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The Forbidden Library Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Alice is sent to live with her Uncle Geryon after her father's ship goes down in a storm. She's never heard of this man and doesn't know what to expect when she arrives at his mansion. The only instruction she is given is to avoid the library. Left to her own devices, she meets a talking cat named Ashes, and Isaac, a boy who challenges her to open a book from the forbidden library. Giving in to temptation, she picks one up, finds herself trapped inside it, and must fight her way out. Along the way, Alice learns about the secrets that surrounded her father and the truth about Uncle Geryon. Every character she meets has a hidden agenda and so she must be careful whom she trusts. Alice questions everything she has been told and has to figure out everyone's motives, ultimately relying on her wits to survive. Each chapter ends on a cliff-hanger, and eerie illustrations enhance the story. This novel is reminiscent of Corneila Funke's Inkheart (Scholastic, 2003) and Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002). Wexler ingeniously creates an inventive world with interesting creatures and frightening situations. The ending will leave children with many questions, as a sequel is strongly implied.—H. Islam, Brooklyn Public Library
Twelve-year-old Alice has always been obedient, studious, and polite. So she is not sure what to do when she sees her father being threatened by a fairy when he has always insisted fairies weren’t real. Before she can ask, he disappears on a business trip, and Alice is sent to a mysterious uncle living in a labyrinthine estate complete with a forbidden library. Like another Alice, she follows a talking cat into the enchanted space in search of answers. It’s a perfect, if traditional, setup, and fans of Harry Potter and Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (2003) will relish that the library houses magical books, which only Readers can use. After entering a book and defeating the creature therein, and thus harnessing its power, Alice becomes her uncle’s apprentice. It’s a joy to watch the dutiful Alice develop her innate curiosity and become a proactive, resourceful heroine, matching wits with snarky cats, dangerous beasts, and a certain smug boy. This is a charming, adventuresome fantasy from a promising new author. Grades 4-7. --Krista Hutley
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The story itself is fantastic, and as an avid bibliophile it's hard for me to resist anything to do with libraries or reading about the wonderful books that take us to faraway places. The plot also had enough mystery to keep me constantly guessing; I could never be sure what everybody's motives were. I felt for the main character Alice and her predicament of being suddenly thrust into a strange environment where she couldn't trust anyone, though she was far from helpless and I'm sure she had no need for anyone's sympathy. Courageous and headstrong, Alice is a good role model for young readers, being a take-charge kind of girl who doesn't take obstacles or setbacks lying down.
In some ways, The Forbidden Library was more complex than I would have expected from a middle-grade novel. While it had its fair share of levity (Ashes the talking cat will be a joy to many, for example -- and not just to cat-lovers!), it also had its moments of darkness. Sometimes it's both light and dark at once, as evidenced by the "Swarmers", Alice's horde of bizarre bird-like creatures that have the physical appearance and consistency of a rubber ball with legs. I confess, reading this made me want an army of Swarmers of my own -- in spite of the fact they're essentially a black mass of razor-sharp pecking beaks and I'd probably lose an eye. Like I said, the magical creatures found in this book and the sheer imagination behind them are a pure delight.
It's moments like that which make me feel this is a book both kids and adults can enjoy. It certainly has that wide appeal! I've been trying to read a lot more children's books/middle-grade books lately, taking note of my favorite titles to share with my daughter one day (who's still a bit too young now, but it's never too early to start her library!) Without a doubt, The Forbidden Library will be one of them.
Not so. The Library was SO dark and mysterious that even the reader never did find out very much about it, other than the fact that there were mysterious magical books, dark creepy corners, moving bookshelves, and a peculiar beastie watching over it all. I could never get a proper minds eye view of what it was like... it just felt dark, dank, and full of musty bookshelves which could occasionally meander.
Despite the YA tag I felt that this was more for the Middlegrade market, though there were some very intense moments (drowning of or otherwise murdering of mythical animals for magical gain for example).
Great new twist on magical individuals being able to enter books for varying purposes. I did find this particular aspect of the story very intriguing, and there seem to be more books coming so I look forward to finding out exactly what's going on with all of the truths and mysteries that were not uncovered in the first work.
Somewhat reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland with the Young Girl (named Alice) following a talking furry animal into the unknown, accidentally stumbling into an alternate world, and coming across an unexpected adventure full of wonderous and dangerous creatures/individuals. There is also a giant grinning cat.
This is definitely not a "feel-good" magic book that leaves the reader feeling like they just went on an amazing adventure, that anything is possible, that evil can be conquered and good prevail! This is a book of magic that leaves the reader feeling as though they've just waded through a dank basement an inch deep in water, going through room after room to uncover an important mystery, and only finding a door that leads them to another dank basement full of more questions. Still enthralling, but definitely not cozy or personally empowering.
Despite the above stated misgiving, and the somewhat confusing ending, I do plan on picking up the next book to find out what's going on. Plus, I am really rooting for our main character. I think she's pretty nifty.
Alice hears a strange conversation between her father and a snarky fairy one night, and practically the next thing she knows, her father is missing, presumed dead, she's impoverished and sent to live with her "uncle," a rich old man she's never met--and who turns out to be a wizard who collects his powers by killing or enslaving creatures found in magical books. There's a talking cat, dragons, and critters of all descriptions. And a boy who has to be rescued. Alice has been raised by her Dad to be a plucky, take charge kind of girl, and it's a pleasure to follow her adventure. She stays true to herself and I look forward to the change she'll cause in every book/world she visits--oh yes, the Forbidden Library is true to the saying, "Books are portals to other worlds." I'll be gifting the book to all my nieces, for sure.
Like the blurb says, the book should be popular with fans of Coraline and Inkheart; I would say also fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Roald Dahl's Matilda, and I was reminded of the plucky, likeable Sara Crewe from A Little Princess (by Frances Hodgson Burnett, not the movie). Highly recommended for both personal and library collections.
Most recent customer reviews
That was fun! I know I've started this book before but got bored in chapter 2 because the MC was dull. I should have stuck it out.Read more
If I were ten, this would have been a 5 skull book for sure! Buy this for all your middle-grade readers.Read more