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The Magic Misfits

The Magic MisfitsI’m one of those peo­ple that often reads a celebri­ty-writ­ten book because I’d like to find one that defies the odds. How about you? Did you get over the won­der­ing at a cer­tain point? Or do you still give a new star-pow­ered book a try?

Sad­ly, I don’t often find a celebri­ty book I can rec­om­mend. This time, though, I’m prac­ti­cal­ly shout­ing: Read this book! It’s that good.

Neil Patrick Har­ris wrote The Mag­ic Mis­fits. As pres­i­dent of the Acad­e­my of Mag­i­cal Arts from 2011 to 2014, I sus­pect­ed the “mag­ic” might be more than a word for fan­ta­sy. It’s an inte­gral part of this mys­tery, woven deft­ly into the sto­ry. What’s more, there are mag­ic tricks after many of the chap­ters, pro­vid­ing step-by-step instruc­tions and tips for mak­ing the illu­sions seem real. And Har­ris intro­duces the book by let­ting read­ers know there are codes and ciphers with­in the text. Pay atten­tion!

Carter Locke is a young boy who loves mag­ic … and he’s taught him­self to be good with illu­sions. When he’s quite young his lov­ing par­ents dis­ap­pear, after which he goes to live with his uncle … who is a crook! Sylvester “Sly” Beat­on is self­ish and cru­el. He demands that Carter act as his shill in con­fi­dence games. Carter learns all of Uncle Sly’s moves but Carter makes a firm rule that he will nev­er steal. He has a strong com­pass for right and wrong. Life is intol­er­a­ble with Sly and Carter runs away, with­out hav­ing any idea where he’s going.

Rid­ing the rails, he ends up in Min­er­al Wells (There’s a MAP! I love maps.) where he meets Mr. Dante Ver­non, which is a very lucky hap­pen­stance. Carter is intro­duced to five oth­er young peo­ple his age, all of them prac­tic­ing some form of mag­ic. They are the Mag­ic Mis­fits, the first friends of his young life.

Min­er­al Wells is cur­rent­ly caught up in the fer­vor over B.B. Bosso’s Car­ni­val Spec­tac­u­lar. Tempt­ing peo­ple with cir­cus acts, sideshow odd­i­ties, and promis­es of prizes, Carter quick­ly real­izes the show is all based on fak­ery. When Bosso invites him to be a part of the Spec­tac­u­lar because of his mag­ic skills, Carter feels uncom­fort­able. He refus­es. Carter and the Mag­ic Mis­fits are deter­mined to save Min­er­al Wells from Bosso’s spell. There’s a strong sense of dan­ger in Har­ris’ sto­ry. He’s writ­ten a true page-turn­er.

I enjoyed the way the author speaks direct­ly to the read­er. From the begin­ning of Chap­ter Two:

Sur­prise! It’s time for a flash­back!

I under­stand how frus­trat­ing it is to pause a sto­ry right in the mid­dle of the action, but there are a few things you should know about Carter before I tell you what hap­pens next. Things like: Who is this kid? And why was he run­ning? And who is the man he was run­ning from? I promise we’ll get back to Carter’s escape soon enough. And if we don’t, I’ll let you lock me up in a tight strait­jack­et with no key. Oh, the hor­ror!”

The book reads like a movie: Lis­sy Marlin’s illus­tra­tions are pep­pered through­out, help­ing the read­er visu­al­ize just enough. Her char­ac­ters’ faces con­tribute depth to the sto­ry.

I hope this book wasn’t ghost-writ­ten. I want to know that Har­ris wrote the whole thing. I could hear his voice through­out the sto­ry, so I’m choos­ing to believe this is a celebri­ty-writ­ten book that far sur­pass­es oth­er star-pow­ered efforts. It’s a sol­id mid­dle-grade book. It’s charm­ing, fun­ny, com­pelling, and a tes­ta­ment to the pow­er of friend­ship. And I can learn mag­ic. Mag­ic Mis­fits: The Sec­ond Sto­ry comes out in Sep­tem­ber 2018. I already have it on order.

Mag­ic Mis­fits
Neil Patrick Har­ris
Little,Brown Books for Young Read­ers
Novem­ber 2017
ISBN 978–0316391825

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Graphic Storytelling

 

Fish GirlA good graph­ic nov­el should pose a mys­tery.

As it opens (last pos­si­ble minute), the read­er often has no clue what’s going on.

It’s often an unknown world, even if it looks like our world.

