As I have said before, my job as librarian has really stretched me in the genres I now read. Before, I stuck to historical or realistic fiction with an occasional mystery thrown in for good measure. I read a lot of non fiction, in particular, biographies. My fantasy list was pretty much the Harry Potter series, which I loved all the way to book seven.
Since moving to the library, I have enjoyed Dragon Slippers, one of my dark horses for the Newbery last year. I recommended Dragon's Egg to my students and colleagues, and recently loved The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, which Karen reviewed here.
The Bronze Pen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is another fantasy that I think kids will enjoy. The story takes place in California in 1973. Audrey Abbot is a 12 year old that dreams of being an author. She has plenty of life stories to draw upon, a father diagnosed with serious heart disease at a young age, a mother who was voted "most beautiful eyes" in high school that others are still jealous of, a mysterious cave within walking distance to her house, and two great animals an irish wolf-hound, and parrot that swears.
When a large white duck entices Audrey to visit the forbidden cave once more, she encounters an old woman who gives her a bronze pen, hence the title! The pen has mysterious powers that Audrey and her new friend Lizzie begin to experiment with. I'm not giving anything away as far as the powers, but I will say that I think kids will really enjoy the events that transpire due to the pen.
At one point Audrey can communicate with her pets, gets tied up by pirates, and helps her mom with a grumpy boss. All very fun adventures and will keep the kids turning the pages. I was a little disappointed with the ending, it seemed a little quick and neat to me, but kids tend to like stories with a clear finish better than adults so they will probably think its just fine.
I like this book for kids who may be just getting into the fantasy genre. The story moves along and there aren't a lot of magical creatures to make it confusing. Most third and all fourth and fifth graders can read this book.
Zilpha Keatley Snyder is also the author of three Newbery Honor books, The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm.