Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Midnight Brigade

Borba, Adam. The Midnight Brigade
September 7th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Carl Chesterfield's family has long designed and repaired Pittsburgh's many bridges, but when his father feels stifled in his professional life, he buys a broken down food truck and a piece of waste land by the river and sets up a truck serving average food. Carl's mother, a nurse, has her concerns about this, but supports his efforts. Carl is concerned because he has seen the bridges move at night, and there has been a lot of odd, scraping damage done to the bridges that no one can explain. When he meets Frank, a giant troll, things are a little clearer. Frank has spent years guarding the bridges, and isn't supposed to be seen by humans, but is now living in a rock pile by the food truck. Bee, whose mother is a food critic for the local paper, befriends Carl even though she and her mother get food poisoning while reviewing the food at Chesterfield's. When Carl meets Teddy, who believes the city is beset by monsters and has a Midnight Brigade to watch for them at night, he's glad to have a friend but uneasy about sharing Frank's existence. Soon, though, the three children are working together to keep the bridges of Pittsburgh safe and also try to improve the chances of the food truck's survival. Average food won't bring in the customers, and the Chesterfields are in danger of losing not only the truck, but their home. Can Carl find a way to turn everything around?
Strengths: I love books that are firmly set in one particular area and have lots of local details. Even thought I grew up an hour from Pittsburgh, I didn't know there were so many bridges, although I ate plenty of Isaly's chipped chopped ham! Monsters are a bit tricky in middle grade literature, and Frank's appearance is worked seamlessly into an otherwise realistic fiction book about a family struggling with changes during economically tough times, which made this quite fun. Carl, while depicted as small and shy with few friends, quickly warms to Bee and Teddy, which was also good to see. It's safe to say that any time I have to travel through Pittsburgh and go over a bridge, I will be thinking about Frank!
Weaknesses: Only one troll? I kept expecting Frank to have some friends. I'm debating whether the condiment made of troll belly button lint moves this one to the elementary side of the Pilkey Line.
What I really think: This is a must purchase title if Rylander's The Legend of Greg is popular in your library, or if you are within 3 hours of Pittsburgh. There's a little bit of a Little's Worse Than Weird vibe with the food truck, and reminds me a lot of Dairman's All Four Stars, but with a giant troll. 
Liz Claibourne polyester dress that wads up well in the back pack, and Rafaella jacket that is more polyester than anything else, so it also survives the trek pretty well. Given the font on the jacket label, it may date from the early 1990s. Vintage!

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