Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Switch and The Clockwork Dragon

Hale, Bruce. Switched 
April 6th 2021 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus 

Parker's busy parents don't seem to pay much attention to him. He's always cleaning up the house, especially since his grandmother died, and keeps his head down in school, even while dealing with bully Deke and crush Gabi. When his older sister goes away for a study abroad program, he gets stuck with taking care of Boof, his sister's golden doodle. This is the same dog who completely wrecked her party by destroying the carefully decorated table, eating the cake, and slurping down the Thai food that was ordered for dinner! Parker is even less inclined to deal with the messy, stinky dog when Boof knocks over a shelf of knick knacks and chews on a wooden statue of the trickster, Eshu, that was his last present from his grandmother. Parker wishes that Boof would have to deal with a misbehaving dog, and the next morning, the two have switched places! Parker is NOT happy about having to eat kibble, pee in the yard, and being able to smell everything very intensely, but Boof is VERY excited about having thumbs and access to the big white food box. Of course, the busy parents hardly notice when Boof, in Parker's body, goes off to school. There, the dog bites the bully, arranges a video game play date with Gabi, and generally has a lot more fun. Parker tries to clean up the house, which is hard for a dog to do, and eventually is persuaded by neighbor dog Ruby to go out and have some fun. Boof and Parker try to figure out how to get back to their own bodies, even consulting a new age candle shop. When the dog catchers come around, will they be stuck in the other's bodies? 
Strengths: I love that Hale consulted Alexandra Horowitz's work on how dogs perceive the world, so that Parker is alarmed at seeing things in shades of gray but has super keen smell. The reasons for the switch made sense, and giving Parker a touch of OCD (never stated, but there is a note at the back) makes it more interesting for him to be a dog. Supporting characters help the story along, and it's interesting to see how Boof gets along with the bully and Parker's crush. The cover is what will really sell this, and readers who love books from a dog's perspective will find that Switched delivers some nice twists. 
Weaknesses: I'm fine with Parker being described as biracial (his father is Black), but this is not an #OwnVoices title. 
 What I really think: Freaky Friday was always one of my favorites, and this is a fun reimagining for fans of Horowitz's Switch, Bedford's Flip, Shull's Bounce, or Margolis' If I Were You. It would be especially amusing choice for fourth and fifth grade students who want to read about middle school.

Hannibal, James R. The Clockwork Dragon (Section 13, #3)
February 5th 2019 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After finding out the secrets about his family in The Lost Property Office and having more adventures in The Fourth Ruby, Jack Buckles is now on trial. He and his younger sister Sadie have been working with the Ministry of Trackers, but their very existence is illegal. Also, they may have stolen and wrecked some stuff while fighting the evil Ignatius Gall. They meet Will, a clerk for the court, who introduces them to the world of Fulcrum, rife with Merlinians and Arthurians, and soon they are off on new adventures to prove their innocence and keep the world from ending. Their father is recuperating, but babbling a lot of nonsense that sounds like it might contain clues, but is almost impossible to follow. Will sends Jack, Gwen, and Ash to Salzburg on the trail of  Jack's grandfather, and this trail leads them to a secret lab in the Alps... that of course is destroyed in an avalanche. They realize that the Mind of Parcelus, which they've been trying to find, is the zed, and it belongs on a sword that is located in an Ice Chapel. They've also been introduced to Liu Fai, who is having troubles of his own in China, but chose not to go there to help, at least until the group realizes that the troubles in china might tie directly with their own. After a brief stop at the Greenwich Observatory, which uncovers more secrets, the group are off on another adventure. When Gall takes Gwen, Jack and Liu Fai need to work together to save her and everything else. Will they be able to do that, and clear their father's name... if he survives?
Strengths: Jack is a very sympathetic character, and his family's backstory is certainly interesting. He's the 13th Jack Buckles, and his family has always been involved in keeping the world safe. Jack can "spar"memories from objects when necessary, and gets a lot of help from the Ministry. The details of the various magical places are very intriguing, and the challenges that Liu Fai has with a mother who is in the British Ministry of Dragons and a father who is in the Chinese Ministry are nicely complex. There's also plenty of action and LOTS of travel adventure. A great conclusion to a thrilling middle grade fantasy adventure series. 
Weaknesses: Even taking notes, this was a lot of fantasy for ME, but my readers who enjoy it can rattle off Harry Potter trivia and all of the differences between The Lightning Thief book and the movie, so they will be fine with all the details that were challenging for me. 
What I really think: My students have enjoyed the first two books and have been eagerly waiting for this third and final volume. I was glad to see that the trim size was the same for all of them. This is a really well constructed, action packed fantasy with appealing characters that I'm definitely glad to have on hand in my library. 

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