Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Secret Starling and Little Kid, Big City!: London

Eagle, Judith. The Secret Starling
June 8th 2021 by Walker Books US
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's 1974, and Clara is being raised in a decrepit, remote country mansion by a stern and uncaring uncle because her mother died at her birth. There's a constantly changing rotation of governesses, but at least she has Cook, as well as the butler who mainly does repairs. When the latest governess is not replaced, Clara enjoys her freedom until she finds out that Cook has been sacked. Her uncle orders her to pack a bag and leave the house with him, then drops her off in the village, vaguely instructing her to seek out Cook. Instead, Clara decides to go back home to make her own way. Soon, Peter, who is about her age, and his cat Stockwell show up, saying that they have been sent by Stella, a neighbor of Peter's grandmother, to live with the uncle. His grandmother is ill, and Stella is a friend of the uncle. The two make a go of it for a while, but then Stella shows up, takes charge of tidying the uncle's study, and sets a string of mysteries in order. The house is to be sold, which irritates Clara despite the fact that pipes are always bursting. They do have some help from Cook's grandchildren, although the adults seem content to ignore or hinder them. Peter is worried about his grandmother, and since Stella isn't providing enough answers, the children take off to London to check on her. Will they be able to solve mysteries about both of their families, Peter's love of ballet, and Stella and the uncle's lies? 
Strengths: The most amusing part of the mystery for me was figuring out what year this was set! With talks about watching Nureyev dance, a fifty pence coin (after 1968) and other clues, I had this placed in the early '70s, then Clara offers a little bit of math concerning her age to cement it! There are a few other details, and the whole book had a decidedly vintage British feel to it. The inclusion of ballet was fun, and Cook's grandchildren diversify the all white cast of characters. There are deliciously evil villains, legal hassles, and secret parentage. Occasional illustrations add to the charm. 
Weaknesses: I continue to worry about British parenting and childcare. Edwards' Mandy came out in 1971 and there was a fairly effective orphanage. Would Clara have been better off there? For those concerned, there is a happy ending.
What I really think: This has some similarities to Chalfoun's The Treasure of Maria Mamoun, as well as Guterson's Winterhouse, and a definite ring of classic British literature like Streatfield's various Shoes
books. A great book for readers who want a murder mystery that is clue oriented rather than gruesome.

Beckman, Beth. Little Kid, Big City!: London
June 15th 2021 by Quirk Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Like New York, this is a fun picture book romp through one of the world's great cities. London is my very favorite place to be, and this covers all the best places: the London Transport Museum, The British Library, the Tower Bridge (which I have stayed near both times I went to London!), and even Hampton Court Palace, which I absolutely adored. It's a nice overview, and I am going to buy a copy for my younger daughter's birthday, since it is also her favorite place to visit! 

From the publisher:
Curious kids will find plenty of sights, smells, and tastes to explore in this illustrated, choose-your-own-adventure travel guide series. Next stop: London!

If a kid were given the opportunity to lead a tour through London, where would they go? Would they hop on the Tube to visit Buckingham Palace, watch a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theater, or pass the time with Big Ben? By following prompts at the end of each page in Little Kid, Big City, the options are endless!

In this series, an illustrated travel guide collides with an interactive format, allowing children to imagine, create, and explore their own routes through the greatest cities on the planet. With gorgeous illustrations, lovable characters, and dozens of different forks in the road, Little Kid, Big City is a new way for kids to take part in their travels and invent their own adventures.

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