Book Review || Through the Skylight

Author: Ian Baucom

Publishers: Simon & Schuster

Release Year: 2013

My Summary

Siblings Jared, Shireen, and Miranda are staying in Venice with their parents, and they’re bored. Life suddenly becomes more interesting when they happen upon an old Venetian shopkeeper, who lets each of them pick out a treasure from a bag— two rings for Shireen and Miranda, and a wooden die for Jared. Once home, however, they realize that these aren’t just any rings or dice. In fact, they just might be magic. That night, their father begins reading to them from an old book, a tale from A Thousand and One Nights, that the shopkeeper had also given them. The book tells the story of a boy named Rashid, as well as two girls, Maria and Francesca. Slowly, Jared and his sisters begin to realize that the power of their treasures may be connected to the children in the book. And then…

A stone lion awakens.
A cat speaks to them.
A painted faun comes to life.

So the adventure commences! The lives of Jared, Shireen, and Miranda become intertwined with those of three other children; children who were alive centuries ago. The very ones whose names are mentioned in the book. Reading the book further, they discover a sinister plot, and it’s up to them to stop it! With the help of Silvio the faun, Maldini the cat, and Lorenzo il Piccolo the stone lion, they join forces with Rashid, Maria, and Francesca and use their magic relics to try save Venice— and hopefully making it out unscathed.

My Thoughts

Through the Skylight is a suspenseful adventure story rich with detail— both historically and culturally. Blending elements of magic, fantasy, and real history, it creates quite the journey for Jared, Shireen, and Miranda. So, let’s start off by saying this: though I found this book to be a little uneven at times, I thought that it was overall a fun, interesting read. Venice was definitely the right choice for the setting; what better backdrop than a city so full of culture and whimsy? through the skylight.jpgThe characters were also an interesting bunch— two adopted kids from India, their blonde little sister, a wine-guzzling faun, a surly stone lion, a wise black cat, an evil monk, plus three children from the past who are in grave danger. It was refreshing to see such a diverse cast, though some characters felt a bit two-dimensional once in a while (*cough*Jared*cough*). The concept of the plot was intriguing as well but felt overwhelming and confusing at times since new obstacles and ideas kept cropping up as I read. I did, however, like that, without being too preachy, the book indirectly addresses ideas of prejudice and co-existing with people from different faiths, nationalities, and even time periods. If you’re a fan of enchanted quests and a historical-modern mix, then Through the Skylight is for you! 🙂

Book Review || Umbrella Summer

Author: Lisa Graff

Meet Annie Richards. She’s just a regular girl… although she’s much, much more cautious than other kids. Everyone tells her not to worry so much, that she is fine— but that’s what they told Jared, her brother, and Jared died. 😥 Annie has become obsessed with being safe: she wears a bike helmet during car rides, covers her mosquito bites with Band-Aids (wondering if they might be chicken pox), and steals a medical dictionary so she can study every possible disease (and self-diagnose herself to avoid the same fate as Jared, who died of something so incredibly rare that even the doctors didn’t discover it until he after died). Annie is still fun— just the careful type of fun. When Annie’s best friend Rebecca’s hamster dies, Rebecca is distraught, but Annie is numb. Annie runs away, not being able to face another death, another funeral, and Rebecca is hurt and angry. So Annie turns to the new neighbour, Mrs. Finch, who is good-humoured, patient, and wise. And little does Annie know that Mrs. Finch is grieving too. Through weeding Mrs. Finch’s garden, playing cards, and drinking tea over a good conversation, the two bond. Not only does Mrs. Finch bring Annie and Rebecca back together, she and Annie close their “umbrellas” of grief (which block out not only the “rain” of life, but also the “sunshine”) and teach others, including Annie’s parents, to do so as well.

This is a radiant, beautiful book. It’s a heartwarming story of one girl’s grief, and what I liked about that was the fact Annie didn’t act the way you would think after someone would after their brother had died. Her way of coping with that immense amount of grief is to push it away by putting all her focus on ways to keep herself safe, so much that there’s no time left to think about Jared. And that’s the part that really makes your heart ache for her. Her friend Rebecca, though a nice girl, has a hard time understanding Annie until her own hamster dies, and her parents are too caught up in their own sadness to realize that Annie needs to learn to step out into the sunshine again. Mrs. Finch is the ultimate wise, elderly woman who’s been through everything and is happy to share ways to help others. I really enjoyed the symbolic reference of the umbrella, because I think that all of us, at some points of our lives, like Annie, get too caught up in this protection to realize we no longer need to use those “umbrellas” to block out our problems, and this book gives us that touching concept to us as a lesson from Mrs. Finch. This is a sincere, memorable story perfect for bringing sunshine into everyone’s hearts.

-Yasimone