Luz Makes a Splash by Claudia Dávila

It’s been a hot, dry summer in Petroville, and the town’s residents are feeling the effects. When Luz invites her friends Anika and Robert along for a swim in Spring Pond, just a short bus ride away, they grab their towels.  Imagine their disappointment when they reach the pond and discover there is nothing left but a dirty puddle of water.  Luz can’t understand what could have happened until she spots a sign for the nearby Top Cola plant.  It proudly states their cola is made with fresh spring water.
Back home, Luz tells her mother and grandmother what she and her friends found at Spring Pond.  Abuela gets upset and tells the girl the same thing happened in her homeland.  A mining company bought land and pumped all the water out of the ground, causing a lot of suffering for those who lived nearby.  Luz’s mother gets right to work calling city hall and the Sierra Club, determined to find out what’s going on.
Meanwhile, Luz discovers that the prolonged drought has forced the town to institute water restrictions.  Residents are not allowed to fill their swimming pools or water their lawns and gardens.  Over at Friendship Park the community garden is looking pretty sad.  When someone suggests that the town could simply pump water from Spring Pond, Luz shares her news about the water level there.
The heat wave and drought continue.  At home, Luz’ mother organizes her friends to learn more about water rights.  Anika and Robert offer to make posters to advertise their findings but don’t invite Luz to help them.  The girl finds herself with no one to play with.  She goes for a walk and meets Mr. DeSouza, who is installing rain barrels to capture the rain from his roof.  Luz ends up at the park where she nods off under a tree.
She awakens to hear the sound of water splashing.  At first she thinks it’s finally raining.  She discovers it’s actually the kid who works at the café around the corner.  He’s pouring away the water he’s used to mop the floors.  Luz is upset and confused by the idea that the plants are withering without water but water is being poured away.
Just then, Gord shows up on his bike.  In the cart he is pulling behind his bicycle he has everything he needs to make a graywater filtration system.  It will filter graywater, the water from cooking, bathing and washing, so it can be used on the plants.  Soon he has set up an old bathtub and filled it with gravel and marsh plants.  While Gord works on his graywater filtration system, Luz and Mr. DeSouza and others build an open pavillion and a gazebo to provide shade for park visitors and install rain barrels to capture rainwater from their rooves.
The days pass and Luz learns Anika and Robert have been working hard to get Top Cola to change their behaviour.  All the posters and petitions and threats of boycotts have had an effect.  The cola company announces that is going to start a Spring Pond initiative aimed at restoring groundwater levels and the pond habitat.  No sooner have the three friends learned the good news then it starts to rain.
Written and illustrated by Claudia Dávila, Luz Makes a Splash is the second in The Future According to Luz series, and tells the story of how a small group of concerned residents faced with water bans following a prolonged drought, learn how to conserve, capture and reuse water.  They also take on a local company whose production practices have adversely affected the groundwater level, and win. This informative and empowering graphic novel is certain to encourage young readers from Grade 3 to be better stewards of water and the environment.
FernFolio Editor

The Giant Bear: An Inuit Folktale by Jose Angutinngurniq and Eva Widermann

An Inuit man was out hunting for seals when he found a large aglu, or breathing hole, in the sea ice.   Looking down he saw a giant bear, a nanurluk, sleeping in the water.  Knowing this aglu was the bear’s breathing hole and through which he climbed out of the water to hunt, the man knew he must find a way to the defeat the giant bear or he and his wife would not be safe.
Crouching low so the bear would not see him, the man began to scoop water from the hole and pour it down its sides where it froze, slowly making the walls thicker and the aglu smaller. When the hole was finally too small for the bear to pass through it, the man hurried back to his camp where he and his wife worked quickly, pouring water over their iglu’s walls and entrance to make it strong enough to resist the giant bear.  Then the man asked his wife to remain inside the iglu, where she would be safe, while he gathered his harpoon and his knife and returned to the hole in the sea ice.
This time, when he reached the aglu, the man leaned over and waited until the giant bear became aware of his presence.  Spotting the man, the bear lunged upward but was stopped by the sea ice.  As the bear clawed at the ice, making the hole bigger, the man used his harpoon to stab the monster in the eyes and nose.  Even as the bear roared and clawed and began to bleed heavily, the man continued to attack.  He knows that, blinded, enraged and wounded, the nanurluk is more dangerous than ever.  When at last it pulls itself onto the sea ice, the giant bear does not go after the man; instead it wanders away with the man following at a distance.  Eventually the nanurluk collapsed lifeless onto the ground.  Its meat feed the man and his wife for many days.
Written by Jose Angutinngurniq and illustrated by Eva Widermann, The Giant Bear is a traditional Inuit folktale about a hunter who saves himself and his wife from giant bear through his courage, ingenuity and determination.  Though this story may sit uncomfortably with aspects of a 21st-century perspective on animals and ecology, it speaks tellingly of the difficult life-and-death choices faced by the ancestors of present-day Inuit and by any people living in a close traditional relationship with nature.  A lovely, spare text by Jose Angutinngurniq is beautifully complimented by Eva Widermann’s striking illustrations.  A nice addition to any folktale collection!
FernFolio Editor

