Book Review: The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis

the ugly oneInfo:
Title: The Ugly One
Author: Leanne Statland Ellis
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? No
Genre: Childrens, Historical Fiction
Page Count: 256
Rating: [4/5 stars]

Summary:

I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember.

Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn’t destined to be the Ugly One forever. Vivid storytelling and rich details capture the life and landscape of the Incan Empire as seen through the eyes of a young girl who is an outsider among her own people. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
THE UGLY ONE is a children’s book, aimed at 9 years old and up, but I enjoyed it as an adult. It’s a beautifully written story of a young Incan girl finding her voice.

A horrid scar mars Micay’s face, making her the victim of the mean boys in the village. She’s incredibly self-conscious about the scar, and won’t allow her mother to kiss her goodnight because she doesn’t want her mother to feel bad about having an ugly daughter. She even calls herself “Ugly One.”

But when a yunka stranger gives her the gift of a baby macaw, Micay’s life slowly changes. At first, Sumac is almost as ugly as she is. But as he grows into a beautiful, proud bird, Micay herself grows. She gains confidence in herself, and her self-esteem improves. It’s a nicely told coming of age story, and I think adult readers will appreciate the way Micay tells her story, as an elder looking back at her younger years.

I know my younger self would have gobbled up this book, mainly because it’s set during the time of the Incas. The author works in Incan myths as well as their traditions and way of life. How authentic is the book? I don’t know. But hopefully THE UGLY ONE will spur interest in the Incas for younger readers.

Micay’s story is an inspiring one, especially as she gains self-esteem and realizes her scar isn’t the most important thing about her. But I think some readers might expect more action, and THE UGLY ONE meanders along slowly, unfolding almost like an Incan myth.

Let’s talk about it:
Are there any historical periods you’d like to see represented in fiction?

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– leeanna

Book 165: James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

As is common in many of Roald Dahl’s books, James is a child stuck in a horrible situation. Orphaned, he’s living with two nasty aunts who use him as manual labor and don’t ever let him have fun.

But someone is looking out for James, and a mysterious little man gives him a bag of green magic crystals…only…he drops them. But his chance at happiness isn’t lost, because the crystals are dropped beneath a peach tree. The tree, formerly barren, suddenly produces a peach that grows larger by the minute, until it’s the size of a house. Inside the peach are a variety of common garden insects, such as a centipede and a grasshopper, each as large as a human because they too ingested some of the magic crystals.

James and his new friends take a magical journey on the gigantic peach, as journey only the imagination of Roald Dahl could produce. I’ll never look at rainbows or hail the same way again, or seagulls!

4/5.

Book 164: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

Charlie Bucket’s story touched my heart the first time I read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” when I was much younger. I still like to pull it out from time to time and relive the magic of Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate creations, and the humor of the four nasty children who got what they deserved.

Charlie is a poor child, and lives with his four grandparents and parents in a little ramshackle house. The family barely has enough money to buy food, and survive mostly on cabbage. Mr. Bucket, Charlie’s father, works screwing toothpaste caps on full tubes. The only bright spot in their lives are Grandpa Joe’s stories, particularly the ones about the mysterious Willy Wonka.

Wonka’s factory has been closed to the public for over a decade, but when he puts five Golden Tickets in candy bars, five lucky children have the chance to enter the factory, as well as win a lifetime supply of goodies. Charlie’s desperate for a ticket, but his family can only afford one candy bar a year, and he isn’t lucky. But as readers of Dahl’s works know, good children get their due, and Charlie and Grandpa Joe find a Golden Ticket…

What can I say about “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” It’s one of my favorite of the author’s works, and I tend to reread it every few years. If you’ve never read anything by Roald Dahl, this book is a great place to start.

5/5.

Book 163: Matilda

MatildaMatilda, by Roald Dahl

“Matilda” may be my ultimate favorite of Roald Dahl’s books, but that’s probably because I’m a voracious reader, just like the title character.

Matilda is an oddity in her household – she prefers books to television – but aside from that, her parents don’t really like her. They treat her nastily, and as a child, she doesn’t have many options for revenge. But as with all Dahl books, she takes matters into her own hands, using her amazing intelligence to pull some creative pranks on her parents.

But Matilda’s brain power really comes in when she wants to rescue Miss Honey, her school teacher, from a truly despicable situation. If you haven’t read the book I won’t spoil it. It’s a very fun and creative story.

The illustrations by Quentin Blake are the icing on the cake for me in “Matilda;” normally I don’t look much at pictures, but I rather like all of the illustrator’s images. They add to Dahl’s already excellent book.

5/5.

Book 105: Lyddie

LyddieLyddie, by Katherine Paterson

“Lyddie” is a book from my childhood, one that I read so many times the binding was falling apart. I still like to reread it from time to time, simply because I enjoy the story of a girl’s fight to become independent. “Lyddie” also introduced me to the Lowell mills, a period of history I’d known nothing about before and has since become a subject I wish to learn more about.

Lyddie is an inspiring character; in spite of overwhelming odds, she manages to find a measure of independence, happiness, and education. A farm girl used to hard work, she thrives in the mills of Lowell, able to keep up with the frantic pace of mechanized work. The book is alternatively sad and happy, and readers will feel pity, rage, and joy on Lyddie’s behalf.

