“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, February 27, 2009

Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword • Middle-grade fiction (fantasy)

Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword
by Oliver Neubert
Just out! • Simply Read Books • Ages 8 -12 • Paperback original
Fantasy, adventure, magic, myths, heroes, a quest. Reluctant readers? Every reader.
Story: A vengeful spirit is destroying nature and corrupting minds. Chantel, the Princess of Freedom, is the only one who can save the world from the evil unleashed by the spirit— but only if she successfully retrieves four ancient relics. With the help of a warrior mouse and a fox bat, Chantel begins her quest in the Land of the North, where she must find the powerful Golden Sword. However, someone else is determined to locate the sword first: the Snow Walker, the evil spirit’s brutal warlord. As she struggles through icy, unfamiliar territory to unearth the magical relic, Chantel makes an amazing discovery that holds the key to the planet's future. But is it too late?

Story behind the story: Author Oliver Neubert shares this story of the book's beginnings: "Chantel’s Quest began when my daughter...asked me to tell her a story. At that time, I knew the song of 'We are going on a bear hunt, we are going to get a big one.' So that is what I told her and we were acting out the story as I was telling it. I was a horse or an eagle and Chantel would sit on my back while we were riding through grassland, through large forests, through deep mud, through a cold river and then finally up the mountain, until we would stand in front of a huge cave. Suddenly the big, angry bear would come out and roar at us. Chantel and I became very frightened and ran back down the mountain, through the river, through the mud, through the forest and through the grassland. Chantel would fall off my back several times and had to climb back on it again. Back at home we would hide below blankets and wait until everything became quiet again....The stories became longer and more interesting, sometimes more scary. We continued with this until Chantel was 5 and I had to find a chiropractor to realign my back from all the horseback riding and flying."

"This fast-paced hero quest is guaranteed to please any adventure reader. Author Oliver Neubert provides an exciting plot. His characters are interesting and endearing. Using a simple writing style, Neubert's Chantel's Quest: The Golden Sword appeals to reluctant readers. This novel would make an excellent choice for a classroom novel set." -- Resource Links

"Oliver Neubert has created an intriguing world, full of interesting creatures and beings. Neubert has managed to create a wide variety of creatures and beings without resorting to the stereotypes of the genre. There are Winged Ones and Rock Climbers rather than elves and dwarfs. Although there is magic, there are no witches and wizards. Rather, there are Wise Ones who have functions and abilities beyond the use of magic. Neubert's creativity adds to the depth of his work and leaves the reader curious about what creatures and beings they may meet.

In many fantasy books, the events being described are often the results of plans and other events from hundreds or thousands of years before. In Chantel's Quest, the current events were only set in motion 85 years before, a much more manageable time frame for younger readers. The short time span also reduces the amount of historical background needed to understand the events and keeps the story moving along at a relatively steady pace.

Oliver Neubert has created an engaging first book about the Four Lands, with fantastic characters and a solid story." -- CM (Curriculum Materials) magazine

The author lives in Vancouver, but will be in New York end of May and available for school/library/bookstore visits.

Thematic Links: Fantasy; Adventure; Magic; Myths; Heroes; Quests

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Mflick1 said...

Has anyone got this book yet? Just curious.

Deborah Sloan said...

To Mflick1 and others: I know that the publisher has received requests and is fulfilling them. Simply Read Books is a small publisher (wonderful because they can focus all their attention on creating just-right books) and I believe they've been doing some traveling and thus haven't shipped books yet. But be patient: I hope you'll find CHANTEL'S QUEST is worth the wait. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just received this book yesterday and began reading it. I showed it to my 11 year old and I was not able to take it back. She was immediately swept away along with the main character, Chantel, and supporting characters. It is good to see the immediate connection between reader and text. She is my less eager reader and for that I give it a 5 in the picnic basket scale!

Amy said...

I just received mine today and can I say that the personal touch they did in writing in our books and sending bookmarks was very classy and appreciated! Cannot wait to read!

Sandra Stiles said...

I started this book this morning and finished it this afternoon.
The character Chantel is very well developed as were the others. I was on the edge of my seat at the end of each chapter. The author did an excellent job with worldbuilding. I felt like I was in that very world. I felt sorry for the characters who were touched by the darkness and doubted tehmselves and anger at the Evil one. I love when a book can make me feel such strong emotions. I loved the the short chapters. My students were amazed that it had 34 chapters. I have a list of them lined up to read it. I am going to have a hard time waiting for the next three. I definately rate this book a 5!!!

dmuldawer said...

