9 October 2012, Random House Children's Books
ARC received from Baker and Taylor
Sarah and her family move into her grandmother's house in order to fix it up. It's creepy and decrepit, but has been for years, and Sarah's mother says it has always been that way, and there is even a locked door in the basement that the grandmother claimed lead to Penumbra, where the souls of the dead lived. There's a lot of creepy knocking going on, but the family blames it on the pipes... until Sarah is sucked into another world, called Scotopia. She meets Balthazat, who claims to be the King of the Cats in the world, and wants to go back with Sarah. Sarah is okay with this at first, until she meets Jeb, a boy who has half of his face missing. Jeb claims that Baltazat is lying about everything, and it turns out that Penumbra is connected to the grandmother's house because the house is a portal. The fate of both worlds impacts ours, of course, and Sarah and Jeb have a lot of adventures and meet a lot of quirky characters while trying to sort things out.
Strengths: The illustrations are rather Edward Goreyesque, and I was intrigued by the premise at first. The title is attractive to librarians! (Although I don't really want to investigate what is behind mine!)
Weaknesses: First rule of traveling to another world-- don't eat or drink anything, especially when it is offered by a talking cat! Okay, that didn't get Sarah into trouble, but I had a hard time getting into this book. It his all of the fantasy elements that I don't like-- map at the front, talking animals, saving the world-- and I didn't enjoy it. For portal to another world and grandmother who was guardian, I prefer Roberts' Green.
Shapiro, David. Terra Tempo: Ice Age Cataclysm.
1 October 2010, Craigmore Creations
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central (ARC from there)
Jenna and Caleb go with their mother to visit a great aunt whose attic she is helping to clean. Their Uncle Al is out ranging, but the kids are allowed to look in his office, but not touch his desk. Of course they do, and they find instructions on how to time travel. This is too good to leave, so Jenna takes the book with her. The next day when they go back to the house, the children, along with their always prepared friend Ari, go to the crest of the hill described as having a "reverberator", deliver the chant as instructed, and travel back in time! Immediately, they are attacked by a short-faced bear, but Jenna chants another incantation and a mythic bird comes to their rescue and flies them off. The three see an amazing array of creatures and natural formations, which luckily Ari knows all about. There is plenty of danger, and the kids have to find someway to get back home... and when they do, their Uncle Al catches them and reprimands them for sneaking into his things and undertaking a dangerous adventure. But he is secretly pleased, and more adventures may be in the works for the trio.
Strengths: I do love time travel, and this is rich with details about a specific point in the past. The graphic novel format might draw in readers who normally stay away from time travel books.
Weaknesses: Something about the printing process of the full color graphics made the book have an odor that made my head hurt.