Summer of the Woods
Written by Steven Smith
Illustrations by Melissa Rose
Published by MyBoys3 Press on May 11, 2013
Genre/Topics: Adventure, Mystery
Ages 7-10, 154 pages
Two brothers, eight-year-old Sam and ten-year-old Derek, recently moved to Virginia at the start of summer. They are excited and anxious to explore their new backyard, which happens to be the woods. Their parents trust them to explore the woods alone and the summer they won’t forget begins. Sam discovers an old, worn down coin in the creek and pockets it. After showing their dad the coin and talking with the neighbors they discover that there was a rare coin collection stolen from a local museum. Derek and Sam believe they can discover where the coin collection now hides. However, they don’t often know what to expect within the dark woods and mysteries behind the coin collection. What dangers await the brothers in the woods? Will Sam and Derek discover the old coin collection?
I really enjoyed Summer of the Woods. The story was well written with good descriptions. I could really visualize the brothers’ quest into the woods. It reminded me of the film, The Goonies. The brothers are young explorers who are determined that there is more within the woods. Besides showing their dad the coin, the treasure hunt remains a secret between the two. This is Steven Smith’s first book and I’m excited to read what he writes next. I recommend Summer of the Woods for a fun adventure read.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Written by Robin Sloan
Published September 26, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Mystery, Books, Technology
Three Word Book Review: Fun, Humorous, Mysterious
Clay Jannon recently lost his job as a web designer for NewBagel Company. He’s searched online for jobs with no luck until he stumbles upon a simple help wanted sign outside Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. It actually is open 24 hours and Jannon works the night shift when hardly anyone enters the bookstore. However, Jannon begins to notice something strange because the individuals who do enter don’t exactly buy the books instead they trade books after giving him unique cards with codes. These individuals and books are so unique that Mr. Penumbra tells Jannon that he cannot read them and must keep a detail log of each individual down to their coat buttons. Jannon is now very curious and attempts to uncover the truth with his friends and technology. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a fun book that makes you think about how today’s technology with ebooks mixes with paper books. Which book version will you read the book in?
13, rue Thérèse
Written by Elena Mauli Shapiro
Published by Little, Brown and Company on February 2, 2011
Genre/ Topics: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Time Travel, France
I have never read such a unique book. Trevor Stratton is an American professor who teaches in Paris. He discovers a box that contains a mixture of objects, such as letters, photos, gloves, and even a scarf. The owner of the box and objects is Louise Brunet who lives in Paris, through both world wars. It is somewhat a mystery how the objects connect and fully describe her life. Trevor keeps the box a secret and attempts to understand Louise better. Some things he’s able to piece together from the objects is that Louise had a love for a cousin, a marriage to a dependable man, and a passionate attraction to her neighbor. However, Stratton almost sets his imagination free and fills in the empty spots to create her full life. What made this book so unique is that there are actual photographs of each object. It felt as though I discovered the objects with Trevor. 13, rue Thérèse refers to the building where she lives. The book reminded me slightly of The Time Traveller’s Wife, because the book moves past to present and the reader gets both Trevor’s and Louise’s viewpoint.
The author actually found these items in a box that belonged to a real Louise Brunt. However, that is where the similarities differ because the Louise in the book is completely fictionally. In the back of the book, the reader is able to scan QR codes to discover more information and details about the objects. At times I was confused while reading the book, but the reader should just go with it. I love books that contain letters and illustrations, so this was quite an enjoyable book.
Written by Sheela Chari
Published August 9, 2011 by Disney Hyperion
Genre/Topics: Mystery, Realistic Fiction
Ages: 8 +, 336 pages
Neela Krishnan received a unique and beautiful veena, an Indian instrument, from her grandmother in India. Her grandmother states to always take care of the veena. She brings her veena to show her sixth grade class for ‘Instruments Around the World’ week. Her troubles begin when she walks home from school with her veena when it begins to rain hard. Neela enters a local church to take cover from the rain, but then the veena suddenly vanishes. There are many clues that Neela tries to piece together to discover where her veena has vanished to. Dragons, musicians, legends, and more somehow connect for Neela to try to find her veena.