Besides Lyddie, there are other compelling characters that visit the story briefly. An escaped slave examines the theme of slavery, and a self-possesed mill worker poses the questions of workers rights. I felt that the author did her research well on the various subjects.

While “Lyddie” is, as I said above, a childhood favorite, it’s a book that ages well.

4/5.

Book 91: Diadem 10: Book of Doom

Book of DoomDiadem #10: Book of Doom, by John Peel

Hopefully this won’t be the last Diadem book, as Peel while Peel answers some questions, he also asks a bunch of new ones. I was a little sad when I finished this book, because I know that my questions won’t be answered for a while. Peel’s website promises the next two in the series will be published together, hopefully in 2010.

When Oracle and Shanara betray Score, Helaine, and Pixel, the two are trying to prevent the trio from turning into the Three Who Rule. Score is sent to a world of killer plants. Helaine is trapped on Calomir, a prisoner of the Overmind computer. Pixel is a captive in his own mind, with his body possessed by his evil self, Nantor. Jenna shows her worth when she does all she can to rescue her new friends.

The strengths of each character shine, and I was flying through the pages to see what happened next. The history on Shanara shocked me, and while I saw some of it coming, I definitely didn’t see all the twists Peel had up his sleeve.

5/5.

Book 89: Diadem 9: Book of Reality

Book of RealityDiadem #9: Book of Reality, by John Peel

It’s Pixel’s turn to return to his home planet of Calomir, a world where the citizens live in Virtual Reality. Pixel wants to introduce his girlfriend and fellow magic-user Jenna, to his parents.

Only…there’s one little problem with that. When the gang arrives on Calomir, they learn that Pixel’s parents are missing. When they start to search for the missing adults, the four are soon split up and in dire straits. Jenna and Pixel are captured by the Overmind, a computer virus that’s taken over the planet, and Score and Helaine are sent to the slave camps.

I really really enjoyed “Book of Reality.” The idea of the Overmind was pretty interesting, and a little scary too.

As is his usual, Peel ends this book on a cliffhanger, and wow! I rushed for the next book to see what would happen next, because I definitely didn’t see the plot twist coming.

5/5.

Book 86: Diadem 8: Book of Oceans

Book of OceansDiadem #8: Book of Oceans, by John Peel

Score and Pixel are two boys trapped between feuding females, and they definitely need a break. With Oracle’s help, they convince Helaine and Jenna that it’s time to take a vacation, and the four set off for Brine. A planet made up of mostly oceans, Brine seems like the perfect world for a peaceful getaway…until their vacation is interrupted by pirates!

When Pixel and Jenna taken captive, Score must work with Helaine to rescue the other magic users. But Helaine isn’t a fan of Jenna, since Helaine was a noble and Jenna a peasant on their old homeworld. Peel uses the the girls to get young readers to think about social class prejudices. With an interesting mix of species, including living flames and human-shaped dolphins, “Book of Oceans” is another fun installment in the Diadem series, and one I rather enjoyed.

Finally, readers are clued into the method behind Oracle’s madness. Always popping up to send the friends into trouble, Oracle is actually trying to prevent the three from becoming the evil forms of themselves they defeated in previous Diadem books. The author adds to Oracle’s mystery, and I’m eager to learn more. I also liked Jenna more in this book, and didn’t begrudge Peel adding in another main character so far into the series.

4/5.

Book 85: Diadem 7: Book of War

Book of WarDiadem #7: Book of War, by John Peel

In “Book of War,” it’s Helaine’s turn to return to her home planet of Ordin. After having escaped an arranged marriage on a Medieval Ages era world, Helaine Votrin suffered from the guilt of abandoning her family and her duty. Score and Pixel accompany her back home, and naturally the three pop into a dangerous situation: Votrin castle is under siege; war is imminent.

Feeling even guiltier now for leaving, Helaine is determined to do what she can to resolve the situation. She and Score set off on her secret plan, while Pixel attempts to solve a 500-year-old mystery.

For the first time in the Diadem series, Peel introduces a new main character, Jenna, a peasant hedge-witch. She is revealed to be another magician with powers matching that of Score, Helaine, and Pixel, and now the trio becomes a quartet.

For me, “Book of War” is one of the weaker books in the Diadem series. I didn’t particularly like the addition of a new main character, nor the more prominent romance, but after I read the next book in the series I understood why she was brought in. So if you’re like me and didn’t like Jenna at first, it gets better, so hang in there.

3/5.

Book 84: Diadem 6: Book of Nightmares

Book of NightmaresDiadem #6: Book of Nightmares, by John Peel

Pixel’s been kidnapped by Destiny and taken to a planet where nightmares become real, a world where if you fall asleep you are lost forever. Score and Helaine, already tired from the attempt on Score’s life in “Book of Earth,” immediately rush to the planet to save Pixel…but they’re in for a constant fight between forces of the planet and their own tiredness.

On a world where bad dreams come true, each must face their own darkest nightmares. However, the key to surviving Zarathon also lies in their dreams, if they can figure out the various puzzles.

For many years, “Book of Nightmares” was the last available Diadem book, and is one of the few to not end on a cliffhanger. If you, and/or your kids love this series, fear not because now there are four new Diadem books for your reading pleasure. But, I have to admit, it is nice to finally see the trio get a rest at the end of this book.

4/5.