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Quirky Protagonists, Ghosts and Rooftops June 7, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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A round-up of new middle-grade work coming out in the next few months:

alexanderThe Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfeld by John Bemelmans Marciano

Fans of Lemony Snicket and Adam Gidwitz should enjoy this slightly gruesome story of Alexander Baddenfeld, a true brat of a kid. The last of his family, all of whom died early in accidents caused by their cruelty to animals or humans, Alexander lives by himself in a fortress, looked after by an over-protective servant who is determined to keep him alive. This becomes MUCH harder when Alexander decides to ask a mad scientist to transfer his cats nine lives to him. Freed from having to worry about death (at least for a little while) Alexander indulges in all sorts of dangerous activities, leaving the reader to shake his or her head in disapproval tinged with envy.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

countingSloan brings a new set of quirky characters to life in this tale, aimed at slightly younger readers than her debut I’ll Be There. The style is similar though, with each chapter written from the point of view of a different character, all of whom eventually end up connected in surprising and significant ways. Protagonist Willow is not your run-of-the-mill middle schooler–she has a lush garden of native plants in her backyard, researches diseases and learns Vietnamese on a whim. This makes the devastation of losing both her parents in a car accident far more terrible–who will support and understand her now? This is a great choice for fans of Rebecca Stead and the late, great, E.L. Konigsburg.

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

ghostAfter books starring Shakespeare and Lord Nelson, Cooper turns to early American history for the setting and characters of her latest book. As English settlers come to what will eventually be Massachusetts, they bring disease, religious arguments and new ways of life with them. The indigenous peoples of the land have their own traditions and way of life, but lack of communication between the two groups brings tragedy multiple times. The first part of the book, which follows the character Little Hawk is likely to be enjoyed by fans of other outdoor survival stories by Gary Paulson or Jean Craighead George (and I’m very curious to know how accurate the depiction of Pokanoket life is). The later troubles of the second protagonist John Wakeley are less engaging and the magic that connects them not as compelling as in earlier works by Cooper. Still a good choice for historical fiction with male protagonists.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

roofRundell’s second novel for children maintains an older, classic feel–the British equivalent of Jeanne Birdsall, if you will. A shipwreck, a baby saved and brought up by an eccentric scholar, orphanages to be avoided, children who live on their own on the rooftops; all of these elements combine to create an old-fashioned adventure story. Raised by bachelor Charles, who reads her Shakespeare and tells her “Never ignore a possible” Sophie is going in search of her mother. She may have perished in a shipwreck or she may be somewhere in Paris, playing cello and waiting for Sophie to find her. Aided by a gang of children who live on rooftops and in trees, Sophie races against time in the process finds out just how brave she can be. Good for fans of classics such as A Little Princess as well as more contemporary classics like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. 

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