Fogelin, Adrian. Some Kind of Magic
April 1st 2015 by Peachtree Publishers
ARC received from the publisher
Ben and his young brother Cody, whose birthday is in a week, wonder what happened to their Uncle Paul, who is supposedly traveling but hasn't been heard from in years. Cody finds a hat that belonged to his uncle, and decides it has magic, so he wears it around during this first week of summer break. Along with his friends Justin, who plays the piano, and Jemmie and Cass, Ben is looking forward to a relaxing summer in Tallahassee, even though he has to watch Cody. The group finds an abandoned shed in the woods, and clean it up for a hideout. They find Paul's comic books, a half made dress, and other things that make them investigate the area. It turns out that a family perished in a fire there about 2000, with the exception of a teenage son-- who was Paul's best friend. Paul dated the girl who died, which explains his reluctance to return to town. Complicating Cody's birthday celebration, there is drama that unfolds, a little romance, an unfortunate accident, and family secrets that are revealed.
Strengths: Nice cast of diverse characters, very evocative setting (even though it's -10 here, I could feel the heat and humidity!), and a decent mystery. Paul's situation is sad, but the kids are fairly upbeat.
Weaknesses: The timeline seemed wrong to me. Paul was a teenager in 2000, but he had a fedora? (Which is NOT magic, by the way.) A girl is sewing a dress in 2000? It seemed like the house fire was meant to take place in the 1960s or 70s, but that didn't work with the age of the uncle. This will not distract the target demographic, but it distracted me.
What I really think: This had an oddly detached style of older books that made it hard for me to feel invested in the characters.
Child, Lauren. Ruby Redfort Catch Your Death (Book #3)
February 10th 2015 by Candlewick Press
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Ruby is still working hard to train for Spectrum, this time taking wilderness survival training. She doesn't do especially well, and is worried that she will be let go, but there are several mysteries going on in Twinford. Jewelry is missing, and odd wild animals are seen around town. When Ms. Swann, a famous perfume maker, has a launch at the Twinsford department store, Ruby is assigned to go and watch for criminal activity, and just finds odd things. With her friend Clancy Crew, she hunts down a man who lives just outside town, who used to have a lot of exotic animals, incuding the cyan wolf, which is supposedly extinct, but whose musk is absolutely intoxicating. Ruby and Clancy find (to their peril) that there are others who want this wolf and will go to any extent to get their hands on it.
Strengths: This had very interesting descriptions of animals, some of which exist, and some which don't. The style, which included cryptic scenes with several other shadowy characters in between Ruby's adventures, made this seem very mysterious indeed. Ruby's parents have their own interests, so are around but not overly concerned with what she does, although she also has beloved housekeeper Mrs. Digby to keep her fed, watched over, and happy. Clancy is a good sidekick, and the agents at Spectrum run the gamut from supportive to bound to get Ruby kicked out. A fourth book has been published in the UK already.
Weaknesses: Still not sure on the time frame of this one. One character is described as being a "key player back in the 1920s", but he's 88, which would put his birth at 1927 if this were contemporary.
What I really think: Interesting, but awfully long (500+ pages) for middle grade. I only have them in my library because I keep getting free copies. Not many readers pick them up.