Chantel's Quest is quite readable and engaging in the tried and true quest format. However, it seems to be more geared toward younger readers.

One thing that bothered me was how outside forces continually rescued Chantel. One of the nicest things about literature is seeing characters fight for their own identity and learn through their mistakes. And yet in this book, there are an abundance of guides and protectors.

Chantel has a mouse protector who can become a mighty warrior at will. When she is about to fall into a gorge, she is rescued by a rock climber. Food and shelter seem to be readily available for the most part.
Another thing that bothered me is that themes and morals were told to the reader through dialogue. Most readers enjoy figuring out things for themselves, and I kind of felt clobbered over the head sometimes by the lack of subtly.
Chantel also doesn't seem to be a well developed character. She screams a lot that she won't give up and invariably gets the magic possession or passes a test, resulting in other characters calling her brave. In my opinion, there's more stubborness than soul searching and Chantel doesn't seem to grow or mature through her quest.
On a positive note, there are moments in Chantel's Quest which are quite promising. When Chantel has to face her own hopes and fears in the chamber of the Sleepwalker, she gains a certain amount of power. I also liked Mouse's realization that the loss of control over his gift was due to a lack of self-acceptance.
There are also certain cliff-hangers in the plot. Why did the Spirit of the West become evil? Will she escape and what will she do? Is the winged fairy truly dead and what will that do to the prophecy of the four winged maidens?
I would recommend this book to elementary aged students, but feel it would be of less interest to those in middle and high school.

Picnic Basket Rating: 3

Lindsay said...

First, I would like to thank the author for personalizing the book copy AND sending the bookmarks - what a wonderful touch!

I really enjoyed this book. I am not usually a fan of fantasy but this book grabbed my attention, and kept it! I particularly loved the characters in this novel and could really envision them.

I am definitely going to be on the lookout for the next three in this series - I am recommending them to my students as well, they are worth the read.

I can see using this book within the SOL curriculum easily - students needs these types of reads as well as the nonfiction, biography, etc. to keep a good mix. I would do some character comparisons with this novel and it lends itself well to prediction activities because it is a series and each book doesn't have a true conclusion to the overall story.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4 out of 5

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

EShay said...

The personalization and bookmarks were a wonderful touch!
It might seem petty, but I loved the quality of the paper. So often, paper seems cheap and not very rugged. I appreciate that this book feels as if it can last.
That said, I love the era of castles and quests. I found this book to be interesting. The little quotes at the beginning of the chapters were eyecatching and I loved the concept of a mouse becoming mighty. However, I did not feel that Chantel was as strong as she should be. Perhaps it is because she is new to the quest and has to grow, but she had so much assistance that it was as if she fell into everything.
Kids love series books and so I believe that will help. Perhaps Chantel will grow and develop into more of a leader. I can see upper elementary really getting into this book.
I give it a 4.

Kathy said...

Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword - Fantastic book and a hard one to put down! Can hardly wait until I can read the next three! I'm anxious to start it as a read aloud for my students. The short chapters will appeal to them as well as Mouse turning into the Mighty Warrior and the castle setting. Mr. Neubert does a superior job with the characters of Chantel and Mouse. The personal touch of signing the book and the book marks were appreciated.

Picnic Basket Rating: 5

Kathy J. Johnson
4th Grade Classroom
Williamsburg Elementary
Williamsburg, MO

Pamela Kramer said...

I agree with many of the comments in that it was very thoughtful to have the author sign the book to us personally and enclose bookmarks. However, it does make it difficult to give anything but a glowing review (because I feel guilty). But, we must be honest in our reviews, bookmarks notwithstanding.

I liked the concept of the book but felt it was lacking in the execution. Good books are written in such a way that the reader can picture what is happening because of rich detail and the author's use of simile, metaphor and other figurative language. In Chantel's Quest, I felt like the author was hitting us over the head with the main ideas instead of doing what we encourage our students to do when writing--show don't tell. I like for my students to be able to infer from the characters' thoughts and actions, but in this book nothing is left unsaid. In other words, there is not much to infer because the author says it all for you. Perhaps it is not too late for this to be rectified in the next book. I hope so because the author shows a lot of creativity in the setting, the plot and in the characters.

Anonymous said...

I don't often read fantasy books, but I found Chantal's quest quite an enjoyable read. It has a dynamic plot that keeps you going - I could hardly put it down once I started.
The imagery used within the text is creative and vivid, but the author keeps it simple enough for young readers to follow. I love the theme of good versus evil; the characters are given the opportunities to make their own choices (whether good or bad), but ultimately, there are consequences for their actions. I feel that this is an important message that is slowly becoming forgotten.
I give this book a 4 out of 5. I can't wait to the next book in this series!