How to Curse in Hieroglyphics by Lesley Livingston and Jonathan Llyr

How to Curse in Hieroglyphics
Their Pops calls twelve-year-olds Cheryl Shumacher and Tweed Pendleton quirky.  Many others in the small town of Wiggins Cross call them freaks.  They’ve lived with Pops, their grandfather, ever since their two families flew off for a weekend in a private plane and everyone else aboard, their parents, their siblings, the pilot and the plane, disappeared.  The cousins, who were later found all alone on Flat Top Plateau, have no memory of what happened between the time the plane took off and when they were rescued.
Pop owns the Starlight Paradise Drive-In Double-Screen Movie Theatre and Mini-Putt just outside town, and every evening you can find the girls sitting in an old 1948 Ford pickup at the back of the drive-in watching whatever old gems of B-moviedom Pops has decided to screen.  The rest of the time, they hang out at headquarters, a 1964 red convertible permanently parked in the barn, called the Moviemobile because of the television bolted to the front hood, thinking up ways to drum up more babysitting gigs.  They’ve even printed up business cards to advertise their ‘expertitious child-minding services and auto-vehicular detailing…While-O-Wait,’ or WOW for short. For some reason, the good citizens of Wiggins don’t seem particularly interested in hiring them.
Part of the problem might be ACTION!, the movie make-believe game with film-script dialogue and moves worthy of the best superheroes that Cheryl and Tweed love to play.  It involves the involuntary participation of various dogs and kids around Wiggins, including eleven-year-old Artie Bartleby, who mother runs Bartleby’s Gas & Gulp Service Station and General Store.  Artie regularly finds himself cast as an evil villain in ACTION!, and on the receiving end of Tweed’s movie patter and Cheryl’s stunt-double rolls and jumps.
The girls’ best friend, their only friend, is Yeager Armbruster, aka Pilot because, at fourteen, he has his pilot’s licence and helps his mother with her crop-dusting business.  Pilot enjoys the girls’ wacky games and crazy enthusiasm for B movies.  Besides, the three kids share a history; Pilot’s father was flying the plane when it disappeared.
Cheryl and Tweed are driving home with Pops from Bartley’s and another game of ACTION!, when they notice a convoy of trucks advertising Dudley’s Travelling Curiosity Show.  The trucks turn into the empty field, across the road from the Starlight Paradise Drive-In and begin to set up.  The girls, who have seen more than their share of movies about creepy carnivals, are immediately suspicious.
They are distracted briefly by an emergency call from the Bottoms.  Their quadruplets, John, Paul, George and Bingo, have escaped.  The girls round them up with an odd assortment of child-containment devices including a collapsable playpen. With the Bottoms boys safely back where they belong, Cheryl and Tweed decide to take a closer look at Dudley’s World-O-Wonders Travelling Curiosity Show.
With Pilot tagging along, they go over a fence at the back of the show and…land on Artie Bartleby who’s taken the easy route and simply walked in through the gates.  Through a tent flap, the kids spot a sarcophagus on a raised platform.   The illuminated sign over it reads Zahara-Safiya, Ancient Princess of Egypt, Beware the Mummy’s Curse!  The girls check out the sarcophagus with its garishly-painted princess and the green stone carved with a scarab beetle positioned over the mummy’s heart.  They poke around in the crates still waiting to be unpacked and find grave goods including a mummified cat.
Artie finds a ball that sports what purports to be Babe Ruth’s autograph, except he’s pretty sure it says Bob Ruth instead.  In a fit of annoyance after he almost falls into a packing crate and has to be yanked out again, Artie pitches the ball which hits and cracks the green stone on the mummy’s sarcophagus.  A strange sound emits, a wind blows up inside the tent, and the lid of the sarcophagus begins to open.   The kids run.
Back at C+T headquarters, Pilot and the girls discover that Artie isn’t with them. They figure, incorrectly, that he’s headed home.  It’s only later, when Pops comes out to the barn to ask them if they’ve seen him, that they realize the kid’s missing.  Meanwhile, Miss Parks, the librarian at Wiggins Cross Middle School, has booked a last-minute vacation and hires the girls to look after her fourteen cats. The kitties are soon comfortably installed in their cat carriers in Pops’ barn.
Cheryl and Tweed are horrified to watch, that evening, as every single car driving towards the Starlight turns into Dudley’s World-O-Wonders Travelling Curiosity Show.  The drive-in stays dark and Pops turns in early after giving the girls and Pilot some money to go and enjoy the carnival.  Since evildoings are clearly afoot and Artie’s still missing, they head across the road.
The kids slip into the tent and listen as Colonel Dudley tells the mummy’s story.  It is the tale of a cursed Egyptian princess who, denied her rightful place as heir to the throne, asked the temple priests to use their black magic to help her exact revenge.  When she became so powerful that even they began to fear her, those priests drugged the princess, wrapped her in bandages,  and placed her in a sarcophagus.  They buried her alive, bound by the magic of the green scarab and an amulet with the Eye of Horus that the Colonel wears around his neck.  When he pats the sarcophagus theatrically at the end of his story, something inside thumps and the lid slowly opens.  This is obviously part of the show however the sarcophagus is empty and the Colonel starts waving his arms and yelling at the audience to run for their lives.
After everyone else has left the tent, Cheryl and Tweed and Pilot take a look around.  Inside the empty sarcophagus they find a red running shoe that belongs to Artie.  The kids hide when the Colonel returns with Delmar, one of the stage hands, and
notices for the first time that the green stone in the lid of the sarcophagus is cracked.  Colonel Dudley sounds really frightened when he tells Delmar that the mummy is awake, that the spell that has bound her to a eternal sleep has been broken.  The Colonel, who had planned to stick around Wiggins Cross for a while, makes it clear that wants to be long gone before “missing townsfolk [start] showing up.”
Cee and Tee and their friend Pilot realize they’ve got a real live monster situation on their hands.  They return to headquarters long enough to suit up and grab their weapons, which include Nerf arrows and cans of silly string.  It turns out that isn’t hard to find the mummy, they just have to follow the vulture that’s appeared out of nowhere.  Unfortunately for Cheryl and Tweed, who hate them, the vulture is accompanied by swarms of beetles but one yowl from Miss Parks’ cats sends the beetle scuttling away.
The showdown takes place at the mini-putt.  First, Pilot and the girls are attacked by four crocodiles dressed in matching overalls, and realize, to their horror, that they are the Bottoms quadruplets who have been transformed by the mummy.  While Tee and Pilot fend off the croc-tots, Cee turns on the floodlights.  That’s when they see Zahara-Safiya sitting on the back of the Sphinx at the Pyramid Putt-Putt hole.
The mummy princess fires orders at the croc-tots.  However they pretty much ignore her, instead wrestling with each other and chewing on the mini-putt features with their sharp little crocodile teeth.  The princess looks pretty impressive with her braided, snake-like hair and her golden scaled bracelets, as well as royally ticked off, but she otherwise looks like a normal twelve-year-old.  Zahara-Safiya throws scarab beetles at the girls and Pilot, beetles that burst into flame as they fly through the air, and she moves much faster than the mummies that lurch about in movies.
The kids spot something in the shadows behind the sphinx.  It’s green and scaly, and has claws and a tail and a mouthful of sharp teeth.  The creature is Artie Bartleby, now number one minion to the princess.  He tells the others that Zahara-Safiya, who was supposed to rule a kingdom, has decided to make do with Wiggins Cross.  She plans to put the same whammy on them and the townsfolk that she has on Artie and the croc-tots.
Cee and Tee are out of ideas but Pilot thinks he might know how to defeat the princess.  The kids retreat to headquarters where he explains his plan.  Pilot recalls, from a movie, of course, that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats and considered them the guardians of the underworld that kept dead souls from returning to haunt the living.  All three remember how the beetles reacted to that yowl from Miss Parks’ cats.  Zahara-Safiya and her minions follow our heroes to the barn.  As soon as they enter, Pilot released the cats.
What happens next is a surprise.  Mr. Sniffers ambles over to the princess who scoops him up and…bursts into tears.  All of a sudden, she seems more sad than evil.  She talks and Artie translates.  It’s a sad story.  It turns out the Colonel had it all wrong,
Zahara wasn’t unhappy when her father decided to leave his kingdom to someone else.  She wanted to become a temple priestess.  However the priests were corrupt and plotted against her father, and planned to use her as a weapon to overthrow him.
When Zahara realized what they were doing and threatened to tell her father, they silenced her.  Too afraid to kill her and unleash the magic they’d bound to her, the priests put a sleeping spell on the princess and sent her home to her father in a sarcophagus sealed with the scarab in the green stone.  Her father the Pharaoh buried his daughter in the tomb he’d built for himself where she lay until a tomb robber stole her sarcophagus and grave goods.
She has been dragged around for years by the scheming Colonel Dudley, who knows full well that she lies inside in an enchanted sleep.  She has been awake enough to be aware of her surroundings but unable to escape them.  All Zahara really wants to do is open a portal to Aaru and join her loved ones there, but, in order to do so, she needs the amulet that Colonel Dudley wears around his neck, the one with the Eye of Horus.
Of course, the girls and Pilot promise to help the princess. They realize that the portal will have to be opened up far enough away from other people to avoid sucking them in.  They load the Moviemobile with the croc-tots ( carefully stowed in cat carriers) then Cheryl, whom Pops has taught to drive in the Starlight Paradise’ parking lot, drives around the fence to the back of the carnival where she knocks down a section of the fence with the front of the car.
The girls and Artie and Zahara are loading up the trunk of the car with the princess’ grave goods, when they get caught in the act by Colonel Dudley.  While the Colonel blusters away, Artie grabs the amulet and runs, pursued by the nefarious no-gooder.  As he disappears, he yells to Pilot to get Zahara to his plane.  Realizing they’ll have to trust CrocPot, the others drive to the Armbruster’s airplane hangar, just a short distance down the road (which is a good thing since Cheryl can’t see past the television set bolted to the hood and needs Tweed, standing next to her, to direct the car).
The kids and the princess have loaded the plane with the grave goods when Artie calls on the walkie-talkie and orders Pilot into the air.  Croc-Pot’s plan is to fire the amulet out of the cannon used by the human cannonball.  He figures that, as soon as Zahara can see it in the air, she will be able to use the amulet open the portal and go home.  the princess hugs the girls and climbs aboard.  Within minutes, the plane roars off into the sky above the town.
Things don’t go quite as planned because the amulet goes up but with Colonel Dudley.  However, once she sees it in the sky over the carnival, Zahara opens the portal in midair and drops her grave goods into it before kissing Pilot on the cheek and jumping in herself.  There is a thunderous roar and a flash of bright light, and the princess is gone.
When Zahara disappears, Cheryl and Tweed are at first thrilled that they’ve pulled things off, and then terrified as Pilot struggles to control his plane after the explosion.  Fortunately they find it and him later parked next to the pickup at the back of the drive-in.  The croc-tots are back to normal, Artie’s lost his scales and claws and teeth and tail, and they watch as a small round object plummets out of the sky.   It’s Bob Ruth’s autographed ball only added to it is a message in hieroglyphics from Zahara thanking them for their help.  All in a day’s work for our heroes!
Written by Lesley Livingston and Jonathan Llyr, and illustrated by Steven Burley, How to Curse in Hieroglyphics is the fast-paced and very entertaining story of two girls who, when a cursed mummy rides into town as part of a travelling carnival, leap into action to save first the townsfolk from her evil plan and then the poor afflicted mummy, from her sad fate.  Filled with moments of delicious terror and more that will have you roaring with laughter, this B-movie-inspired adventure will enslave readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