This isn’t that dif­fer­ent than the open­ing of a con­ven­tion­al print book but, for some rea­son, peo­ple often react to graph­ic nov­els by telling me, “I can’t read them! I nev­er know what’s going on.”

What is there about adding con­tin­u­al visu­als that caus­es some oth­er­wise avid read­ers to throw a graph­ic nov­el aside with such dis­fa­vor?

This ques­tion is an intrigu­ing one for me. In our Chap­ter & Verse Book Club, we read at least one graph­ic nov­el each year, usu­al­ly with an under­cur­rent of grum­bling. I know which of our mem­bers won’t like the book, which of them won’t open the book, and which of them will do their best to like the book. Some will even love the book.

Why such a wide range of respons­es based on the visu­al aspect of the book? And the dia­logue nature of the sto­ry?

I recent­ly fin­ished David Wies­ner and Don­na Jo Napoli’s Fish Girl. The open­ing is bewil­der­ing. What is going on? I find this sat­is­fy­ing.

When I fin­ished, I turned imme­di­ate­ly to re-read it, to fig­ure out where I first fig­ured it out. What were the clues? Were they visu­al or ver­bal or a com­bi­na­tion of both? I’m not going to tell you, of course. That’s your read­ing jour­ney. But I was par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of the way in which Fish Girl (dare I say it?) unwinds.

As a long time fan­ta­sy read­er, I’m famil­iar with sto­ries in this seg­ment of the genre. (I’m try­ing not to reveal too much so I’m pur­pose­ful­ly not nam­ing that seg­ment.) 

About the  book, David Wies­ner writes, “I tried sev­er­al times to devel­op a pic­ture book around these com­po­nents (draw­ings of char­ac­ters, scenes, and set­tings to go with an image of a house filled with water where fish are swim­ming) but the house full of fish turned out to be a com­plex image, sug­gest­ing sto­ries too long and involved for the pic­ture book for­mat. The log­i­cal next step was to see it as a graph­ic nov­el.”

Many of the peo­ple who don’t care for graph­ic nov­els love pic­ture books. Per­haps under­stand­ing graph­ic nov­els as a pic­ture book for telling longer, more com­plex sto­ries will help them appre­ci­ate this form more?

In Fish Girl, the water­col­or-paint­ed frames are clear and visu­al­ly beau­ti­ful. The char­ac­ters are well-delin­eat­ed. The dia­logue is involv­ing. The mys­ter­ies lead the way. Why does this girl, who lives with fish and an octo­pus inside of a house filled with water, named Ocean Won­ders, seem to be a pris­on­er? Why can’t she leave? Why does Nep­tune set so many rules? Are sto­ries the true rea­son that Fish Girl stays in her prison?

Wiesner’s paint­ings pro­vide focus in an involv­ing way through­out the book. The ocean is brood­ing, beau­ti­ful, and beck­on­ing. Fish Girl is lone­ly, a lone­li­ness every read­er will rec­og­nize. The expres­sions of lone­li­ness, bewil­der­ment, friend­ship, and long­ing are beguil­ing. When I con­sid­er how long it would take me to draw and paint just one of these frames and then look at how many frames are employed to tell this sto­ry, I could well imag­ine that David Wies­ner has been work­ing on this book for five years. I won­der what the truth of that is? 

It’s a book that many read­ers, young and old, will enjoy. I believe it would be a good read-aloud if all lis­ten­ers can see the book and help turn the pages. Fish Girl is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. And I will keep look­ing for graph­ic nov­els that will con­vert even their most reluc­tant read­ers!

Fish Girl
David Wies­ner and Don­na Jo Napoli
Clar­i­on Books, March 7, 2017
(I read an Advanced Reader’s Copy.)
ISBN 978−0−544−81512−4 $25 hard­cov­er
ISBN 978−0−547−48393−1 $18 paper­back

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End Cap: Turn Left at the Cow

Turn Left at the CowWe hope you enjoyed read­ing Turn Left at the Cow, solv­ing the mys­tery. Did you fig­ure out who­dunit before the cli­mac­tic scene? If you love puz­zles and games, we hope you have a good time solv­ing this Word Search. 

Sim­ply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the pro­gram will mark them off for you. Words can be found for­wards, back­wards, hor­i­zon­tal­ly, ver­ti­cal­ly, and diag­o­nal­ly. As you find a word, it will be high­light­ed on the board and it will dis­ap­pear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hid­den Words

Puz­zle by mypuzzle.org
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Lisa Bullard

Lisa BullardIn this inter­view with Lisa Bullard, author of Turn Left at the Cow, our Book­storm™ this monthwe asked nine ques­tions to which she gave heart­felt answers. 

