Audio & Book Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

A great new family for readers of middle grade fiction!

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vanderbeekersThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
by Karina Yan Glaser, narrated by Robin Miles
5 CDs, 5.5 hours

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street.  Twins Jessie and Isa are the oldest, and as different from each other as possible–Jessie is scientific and practical, Isa is musical and quiet.  Oliver is the only boy, something that can be a trial, coming in the middle of four sisters.  Hyacinth loves animals and making crafts.  And Laney, the youngest is imaginative and active.  She has to be, to keep up with the others!  They have a dog named Franz, a cat named George Washington, and a house rabbit named Paganini.  And they love their home…from the basement to the rooftop.  The only drawback is that the Beiderman, their landlord, lives on the top floor.  He’s grouchy and doesn’t like kids.  Or so they’ve heard…they’ve actually never seen him.  He just calls their parents to complain.  Luckily, the Vanderbeeker kids have learned how to get along with his demands…and it’s not like he’s right above them.  Their apartment and his are divided by the second floor apartment, where Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet live.

So it comes as a total shock when their parents tell them that Mr. Beiderman has decided not to renew their lease…and they have only eleven days to pack up and find a place to live.  What makes it worse is that it’s only four and a half days until Christmas; who can think of presents and holiday spirit when they may lose their home?

The Vanderbeeker children decide that there’s only one course of action–to make the Beiderman realize that they’re the perfect family for 141st Street.  If they can make him love them, then he won’t ask them to leave!  Thus begins the secret (because they don’t want their parents to get caught in the middle) plan to overwhelm the Beiderman with kindness and crafts and cooking and music and anything else they can think of that may make him change his mind. Will it work?  As each of their well-intentioned plans go wrong, the kids despair.  They only have eleven days and counting to make the Beiderman realize how wonderful they are…

vanderbeekers audioThe audio recording for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is perfect!  The narrator, Robin Miles, has a wonderful voice for both children and adults.  She does a great job creating the voices of people of many different ages from a variety of cultures with accents and cadence.  And each of the Vanderbeeker children sounds different as well, which isn’t always easy to do.

I would highly recommend The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, as both a book and an audio recording.  Fans of The Penderwicks, the Melendys, and The Moffats will love these siblings just as much.  The kids run from age 4 though age 13, so the book is probably best for third through fifth grade.  The audio could be enjoyed by all ages…parents will probably appreciate the Vanderbeeker children and their desperate quest to save their home just as much as their kids do.

Some similar stories (besides the ones listed above) to read or listen to if you liked The Vanderbeekers:
Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
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So if you’re looking for a family story with siblings you’d like to have, look no further than the Vanderbeekers!

If you would like help finding this book or getting any suggestions for other books to read, just ask one of our librarians.  We love to help people find books!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

 

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Audio and Book Review: The Magesterium

If you have the time, listening to series is fun!  It’s sort of like reading a really, really long book.  Sometimes it’s great to take a break between each book, and sometimes it’s good to keep reading each book in the series one after another until you get to the end.  On the Magisterium series, I’ve stopped listening to them in the middle, because I needed a change of pace.  I may end up reading the other books in print, just because that’s faster, and I want to know what happens!

How do you read series?  All in one gulp, or alternating with other books to prolong living in that particular book world?  Do you listen to audio series the same way?

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The Magisterium Series:
iron trial and copper gauntlet
The Iron Trial
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Read by Paul Boehmer
9 CDs, 10.5 hours

The Copper Gauntlet
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Read by Paul Boehmer
7 CDs, 8 1/2 hours

iron trialCallum Hunt knows that he’s one of the “weird kids” at school.  He doesn’t know why, but part of it might be that he’s angry all the time…and the other kids know it.  He’s angry that his father is different from other fathers, angry that he can’t play sports normally because one of his legs is shorter than the other, angry that he doesn’t have a mother.  But mostly, he’s angry because all kinds of things seem to go wrong around him.  Call’s  father has told him that it’s because of the magic he’s inherited. But even though magic sounds cool, and like something that would be fun, Call’s father has forbidden him to even think about it.  Because magic is evil, it’s twisted, and it killed his mother.

