DETECTIVE DEBUT

Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar

Written by Tommy Davey

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Cora is a spunky preteen who is traveling alone for the first time on a overnight train from the city to Topaz Mountain to spend some time in the country with her Uncle Andre. She meets a colorful cast of characters including a single woman, Mrs. Bronwyn, and her dog, Calvin. Almost immediately she notices a man named Mr. Sloane, who is being overprotective of a silver briefcase that he does not let out of his sight. It turns out that he has good reason for that because Mr. Sloane is carrying a valuable gemstone. The stone disappears from his sleeping car; Cora, a honeymoon couple, Mrs. Bronwyn, a college student, and the railroad porter will all be suspects interrogated by an undercover detective on the train.

The inspector is determined to solve the mystery by interrogation, but Cora has a few plans of her own. Will they be able to unravel the mystery to find out the identify of the thief? Cora proves her cleverness and keeps her cool. All the action takes place in less than two hundred pages before the passengers disembark from the train. Certainly this is a first ride that Cora will long remember and the beginning of her interest in solving many mysteries to follow.

Great story for tweens. It has the elements of a good mystery, colorful characters, and a respectful, intelligent strong female role model. This is a quick, fast moving read that will appeal to reluctant readers. Recommended highly for boys and girls eight years up and older.

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21st CENTURY FAIRY TALES

Three Little Pigs Get An Extreme Home Makeover
Written by Caprice Hokstad
Illustrated by Richard Svenson

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Hokstad has done a marvelous job of putting a modern day setting and spin on classic fairy tales. Adult readers will find themselves smiling at the innovative settings and modern day language. The three little pigs live in Florida and must contend with a hurricane instead of a wolf. Goldilocks becomes the home invader and the Three Bears a model family. Hansel and Gretel are the victims of a nanny instead of a witch, and the gingerbread house meets an unlikely demise. Jack’s beanstalk is genetically modified, and an unscrupulous salesman meets his fate. Rapunzel is not the timid captive held in the tower. What will happen to those gorgeous locks of hair? Finally, in the Pied Piper story, students in an elementary school must face the music when one of their science experiments goes amiss and rats overrun the school. The principal demands a humane solution to solve the problem.

Young children won’t understand the humor, but many children in the middle grades who are already familiar with the classic tales will love the satire. Their parents will, no doubt, be amazed at the creative twenty-first century scenarios. Each of the story has an original illustration appropriate to the new version. For lovers of fairy-tales, this one is a definite change of pace.

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OPPOSITES ATTRACT

The Rescue Team

Written by Billi Tiner

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The author of this heartwarming tale told from the point of view of a dog and a cat is a veterinarian who understandably has a great kinship with animals. Targeted for children in the eight to twelve year age range, the chapter book has no sex, violence or profanity which makes it a nice choice for a family read aloud. This book will take you on a series of adventures that will put you in their shoes.

The adventure begins when Ellie, who is a one year old Border Collie, suddenly finds herself in an animal shelter when her owners become pregnant. After what seems like an eternity, a kind woman named Anne adopts her. Ellie soon discovers that her new owner loves animals; Ellie begins to bring animals in trouble home. Soon she is sharing her home with Toby, a six-month old kitten who becomes her best friend. Together they will form an improbable but talented rescue team.

When Anne is hurt in an automobile accident, she meets a fireman named Brent and their lives become even more involved in animal and human rescue. They will all face adventures and disasters that hit close to home. The plot is simple and predictable, but the author has a real knack for using first person to get the reader in the head of the animal characters. Text level of difficulty is suitable for middle grade independent readers; younger children will enjoy listening to the story read aloud. Nice book to curl up with on a rainy weekend afternoon.

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THREE’S COMPANY

A Silent Yes: A Novella (A Quiet Life Book 1)

Written by Charlotte Thorpe

Asilentyes,picShort novella of approximately fifty pages that portrays the gentle tale of two orphaned brothers living in Kansas circa 1884. Matthias and his younger brother Justus live a quiet life on their farm. One day Silas Mitchell and his wife drive up in a wagon with a strange request. They have a sick cattle drive cook that they want to drop on their doorstep. They can’t keep her on the drive and have no one to care for her. These two brothers go in the house to discuss the situation when Silas takes off in a hurry. After a few days, the woman named Grace recovers. The brothers stay in the barn to avoid impropriety and treat her with respect. She asks to stay and volunteers her services as a cook, seamstress and housekeeper.

Matthias and Justus quickly acclimate to the new situation enjoying a lifestyle lost to them since their mother died twelve years before. Soon both the boys are attracted to Grace. They learn that Grace has no real family and no one to rely on for help. Will Grace find the courage to marry one of them or will she resign herself to disappear and go back to a life of poverty? Can the two brothers sort out their individual feelings toward their new resident? When the preacher arrives for a visit, they both know the time has come for a decision.

