Tuesday, February 27, 2018

MG Humor/Realistic Fiction Review: Stink: Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

35879388Stink:  Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Format:  ARCPaperback
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of pages:  144  (hardcover)
Publishing:  March 13th, 2018
Source:  ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Stink: Hamlet and Cheese is the eleventh book in the Stink series of books by Megan Mc Donald and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.  I believe my kiddo and I left off somewhere around book five, but we always loved Stink and even his sister Judy Moody's series of books.  In Stink: Hamlet and Cheese,  Sophie of the Elves plans to attend a Shakespeare camp over spring break and entices Stink to join her with talk of mad kings, murders, sword-fights and the hurling of insults at one another. However, on Stinks first day, he learns that Shakespeare camp is full of girls, including his “most time enemy,” Riley Rottenberger.  Riley's even threatening Stink with re-enacting her favorite scene from Romeo and Juliet, you know the one where they kiss.  Yuck, cooties!  It's no surprise when Stink tries to back out, but Sophie cleverly reminds Stink that she does all the things that he likes to do, so why shouldn't he try something she wants to do for once?  

Hamlet and Cheese sounds a lot like a Kid College course offered at our local community college over the summer where kids learn the basics of drama and put on a small play for their parents at the end.  For Stink and Sophie, Shakespeare camp included making silly faces, creating Shakespearean insults, learning lines, the art of stretching, role-playing, sword-fights and my favorite, dramatic death scenes.  Hamlet and Cheese provides a brief introduction to Shakespeare and the theater while incorporating plenty of humor.  Who knew that the earliest Knock Knock joke might have been from Macbeth? The insults are silly and amusing with ones like "maggot pie" and "toad-spotted bum bailey."  I could see children wanting to come up with their own.  There are even a few lines quoted from Macbeth and Hamlet, while the lines weren't explained fully, they might still pique a child's interest.  I wish my ARC had included the finished artwork by Peter Reynolds, but I'm sure it will be just as fun as his previous illustrations for the Stink series.  My favorite part is when Stink and Sophie are watching an outdoor performance of Macbeth and Stink's dog Pugsy tries to get in on the act. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

YA Fantasy/Adventure: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Format: E ARC
Publisher:  Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Source:  Publisher via Giveaway hosted by Goodreads

Number of pages Hardcover, 544
Publishing: March 6th, 2018

Opening Line:  "I try not to think of her."

 Children of Blood and Bone is written in the alternating points of view of  Zélie, Asmari, and Inan.  Zélie (Zel) is a young girl with a warriors spirit, she is the daughter of a maji, a Divîner with her magical ability now dormant.  Eleven years ago a horrible raid occurred in Zélie's village, all of the maji in Orïsha, including her mother were killed by King Saran.  The maji were unable to protect themselves because the bond between their magic and the Gods was taken away.  Since that time, King Saran has been imposing his will on the people of Orïsha, sending his guards out into the surrounding villages demanding increased taxes.  When Zélie's father also run's into trouble with the guards, Zélie and her brother Tzain make plans to take their catch of fish to the market so that  Zélie won't be sold into servitude to pay off their debts.  

Meanwhile, in the city of Lagose, Princess Amari witnesses her father interrogating her chambermaid, a Divîner named Binta.  She overhears the king referring to artifacts that have resurfaced that can awaken the abilities within the maji, specifically a scroll that causes Binta to light up from its touch, and for which she is slain by the king.  Amira is so distraught by what she witnesses that she steals the scroll and flees.  On the city streets, Amari runs into Zélie and pleads for her help to escape.  Zel disguises Amari and while escaping the city, Amari runs into her brother while the scroll is in her possession.   Zel, Amari, and Tzain manage to elude the guards and return to their village where they learn that they possess the first piece of an ancient ritual, that the scroll they have found is able to bring back magical abilities but not permanently unless an ancient ritual is performed.  The trio must set out to Chandomble, a temple that hopefully will hold the answer to the whereabouts of the other artifacts.   