I really enjoyed Vanished and it kept my interest until the end. It may be a ‘children’s book’, but I couldn’t stop reading it. My review only highlights the first two chapters, since I don’t want to give too much away.
Here is some additional veena information provided by the author. A veena is one of India’s oldest instruments that dates to the eleventh century. A veena’s size ranges from four to six feet and weighs from ten to twelve pounds. Veenas have additional details, such as animals made from wood or paper-mâché, gemstones, and carvings. It is a unique instrument and doesn’t compare to a Western instrument. Here are some veena photos:
The Shadow of the Wind
Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Translated by Lucia Graves
Published February 1, 2005 by Penguin
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
I just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind for the second time and I almost forgot how wonderful the book is. The book’s first sentence hooked me: I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In 1945, Daniel Sempere is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona, Spain. He is only ten, but his life will forever change. Daniel was raised among books, since his own father is a book seller. He cannot tell anyone the secrets within the walls of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. His father tells him to pick a book to protect as his own. Daniel moves through the maze of bookshelves until he picks his book: The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. That night Daniel falls in love with the book and desires to read more books by the author. However, Daniel cannot read anymore books written by Carax, because someone has been trying to remove the books from existence. This leads Daniel onto a literary quest to discover more about Julián Carax and why his books have suddenly disappeared.
The Shadow of the Wind is almost magical as your curiosity increases with thrills, scandals, rumors, passion, and suspense. I highly recommend this book. Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote a sequel,The Angel’s Game, that unfortunately I didn’t think matched The Shadow of the Wind. However, you’ll find reappearing characters and the story somewhat continues.
This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens…In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of the Wind, pages 5-6)
Written and Illustrated by Brian Selznick
Published: 2011 by Scholastic
Ages 9+, 608 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel, Mystery, Realistic Fiction
I don’t want to reveal too much about Wonderstruck, since letting the story unfold makes it a great book. You may already be familiar with Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was recently made into a film. This book is similar, since part of the story is told through pictures. Don’t let the page numbers scare you, since the pages fly by and you’ll wish there was more to read. The book is about two individuals set 50 years apart who eventually intertwine together. The stories are separate, yet both desire something in their lives. Ben’s story begins in Minnesota, in 1977, who desires to learn about his father. Rose’s story begins in New Jersey, in 1927, who keeps newspaper clippings of a woman and feels out of place. Both discover a clue that leads them onto a quest. The stories move back and forth, Ben’s story is told through words and Rose’s story is told through pictures. This is the first graphic novel that I’ve read and it was magical. Brian Selznick’s illustrations and details make the story come alive. The pages need full attention, since there are messages within the illustrations. The book wasn’t exactly a mystery, instead it was as though Wonderstruck slowly revealed its secrets. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
Ben’s hands were still shaking from the dream. Ever since the accident, the wolves appeared, galloping across the moonlit snow, red tongues wagging and white teeth glistening. He couldn’t figure out why they were stalking him, because he used to love wolves.
- Brian Selznick (Wonderstruck, page 17)
The 39 Clues Series
Written by Rick Riordan, Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Jude Watson, Patrick Carman, Linda Sue Park , Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published: 2008-2010 by Scholastic
Ages: 9 + Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Suspense
I’m surprised it took me so long to discover the exciting adventures in The 39 Clues. I’ve only read the first book, but I think it has potential for an exciting series. When a relative dies, Dan and Amy Cahill are given the opportunity to take a million dollars or take the first clue that leads them on dangerous hunt to discover the source of the family’s power. Dan and Amy are practically like orphans, since their parents died when they were young and their old aunt hires au pairs. I enjoyed this book for several reasons. The perspectives switch between Dan and Amy, so both boys and girls can view themselves on the hunt for clues. There is a strong and positive sibling connection as they work together, but there’s still humor and normal teasing between brother and sister. The 39 Clues explores secrets and knowledge from the past, since the Cahill family has been powerful throughout history. Readers learn about historic events and important individuals, such as Benjamin Franklin, without being boring. The first book, The Maze of Bones, literally was a cliff hanger that gets you ready for the next book.