Revenge on the Fly by Sylvia Nicolls

Revenge on the Fly
When the city’s medical officer of health comes to speak to his class about a new campaign to Kill the Fly and Save the Baby, twelve-year-old William Alton listens first with surprise and then with growing grief and anger.  Flies, Dr. Roberts explains, spread germs that cause diseases such as typhoid and consumption.  Proclaiming flies the their worst enemy, he announces that the city is going to hold a contest and offer a fifty-dollar first prize to the child who catches the largest number.
Irish immigrants, Will and his father have recently come to Hamilton, Ontario, to start a new life following the deaths of his mother and his little sister, Colleen, deaths, he realizes as he listens to Dr. Roberts, that were likely caused by flies.  He decides there and then that he will win the contest.
By the time the contest starts, a couple of days later, Will has filled a jar with dead flies caught in the garbage behind the rooming house where he and his father have rented a room, and in the stables where his father has found a job working as a stable hand.  He has also visited local shops and offered to kill flies in the mornings before they open for business.  One businessman he meets, a Mr. A.M. Souter, touts the use of a vacuum cleaner to catch flies.  The boy tries to convince Mr. Souter to loan him the machine for demonstration purposes, but he says no.
Will isn’t the only student in his class eager to win the contest and claim the fifty-dollar prize.  Fred Leckie, the wealthy and rather unpleasant boy with whom he shares a desk has announced that he is going to win.  He offers sections of orange to classmates who bring him one hundred flies.  Ginny Malone, in her patched dress and broken-down shoes and who often goes hungry so that her younger brother and sister can eat, is the first to agree.
Though he doesn’t like that she’s helping his nemesis, Will cannot help but admire Ginny’s fearlessness and grit.  She is constantly taunted because she is poor and struggles in school, but she won’t back down when challenged, and is very protective of her younger brother and sister.
When Ginny steals his jar of flies and gives it to Fred, Will feels betrayed but reserves most of his anger for Fred because he knows whose jar it is.  Rebecca Edwards, the daughter of a wealthy doctor, sympathizes with Will and tries her best to help him collect more flies.  She also tells him what she has learned about flies from her father, and adds her advice to the growing list of suggestions Will has gathered for how to catch them.  Will does well at the first fly count at City Hall, but Fred Leckie does better.  Though he is disappointed, Rebecca’s steadfast support encourages him to try harder.
The following Sunday, Will wakes up early and sneaks down the backstairs of mansion in which he and his father now share a small servant’s room to the cupboard where the housekeeper stores the vacuum cleaner.  He borrows the vacuum and uses it to catch flies in the stable.  Unfortunately, he is observed by Fred Leckie, who threatens to tell Mr. Moodie, the wealthy owner of the mansion and his father’s boss.  Though he is afraid, Will goes to Mr. Moodie, whom he has never met before, introduces himself, and explains what he has done with the vacuum cleaner.  To his great relief, Mr. Moodie laughs and tells him, “I’m sure, William Alton, you’ll go far in life.”
Fred Leckie doesn’t give the promised pieces of orange to Ginny so she decides to help Will instead.  She takes him to the market stables where her brother Tom works.  Using homemade flyswatters, Will and Ginny and her younger siblings catch bucketsful of flies.  When he pays for the orange her little sister is caught stealing from a market stand, Will earns Ginny’s quiet but heartfelt thanks.  Though they bring in thousands of flies, it isn’t enough to beat Fred who has all his father’s employees catching flies for him.
As the end of the contest approaches, Will, who has observed that they are attracted by horse manure, decides to set up a trap behind the shed to lure flies.  He also discovers that flies have laid eggs in the manure, eggs which mature into more flies.  He catches them, too, and adds them to his bucket.  When Rebecca sees his manure trap, she tell him he is breeding flies.  He is upset by her accusation, but, seconded by Ginny, decides he needs every fly he can get.
At Rebecca’s urging, Will enters the essay contest.  Once he starts, Will finds the words come easily and with them memories of little Colleen and his mother.  His father finds him in tears and, reading the essay, he cries, too, before telling Will how proud he is of his efforts.
Uncle Charlie is released from quarantine just in time to attend the final count at City Hall.  Ginny and her siblings are there to support Will, and so is Rebecca.  When he realizes that every child who enters will get their photo in the Hamilton Spectator, Will divides the flies he raises in the manure trap among them.  Each of the Malones win two dollars.  Without those flies, Will comes in second after Fred Leckie.  At first, he is bitterly disappointed but, one look at the Malone children’s faces convinces him he’s the luckier boy.  When it is announced that his and Rebecca Edwards’ essays will be published in the Hamilton Spectator, his father and his uncle are overjoyed.  It is a fine start to the Altons’ lives in Canada.
Written by Sylvia Nicolls and based on true events, Revenge on the Fly tells the story of a contest held in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1912 to eradicate the fly and of the efforts of one very determined young Irish immigrant to win the contest and avenge the deaths of his mother and little sister.  By turns humorous and thought-provoking, this historical adventure features a cast of interesting characters and offers an intriguing window on life over a century ago.  It is bound to appeal to readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

