Preller, James. The Courage Test
September 13th 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
William Merriweather Miller's parents are divorced, and he's not taking it well, especially since his dad is dating. When his father "forces" him to accompany him on a trip following Lewis and Clark's trail so he can finish a book, Will has to spend more time with his father than he would like. On their way, they pick up a pregnant 15-year-old girl who is trying to get to her cousin's house. They also meet up with a friend of the dad's, Ollie, a lawyer with Nez Perce heritage who is also interested in the trail. Will meets a bear and survives, does some white water rafting, discovers some secrets about his mom, and learns some things about his father as well.
Strengths: I agree with Preller that the father-son dynamic is underexplored in middle grade fiction. This is usually because all the parents are dead. It was nice to see a road trip with a father, and the Lewis and Clark connection is fun.
Weaknesses: This was a bit uneven, with journal entries with historical information, although the length is good. Linear formats are very important in middle grade fiction. I also wasn't wild about the sub story with the girl that they picked up-- not bad, just a distraction from the other things going on.
What I really think: I'm debating purchase. I do like the cover, and road trip books generally do well, so probably will. I think this will circulate well.
Vegas, Peter. The Iron Tomb (Pyramid Hunters #1)
August 2nd 2016 by Aladdin
Public library copy
Sam is on his way to Egypt to spend his summer with his uncle, who is an Egyptologist. His parents on dead. On the plane, he meets Mary, whose father is very wealthy. Sam's uncle doesn't meet him at the airport, and when he gets to his uncle's apartment, there is a cryptic note, but no uncle. With the help of Hadi, a teen cab driver, Sam and Mary try to unravel the mystery of what happened, they get entangled in an older mystery involving Mary's grandfather.
Strengths: Lots of good information about Egypt past and present, lots of action and adventures, tweens traveling around on their own and saving the world. Everything you could want in a middle grade book. Will purchase.
Weaknesses: Felt oddly lukewarm about this, given its many fine components. This felt like something I've read before. Northrop's Tombquest was better, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas (October 11th 2016 by Philomel Books) was similar, if in a different setting. I guess the whole concept of children whose parents are dead so they go spend time with an aunt or uncle and get dragged into conspiracies against which only they can fight successfully really needs something super fresh to interest me.
What I really think: This will find readers because of the action and the ties with ancient Egypt, but it made me want to reread Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax!