Directors: Mark Andrew, Brenda Chapman, & Steve Purcell
Writers: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrew, Steve Purcell, & Irene Mecchi
Running Time: 93 min
Plot: Merida is interested in riding horses and shooting her bow instead of learning to be a princess. Her mother, Queen Elinor, is trying to prepare her to be a princess and eventually a queen. It is decided that Merida will soon have to marry a son from one of her father’s allied clans. She does not think she is ready to do that. A contest is held to decide which one of the sons would marry her. She picks archery because it is her best sport. After the sons compete, she joins the competition and wins her own hand. After that happens, her mother takes her to her room and tells her she needs to apologize to avoid offending them. They fight and Merida ends up cut a tapestry her mother made  for her. Her mother throws Merida’s bow into the fire. Merida rides into the forest with her horse. While in the forest, she encounters a will-o-the-wisp that leads her to a witch’s cabin. She asks for a spell to change her fate. The witch makes her a spell and tells her to give it to her mother. She uses it on her mother and turns her into a bear. That is a problem because her father dislikes bears. A bear called Mor’du took her father’s leg years ago. She has to try to turn her mother back into a human before three days pass because her mother will stay a bear forever after that.
Review: Merida and Queen Elinor want what they think is best for Merida but they are not able to talk to each other. Merida acts like a typical teenager wanting her independence to be herself and not understanding why it seems like her mother is constantly criticizing her. Queen Elinor is often looking at the big picture of keeping peace in the kingdom and she is trying to tell Merida why this is important. What I liked about this movie is how Merida and Elinor start to relate to each other when Elinor is a bear. Merida has to show her mother how to survive in her new form. Elinor starts to see her daughter in a new way. Merida starts to assume some of her duties as a princess and realizes how her actions have affected her kingdom and her mother. It is different from many other movies that focus on princesses because this princess is not interested in romance. Instead, she is trying to fix the mistakes she has made and save her mother. This is one of the few fairy tales movies I have seen with a mother who is not dead.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Merida-Merida is a princess who is more interesting in being in the forest then being a princess. She is selfish like a typical teenager.
Queen Elinor-Queen Elinor is Merida’s mother. She is trying to train her in the way a princess should act. She wants her daughter and her kingdom to be safe.
King Fergus-King Fergus is Merida’s father. He likes that she is a tomboy.
The Witch-The Witch makes the spell that turns Elinor into a bear. She did warn Merida that her spells usually did not work out.
Maudie-Maudie is the maid that is tortured by Merida’s three brothers.

Hamish, Hubert and Harris-Merida’s three brothers who are triplets. They are very naughty.

Mor’du-Mor’du is the bear that took King Fergus’s leg. He lost it trying to keep Mor’du from harming Merida.

Theme:  Desire to escape, Growing up, Individual versus society,

Bibliographic Info:

Andrew , M. (Director), Chapman, B. (Director), & Purcell, S. (Director) (2012). Brave [DVD].


The Tale of Despereaux

Author: Kate DiCamillo
Reading Range: 4.7 ( AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: The story is divided into four parts. The first three parts focus on a particular character. The first part focuses on Despereaux. It tells of his birth and of his life. He is an unusual mouse with big ears who does not act like a mouse. He can read and is interested in stories with knights. He falls in love with the Princess Pea. The Mouse Council condemns him to the dungeon with the rats because he talked to the princess and he does not act like a mouse. The second part focuses on the character of Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) who is a rat that lives in the dungeon of the castle. He does not act like a rat because he is attracted to light and he is actually a good “person.” One night, he goes into the castle main hall and accidentally scares the queen to death.He blames Princess Pea for what happened and he plots revenge against her. The third part focuses on Mig Sow. Her father sold her because her mother died. The man he sold her to abuses her. Eventually, she is taken to the castle where Princess Pea lives. The fourth part focuses on Roscuro’s revenge against Princess Pea. He uses Mig to take his revenge because he can manipulate her. Despereaux is the only one that can save her.
Review: All three characters want things that they are told they cannot have. Despereaux falls in love with the princess and wants to be apart of her world. Roscuro wants to live in the light. Mig wants to be a princess because she thinks they are “stars on the earth.” Each is denied what they want. Despereaux is told by the Mouse Council what he wants is wrong and that he breaks Mouse Law by wanting it. Roscuro is not welcome in the castle’s main hall. Mig is told by everyone she is pretty much worthless and will never be a princess. Roscuro is able to manipulate Mig because of that desire. In the story, everyone is saved not by the use of violence but because they are able to forgive each other. Despereaux is able to forgive his father for condemning him to death and become the knight he wants to be. Roscuro is able to forgive the princess for rejecting him. Although, his heart never completely heals. Mig is reunited with her father after he is imprisoned for crimes he committed. What I liked about this story is that there is still hope even in the darkest of times. Each character experiences their darkness times and they are able to overcome it in someway. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read fantasy and stories with knights and princesses. Even through the knight is a mouse.
Additional Info:
This book won a Newbery Medal.
Main Characters:

