Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sherlock Holmes investigates Guinevere running for class president

That's the nightmare you have when you mix your reading materials.

Brilliant young Sherlock Holmes knows how to survive in the seedy London neighborhood where his parents have been slowly sinking into destitution. Still, he's rather be out investigating murders with his skills that lingering in the horrible schools to which his parents struggle to send him. When a beautiful woman is stabbed in an alley, Sherlock starts to investigate and becomes a suspect himself when he attempts to clear the name of Mohammad. His actions also run him afoul of the real murderer, who takes his vengeance on Sherlock in a particularly awful way, leaving room for sequels. (A fourth book comes out soon.) Shane Peacock's Eye of the Crow: The Boy Sherlock: His First Case, is a very atmospheric, well-developed mystery that invents an interesting history for Doyle's famous character. My reservations: the writing is somewhat distant, and there's not much interest in Holmes in my school, even though I have several books dealing with young versions of his character. Perhaps readers of Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series would like this one.

It seems like every other book review I read is fantasy, and we're so well stocked that the book has to be fabulous before I even want to read it, but Nancy McKenzie's Guinevere's Gift was very good. Do have a group of students who are reveling in Arthurian legend, and this is an excellent addition. Guinevere is living with her aunt and cousin Elaine. Her uncle, King Pellinore, is off fighting with Arthur. When Sir Darric comes and spends time at the castle, nothing good happens. Elaine wants to flirt with him, he flirts with the queen and has a creepy interest in Guinevere, who suspects him of stealing her aunt's livestock. It becomes more complicated-- Guinevere, a smart, lively young woman who is not interested in marrying even though a prophecy at her birth has indicated she will be the wife of the most powerful man in the land, finds out that she is being guarded by the Old Ones because they believe this prophecy to be true. Luckily, the help her thwart Sir Darric, whose evil plans are more involved than even Guinevere suspects. This was fun to read, and I am looking forward to reading Guinevere's Gamble.

Oh, what hopes I had for Josh Lieb's I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President. Loved the title, and thought the idea was good. Oliver has convinced all of his teachers that he is stupid, but in reality he is a genius with a huge fortune, a staff of spies and "motivators", and plush lairs from which he can spy electronically on his nemeses. One thing he is lacking is his father's approval, so Oliver uses his influence to be allowed to run for class president. Not content to run unopposed, he has his forces groom another candidate, and the race is on, with evil machinations galore.

See that nose wrinkle on the cover? That's the face my 8th grade son had after he returned this to me. He said he liked the book but was vastly disappointed in the ending. What I didn't like is that Oliver was a horrible and disgusting person. I didn't like him, I didn't like what he did, and he was so out there that I couldn't work up any sympathy for him. I had the same reaction to Artemis Fowl, but the students don't share my opinion.

Normally, I would have written my distaste off to the fact that I am a girl, and bought this right away, since we need so many funny books for boys. But that nose wrinkle on my son, who delights in snarky, goofy, fart-laced evilness-- I'm not sold. Everyone else is, so I'm going to field test this on some students. I'm very conflicted. This would circulate, but is this really what I want my kids to read? And I'm not an elitist or supporter of any high moral ground. There's even a movie coming out.

Note on 2/26-- The young male teacher to whom I gave this was greatly amused by it all, so I will buy a copy. At least I know when my girly teacherness keeps me from liking a book and I obtain outside help!

Positive reviews of this include:

School Library Journal
Wellington City Libraries


  1. I didn't really like Artemis Fowl either (there's a new one coming out this fall btw) but....I bought the Lieb book mainly because I liked the title and thought it would be easy to booktalk. I skimmed it and yeah, didn't really like it myself. And of course, it's one of those awkward middle grade books - juvenile or ya? It's circulated quite a bit off our new shelf (I ended up putting it in juvenile) I wouldn't say it's as bad as, oh, say the Hannah Montana paperbacks I bought....

  2. I thought I was the only one who didn't like Lieb's MG novel.

    If you want a very good boy book add How I Nicky Flynn Finally get a Life and a Dog by Art Corriveau.

    Its an MG debut comes out in May. Loved it. It reminded me of The Schwa Was Here.