly appointed Abbot Aelian takes it upon himself to save the abbey with the use of his secret weapon: a recipe for golden apple cider passed down in his family for many generations. He believes that by making and selling the cider, the monks will raise necessary funds to restore the abbey to its former glory. Abbot Aelian has everything he needs—almost. One obstacle stands in his way, unicorns that happen to feast specifically on the golden apples. Abbot Aelian and his men must fight off the unicorns to make the cider. He and the monks try to form a battalion to fight off the beasts; next they import heroes to fight for them. But the heroes run off, monks are injured, and a herd of ravenous unicorns continue munching. After no success, the abbot finally calls upon the most unlikely of heroes, one suggested by no other than young James. That hero is small and unprepossessing but possesses the skill to tame the beasts. Though wildly skeptical, Abbot Aelian must risk everything and believe in this recommended stranger or risk the fall of Cranford Abbey.

In that first autumn of Aelian's rule,
when the golden apples were at their ripest,
the battle lines were drawn---
monks against unicorns.

MrsK's Review:
Everything about this journey is beautifully crafted! How can anyone stop the unicorns from eating the golden apples? Will a young boy be the answer in saving the Cranford Abbey?

At first you learn of Cranford Abbey's apples, especially the Hosannah apples which "were a startling gold" color, yet not worth eating. So for such a long time no one was bothered by the unicorns dining on these apples. 
"A lone unicorn may be a magnificent animal,
full of rare enchantment and beauty. 
in a herd they can prove exceedingly cranky
and exceptionally dangerous if disturbed,
especially while eating golden apples."

So the first few abbots did not consider the Hosannah apples worth any "battle." involvement. That is until the abbey needed repairs and until Abbot Aelian was appointed to Cranford Abbey. As if divinely inspired, Abbot Aelian had a rare recipe for Golden Apple Cider... which by the way could provide a source of income for those Abbey repairs. Now how would you go about keeping the herd of unicorns out of the orchard? Before you decide, please keep in mind that monks "do not believe" in harming any animal unless it's for food. Although, it is fair to say that unicorns had "no care about monks" especially since they have "very sharp horns."

I cannot spoil the story line, let's just say that the first attempts at ridding the unicorns from the orchard caused many of the young boys to suffer with "screaming nightmares." Not even the long line of Heroes (possibly connected by an underground hero network), could withstand the torture of the battle. It is rumored that they came back "white-faced and shaking."

We know that there is power in prayer, but could a young boy of eight with a smudge on his nose be the answer? You see, not so far away (just about three days travel), there was a young boy (who just happens to have a smudge on his nose). James, the maybe heir to the dukedom of Callanshire, is naturally concerned with the many answers he must know. Of course it is not clear what he knows about the unicorn battle at the Abbey. Suffice it to say, he is more concerned about learning all of the answers for all of his questions. You will soon discover that once James turns nine, he will be sent to Cranford Abbey. Interesting don't you think?

Once the monks learned that James could read and write he is turned over to Brother Luke (who is an Illuminator):
"Now this is what it would look like in italics... 
To James' astonishment, the pen left not a spot or a blot.
The ink flowed across the scroll like a river in a flood,
with waves capped by little curlicues."

Learning the art of Illumination was a beautiful thing, yet helping to rid the unicorns from the orchard and setting traps seemed a bit more to his liking. So as it was James' way, he begins his quest to help. With his very first encounter with the unicorns... he became proclaimed the "true hero of the day." He is given an audience with the Abbot in which a plan is formed, with a few exceptions of course.

Sorry but this adventure will only continue if you read the book,
A great fantasy for any independent reader...
Add it to your Library shelves!
 Meet the Author:
 A Pciture of Jane smiling  Jane Yolen is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.
Jane Yolen’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

A few of my favorites:
 Merlin and the Dragons
Owl Moon   How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?   My Father Knows the Names of Things 
Stone Angel   Hush, Little Horsie    Commander Toad in Space   Piggins
Dragon's Blood (Pit Dragon Chronicles Series #1)  The Devil's Arithmetic   The Hostage Prince   The Dragon's Boy  The Young Merlin Trilogy: Passager, Hobby, and Merlin
Where Have the Unicorns Gone?   Here There Be Dragons

"I received this book for free from for this review." 

