Archive for November 23, 2009


First Eclipse Poster!

So if you saw New Moon this weekend, what did you think?

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

Steve was a great fan of the Bailey Brothers who star in a series of detective novels.  In fact, Steve considered their series and The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook to be the best books ever.  But even though he had read their books through several times, Steve was very surprised when he went to the library to work on his report about early American needlework and was attacked!  Steve now had to recover a national treasure, evade secret-agent librarians, and clear his name of national treason.  Oh, and finish his report by Monday.

An amazing riff on and homage to classic detective series like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, this book is hilarious, exciting and just pure fun.  Barnett’s tone dances between tongue-in-cheek and sincerity with great ease.  Steve is a great protagonist, eagerly following the advice of the Bailey Brothers throughout his own adventure even though things rarely go as planned. 

Rex’s illustrations are vintage Hardy Boys, done in black and white with gray washes of shadow.  Just as with the novel itself, Rex plays with the format, making it modern but vintage at the same time. 

Highly recommended for all libraries, this book begs to be shared with others.  It would make a super read aloud for elementary school classes, because of its episodic nature and cliffhanging chapters.  Appropriate for ages 9-13.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by Book Trends, TheHappyNappyBookseller, and Fuse #8.

Running on the Cracks by Julia Donaldson

Leo just can’t stay at her aunt and uncle’s house any more.  Her parents are both dead, so she heads to Glasgow to search for her grandparents using only a few clues that her father had given her over the years.  After a few days of homelessness, Leo is rescued by Mary, a recent psychiatric patient, who tends to take in waifs and strays.  The newspapers carry stories of Leo’s disappearance, so she is forced to hide in Mary’s apartment and only goes out at dawn to sketch.  Finlay, a teen who wants to be tougher than he really is, meets Leo when she steals doughnuts from a cart he works at.  He recognizes her as the missing girl and only later becomes a friend and protector.   As Leo continues to hide from the authorities, her group of friends become more like family to her.  But just when she begins to relax a bit, her uncle appears and the dangers of living with him become clear.

This story mixes tension with a story that is deep and moving.  The tension of pursuit is constantly present in the story, but the meat of the book is really Leo’s search for her family and for a safe haven and the people she encounters and bonds with in that journey.  Leo is a great biracial character.  Her Chinese background plays an important role in the story and in her search for her family.  She is a well-written character who shows great strength and ingenuity in the face of so many difficulties.  It is also wonderful to see a male protagonist in Finlay who is just as strongly written and interesting as Leo.  The pairing makes this a great choice for all readers.

Another aspect of the novel is the character of Mary who suffers from mental illness.  She offers Leo protection and a home, but her moods and actions become more and more disorganized as the novel goes on.  Her illness is portrayed with honesty and not hostility, which is refreshing.

I am not a fan of the cover.  I wish it showed more of Leo and Finlay who make an intriguing pair of friends.

A fast-paced novel, this book reads quickly and despite darker themes is more about the positive side of life.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

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