The Awakening mashup introduces super kids

Quantum Prophecy 1: The Awakening by Michael Carroll; published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, New York, 2006; 264 pages.

Colin and Danny are neighbors, classmates and friends.  On the eve of Mystery Day, Danny miraculously saves a friend’s little sister from imminent disaster.  Could he have superhero powers?  When Colin’s family’s annual Mystery Day party wraps up, Colin walks Danny home and Danny shares a secret: he does have superhuman abilities.  Mystery Day is a holiday celebrated all over the world, a memorial to an epic battle when superheroes and supervillains fought and no one won; in fact, they all disappeared.  Ten years later, Danny learns that he is the son of Quantum, a superhero with the powers of prophecy.  Colin is jealous of his friend’s powers, but discovers he has powers of his own—and a pair of superhero parents.  Because their powers were lost on the original Mystery Day, the adults are helpless to stop an evil plot to usurp Danny’s and Colin’s powers to create a single, superhuman supervillain.  Working together, the children and adults foil the evil plan, at least for now.  As the book ends, we are left to wonder if Quantum’s original prophecy for Danny will yet come to pass:  Will he lead an evil army of destruction?  Only the rest of the books in the series can answer that question!

One thought kept me from giving this book a higher quality rating: Carroll has morphed X-Men with The Incredibles to capitalize on the popularity of both.  I mean, really, Energy’s eyes turn white as she unleashes lightning?  How very much like Storm, from X-Men!  And, come on, children left in the dark about their parents’ superhero past?  Disney/Pixar covered that in The Incredibles.  Most young adults will recognize the mashup.

Does it work?  I can see the attraction for tweens—superhero kids saving the planet from evil forces.  On a superficial level, I found the plot interesting as Carroll let it unfold slowly and deliberately.  This isn’t great literature, but not all books have to be.  We all look for an opportunity to be entertained, to step into a world that’s not our own for a little vacation from reality.  In light of that, this would make a good series to recommend as summer reading for the middle school crowd or for reluctant readers (especially boys).  And that could explain the inclusion in the 2009 Popular Paperbacks list.

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 5-8

quantum prophecy the awakeningCover Art: The orange and grey color scheme, along with the sci-fi images, should appeal to the middle school crowd.  The spine, with dark grey type on a light grey background, was difficult to read, although the orange image from the cover may attract attention.

From Reading List: 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Spies and Intrigue List

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Skulduggery Pleasant will rattle your bones

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy; published by HarperCollins, Ney York, 2007; 391 pages.

Get ready for a ghastly good time!  Derek Landy’s story of good-guy detective Skulduggery Pleasant will rattle your bones with laughter and spine-tingling adventure.  This well-balanced story combines humor and horror to tell a tale of myth, magic and mortality.  Stephanie Edgely’s uncle has died, a seemingly natural death for a mortal, and has left her the bulk of his fortune: a beautiful home, a wealth of royalties from his best-selling books, and a menacing secret.  His long-time friend, Skulduggery Pleasant, befriends Stephanie, involving her in the ethereal world of magic and menace that lies just behind the façade of normal human life.  Together they take on the forces of evil that are attempting to take over the world once again.  Although only 12 years old, we discover that Stephanie might be one of the Ancients, and she proves herself a worthy partner for Skulduggery as they defeat the megalomaniacal Nefarian Serpine and his otherworldly army.

For lovers of Ohio’s own R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, this book offers a natural transition to stories with better developed plots and characters.  Of course the heroine in the story, Stephanie, is fleshed out, but Landy surprises us by fully developing the character of the skeletal detective, Skulduggery Pleasant.  Reluctant readers, no matter their gender, will find the story easy to read and quite engrossing.

For me, the character’s aliases, like Nefarian Serpine, Sagacious Tome, Ghastly Bespoke, and Stephanie’s alias, Valkyrie Cain, were a highlight of the story.  Of course, given my future line of work, I was quite pleased that the exquisitely beautiful China Sorrows is a librarian.  I envision a book club in a middle school library in which the School Library Media Specialist asks the group what these names might mean and what name each student would select as his or her alias.  Or maybe we plan the cast of the movie version.  My bones rattle with suppressed giggles as I think of their answers….

4P     3Q     Grades 6-8

skulduggeryCover Art: Ghastly green, Halloween-ish title on a background with a graphic novel feel, this cover will appeal to most middle schoolers, especially the R.L. Stine fans.  The green text really stands out on the spine.  My daughter begged me to finish quickly so she could read it simply based on the cover art; when she read the jacket summary, she was even more impatient.

 From Reading List: “On the Edge of Your Seat (Mystery, Suspense, or Thriller)”

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    Jangle in the Jungle Add a different set of three letters to each of the following words to create a list of new words. The three-letter additions all have something in common. What are the new words, and how are the three-letter additions related? EASE GIN HEM ICE ON OPUS RILE TIC Check Braingle.com for the answer.