Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Strangers and Unicorn Bowling

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. The Strangers (The Greystone Secrets #1) February 5th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

The Greystone kids have a good life, even if their father died when they were all very young. Chess remembers him, since he was four, but Emma and Finn have no memories. Their mother is very supportive; she's able to work from her home office in the basement and be there to provide after school snacks. When there is a report on the news that three children in Arizona have been kidnapped, their mother is oddly affected. When they realize that the children have oddly similar names, the very same birthdates, and even look like them a bit, even Finn worries a bit. It's even more alarming when their mother claims that she needs to go away for business for an undetermined number of days, and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales, who worked on the PTA with Ms. Greystone, and her daughter, Natalie. Ms. Morales often lets women in troubled home situations stay with her, so Natalie isn't too surprised, and she reluctantly goes with the children to their house to feed their cat, since Ms. Morales is highly allergic. While back home, the children find their mother's cell phone and a letter, and start to try to decipher clues she has left about her disappearance. When the group manages to go into her basement office and finds a tunnel that leads them into another house in a nearby neighborhood, they know that things are not right and they have to figure out what has happened to their mother. The answer is both shocking and unbelievable, and leaves them with more questions than solutions. It also means that they have to try to save their mother in the next book. (No title or publication date available.)
Strengths: Haddix has a knack for very innovative ideas for science fiction related fantasy. I am always caught by surprise by the direction her plots take. The Greystone children are solid characters with distinct personalities, although I thought Natalie had a bit more spark. The fact that Ms. Morales helped out women having domestic issues was quite interesting and added a layer of believability to the children staying with her with few questions asked.
Weaknesses: Ever since Under Their Skin and Children of Exile, reading Haddix's books makes me uneasy. I keep suspecting really weird things to happen. Or, as I put it in one of my reviews, I don't quite believe the worlds that she constructs. They are just too odd. This, of course, is why my daughter liked the books. Felt the same way about this one.
What I really think: Haddix is a local writer, so many of my students have seen her speak, and there is always a demand for her books. I was really intrigues by her notes at the end of the book about Rheta Grimsely Johnson writing "about a sad, odd, true coincidence" that inspired this story, and now I want to know what that was!

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn Bowling (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #9)
April 23rd 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Think of Phoebe and Marigold as the Calvin and Hobbes of the new  millennium. In this collection of comic strips (which the Columbus Dispatch should definitely consider the next time they get a new strip!), Phoebe and her unicorn pal do indeed go bowling, create a diorama for school, deal with the snotty Dakota, and even go to unicorn summer camp. I enjoy the fact that these are not only funny, but have a lot of good life lessons about how to be a good friend. Makes a good combination. I buy very few comic strips for the library, but this is a particularly good one. 

1 comment:

  1. You had me at Unicorn Bowling, and then you said Calvin and Hobbes, so I think I'd better rush out and find this one! (Haddix always sounds intriguing, but I think I have the same reaction you have to her books: just too ... something. Creepy-weird?)