Review of Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale

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Rapunzel’s Revenge

by Shannon and Dean Hale

Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Bloomsbury, 2008.  144 pages.

Starred Review.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2009: #2, Teen Graphic Novels

http://www.shannonhale.com/

http://www.spacestationnathan.com/

http://www.bloomsburyusa.com/

I am a huge Shannon Hale fan.  So though I normally would not have rushed to buy a graphic novel, when I heard that she had written one with her husband (The artist, though having the same last name, is not related.), I simply had to buy it.

This wasn’t up there in the best-thing-I’ve-ever-read territory like her novels, but all the same, this book is completely delightful.  Though, come to think of it, it’s the best graphic novel I’ve ever read.  (Don’t tell my son!)

Rapunzel’s Revenge tells the tale of Rapunzel, set in the old West.  Rapunzel is no wimpy princess, waiting for a prince to set her free.  When she learns at twelve years old what “Mother Gothel” has done to her real mother, and how she terrorizes the countryside, Rapunzel confronts her.  She’s promptly placed in a tower made from a giant tree that Mother Gothel made with her growth magic.  The same magic begins to affect Rapunzel’s hair.

There are some fun things in the illustrations.  I love the three books Rapunzel has in the tower:  Girls Who Get Saved and the Princes Who Save Them, How to Make a Twig Bonnet, and There’s Always Bird Watching.

With nothing to do in the tower, she practices her lasso skills by using her ridiculously long hair, braided into rope.

Finally, after she turns sixteen, her hair is long enough for her to use it to escape her prison.  It’s after her escape that she sees a traveling adventurer who heard about the beautiful maiden in a tower.  She points him to the tower and tells him the maiden is slightly deaf, so he should be sure to yell as loud as he can.

On the way back to Gothel’s villa to rescue her mother, Rapunzel becomes a vigilante, helping people with her amazing lasso of hair.  She falls in with a rogue named Jack who’s been having some trouble with giants.  Rapunzel convinces Jack to help her rescue her mother and bring justice to the countryside, which has been sucked dry by Gothel’s magic.

Here’s a girl who doesn’t need saving!  This imaginative adventure has a heroine you can cheer for.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/rapunzels_revenge.html

Review of Starcross, by Philip Reeve

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Starcross

by Philip Reeve

performed by Greg Steinbruner

Recorded Books, 2008.  7 CDs.  7.5 hours.

Starcross is a worthy successor to Larklight, another rip-roaring adventure of Art and Myrtle Mumby in the outer reaches of the galaxy.  Once again, we’re in alternate-reality 1851, where space travel has been discovered through alchemy, and the British Empire rules the ether (rather than the waves).  It turns out that there is all kinds of life out there in the solar system, and the British Empire has outposts among the natives on every planet.

At the start of this book, the Mumbys, with their mother, are invited to Starcross, a sea-resort hotel on an asteroid which has never been known to have any water.  Sure enough, the “tide” comes in every twelve hours, and the dry sea bed fills up with water as if it has always been there.

Obviously, something strange is going on at Starcross.  And what about the top hat in Art’s closet that seems to be calling out to him to put it on?  Or the strange shadow across the balcony and the little voice saying “Moob”?

Sure enough, the adventures involve international intrigue, mortal danger, and this time even time travel.  Once again, I lost track of how many times their lives were in peril.

Listening to these books on CD makes them all the more fun.  These would make excellent family listening, as it will appeal to all ages.  The narrator does an excellent job giving each character a distinct voice.  The way Art and Myrtle pick at each other seems completely realistic for a brother and sister and is just one of the amusing touches the books are packed with.

You do not have to read (or listen) to Larklight in order to enjoy Starcross, but why would you want to miss it?  Almost all our old friends from the first book show up in this one, and add to the fun.

Here’s a light-hearted adventure story by a writer with a wild imagination and a delightful sense of humor.  We’ve got space travel and pirates and spies and aliens and mind control and time travel and speeding space trains and proper ladies and British soldiers and a sinister plot to take over the solar system.  What more could you want?  Huzzah!

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Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/starcross.html

Review of The Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan

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The Maze of Bones

The 39 Clues, Book One

by Rick Riordan

Scholastic, 2008.  220 pages.

http://www.the39clues.com/

This is not a book, it’s a product — but a good one.  Scholastic has gotten some outstanding children’s authors to write ten books in The 39 Clues series.  The captions on the back of the book say, “Read the Books, Collect the Cards, Play the Game, Win the Prizes.”  All the books come with collectible cards in the front (though they’ve been removed from the library copies).

I haven’t tried the game and haven’t seen the cards, so I will only comment on this story as a book.

The book is a good one.  Another fun adventure yarn for kids.  I probably shouldn’t have read it so soon after The Mysterious Benedict Society, Larklight, or Lionboy, but this book is right in that same vein.  A good clean adventure for kids.

The Maze of Bones has some of the flavor of The Da Vinci Code, without the religious aspects, because we have a powerful family with clues planted hundreds of years ago in actual places all over the world.

Amy and Dan Cahill thought they were their grandmother’s favorites.  But they aren’t so sure, when, at the reading of her will, a contest is announced.  Amy and Dan don’t seem to have any advantages.

They have a choice:  They can take a million dollars or the first clue.  The clue is regarding “a quest of vital importance to the Cahill family and the world at large.”  The winner may become the most powerful person in the world.

The Cahill family is enormous, and several teams form, choosing to take the clue.  How can Amy and Dan, two orphans without resources, possibly follow the clues and take on such powerful opponents?  Is there anyone they can trust to help them?

This book is well-written, and the adventure, full of narrow escapes and a trip to Paris, is compelling.  If Scholastic did half as good a job with their contest, this is an impressive feat indeed.

It’s interesting, though.  My reaction is not, “I loved this book,” but rather, “I think kids will like this book a lot.”  As I said, maybe I’ve been reading too many kids’ adventure novels lately, but although I enjoyed it, it didn’t really reach out and grab me.  And I wish that Amy and Dan’s relatives weren’t all so mean.

It will be interesting to see how well a varied group of authors can do in keeping the thread and feel of the series.  Gordon Korman has written Book Two, and I am confident he is up to the challenge.

I will definitely be watching how this series unfolds.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/maze_of_bones.html

Review of The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

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The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

read by Del Roy

Listening Library (Random House), 2007.  13 hours, 17 minutes.  11 compact discs.

I had not one but two parents tell me that their kids loved this book.  When I saw it on audiobook, I thought I’d give it a try.  Audiobooks are working well for me for light-hearted fiction that I can enjoy in small doses.

Renny Muldoon is a brilliant orphan who knows he is completely different from other children.  When he sees an ad offering a test for gifted children looking for special opportunities, he goes to the test and begins the adventure of a lifetime.

Renny ends up on a team with other exceptional children who are offered a dangerous mission with the fate of the world at stake.  The mysterious Mr. Benedict explains why only children can save the world now.

The adventure yarn that follows is a lot of fun.  Sure, there are several coincidences and several places where believability is strained.  However, it’s definitely an entertaining and exciting story.

Del Roy’s voice sounds like a kindly grandfather telling you a story, and I quickly thought of his voice as coming from Mr. Benedict himself.

This book is excellent for upper elementary age children who will enjoy some good, clean, and clever fun.

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Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/mysterious_benedict_society.html