4 stars. Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart is equal parts adventurous, thrilling, and touching. All that young Joseph Johnson has left of his family is his pony Sarah, and now she’s been sold to a no-count horse trader against his will. He sets off to get her back, encountering bandits, whitewater, a grizzly, and other dangers, as well as unexpected friendship and sense of belonging.
Gemeinhart’s talent is that he writes both action and emotion very well. Told in Joseph’s folksy first-person narration, the book is readable both for the theme and the plot. I tore through it fairly quickly, starting it in the evening and finishing it on lunch break the next day, excited to read both the bittersweet and the valedictory moments of Joseph’s adventure.
The only real flaw of the book is that there are some moments that feel a little “Chicken Soup for the Soul”-esque, slightly overwrought with morality and message. Neither bad nor emotionally manipulative, mind you, just a little sweetly maudlin.
I continue to be impressed with Dan Gemeinhart’s writing; he’s talented with words, characters, and story. Some Kind of Courage is one of those books that is instantly appealing. Recommended for adventure and animal lovers of all ages.
5 stars. Gordon McAlpine brings a very fitting conclusion to The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe in this third volume, The Pet and the Pendulum. Back in Baltimore, the twins face their greatest test as the horrors of an eerie mansion unfold. I found myself smiling most of the way through this book; Edgar and Allan approach their problems with brains, cleverness, a dry sense of humor, and a zest for adventure. Adults of a literary bent will particularly like the happenings in the Great Beyond, where Edgar Allan Poe continues to look out for his great-great-great-great-grandnephews in every way possible. I’m very sad to see the creepy fun of this series end, but it’s also a pleasure to have this series be so good across the board without wearing out its premise.
5 stars. Gordon McAlpine’s second installment of the single-minded twins (Edgar Allan Poe’s great-great-great-great-grandnephews) is a delight to read for young and not-so-young lovers of the mysterious and creepy. Edgar and Allan journey to New Orleans, meeting new friends Em and Milly Dickinson, and spookiness abounds. There are lots of witty in-jokes for literati, plenty of action, and oodles of ironic creativity, like a pirate quest that isn’t what it seems and “Ghost Tours” of New Orleans given by actual ghosts.
3 stars. I checked out The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic from my library based on a few impulse criteria: the author is local, the illustrations were neat, and it is a clever title. The book is moderately enjoyable, with quite a bit of silliness (which sometimes tries too hard to be cute and Alice in Wonderland-y). Jennifer Trafton’s dialog and Brett Helquist’s illustrations are the strengths of the book, along with its light-hearted charm. The plot trods a fine line between witty and overly silly, often coming down on the wrong side of it for my tastes, and characters and plot devices often seem to be chosen for their madcap comedic value rather than their contribution to the story. A pleasure read, nothing more or less.
5 stars. My favorite of the last few volumes of the Dragonbreath series, combining wit, adventure, friendship, and medieval hijinks. The dynamic between Danny, Wendell, and Christiana is the heart of the series–how they get out of their predicaments through their talents and rapport. Ursula Vernon has quite a bit of fun with refreshing the “knights vs. dragons” theme. Plenty of humor–my favorite moment was a Princess Bride shout-out–and action keep this series going strong.