Anonymous said...

I rate this book a 3.

At first, it was very hard to get into the book. It seemed hard to follow and had unusual names that would be hard for kids to read. The plot was good, but the story didn't flow.
After I picked it up again, I read for 3 hours and finished the book. I was hooked! I had to finish because I was entranced by the good vs. evil conflict. This is very relatable to life. I now cannot wait for the second book to come out!

SunshineFamily said...

I received my copy and am also pleased with the inscription from the author and the bookmarks. I am glad to see a girl as the central character as many of the books I read as a child focused on boys in adventure and fantasy books. I give the book a 5 as it is engaging and brings the reader quickly into the world. You can really imagine your settings without it being overly descriptive. I tend to enjoy children's books, even as an adult, and do not feel that this is at all geared to early childhood as others commented on. I think girls and boys from 3rd grade on into middle school would enjoy this book and keep in mind there are many struggling readers that want age appropriate storylines and characters in simpler text. This book provides that without dumbing down the material. I give this book a 5 on the Picnic Basket scale and hope for many more to come.

Kelsey B. said...

Like other readers, I loved the personalized book copy and bookmarks! It is always a pleasure to receive autographed books.

As for the book itself, I thought that it left a bit to be desired. Fantasy is one of my least favorite genres. While I try not to let that play a strong role in my opinions, I am sure that it had some sort of influence. It was a difficult book to get into, and I struggled to connect with Chantel at the beginning.

I think the book would be good for upper-elementary, but so far, my middle school students have not be interested in it.

I would give this book a three out of five.

Kelsey B.
7th grade language arts

Newman said...

"Chantel's Quest..." is a pretty solid read. The prose is simple and straightforward, and the main character is easy to like and connect with. I always appreciate fantasy with a female protagonist so more students will be able to connect with the story than normally do with fantasy fiction. Some elements are a bit too simplistic for my taste (Owl, Mouse, Evil One), but I think students (5th grade?) will enjoy the style.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Kevin Newman
KIPP Austin Academy of Arts & Letters
Austin, TX

wordwarrior said...

Chantel's Quest is recommended for middle grade fiction, but I would suggest mid to upper elementary instead. The writer's approach is simple with little background information needed for the reader to understand the concept and morals being relayed. However, this is helpful to a newer reader who is venturing into longer chapter book reading. The story's characters are well developed and entertaining. The reading is not difficult and does not need alot of inference to understand what is going on. As many other reviewers have remarked, I did enjoy the book marks and personalization. I look forward to the next three books.

Laura Miller
BHS, Buhler Kansas
Paraprofessional Interelated

Katharine grade 3 teacher said...

I loved this book! First, it was so great to have a younger female heroine on a quest. I think that is not always the case. Second, I agree that this is more for younger readers. I have higher level third graders that would have no problem with this. In fact, to get them into the series, I am going to use it as a read aloud and hope to have them on the look out for the other books. Finally, I also couldn't put it down. It is written in such a wonderful way that keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat. I also like how it has you looking forward to the next book. It is an excellent lesson in foreshadowing.

Great read! :) And such a personal touch with the bookmark and writing in it! It is definitely a 5!

Lemon the Duck said...

I liked the idea of a female heroine and characters finding themselves along the way (which is what we hope for all our students).
I had a hard time connecting to the main character since it seemed that we woke up with Chantel on her birthday and we were off and running on a quest already---I didn't feel an investment in the character or story yet.
It was even harder to connect to Chantel as a heroine when she was either rescued or a problem was resolved with little effort.
I really liked the idea of the light and dark side in all of us but felt the messages in the story were too obvious and left little room for my students to infer and think for themselves.
I think the writer was imaginative and did a wonderful job of creating the setting and world Chantel lives in. I think every young girl wants to be the heroine on a quest.
I wouldn't target this book to middle grade readers but I could see upper elementary girl readers easily falling into Chantel's quest----or I should say quests.

ESnover said...

I know I posted a comment on this book already - so where did it go??? I loved this book. It is a fantastic beginning to what promises to be a great new addition to the fantasy genre with, of all things, a female protagonist! I think this book will appeal to both genders - there is excitement, suspense, and dangerous creatures, as well as a young girl who doesn't know much about her own origins or her destiny, but isn't afraid to go on a journey to find out. I can't wait for the next installment!