Once the king learns of his daughter's escape,  he summons Prince Inan,  the captain of the guard to go after her.  Inan has been brought up by his father to fear Divîner's, that they are "maggots," people who should never be allowed to regain their magic.  Yet, ever since running into Amari in the city, Inan's worst fears have been realized, he's been "infected" by magic and developed the ability to enter into a dream-like state where he can draw other people into with him.  The first person he communicates with is Zel, he blames her for causing his infection and promises to hunt her down.  Because of his new found ability, Inan has also developed a connection to Zélie that allows him to follow her as she travels toward Chandomble with Asmari, and Tzain.  Despite Inan's best efforts the trio makes it to the temple where they learn their task is to unite three artifacts on a sacred island,  Zel is given the ability to perform the sacred ritual but she must complete it before the next moon or magic will be lost.  

Children of Blood and Bone is a gripping story of one girl's fight to bring magic back to her land.  Zel's strength comes from having seen her mother killed at a very young age and the desire to hold the king accountable for his actions.  She's fueled by the magic that is brewing within her and hopes that by fulfilling the prophecy she can bring the magic back to all the Diviner's and once again find a way to have peace.  Zelie is strong, but also vulnerable, her family is very important to her and she struggles over whether bringing magic back to the maji is the right choice.   She worries that some maji might use their magic to destroy or wield power over the king.  Having regained some of her magic, she sees what magic can do in the wrong hands.   Inan is more complex of a character than I initially thought.  He's a product of his father's thinking.  Although he is the prince of  Orïsha, he seemed to be content to be a captain and carry out his father's orders.   At first, he vows to use his magic as a means of defeating Zel, even taking a more active role as the prince.  Inan is always torn between what he sees as his duty to the city, its people and upholding his father's wishes.  Eventually, he uncovers the truth and flaws of his father's account of the raid, but it might be to late for the new Orïsha he envisioned.  Princess Amari has more strength in her than even she first realizes.  Of all the characters, she was one of my favorites.  She's driven to do the right thing, always remembering her dear friend Binta and trying to have the inner strength to fight.  Which isn't always an easy thing for her especially when she comes face to face with her father.  Children of Blood and Bone is the first book in this West African inspired fantasy adventure with the rights sold to 16 countries and already has plans to be made into a motion picture.  The world Adeyemi created is beautiful while also being heart-wrenching, especially one particularly brutal scene where Zel is tortured and a slur is carved into her back.  The story will cause you to pause and think about racism and how the people of Orïsha struggle's against their tyrannical king have parallels to historical events from the past and current environment.  There's also so much beauty in the setting, references to the language and food and even a bit of romance, plenty of action,  and adventure culminating in an epic battle where King Saran learns an unexpected truth.  But be warned this also ends on a huge cliffhanger that will have you wishing the sequel was out already.  

Look for Children of Blood and Bone on March 6th or check out the this excerpt from Macmillan Publishers 

Favorite Line:  "You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2017 Cybils Winner for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction and thoughts on all the Finalists

Cybils 2017

It's February 14th and in addition to being Valentines Day, it's also the day the winners of the Cybils are announced!  This year I was selected as a round 2 judge, which for us started two months ago. 

Since that time we've been busy reading the seven finalists books,  having discussions and then made our decision on this year's winner for Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction.  So with no further ado, this year's winner is.....


Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins/Walden Pond Press
Number of pages: 247
Published: May 30th, 2017

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she's ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when the human she finds tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw.

But she's still the fiercest creature in the mountains -- and now she's found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she'll be conquering new territory in no time...won't she?

This year’s winner is a story of dragons, chocolate, finding one’s passion, and facing social prejudice. Aventurine is a young dragon whose family thinks she’s too young to leave their cave. Convinced that she’s perfectly fierce enough, she sneaks out on her own, hoping to find in the outside world both something to hunt and maybe even something to be her dragon-ish passion in life. When a human, who should have been easy prey, tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself turned into a human girl! On the plus side, she’s found her passion—chocolate!  But in order to get more chocolate, she’ll have to go live with puny humans as a puny human herself.  Can a fierce dragon girl find a place among humans (when she gets angry, her first instinct is to eat them), and enough chocolate to keep her happy?  And what happens when her dragon family comes looking for her? Tensions build and tempers flare, and the suspense builds to a happily satisfying ending. Themes of finding your true self, and loyalty to family and friends combine with political intrigue and prejudice in a memorable and gripping story.

