TOKENS and OMENS by Jeri Baird

Fantasy, Adventure, and Heart

Tokens and Omens

by Jeri Baird


As soon as I read the prologue for this YA fantasy, I knew that I was in for a memorable adventure.


            “I am called by many names. Destiny, Fate, Fortune; however

            I prefer Moira, for it sounds as if I have a heart. I do not.”


I also like that the story is told from dual points of view, Zander—a sixteen-year-old boy who too often hunts on the elders’ forbidden lands for pelts to aid his drunken father’s business. And Alexa—the sixteen-year-old daughter of a baker who vows to do better for herself than a life of bread. The two find themselves bound together in a most astounding way.


The fantasy quickly unfolds with numerous twists and turns. The annual quest to test the merits of each of the village sixteen-year-olds is six months away. Zander and Alexa are thrown into class with the others and quickly learn survival tips from the priest and fortune teller to prepare for the five-day forest ordeal. Each individual earns tokens when they do a good deed and earns omens when they display a negative trait. I especially like how the book’s message of individual accountability is woven throughout.


                     “He wanted to believe he had control over his life.

                    The quest taught that his actions affected the outcome.”


Both Zander and Alexa make numerous wrong turns along the way and gain their fair share of omens, but Fate also deals them startling twists too. I won’t spoil any of the surprises, but I was pleased to see them both discover their strengths. The villains in the story spur the main characters on to becoming stronger and more focused on the right paths.


    “… the real challenge is to our beliefs over who we are and what we want in our life.”


As is fitting in a YA novel, there is a bit of romance, plenty of action, and some heart-tugging loss as well. Ultimately, the powerful theme of the story shines through: “Your life has meaning. Your struggles have meaning.”


Those who enjoyed The Hunger Games should relish this one as well. The good news is that the adventures continue in September with book 2!

Two thumbs up to author Jeri Baird in weaving together this delightful tale with its clever plot and enchanting characters.

Jennifer Donnelly, Author of REVOLUTION

I had the great privilege of hearing Jennifer Donnelly speak this Wednesday. She is on the second week of her book tour for REVOLUTION–a story which bridges the centuries with the lives of two teenage girls.

Ms. Donnelly titled her presentaion, “The Past Is Present: Writing REVOLUTION.” The story involves the French Revolution, but it also deals with the revolution inside each of us. The author said, “All the books I’ve written have taken me on a journey. This book’s journey has been the most rewarding.”

The idea for the story started with a news article in the New York Times about the heart of the last dauphin, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The dauphin died at the age of 10 while still imprisoned. His demise was one of the many tragic deaths during the Revolution’s upheaval.

In REVOLUTION, Ms. Donnelly wanted to explore the cruelty of a world where the deaths of innocent children were almost overlooked. The dauphin’s heart is still kept on display at the Basillica of St. Denis in Paris–a sad testimony to a tumultuous time.

National Library Week, National Poetry Month, Earth Day, and More

This has been a busy week. It’s NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK, so I certainly hope you’ve visited your local library at least once this week. I’m reading Elise Broach’s fun mystery story for middle grade readers called, MASTERPIECE. A cockroach named Marvin is the main character. He has an amazing talent which takes him on an adventurous quest. Click on the link and hear the author read from the book.

And it still POETRY MONTH. I’ve been writing a poem a day. How about you? One of my favorite young adult novels is written in free verse poetry–OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse. Or another free verse novel, this one a middle grade read by Sharon Creech, is LOVE THAT DOG. This story is wonderful also.
Monday, April 20, is EARTH DAY. Here are 3 suggestions for green activities:
  • cut two minutes off your morning shower to conserve water
  • pick up trash in your neighborhood
  • plant a tree or some wildflower seeds

What else can you think of do? 

Last, but not least, I invite you to visit MY LIGHT magazine for the April issue which features my article on St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th century young adult celebrity. 

Reading For All Ages

I’ve read some wonderful books of late and would like to share them with you.

The first is a young adult historical fiction novel titled, I AM REMBRANDT’S DAUGHTER by Lynn Cullen. (Bloomsbury, 2007) Cornelia van Rijn, Rembrandt’s illegitimate daughter, tells the story of her 16 years living with the famous creative genius. At the time of Cornelia’s birth in Amsterdam, however, Rembrandt had fallen out of favor with art patrons. The story recounts the struggles of the family, especially Cornelia’s search for her own identity and happiness amid the turmoil of poverty and the ever-present plague threat. Both romance and resilience play parts in this tender novel.
The second wonderful book is PSALMS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN by Marie-Helene Delval and illustrated by Arno. (Eerdmans, 2008) The title belies the fact that this beautiful book is a treat for all ages. 40 psalms are simplified for more easy reading and understanding. Arno follows this simplified approach with his colorful illustrations. The combination of text and pictures with the messages of love found in the psalms creates a truly powerful piece of literature. 
*For another example of introducing young children to Biblical verses, check out my book–GIFTS FROM GOD.
The third book is a picture book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Karen Hesse.  SPUDS (illustrated by Wendy Watson–Scholastic, 2008) tells the story of a poor rural family, three children and their hard-working mother. When the mother goes to work one night–leaving the eldest child, Maybelle–in charge. The narrator–the middle boy, Jack–relates their exploits when they decide to harvest left-over potatoes from a neighbor’s farm. They bundle up young brother, Eddie, pulling him in the old red wagon. They scramble in the dark to fill a bag full of potatoes, but when they return home they are in for a surprise. This is a touching story of a family working together to overcome their hardships. The illustrations evoke the 1930’s setting with sweet vignettes.
The weekend is almost here. I hope you get some extra reading time in–perhaps one of these great books would be the perfect treat.