Rave Reviews Log: Mysteries & Suspense

August 28, 2008

The Seer of Shadows

By Avi
Rating: 4 stars

In this ghost story, Horace is working as a photographer's apprentice in New York City in 1872 when he and his master are contracted to take a photo of the wealthy Mrs. Von Macht. Mrs. Von Macht wants to place a photo of herself on the grave of her recently deceased daughter, Eleanora to comfort her ghostly soul. Horace's master Mr. Middleditch decides this is the perfect opportunity for a hoax that may bring them more business and money--he will have Horace secretly take a photo of a picture of Eleanora in the house and Middleditch will put the exposures together to make it look like the ghost of Eleanora is in Mrs. Von Macht's picture. But Pegg, the Von Macht's servant, lets Horace know that the grief of Mrs. Von Macht is false--that Eleanora was an adopted niece and was neglected by the Von Machts, leading to her death. Horace is reluctant to particpate in Middleditch's scheme, but when he develops the few pictures he has taken, he is surprised to see an image of Eleanora--not from a framed photo but like a real person in the background. As Horace tries to make sense of what is happening, Pegg fills him in on the real situation at the Von Macht's home and Horace realizes whether he can prove it or not, he is able to see ghosts and bring them into being by taking their photographs. And what does he do now when he unintentionally brought Eleanora back and she's bent on revenge? This is an interesting and suspenseful ghost story, with tidbits on early photography that will keep readers quickly turning the pages.

August 12, 2008

The Calder Game

By Blue Balliett
Rating: 4 stars

Fans of Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 will cheer that their heroes Petra, Calder and Tommy are back in action. The trio are now in 7th grade and a bit miserable as their new teacher, Ms. Button, is uptight, unoriginal and looks to make the school year terrible. But even Ms. Button can't completely ruin a trip to the museum where a sprawling display of Alexander Calder's giant mobiles are being shown. Calder was named after the artist, and is particularly interested in a room where people are encouraged to play "the Calder Game" and create their own mobiles. Calder is also thrilled to be going on a trip to England while his father attends a conference. To their surprise, an Alexander Calder sculpture has recently been donated to the town they are staying in and the townspeople are less than happy about it. Then on the day Calder goes to visit nearby Blenheim Park, both the sculpture and the boy disappear. What happened to them? Is it connected? Petra, Tommy and Mrs. Sharpe race over to England to begin investigating and time is of the essence when missing persons are involved. Can Petra and Tommy overcome their dislike of each other to find Calder? As in the other books, our heroes use math, pentominoes, language, sharp eyes, treasure hunting skills and original thinking to help solve the mystery. Although this story is not as tight as it could be and readers may figure out some of the clues before our heroes, it is still an engaging read, filled with interesting tidbits and some suspense.