Friday, April 9, 2010

In a Real Pickle

A new book by Promitzer puts a strange spin on summer vacation.

I am still reading summer vacation books and I may be doing that for some time to come. My column for June will cover paperback books for summer. Pick up a copy of Lowcountry Parent, Upstate Parent or Palmetto Parent to read it. Or, wait until July and I'll include some of the reviews here. Anyway, I finished reading an intersting book that takes place over a summer vacation a couple weeks ago and thought you may be interested. You can find it in bookstores now.

"The Pickle King"
By Rebecca Promitzer
For ages 12 - 16
This interesting story is as strange as the cover art of glowing pickles and an eyball in a jar. An exciting mystery-adventure with twists turns and a few supernatural elements set in a dismal rainy town. Rated 3.5 (gruesome imagery, perilous situations, ghosts)

Set in the nowhere town of Elbow, "The Pickle King" follows Bea, an 11-year-old girl, whose father is missing and whose mother is in a sanitatium. Bea lives in her family home with a close friend of her parents. They don't have much money and she longs to change her fortune with a sunny summer vacation. Unfortunately, summer vacation in Elbow is dismal. It rains incessantly. It's not a pretty rain either. Dark and hard, the rain is actually blamed for causing some residents to lose touch with reality.

Bea and a few of the other students stuck in Elbow for the summer are forced to spend time together - it's a school thing. When Bea takes a photo of a mysterious dead body strange things begin to happen. The mystery involves ghosts, shady men, secret societies, missing persons, and swamp people living under the refuse in the city dump. It's plot is a little wonky but the suspense, twists, and turns tend to make up for it.

Bea and the other "Raintown Convicts," as they come to call themselves, act as a makeshift "Scooby Gang" and embark on a gruesome quest to uncover the towns' many buried secrets. Though forced together the gang become friends risking their lives for one another from attacks by giant rats and demented surgeons. Whether it is a bag full of human intestines, a secret stairway covered in roaches, or a mansion stocked with human parts, the grizzly details and descriptive narrative are what keep this story interesting.

Everything culminates in a showdown between Bea and a centuries-old tycoon. That's right he is avoiding death with a steady supply of replacement parts and organs harvested from the town's discarded and forgotten residents.

The narrative has holes and the mystery is a little out there, but Promitzer's gift with language and description draws the reader into this uniquely odd town with quirky characters you may actually relate to and mysteries you'll want to solve.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Summer Sensibilities

It seems it has been a very long time since I last posted a book review. I have gotten so into highlighting illustrators, writing opinions, and conducting interviews that I have had little time to post reviews. I am still reading though, so the reviews are coming. I'll get things started with a short one.

“Scones and Sensibility”
By Lindsay Eland
For Ages 8 – 14
"Scones and Sensibility," is a break from the average fantasy oriented teen fare. With allusions to "Pride and Prejudice" this airy novel is a great summer read about love and freindship. Rated 4 (humor, friendship, no fantasy creatures)
Tired of vampires, pixies, and werewolves? You’ll find none of that in this delightful tale of friendship and matchmaking. Enamored with Jane Austen’s heroic Elizabeth Bennett, from “Pride and Prejudice,” young Polly Madassa tries to live her life as a close as she can to the refined and ladylike manners of her 19th century heroines. This also puts her very out of touch with the modern world around her. While working in her parents bakery Polly decides it is her calling to encourage love to bloom throughout her sleepy little New England town. Nothing ever works out so easily, but that also adds to the fun. Be sure to have a pastry in hand before you begin reading, "Scones and Sensibility" will make you hungry. This light and airy novel will be a fun summer read for girls looking for something without blood, battles and the end of the world.