Magic?  At first Call thinks his father is crazy, but then one day he picks up Call in his antique Rolls Royce from school and drives the two of them to a run down old airplane hanger.  The large room is filled with kids and parents.  All the kids are excited and happy…ready to complete several tests to qualify to go to The Magisterium, an elite school for mages.  There are even several kids from his school in the group!

Even though the Masters of the school have an opening announcement that makes magic and attending the Magisterium sound like an exciting adventure, Call’s father has told him that he has to fail the tests.  If Call succeeds the Trials to get into The Magisterium, he will end up so deep underground in the school’s cave system that he’ll never see the sun again.  He says that the caverns are dark and sinister and full of danger.  According to Call’s father, any use of magic, whatever the intent, will kill him, if it doesn’t warp him first.

To please his father and save his life, Call works hard to do his worst at every Trial.  But even though he fails the trials quite spectacularly, he’s still chosen by Master Rufus to be an apprentice.  As he’s leaving for the caverns of the magic school, his father throws a knife to him…or is it at him?  Callum isn’t sure, but the warning his father shouts is unmistakable.  Then his father is dragged away by the other mages, and Call ends up at The Magisterium with Master Rufus and his fellow apprentices Aaron and Tamara.

Call finds that the Magisterium, the masters and the apprentices are nothing like what he had been warned about.  The school is dark and frightening, but magic is interesting and absorbing. As he takes lessons and learns more about magic and his past, he’s left wondering if his father was right…or was he hiding something from Call?  Once his education in magic begins, Call is finding out there’s a lot more to Mage Magic than he expected.

iron trial audioThe audio for The Iron Trial was very well done.  I loved Paul Boehmer’s vocals; he did a great job making all the characters sound different.  From the low and deep voice of Master Rufus to the sinister hissing of the lizard fire elemental to the voices of Call and his friends, everyone sounds very different. His pacing was excellent.  The language is fun, the cast is diverse, and the plot twists around and around through both volumes of the series that I listened to.

I quite enjoyed both The Iron Trial and the sequel, The Copper Gauntlet, about Call’s second year at the Magistirium. (The other books are The Bronze Key and The Silver Mask.)  I would highly recommend them to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.  If you like books about learning magic or uncovering secrets, you will enjoy The Magisterium series.  The two authors–Holly Black and Cassandra Clare–are also authors of two other popular series for kids and teens–The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Mortal Instruments Series.  If you liked those books (or even the movies!) you’ll like The Magisterium series.

The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet would be great audios for a family car trip with older elementary or middle school students.  There is quite a bit of darkness to some of Call’s past and present at the school, so it might not be good for younger elementary students.  If you managed to get through the fourth volume of Harry Potter, this is on par with darkness of The Magisterium.  But try it for yourself, and see what you think!

magisterium

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And that’s it…I have yet to read the last two volumes, so if you finish them first, come and tell me what you think!

As always, if you need help finding these or any other books in the library, ask one of our librarians.  We are always happy to help match you with your best book choices!  Until then…

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

Book & Audio Review: Flunked!

It’s time for another audio book review!  If you like fairy tales, a little bit of villainy, and a dose of magic…Flunked is a book you should like!

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Flunkedflunked
By Jen Calonita, Narrated by Kristin Condon
5 CDs, 5.25 Hours

Gilly isn’t a bad kid, but she is a thief.  It’s not like she has a real choice…she has five brothers and sisters and lives in a boot.  True, her father is a master cobbler, but there’s no longer a demand in the kingdom for shoes made by hand.  Magic slippers are all the rage.   So Gilly HAS to steal…her thievery provides extra food to keep her siblings fed and healthy.  And if she steals something special for a birthday gift here and there…well, it’s not like the stuck up royals will even notice that something is gone.  They’ll just replace it, right?

But when Gilly steals from the wrong royal, in the wrong shop, she’s found out.  And since it’s her third offense, she’s sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School by Headmistress Flora, formerly the Evil Stepmother.  Princess Ella even signed the order.   There’s nothing Gilly or her siblings or even her parents can do about it.

But Fairy Tale Reform School — FTRS for short — isn’t anything like Gilly expected.  Sure, their mission is “To turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes”, and Gilly expects to be stuck in a dungeon and fed bread and water while being lectured about being good.  But there is no dungeon (for the students anyway) and instead of being stuffed in the toe of a boot with all five siblings, Gilly has a spacious room with only one roommate, delicious and plentiful food, and classes on everything from magic to history to sports.

Of  course, Gilly doesn’t like following rules, even if they do kind of make sense.  And she wants to go home to take care of her siblings; even the promise that they can visit her doesn’t make things much better.  She does start making some friends though, and as they pool their information together about what they know about the school and how they might escape, they discover a mystery.  Who is trying to sabotage the school?   Are their lives in danger?  Gilly and her new friends Jax, Kayla and Maxine may be reluctant students of FTRS, but they will have to put their heads together and use all the somewhat illegal skills they have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

flunked trilogyThe audio recording of Flunked was  quite charming.  (heh!)   Flunked is a first-person story, so everything is relayed through Gilly.  The narrator has the perfect voice for Gilly…young, a little bit inquisitive, scrappy…and reluctantly impressed with her new surroundings.  Her voice for other characters, seen through Gilly’s eyes, are varied by accent, pacing and attitude.   Letters from Gilly to her family, notes from teachers and The Happily Ever After Scrolls–updates on the action at the school, as reported by a nosy reporter for FairyWeb- enhance the story and give an outside view of the action.

Flunked is the first of the Fairy Tale Reform School trilogy, followed by Charmed and Tricked.  I would recommend the series for kids who like an off-beat take on fairy tales, an anti-hero heroine, or just an entertaining read.  Fourth through seventh grade readers would enjoy the book, while the audio would probably work with second grade and through adults.

Some read alikes include Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series, Shannon Hale’s Ever After High series, Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and Suzanne Selfor’s Ever After High series (apparently a popular series title!)

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So pick up book, or the whole series, and enjoy!  If you like it, let us know!

As always, if you need help finding books or audio books to read, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to help!

::Kelly::

Book & Audio Review: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Getting ready for the holidays?  This is a great book to share with friends and family…and if you add chocolate, it’s even better!

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
By Stephanie Burgis, Narrated by Jill Frutkin
8 CDs, 9.25 HoursDragon Chocolate Heart

Aventurine is the youngest member of her family…and she hates that everyone can tell her what to do, from her only-slightly-older-brother Jasper to her know-it-all older sister Citrine to Mother and all the aunts and her Grandfather Grenat.  Even though she has her own treasure hoard, she is not allowed to leave the cave or fly, since she’s too young and her wings are untested.  Worst of all, everyone believes that she’s lazy, just because she hasn’t found her Passion yet.  Every dragon has a Passion–the thing that gives their life meaning.  Jasper is interested in learning, and reads every human philosophers’s book he can get his claws on.  Perfect Citrine already has other dragons worshiping her and building her palaces for the epic poetry she writes, but Aventurine has a passion too!  It’s out there…somewhere.

But how is Aventurine supposed to find out her Passion if she’s stuck in a cave? It seems to her that if she could go out in to the world, to hunt on her own, to see humans with her own eyes, she would find her Passion, and show her family!