The books themselves are great, but the reader becomes more involved through online interactions and collecting trading cards. You become an agent and attempt to solve clues. One thing I didn’t like was that you needed to put the card’s code that came with the book to gain further access online. Well, I didn’t have a card since I read the book from the library. Individuals sort themselves into the Cahill family with a mini quiz. I’m on the Ekaterina branch. Another great thing about this series is that it’s written by multiple authors. The hope is that readers will discover new authors to enjoy after reading The 39 Clues.
The Christmas Wish
by Richard Siddoway
Fiction, 203 pages
Will Martin lost his parents at age four due to a car accident and his grandparents raised him as their own in a small town. When Will’s grandfather died he left his busy life in New York City and returned home to manage his grandfather’s business that lacked technology and where a firm handshake was worth a signature. His grandparents wrote in journals every year that they didn’t share until death. His grandmother tells Will that she’s been reading the journals and discovered that when Will and her went on their traditional shopping trip on Christmas Eve, her husband secretly saw a woman named Lillian. His grandmother’s Christmas wish is to discover who Lillian is and why her devoted husband never mentioned the name. Will learned more about his grandfather from others in town as he attempts to discover information about Lillian. Will also grew as a person as he respects the business, town, and realizes who the real Will is.
The Christmas Wish was a fast read with a wholesome and inspiring message. It had a Hallmark or Lifetime movie feeling and my prediction was correct after reading other book reviews. I never saw the movie version, but I’m sure it’s a nice Christmas ‘feel good’ movie. The mystery of who Lillian is may be easy to guess after a while, but it’s still a meaningful book.
by Carl Hiaasen
Ages 10 & up, 371
Realistic Fiction, Mystery
This is the second book I read by Carl Hiaasen and I was just as delighted after reading Hoot. Bunny Starch is a feared biology teacher at Truman School. Students cringe when they are called upon in class and she’s always serious. When Duane doesn’t know the answer she forces him to write an essay, but he responds that she’ll be sorry and eats her pencil. The biology classes visit Black Vine Swamp in Florida’s Everglades for a field trip, but then Mrs. Starch disappears. Many students are relieved that their dreaded teacher is gone, but students become concerned that Duane’s threat may make him involved with Mrs. Starch’s disappearance. Duane’s involved, but not as they think. Something mysterious is occurring at Black Vine Swamp with its wildlife. Nick and Marta are two students concerned with the biology teacher’s disappearance and find themselves in awkward situations. Scat has similar elements as Hoot with wildlife issues and a mystery that keeps your interest. I thought it was an enjoyable read.
by Carl Hiaasen
Ages 10 & up, 292 pages
Realistic Fiction, Humorous
I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a day. I don’t want to share too much information about the book, because part of the reason that kept me reading was the mystery held my attention. Roy Eberhardt is the new student at Trace Middle in Florida. He’s constantly bullied and misses his last home in Montana. If it wasn’t for Roy’s bully, Dana Materson, pushing his face against the window on the school bus then he wouldn’t have seen the strange boy running with no shoes. Roy’s curious about this boy and is determined to see him again, which causes Roy trouble. Another story plot occurs with mysterious vandalism at the future site for the next Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House. Survey stakes in the ground are removed and even animals are let loose. The running boy and vandalism mystery plot move back and forth and finally intertwine in the middle. The characters are well developed and the story elements move smoothly. Hoot will surely keep your interest as you discover what all the hoot is about in this humorous tale as a young boy attempts to do what is right while surviving at school. I highly recommend this book for all ages! Hoot also won a Newbery Honor in 2003.