Book Review #8: Jorie and the Magic Stones by A.H. Richardson Who Run The World? JORIE!

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Jorie and the Magic Stones: An Introduction

Book Cover
The cover of Jorie and The Magic Stones

Welcome to my first children’s chapter book review! For my eighth book review, I had the pleasure of reading the story of Jorie and the Magic Stones, an intermediate-elementary level adventure-fantasy chapter book. And what a great story it was! While I am pretty darn far from the book’s target childhood-age demographic, I am still certain young readers will enjoy the story as much as I did! Plus, I have elementary teacher cred. Us teachers know good children’s literature when we read it, trust me. And Jorie and the Magic Stones happens to be just that: good children’s literature. I recommend reading it without hesitation.

Jorie and the Magic Stones can be described as part fantasy, part adventure, and nonstop fun from start to finish! A page-turner from chapter 1 to 43, in two days’ time, I had finished the book in its entirety. And THAT is the mark of a engaging story in my world. The teacher, parent, blogger, writer, and reviewer in me unanimously recommends this book, especially to young adventure-fantasy loving readers, from the ages of 8 to around age 12.

Vikino / Pixabay
An example of a Tarn. Depths Unknown. Kinda scary.

The book’s plot follows Ms. Marjorie “Jorie” Beatrice Weaver, and her inadvertently hilarious best friend/partner in crime, Rufus P. Whipperton, in their quest to find the two missing Stones of Maalog in the magical land of Cabrynthius.

It’s a mouthful, I know.

Cabrynthius is accessed through a Tarn, which according to Google is an actual thing, and not a made up fantasy element. I was actually unsure! I mean, I’d taught landforms as a third and fourth grade teacher for 7 years straight fairly recently, yet I’ve never, ever heard of a Tarn. It’s a name for an actual body of water, though! According to Wikipedia, a tarn is a mountain lake, usually formed by a melting glacier, that’s shaped in a cirque (a valley-shaped landform that can be very, very deep in certain places).

I love learning stuff like this. Even better that its from a children’s book, too!

Author A.H. Richardson tells the story with an enthusiastic and animated storytellers’ voice using vivid, detailed descriptions to help young readers easily bring the story to life in their minds. For fans of adventure and/or fantasy, Jorie and the Magic Stones is definitely a book just for you!

Little People, Tough Consumers

sasint / Pixabay Children are a writer’s toughest audience. And that is why I have chosen to write adult fiction for my first book attempt! God Bless children’s authors. #respect

When choosing book options for kids to pick from, intermediate-grade elementary students can be a tough crowd to please. Frequently, kids this age have zero qualms about abandoning a book even after they’ve read it halfway through, for Pete’s Sake! (I, on the other hand, will suffer through to the last page just to finish. I’m not sure which route is the smarter one).

As a 14-year teaching veteran of 3rd-6th grade students, I know first and foremost that kids want to read engaging, entertaining stories that consistently hold their interest. This is especially true when reading is a required assignment rather than an optional activity for them. And yes, that context does in fact matter.

Tweenage readers tend to seek balance between escapist, engaging plotlines, and prose written close to where their current reading level is when self-selecting books to read. They will also avoid any book deemed “babyish” like the plague. Any children’s book author writing for this target demographic needs to both know and understand how kids of this age think and act, and then write their characters similarly. This is not the easiest of tasks, as kids have amazingly well-developed BS sensors. However, author A. H. Richardson makes writing for children look easy. Richardson writes Jorie and Rufus as complex, joyful, innocent,  and curious, who one hundred percent think and act like children. And that, my friends, is what kids want to read about in their stories.

Kids: Its All About Them

The self-absorption of children is really not all their fault. Though at times, it can be as annoying as, say, this GIF.

An important facet of a book written for 8-12 year old kids is that at the very least, the main characters in the story need to be somewhat relatable to the reader. Why, you ask?

Because nature, bruh.