Escaping a dragon cave isn’t difficult when you’re a small dragon, but trying to do it secretly means scraping through some tight spaces…and during her flight, Aventurine manages to injure her wings.  Not having wings means hunting isn’t as easy as she thought, and Aventurine doesn’t like being hungry.  When she discovers a strange human, making something over a fire, she knows exactly what that means–dinner!  Aventurine pounces.  Unfortunately, her injured wings get in the way, and she puts a claw in the fire.  And that’s when she smells it…something rich, and sweet, and spicy.  Something absolutely delicious that the human is cooking over the fire!  She demands to know what it is, and the human tells her “chocolate”.  He even offers her some to drink.  Aventurine can’t resist the wonderful aroma…she drinks deeply, and the chocolate explodes within her.dragon with a chocolate heart uk

When she wakes up, Aventurine has no claws, no smoke in her throat, no wings.  Instead, she has a soft skin, strange furry stuff on her head, and cloth coverings instead of scales.  Aventurine has been changed into a human.  But she has found her Passion–Chocolate.  The human mage leaves her with the advice to get to the nearest city and find a job or apprenticeship…maybe one of the Chocolate Houses will take her.

With no idea about what it means to be human, the transformed Aventurine makes her way toward the city.  One small, puny human who used to be a dragon against the whole world.  She survived barely a day as a dragon, how will she manage to survive the human world?  Will she find a way to turn chocolate into her Passion?   What about her family?  Will they even notice, or care, that she’s gone?

That is quite a bit for one small girl to deal with, even if she is a dragon inside.   But Aventurine is not a quitter, and there’s chocolate out there, somewhere.  She just knows she can conquer one small city and find her Passion.  She’s certainly going to do her best.

 

dragon with chocolate heart audio

I loved, loved, loved The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  Aventurine is brave and passionate and learning so much about herself in her journey.  She has no idea what humans are like, but she doesn’t let that stop her.  The writing reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones or Jessica Day George…lots of adventure, a touch of humor, and characters who will stay with you after their story is finished.

With that said, I had some real issues with the sound recording of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  When if first started, I really enjoyed the youthful, kind of scratchy voice of the narrator, and I liked the slow pacing during the first chapter, when Aventurine was a dragon.  However, when Aventurine because human and the story moved into the city I became very frustrated.  The pace stayed slow and the narration felt very much like a singsong bedtime story trying to put listeners to sleep.  I wanted a button to speed it up.  The other issue was that every character had the same voice…there were only a couple that sounded distinctly different.

So while I loved the book of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, I didn’t enjoy the sound recording.  That may be only me though!   But my recommendation is, if you have a choice, read the book and imagine your own voices.  I can almost guarantee, when you finish reading, you’ll want to hear more of Aventurine’s story.

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Dragons and chocolate!  Who knew they’d go so well together?  I would recommend The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart to readers in fourth through seventh grades.  If I didn’t scare you away with my assessment of the sound recording, I think it would be accessible to listeners as young as second grade, although there are a couple scary scenes.  If you’re just trying to put someone to sleep, you might be able to go even younger.

Some read-alikes you might like:
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep.
Stephanie Burgis also has a wonderful trilogy that starts with Kat, Incorrigible, that readers of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart would enjoy as well.

As always, if you need any reading or listening suggestions, visit the library and ask one of our librarians for help.  We’re always happy to match books with readers and listeners.

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book and Audio Review: Fuzzy

Beginning a new year of school is not so easy.  But when you’re a robot, it’s REALLY difficult.  From Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami YodaInspector Flytrap and QwikPick Papers series, as well as Horton Halfpot and Fake Mustache comes another humorous and heartfelt story about a unique character.

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Fuzzy
By Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, Narrated by Erin Moon
4 CDs, 4.5 Hours

fuzzyMax Zelaster is a pretty average student a Vanguard One Middle School.   Of course, to even BE at Vanguard One, you have to be pretty bright; the weekly UpGrade Tests see to that; if kids don’t meet their potential they’re DownGraded to a less desirable school in the Federal School Board Program.  The one thing Max excels at is robots…she just loves everything about them…from programming to design.

So when Vanguard One becomes the test site for RIP, the new national Robot Integration Program, Max is hoping that she might get a chance to participate.  When the awkward-looking robot shows up, Max is less than impressed…especially when it trips and falls, barely missing her as it crashes to the ground.  Her quick actions in getting it back up and running though brings her to the attention of Dr. Jones and Lieutenant Colonel Nina, the people running the program.   The two ask Max to be the robot’s guide in the school.  They explain that Fuzzy–whose name is classified, but the nickname comes from the fuzzy logic he uses to problem solve–might be good at retrieving information and learning from experience, but he has no idea how to be a student.  Max agrees.  What an opportunity to learn!

