A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

hatfull1.jpgTiffany Aching, the plucky heroine from The Wee Free Men, leaves the chalk to begin her apprenticeship with Miss Level, a witch with two bodies, one mind, and an invisible housekeeper named Oswald. At first, witchcraft seems a bit dull to Tiffany; Miss Level spends more time visiting elderly neighbors and delivering babies than casting spells or gazing into crystal balls. Perhaps Tiffany should have just stayed at home making cheese! But there’s something she doesn’t know: she’s being stalked by a “hiver,” an ancient body-snatching creature that enters the mind of its victims and slowly drives them mad before killing them. This is one battle Tiffany definitely doesn’t want to fight alone, especially not so far from home. But will the Nac Mac Feegle, her tiny blue friends, make it in time to help out? And will Tiffany ever get a proper pointed hat? Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Here’s another young witch who will truly enchant you.

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

dramarama.jpgSarah and Douglas live very humdrum lives in Brenton, Ohio, “a nothing town, as lacking in character as Cream of Wheat.” There’s no opportunity in the suburbs to shine —  at least not in the razzle-dazzle way these kids have in mind. They don’t want to be typical preppy teenagers — they want to be fabulous.

So when they head off for Wildewood, a performing arts camp in New York state, both characters feel as if they’ve finally found their place in the world. Goodbye shopping malls and cheerleaders — hello jazz hands and sequins! Goodbye algebra and chemistry — hello stage combat and pantomime! Goodbye Brenton — hello Heaven!

What Sarah and Douglas don’t know is that this summer will test their friendship in a big way. There are so many other theatre-crazed kids here, so many friends to make, so many romances to pursue. In Brenton, Sarah and Douglas clung to each other for dear life. But at Wildewood, it suddenly feels safe to let go…or at least it does to Douglas, who becomes an instant star the minute he steps foot on campus.

As for Sarah, well, things for her aren’t going quite as planned. The boy she likes is suddenly weird and silent, her roommates are annoyingly talented, and she gets cast a tree in the sessions’s biggest show! How will she survive the best summer of her life?

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

wee_free_men.jpgTiffany Aching is a farmgirl on the Chalklands. She makes cheese. She babysits her pesky little brother. She feeds the sheepdogs. And when she grows up, she wants to be a witch.

That’s right, somewhere in her bones Tiffany just knows she’s destined for magical, important things. So when a monster appears in the lake near her house, Tiffany jumps to action — she baits the monster with her little brother and then hits hits it over the head with a frying pan. That takes care of that, but the oddities don’t end there: Tiffany also begins to see tiny little blue men all over the place who call themselves the “Nac Mac Feegle,” a band of bite-sized warriors who drink whiskey, wreak havoc, fight, and steal everything they can lay their hands on.

Together, Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle must stand up against the evil Queen of Fairyland, who is kidnapping children and sending nightmarish ghouls into the world. The Wee Free Men is the first in Terry Pratchett’s mega-famous Tiffany Aching series. I listened to it on CD and laughed out loud as I was driving along in my car. Other drivers shot me strange looks on the highway. I didn’t care, I just kept laughing. I’m heading to the library today to get the second book, A Hatful of Sky, and will let you know if measures up to the first. Has anyone else read this series? It’s on the summer reading list. Did you love it?

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

young_201.jpgLeela is a thirteen-year old girl living in India in the 1940’s. Her family is wealthy and of the highest social cast, so Leela lives a life of luxury compared to the many thousands of poor people in her country. When she was nine years old, she was married to a boy in her village and will one day go and live with him and his parents. But for now, she remains at home with her own mother and father, dreaming of the joys ahead.

One day, Leela’s young husband is bitten by a poisonous snake and dies. Now Leela, who has never spent even a single minute alone with her husband, is a widow. According to Brahman tradition, she must shave her head, wear only the simplest clothing, and stay in the house for a full year after her husband’s death. She can no longer attend school. For the rest of her life, she must remain in mourning. She’s forbidden from ever marrying again.

Keeping Corner is the story of Leela’s first year of widowhood. Is her life really ruined? Or can she possibly find purpose and happiness in the face of such tragedy?