Despereaux Tilling-Despereaux is the last mouse born to his mother. He is an odd mouse even from birth. He was born with his eyes opened and the biggest ears of any mouse. He chooses to read books instead of eat them. He becomes fascinated with a story that features a knight and a princess. He falls in courtly love with Princess Pea.

Princess Pea-Princess Pea is the princess of Dor. She is the only child of the king and queen. She loves Despereaux in return. She is kind-hearted but not used to people telling her no.

Chiaroscuro (known as “Roscuro”)Roscuro was born in the castle dungeon. He is fascinated by light and goodness unlike the other rats. He seeks revenge against Princess Pea for his rejection in the human world.

Miggery “Mig” Sow-Mig’s mother died when she was young leaving her to her father. Her father sold her to a man who abused her. She is still well-meaning but simple. She wants to be a princess.

Botticelli Remorso-Botticelli is an old rat who lives in the dungeon. He believes the meaning of life is to cause the suffering of others. He delights in the pain and suffering of others.

Gregory the Jailor-Gregory saves Despereaux from the rats for the price of a story.

Furlough Tilling-Furlough is one of Desperaeux’s many brothers. He is the one who betrays Despereaux to the Mouse Council. He tried to teach Despereaux how to be a mouse but it did not take.

Lester Tilling-Lester is Despereaux’s father. He condemns Despereaux with the other members of the Mouse Council to the dungeon.

Antoinette Tilling-Antoinette is Despereaux’s mother. She is very picky about her appearance. She does not understand Despereaux.

Theme:  Darkness and light, Desire to escape, Good versus evil, Individual versus society

Bibliographic Info:

DiCamillo, K. (2004)  The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread.  Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press


A Wrinkle in Time-Review

Author:  Madeleine L’Engle
Reading Range: 4.7 (Accelerated Reader)
Interest Range:  Ages 10 and Up (
Plot:  Meg Murry and Charles Wallace’s father is missing.  He has been missing for a number of years.  He is a scientist, as is their mother, who has been working on a secret government project.  Everyone in their town believes he has run off on them. Only they believe that somethings has happened to him. Charles Wallace has special abilities that lets him read the minds of others. They meet another boy named Calvin O’Keefer who has abilities of their own. They become friends with him.  They also meet Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which who reveals to them they know where Meg and Charles’ father is.  The three of them go on a journey to rescue him and discover that there is a great evil keeping him imprisoned. They have to find a way to save him and to save themselves.
Review:  Meg idolizes her father and believes that him coming home will make everything in her life better.  As the story goes on, Meg discovers that even through her father is smart, he is not as perfect as she thought. Meg starts to come into her own power and realizes that she is capable of more than she thought. This book touches on issues of religion and conformity. Meg does not fit into her town because of who she is. When they go to find her father, they discover a planet where everyone is expected to be the same. They are punished if they are not. There is a scene in the book where a boy is being punished because he is not bouncing a ball the correct way. This is done because it is believed that order is better than chaos. Differences are not something to be embraced but gotten rid of. I would recommend this book for people who like science fiction and fantasy. I wish I read it when I was younger instead of an adult because I think I would have loved it as a child.
Additional Info:
Book One in the Time Quartet.
Main Characters:
Meg Murry-She is the eldest daughter of Alex and Kate Murry. She is worried about her father because he has been missing for the past few years.
Charles Wallace Murry-He is the youngest son of Alex and Kate Murry. He is Meg’s brother. They are very close to one another. He an ability that allows him to know things others do not know.
Calvin O’Keefe-He is their friend. He also has an ability like Charles Wallace.
Dr. Alex Murry-He is the father of Meg and Charles. He works for the government as a scientist. He has been missing for years. The people in town assume that he ran off.
Dr. Kate Murry-She is the mother of Meg and Charles Wallace. She is also a scientist.
Mrs. Whatsit-She has the ability to change her shape. She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She is the youngest of the three Mrs. Ws but that means she is only a few billion years old.
Mrs. Who-She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She offers them advice.
Mrs. Which-She is the oldest of the Mrs. Ws. She helps them travel by tesseract to find their father.
IT-This is the being that is holding Alex Murry captive. It also controls the planet they visit.
The Man with Red Eyes-He is the mouth piece for IT.