Soon Fuzzy is immersed in Max’s classes, and Max is finding out more and more about Fuzzy.  And even though he’s proving to be a very good friend, she’s asking more and more questions about why a robot is being integrated into a middle school.  It’s kind of weird, right?  Why would a robot have to learn how to be a kid?

Unfortunately, as soon as things start to go smoothly in their classes, Fuzzy manages to get Max in trouble with Vice Principal Barbara, the artificial intelligence that runs the school.  Fuzzy may be making friends and learning all kinds of new skills, but Max is racking up discipline tags, tardiness tags and citizenship tags…and so is Fuzzy.

What is going on with Vice Principal Barbara, who seems to be lurking around every corner, through her view screens, janitorial robots and the eyes, hands and ears she has (literally!) all over the school?   She seems to have it in for both Max and Fuzzy…and all those tags are mounting.  Even though the adults don’t believe them, Max and Fuzzy know that half of the tags are for things that never even happened.  Through the Vice Principal’s actions, Max becomes a student At Risk.  If she’s DownGraded, she could lose her place at Vanguard One, as well as all her friends and any chance to find out more from or about Fuzzy.

Through some excellent code-cracking and a little sneaking around, Max and Fuzzy  start to uncover some truths about the Robot Integration Program and about Rossum Technologies, which runs the program for the government.  They’re sure they’re onto something, because as soon as they start getting some answers, armed men (and one woman) try to kidnap Fuzzy!  When they get him back, it’s Max’s turn.  With some quick  teamwork by Max and her friends, the kids are onto a government conspiracy with Fuzzy at the center.

Can Max and Fuzzy save Fuzzy from being turned into scrap…or worse?  Can they save Max from being kicked out of Vanguard One Middle School?  Can they discover what, exactly is going on with Vice Principal Barbara and Rossum Technologies?  Only time, friendship and a lot of detective work and effort will tell.

fuzzy audioFuzzy is such a fun audio book!  Narrator Erin Moon is a professional actor and award-winning narrator of over 150 audio books.  She gives each of the characters a distinct voice, and the overall package is wonderful.  I love the short chapters in the book, and the terse style translates very well to the audio.  In fact, I want to go look up Erin and see what else she’s narrated, just because I enjoyed Fuzzy so much.

I would highly recommend Fuzzy as a book or an audio book for kids from fourth through eighth grade.  The whole question of artificial intelligence and school tests, which would probably pass unquestioned by younger readers, would be a great discussion topic by older readers.  The book is deceptively easy, because there is a lot of weight to the subject matter.  Like all of Tom Angleberger’s books, there’s also a lot of humor.  Just ask anyone who has read Origami Yoda, or Fake MustacheFuzzy is a science fiction book with a bit of humor, a smidgen of adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.  Anyone who likes any of those things should love Fuzzy.

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So if you’re looking for a good book for a car trip, or just to read around town, try Fuzzy.

Some similar books are: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks,  Robot Revolution by James Patterson, or Eager by Helen Fox.

Some similar audio books are: Crunch by Leslie Connor and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

As always, whether you’re looking for a book or an audio book, our librarians can help you find the perfect one to suit your needs!  Just ask us…we love to help.

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book and Audio Review: Click Here to Start

Are you a fan of online games?  Do you do well on puzzles?  Could you escape a room with only what you have on or around you?  If so,  Click Here to Start is the book is for you!

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Click Here to Start
By Denis Markell, read by Greg Watanabe
7 CDs, 7 hours, 51 minutes

click here to startIt’s almost the end of summer vacation, and Ted Gerson had planned to spend the time playing online games, sometimes with his friend Caleb, sometimes on his own.  So when his mother insists that twelve-year-old Ted go to the hospital and visit his barely remembered Great-Uncle Ted, the younger Ted balks.  But moms have a way of getting their way, so off Ted goes.