Encyclopedia of Me
Isadora Tink Aaron-Martin, almost thirteen, doesn’t know it but this summer her life is going to change.  Or, more accurately, by the time Grade 8 starts in September, she’s going to discover that she’s not the person she was at the end of Grade 7.
Tink is biracial.  She has her mother’s blue eyes and her father’s afro.  Her hair and freckles are constant irritants, followed closely by her lack of height and her flat chest.  She lives with her father Bax Aaron, aspiring actor whose real job is working as a plumber, her mother, Jenna Martin, a medical doctor and former ballet dancer who is filled with boundless focus, energy and intelligence, as well as her almost-sixteen-year-old twin brothers, Lex and Seb.
Lex and Seb have inherited their father’s good looks and their mother’s intellect.  However, while Lex is a fairly average teenaged boy, Seb is bright, exacting, and autistic.  Tink’s feelings about Seb are complicated; she loves and resents him all at the same time.  Seb and his autism have expanded to fill just about every corner of the Aaron-Martin household.  There is rarely any time or attention left over for Tink.
Nicknamed Peacemaker because she works hard to stop the bickering that seems to be a large part of her family’s interactions, both her parents’ arguing over how to handle Seb and Seb’s meltdowns, Tink finds it increasingly difficult to cope with the stress at home.  She spends a lot of time hiding out in the Tree of Unknown Species which grows in the backyard of the house next door, and has lately been worried because that house has recently been sold to new owners.
She also spends a lot of time with her BBF, Freddie Blue Anderson.  They have been best friends forever.  Tall, blue-eyed and blonde, FB has both the vibrant personality and the looks to be one of the cool kids at school.  This summer, she has convinced Tink that they’re going to reinvent themselves and become part of that exclusive group.  Freddie Blue doesn’t know it, but she and Tink are also in a race to be the first to get a boyfriend.  Tink has admitted this to herself but is too embarrassed to tell FB.
Figuring it looks cool, FB decides they are going to try skateboarding but she doesn’t have the balance or the patience to excel at the sport.  Tink, on the other hand, experiences such a sensation of freedom and exhilaration that she finds herself sneaking out to practice at the local skateboarding park.  She runs into and becomes friends with Ruth, a girl from school whom FB calls a dork.  Unlike FB, with Ruth what you see is what you get.  The two girls go lurking together, looking for good spots to skateboard.
Tink meets Kai, the blue-haired boy who’s just moved into the house next door, when he picks her up off the ground after she takes a bad spill.  She finds herself drawn to Kai, even though Freddie Blue declares she’s interested in him, clearly warning Tink off.  However Kai seems to go out of his way to be friendly toward Tink.  She bumps into him at the beach, on the street and at the skateboard park.
Tink is taken aback by her reaction to Kai.  She wants to spend time with him and wishes he’d go away.  She likes talking to him and finds him exasperating.  He’s the first person to call her by her given name, Isadora, after she informs him he can’t use her nickname.  It isn’t long before Tink begins to suspect she might have a crush on Kai, something which kind of surprises her because she’s never had any names on her crush list while FB has dreamed about every good-looking boy in their class.
In Kai she finds a boy who accepts her for who she is, short, flat-chested, anxious about her hair and her freckles, and squeezed out by an autistic brother who occupies all the central space in her family, pushing her to the margins.  Then Kai does the unthinkable and suddenly kisses Tink in front of a number of girls from her class, including Stella Wilson-Rawley, who is mega popular and openly distainful of her.  The kiss angers and confuses Tink because she can’t help but wonder if it was meant as some kind of a putdown.
As the summer passes, she begins to notice that FB is distracted when she calls, and that she’s being put on hold so her best friend can talk to someone more important.  Tink has believed she can count on FB no matter what but that belief is undermined when she discovers FB has become very friendly with Stella Wilson-Rawley.  Then FB starts making comments about her BFF that are subtly disparaging and, when she realizes Tink has feelings for Kai, feelings which he might well return, she reasserts her claim to him, doing her level best to thwart her best friend’s relationship with the boy next door.
As September approaches, Tink grows increasingly confused and angry and depressed by her relationship with Kai, her friendship with Freddie Blue and the problems at home.  In the end, she will have to face each of these situations head on and take a hard look at herself before she can once again be truly happy.
Written by Karen Rivers, The Encyclopedia of Me is the story of a young girl’s journey from childhood to adolescence.  Over one summer, Tink will grow into her own name, fall in love, and discover that she and her best friend Freddie Blue aren’t destined to be Best Friends Forever.  She’ll also get tired of being the forgotten person in her family and find the words to tell her parents so.  Recounted through encyclopedia entries that range from Aa to Zoo, this absorbing book will appeal to readers from Grade 5.
FernFolio Editor