Eileen Snover
South Mountain MS
Grades 6-8
Allentown, PA

jackie purificato said...

This book was worth the wait. I appreciated that the author took the time to autograph the book and send bookmarks. Chantel's Quest is an easy sell to my students. They enjoy fantasy and will pick up this book. I can't wait for the rest in the series to come out.
I thought that all the characters were realistic and the message was a good one. I think that this book will lead to good discussions. The book is full of instructional possibilities.
I give this book a 5 in my picnic basket.

Bette Moore said...

I have just finished reading this book and have many good feelings and thoughts. Chantel is a perfect character to discover oneself and learn what life and friends are all about.

Chantel is a good example for girls to understand friendship no matter what the person looks like.

I believe my 5 graders will enjoy this book especially the boys. It will present a different look at fantasy for them.

I look forward to reading the next books

Good luck

Barbara Duggan said...

I agree with other comments about the personal touches that were included.
As far as the story itself, I think it will be a draw for my sometimes-reluctant 6th grade readers. The characters are simply drawn, understandable, but still a little magical.
The fantasy element will not overwhelming to them. The environmental connection will be one they will be discussing in their science curriculum.
I think Chantal certainly has room to grow into a heroine and the supporting characters also have areas yet to be fleshed out.
If I can get my students to pick up the first book, then the series should sell itself.

Stacey Dever said...

I liked this book. The idea that someone as small as a mouse can change the world is a great idea. Tells a great good vs. evil story in a fantasy framework.

A. Hunt said...

First, a special thank you to Mr. Neubert for the personalized copy of the book and beautiful bookmarks. I was really touched by your thoughtfulness.

"Chantel's Quest" has beautiful character development and loved the use of point of view. As I began reading I immediately began thinking of several 8th grade young ladies who would devour this book of fantasy and intrigue.

I give it a 4 out of 5.

A. Hunt
Middle School Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, FL

Linda said...

When I first received this book, I thought...No, it's not my style. But it certainly was. i enjoyed the book from begining to end. I wanted to read it again and again, but had to give it up and let my students read it. They are enjoying every word. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to the author for taking the time to personalize the book.

Anonymous said...

I was captivated by the cover of "Chantel's Quest" along with all the wonderful goodies that were sent with the book. I truly wanted to love this book but sadly, for me, it never happened. The story line felt too choppy and resemble a poor mixture of Redwall meets Harry Potter. Having said that, I immediately put this book in the hands of some of my avid teenage readers who did, indeed, fall in love with this book and are begging for the remaining three installments. Because the student population here seems to be craving this book, I give it a Picnic Rating of 4. This book is not going to get cold anytime soon on the bookshelf!

Julia Pitau
Media & Intervention Technician
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Sunshine, Teacher, AZ said...

The personalization of the book is a wonderful touch. I enjoy reading fantasy and have lost myself many times in a story. This story is very simple with a straightford plot which I found unexciting. This is simply because I am used to the complex tales of 400 or more pages. That said, I do believe that fourth and fifth grade students would enjoy and be able to follow the story quite easliy and be interested enough to try another. For my students I would rate this a four with a savory twist.

Stacyb said...

Although I can't remember the last time I actually read a fantasy book, "Chantel's Quest" is a book that quickly drew me in and kept me engaged throughout each page. I believe it would be an excellent novel to use with younger readers as there is a lot of depth to explore with the characters' actions and reactions. Students wanting to read a series will find this book one they will quickly want to dive into and then read the others to see how the adventures continue. Many thanks to the author for the signed copy and bookmarks!

rauzer said...

It took me a little while to get into this book because of others I was reading. I love the female herione in fantasy literature. The personal touch of the author's message and book marks was very nice. Once I did get going it was good. There are some violent parts that I hesitate to give to kids. I really like the conflict that the author shows in his characters. Looking forward to the next book. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

5th grade teacher

ahslibrarian said...

Some kids really enjoy fantasy, and I guess they always will. They can entertain the complex relationships and organize the worlds in which the characters interact with ease. And then there are the rest of us, who often feel alienated by the genre. We often carry our own preconceived notions of dragons and sword-wielding-do-gooders to the page with us. And if you have read one of these series then you have read them all, right? Wrong.

Chantel’s Quest for the Golden Sword should satisfy any reader. It does not take long to get into the plot. The casual reader should be involved by the time they turn the first page. The action is necessary, but not overly descriptive, and the story stands on its own as a well-conceived literary piece.