Theme: Chaos and order, Dangers of ignorance, Fate and free will, Good versus evil, Growing up

Bibliographic Info: L’Engle, M. (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: A Yearling Book.


Bone-Out from Boneville

Author: Jeff Smith
Reading Range: 2.4 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot:  The book is about the adventures of the Bone cousins. Fone Bone is the good cousin while Phoney Bone is the scheming cousin.  Their funny, friendly cousin is Smiley Bone.  The story begins in Boneville when the Bone cousins get run out-of-town because of their good for nothing  cousin was cheating the town.  The Bones are running away for lives when they get separated and lost in uncharted territory.  The story revolves around all the characters the Bones meet, especially Fone Bone. Fone meets the evil rats who want to eat him up but keeps being saved by a mysterious dragon and a small bug. The bug sends Fone to see Thorn and her grandmother. Fone falls in love with Thorn, who is human. After finding Thorn, Fone locates his evil cousin, who continues being up to no good and getting him in trouble.
Review:   This is a hilarious book and a favorite among my students. It is hard to keep it on the shelves because so many of my students want to read it. Even my reluctant readers enjoy the series and it helps it has a low reading level. The graphics are excellent. The plot goes from serious to funny very quickly. Smith has a skill of balancing humor and drama. It is appropriate for different ages. After I read the first book, I devoured the rest of the series in one day because the story is quite addictive. I would recommend this for people who like graphic novels but also those who like fantasy and adventure.
Additional Info:
This is book 1 of the Bone series. There are nine books in the series. The series won a number of Eisner Awards which are given to outstanding graphic novel series.
Main Characters:
Fone Bone-Fone Bone is the hero of the story. He is the smartest of his three cousins. He favorite book is Moby Dick. He turns to stop Phoney Bone’s schemes as often as he can before he gets them into trouble.
Phoney Bone-Phoney Bone is interesting in doing whatever he can to get rich. He gets his cousin and himself throw out of their hometown due to one of his schemes. Although he can be selfish, he is also protective of his cousins.
Smiley Bone-He is the friendly of the Bones. He tries to help those he can. He often gets sucked into Phoney Bone’s schemes.
Thorn-Thorn lives on a farm with Grand’ma Ben. Fone Bone develops a crush on her. She is brave and resourceful.
Grand’ma Ben-Grand’ma Ben is raising Thorn after her parents died. She is tough and is very good at cow racing.
The Great Red Dragon-He often comes in the nick of time to save Fone Bone. He is incredible old.

Theme:  Fate and free will, Greed as downfall, Good vensus Evil, Heroism

Bibliographic Info: 

Smith, Jeff (2005).  Bone Out of Boneville. New York, NY: Scholastic Incorporated.



Author: Doug TenNapel
Reading Range: 2.2 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: ages 10 and up (
Plot: It is Cam’s birthday and his father, Mike, does not have any money to buy him a gift. He is a carpenter looking for work. Mike runs into a man named Gideon who sells him a piece of cardboard. The piece of cardboard comes with two rules: return any scraps and do not ask for more cardboard. Mike and Cam broke both of those rules. Mike and Cam turn that piece of cardboard into a boxer that comes alive. The cardboard boxer is named Bill. The neighborhood bully named Marcus discovers what the cardboard can do and steals it from Cam. He makes his own army of cardboard monsters who turn against him. Cam, Mike, and Billy have to save their neighborhood from the cardboard monsters Marcus created.
Review: In this story, Mike is the main character of the story. The story is told through his eyes and shows how he is trying to raise his son without his wife and not much money. He is trying to give his son the best he can. He is having trouble letting his wife go and moving on with his life. One of the most touching scenes of the book is when he is talking to the cardboard version of his wife. She tells what he needs to hear in order to live his life. I enjoyed the character of Bill as he becomes more of a person. He starts out as a piece of cardboard but in the end he becomes a hero. It was interesting to see how the cardboard is used to reveal the truth about characters. Marcus reveals how sad and alone he really is through his monsters. I liked this book and would recommend it to all-ages.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Mike-He is an out-of-work carpenter who is trying to f ind a job to support him and his son. He is also trying to get over the death of his wife.
Cam-He is Mike’s son. He tries to help his father as much as he can.
Bill-He is the cardboard boxer that comes to life. He is loyal to both Mike and Cam.
Tina-She is the next-door neighbor. She has a crush on Mike.
Marcus-He is the neighborhood bully.
Pink Eye-He is Marcus’ henchman. He always has pink eye.
Gideon-He is the one who sells Mike the cardboard.