Tween-age kids are pretty darn self-absorbed. Though less egocentric than my 3.5 year old, (most of the time 😂), my oldest, S11 still gets caught (by me and/or Mike) thinking of only herself above all others at times. And while that particular aspect of my oldest daughter’s personality makes me absolutely poke-my-eyes-out crazy, I also know that being “all about me” is a developmental thing, and really just an evolutionary-based personality quirk. She will grow out of it. They all do.

But I still hate dealing with it, I ain’t even gon’ lie.

Reading
Yours truly, enjoying the adventures of whimsical, precocious Jorie, and dovelike, kindhearted Rufus.

Being that 8-12 year olds are naturally self-absorbed creatures, when choosing books, they frequently gravitate towards stories led by protagonists that they can relate to. As a teacher, I have seen this phenomenon literally thousands of times in the various classrooms I have taught in over the years. Interestingly enough, I’m pretty certain that kids don’t even realize they do this, either!

Tween readers, at times (not all the time, but likely much of the time) appear to prefer reading about characters that are in some way a reflection of themselves. This explains why boys often choose books with male protagonists, and vice versa.

Enter Jorie and Rufus!

Jorie and the Magic Stones fulfills both sides of the gender equation with the dual protagonists of best-friends-in-the-making Jorie and Rufus. With both a story plot and cover art that screams “gender-neutral,” this book can appeal to boys, girls, and anyone else in between. Author A.H. Richardson doesn’t disappoint in her development of Jorie and Rufus as characters, as they both end up possessing a hearty amount of strong, identifiable physical and personality traits. And there are definitely enough traits to satisfy the choosy, reflection-seeking pallates of a typical 8-12 year old modern-day reader.

But more on Jorie and Rufus, later on.

Fantasy stories are quite popular with children in this post-Harry Potter world, and Jorie and the Magic Stones is a welcome new addition to the genre. For fiction readers who may not be as drawn to fantasy stories, don’t turn away from here just yet!

Question: Many fiction lovers enjoy adventure stories, amirite?

Well Jorie and the Magic Stones is BOTH fantasy AND adventure, combined into one captivating, lively story. So give it a try, kiddos!

Mass Appeal

Back Cover
The back cover of the book.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is appropriate for a wide range of young readers. I’ve always believed that books having mass appeal must be well-written, entertaining, and engrossing, and Jorie is truly no exception.

As stated earlier, Jorie and the Magic Stones thankfully cannot be classified as a “girl book” or a “boy book.” Instead, I have deemed it an “everyone book.” Starring fiery, plucky heroine Jorie, who is curious, witty, joyful and wise, she represents to me the epitome of all things girl power. Jorie is a modern day feminist parent’s dream child if ever there was one; precocious, polite, with just the right quantity of wild.

Jorie is not a model of one child, but instead a composite of the best traits of many in my mind. I found her to be kinda superhuman, actually.

Enter Rufus.

Jorie’s sidekick and best friend in training Rufus is quite a different child than Jorie is. First off, Rufus is scared of like, everything. He is described as kinda chubby, and does NOT like to read books. If this story took place in modern times, I’m quite certain that Rufus would be addicted to cheese curls and X-Box with the way that his character is described.

But unlike dream child Jorie, Rufus is real. As real as 9-year old boys come, actually. Despite his stuffy, aristocratic, uber-English late 19th century Victorian lifestyle, Rufus P. Whipperton is basically 15% of every third through sixth grade class I’ve ever taught in my life.

I have met thousands of Rufuses over my 14 year teaching career. And man, do I love that kid. In my eyes, he is just as wonderful as Jorie, and that’s the 100% honest truth.

The Setting

darksouls1 / Pixabay
I feel your pain my sista. I wouldn’t want to live like that either. Hope that corset isn’t too tight.

