Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Explorer’s Code is great for puzzle mystery readers

The Explorer’s Code, by Allison K. Hymas, (Sept. 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250258854

Ages 9-13

Idlewood Manor was a home with a storied history, but has been empty for decades, until recently. The current owner has opened the doors, and a group of guests is coming to stay for a weekend; among them, Charlie, a math whiz who won the trip for his family, and his sister, Anna, who is far less scholastic in her pursuits, but that’s because she’s got the entire world to explore, just like her idol, explorer Virginia Maines. Also visiting with her family is Emily, whose historian parents have their own reasons for wanting to visit Idlewood. The three kids separately discover mysterious clues to Idlewood’s history, and the history of those who lived there; they also notice that other guests seem to have a major interest in unlocking the Manor’s secrets. It’s a race to solve Idlewood’s mysteries, but can the three kids work together to solve them in time? Loaded with actual puzzles, ciphers, and riddles, The Explorer’s Code is full of mystery and scandal,with very likable, realistic characters at its core. A note about ciphers at the end invites readers to test their own coding mettle. The relationships are spot-on, with the ups and downs experienced by Anna and Charlie, who were close when they were younger, but have drifted apart in recent years, and Emily, desperate to make her parents proud of her. Anna and Emily rush into things for different reasons: Anna, because she’s caught up in the spirit of curiosity and adventure; Emily, because she feels like she’s racing against the clock. Charlie is slow and deliberate, thinking things through, which clashes with his sister’s impulsive wandering. Together, these qualities make them stronger – something they have to work on over the course of the story. Perfect for readers who enjoyed Ben Guterson’s Winterhouse, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger series, and of course, Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Teen

The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) makes another classic more accessible to readers

cover57424-mediumThe Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics), by Nathaniel Hawthorne/adapted by Crystal Chan/illustrated by SunNeko LeeĀ (2014, Udon Entertainment/Morpheus Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781927925331

Recommended for ages 13+

Reading the story of Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter is a rite of passage in high school, but that doesn’t always make it an accessible book. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale of adultery and a small New England Puritan town can be difficult for reluctant or struggling readers. Udon Entertainment’s Manga Classics line reaches out to those readers with beautiful art and drills the story down to the main points and action, drawing a reader in and, in essence, teaching them how to read the novel.

As with Udon’s manga adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the main story is faithfully intact, merely abridged for easier storytelling. This is by no means a replacement for the novel, but it serves two tremendous purposes: 1) to bring new readers to the story who may never have picked the book up before, and 2) to serve as a companion read to readers who have trouble with the novel. Manga is a popular art medium that’s been reaching beyond purely Japanese titles and finding a firm audience in American adaptations, from popular YA series like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures to classics like Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice, and now, The Scarlet Letter.

I will be adding this book to my burgeoning manga classics collection. It would a fun display idea to feature the original and its manga adaptation side by side – I’d love to see how it affects my circulation.

The Scarlet Letter will be out in March, but you can pick up copies of Udon’s manga adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Les Miserables right now.