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About the Author
Anna StaniszewskiAnna Staniszewski lives outside of Boston, MA with her husband and their adopted black Lab, Emma. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. When she's not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. You can visit her at www.annastan.com.
You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They’re lies. All lies. No one tells you the truth until it&rsqu...
You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They’re lies. All lies. No one tells you the truth until it’s too late. And then all you can do is run like crazy while a herd of unicorns tries to kill you.
Of course, I had no idea what I’d done to get the unicorns all riled up. So much for having a magical guide to help me with my adventures. Anthony was about as useful as a bent thumbtack. Still, I needed his magic if I was going to get out of this mission alive.
“Anthony!” I shrieked as I darted down a hill and away from the stampeding unicorns. “Anthony, help me!” Where was that carrot-headed gnome?
The unicorns’ glittering horns were right behind me. Another minute and I’d be a marshmallow on a stick.
“All right, Jenny,” I said to myself. “You can do this.” I forced my burning legs to speed up. If I could just get far enough away, I might be able to hide.
I dashed behind a tree and pressed up against the trunk. A second later, the herd tore past at hurricane speed. But I wasn’t safe for long. The unicorns screeched to a stop and whipped around to face me. Their golden eyes were tiny slits.
“Look,” I said, gripping the tree trunk for support. “I was just trying to teach you guys how to share. If you want to keep fighting over that rainbow, that’s your business.”
The unicorn leader stepped forward. His horn was a full foot taller than all the others, and his head was decorated with tiny, bell-like flowers.
“Can’t we all just get along?” I said. Cheesy sayings always popped out of my mouth during adventures, even when I didn’t want them to.
“Nay,” said the unicorn.
“Is that like a horse neigh or a ‘no’ nay?”
“Naaay!” the unicorn sputtered.
I fought back a hysterical giggle. Anthony had warned me that unicorns couldn’t produce human speech, even though they could understand it. Still, I couldn’t get over the fact that these mythical creatures could sound so much like…well, like regular horses.
“I already tried to explain to you. I’m an adventurer,” I told them. “I was sent here to help you. But clearly you don’t want my help. So if you don’t mind, I’d really like to get home now. My aunt’s probably worried sick about me.” This last part wasn’t quite true—Aunt Evie wouldn’t notice if I suddenly started walking around on my ears—but I figured it might help if the unicorns thought there was someone back home who would care if I disappeared.
“Naaaaaay,” the unicorn leader replied. Then he lunged forward and jabbed my elbow with his horn.
“Ow!” I cried as pain shot through my entire arm.
The unicorn came at me again, but I ducked out of the way just in time. Instead of spearing me, the unicorn’s horn sliced into the trunk of the tree. He whinnied and kicked, trying to get himself unstuck.
Seeing my chance, I jumped to my feet and sprinted away. From behind me came an angry, horselike bellow. I didn’t need to speak unicorn to know what it meant.
I could hear the unicorns galloping after me. I tried to run faster, but my arm was throbbing. Were unicorns’ horn tips poisonous?
As the sound of hooves grew louder, I realized I wouldn’t last much longer. Besides the pain in my arm, my legs were starting to feel like lead. Any second I would run out of steam.
“Anthony,” I said, panting. “Wherever you are, please help me.”
A split second later, I heard a loud Pop! and Anthony the Gnome materialized in front of me. He was grinning from ear to ear and holding a giant ice-cream cone.
“Hey, Jenny-girl. Did you miss me?” he said.
I grabbed Anthony’s arm and pulled him along as I ran. “Get us out of here!”
Anthony rolled his eyes like he always did when he thought I was overreacting. But he held up his free hand and snapped his fingers, managing to lick his ice cream and keep running at the same time.
With another Pop! I was pulled out of the unicorns’ land, tossed around in the void between worlds, and spit back onto my bedroom carpet.
I rolled over onto my side and moaned in pain. My arm felt like it was melting.
“Looks like I missed all the fun,” said Anthony. “But I found the most amazing dairy stand—”
“Help me!” I croaked.
Anthony’s grin faded when he saw the blood gushing onto my sleeve. He balanced his ice-cream cone on my desk. Then he reached into the leather pouch around his waist and pulled out a glass jar filled with green goo.
“This should help,” he said cheerfully. He opened the jar and slapped some of the goo onto my arm before I could object.
“Ouch!” I said as my arm started to burn. “Ew!” I added as I caught a whiff of rotting seaweed. But a second later the burning stopped and my arm felt a whole lot better.
“You’re welcome,” said Anthony. He started wrapping a bandage above my elbow, humming a little tune under his breath.
“I’m supposed to thank you? I almost died!”
Anthony let out a deep laugh that made his round belly jiggle. “Always the drama queen. As if those unicorns would actually hurt you.”
