The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander.

The author of The Chronicles of Prydain returns with his final book, a treasure hunt through the desert.  After being dismissed from his uncle’s shipping business, Carlo finds himself homeless with only a vague map to treasure in his hands and a book of stories.  Carlo gets onto a ship and heads out to find the Road of Golden Dreams despite the dangers.  On his travels, he gathers a motley party to travel with him, including the laziest camel-puller in the land, a lovely girl with a tragic past, and a mystic traveler happy to be wherever he finds himself.  Is the map real?  How about the treasure?  Or is it worth the journey alone?

Alexander is in fine form here with a vibrant setting, hordes of evil and/or interesting characters, and lots to say about journeys and treasures.  He has created characters who really stand on their own, leaving nothing to stereotypes.   Additionally, Alexander has added a wonderful touch of humor throughout the story, leading to laugh-out-loud moments and great guffaws. 

Highly recommended for readers who enjoyed Indiana Jones.  Readers will enjoy the journey through the desert, the dangers and the lessons finally learned.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

Emmy tried her hardest to be the best girl she could be.  But no matter how perfect she was, her parents continued to go on longer and longer vacations, leaving Emmy with her nanny, Miss Barmy.   Emmy misses her parent terribly, which is made worse by the fact that none of the children at school seem to notice her much less talk to her.  Emmy’s life changes when she starts listening to the classroom rat speaking to her and she enters a world of strange rodents and danger. 

The book is well-written and lots of fun with its unique and strange take on rodents.  Emmy is a likable character, once the story gets going, and the other characters are equally well rendered.  The villains are cardboard figures, taken to an extreme.

My main quibble with the book is the use of lucky chance as a way to move the plot forward.  I would much have preferred some of the discoveries Emmy makes to be the result of sleuthing rather than happenstance. 

That said, this is a book that could be used in classrooms as a read-aloud or for early-reading children.  It is appropriate for those reading at an 8-10 year old level.