First off, I have an important announcement. My inaugural post for Project Mayhem is today. Please, if you have a moment during your Marvelous Monday Meanderings, I would love it if you would pop over there to say "hi!"
And, with that out of the way, let's turn to the book of the moment, Phoebe Stone's The Romeo and Juliet Code (Scholastic/Levine 2011)
the Cybils. So far, 104 realistic middle grade novels have been nominated (there's a separate category for fantasy/sci-fi) and so I and my fellow panelists have been wearing out our eyeballs reading.
One of my faves in the vast tide is The Romeo and Juliet Code. Here are the opening lines: "I was always told that my dad, Danny, loved danger. I was told that he was a bit reckless and daring. And that's just the way he pulled the car up into the sandy driveway at my grandmother's house in Maine. We could see the ocean below us crashing and pounding against the jagged rocks. Danny seemed to put the brakes on just at the edge of the cliff."
It's a great opening for a book that is about "being at the edge of a cliff." Set in 1941, the United States is just months from being sucked into the world war. The narrator, 11-year-old Felicity Bathburn Budwig, is being brought from England (her mother, Winnie, is English) to escape war-torn London. Her relatives, the eccentric Bathburn clan, have all sorts of secrets and mysteries and that is what drives the book's engine. Why is Uncle Gideon so angry at his brother Danny? Who is the mysterious Captain Derek, and why is his room off-limits in the Bathburn house. There's a strong steak of The Secret Garden in all this, and Flissy (as her grandmother nicknames her) becomes something of an expert in Frances Hodgson Burnett.
I couldn't put this book down. (As an English expat, I'm a sucker for books dealing with an English person's experience in the U.S.) Flissy is given to much generalization about the British ("British children on the whole never hide or snitch or lie...) And there is also a code that has to do with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (and I love my Shakespeare.)
My only question really is whether this book, beloved by me, would be popular with today's American teen, for whom 1941 might as well be 1541. I think the publisher must have had similar qualms, because the cover is misleading in its modernity (pink and black Converse in the 1940s? And, heavens forfend, Flissy is not the kind of girl to wear sneakers.) Nevertheless, if you have a reader who loves a good mystery, I would definitely give it a try.
I'm looking forward to reading other MMGMer's reviews. You can find their blogs on my sidebar!