Great-Uncle Ted turns out to be a funny, sarcastic old guy.  Even though he can’t talk, the two Teds communicate through notes–well, notes on Great-Uncle Ted’s end, talking on the younger Ted’s.  It turns out that Great-Uncle Ted is also a fan of games, and, like his great nephew, among his favorite are the Escape the Room type of games.  Ted leaves, looking forward to spending more time with this newly rediscovered relative.  Only Ted doesn’t have another chance.  It turns out that their first visit is their only visit.  Great-Uncle Ted dies only days later.

At the reading of the will, Ted discovers that Great-Uncle Ted has left him the entire contents of his apartment…and all  it contains.  In fact, there’s even a challenge.  Since he’s so good at solving puzzles, (Great-Uncle Ted writes)  if he searches hard, he will find a treasure…

Ted wonders what the treasure could be.  Great-Uncle Ted was a soldier during WWII, could the treasure be jewels or gold that were found by the Japanese-American unit he served with?  Or could it be something more recent, like computer games and consoles from the 70s?   Even though his mother cautions him to not get too excited, Ted is sure that the search will be easy.  After all, he’s beaten the highest level and won every Escape the Room challenge he’s ever played, and faster than any other kid he knows!  Then he sees Great-Uncle Ted’s apartment.

The man seems to have kept everything he ever owned, and he didn’t throw anything away!  Maneuvering through the piles of old newspapers and magazines, books, broken appliances and bags of stuff is exhausting.   Luckily, Caleb agrees to help, and Ted’s father’s new boss has a daughter, Isabel, who also joins the boys…reluctantly.   The first day, they do discover a couple treasures, but only clear a tiny fraction of the apartment.

But things get interesting on the second day.  Someone has broken into the apartment and trashed it even more.  Is someone else after the treasure?  The parents aren’t sure about letting the kids continue, even though Ted, Caleb and Isabel are more psyched than ever to find a treasure among the trash.  And then the strangest thing happens…when Ted is trying to wind down after a long day of cleaning, he goes to his favorite game site…only to find something new called The Game of Ted.  When he clicks on the link, it opens a game where the room looks exactly like Great-Uncle Ted’s apartment, complete with all the same junk in the same places.  What is going on..?

Can Ted, Caleb and Isabel find the treasure?  Who else is looking for it?  Are they in danger?  Who is behind The Game of Ted, and are they helping or hindering the search?  Only by finding the treasure will the kids find out the answers.

click here to start audioThe audio for Click Here to Start is very enjoyable.  Greg Watanabe does an excellent job of making each character’s voice unique.  He sounds like a twelve year old who is engrossed in solving a mystery.  I enjoyed the pacing; the action parts kept me on the edge of my seat.

Click Here to Start is Denis Markell’s first middle-grade novel, and it was a fun and fast read.  He definitely knows the ins and outs of gaming.  I’m looking forward to more from this author.  Apparently, he has a book coming out in July 2018 called The Game Masters of Garden Place.   The brief description on his web site makes it sound like another fun mystery involving online games and a group of smart kids.  I know I will be reading it!

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So there you have it…Click Here to Start is a solid mystery, read by a talented narrator.  Fans of the Mr Lemoncello’s Library stories by Chris Grabenstein will enjoy this one too!  The book is probably best for readers in fifth through seventh grades, but the audio book could be accessible for listeners as young as eight or nine.  If you like trying to solve mysteries or computer puzzles, you will enjoy this book.  Just pick it up and find out!

Read-alikes:  Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

Listen-alikes: The Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Bertram, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Come to the Library and find this book for your next car trip or free reading.  As always, if you need suggestions for a book to read or to listen to, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to help you find the best book for you!

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book & Audio Review: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted!  There are quite a few new entries coming up though, so we hope you’ll be sticking around to check it out!  First up…a fun series featuring a boy with a problem and a group of librarians who are…(shhh…don’t tell!)…evil.