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Cats Cradle

Young Suri dreams of becoming a monster tamer, like those brave men who patrol the valley in which she lives protecting from the monsters who live beyond the mountains.  Her constant dreaming has enraged Leon, the leader of the merchant caravan that has been her home since she was found as a baby.  He has ordered her to leave his camp.  Fortunately for the young girl, the other men, women and children of the camp love their little mouse, or souris, and make sure she’s is well cared for and kept out of Leon’s way.
Suri collects stories about monsters, such as the caitsiths who can take human form, save their tails, and who eat children.  She tells those stories, tales from a monster tamer, for 25¢ a head to anyone who wants to listen.
One of those stories is that of a little man who came to the merchants’ camp late one evening with a strange caravan in which, he claimed, he had caged a hideous monster.  Knowing the Prince is eager to buy a monster because he is bored with hunting the usual animals, Leon welcomes the stranger and arranges for word to be sent to the palace.  The merchants eagerly await the Prince’s arrival, as much because the sounds from the monster terrify them as for the coin its sale will bring.
When a group of child customers turns skeptical upon hearing this story from her, Suri announces that she will show them the monster and, for an additional $1.00 from each of them, tame it.  She picks up her monster taming wand and leads them to the caravan where, much to her surprise as well as theirs, the girl calms the huge creature caged inside the dark caravan.
Later that day, as she is strolling through the camp, Suri meets a peddler who sells her a dragon’s tooth which, he claims, will bring her luck.  Then, spying Leon heading in her direction, she grabs a box from a boy walking next to her and hides behind it.  Soon she and the boy have walked away from the camp and into the nearby forest.  As they walk, Suri tells the boy that she’s a monster tamer and is surprised when the boy runs off.  Heading back to the camp, she finds a ball of golden twine on the forest path and uses a piece of it to hand the dragon’s tooth around her neck.
That night, Suri is awakened by the boy from the forest who demands that she return something he’s lost.  When she replies that she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the boy points to her neck.  Thinking that he means the dragon’s tooth, Suri retorts that she bought it but it’s the golden twine he wants.
The boy and the man and woman who have accompanied him chase Suri through the camp, finally cornering her in the monster’s caravan.  They are just about to attack when the monster roars, a sound that so terrifies them that they pause briefly, long enough for the girl to slip by them.  However the three soon recover and take up the chase again.
As Suri flees from the camp, pursued by the three, whose ability to leap fences in a single bound is eery, the monster begins to raise a ruckus.  It bursts from its cage and, cloaked in the caravan’s awning, rushes after Suri and her pursuers.  Knowing the Prince will be angered at the monster’s escape, Leon urges everyone to pack up and the merchants’ caravan leaves under cover of darkness.
In the forest, Suri fights off the boy and the man and woman for a time but is eventually seized, and taken to a small cottage.  It is only when she gets a closer look at them that she realizes the three are not human but caitsiths.  Just as they prepare to eat her, the young girl is rescued by an unlikely saviour and makes her escape.  Followed by the caitsiths, Suri and her rescuer return to the camp only to find her friends gone.  Together, the girl and her new friend set out on a new adventure.
Written and illustrate by Jo Rioux, The Golden Twine is the first book in the Cat’s Cradle series.  It tells the story of a young orphan who dreams of becoming a monster tamer, and who finds herself pursued by three fearsome creatures while possibly making new friends of two more.  Suri the brave and determined protagonist with a love for stories and who strives to make her dreams come true, a rich and fantastical plot full of quirky characters both good and evil and somewhere in between, and Rioux’ lovely drawings combine to create a story that readers from Grade 4 are sure to enjoy.
FernFolio Editor