Lisa, thank you for your will­ing­ness to share your writ­ing process and your thoughts about mys­ter­ies with us. Mys­ter­ies have rabid fans and you’ve writ­ten a book that’s not only smart and fun­ny and sassy, but it’s a taut thriller. We appre­ci­ate hav­ing such a good book to read and to share with oth­er fans.

Turn Left at the CowAt what point in writ­ing your nov­el, Turn Left at the Cow, did you know it was going to be about an unsolved bank rob­bery?

That’s a great question—it makes me think back to the whole excit­ing process of how this sto­ry evolved over time! When I first set out to write this book, I actu­al­ly imag­ined it as a mur­der mys­tery for adult read­ers. And then one day, when I had about 5 or 6 chap­ters writ­ten, I was revis­ing the open­ing to the sto­ry, and a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent voice marched in and took over the first-per­son narration—and it was the voice of a young teenage boy. He had so much ener­gy, and I could “hear” him so clear­ly, that I knew this was tru­ly his sto­ry to tell. And of course he want­ed to talk to oth­er kids more than he want­ed to talk to adults! But that meant I had to rethink many oth­er ele­ments of the nov­el to instead make it a sto­ry for young read­ers.

I thought it seemed unlike­ly that a 13-year-old would be able to get involved in a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion in a way that felt real­is­tic, so I brain­stormed oth­er pos­si­ble mys­ter­ies. At about the same time, I read a news­pa­per arti­cle about a man who was con­vinced that infa­mous hijack­er D.B. Coop­er was actu­al­ly his broth­er. I used one of my great­est writ­ing tools—the ques­tion “What if?”—and start­ed think­ing along the lines of “What if my char­ac­ter dis­cov­ers that one of his rel­a­tives was involved in a noto­ri­ous rob­bery?”

You’ve set Turn Left at the Cow in a small, rur­al town. Trav’s grand­ma lives in a cab­in on a near­by lake. Why did you decide that the “place” for this sto­ry should be in this locale?

This loca­tion was at the heart of this sto­ry from the very begin­ning; it stayed the same no mat­ter what oth­er details changed, and to me, this set­ting speaks so loud­ly that it’s like anoth­er char­ac­ter in the book. It’s based pri­mar­i­ly on the loca­tion of my family’s lake cab­in, which is on Green Lake (near two very small Min­neso­ta towns, Spicer and New Lon­don), in west cen­tral Min­neso­ta. Since my fam­i­ly moved around when I was a kid, it’s the one place that I’ve con­sis­tent­ly returned to since I was a very small child, and it’s a place that has sunk deep into my bones. Our lake cab­in orig­i­nal­ly belonged to my grand­par­ents, and I’ve spent some of the most impor­tant times in my life there with fam­i­ly and friends. It’s even where my par­ents had their hon­ey­moon, so I’ve tru­ly been vis­it­ing there my entire life! But of course, my sto­ry is fic­tion, so I did take some lib­er­ties with the setting—for exam­ple, I gave the town in the book a (nonex­is­tent in real life) giant stat­ue of a bull­head (fish), because many of my oth­er favorite Min­neso­ta towns fea­ture giant stat­u­ary.

Parade in Spicer

Travis, your pro­tag­o­nist, is a 13-year-old boy whose dad died before he was born. This serves as a strong moti­va­tion for him run­ning away from his moth­er in Cal­i­for­nia to his grand­moth­er in Min­neso­ta. Does your sure-foot­ed knowl­edge of Trav’s moti­va­tion come from your own expe­ri­ence?

I have been so lucky to have a dad who has always been very active in my life. To this day, we still talk and laugh and argue with each oth­er like we did when I was a lit­tle kid and a teenag­er. But many of the peo­ple I’ve been clos­est to through­out my life are not so lucky. I’ve been close friends with sev­er­al peo­ple who lost their father when they were quite young, and my clos­est uncle died the sum­mer I turned nine—so my cousins no longer had a father of their own. As my mom explained to me, that meant I need­ed to “share” my dad with them.