“They did hurt me. Where do you think all that blood came from?”
“Oh,” said Anthony, waving his hand. “That’s just how they are. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“That’s what you said about the baby dragons last week before they tried to turn my head into a flaming volleyball.”
Anthony laughed again and tugged on his orange beard. “They were just playing. No harm done. You can barely see your scar.”
I groaned and lay back on my bed. My entire body ached. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gotten a good night’s rest. All I wanted was to curl up in bed with a book about an everyday kid with everyday problems and let it soothe me to sleep.
“No time to loaf around, Jenny-girl,” Anthony sang. “I just got word from the Committee that there’s another adventure you need to go on today.”
I nearly choked. “Another one? Anthony, that’s the fifth one this week!”
“Everyone keeps requesting to be saved by you, Jenny-girl. You’ve got quite the reputation.”
I wasn’t sure what I’d done to earn that reputation. I didn’t even really like being an adventurer. But somehow I’d gotten stuck doing it practically nonstop for the past three years. If I ever figured out how to go back in time, I’d tell my nine-year-old self to run the other way when a gnome showed up in her room promising a life of magic and adventure.
“There has to be someone else the Committee can send,” I said. “What about all the other adventurers out there?” I hadn’t actually met any of the others, but Anthony was always reminding me that they’d kill to be sent on as many missions as I was.
“You’re the one they want,” said Anthony.
I groaned again and tried to sit up, but my body weighed a ton and my arm was still throbbing. “I can’t. I’m too tired.”
“Have some candy!” Anthony pulled a bag of enormous gummy worms out of his pocket. “These will wake you right up.”
“I’m too tired to even chew. I need to get some sleep. If the Committee members can’t understand that, then I can go explain it to them myself.”
Anthony rolled his eyes. “You know you can’t do that. The Committee stays hidden for its own safety.”
I rolled my eyes right back. Maybe the Committee stayed in hiding because its members knew otherwise they’d have angry adventurers coming to find them all the time. Just because the mysterious Committee protected the magical worlds didn’t mean it could totally take over my life. I mean, hadn’t they ever heard of child labor laws?
“I’m serious,” I said, jamming a pillow over my head. “I need to sleep.”
“The Committee’s not going to like this,” Anthony’s muffled voice answered. For a minute, everything was quiet. I could picture him standing there with his arms crossed, impatiently tapping his foot.
Finally, I heard him sigh and walk over to my desk. I imagined him scooping up his ice-cream cone and giving it a big lick.
“And they say you’re the best,” Anthony muttered. Then there was a loud Pop! and he was gone.
I pulled the pillow off my head and stared at the empty space where Anthony had been. A small puddle of melted ice cream oozed across my math homework.
I tried not to let what Anthony had said bother me, but it was no use. Everyone expected me to be a superhero, but even superheroes had to sleep sometimes, didn’t they? Besides, I wasn’t really a hero. I just helped out magical creatures once in a while. No capes or masks involved. And in the end, I was still just a regular girl, wasn’t I?
Part of the genius behind Anna’s premise is that middle readers who like and middle readers who don’t like traditional fairy tales will both...
Part of the genius behind Anna’s premise is that middle readers who like and middle readers who don’t like traditional fairy tales will both enjoy it. It’s a great middle ground that celebrates the spirit of fairy tales while turning them on their heads.
If your middle reader is looking for a fast-paced and humorous read, this quirky book is a great option.
Anna Staniszewski creates a magical world that’s totally relatable. You’ll find yourself wishing you were alongside Jenny fighting against unicorns (who aren’t as peaceful as you think) and traveling to fantastical realms.
As I read this book, all I could think was that a 4th or 5th grade me would LOVE this book! Real Kingdoms with all the fairytale creatures? Unicorns? Fairy's? Dragons? Talking frogs? Yes Please!! I think the clincher for me was the talking Gnome! (I have an odd place in my heart for Garden Gnomes!)
I think this book had everything a mid grade novel should have! A lovable main character who learns a lesson (the grass isn't always greener on the otherside) and spouts off good sayings (treat others as you would like to be treated) and learns to accept friends for who they are. (With a lesson on not telling lies thrown in there as well.)
But all those good lessons are masked by a great story! Anna Staniszewski did a wonderful job of creating a new world, as well as the characters that inhabit the world where Jenny is employed as an Adventurer! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun mid-grade book!
Wow, what a fun middle grade novel with fantastic characters, an amazing and witty main character and a magical plot.. Jenny's voice is pitched perfectly for the book's intended audience and her magical problems reflect the real world problems that 9-12 year olds face every day. A very different but original and recommended read!