Theme: Facing darkness, Family, Heroism, Self-awareness

Bibliographic Info:

TenNapel, D. (2012). Cardboard. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Tagline:  Adventure begins when cardboard comes to life!

A Monster Calls-Review

Author:  Patrick Ness
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range:   Young Adult (Follett Library)
Plot:  Conor’s mother has cancer.  He is alone trying to deal with that fact.  One night, a monster comes to him and tells him that he will tell him three stories and Conor has to tell him one in return.  This story is about what Conor fears the most otherwise, he will eat him. As the monster tells his stories, Conor discovers that people are more complex then he realizes.  Conor starts to realize that his mother is not as well as she says.  In fact, his mother has been downplaying how sick she really is.  Conor hopes the monster is here to heal his mother but who is the monster really here for?
Review:  This is a hard book because it is talking about how a boy who is trying to deal with dead and dying.  Conor is only thirteen but he has to handle issues that most adults have trouble dealing with.  There are no easy answers in this book.  The monster is both cruel and kind telling Conor the truths he need to let his mother go. Conor is not perfect.  He is trying to find his way through his mother’s illness.  I would recommend this book to people who like stories that are not easy and do not mind crying.
Additional Info:  This book is based on an idea by the author, Siobhan Dowd.  She died of breast cancer before she could write it.  Patrick Ness took the outline she created and wrote the story.
Main Characters:
Conor O’Malley-His mother is sick with cancer.   He has become “the boy whose mother has cancer” at his school.  He hates that.
Conor’s Mother-She has cancer.  She is not truthful with Conor about how sick she really is.
Liam-Conor’s father who lives in American with his new wife and child.
Grandmother-His mother’s mother.  He does not get along with her.  She is caring for Conor while his mother is in the hospital.

Theme: Circle of lifeDeath,Growing up,Isolation, Loss of innocence

Bibliographic Info: Ness, P. (2011). A monster calls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.


Lost and Found

Author:  Shaun Tan

Reading Range: 5.6 (AR Finder)

Interest Range:  5-8 (Follett Library Resources)

Plot:  This book features three stories that tell of things that are lost and found.  These three stories were originally published separately then they were gathered together.

Story 1-The Red Tree

This is a simple but visual complex story about a girl who is lost in her life and trying to find her way.

Story 2-The Lost Thing

A boy encounters a being that does not seem to belong anywhere.  He takes it home but he parents tell him that it cannot stay with them.  He decided to find a place where it can be safe and where it can belong.

Story 3-The Rabbits

The rabbits are invaders who come to a place that is different from their own.  They forced their way onto the land and start to change it without regard for what it used to be.  They take the land away from the people who used to live there forcing them to adopted their values and customs.


In the three stories, very few words are used to tell them.  Mostly it is images that convey the feelings and thoughts of the characters.  The illustrations Tan created are very rich in detailed and layered.   All the stories center around the them of losing something and finding something.  In “The Red Tree,” the images can be seen as a metaphor for feeling lost in ones own life.  There is an image of the girl where she is on stage with different object surrounding showing that she does not know who she is supposed to be.  The alien landscapes just magnify how lost and alone she feels in this world.  It is very dreamlike and beautiful.  “The Lost Thing” is the story with the most words but it still has very rich details in the pictures.  This story discuss conformity and what happens when things do not conform.  This story created a world where it is not safe for things that are different even through differences can be wonderful.  “The Rabbits” is the story that I connected to the most because of my background.  I am Native American.  This story can be seen as another metaphor for what happened to Indigenous people when the settlers came to either America or Australia.  The author is Australian and he meant it as a fable for what happened to the Aboriginals.  This one is heartbreaking because in the others stories there is a little hope in the “lostness” but here there is no hope.  I would recommend this book because it shows how beautiful and complex graphic novels can be.  This is a good example of how words and images together can convey something beautiful.

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

The Red Tree:

Girl-She does not have a name but the story follows her through her day.

The Lost Thing:

Boy-He narrators the story of trying to find a place for the Lost Thing.

Lost Thing-It follows around the boy.

The Rabbits:

Rabbits-They come to “The People’s land and take over.

“The People”-They get pushed out by the rabbits.

Themes: Convention and rebellion, Desire to escape, Disillusionment and dreams, Displacement, Vulnerability of the meek

Bibliographic Info:  Tan, S. (2011). Lost and fond. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Tagline: A girl finds a bright spot in a dark world. A boy leads a strange, lost creature home. And a group of peaceful creatures cedes their home to hostile invaders.

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