Round 2 judging for the Cybils was a totally new experience and quite fun being all mysterious and secretive about posting my review until the winners were announced.  There was a wonderful group of books selected as finalists, making our final selection a bit harder but I hope you get the opportunity to read some of these wonderful books and check out all the Cybils winners in all of the categories HERE.  

 2017 Cybils Finalists for Elementary/ Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction:

Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins/Walden Pond Press
Number of pages:  336
Published: February 14th, 2017
Source:  Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  

It is Earth year 2213—but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we prepare for a second trip: a one-hundred-fifty-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home.

Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the very last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed.

Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space, and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a desperate struggle for survival.

Opening line: “Many hundreds of light-years from the solar system you call home, inside a spindly crystal structure floating at the edge of a great nebula shaped like an eye, a yellow light began to blink.”  

The cover is eye-catching and really captured my interest.   I really enjoyed the concept of the universe is bigger than one can comprehend while the individual was a small part of it.  The plot centering on the Sun expanding to the point that it will engulf Earth and the surrounding planets by exploding in a supernova seemed plausible and was set up well in the first few chapters.  The appeal to kids comes from the balance of tension and action. While I'm not typically a science fiction reader this was such an engrossing book.  The pacing kept ratcheting up accentuated by the time clock at the beginning of each chapter and the feeling of the impending doom that faced these two kids.  Maybe it's the dangers that they face along the way and the glimpses of the future that Liam see's when he time shifts forward.  You want the things he sees not to happen.  Or maybe it's just that I've seen Alien and the whole idea of going into a stasis seems frightening. Although this ended on a cliffhanger, I didn't take this as a negative.  Instead, it just made me want to read The Oceans Between Stars that much more.  Lucky for me this came out in February.  

26102519The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Number of pages:  336
Published: August 1st, 2017
Source:  Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
Ambassador, you are go for launch in T- minus 5…4…3…2…. Get ready to blast off with this high-action, high-stakes middle-grade adventure that’s perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein and Peter Lerangis!

Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission—and everyone’s lives—are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them.

The Martian meets The Goonies in this out-of-this-world middle-grade debut where the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Opening Line:  "Nearly every single person in this auditorium is wearing a T-shirt with my name emblazoned across the front."

The Countdown Conspiracy reads partially like a mystery and a school story while at the same time there is a political unrest going on in the world.  I enjoyed the diversity in the team of kids.  There are the dynamics of the classes that the crew take together, while there are also rivalries to get the best position,  grades and favor of their instructors.  Most of the emphasis is on Anna and Miranda not getting along, but also that maybe Sasha's position was stolen by Miranda on the team.  A little more scientific than I was expecting, but I really enjoyed the action when their spacecraft is taken over and they have to work together to figure out how to divert themselves from going to Mars.  You can see how much research went into the writing of this book to get the details of space travel and NASA type engineering as accurate as possible.

31915219A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
Format:  Ebook 
Publisher:  Amulet Books
Number of pages:  497
Published: May 9th, 2017
Source:  Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell's expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed . . . 

Opening Line: “One dark season, Grandible became certain that there was something living in his domain within the cheese tunnels.”

I really enjoyed A Face Like Glass, it leans more toward  Young Adult than Middle Grade but it's a fantastic story.  Hardinge's books to me have this rich expressive writing quality that I enjoy.  Like this one  "As the carriage rattled along sandstone colonnades, then down rose-marble avenues dappled like raspberry ice cream, she found herself passing ever grander carriages with better-decorated people within." I did think that the beginning was a tad slow but it did grab hold of me and I couldn't really put it down.  The Facesmith and idea of faces that people wear being taught were very intriguing.  Neverfell is way too trusting and doesn't really seem to grasp that the people she's dealing with can show one face, but have a completely different intent.   Kinda made me think of Game of Thrones and the masks that Arya wears.  I also especially liked the Grand Steward with his right/left eye showing the differences between your right and left brain functioning.    The world building and complex political intrigue are wonderful, even the messaging, for which I know I'm missing some.  It's the kind of book that I would really like to go back and read again.  