As I men­tioned ear­li­er, one of my great­est writ­ing tools is the ques­tion “What if?” It chal­lenges me to expand my sto­ries beyond my own per­son­al expe­ri­ences and to live inside the expe­ri­ences of a char­ac­ter who is very dif­fer­ent from me. One of the biggest “What if” ques­tions in my own life has always been: “What if I didn’t hap­pen to have the dad that I was lucky enough to have?” I decid­ed that this sto­ry was the place for me to try to imag­ine what it might be like for some­one to des­per­ate­ly crave a rela­tion­ship with a lost father.

Read­ers are fas­ci­nat­ed by the “red her­rings” in a who­dunit, the clues that could, but don’t, solve the mys­tery. At what point in writ­ing the sto­ry did you con­scious­ly work with (plant your) red her­rings?

walking catfishI love quirky details, and I built a lot of them into the sto­ry: for exam­ple, there’s a human head carved out of but­ter, a walk­ing cat­fish, and a game where the win­ner is cho­sen by a poop­ing chick­en. But I don’t want to give away any clues to read­ers who haven’t yet had a chance to read my sto­ry, so I’m hes­i­tant to tell you here which details are red her­rings and which details are key clues! I’ll just say that some of the red her­rings were in place before I wrote a sin­gle word of the sto­ry, some of them wan­dered in out of the mys­te­ri­ous depths of my sub­con­scious as I was writ­ing the first few drafts, and oth­ers were things I cre­at­ed quite delib­er­ate­ly when I was revis­ing and reached a point where I felt I need­ed to mis­lead read­ers from fig­ur­ing out the solu­tion too eas­i­ly.

Since that’s a real­ly vague answer, how about this? After you’ve read the sto­ry, feel free to vis­it the con­tact page on my web­site (lisabullard.com) and send me an email with any ques­tions you have about the spe­cif­ic red her­rings in my story—I’d be delight­ed to send you an answer!

Your sto­ry is very tense as it approach­es its cli­max. Did you have to re-work your man­u­script to achieve this?

Yes, absolute­ly! The entire sto­ry required many rounds of revi­sion, but I received some key advice that real­ly helped me make this sec­tion more dra­mat­ic and sus­pense­ful. The nov­el took me about 3 years total to write, but one year in par­tic­u­lar was very pro­duc­tive. Dur­ing that year I took a series of class­es from mys­tery writer Ellen Hart, and got great advice and feed­back from her and the oth­er stu­dents in the class. One of the things I learned was that you should write in short, chop­py sen­tences when you want to cre­ate a scene that feels chaot­ic and quick-mov­ing. Those short sen­tences push the read­er for­ward through the sto­ry more quick­ly because they read more quick­ly. In my first draft, I had includ­ed lots of long and mean­der­ing sen­tences, and those had to be bro­ken up or delet­ed alto­geth­er.

No time to think!I had also writ­ten a lot of reflec­tive pas­sages in those tense scenes—paragraphs where my char­ac­ter was doing a lot of think­ing along the lines of “How did this even hap­pen?” But in real life, when some­thing real­ly high-action and stress­ful is hap­pen­ing, a per­son usu­al­ly doesn’t have time to stop and think too hard—they only have time to react and keep mov­ing. Stop­ping to fig­ure out exact­ly where things went wrong comes after­wards. So I went back and took out all of those places where my char­ac­ter was “over-think­ing,” and just had him respond­ing to the dan­ger of the moment as best he could.

When you write a mys­tery, how do you know that it’s mys­te­ri­ous enough?

Wow, that’s anoth­er great ques­tion. I’m not sure that I know how to answer it exact­ly, but I’ll do my best! To me, mys­tery sto­ries are puz­zles: as the writer, your job is to hand the read­er all the pieces of the puz­zle, but to do it in such a way that the puz­zle isn’t over­ly easy to solve. So for exam­ple, I’ve nev­er liked mys­ter­ies where the answer is some­thing the read­er couldn’t pos­si­bly have fig­ured out—when there’s some impor­tant clue that the author has held back, and then on the last page, the detec­tive says some­thing like, “This let­ter that was locked in a bank vault until 5 min­utes ago proves that the thief was Mr. Vil­lain!” As a read­er, I want a fair chance to put togeth­er all the puz­zle pieces for myself—and if the writer still fools me after play­ing fair, then good for them!

Clue MapSo when I was writ­ing this mys­tery, I knew I had to play fair—I had to give the read­er all of the impor­tant clues. It was okay if I spread out the clues over the whole book. And it was total­ly okay if I mis­lead the read­er into think­ing that some of those clues weren’t as impor­tant as they turned out to be in the end! After all, it’s the reader’s job to put the puz­zle pieces togeth­er to get the right answer—I trust my read­ers to be smart, so I don’t have to make it TOO easy for them!

