Reading the third Spartan Quest book reminded me of why I am glad I am not a Spartan-- their life was really harsh! Michael Ford has taken a good deal of research and worked it into a hard-hitting, gory adventure in ancient times, and my boys are huge fans of these. Lysander, having lead the Spartans to victory against the Persians in Birth of a Warrior is back, and agonizing over the death of his grandfather. He doesn't know who he really is, and what his future holds-- is he really the heir to his grandfather, the ephor Sarpedon, or should he hold true to his Helot roots? After a brief and confusing journey to visit the oracle of Delphi, he's still not sure, but he doesn't have a lot of time to worry about it. His group of boys is sent to quell an uprising of the Messapians. Traveling across the countryside and then having to fight, the boys experience all sorts of brutality, and eventually a tragedy, even though they manage to beat the Messapians into submission. Lysander learns more about his background and does try to make the situation for Helots better as much as he is able. A compelling read, but gory, certainly. Spartans were not nice people.
And speaking of not nice people, Stitches, the David Small memoir, is sad beyond imagining. Told in a graphic novel format, the illustrator small discusses his dysfunctional family at length. His radiologist father treats David's respiratory problems with radiation, which leads to his throat cancer at 14, which is not treated promptly and results in his loosing most of his voice. The grandparents are also horribly, horribly dysfunctional. I'm not sure who the audience for this is-- not middle schoolers and certainly not the children who might have enjoyed Imogene's Antlers and The Library. I am glad that Mr. Small overcame his background.
My library copy of Betty Ren Wright's A Ghost in the Window is in horrible shape and wow, 1987 cover art was really wretched. Still, these books all circulate well, so I'll throw some glue and tape on it, since it's out of print. The stories are all starting to sound a bit the same, however. Once again, a child is sent away for the summer to a place she doesn't want to go-- this time Meg is sent to spend the summer with her father. He is living in a home with a family whose father stole money and then was killed. The money was never found, but suspicion lingers. Meg keeps having horrible dreams that tend to reflect this new town she is in, and eventually these dreams, along with a ghost that appears, lead to the solution of the mystery. Ms. Wright is working on her 26th novel, so I'll keep my eye for that, since the pages of a lot of her books are showing significant foxing and starting to pong just a bit.