I wanted to like this more than I did. It started off with such promise. And then there was a muddle in the middle. And then there was the ending, whi...moreI wanted to like this more than I did. It started off with such promise. And then there was a muddle in the middle. And then there was the ending, which just left me thinking, "Wait, but, no...."(less)
I like the idea behind this particular fantasy world, but it got a little bit too confusing somewhere about 2/3 in. I have high hopes for the sequel,...moreI like the idea behind this particular fantasy world, but it got a little bit too confusing somewhere about 2/3 in. I have high hopes for the sequel, though.(less)
It took me a surprisingly long time to read this book. I think I've just reached a saturation point for stories involving kids who are so utterly abus...moreIt took me a surprisingly long time to read this book. I think I've just reached a saturation point for stories involving kids who are so utterly abused and/or neglected that it's a small miracle that their innate smarts/ability/strength got them to the point where the story begins. Egg is one of those kids, completely ignored by his family, except when they need a punching bag. But his scrappy courage and love of reading get him through his rotten childhood to the age of 13, when things take an unexpected turn for the sort-of better, followed by an abrupt turn for the worst.
Egg is a clever, slightly snarky, likeable narrator, and his story is packed with adventure and peril (that you just know he'll make it through). Like any good fantasy adventure, the endpapers are given over to a map of the locations mentioned. The equally clever - when not willfilly turning a blind eye to things - Millicent provides an excellent foil for Egg, too, and I hope to see her turn up sooner than later in the sequel.(less)
He steered toward the local park, down the storm drain shortcut he'd discovered yesterday, dodging broken glass and a man with a rabbit head, up the...moreHe steered toward the local park, down the storm drain shortcut he'd discovered yesterday, dodging broken glass and a man with a rabbit head, up the embankment toward the gap in the fence, and -- was that a man with a rabbit head?
Synopsis: Life for Scott Doe has always been a little odd, from his full name (Scottish Play Doe) to his mom's new job with Goodco (what does a cereal company need with a physicist?) and the family's recent move to the company town of Goodborough. So, maybe he just should have expected to start seeing weird things, like a man with a rabbit head in the park.
Erno and Emily Utz have always lived in Goodborough, in the same house but with a series of foster parents. Their current foster father regularly gives them tests in the form of brain-teasing puzzles. (Emily always solves them first.) Erno has never really thought about the reason behind the tests, but he is just about to find out.
In the town of Goodborough, very little is really as it seems, and there are goings-on that (literally) the people don't see. Erno, Emily, and Scott are more important than they know, and there are forces at work that would love to keep them from discovering the truth about themselves, the town, and Goodco.
Review: Rex brings his trademark satiric sensibility to this fantasy mystery for the middle grades. From Scott's dad - John Doe - to the Goode and Harmliss Toasted Cereal Company to Merle Lynn (C.P.A.), the puns come fast and furious, along with delightfully twisted takes on cereal commercials, conspiracy theories, and Arthurian mythology. The shifting third-person perspective includes Scott, Erno, and an unnamed narrator who provides some background information and sometimes cracks just a bit too wise. When focused on the kid's-eye view, Rex excels; when he zooms out, the lighthearted wit gets bogged down. (In The True Meaning of Smekday, Tip's first-person "essay" narration keeps the story a bit more grounded, if I can use the word "grounded" in relation to a story of aliens coming to Earth and relocating the human population of North America to Florida.)
I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve the riddles alongside Erno and Scott, although I wasn't quite clever enough. My e-ARC includes incomplete artwork (as did the paper ARC I thumbed through at ALA Midwinter), so I am looking forward to seeing the final product. The illustrations I could see were just the right complement to the text; I expect good things to come. There are even a few sneak peeks available at the author's blog (KoKoLumps, anyone?)! By the book's end, the immediate crisis has been solved, but there is a wide opening for the next volume in the planned trilogy.
On shelves February 7, 2012.
Final Word: Fantasy, mystery, and satirical humor all swirled together in a tasty treat for middle grade readers (and maybe some grown-ups, too).
Arthur "Artie" Kingfisher -- twelve, rail thin, and not nearly tan enough for a kid in July -- had just finished slaying Caladirth, a female green dra...moreArthur "Artie" Kingfisher -- twelve, rail thin, and not nearly tan enough for a kid in July -- had just finished slaying Caladirth, a female green dragon with sharpened rubies for teeth and curved golden spikes for horns.