Right away, it is implied that Jorie is not set in modern times. Consider the evidence:

One: Jorie is picked up at the train station (travelling alone at 9 years old-yeah right) by a horse and carriage in one of the very first scenes of the book.

Two: Rufus’s grandpa paddles him when he acts out. Not spanks, PADDLES HIS BOTTOM. Nobody does that in 2018, I hope to God.

Three: Jorie’s stuffy Aunt Letty tells her to (barf) “act like a lady,” pretty much 5 minutes after they met for the first time. Letty just shoots rainbows and sparkles at her newly-transferred previously-orphaned niece from the get-go, doesn’t she? What a pleasure that old broad seems to be. In response to that ridiculous directive, however, Jorie does NOT respond by telling ol Lettybug exactly where she can shove said “lady act.” My S11 sure would, and she’s a pretty polite, nice kid. But she’s also a feminist, and she will tell you to take several seats if you come at her with some patriarchal, sexist, ridiculously outdated commands such as that one. S11 will act like a lady, and beat yo butt. And I would do the exact same.

Four: There is a distinct lack of any mention of technology thoughout the story. Or any electricity powered, uh, stuff.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Victorian Era.

Rufus P. Whipperton: A Primer

Embed from Getty Images

Weird as it sounds, Rapunzel is kind of Rufus Whipperton’s spirit animal, in a way.

Ah, Rufus. The yin to main character Jorie’s enthusiastic yang. Right away, I felt for poor Rufus. His parents are both deceased, and when the story begins, he lives in a big fancy-schmancy house with only his guardian, Uncle Herc. Uncle Herc was actually not Rufus’ uncle but his grandfather, which is an odd-yet interesting detail (why does Rufus call him Uncle? Oh wait…I think I know now). Ol Herc is all that Rufus has in the world, until Jorie moves in next door, and Rufus’ life truly begins. Initially, he reminds me of a male Rapunzel from Tangled, but without the hair, the singing ability, the lizard, or the frying pan.

Uncle Herc’s real name is Colonel Hercules Horsefall. Which is totally the best old-guy name, like, ever. Anyway, Hercky Herc is a retired military colonel, old as dirt, and tasked with raising his grandson to be a respectable member of Victorian society. So you could assume that ol Herc was just a laugh-a-minute Papa Bear, as well as the picture of understanding, hands-on attachment parenting. Right?

NOT. 😂😂😂

Not that Herc was a bad dude, or by Victorian era-standards, even a crappy parent. I mean if Herc was parenting 9-year old Gen Zer Rufus Jaden Brayden Caden Whipperton in 2018 and gave him a paddling, CPS would be knocking down Hercaherca’s door faster than he could tap his compression stockinged-heels together three times and say “Metamucil.” But way back in the day in Victorian times, beating children was pretty much the Taco Tuesday of parenting.

Well, that is if tacos were the polar opposite of awesome.

Of course, Rufus claims he “likes his grandpa just fine,” but at the same time, he is also pretty terrified of him. Is that how it was back then? Yuck. No thanks, bruh.

Herc’s default disciplinary philosophy consisted of paddling Rufus’ backside whenever Rufus misbehaved, accidentally broke something, uttered a word Herc didn’t want to hear, or breathed the wrong way. Though according to Rufus, as he described his intermittent beatings to Jorie like someone would the weather, “When I yell, he always stops.”

What a guy, that Herc.

Poor Rufus.

Marjorie “Jorie” Beatrice Weaver: A Primer

Main character
Our heroine, Marjorie Beatrice Weaver, aka “Jorie,” aka “A kick-butt little girl.”

Ah…. Jorie. What can I say about Jorie?

Like Rufus, Jorie was orphaned at an early age, and does not remember her parents. Her mother’s last name was Dunham, but at one time, way back up in the earlier branches of her family tree, the last name Dunham was actually Doonan. Until the very beginning of the book, Jorie had lived in a convent, raised by nuns after the death of her parents. Her Aunt Letty had planned all along to provide Jorie a home, but was living in India until recently. Now that Aunt Letty has returned, Jorie can finally move into Letty’s gorgeous, sprawling estate, which at one time was known as Dunham House. These days, little miss Jorie gets to live in full aristocratic splendor. And bonus: one day the house will be hers. Score!

