Thursday, June 30, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on June 30, 2011 
Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

Wicked Will, by Bailey MacDonald, 201 pages.
 “Where there’s a Will... there’s trouble” begins this mystery which features a young, precocious William Shakespeare in Stratford-on-Avon, England. And, indeed, the mystery in this tale is a “murder most foul”.
Acting apprentice Thomas Pryne has travelled to Stratford with his uncle’s troupe, but the actors’ hopes of presenting their plays to the good citizens of the town are erased when the lifeless body of Farmer Speight is discovered.  Suspicion falls on Tom’s uncle because he had quarrelled with the cantankerous farmer shortly before the body was discovered. When more clues pointing to his uncle’s guilt are unearthed, Tom is certain that his Uncle Matthew has been framed.
One citizen, young Will Shakespeare, his imagination afire, befriends Tom and they attempt to solve the mystery together. Will hatches one imaginative scheme after another to find the true murderer, and all of them backfire – except the last. 
 Although the story is fictional, the details about clothing, food and customs are authentic and readers will learn much about Shakespearean England. It’s interesting to see Bailey MacDonald’s portrayal of the young William Shakespeare, with his dramatic imagination and his avid interest in people - attributes which he certainly put to good use later in life as a playwright.
Suspenseful and funny at the same time, this mystery will entice and hold the attention of young readers.
**Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years.

Neil Flambe and the Aztec Abduction, by Kevin Sylvester, 317 pages.
Neil Flambe is a master chef. Although he’s only 15 years of age, he can hold his own in the culinary world – in fact, he’s won a few major competitions already. Neil has just arrived in Mexico City for the world premier cooking competition series, the Azteca Cocina, a “high-profile battle of the chefs”.
Unfortunately, food isn’t the only thing that will be prepared at this competition - a heap of mystery, trouble and danger will be brewed as well!
No sooner does Neil win the first cook-off than his good friend, Isabella, is kidnapped. Then he receives a threatening letter with some instructions: he is to win every cook-off except the final one. If he does so, Isabella will not be harmed, but if he disobeys the letter’s instructions, she will die!
Now Neil must concentrate on winning the competitions (except the last one) and look for Isabella too. He’s not convinced that Isabella will be unharmed even if he follows the mysterious instructions. The further he delves into the “underworld” of Mexico City, the more certain he is that unless he can find Isabella himself, he’ll never see her again. And, ideally, Neil would like both to be the Azteca Cocina champion chef, and have Isabella safe.
Neil and his cooking assistants squeak through one adventure after another in their quest to find Isabella and win the cooking competitions.  Danger and hilarity confront them at every turn. Young readers will be thoroughly entertained by this wacky, fast-paced and easily-digested mystery, one of a new series by Canadian author Kevin Sylvester. 
** Recommended for ages 10 to 13 years.

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