Oliver Neubert has provided the beginning of a series that should attract boys and girls that may not necessarily gravitate to this type of literature. Once landing in Neubert’s four worlds the readers might develop a quick affinity for Chantel and her compatriots.

Any story involving a quest usually is filled with much deeper meaning related to self-discovery. This book is no exception to the rule. Neubert uses light and dark skillfully to examine the human spirit and his characters have some profound statements about the choices we make on a daily basis. According to Chantel,“I don’t have to run any longer. I will not accept this future. I know who I am.” It is this type of resolve when coupled with failure makes characters both believable and identifiable. These are characters that can lead us into an examination of our own world and how we can better engage it.

Older elementary and middle school students will find the book most appealing, but do not be surprised to see a high school student or adult picking up this new series. Be willing to discuss the book with the students on a moral level and be ready for them to make comparisons with the other literature they read. Or better yet, let your students see you reading this book.

5 of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901


mflick1 said...

This book isn't level appropriate for my 11th graders, but I do think several of them would still enjoy it. I teach AIS and am hoping to get my lower level readers to read it because the story itself is captivting, it's fun, and it is really enjoyable. I think what I liked best, and what others do to (after reading their blogs, is the development of Chantel. When you love the character, you love the book

The Black Family said...

Chantel's Quest for the Golden Sword was a well-written middle grade fiction book. Though the vocabulary and theme were geared toward the older middle grade reader, I found the conflict and characters very simple and more appropriate specifically for grades 3 and 4. I found myself searching for the place where Chantel and Laluna found their "connection" and I was unable to find it. The relationship needed to be better developed for me to actually feel something when they are separated. I would give this book a 4 out of 5 and hope there is more character development in the next 3! I did love the personal touch of the author signing my book and sending bookmarks. Very classy, thanks!

Lindsey B.
Title 1 teacher, Utah

Tasses said...

Chantel's Quest: The Golden Sword has all the right pieces in place for a frolicking fantasy ride. The story begins as Chantel awakens on her twelfth birthday quickly to be told that she is the Princess of Freedom. It seems Chantel must vanquish an evil spirit bent on destruction. She will have to unearth four ancient relics, the first being a golden sword. She’ll have lots of help along the way as readers uncover a new fantastical world.

Although all the pieces seem to be in place, I felt something was missing with Chantel's Quest: The Golden Sword. It’s always hard for me, not well versed in writing technique, to put my finger on exactly what it is that leaves me with that missing feeling. This time, I think it was a combination of two things: character investment and didactic tone.

We jump immediately into Chantel’s quest without having time to invest in her personality. Further in, her character still seems a bit flat and the creatures she meets seem too uncomplicated. The tone is direct, with little use of the stylistic elements of figurative language. This caused the tale to be a bit didactic or prescribed.

Still, with all that being said, I do think some fantasy readers will enjoy Chantel's Quest: The Golden Sword and see implications for reluctant readers with short chapters and thinned details. As I stated, there is a good story to be told, the execution just needed a bit more polish.

Cheryl Tasses
Reading Specialist
Picnic Basket rating 3.5/5
See my full reviews on Reading Rumpus

Laurie said...

I am not usually a fan of fantasy type books as they seem a little too far fetched even for their genre. However, this book was very nicely done.

It remained interesting and had you looking forward to what was coming next.

4 out of 5

Martine Battista said...

This is one of those books that my students enjoyed more than I did. I liked the adventure, but wasn't wowed by the writing style. Of course this was written for the kids so I'm quite pleased that they are eating it up. It pairs nicely with -Igraine the Brave- another exciting heroine. I give it a 3, but my students would rate it higher.
Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

Anonymous said...

This is a picnic must have and a classroom must have for writing teachers. The description paints such a picture, your students can just close their eyes and draw. Which I plan to have them do. The story of Chatel is a mystery as is her companions Mouse & Owl. That keeps you reading. Chatel is a very brave young girl who is on a journey to learn about herself, and how she can help everyone with he heavy burden of being the one with the golden braid. She has to depend on strangers, and trust in a land being taken over by evil. It is what the children seem to be going through themselves these days, especailly in the middle grades. This is acaptiviating and imagainavtive story. Can't wait for the rest. I also loved having a signed copy and the book marks to share. MCS

Teresa said...

I just stumbled onto The Picnic Basket today as I was looking for the 2nd book in this series. This book is my 9 year old daughter's absolute favourite. She has reread it twice and badgers me constantly for the 2nd in the series. She emailed the author and he replied promptly. He even has offered to come to her class in the fall. I look forward to reading the second in the series with her.