Max Starling's theatrical father likes to say that at twelve a boy is independent. He also likes to boast (about his acting skills, his wife's acting skills, a fortune only his family knows is metaphorical), but more than anything he likes to have adventures. Max Starling's equally theatrical mother is not a boaster but she enjoys a good adventure as much as her husband. When these two disappear, what can sort-of-theatrical Max and his not-at-all theatrical grandmother do? They have to wait to find out something, anything, and to worry, and, in Max's case, to figure out how to earn a living at the same time as he maintains his independence. This is the first of three books, all featuring the mysterious Mister Max.
Is this really a Cynthia Voigt book? It’s not realistic. It won’t be getting the Newbery. You won’t cry while reading it, and a teacher probably won’t assign it as homework. And wait, what? It’s funny, bordering on silly at times. A silly Cynthia Voigt book? Who’d have thought.
The cast is wildly hilarious (especially the parents), the plot brilliant (and improbable), and the story just plain fun. Multiple mysteries unravel around Max as he attempts to live on his own while solving the mystery of his parents disappearance. This is a series, however, so don’t expect to get all your questions answered in one sitting.
Overall: Four Stars. A fun little mystery, with a lot of humor and wit.
Clod is an Iremonger. He lives in the Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London. At the centre is Heap House, a puzzle of houses, castles, homes and mysteries reclaimed from the city and built into a living maze of staircases and scurrying rats.
The Iremongers are a mean and cruel family, robust and hardworking, but Clod has an illness. He can hear the objects whispering. His birth object, a universal bath plug, says ‘James Henry’, Cousin Tummis’s tap is squeaking ‘Hilary Evelyn Ward-Jackson’ and something in the attic is shouting ‘Robert Burrington‘ and it sounds angry.
A storm is brewing over Heap House. The Iremongers are growing restless and the whispers are getting louder. When Clod meets Lucy Pennant, a girl newly arrived from the city, everything changes. The secrets that bind Heap House together begin to unravel to reveal a dark truth that threatens to destroy Clod’s world.
There is something about this book that makes your brain hesitate. The absolute strangeness of it all is almost too much. The absurdity of the setting leaves you wondering if you can suspend your disbelief. Then all of sudden, you’re there. Pulled into Carey’s wonderfully peculiar world. You accept Heap House for what it is: ugly, creepy, and curiously addicting.
Seriously, this book is weird! The best way I can describe it is: a mystery of peculiar magic set in a gothic fantasy world in alternative Victorian London.
In short, the setting is intriguing, the story line strangely addicting, and the ending unsatisfying. There is a second book, but I’m still debating as to whether or not I want to be sucked into the series.
Overall: 3.5 Stars.
Parental Note: Is this middle grade? It has swearwords and vague sexual references.
Audrey is a cow with poetry in her blood, who yearns for the greener pastures beyond Bittersweet Farms. But when Roy the horse tells this bovine dreamer that she is headed for Abbot's War, the slaughter house, Audrey knows that she must leave her home and friends sooner than she ever imagined. With the help of a whole crew of animals and humans alike, Audrey attempts to escape the farm she lives on--and certain death.
As Agnes the cow would say, “Holy human!” What a fun book.
Audrey is a very original story told through an ever changing points of view. Both animals and humans add their bit to the story. Each telling what they think happened. This cleverly designed narrative leaves some things to speculation and hearsay as not every animal or human knows exactly what happened, but as the gaps fill in, the story builds with a surprising amount of suspense.
Audrey lives at Bittersweet Farms and that is exactly the kind of life she’s given. Just the same, this book manages to come across as fun and hopeful despite the dark subject matter (avoiding the slaughterhouse) and Audrey’s escape is both thrilling and hilarious.
Warning: parents may find themselves raising a vegetarian after their child reads this book.
Overall: Four stars. Very original and full of humor, all the different character voices create an interesting narrative, but I did find myself occasionally wishing for a more fixed point of view.
Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat."The Weight of Water" is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails.
This book deals with so many heavy issues and with such a light touch; it is truly amazing. Written in simple free verse, each line flows with imagery, emotion, and exquisite detail.
The main character Kasienka is an immigrant from Poland. She is thought to be stupid by her teachers and fellow students because of the language gap. And that’s just the beginning of her troubles. Everyday, Kasienka must deal with racism and hostility from her fellow students. If being excluded and bullied at school isn’t bad enough, home isn’t much better. Beyond their daily struggle with poverty, her mother is obsessed with finding her father; a man who left them years ago (and quite obviously to Kasienka, doesn’t want to be found).
Unlike so many books in verse, The Weight of Water is a full story; it’s not just poetry, moments, or “snap-shots” of Kasienka’s life. This book, despite how short it is, has a full well-rounded plot.
Overall: Five Stars. An amazing story full of hope, beautifully written with intriguing well-crafted characters.