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Number of Pages:  288
Published:  July 25th, 2017
Source:  Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  

We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh returns with Spirit Hunters, a high-stakes middle-grade mystery series about Harper Raine, the new seventh grader in town who must face down the dangerous ghosts haunting her younger brother. A riveting ghost story and captivating adventure, this tale will have you guessing at every turn!

Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?

Opening Line:  "Harper! Come quick!"

Spirit Hunters was a lot creepier than I thought it was going to be, which made it a wonderful story for me cause I love creepy scary things.  There are multiple incidents of Harper being injured by the presence in the house, and her younger brother Michael being taken over by a supernatural presence, yeah just creepy.  I did really like the diversity and the touching and realistic relationship between the siblings.   I did wish that more had been written about Harper's grandmother's  being a Korean mudang.  Maybe some of the cultural histories,  although it did prompt me to look it up a little bit online.  She sounded so fascinating that it was a shame that she couldn't be included more in the story.  I also really liked the character of Mrs. Devereux and especially her views on racism.   

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books
Number of Pages:  192
Published:  August 22nd, 2017
Source:  Library

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
Rosa Ramona Díaz has just moved to the small, un-haunted town of Ingot—the only ghost-free town in the world. She doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t understand how her mother—a librarian who specializes in ghost-appeasement—could possibly want to live in a place with no ghosts. Frankly, she doesn’t understand why anyone would.

Jasper Chevalier has always lived in Ingot. His father plays a knight at the local Renaissance Festival, and his mother plays the queen. Jasper has never seen a ghost, and can’t imagine his un-haunted town any other way. Then an apparition thunders into the festival grounds and turns the quiet town upside down.

Something otherworldly is about to be unleashed, and Rosa will need all her ghost appeasement tools—and a little help from Jasper—to rein in the angry spirits and restore peace to Ingot before it’s too late.

Opening line:  "Rosa and her mother moved into a basement apartment underneath the Ingot Public Library. "

I quite liked this quick read and the twist of Ingot being the only place where ghosts aren't found, how in other cities ghosts are plentiful.  How it's wrong for Ingot not to have any ghost, while everywhere else ghosts and the living have found a way to coexist.  Rosa and Jasper are the only ones who can unravel what has been keeping the ghosts away.  I also enjoyed the emphasis on librarians and the patron saint Catalina de Erauso with the idea of remembering the dead through the books that you read.  It's not a particularly scary story but would be an interesting read if you enjoy paranormal stories, or are just starting out to explore ghost stories.   

Favorite lines:  "Whenever you open an old book you read it along with everyone else who's ever read that same book.  You're supposed to.  Hauntings don't end.  Ghosts don't ever just go away." 

30653902Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Format:  Hardcover

Number of Pages: 368
Published:  March 21st, 2017
Source: Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

Opening line:  " A secret nearly cost Chantel her life, on a dark summer morning when the rains ran down the stairstepped stone streets of Lightning Pass." 

Chantel is an endearing character, head strung while struggling to hold her tongue.  The messaging in this story is what appealed to me.  Questioning adults and having your own ideas of what is right and wrong.  The character's of Miss Ellicott's were also nicely balanced with boy/girl characters and there was plenty of humor with the inclusion of Chantel's familiar, although a snake in your head sounds unsettling.  A very timely story with wonderful world building, entertaining to read while being thought-provoking.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

MG Fantasy Review: A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1) by Anna Meriano

34848650A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1) by Anna Meriano
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Walden Pond Press
Number of pages:  320
Published:  January 2nd, 2018
Source:  Library

Opening Line: "Leo sprinted to the hallway bathroom, slammed the door, and locked herself in, just in time."  

