Day: June 7, 2017

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (9780062306937, Amazon)

This first book in a series introduces readers to an alternative New York City, filled with amazing machines built by the Morningstarr twins in the 1800’s. There are servant robots, skyscrapers, elevators that don’t just go up and down, beetle-machines that clean the roads, and many more. The Morningstarrs left behind a cipher to be solved that would lead to treasure, and even though people have worked for cipher for over fifty years, no solution has been found. Tess, Theo and Jaime live in one of the Morningstarr buildings that is unfortunately slated to be torn down. While their families scramble to find somewhere new to live, the three of them discover a potential new cipher that may lead them to the treasure and save the building they love. Now they just have to solve it.

Ruby has beautifully weaved an alternative New York City in this novel. She imagines it filled with amazing technology that has a magical element to it. It’s rather like magic-powered steampunk. She combines this with riddles and ciphers, puzzles to work out and then provides distinct villains to fight as well. The result is a book that is entirely delightful to read and impossible to put down as one new discovery immediately leads to another.

The three main characters are strongly written and offer a diverse cast. Tess keeps up and surpasses the boys at times, offering a strong feminist take on events as she does so. All of them are exceedingly bright in their own way, from being logical and sometimes robotic to looking at the world through art. There is a celebration of different intelligence types here that is great to see.

This mix of magic, technology, mysteries and ciphers is exceptional and just right for summer reading. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.

 

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (9781911171256, Amazon)

Released June 13, 2017.

Erin grew up near a large fishing town but she wasn’t allowed to head out into the sea herself, because of the danger. The huge rock outside of the town was the subject of many frightening stories that spoke about how it moved from place to place and was huge and sharp. Erin tried to hide on her mother’s fishing boat, but Archie, her dog, always found her. When Erin finally managed to sneak aboard, thick fog settled in and the boat almost ran into the black rock! As the boat veered away, Erin fell into the sea. As Erin sank farther and farther, she discovered the secret of Black Rock and realized that it was up to her to protect the rock.

This picture book celebrates the wildness of the sea and its incredible lifeforms. The secret of Black Rock takes this book from one of reality to fantasy in one revelation. The reveal is done beautifully, the page dark except for Erin and the fish. The writing is simple and allows the story to play out swiftly on the page.

The illustrations are exceptional. Black Rock’s emergence as a full character in the book is done particularly well as are the bright and varied fish that live around it. The pages with half of the scene underwater are particularly effective and truly show the magic of the story. The color palette between the sea and the rock and then the harbor and the humans are strikingly different and used very effectively during the stand off as well.

A lush and lovely picture book that invites children to find their own magic in the world. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Flying Eye Books.