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Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
By Brandon Sanderson, Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo
6 CDs, 7 Hours

Alcatraz vs the evil librariansAlcatraz Smedry has never known his parents. An orphan, he’s currently living with foster parents Joan and Roy Sheldon.  Although Alcatraz likes the Sheldons, he’s not counting on being with them forever.  They’re his 27th placement as a foster kid; not because he’s a bad kid, but because of his…problem.  Alcatraz breaks things.   He doesn’t intend to, it just seems to happen to things around him–from washing machines to plates to chickens.  He doesn’t destroy things, because all the pieces are still there, things just end up broken beyond repair.

Alcatraz oldWhen a package arrives on his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz is surprised to open it up and see a note from his parents.  The package looks old…the stamps date back thirteen years, and the wrapping is old and faded, with frayed cords. Alcatraz isn’t sure what to think of it.  Is it a cruel joke? Did his parents really send it?  And how would they have been able to know the address where he would be in thirteen years?  He’s only lived there for eight months.  The “birthday gift” however, is a bag of sand.  Sand?  Alcatraz looks for more, but aside from a few mysterious scribbles on the packaging, that’s all it is. A bag of ordinary-looking beach sand.

alcatraz vs evil librarins 2Disgusted, Alcatraz goes downstairs to made dinner for his foster parents in gratitude for them being normal.  But he manages to break the kitchen, setting it on fire.  Alcatraz’s case supervisor comes to tell him to get ready to move to a new home.   Once again, his ability to break things has come back to haunt him.

The next day, a very odd old man in a rattletrap old-fashioned car shows up, calling Alcatraz by name.  The case worker, Alcatraz assumes.  But the old man seems completely crazy!  When he tells Alcatraz that he’s his grandfather.  Grandpa Leavenworth Smedry has a preposterous tale of  the Free Kingdoms and the Hushlands, evil librarians who control our world, and Oculators, who control technology with special lenses.  Alcatraz tries to get away from the crazy old man, only to run into a second strange man who tries to kidnap him!  What’s the better choice? A loony old guy who seems fond of him, or a man with a gun who shoots at him?  Alcatraz leaves with Grandpa Smedry, but not before breaking the whole house.

Soon, Alcatraz is in a flying car, helping to form a team of freedom fighters and Oculators to battle the forces of Libraria and the evil librarians infiltrating our world.  Will he and his team succeed?  Or will they fall to the forces of order and librarianship?

alcatraz vs evil librarians soundThe sound recording of Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is excellent!  I love the narrator–Ramon De Ocampo is the perfect choice for this series.  His voices for all the characters (and there are quite a few!) are all varied.  Old, young, male, female, good, bad…every character has a distinct voice and stands alone.  His pacing is excellent, and his voice is always clear and easily understood.  The quality of the recording is excellent.

alcatraz seriesThere are five books in the Alcatraz series: Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians, The Scrivner’s Bones, The Knights of Crystallia, The Shattered Lens and The Dark Talent.  There may be a sixth book on the way…author Brandon Sanderson has shared that he’s writing it from the view point of Bastille (you’ll be introduced to her very quickly in the first book).  There’s currently no publishing date, but it looks like he’s said the manuscript should be finished in 2017…so maybe soon we’ll have some news about it!

If you’re looking for a series to read or listen to with a lot of action, a great cast of characters, a touch of humor, some elements of fantasy and a likeable hero (even though he says he isn’t one) you’ll love the Alcatraz series.  As an audio book, we have had families with kids as young as six tell us they loved listening to the first book, as well as the entire series.   For reading, it’s probably at a 4th – 7th grade level–on par with the Unwanteds series by McMann or the Alex Rider series by Horowitz.

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Sound good?  You should check it out!  If you like Alcatraz, besides the two series mentioned above, you could also try The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, or The Beyonders by Brandon Mull.

As always, if you would like help finding an audio book to listen to, or a book to read, ask one of our Youth Services librarians.  We’re always happy to help you find the perfect book for you.

::Kelly::