Time Flies When You’re Chasing Spies by Allison Maher

Time Flies When Youre Chasing Spies
Thirteen-year-old Andrew Johnston lives with his parents in the small community of Aylesford, Nova Scotia, just outside Halifax.  Andrew’s father is retired biochemist, an amiable and unremarkable man, other than his penchant for experimenting with unusual food stuffs.  His mother, on the other hand, works for Epsom Electronics, a company that makes spy equipment for governments all around the world.
Andrew knows all about his mother’s job, in fact he often helps her test out new equipment, but he’s spent his whole life telling others that she works for the Department of the Environment.  The only person who knows the truth about Marion Johnston is Andrew’s best friend, Brian, who knows a thing or two himself about keeping secrets.  He and his family are in the Witness Protection Program, and have been sent to Aylesford to hide out from the Mob.
Epsom Electronics has been hired to organize security for the G8 Summit which is going to due to start at Halifax’s Citadel, the historic fort overlooking the city.  His mother is heading up the project, and has been working long hours for weeks so, when she doesn’t turn up for dinner one evening, neither Andrew nor his father are concerned.  However, when his father calls her at work to find out whether they ought to hold dinner for her, he discovers from her colleague, Jack, that Marion Johnston hasn’t been in the office all day.  Her company believed she was at home sick.
The team at Epsom puts a trace on her car and her cell phone, and activates the tracking devices Marion carries while her husband and son try to stay calm at home.  Then Mr. MacDonald, an old dairy farmer and friend of the family, calls to report that Marion’s car is sitting in the middle of one of his fields of rye.  Rushing to the site, Andrew and his father find evidence that Marion has been dragged from her car by two large men wearing dress shoes.  The good news is that her purse and her cell phone, which are both being traced, are also missing.  Jack reports that her phone has traced to a car heading toward the Halifax airport.
His father drops Andrew at the house, telling him he’s too young to get involved in the hunt for his kidnapped mother.  The boy ignores his father’s orders.  Instead, he goes in search of his best friend, Brian, and fills him in on what has happened.  They decide to do some investigating on their own, and have entered his house and are heading for his mother’s lab in the basement before Andrew realizes the power has been cut and there is an intruder.  The boys avoid an attack with a tazer gun, create a diversion, and manage to knock out the intruder with a pot of stew.  Figuring his mother’s kidnappers were looking for someone to threaten her with, they check the man’s pockets but find them empty.  They tie up the man, and go to the basement to grab night vision goggles, walkie-talkies, some infrared flashers, a miniature receiver and his mother’s laptop before Andrew calls his father and learns that his mother’s signal has disappeared inside the airport.
The boys find a ride to the airport but Andrew can’t shake the idea that the airport is a diversion.  The summit is due to take place at the Citadel.  He decides that he and Brian will head there instead of the airport.  Andrew’s uncle Rob worked at the fort when he was a teenager so the boy knows that there are tunnels built into the hills that surround it as well as other tunnels radiating out from the fort toward the city of Halifax.
He surmises that, if someone wanted to get into the Citadel during the Summit, the best way would be to enter through one of those tunnels.
Standing at the top of the hill near the Citadel in the dark, the boys notice the clock tower, an empty building that stands close to the foot of the hill, and conclude that it would make an ideal base for extremists trying to dig their way into one of the old tunnels.  They make their way down to the clock tower, and peer into one of the windows. They see someone looking out, someone wearing night vision goggles.    Realizing that they have been spotted, Andrew and Brian race to the gates of the Citadel and demand to be let in.
After Andrew shouts his mother’s name, the gates slides open and the boys tell the security team posted to the fort about what they saw at the clock tower.  Soon the boys and several security agents are making their way through the tunnels toward the clock tower where, just as Andrew suspected, they find evidence of recent digging.  The head of security then orders a team to check out the clock tower.
Hopeful that his mother is being held there, Andrew makes sure that he is with them.  By the time they get there, whoever was in the clock tower is gone but the basement also shows signs of digging, and it isn’t long before the agents have found a secret tunnel leading from it toward the Citadel.  A sudden click alerts everyone in that basement to the fact that they have somehow set off an alarm.  Andrew and the agents race from the tower, which blows up just as the last person clears the building.
The agents and Brian who remained in the tunnel leading from the Citadel have been buried in a cave-in caused by the explosion.  Several anxious minutes pass as Andrew, security agents and members of the public work frantically to find and free them.  Brian and Andrew, who have both sustained minor injuries, are transported to hospital.  Concerned that their parents will be contacted and they won’t be able to continue their search for Andrew’s mother, they sneak out of the hospital and past a large phalanx of reporters covering the clock tower explosion.
The boys are desperate to get to the airport and the team looking for Marion, but have no means to get there.  Noticing a phone number on the side of one of the media vans, Andrew calls it and talks to reporter Krista Armstrong.  Before long, he and Brian are heading to Stanfield International Airport while he tells the reporter and her camera man, Barry, a largely made-up story about how he and Brian happened to be close to the clock tower and saw three men running from the area just after it exploded.  He adds that the men jumped into a van and that one of them, speaking in a Russian accent, told the driver to drive to the airport.
At the airport, Andrew and Brian find Andrew’s father with Jack and the Epsom team looking for Marion, and learn that the first of the G8 leaders, the president of Russia, is due to arrive shortly.  Andrew gets to work on his mother’s laptop and finds a text message she sent just before disappearing that suggests they are looking for a black Lincoln town car with farm licence plates. However the signal from Marion’s cell phone indicates she is somewhere in the airport.
Andrew gets a bad feeling that the cell phone is a decoy to draw attention away from the enemy’s real target which, he decides, is the Russian president’s plane.  Looking out the window toward the runway, he and Brian spot a man driving a baggage cart who’s wearing dress shoes.  The boys yell to the others around them to call security, and make a run for the baggage carousels and the baggage carts beyond.  Security officers follow, shouting for them to stop but Andrew and Brian keep running.  The man with the dress shoes takes off running, too.
When security finally catches up with them, Andrew tells the officers to stop the man.  He also tells them that there is a bomb on the baggage cart.  The boys are detained while two men jump onto the cart and steer it away from the airport terminal and the spot where the Russian president’s plane is due to arrive.  Everyone watches as the bag cart speeds across the runway just as the plane is about to touch down.  The president’s plane narrowly misses the cart.  Seconds later, the two men jump from it, and cart explodes.
Brian and Andrew are interrogated by security about what they know before being released to Andrew’s father who decides to leave the boys with the team looking for his mother while he heads to Shearwater, where the military airport is located.  However Andrew has no intention of waiting around as long as his mother is missing.  He and Brian contact Krista and Barry, who are nearby.  In exchange for an exclusive interview about the airport explosion, the reporters agree to help the boys.
While Brian feeds Krista a story about Russian environmentalists seeking to assassinate their president, Andrew checks his mother’s laptop and finds information there that suggests she’s close by.  The trouble is, she appears to be in the middle of Halifax harbour.  Reaching the waterfront, the boys stare out into the darkness where no boats are moving.  The only thing out there is McNabs Island.  Andrew phones his father and tells him where he believes his mother is being held.  He explains that, with an unimpeded view of the Citadel and the military base at Shearwater, as well as the underbelly of any plane landing at the latter, McNabs Island is the perfect place for the unknown enemy to hide.
Brian finds a boater willing to take the boys and the two reporters out to the island.  Soon the four have landed and are making their way cautiously along the dock which, Andrew, realizes is protected by electronic surveillance.  Armed with Krista’s hair spray, he is able to find and time the beams of laser light put in place to warn their enemies that someone is coming.  The four slip past the beams of light and climb the hill to look for whoever has set up camp on the island.
Nestled close to the shore facing Shearwater, they discover what first appears to be a scout camp, complete with flagpoles and tents.  Krista is annoyed until Andrew points out that it’s four o’clock in the morning and yet the camp is busy.  In answer to her questions, he admits to the reporter that his mother, who is involved in the security operations for the G8 summit, has been kidnapped.  She and Barry agree to create a diversion so that Brian and Andrew can sneak into the camp.
Using the lights on his television camera, Barry, intermittently floods the camp with light to temporarily blind anyone wearing night vision goggles.  Krista Armstrong marches forward, microphone in hand, claiming that she and Barry are broadcasting live to a large audience.  While the men in the camp grapple with this, the boys slip up to one and then another tent.  They discover lots of electronic equipment, four directional antenna disguised as flagpoles, and a tank.
It then becomes apparent that the men in the camp have orders to destroy their compound and take to the water should they be discovered.  The boys watch as the men rush toward the shore carrying jet skis.  Andrew is almost crushed by the tank as it rumbles out of its tent and makes for the shoreline.  Realizing that his mother must be in the tank, he manages to throw himself on top of it just before it hits the water.  Terrified that it will sink and his mother will drown, he tries to open the hatch before simply crawling in through the observation port.
He finds himself on top of the tank operator, whose two hands are firmly clamped around the steering wheel.  The two fight for control of that steering wheel while the tank lumbers ever further into the waters of Halifax harbour before, at last, help arrives in the form of a black-clad man who subdues the driver and stops the tank.  To Andrew’s joy and relief, his mother is safe and sound inside the back of the vehicle.  In addition to finding his mother, the boys have also foiled a plot to assassinate the Russian president.  It turns out the boys’ cockamamy story wasn’t far off track.  To thank them for their heroic efforts, the Russian president invites Andrew and Brian to visit Moscow but Marion Johnston and her security team figure that, based on the night’s events, it’s too dangerous to let them out unsupervised.
Written by Allison Maher, Time Flies When You’re Chasing Spies is a fast-paced thriller about a young teenager and his best friend who race against time to find and free his mother and thwart the assassination of a world leader.  Filled with cool technology, explosions and cave-ins, as well as cars, planes, boats and tanks, this book contains all the elements of a satisfying read for thrill-seekers from grade 5.
FernFolio Editor