This is a sweet tale with no profanity or sex that alludes back to a simpler time. Kind of a cross between a piece of historical fiction and romance. The book is appropriate for readers age twelve and up. Characters are amazingly well-developed in the simple plot line. Nice well-written feel good kind of book for a lazy afternoon read.

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A RESTLESS SOUL

Jonathan’s Locket

Written by Lorraine Carey

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I was immediately captured by this short work of historical fiction. It is based on an actual shipwreck called The Wreck of the Ten Sails which took place in 1794. Carey has managed to portray the setting of the past and the setting of the future two hundred years later in one enjoyable tale.

At the outset we meet Jonathan Palmer, an orphan living in Port Royal, Jamaica, who desperately seeks to learn the identity of his mother. He has been befriended by a seaman named Peter who assists him in becoming a stowaway on a British merchant ship. Jonathan hopes to get to England to find his birth mother. His most valuable possession is a gold locket with a wisp of her blonde hair that has somehow found its way to him at the orphanage. Once aboard the ship, Peter surreptitiously reveals the truth to Jonathan just before the ship named the Convert strikes a reef and sinks off the shores of the Cayman Islands.

The story shifts to modern times and a new protagonist named Brandon Wallace who lives on Cayman Island. He is a fifteen year old who loves diving, but seems to have all the problems of a teen struggling to grow up. His friend Jason is moving in on his girl, he is in trouble at school and with his parents for cutting class, his sister, Murielle smugly taunts him while remaining the favorite child. But suddenly Jonathan experiences a tugging toward investigating the story of the wreck. Then he begins to feel a choking sensation around his neck, and unexplained physical visions around the site. A sea turtle named Mallock guides him to swim to the old wreck. What is happening to Brandon and why does he feel such a compelling need to solve a two hundred year old mystery?

This book combines the elements of adventure, fantasy, folklore, history and the problems of a teen coming of age. Tweens, teens and adults will all find a unique interweaving of these elements. I could not put the book down and had to read it in one sitting and  could not wait to see what would happen next. One hundred pages that are definitely worth reading!

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MAN’S BEST FRIEND

Dogboy: Danger on Liberty Pier (Dogboy Adventures Book 2)

Written by Bill Meeks

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This book follows the first in the series which saw thirteen year old orphan superhero Bronson Black saves Colto City from the clutches of a den of thieves. The second book is technically not a sequel and can be read as a stand alone story.

In this second adventure Bronson happens upon a murder being committed on Liberty Pier. He chases the perpetrator several blocks, but is unable to apprehend the killer. Bronson lives and works with a magician, Mr. Horum. In the course of the mystery, Bronson will use his Dogboy costume to go undercover. He will struggle to stay on good terms with his girlfriend reporter named Cindy and her computer savvy friends as well as his father’s old friend, Wylie Morgan. A murder, a suicide, a newspaper, a superhero, and a budding romance are elements of the plot. Bronson struggles with his ability to see into the future, his teen emotions, and his need to develop meaningful personal relationships.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and the action is pretty much non-stop in this novel of less than two hundred pages. Will Bronson find himself and solve the mystery? How will he go forward in future escapades protecting the city he loves?

Recommended for ages twelve and up, though some younger middle school students might enjoy the read. Equally appealing to both genders as there are strong male and female characters. This is not a classic superhero comic book story.

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BAREFOOT AND BEAUTIFUL

The Girl With No Shoes

Written by B.J. Rand

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Charming and delightful book, the first in a series of books based on the character Arielle, written for children ages nine through twelve. This is a longer length chapter book based on Arielle and her two pets, Britches, the dog, and Nosy, the black cat. Arielle and her pets love to take walks in the hollow. Britches and Nosy are unusual in the fact that they both communicate in English with their mistress.

One day the three friends come upon a little girl sitting by a tree crying and barefoot. Upon hearing a loud man’s voice, she runs away. Arielle and her pets are mystified and worried for the stranger’s safety. They want to meet her again and agree to find a pair of shoes for her to wear. In the meantime, Nosy finds a pair of ballet slippers that fell out of a box near a neighbor’s house. They bring the shoes to the hollow, but cannot find the girl. Eventually one day the shoes disappear, and after repeated trips to the hollow, the girl appears and tells them her name, Francesca. She thanks them and promises to dance for them one day.

On Halloween night a stranger comes to the door and beckons them. Nosy lives up to her reputation and decides to investigate by following her home. That initiates a trail to another mystery that the three friends will have to solve. Will they ever learn the true identity of Francesca and why she has chosen Arielle and her pet family? No spoilers here, but children will learn it is better to give unselfishly and always be true to your own passion in life.

While it may seem difficult for tweens to accept this story line, it works seamlessly. You want to believe in all the characters and empathize with them. The vocabulary of the text is challenging enough but not overwhelming for the average reader. I had to finish reading it one sitting. Can’t wait to see the rest of the series.

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