The day Jorie arrives, Aunt Letty tells Jorie a bit about a past owner of Letty’s historic home. Said owner was named Maalog Doonan. Doonan happened to also be a distant relative to Letty and Jorie, but the book doesn’t delve into that much further. This Doonan guy had a reputation of possessing things like magical stones and other mysterious-type stuff which to Jorie, is beyond interesting to learn about, but any further talk about magic, unfortunately is dismissed by killjoy Aunt Letty. Aunt Stodgy dismisses it all as just a myth and thus not worth her time to explain. Boo. However, said “myth” actually ends up leading little Jorie on a wild adventure soon after with Rufus shaking nervously by her side.

Take that, Aunt Letty. And that’s all ima say about that!

S11 and S3
Jorie has the best qualities of both my daughters. I saw them each in her 8-year-old form-one vision from the past, and one from the future.

Jorie Weaver is, in my opinion, the prototype of childhood perfection. She is beautiful and wild, smart as a whip, full of energy, and extremely likable. The fact that she was an orphan raised by nuns all her life has surprisingly caused her zero psychological issues as well, so she obviously possess of boss level coping skills, too. Jorie is sweet, polite, precocious, and friendly. Her biggest flaw is a wild imagination, which nowadays is considered an asset.

Essentially, Jorie is pretty much a perfect kid.

Only stuffy Victorian era old people dislike imaginative children, which includes The Stuffiest of Them All, Aunt Letty. Stuffy Letty is pretty much Uncle Herc Lite (No paddle at least for the time being, anyway, as Jorie hadn’t annoyed her too much yet.  I’d give it a few months). The two of them (Letty and Herc) should get together, as misery loves company.

Aunt Letty and Jorie share their home with a supporting character, Letty’s awesomely sassy Irish housekeeper Bessie. First of all, Bessie is another rockin’ character name. Also, Ms. B speaks in a thick Irish accent, which is fun to decipher since A.H. Richardson writes all of Bessie’s dialogue phonetically. I thought that was pretty neat, myself.

While Rufus is Every Kid, Jorie is the Best of All Kids. Tasked to save the world from evil at only eight years old, she takes on the challenge with gusto! Jorie is the Atir, or the Chosen One, or the Girl With Hair Of Fire. The level of responsibility bestowed upon Jorie doesn’t freak out one iota, either; instead, it more excites, intrigues, and fuels Jorie’s overall determination to succeed. Jorie’s ability to figure out and problem solve is better than mine- actually better than most, I would have to definitely say. She is fearless, confident, and a wonderful role model for young readers, young, impressionable girls in particular. It is likely that young girls who read this book will see the best parts of themselves reflected in Jorie, and then striving to be a little more like her in other ways immediately following their reading of this book.

Jorie Weaver is both of my polar opposite daughters on their best day. Jorie. Kicks. Butt.

Final Thoughts

I’ve told you already but all say it one last time-Jorie and the Magic Stones was an absolute pleasure to read. I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, especially if you know an 8-12 year old child who loves to read fantasy-adventure type books. Five stars!

Before signing off, I need to announce that I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging to focus on finishing the novel I’ve been writing since July, 2016. After 1.5 years, I’m only on chapter 5, so something’s gotta give to get er done-and it can’t be the day job or the family (haha). My goal is simple: to finish my book. After that, I’ll be back here bimonthly, maybe more. Submissions for guest posts are still being accepted during my break.

See you real soon! (I hope)

Oh, and thanks for reading. Until next time!

Disclosure: The book was provided to the reviewer. All thoughts belong to the reviewer and have not been influenced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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