Three for Thursday: Keeping it in the Neighborhood

For today’s bite-sized reviews, let’s take a look at three books that stay close to home.  Stories about friends and neighbors in the community rather than far away places or other worlds.  What might you find in your own attic?  Next door? Or right in town?


Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman (Disney Hyperion, February 2014)

After his house burns down, fourteen year old Nick, his younger brother and father move into a house they’ve inherited.  In the attic of this house are some bizarre devices and objects that came with the property.  When Nick decides to have a yard sale and sell the weird stuff off, bizarre things begin happening.  Everything offered is bought by someone in town . . . and every object appears to have some kind of strange beyond reality abilities.  With his new friends from school, Nick must figure out what the connection is and who the mysterious strangers are that have such an interest in all the devices.  What do they know?  And what was Tesla’s ultimate plan for all these strange gadgets?

A crazy school story that’s part mystery, part fantastic science, part adventure.  This is an odd one.  There are a lot of fun and funny moments for tween readers.  So many unusual characters and adults who behave in odd ways.  I found the narration problematic in that the exposition tended to say too much about the characters when it would have been more appropriate to show the readers.  It also threw me that Nick has lost his mom only a short time ago, and yet there’s fairly little indication of any sense of loss or grief in the story.  I think this will appeal best to a tween audience who likes irreverent and quirky thrillers.  This is a relatively quick read, but only part one in  The Accelerati Trilogy, so many of the threads and questions from this story have not been wrapped up just yet.

Recommended for grades 5 through 7.


Spider Stampede by Ali Sparkes, illustrated by Ross Collins (Lerner Classroom, 2013)

Twin eight-year-olds Josh and Danny just want to have fun with their dog in their backyard, the way an normal boys might want to.  But their neighbor Mrs. Potts seems bent on making certain that their fun is squashed at every turn.  And when the boys find out that mean Mrs. Potts is actually a mad scientist who is up to no good, they find themselves in a whole heap of trouble–transformed into spiders!  Now the boys have to find a way to reverse the transformation and get home in time for dinner!

A clever young reader series with some science fictional elements.  (Granted the mad scientist idea doesn’t make for a very realistic science).  But the facts about spiders and the research done to get spider biology correct is a plus–making this series a nice lever for further research into actual animals.  Since there are still fairly few science fiction stories published–particularly for those just beginning on chapter books, this is a positive step.  A great read that should attract reluctant readers  who enjoy a good adventure.  It’s fun to imagine what your next door neighbor might be up to!  This is first in the Switch series, which so far appears to have 14 titles set to be published by the end of 2014.

Recommended for readers grades 2-4


The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown Books, 2013)

Ben Silverstein’s been send to spend his summer with his grandfather in the run-down town of Buttonville.  But what looks to play out as an utterly dull summer swiftly changes when Ben finds what looks like a baby dragon.  It seems that the old button factory has new residents.  A very peculiar veterinary practice.  Ben and local gal Pearl Petal discover that this vet service isn’t for normal animals . . . it’s for extraordinary creatures.  Like dragons.  And sasquatches.  But when a mistake leads to the sasquatch making a break for it through town, it’ll be up to Pearl and Ben to retrieve it safely–not an easy task!

Fun and funny, this is a great little cryptid/mythical critter series for younger readers.  Suzanne Selfors keeps the action and humor running throughout.  For those young readers outgrowing some of the younger series (Zack Files, Katie Kazoo, and Bailey School Kids) this might be a perfect step upward in reading while still providing all the entertainment.  Ben  and Pearl’s adventures stay close to home, at least for this first book.  These kids goof up, but also work to repair their mistakes, all while trying to keep the Imaginary Veterinary a secret from the other townsfolk.  For older readers, the story may seem a lightweight, but it’s a good match for reluctant readers who enjoy fantasy elements in their reading.  The illustrations by Dan Santat add to the fun of this story and mesh well with the tone.  This is the first book in the Imaginary Veterinary series.  To date there are three titles published with a fourth expected in July 2014.

Recommended for grades 3 through 5.

So there you go!  Comments welcome!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on February 21, 2014, in General Posts, Three for Thursdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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