I feel as though I am neglecting a certain type of book on this blog, so next week I think I will do an ode to the picture book, because really, we are never to old to love a great read aloud!
Title: The Emerald Atlas
Author: John Stephens
Target: Grade 4-8
Imagine the Golden Compass, Harry Potter and the Tales of Narnia all mixed up in a bag and that would be the influence for this book. At times I felt like the material was not original enough, but that said, the story was engaging and I was caught up in the characters.
Three children are separated from their parents and sent to orphanages because (unbeknownst to them) they are destined to fulfill a prophecy and evil is trying to find them. However, as all good stories go, the last orphanage takes them directly to their destiny as they find a mysterious book which allows them to travel through time and discover magical and mysterious worlds. They must fight against the forces who are trying to use this book for evil and learn their destiny and the power of family.
This book is the first in a planned series of three books and the action keeps it moving at a good pace. The time travel was confusing for me (and I like to think I can manage your basic single mutable time stream theory) so I imagine that unless your kids are especially brilliant or on the older end of the target audience, they will simply gloss over these nuances in the story.
Interestingly the author also wrote for the Gillmore Girls (a favorite series of mine), however, while the characters are well developed, they do lack the quirky charm I was expecting!
Title: Skulduggery Pleasant (Scepter of the Ancients)
Author: Derek Landy
Target: Grades 5-8
This is a very funny book about a girl who inherits her uncle’s possessions (yes, surprisingly the main character is a girl.) Her inheritance includes the Scepter of the Ancients, an item that is coveted by the magic/sorcerer community. Skulduggery becomes her guide into this mystical world as they attempt to save the Scepter and humanity from the nefarious villain Serpine! Oh, and did I mention that Skulduggery is a human skeleton!
Skulduggery was released in the UK and for the US release they renamed the book Scepter of the Ancients. In fact, to my sons dismay, only 3 of the 6 books in the series have been released so far in the US. The cover did get a revamping. If I hadn’t first read a review of the book, I would never have picked this book up based on the skeleton in a suit which graces the front of the UK edition.
Landy’s writing can be violent at times, that is why I have listed for an older age group, but his clever banter takes the edge off. His humorous back and forths take the novel to a fun new level. I was drawn in right away to the story, as was my oldest son. This is a series filled with dry humor for kids who like action and adventure. The bonus is that the characters are also dimensional!
Author: Mark Walden
Target: Grade 5-8
What I really want to know is why I have never heard of this series before? I picked up the fifth book at the library because the cover was intriguing. When I saw it was a series I sought out the first book and let me tell you, I couldn’t put it down! The author, Mark Walden, used to be a video game designer, and I can tell you that he has written a book full of action and intrigue.
The characters in this book are extremely appealing and well written. Thirteen year old Otto and three friends are kidnapped and taken to the Higher Institute of Villainous Education (HIVE), a school for world villains. All the kids have heightened abilities (photographic memories, skill with electronics, stealth maneuvers) that cause them to be both extremely gifted and crafty. However, it is their intelligence and skill that define them, and not a propensity towards wrongdoing. It is their attempt to leave the school and subsequent fight with a carnivorous giant plant that keeps the action fast paced.
This was a page turner. Great for both boys and girls, but if you have a reluctant boy reader, I think the action and fun in this book will pull him in quickly. This book left me wanting more answers so I will definitely be reading the next one!!!