Children's Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, February 2006

Children of the Lamp by P.B. Kerr

Scholastic, June, 2005
Trade paperback, 355 pages
ISBN: 0439670209
Ages 9 - 11
Ordering information: |

Children of the Lamp
by P.B. Kerr Twelve-year-old twins Philippa and John Gaunt live in New York City with their parents and their two dogs. As soon as they turned twelve, strange things began happening around them. When people wish things, somehow their wishes are coming true: and the twins feel exhausted afterwards. Their housekeeper just won the lottery, for example. And they always seem to be cold. Their mother immediately rushes them off to the dentist to have their wisdom teeth out, and while under the anasthesia, they hallucinate a visit from their eccentric Uncle Nimrod who dresses all in red and lives in London. He invites them to visit him for the summer. It turns out that John and Philippa are djinn (or genies) who have just come into their powers and Uncle Nimrod's message was no hallucination. The twins convince their parents to let them go to London for the summer. Uncle Nimrod takes them off to Egypt, where they are introduced to the ways of the djinn and must pass an initiation test. When an explorer reportedly finds the key to the lost tomb of the Pharoah Akhenaten the twins and Nimrod know that they must find the tomb before the evil djinns find it. The tomb contains enough trapped djinn to alter the balance of good and back luck in the world (the djinn are responsible for this balance) and if someone evil frees the djinn, the world will face chaos and disaster.

Philip Kerr is best known for his adult thrillers, but this imaginative new series is going to mark him as a top young adult author as well. Kerr takes the old stories about a genie in a bottle and turns them upside down and backwards. By making his tween protagonists djinn themselves, he adds another interesting dimension. Their mother, a powerful djinn who has sworn not to use her djinn powers, and their father, a (non-magical), very wealthy businessman, are quite appealing. In fact, the beautiful and somewhat mysterious Layla Gaunt could really use a prequel of her own someday. Kerr keeps the action moving and the dialogue snappy, making for an absolutely riveting read. The Akhenaten Adventure is only the first book in what promises to be a spectacular new young adult series.

--Claire E. White

The Rivers of Zadaa (Pendragon) by D.J. MacHale

Aladdin, April, 2006
Paperback, 416 pages
ISBN: 0689869126
Ages Young Adult
Ordering information: |

The Rivers of Zadaa (Pendragon)
by D.J. MacHale It is interesting to observe the disconnect between what some literary critics think that children should enjoy reading and what they actually enjoy reading. In opposition to the trend of incredibly depressing teen dramas in which students either commit suicide, consider committing suicide or are irreparably damaged by their parents' love affairs or drug addiction, there is another trend in young adult books which harkens back to an earlier era: the exciting adventure story. D.J. MacHale knows what inspires teens' imaginations and he knows how to tell a great story. That is why the Pendragon adventures are so popular.

In this sixth entry in the series, Bobby Pendragon and the athletic fellow Traveler Loor travel via Plume to Loor's planet to stop the evil Saint Dane from inciting a civil war on the planet over the scarce water supply. Bobby is still coming to term what it means to be a Traveler between worlds: he has a duty to use his powers to protect those who cannot protect themselves. He has also come to realize that he really needs to know how to fight: and Loor is just the teen Amazon warrior to teach him. D.J. MacHale keeps the action moving at a breakneck pace. His teenaged heroes are always believable: they have flaws just like everyone else making their extraordinary adventures all the more compelling.

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