This book is a lot of fun and is sure to be a big hit with beginning readers. We get lots of requests for mystery books like Nancy Drew and this book...moreThis book is a lot of fun and is sure to be a big hit with beginning readers. We get lots of requests for mystery books like Nancy Drew and this book will definitely fit the bill for those about 1st through 3rd grade readers depending on their reading level. The main character is Nancy Clancy who is also known as Fancy Nancy. She enjoys solving mysteries with her best friend Bree, and keeps looking around to find a good mystery to solve. This involves some maps, some codes, some stakeouts, some clues and some time-stamped photographs.
Robin Preiss Glasser's illustrations are great in black and white. The characters have so much expression in her pictures and readers will really enjoy them. I would also recommend this book for readers who are in 3rd through 5th grade and whose reading level is not quite up to their grade level. The subject matter is all about school and friends and family, at any age. Nancy could easily be in a younger or an older grade. This book also deals with frustrations with little sisters and confusing interactions with friends.
Overall a great choice for those who have just started reading longer chapter books and enjoy realistic or mystery fiction!(less)
Ben has always thought about being a spy, but he never imagined that one day a CIA agent would show up at his door, tell him to pack his things, and l...moreBen has always thought about being a spy, but he never imagined that one day a CIA agent would show up at his door, tell him to pack his things, and leave everything he knows--to go to spy school. Once he's there, it's tougher than he thought and more similar to his old school than he'd hoped--bad cafeteria food, bullies, boring teachers. His old school experience did not include multiple assassination attempts, however.
Overall, the book is reasonably interesting, somewhat funny, and mostly attention-gripping. There are some great action scenes with paintball, bombs, guns, etc. My biggest quibble with this book is that it really sounds like an adult writing it. I would especially recommend this book to kids who are reading up, since it's mostly about smart kids and the themes are appropriate. Kids who like Hiassen's books would probably like it.
***spoilers start here
Ben finds out he's just a plant--bait for the mole--he didn't qualify for spy school. Erica helps him out and launches an investigation into his situation. (She's pretty and her dad is a bumbling idiot who's really good at covering his tracks, and brought Ben in initially.) At the end, they figure out Murray (fellow student who was supposedly angling for a desk job) is the mole/double agent.
Hold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will lik...moreHold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will likely be enjoyed by her fans. This book will catch you up in the action and also make you think about life in America today. Recommended for readers from 4th-10th grade (good for those who are "reading up") or as a read-aloud for families with children those ages.
What sets this book apart from her previous ones is its compassionate and realistic portrayal of people who find themselves, for whatever reason, homeless and in a homeless shelter--which, while it is better than the streets, contains a lot of challenges.
The Pearl family loves language, loves words, loves books. Dashel (the dad) loves them so much, he works in the library and plans to get a library degree sometime soon. He passes this love of words and rhythms of language on to his children, Early and Jubilation, and his wife, Summer. Their family lives in a small apartment and dreams of someday owning a house, but for now, their home is full of love and they are content.
Life gets more complicated when Dash takes an extra job on the side delivering old books. He's not sure exactly who's buying these books or why, but it's a good gig and he loves books, so he doesn't worry too much. One book comes through his hands that he can't resist keeping--Langston Hughes' The First Book of Rhythms, so he pays his source some money for it, and this book and its rhythms permeate the rest of Hold Fast.
One day, Dash disappears, and a few days later it becomes clear that he had been mixed up in something big, something bad, something so complex the authorities can't sort it out. The family apartment is completely ransacked and destroyed, even the door, so they move out, because "you can't live in an apartment without a door."
In the context of a homeless shelter, Early starts a new school and Summer tries to report the crime and get a job, all while taking care of young Jubilation (Jubie). The realities of life are harsh for them--sickness is passed around at the shelter, schoolmates are cruel, authorities won't listen, and worst of all, they don't have Dash with them. Summer slowly gives up and retreats into herself, depressed and hopeless, leaving Early to watch over her brother and solve the mystery of Dash's disappearance.
**spoiler alert--you should stop reading here if you want to read the mystery for yourself--
(If you just want to know the ending, I will say this--it is cautiously optimistic about the Pearl family.)
She contacts her dad's favorite teacher from school, but doesn't get as much information as she needs. She heads back to the public library to interview her dad's coworkers, some of whom were suspiciously hired at the time the unofficial book business began. Although some are hardened criminals, a few are sympathetic to Early and help her along.
In the end, it turns out criminals were smuggling diamonds in the spines of the books (old books' spines are stronger)--and not just any diamonds, the diamonds from the famous Antwerp heist.
Dash had been kidnapped by them but had escaped, and was wandering the streets until it was safe. Once he reads in the paper that the crime has been cracked, he starts asking at every shelter, and eventually finds his family.
He can return to his job at the public library once his strength returns, which is wonderful. However, I couldn't help reflecting on how tenuous their life still is. One wrong move, and their apartment was destroyed and their family torn apart. They are rebuilding now, but if he lost his job for some reason, they still have no safety net. How many families live their lives this way? Far too many, for a host of complex reasons. This great book asks these questions and more as it gives a face to homelessness today. (less)
Reviewed in Shelf Awareness. Book starts, "My mother is a prostitute." Gritty mystery story set in 1950s, with a growing feminist awareness. Sounds a...moreReviewed in Shelf Awareness. Book starts, "My mother is a prostitute." Gritty mystery story set in 1950s, with a growing feminist awareness. Sounds a bit like _Strings Attached._(less)
For some reason, I read the 2nd book in this series 1st, and then the 3rd and 4th, and only this month did I go back and read the 1st. I loved it so m...moreFor some reason, I read the 2nd book in this series 1st, and then the 3rd and 4th, and only this month did I go back and read the 1st. I loved it so much. I don't know what it is about Cammie and the Gallagher Girls, but I just can't get enough. They're a mashup of chicklit (fashion and romance and girlfriend time) and emo teen realistic novel (parent drama, "who am I" drama) and James Bond spy action thriller. Highly recommended for those who want a super fun read that's also well done and keeps you guessing. I can't wait for the next installment. Meanwhile I'm going to go back and re-read #2-4, which is pretty unusual for me!(less)
I have really started to love Carl Hiaasen's books. Adventure, mystery, very quirky characters, strong sense of setting. Highly recommended for a broa...moreI have really started to love Carl Hiaasen's books. Adventure, mystery, very quirky characters, strong sense of setting. Highly recommended for a broad range of teen readers. Would love to see this on a Battle list someday.(less)
Good follow-up to The Trouble With Chickens! Mystery still abounds in J.J. Tully's world--why has the possum returned to the yard? who has moved in ne...moreGood follow-up to The Trouble With Chickens! Mystery still abounds in J.J. Tully's world--why has the possum returned to the yard? who has moved in next door? and why is she (the new dog) sleeping under the house? All will be revealed, but only in due time, since Vince the funnel dog only gives out one piece of information for each dog biscuit!
This book will be enjoyed by newly independent readers who enjoy mysteries, animals, or funny/wry books.
It would also make a great read-aloud for a family with kids of varying ages since the pace of the book is quick enough to hold the attention of the younger readers, and the voice of the narrator is mature enough and the mystery complicated enough to hold the attention of the older ones.(less)