Review: Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh's Fortune by Sean O'Neill

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Summary
Set in Egypt in the 1930s, this graphic novel adventure story follows the exploits of 12-year-old adventurer Rocket Robinson who, along with his monkey sidekick, tries to unravel the mystery of a hidden, ancient treasure located somewhere in the city of Cairo. Along the way he befriends Nuri, a gypsy girl who shows him the secrets of Cairo’s subterranean world. But before long they encounter master criminal Otto von Stürm and his bloodthirsty henchmen, who will stop at nothing to find the treasure before our heroes. Fans of classic adventure storytelling at any age will love seeing the streets of Cairo brought to life in these lively, vibrant pages, while young fans of ancient Egypt will immediately be drawn in by the references to hieroglyphics, mummies, pyramids, and pharaoh’s tombs. Designed for beginning to intermediate readers, the story is free of inappropriate language, gender, or ethnic stereotypes as well as violent images, so it’s truly for comic fans of all ages. But don’t worry—it’s still packed with action, danger, and plenty of fun!

Review
Filled with fun & adventure, Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh's Fortune, is one of those books that a young reader won’t be able to put down. Blended characteristics of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes, this graphic novel comes alive as you follow the adventure of Rocket Robinson as he tries to unlock the mysteries of ancient Egypt. The story is easy to follow with engaging characters and a plot that keeps you reading. The references of everything mystique about ancient Egypt such as the tombs, pyramids and hieroglyphics are not only educational but will excite their curiosity as the plot unravels. If you are looking for something light & fun, I would add it to your young reader’s book list. I believe both boys and girls will enjoy and the recommended age ranges  for this book would be between 9 – 12.  

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: BoilerRoom Studios
Publication date: 10/1/2013
Pages: 240

Review: Chicago Bound by Sean Vogel

Summary
Jake's plan for a carefree holiday at a musical performing arts camp in the Windy City hits a sour note when he stumbles upon a long-hidden message from his late mother, art historian Karen McGreevy. She had traveled to Chicago thirteen years earlier on a dream assignment, never to return home. With his violin and his mother's mysterious letter in hand, Jake, his best friend Julie, and new pals Ben and Natalie are heading west, where they will follow the clues and uncover the truth about a missing masterpiece, the meaning of friendship, and the enduring bond between a mother and her son.

Review
When a kid grows up without a parent, it can be sort of tough. There is always an empty part of you that is filled with a million questions wandering everything about them. As with Jake McGreevy, his mother passed away when he was two years old to an accident not giving him a chance to get to know her. Before heading out on a winter break camp trip for students gifted in the arts, he found a stuffed animal with a note written by her. Not knowing what it meant, many questions about her went through his mind especially if he should tell his dad but he kept it to himself. 

Coincidentally, his trip going to the same town that she died, he saw this as an opportunity to find out what happened to her. While Jake and his friends decide to play detective and follow the clues that help him unravel her mystery, they encounter obstacles that lead the reader through a great plot with a  surprise ending that makes an exciting conclusion to this fun read. 

If you didn't read the preceding book in this series, it’s not necessary but recommended based on the quality of this one. Ideally geared towards the preteen reader, I thought Vogel created a story easy to read, with likable characters that the reader can connect and relate to. Besides all the fun and adventure as the story unravels, it also embraces a story filled with loyalty, friendship and determination. So much a reader can appreciate, this is one that I think they will enjoy.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: MB Publishing LLC
Publication date: 10/22/2013
Pages: 178

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

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Summary 
A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room.  He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen.  And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested.  Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

Review
Every now and again, you come across a book that inspires your imagination and opens your belief for a moment to believe the impossible.  With the magic of the Chronicles of Narnia combined with a splash of the modern day fairytale, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, escapes the young reader on a page turning journey that will get them hooked from the start not wanting to put it down.

Not only is this just a beautifully written story that tells a tale of love, loss, friendship and courage but it’s also filled with elements of mysterious creatures, animals and people coming to life heightening any imagination and curiosity. This story featuring an unlikely heroine will inspire the young reader that anything is possible if you believe and to never give up on what seems impossible. Even though this book is geared towards the young reader, it is one of those stories that anyone would fall in love with. 

Without wanting to give anything away that will spoil this wonderful book, I promise you that it will probably be one of the best stories for the young reader this year. I strongly recommend you adding it to their reading list because it is one that people will be talking about.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles 

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 1/28/2014
Pages: 240

Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Book Summary
Fans of The City of Ember will loveThe Mark of the Dragonfly, an adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous.

Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.

The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.

The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.

Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Review
In her children's debut, The Mark of the Butterfly, Jaleigh Johnson brings to life an engaging fantasy adventure that will be quite the page turner for the young reader. Once you get past the first couple of chapters, the story really takes off and encourages you to jump right in. 

We are introduced to a young girl named Piper, whose life as a scrapper hasn't been that easy. Between losing both parents and trying to take care of herself, survival has been dependent upon the salvaging of items found in the fields after the Meteors storms that hit her town. Tired of living this life, all she wants is to find a way out to a better life that is far away from the one she currently has. 

During one of the storms, while trying to find her best friend, she discovers a young girl named Anna, who is badly hurt with no recollection of where she came from. While trying to help her, she notices that she has a tattoo of The Mark of the Butterfly. Never having seen this before but knows anyone who has is part of the Dragonfly Territories, which is protected by the king. She decides that if she can bring her back home, there might be a reward given for her return.

Things turn when she get a knock at the door. When a man claims to be her father pushes through her door, a sense a fear overcomes Anna. Piper gets the feeling that he really isn't and judging by the way he is so desperate to get to her, there is more to this girl that appears. When things take a dangerous turn, Piper decides to put her plan into action. Not knowing what to do or how they are going to get there, she grabs what she can and the girl and head for the only way out of the town, which is the 401 train, the only way to the Dragonfly Territories. From this point on, the reader is taken on an exciting adventure that is filled with plot twists and turns that are themed with magic, danger, and friendship. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I felt she had well thought out characters as well as a story that was easy to follow along with the right pace. At times, I thought the characters seemed more mature than their ages but considering their experiences in their lives, it added a wholesome depth that gave them their appeal. 

One part of the story that left me disappointed was that I felt like we were left hanging with what happened to Micah. I thought he was such an important part of the story that connected her life there which if it wasn't for her searching for him, she wouldn't have found Anna. As a reader, it would've been great to get closure on that because even though she wandered what happened, knowing would've closed that part of her life to begin her new journey. That's just me but when you read the book and see what happens, you might feel differently. Who knows, fingers crossed, optimistically hoping maybe they'll be another book that could possibly revisit and wrap this up. Hey, just throwing that out there...It's definitely worth the read. I would add this book to the reading list. Ideally my recommendation is for the young middle school age range but this is one that others can appreciate as well.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles 

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 3/25/2014
Pages: 400