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MrsK's Reading Bio

Reading is important! No questions asked, not even a blink of the eye from any student I grew up with. On the first day of the First grade, we were given our first books. Day two we all read aloud, round robin of course. Day three we were place in our first basal, now known as a lit circle group. Books were so important, publishers designed new curriculum so that every student was reading by the end of the first week. These early readers had images that looked like what we could see in the classroom, beyond the classroom, even on the big screen. Reading is important, throughout history every generation has believed that “Reading” opens up the world for endless possibilities.

I adore the 1950’s Dick and Jane books. Actually, most reading specialists and experienced (45+) educators believe that every student learned to read with Dick and Jane. Since these books are being re-issued, I have heard many parents, grandparents, and students claim that Dick and Jane stories of repetition does teach students to read.

Early influences from my mother influenced my desire to read. I would watch her read and we would go on “secret” excursions to the library. The library became my playground. I owned every book I could carry home, of course they needed to be taken back to their home after visiting with me for a week or two. My first book that I could pull off of the library shelf and read was, Father Bear Comes Home. I only saw my dad on Sundays for a few hours. I would pull this beginning reader off of the library shelf every week. Every week I would try to read the first chapter. Every week I got further in the story. My mom would let me check it out, only if I could read it myself (She didn’t like the illustrations therefore she didn’t want to take time to read it to me). One day, I pulled the book from the shelf and when mom came to get me from the children’s corner, I realized that I had read the whole story. I ran to the check out desk and the Librarian KERCHUNKED the checkout card. My mother, brother and neighbors read. My teachers read. We all read aloud all day long in school. The Priest read aloud every day at mass, even in Latin. Everybody in the Doctor’s office read. People on the bus read. Dad’s waiting in their cars as the Mom’s and children grocery shopped, read. In fact, once you could read and write, Sunset Magazine considered you a reader and sent you mail every day.

Reading is important; I’ve spent my life reading. I’ve traveled around the world and into space through books. My favorite genre is whichever book I have open at the time. Children’s Literature is my passion. Book clubbing is one of the best past times, especially if food is involved. In fact my friends of old are in a book club and we are about to embark on a beach trip to “read” and discuss our newest selection.

My “home-run” book story has helped every student find his or her own “home-run” reads. Every year, I have shared my, Father Bear Comes Home, and every year my students have brought in their “home-run” books. That’s the “diving board” into our Lit. Studies.

In “Growing Up Digital,” Tapscott’s insights into the new generations enthusiasm for the Net reminded me of my generation’s enthusiasm for reading, movies, TV, parties and our driving permits. The Net-Generation, as Tapscott describes, “are learning, playing, communicating, working, creating communities, and enforcing a social transformation.”
N-Geners are interactive “techies” who are always looking for a way to “work it” verses the TV Generation of “Baby Boomers” who started out looking for “how it works.” Reading development is tougher today, society moves too fast to invest their “non-working” free time into a book or even “home work.” Since I stepped into my own classroom, I have seen students being told to read, being forced to read, and threatened into reading. Homework is not any longer the vehicle for students to gain their future lifestyles or careers with. Yet, the Internet does create an enthusiasm for learning. Since I have been enrolled in these courses, I have used the computers in every subject. My students are using the newest technology in the classroom because I am giving them investigative sites to use as they learn from each other and books. I agree with Tapscott, in order to bridge the gap with this up and coming generation we must “live and learn with them.”

FTC Required Disclaimer: I receive these books from the publishers. I did not receive monetary compensation for these reviews. These reviews have been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at


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