Cherry Blossom Winter by Jennifer Maruno

Cherry Blossom Winter
Michiko Minagawa is now ten year old.  It has been a year and a half since Canada declared war with Japan, and more than a year since she and her family, and all Japanese-Canadians, were forcibly moved away from Vancouver and the Pacific coast to a small farming community in the interior of British Columbia.  They left Vancouver with only the luggage they could carry.  Their house has been sold by the government, her father Sam has lost his job with the Imperial Confectionary Company of Canada, and everything the Minagawas worked for is gone.
Michiko is hurt and confused by the government’s treatment of her family and other Japanese-Canadians, but her parents and grandfather strive to make the best of their new circumstances, reminding her, “[You] can never see the sun rise by looking west.”  They struggle to adapt to life in rural British Columbia, and count themselves fortunate that they now live in town in an apartment above the drugstore which Sam have been employed to run.
Michiko’s mother Eiko is a seamstress and a “master of making do.”  Since moving away from Vancouver, she has become skilled at remaking clothes.  Eiko’s vibrant and beautiful sister Sadie now works as a teacher in one of the three make-shift schools set up to receive Japanese-Canadian children.  Uncle Ted, who used to build boats, now constructs the small wooden shacks in which the government houses most of the families moved from the coast.  Geechan, her maternal grandfather, helps out by tending a vegetable garden in the backyard and entertaining Michiko’s little brother Hiro.
Between the Japanese-Canadian community and the locals there exists an at-times uneasy truce.  For the most part, the two groups go their own ways, but Michiko is uncomfortably aware that many locals don’t want Japanese-Canadians around.  Whispers of “spy” and “enemy alien,” and mutters about petitions to have them rounded up moved elsewhere have Michiko sometimes longing for her old life in Vancouver.
Not all hakujin have been unwelcoming.  Edna Morrison, the kind woman who opened her home and her heart to the Minawgawas when they first came to the interior, continues to visit them regularly to bring them cookies, and regularly find excuses to hire Michiko’s mother for one sewing project or another.  Michiko also has a good friend in Clarence, the red-haired boy whom she met soon after arriving from Vancouver.  They go fishing in the nearby lake, work together to week Geechan’s garden, and enjoy each other’s company.  Unfortunately, there are others, like young George King, who go out of their way to express their hatred for and distrust of those of Japanese heritage.
During her second year in the interior of British Columbia, Michkio Minagawa attends the Hardware Store school with her friend Kiko Sagara, a year that is enlivened by the arrival of a new teacher, named Kaz Katsumoto, who played baseball for the Asahi the year they won the Terminal Championship.  Mr. Katsumoto gets the whole class playing baseball, and, after seeing him swing a bat, invites Clarence joins them, though Kiko clearly disapproves.  The students challenge the adults to a game, and the entire Japanese-Canadian community turns out for it, as well as a number of the locals, including Mrs. Morrison.
Excitement turns to sadness, though, when as the game ends, Geechan collapses.  Though his family rallies round to care for him at home, the old man grows weaker every day until, finally, the doctor says he must go to hospital.  Geechan dies short days later.  His death is a difficult blow for Michiko’s mother and her brother and sister, as well as for Michiko herself.
That year, Kiko spends a lot of time with Michiko.  The other girl particularly enjoys visiting Michiko’s family in their home above the drugstore because she has no her mother and Eiko is kind.  However Kiko is not as generous to Clarence.  She seems to resent his friendship with Michiko, and is deeply suspicious of him.  When the two friends take her fishing in Clarence’s rowboat and George King comes upon them, her ill-considered retorts to his taunts threaten to cause real trouble for Michiko’s family.
Aunt Sadie begins to date the-man-with-no-name.  Though Michiko and Kiko try to divine his identity, she and Eiko won’t breathe a word.  As the dates multiply and her aunt starts to take greater and greater care in choosing her clothes for each outing, Michiko begins to realize that Sadie might be serious about the mysterious suitor.
Aunt Sadie, Mr, Katsumoto, and the other teachers organize Japanese culture classes in music, dance, flower arranging, haiku writing, painting and calligraphy.  The classes culminate in a celebration at the local Opera House.
The mystery of her mother’s fatigue and increasing waistline is solved when, at last, Eiko tells her daughter that she is expecting a baby.  However, though Michiko is excited at the prospect of a new little brother or sister, she is increasingly preoccupied by worry over her family’s future.
There is talk in the Japanese-Canadian community that the Canadian government is preparing to send them to Japan.  While some welcome this, tired of being treated like enemies in their own country, others won’t hear of going.  Michiko overhears a heated discussion between her parents and realizes that, while her mother is adamant about remaining in Canada, her Japanese-born father has filled out the papers to return to Japan with his wife and children.  When she tries to voice her own point of view, the girl is reminded, to her frustration, that where her family settles is adult business.  When Michiko happens to spot an ad for a family to work on a flower farm, it seems like the answer to her prayers.
Written by Jennifer Maruno, Cherry Blossom Winter is a sequel to When the Cherry Blossoms Fell, and recounts a young Japanese-Canadian’s second year in the interior of British Columbia during World War II.  It relates both the joys, and the sadness and worries of that difficult time.  A cast of interesting characters, from Michiko and Clarence to Kiko and George King, a storyline that is full of the small and large moments of a year, and writing that evocatively captures the era make Cherry Blossom Winter an absorbing and at times very moving book for readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint

Cats of Tanglewood Forest
Lillian has spent her whole life living with her Aunt on a remote farm at the edge of Tanglewood Forest.  She helps her Aunt weeding the garden and hoeing the corn field.  She milks Annabelle, the cow, and sets out a saucer of milk for the many wild cats that roam the area.  When her chores are done and her lessons over, the girl rambles the fields and nearby woods, wading in creeks, visiting Apple Tree Man, the oldest apple tree in their overgrown orchard, and looking for fairies.
One day she comes upon and follows a deer deeper into the forest than she has ever ventured before.  When, as last, Lillian is too tired to run any more, she lies down to rest under an ancient beech tree and falls asleep.  She is awakened by a shock of pain as a snake, whom she has kicked in her restless sleep, bites her leg.  Unable to get up, she lies under that beech tree, weak and getting colder, and knows she is dying.
However, a strange thing happens.  Cats creep out from the long grass, some which the girl knows from seeing them around the farm.  They surround Lillian and agree that they must use their cat magic to save her, even though doing so is sure to anger Little Pater, a panther and the Father of Cats.  The wild cats turn the girl into a kitten and then, afraid of Little Pater’s reaction, disappear.
Lillian awakens to discover that she has paws instead of hands and is covered in calico-coloured fur.  A wise old crow tells her that the cats changed her to save her life and, in answer to her repeated questions about whether she can be changed back, reluctantly suggests she visit Old Mother Possum, who is part possum and part witch and powerful enough not to be intimidated by Little Pater.
Unnerved by the crow’s description of the witch, Lillian decides to go home and ask Aunt for help.  Unfortunately, Aunt, who is anxiously looking for her missing niece, does not recognize her.  Both Annabelle, the cow, and T. H. Reynolds, a fox whom Lillian meets in the forest, agree with the old crow that Mother Possum might be her only avenue.
Recognizing the powerful magic used to change her, at first Mother Possum refuses to help the girl-turned-cat, stating that she does not to get on the wrong side of the Father of Cats.  However, Lillian’s insistence that she wishes none of this had happened, finally sways the witch, though she issues an odd warning before snapping her fingers, “Thing like this, there’s always some consequence or other tends to make a body less happy instead of more.”
This time Lillian awakens in the woods close to Aunt’s farm.  She is once again a girl, and, reflecting on an odd memory of being a kitten, decides that she has been dreaming.  She runs home to Aunt but, to her shock and sorrow, finds the woman lying dead in the corn field of a snake bite.
The girl goes to live with the Welshes, friends of her dead aunt.  The man and woman are kind to Lillian, and treat her well, but, as the summer passes, her grief and sense of disorientation increase.  When fall comes and with it the prospect of attending school for the first time, Lillian quietly packs her bag and runs away to find someone who can help her understand her growing sense that something is terribly wrong.
She goes see Aunt Nancy, a strange and powerful woman who lives alone in a distant cabin.  The girl has heard some odd stories about Aunt Nancy, whom some call Spider Woman, but those who whisper them all agree that she can talk to spirits.  Looking at her, Aunt Nancy immediately recognizes that there is something amiss with Lillian.  She listens to the girl’s dream about being turned into a kitten by the wild cats and then into a girl again, and, to Lillian’s shock, speculates that the dream might be true.  On the advice of the spirit people, Aunt Nancy sends the girl to seek the help of the bear people, a community of creatures that are neither entirely human nor bear and who live in a hidden valley high in the hills.
Lillian will find the bear people, and ask their help in interpreting her strange dream, but will find herself in great danger when jealousy and suspicion and ancient enmity rear their heads.  Rescued by an unlikely ally, the girl will begin to wonder whether she will ever understand what has gone so wrong or gain her most longed-for wish, to somehow save Aunt from a deadly snake bite that she is increasingly convinced was meant for her.
Written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is the enchanting and fantastical story of a young girl who is touched by magic first when she is transformed into a kitten to save her life after she is bitten by a snake and again when she asks a witch to roll back time and undo both events.  When that magic has unforeseen and tragic consequences, the girl sets out to find someone who can help her put things to rights.  On that journey, she meets all manner of animal friends, and some very strange and powerful beings, and learns some important lessons, before, at last, achieving her heart’s fondest wish.  A lovely fairytale filled with delightful characters, steeped in an intriguing tangle of stories and legends, and narrated in a style reminiscent of the people of the Appalachians, this book is sure to capture the imaginations of readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor

Island of Doom by Arthur Slade

Island of Doom
Modo has languished in the house in Montreal where he, Octavia, and Mr. Socrates sought refuge following the destruction of the Permanent Association’s London headquarters.  While Octavia continues her training, Modo has been left entirely to his own devices, punishment for his failure to follow Mr. Socrates’ orders during a recent mission.
Purchased as a small child from a travelling freak show, and trained as a spy because of his uncanny ability to take on the physical appearance of another, the fifteen-year-old has no family beyond Mrs. Finchley, the governess who oversaw his early education, Tharpa, the man who supervised his physical training, and Mr. Socrates, the head of the Permanent Association.  He has secretly cast Mr. Socrates in the role of father, and, though the veteran British agent has rarely given evidence of anything approaching fatherly affection, Modo keenly feels his current displeasure.
He has seen something of Octavia, but Modo’s friendship with his fellow agent has been strained since, despite his misgivings, he gave into her request and showed her his true face.  While he can assume the face and physique of the handsomest of men, Modo’s true features are so twisted and misshapen that those who have seen it name him monster and freak.  While Octavia did not avert her eyes from his face, she did tell the young man that, “[His] was not the face [she’d] dreamed of all [her] life.”
His solitude is interrupted by Mr. Socrates who comes to inform Modo that a mysterious letter has arrived for him.  The letter, which is written in code, is from Colette Brunet, the young agent with France’s Deuxième Bureau with whom Modo worked to keep project Ictíneo, a technologically advanced submarine, from falling into the hands of the nefarious Clockwork Guild.  Modo and Octavia have grappled on three previous missions with this organization of criminal masterminds that is bent on the bringing down the British Empire and seizing control of the oceans and the skies, possibly with a view to world domination.
In her letter, Colette Brunet tells Modo that he was born in Nanterre to French parents and that those parents are in great danger.  She asks him to come to Paris.  Within days, Modo and Octavia set sail for Paris, sent by Mr. Socrates, who knows his young agent would have gone anyway, to learn what they can about Modo’s family.
From Colette, who has quietly been fired by her French spymasters after reporting to them about seemingly fantastical underwater devices, the two agents for the Permanent Association learn that, eager to acquire a spy of their own with Modo’s extraordinary talents, France’s Deuxième Bureau has been carrying out its own investigation into his background.  They have located the midwife who attended his birth, and a priest at Notre Dame de Paris, where his parents gave him to the church.  Both the midwife and the priest have since met their deaths under suspicious circumstances, clearly the work of the Clockwork Guild.
An agent of the Guild named Lime hunts Modo’s parents.   Lime’s mission is to find and take them to the Guild’s secret headquarters on an island in the Pacific where their blood and tissue will fuel Dr. Cornelius Hyde’s research not only into the secret of Modo’s remarkable transformations but also his extraordinary ability to regenerate body parts.  When Modo lost his little finger in a battle with the Clockwork Guild, not only did that finger grow back but, grafted to the body of a corpse, the severed digit reanimated it. Lime is accompanied by that reanimated corpse.  Typhon is a great hulk of a man whose flat, death eyes and formaldehyde stench mark him as one of Dr. Hyde’s unnatural creations, and who bears on one over-sized, grey-skinned hand one perfectly normal, pink little finger.
At Colette’s urging, Modo infiltrates the offices of the Deuxième Bureau and narrowly escapes after his presence in detected.  Pursued by French agents, the three young people seek refuge for the night in Notre Dame de Paris, where Modo uncovers an unexpected part of his past.  With Octavia and Colette, he travels first to Nanterre and then to Montreuil-sur-Mer.  There they spot and follow Lime and his unnatural minion.  Though they fight valiantly, the trio is unable to avert the capture of Modo’s mother.  Confused by his sudden feelings for the woman who abandoned him at birth, and depressed and angry that he has not been able to prevent her kidnapping, Modo returns with Octavia to Montreal and Mr. Socrates.
Meanwhile, the head of the Permanent Association has poured over intelligence and has decided that the Guild’s headquarters must lies somewhere in the Pacific.  Mr. Socrates has also deduced that the Guild’s interest in Modo’s parents must be tied to the young agent’s extraordinary regenerative powers.  He and Tharpa accompany Modo and Octavia across Canada to Esquimalt, and the headquarters of the British Pacific Fleet.  There Modo and Octavia train while Mr. Socrates awaits further intelligence.
When an agent arrives by sea to confirm the exact latitude and longitude of the Clockwork Guild’s island fortress, Mr. Socrates heads a cunning dawn attack in which he deploys the Permanent Association’s newest weapons.  Modo and Octavia will land quietly on the far side of the island, away from the battle, charged with rescuing the young agent’s mother, but will they be able to find her in time?  And will the combined efforts of the Permanent Association be enough to prevail in a fight against Guild’s technologically advanced devices and a dreadful new army of the undead?
Written by Arthur Slade, Island of Doom is the fourth book in the Hunchback Assignments series about Modo, a young British agent whose extraordinary gifts are balanced by a terribly deformed face and body.  Determined to acquire just those gifts, the Clockwork Guild finds and kidnaps Modo’s mother to investigate whether their shared blood and tissue holds the key to his abilities.  For Modo, who longs for acceptance and love, it will be a heart-wrenching and liberating mission.  This absorbing  and deeply affecting story about good and evil, power and its abuse, love and rejection will thrill and provoke thought among readers from Grade 4.
FernFolio Editor