Two Book Reviews
by Julie Carpenter
We would like to introduce our readers to two books by author Cynthia C. Huijgens, The Boy Between Worlds: The Cabinet of Curiosities, a middle grade book that helps readers unlock a world of magic and history, and Polar Bear and the UFO, an illustrated children’s’ book with a whimsical and beautifully rendered combination of the Artic and Outer Space!
Polar Bear and the UFO is a delightfully different story about a polar bear’s encounter with alien life. Both the world of the polar bear and her travels in outer space have a quality of enchantment. The story is told in lyrical and poetic with a light rhyme scheme that doesn’t overwhelm but provides a nice forward moving rhythm that should appeal to children.
The illustrations are simply magical, from a friendly polar bear staring from the cover, through the cool tones of the artic, to the swirling warmth of Mars. This unusual twist on space travel is a delight because it allows a child’s imagination to roam both to the pole and to outer space, opening up whole new worlds and setting the reader as spectator to a magnificent universe full of beauty and intrigue. The connection works surprisingly well.
This is a fun book for parents to read aloud and for children who to explore the beautiful complex illustrations.
The Boy Between Worlds: The Cabinet of Curiosities – the second of Huijgens’ books that we’re reviewing – is a middle grade book that takes place, for the most part, in Egypt. The story begins with the main character, twelve-year-old Max Mead, trying to navigate the complexities of school, friendship, family relationships and a crush. Max is someone who feels that he isn’t special. In fact, he thinks everyone around him is gifted and that he barely matters (as many of us tend to do in middle school!). Max is experiencing the weight of finding his place in the world when tragedy strikes. His grandfather goes missing and he and his father must travel to Egypt to unravel the mystery.
When his father takes him to Egypt, he discovers that his family has a dark and mysterious past and that he has a gift, one that helps him discover history first-hand and one that will hopefully allow him to find his missing grandfather.
The author’s experience in museum education is definitely an added benefit in reading this book, where relics from the past come alive and allow Max to experience history for himself.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the emphasis on family relationships. In many middle grade books, protagonists are left on their own, to find themselves so that the reader can imagine what independence is like. The author chooses to allow father and son to remain together for much of the book, so that Max finds himself within the context of his family and their complicated history. Both Max and his dad navigate anger and mutual disappointment during the crisis at hand. Max eventually discover his own strength even as he realizes adults can be flawed but still caring.
This book is just right for middle grade readers who are uncertain how to navigate looming independence. It would also be a great choice for young history buffs.
We hope to review more of Huijgens books in the future but until then you can purchase the books by clicking through the links above.
Julie Carpenter is the creator of the Sacred Chickens website. She is dedicated to telling stories and making sure that indie writers and publishers have a way to be heard. She uses narrative, her own and others’, to help interpret the world. She has a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Memphis, with an emphasis in Composition Theory. She wants to bend reality one story at a time. Julie’s work has appeared in Fiction on the Web and will be included The New Guard. She is currently working on a novel.