As far as the actu­al writ­ing process, I made a long list of all the clues I knew in advance, and I thought about how I could work them into the sto­ry at inter­vals so there would be clues all through­out. I also built in things that seemed like fake clues to height­en the sus­pense and to make the puz­zle more excit­ing. Final­ly, as I was writ­ing, at any point where I felt like the sto­ry was slow­ing down too much, I would ask myself, “What is some­thing real­ly unex­pect­ed or sur­pris­ing that could hap­pen to my char­ac­ter next?”—and that approach pro­vid­ed some addi­tion­al clues.

I also worked to think of metaphors and set­ting details that would add a spooky atmos­phere to the whole sto­ry, and I tried to put my char­ac­ter into sit­u­a­tions that seemed dan­ger­ous. After all, anoth­er big part of mys­ter­ies is that they’re more fun if they’re kind of scary!

Do you read mys­ter­ies? How old were you when you began read­ing them? Can you remem­ber some of the first mys­ter­ies you read?

Three InvestigatorsI love mys­ter­ies! They’re still some of my absolute favorite books, and they’re some of the first books I remem­ber read­ing. When I was in ele­men­tary school, I was lucky enough to be giv­en a huge box full of books that had belonged to either my mom or my old­er girl cousins when they were younger. The box held a lot of mys­tery series, some of them pret­ty old-fash­ioned but still won­der­ful. The dif­fer­ent series includ­ed Judy Bolton, Trix­ie Belden, Nan­cy Drew, and the Three Inves­ti­ga­tors. And some of the first “grown-up” books I ever read were Agatha Christie mys­ter­ies and sus­pense sto­ries by Mary Stew­art. As a kid, I loved mys­tery sto­ries so much that I made up my own mys­ter­ies and forced my broth­er and friends to “play” Three Inves­ti­ga­tors in our basement—we even wrote secret mes­sages in invis­i­ble ink (lemon juice) and then decod­ed them by hold­ing them over the toast­er.

What is there about a mys­tery that you think appeals to kids?

puzzleIt’s fun to get that lit­tle spine-tingly feel­ing that comes when some­thing is a lit­tle bit scary, so that’s part of it. Many mys­ter­ies are action-packed and fast-mov­ing (rarely bor­ing), so that’s anoth­er part of it. But I think a big rea­son is that work­ing to put togeth­er the puz­zle of the sto­ry is kind of like a game—and if, as a read­er, you man­age to fig­ure out the mys­tery before the story’s detec­tive does, then you also feel pret­ty darn proud of your­self, and smart!

Can you share with us what you’re work­ing on now? Is it anoth­er mys­tery? (We hope so.)

I’ve writ­ten sev­er­al non­fic­tion books since Turn Left at the Cow was pub­lished, and now I’m wrestling with anoth­er mys­tery. My writ­ing process is pret­ty slow when it comes to nov­els (and my life in the last few years has been real­ly complicated)—plus I write a lot of my first draft in my head before any of it actu­al­ly hits paper—so there isn’t a whole lot actu­al­ly writ­ten down yet. But I can tell you that this sto­ry is set in the north woods of Min­neso­ta, and like Turn Left the mys­tery has to do with a com­pli­cat­ed fam­i­ly sto­ry and a lot of quirky small-town char­ac­ters. Includ­ing Big­foot, by the way—now there’s a mys­tery for you!

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Give me a good mystery

Sum­mer­time is syn­ony­mous with read­ing for me.

My grand­moth­er kept a light blue blan­ket by the back door so I could spread it out under the elm tree and dis­solve into sto­ries. Some­times a lemon­ade, some­times a piece of water­mel­on … but always a book. Some­times a friend would sit next to me absorbed in a sto­ry of their own but most often it was just me, the birds, the sounds of sum­mer, and a hard­cov­er book.

I was remind­ed of that blan­ket under the tree this week­end when we were in Som­er­set, Wis­con­sin. We had to be some­where at 11 am but we were ear­ly. We had brought books with us—of course—and we sat under a tree read­ing.

Eddie Red UndercoverFor me, it was Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile. Read­ing mys­ter­ies is a pas­sion and a com­fort for me. This book by Mar­cia Wells, with inte­gral illus­tra­tions by Mar­cos Calo, swept me in and con­nect­ed me to the girl who read dur­ing her sum­mers, as many books as they’d let her check out of the library.