In the acknowledgements for her book My Very UnFairytale Life Anna Staniszewski describes it as her "wacky little book". It is indeed a whacky little book but in a way that is fun and not too ridiculous especially if you are of the age of the intended audience. Elementary school me would have loved this book with a fervent and fierce devotion.
You know all those stories that have fairy godmothers coming into change the lives of ordinary girls? Well this is that in reverse. Jenny is an ordinary girl sent to help change the lives of magical creatures. Instead of being armed with a magic wand, Jenny relies on a repertoire of cheesy cliches to make a difference. Sure sometimes baby dragons try to burn her head off and unicorns charge after her, but that's all part of the fun. Except Jenny is not having much fun. She is in middle school and she wants a life and normal friends. Instead she gets a candy addict gnome guide and an old adventurer who keeps an eye on her. When faced with a saving a kingdom being terrorized by an evil magical clown who tortures prisoners by making them appear in his circus, Jenny decides she can't take it anymore. But normal is not what Jenny expected and she has to consider that maybe adventuring is what she was born to do.
Jenny is an engaging and witty narrator. She is imaginative and adventurous, the sort of girl who dresses up as Indiana Jones for Halloween and releases a jar of spiders into her Kindergarten class so she can "rescue" her classmates. While she does complain quite a bit about her lot in life you can't help but agree that she is being sorely used and mistreated by the mysterious committee who gives her assignments. And Anthony her guide does seem pretty heartless at times. Jenny's voice is pitched perfectly for the book's intended audience and her magical problems reflect the real world problems that 9-12 year olds face every day. There are couple of plot points that aren't really explained or wrapped up well (the disappearance of Jenny's parents, the mysterious committee) and this left me feeling like something was missing.
If you have a young girl in your life who has a spirit of adventure, enjoys fantasy, plucky heroines, and a bit of silly this is the perfect book to put in their hands.
You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies."—Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it's a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She'd almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature! When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn't think she can win.
There are lots of things to love about this middle grade book. First, it has a feisty and opinionated protagonist--I mean, c'mon people, she fights unicorns. And strange talking magical creatures. Second, she's a golfer. Well, mini-golfer. But still. It's a fun read--perfect for your middle-grader who's sick and tired of the traditional fairy tale. Or not!
Anna Staniszewski is getting fabulous reviews for her debut novel -- I would suggest that perhaps it's a great holiday gift for your favorite middle grader.
And if anyone is interested in meeting Anna, she's doing some appearances for her book--I think I'll be going on November 18 to the Barnes and Noble in Burlington, MA.
In a light comic romp with a fantasy theme, 12-year-old Jenny, reluctant adventurer, decides to live a normal life, if she can.
Jenny has spent the last three years traveling to magical lands, vanquishing foes by dispensing “cheesy” wisdom. She’s in high demand as an adventurer. However, she yearns for a normal life, with friends and school. When she meets an enemy, the terrible clown monster Klarr, that appears too powerful for her skills, she quits. Her normal life, however, doesn’t fulfill her hopes, as she just doesn’t seem to fit in with ordinary kids her age. Jenny finds she can’t get away from her magical adventures in any case. She goes back with her gnome sidekick Anthony to rescue her new friend Prince Lamb from Klarr’s grasp. Staniszewski pitches her writing to a middle-school audience in her debut, emphasizing comedy along with non-threatening suspense, and keeps the tone chatty and frothy. She throws in some sweet animal characters along with the less interesting humans, although Jenny’s Aunt Evie, always surrounded by animals, and her kindly magical protector, Dr. Bradley, stand out. An eye for imaginative detail mixes with these likable characters and a theme of empathy for others to keep the story appropriate to a younger audience, who easily will identify with Jenny. Charming. (Fantasy adventure. 9-14)
When unicorns, elves, or fairies fight, 12-year-old Jenny and her candy-crazed gnome sidekick, Anthony, swoop in to save the day. “Most of the time,” says Jenny, “I just had to say one of the cheesy things that popped into my head, like ‘Waste not, want not!’ and the magical creatures would think I was wise and great and do whatever I told them.” But Jenny is exhausted: in the three years since she was selected by the Committee to become an adventurer and protect magical kingdoms far and wide, her friends have forgotten her, and she has become more distant from her Aunt Evie. When a lamb prince is kidnapped by Klarr, an evil clown sorcerer who has cast a silence spell on the land of Speak (leaving all creatures without mouths), Jenny agrees to her riskiest mission yet. Staniszewski’s debut is a speedy and amusing ride that displays a confident, on-the-mark brand of humor, mostly through Jenny’s wisecracking narration. Though the plot unfolds predictably, the inventive and lighthearted premise will keep readers entertained. Ages 9–up. (Nov.)
Length: 7.5 in
Width: 5.25 in
Weight: 5.12 oz
Page Count: 208 pages