Artie Kingfisher is a pretty average kid. He likes Mountain Dew and video games. He has a close relationship with his older sister, Kay, and their dad, Kynder. (Since he was eight years old, when he learned that he was adopted, Artie has called his father by his first name.) As Nitwit the Gray, he slays dragons and finds treasure in a game called Otherworld, but he knows wizards and magic only exist in fantasy. Or do they? Searching for a last-minute replacement game controller for Kay, Artie visits a store called the Invisible Tower, where he learns his own unbelievable true story: he is King Arthur, and he must journey to the real Otherworld to retrieve Excalibur and complete a quest that just might save the world.
This modern-day retelling of Arthurian legend features smart, sassy middle-schoolers tackling quests worthy of the Knights of the Round Table. The concept is good, which makes the execution all the more disappointing. Other than Artie and, to a lesser extent, Kay and Merlin, the characters are flat and lifeless. Because the situations are so bizarre - as even Artie notes - it should take more than a bit of hand-waving to get the characters to cooperate. The writing is clunky, with a heavy dependence on flat-out telling rather than showing. Things happen "suddenly": while describing his first encounter at the Invisible Tower to Kay, Artie "couldn't explain why it all made sense, but suddenly it did." During their trip to the Lake to claim Excalibur, "[t]he sky suddenly got much darker", a few short paragraphs later, "[t]he flock of birds suddenly dispersed", a few pages after that, "suddenly [Artie] found two swords pointing straight up at the sky", and once he holds the sword in his hand, Artie "suddenly knew some Welsh and a fair amount of Latin."
Somehow, I missed the earlier Bordertown anthologies. The only good thing about that, I think, is that I now have some fantastic reading to look forwa...moreSomehow, I missed the earlier Bordertown anthologies. The only good thing about that, I think, is that I now have some fantastic reading to look forward to. (Pun not intended, but I'm leaving it.)(less)
I was a good, quiet, and rule-following girl. The perfect princess, if not for my clumsiness and sometimes painful shyness.
Just after her sixteenth bi...moreI was a good, quiet, and rule-following girl. The perfect princess, if not for my clumsiness and sometimes painful shyness.
Just after her sixteenth birthday, the Princess Nalia is summoned to meet with her parents. What they tell her could not have come as more of a shock. She is not their daughter, not the Princess. She is a commoner, brought to court as a baby to stand in for the real Nalia, in an attempt to keep the royal heir safe from a prophecy that she would die before the age of sixteen. Now, the real Princess is coming home, and her stand-in will be sent to her only living relative - a previously unknown aunt in a small village - and expected to make a new life for herself. But it is not long before Sinda (as she is now known) discovers that there is much more going on than the King and Queen know, and it just might fall to her save the kingdom itself.
There is a little bit of everything in this debut novel: fantasy, mystery, romance. O'Neal brings the elements together with a master's touch. The plot is intricate, yet it avoids getting muddled. Characters are developed so that they show both strength and weakness, good and bad. In flowing prose, O'Neal creates a world that pulls the reader in and refuses to let go until the last page. Highly recommended.(less)
You have to wait for good things to happen - wait and wait and work so hard - but bad things occur out of the blue, like fire alarms triggered in the...moreYou have to wait for good things to happen - wait and wait and work so hard - but bad things occur out of the blue, like fire alarms triggered in the dead of night, blaring randomly, a shock of sound, a chatter of current from which there is no turning back.
The three Tompkins siblings - dramatic charmer India, level-headed worrier Finn, and peculiarly clever Mouse - are unhappy passengers on a flight bound for Colorado. Back home in California, their mother has just told them that their house is about to be repossessed, and they will be living with their Uncle Red while Mom stays behind to tie up loose ends. India is furious about having to leave her best friend behind. Finn is concerned about how their family will move forward. Mouse is confused by the whole situation, but her invisible friend Bing is always there to reassure her. Even when the plane lands in a place called Falling Bird, where they are welcomed warmly and each given a dream home to live in. It will take all three of them to get back home, but do they all want to go?
This is a weird book, and I mean that in the best possible way. A Phantom Tollbooth kind of way. It starts off like a realistic novel: three (mostly) normal kids are hit with the horrible news that they are about to lose their home. And then it takes a sharp turn into fantasy, while all three kids keep trying to make logical sense of things. The narrative shifts between each siblings' first-person perspective in alternating chapters, and Choldenko's creation of three distinct voices is spot-on. (Little Mouse is particularly delightful.) While the time pressure the children face is keenly felt, the quick-paced action is never rushed. There is family drama at the heart of this story, wrapped in a satisfying blend of mystery and fantasy. (less)