Friday, 13 October 2017

The World's Greatest Detective

The World's Greatest Detective
The World's Greatest Detective
By Caroline Carlson

Eleven-year-old Toby Montrose is an orphan who is continuously being shuffled around to the homes of his aunts and uncles.  Eventually, all of them send Toby away.  He has finally landed at the home of his Uncle Gabriel.  Toby knows that if Uncle Gabriel rejects him, he’s off to the orphanage.

Since Uncle Gabriel is a detective living on Detective’s Row, Toby does his best to assist.  When Hugh Abernathy, self-declared World’s Greatest Detective, invites Uncle Gabriel to a murder mystery competition, Toby is certain he will attend with his uncle.  After all, Hugh Abernathy is about to retire; the winner of this mystery contest will be crowned the next World’s Greatest Detective!

To Toby’s dismay, Uncle Gabriel despises Hugh Abernathy and has no intention of participating in his contest.  But when Uncle Gabriel goes out of town, Toby manages to get himself into the competition, hoping to win $10,000 in prize money and all the accolades he can handle.

Many of the detectives from Detective’s Row are present on the Webster Estate for the contest.  None of them take Toby seriously except one: Ivy Webster, also eleven years old.  Calling herself Inspector Webster, Ivy wants to win.

As the detectives await the unfolding of the mystery, something terrible happens.  Someone in the house is found dead.  Now they’ve got a real murder mystery on their hands.  Everyone on the estate is a suspect and no one can leave.  Can two children, Inspectors Webster and Montrose, work together to solve the mystery?  Or will the murderer stop them?

Caroline Carlson’s The World’s Greatest Detective is fast-paced and suspenseful.  It’s an Agatha Christie-style mystery full of twists and turns.  Mystery lovers, read on!

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Lotterys Plus One

The Lotterys Plus One
The Lotterys Plus One

By Emma Donoghue

I loved reading this book!

The Lotterys are a very unusual family that leads a utopian family life.  They have two moms and two dads and seven children, some of whom are biological children, some of whom are adopted.  This very lucky family won the lottery and as such, none of the parents go to work.  All the children are home schooled and every day is an adventure.

Sumac, age nine, is learning about the Mesopotamians and how to speak ancient Sumarian.  Wood, age twelve, is an outdoorsman and teaches the family about survival skills.  Catalpa, a teenager, is raising guide dogs.  And Brian, age four, wears a red fire truck wherever he goes.  

The Lottery parents are tolerant and understanding, challenging their children to learn new things and taking them on all kinds of excursions.

But things are changing.  PopCorn (one of the dads) has discovered that his father is suffering from dementia and has accidentally set his house on fire.  PopCorn’s dad lives in a small town in the Yukon and the parents decide to bring him to live with them in Toronto.  Although the Lottery children are eager to finally meet another grandparent, he turns out to be a rather unhappy fellow that the kids secretly call Grumps.

Once Grumps moves in, life doesn’t seem as pleasant at the Lottery house.  Fearing this terrible change, Sumac goes on a campaign to get Grumps to move out.  Will she succeed?  Or will she adapt to a virtual stranger living in her happy home?

The Lotterys Plus One is just a downright good story.  Although the Lotterys are different, their lifestyle is very appealing.  What kid wouldn’t want to live in the Lottery house?  If you like realistic fiction about family life, you will love The Lotterys Plus One!

Highly recommended!

Monday, 18 September 2017

York: The Shadow Cipher

York: The Shadow Cipher

By Laura Ruby

The first thing that will strike you about this book is its cover.  It’s the city of New York but in an astounding alternate universe where machines transform themselves and seem almost alive; where the subway (called the Underway) goes both above and below ground and zings riders through a glorious cityscape; and where the United Nations has been replaced by the “Embassy of the Five Hundred Nations, flying the colorful flags of First Nations from the Abenaki to the Comanche, Pawnee to the Sioux.” (p. 153)

In this mesmerizing atmosphere, three 13-year-olds, Theo and Tess (twins) and their neighbour Jaime, are being evicted from their apartment building at 354 W.73rd Street.  Actually, everyone in the building is being evicted and it will be torn down. 
The building, and in fact, much of the New York in this novel was designed and built in large part by the Morningstarrs, siblings who lived in the early 1800s.  Their minds led to the animated present-day New York.  

 But the Morningstarrs left something behind besides the city and all its machines; they left the Old York Cipher, a kind of code, that’s been unsolvable for 150 years.  Legend has it that whoever solves the cipher will find a treasure.  But Theo, Tess and Jaime are hoping that it could also save their home.

The three friends set out on an adventure to solve the cipher, taking great risks as they go.  They ride an out-of-control Underway car and explore a long-forgotten tunnel under New York.  They are desperate to save the place they have lived all their lives and will go to great lengths to do it.  But can they? Or will they go too far and lose both their home and their lives?

This is a great story for those who love an adventure.  Like Book Scavenger and The Blackthorn Key, The Shadow Cipher features lots of code-breaking and cipher solving.  It also features many people of different races who are characterized as intelligent, talented, regular people.  I found this to be a refreshing change.  The book is fairly long (475 pages), so be prepared to really dig in!  This is the first in a series

Thursday, 17 August 2017


By Helen Dennis

When a boy washes up on the shore of the Thames – alive, but barely – Londoners want to know who he is and what he was doing in the river.  But the boy has no memory of anything and doesn’t even know his own name.  No one comes forward to claim him.

Nat, the doctor caring for him, gives the boy a pencil and paper and asks him to do some drawing.  What emerges is a complicated symbol – the ouroboros.  It seems to mean something to the boy, but the significance is unclear.

Nat knows that the boy needs time and space to rediscover his identity, so he convinces his sister Anna to let the boy move in with her and her teenage children: Kassia and Dante. Together, they name the boy Jed, and try to give him some normal family time while avoiding the media and others who are curious.

But there is more to Jed than even he imagines, and there are some unsavoury characters who want access to him.  When Jed is captured and held against his will, his new friends learn that he is very valuable to some people.  Can they rescue Jed from his kidnappers?  Can they get him out of the country and keep him safe from harm?

Riveting and suspenseful, Genesis ponders some life and death questions, all while keeping readers wanting more.  Genesis is the first in the River of Ink series

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Princess In Black

The Princess in Black
The Princess In Black

By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Princess Magnolia is prim and proper, as a princess should be.  She wears frilly pink dresses and takes tea with duchesses and never gets her hands dirty.  But Princess Magnolia has a secret: when the monster alarm rings, she knows she has to go.  She runs to her broom closet and quickly transforms into the Princess in Black!

Now, a princess/superhero needs a trusty steed.  Luckily, Princess Magnolia’s unicorn Frimplepants also has an alter-ego: the faithful Blacky.

The Princess in Black lives near the entrance to Monster Land.  Those mischievous monsters come out of their hole to try to eat local goats and cause all kinds of destruction. Luckily the Princess in Black and Blacky are ready to fight.  But can Princess Magnolia keep her identity a secret?

Girl power abounds in this series of stories for early readers.  Chapters are short and illustrations abound.   They also make great read-alouds.