Eddie Red lives in New York City with a dad who’s been down­sized from the library and a moth­er who’s a real estate agent. Although he’s been attend­ing Sen­ate Acad­e­my, a school for gift­ed stu­dents, his family’s finan­cial duress puts him in a state of anx­i­ety over not being able to afford tuition next year. He likes his school but he real­izes he won’t see his best friend, Jon­ah, any­more. Jon­ah is bril­liant but he’s chal­lenged by hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty and a num­ber of med­ical con­di­tions … all of which make him a per­fect side­kick.

You see, Edmund Lon­nrot, our hero, is a 12-year-old with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a star­tling abil­i­ty to draw detailed, life­like por­traits of peo­ple he has seen recent­ly. When Edmund and his dad are drawn into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion in an alley, Edmund is lat­er able to draw the crim­i­nals for the police. It turns out these par­tic­u­lar bad guys are part of the Picas­so Gang, inter­na­tion­al­ly-want­ed art thieves. The police hire Edmund as a police sketch artist, code name Eddie Red, to observe the com­ings and goings of peo­ple on Muse­um Mile in NYC, any of whom could be a dis­guised art thief.

Plau­si­bil­i­ty? Well, let’s just say that the phrase “will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief” is apro­pos. I was will­ing to over­look the NYPD hir­ing a twelve-year-old for a stake­out as far­fetched  and get com­plete­ly involved in Edmund’s and Jonah’s sto­ry, a chess game of a plot, and Edmund’s like­able sense of humor. The author does a good job of mak­ing Eddie’s tal­ents feel uni­ver­sal­ly adoptable—if only we had a Jon­ah to give us that extra oomph in the mys­tery-solv­ing are­na.

Eddie Red Undercover - Marcos Calo illustratorCalo’s por­traits are a part of the plot, essen­tial to the sto­ry. They’re as full of char­ac­ter as the author’s sto­ry. At the end of the book Eddie Red offers advice on how to draw a por­trait. That’s per­fec­tion because I found myself itch­ing to pick up a pen­cil and draw the peo­ple around me while I was solv­ing the mys­tery along­side Edmund.

It’s an engag­ing sto­ry, per­fect for read­ing any time, but espe­cial­ly sat­is­fy­ing on a sum­mer after­noon.

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That’s Some Egg

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Under the EggIn Under the Egg, Theodo­ra Ten­pen­ny begins her sto­ry when her beloved grand­fa­ther, Jack, is hit by a taxi … and dies. Out­side their 200-year-old Man­hat­tan town­home, Jack whis­pers to Theo to “look under the egg.” Deal­ing with her grief, but des­per­ate because she and her head-in-the-clouds moth­er have no income, Theo tries to fig­ure out what her grand­fa­ther meant. She’s fair­ly cer­tain he’s try­ing to pro­vide for them, but did he have to be so mys­te­ri­ous?

What unrav­els is a tense mys­tery of art “theft,” Jack’s sol­dier­ing in World War II, sus­pi­cious adults who become alto­geth­er too inter­est­ed, and a new best friend, Bod­hi, who aids and abets Theo’s hare­brained, but ulti­mate­ly bril­liant, schemes.

Under the Egg is a fast-paced, intel­li­gent, learn­ing-about-art-his­to­ry while sav­ing the world sort of book, not unlike Indi­ana Jones or Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. I stayed up all night to read it, unable to rest until the mys­tery was solved.

On Lau­ra Marx Fitzgerald’s web­site, there are won­der­ful resources. When I fin­ished Dan Brown’s The DaVin­ci Code, the first thing I did was find a paint­ing of The Lord’s Sup­per to see if he was right. Fitzger­ald saves us the hunt. There’s a map of all the places Theo vis­its in New York City. There’s more about Raphael, with thought­ful­ly pro­vid­ed paint­ings that link to fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries from the painter’s life. There’s a page devot­ed to sep­a­rat­ing fact from fic­tion. And more.

Read­ers who love adven­tur­ous romps, who like to puz­zle through a mys­tery, or enjoy vis­it­ing art muse­ums will adore this book.

 

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Gifted: Up All Night

My moth­er had the knack of giv­ing me a book every Christ­mas that kept me up all night … after I had opened it on Christ­mas Eve. I par­tic­u­lar­ly remem­ber the “oh-boy-it’s-dark-outside” year that I received The Lord of the Rings and accom­pa­nied the hob­bits into Woody End where they first meet the Nazgul, the […]

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