Leonora "Leo" Logroño and her four sisters live in Rose Hill Texas, where their family runs the local bakery,  Love and Sugar.  Eleven-year-old Leo is the youngest of the Logroño girls and feeling left out this year because her siblings get the day off from school to help their mother prepare at the bakery for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.  Leo desperately wants to be given a chance to show she's not too young to help but is quickly denied and sent off to school.  As she reluctantly heads to school, Leo runs into Caroline and Brent. Caroline and Leo were best friends in the third grade but Caroline moved away after her mom died, and is just now starting back at school.  Brent is Caroline's next door neighbor and was a good friend to her while she was dealing with her mother's death, he's also her secret crush.  While at school, Leo enlists Caroline's help as cover while she sneaks to the bakery to spy on her family, Leo overhears her mother, aunt, and sisters performing a ritual in Spanish around a table.  Leo is so confused by the events and wishes she understood Spanish but does recognize the word magia or magic.  Is Leo's family keeping a secret from her?  Later at the de Los Muertos festival, Leo witnesses two of her sister's performing what she thinks is magic and upon investigating the bakery further finds a secret cookbook filled with recipes for spells.   Leo experiments with the magical cookbook and eventually is caught by her oldest sister, Isabel.  Isabel explains that the woman in their family are brujas or witches that can infuse some of their magic into the baked goods they make, she teaches Leo one her own special spells but also cautions her to be patient because girls in their family don't start practicing magic until they're fifteen.  Leo is impatient to learn, so she tries more and more difficult spells, drawing the attention of her other sisters who also give her advice on the families magic, and further caution her about going too far and having their mom find out.  Yet Leo doesn't heed their advice and after she tries to help Caroline by making a "love bite cookie" things start to go horribly wrong.  The only way out now is for Leo to go to her sister's and ask for help.    

Being the youngest, Leo wants to grow up so fast and do all the same things that her older sisters do, feel like she's able to contribute at the bakery, a feeling a younger or middle child could easily identify with.  Leo so reminded me of all the things that I love about Matilda, she's mischievous and sneaky but also kind and caring to her friends.  She may feel awkward and be looking for her place at school, but her family radiates with warmth, caring, and love.  There's a lovely sense of togetherness, everyone contributes in the family, not only at the bakery but at home.  The relationships between the sisters were sweet and realistically portrayed, they bicker and tease but also stuck together despite knowing mama would be so mad if she found out that Leo was practicing magic.  Leo's impatient and didn't always think her actions through but wasn't deterred by not being able to speak Spanish, she grabs her English to Spanish dictionary when she can't read the recipes in the magical cookbook and sets out to translate them herself.  She does struggle with feeling guilty about keeping her own secrets from her mother and sisters but also really wants to learn more about magic. There is a lovely scene in the story where Leo and her mother are talking about Leo's feelings about being the youngest girl in the family and her mother gives her a role in helping make the cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I also really enjoyed learning more about the Dia de los Muertos festival and brujas.   There are so many fun touches added like the illustrations at the top of each chapter, Spanish recipes which are even translated into English at the end of the book.  Even Brent's scientific reasoning when he is the recipient of one of Leo's magical mishaps and says that "some reactions are irreversible, you can't unburn toast by putting it in the freezer."  But my absolute favorite piece happens at the very end of the story when mama finally finds out the truth and tells Leo that she is sad that she felt like she had to be so secretive and warns Leo that if she ever keeps a secret from her she has a creative way to deal with it, I'll let you read the story to find that one out for yourself.    Such a fun humorous story of family, friendship, and tradition which is quickly turning into my favorite book of the year.   

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

MG Fantasy Review: The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd, illustrated by Júlia Sardà

25337516The Problim Children
by Natalie Lloyd & illustrated by Júlia Sardà 
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books
Number of pages:  304
Published:  January 3oth, 2018
Source:  Purchased

Opening Line:  " Once upon a Wednesday, many years ago, a small boy made a brave decision."

