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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

Shelby & the Shifting Rings: Defender of Time
by A.M. Veillon
ages 9-12 176 pages Parity Press May 2005 Paperback    

In this children’s fantasy, orphaned Shelby Shodworth lives with her Uncle Leviticus (also known as the Colonel). She has only one friend, Casey, who lives next door, and he occasionally supports her by email throughout the book. Poor Shelby knows very little about her father from what her dead mother had told her. By request of her parents’ will, she is sent to Ms. Peabonnet’s Academy for Girls. Upon arrival, she is harassed by one of the older girls, Harrietta Hindmore, whose father has a great influence over the school. She also meets little Molly, a true brain. Shelby’s classes include Celestial Science (AKA Astrology) by Professor Uppsy, Fencing (AKA Gym Class) by Professor Sniptip and Etiquette/Manners by Professor Primprop. As you can see, the names are pretty passé.

Even before her first day, she runs into a dark-cloaked man who appears to be watching the school - a quick fix for a mystery. Too many coincidences make for poor storytelling. Shelby no sooner asks a question than it is answered in the next chapter, sometimes within the very same chapter. Shelby often falls into answers by accident, and it happens so much it’s a wonder Shelby makes it through in the end.

There is ever the nagging feeling that you are reading a poor rendition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There’s a professor that everything points to as the bad guy. This professor ends up being the good guy trying to save poor Shelby; this is just one example, but there are plenty more within the story.

Much of the narrative speaking is so corny that it becomes ridiculous to read. Shelby is fascinated by the word “wow”. As should be, she runs into a lot of mindbenders. A marsupial in an million-year-old egg that, after being dormant for about ten years, hatches? Wow. A secret switch that leads to an underground cave where her father’s journal is sitting right in full view? Wow. All fingers point to one man being the bad guy when suddenly, out of nowhere, someone who isn’t even at the school and has possibly only two hints at ever even being involved comes to light as the true bad guy? Wow.

On a good note, it is cute even if not overly clever. The age range is right, and anyone new to science fiction or fantasy might be fascinated. Shelby, in her own corny way, is adorable, and while she does stand up for a fight, she still falls into things way too much.

In all, the proclamation that Shelby is a new, stronger heroine is certainly lacking in the ‘stronger’ part. Just because she doesn’t sit around doesn’t necessarily make for a stronger hero. There isn’t really a chance for Shelby to overcome some sort of personal malfunction in order to beat the bad guys.

The journey isn’t over; this is only part one. Hopefully Shelby will do some growing up and improve with whatever comes next. Until then, this book gets a two out of five.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Calissa Leigh/2005 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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