Frank and Joe investigate a series of counterfeit $20 bills that have been circulating in Bayport; meanwhile, their father "famous detective Fenton HaFrank and Joe investigate a series of counterfeit $20 bills that have been circulating in Bayport; meanwhile, their father "famous detective Fenton Hardy" is working on a case that will end up converging with theirs. I don't remember these books too well, but I'm guessing this kind of thing happened often; in any case, it's fairly well done here. Most of the plot, alas, was pretty cardboard even when I first read it 34 years or so ago. I'm not sure if I realized then that, jeez, those Hardys are spoiled rich kids - they've got motorcycles and a powerboat at the ages of 17 and 18, and this back around 1960 (when this edition of the book was written). Still, the cliffhanger-at-the-end-of-every-chapter structure is exciting enough for a 10-year-old, I guess, or was before "Star Wars", digital technology, the Internet etc changed everything. I supposed that's why the more recent series is updated, more violent, etc. Can't imagine most kids reading these original books today without thinking they're pretty silly....more
Frustrating but ultimately pretty decent sequel to the fascinating "City of Ember", this picks up right after the finish of the first volume, as the eFrustrating but ultimately pretty decent sequel to the fascinating "City of Ember", this picks up right after the finish of the first volume, as the entire populace of the dying underground city make their way out of harm's way, into the upper world. "Sparks" covers the travails of the next few months, as the Emberites encounter a small town struggling to get by, with a population even smaller than the 400 survivors of the underground world. There are two major problems with the book I think, first that it is far less original in feel and setting -- the postapocalyptic worlds of films like the "Mad Max" series, and countless SF novels from the past century aren't ever very far off; and second, the whole premise of the arguments between the two communities rests on the notion that the leaders of Sparks are arrogant and unwilling to speak with the Emberites as equals, or even really as other intelligent people. While it is true that the Emberites are ignorant of many things (such as seasons, which become a big plot point that is not dealt with particularly realistically), it's also clear that they have their own special knowledge, and yet they act demoralized and the people of Sparks act superior from the get-go. The apocalypse is only two centuries past; surely someone besides the two young heroes of the first book, Lina and Doon, would have some notion of cooperation?
Still the book has some narrative drive, Ms. Duprau's pacing is fairly solid and she manages to keep up interest in the plot despite the basic storyline/originality issues I have with it, and she also succeeds I think in creating some fairly interesting characters (Maddy, Mrs Hester) without seeming to try very hard. There is still some promise in this series, and I'll be keeping up with it....more
A charming little volume containing several very short Oz stories involving many of the major characters that had featured in the first 7 or so booksA charming little volume containing several very short Oz stories involving many of the major characters that had featured in the first 7 or so books in the series proper. Clearly aimed at an even younger audience than the regular books, most adults will probably find these a little too silly -- though some of the wordplay that both Baum and his successors are known for is in evidence (the Imps -- Udent, Olite and Ertinent, for example). John R. Neill's illustrations are among his best and are the high point for me, especially the double-page ones. The Books of Wonder facsimile reprint is up to their usual high standards....more
A sweet little fable, beautifully illustrated, of a magical tree that bears cookies that suddenly appears in the square of a medieval walled city. WhiA sweet little fable, beautifully illustrated, of a magical tree that bears cookies that suddenly appears in the square of a medieval walled city. While the "mature" adults argue about what to do with this magical apparition, the kids cut to the chase....
I first read this around the age of 6 I'm guessing and it's stayed with me....more
Just came across my old copy of this -- in surprisingly good shape despite my strong memory of it, indicating that I must have read it several times -Just came across my old copy of this -- in surprisingly good shape despite my strong memory of it, indicating that I must have read it several times -- at any rate, this is notable more for the excellent art by Phillipe Fix, reminiscent most strongly of Arthur Rackham and other "realistic" illustrators from the Golden Age of a century ago. Beautifully detailed, at times grotesque, full of life and movement; the three very stories - which attempt a fairy-tale atmosphere - alas don't quite come up to this level but are certainly charming. Probably best for kids in the 6-10 range?...more
A very solid post-apocalyptic adventure novel which takes an interesting tack -- putting our young heroes in a subterranean city of dwindling resourceA very solid post-apocalyptic adventure novel which takes an interesting tack -- putting our young heroes in a subterranean city of dwindling resources and allowing us to watch as they gradually figure a way out (ahead of course of the stuffy, conservative-thinking adults). One nice touch to me was that the kids really don't figure that much out by the end of what is obviously the first part of a series -- only as much as you could reasonably expect a couple of bright, inquisitive children to find out coming from positions of almost total ignorance. There are earlier examples of this kind of plot, but I suspect most young readers won't know a lot of the earliest and most recognizably similar stories, like Charles Tanner's "Tumithak" series from the 1930s and 40s originally serialized in American pulp SF magazines. Much of "City of Ember" struck me as very much indebted to this and other pulp stories of that era, though I have no idea if in fact the author is familiar with such material. It's also reminiscent in feel and tone of the more recent (but still a generation old) "Tripods" trilogy by John Christopher. Still, whatever the story may lack in originality it makes up for in mood and plotting, and it's nice to see a narrative where the adults, though more severe and serious generally, aren't ogres or bent on violence....more