The seven Problim children and their one small pet pig have been living comfortably in the Swapy Woods while their archeologist parents have been off doing important research.  Then there's an explosion that demolishes their home and Sundae, the eldest Problim uncovers a deed to their grandfather Frank Problim's home in Lost Cove.  Meanwhile, in Lost Cove, an auction is occurring for the purchase of House #7 on Main Street otherwise known as the Problim Mansion.  A horrible, villainous woman, Desdemona O'Pinion is trying to outbid everyone to ensure her family gets the house, but secretly she just wants to search it for a map to a hidden treasure.  There also might've been a bit of a disagreement between the Problim's and O'Pinion's in the past so once she's searched the place, she plans to smash it to bits.  When the Seven Problim's arrive at the mansion, Desdemona tries to have them taken into custody by the Society for the Protection of Unwanted Children (a group she created) under the pretense that they are not the rightful heirs to the house.  However, the mayor steps in and gives the children twenty-one days to prove they are in fact a Problim. 

The seven Problim children's names and character traits come from a rhyme about which day of the week they were born on. "Monday's child is fair of face (Mona), Tuesday's child is full of grace (Toot), Wednesday's child is full of woe (Wendell), Thursday's child has far to go (Thea), Friday's child is loving and giving (Frida), Saturday's child works hard for a living (Sal) but the child who's born on the Sabbath day is good and wise in every way (Sundae)."   I absolutely adored these siblings, they're all so unique and have such varied likes and abilities.  Sundae is the oldest, followed by Sal.  Thea and Wendell are twins who are starting to branch out from sharing everything together.  Toot is just as his names describes, the youngest of the bunch who is prone to farts that have their own unique smell, it's how he communicates with the other children and they've begun cataloging them (their probably up to #200 by now).  Frida is stealthy, refers to herself as the Fox and talks in rhymes.  My favorites are Thea and Mona.  Thea is fearful and not at ease around the children in the neighborhood, her special bond with her brother is really sweet and it's sad when she gets jealous when Wendell starts to become friends with their next-door neighbor, Violet O'Pinion.  

Mona, she's something special, she's slightly scary, smart, secretive and imaginative and made me think of Wednesday from the Addams Family.  Mostly because when I was in elementary or maybe even middle school kids liked to tease me by singing the Addams family song to me, there might've been a few Grizzly Adams references or even singing that song from 1977,  Short People too.  But there's this one line from the Addams family song, you know the one, " They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, They're all together ooky, the Addams Family."  The Problim's reminded me a bit of them, in a none spooky or creepy way.  They both are a tight-knit family and have interests that other people might think are slightly strange.  Morticia had carnivorous plants that could wrap themselves around you, and Sal engineers flowers that have a particular smell, keeps a foggy garden of Wrangling Ivy and carries his gardening tools on his sleeve ala Edward Scissorhands.  Wednesday had her spiders, and Mona has a Venus flytrap and circus spiders that she can send out to deliver messages.  Both had neighbors who were curious yet also slightly scared of them.  Yet both are totally fine with who they are, they aren't changing their personality to fit in.  

One very fun example is how at Thea and Wendell's birthday party they celebrate with the Problim family traditional "smash cake"  (just like it sounds smashing your face into your cake).  Despite the initial lukewarm welcome they receive from their neighbors, the siblings still reach out and try to make friends.  Always conveying the important, beautiful message of  "look at someone heart-first," that "there's never an excuse to be cruel.  When you meet someone new, think first about all the good and the sad and wonder and worry that's probably blooming in their heart.  Just like yours."  

If you've read The Key to Extraordinary or A Snicker of Magic, then you certainly will enjoy The Problim Children it has the same quirky magical feel to it with the bonus of a mystery based on rumors about a family feud, a riddle involving a prophecy of sevens and a treasure hunt for something that might be hidden somewhere in the house.  There are even mechanical animals like a squirrel with a purple tail, brass rabbit's and who could miss out on circus spiders?   

Favorite lines:
 "Tell me a tale worth telling back."    

"Any treasure worth finding is worth seeking.  And you seek with your head and your heart-not just your dusty sneakers."