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“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,
Material: hard cover
Summary: The Malone family has moved so many times, Poppy keeps a journal. Her parents research the paranormal, and when the grant runs out, they need to get new funding and move to a new university. Poppy is hoping they can stay in this house a long time, but like her siblings, she is more than a little skeptical of her parents' work. Little pranks and mischief seem to befall all members of the Malone family ... and Poppy is determined to get to the bottom of it! But her first clue suggests that "other beings" do exist. Should she tell them? Can she admit to her brother and sister they might be right? Humor not horror fills this chapter book for upper elementary readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, remedial reader, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 to 13
Interest Level: 8 to 12
Reading Level: 3.6
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Despite some of the time-worn imagery (garlic to fight vampires), there are some great laugh-out-loud moments! Poppy is a fun character, in part, because she's struggling with being a "real scientist" and having to deal with pesky goblins that no one believes exists. This would be a great group read aloud.
Pros: Lots of action, quirky characters, and great imagery combine in this story children (including boys!) and parents can enjoy together. Much of the story is driven by dialogue, making it a great choice for dormant and transitional readers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Although we haven't seen book two, you'll likely need to know this story before proceeding.
Educational Themes: Although this is meant to be read for enjoyment, there are a number of themes, including sibling dynamics, keeping an open mind, scientific study (powers of observation), and dealing with doubters. The story has a number of logical places to stop and ask what might happen next or what clues do we have to help us. It's also a great example / introduction to sarcasm, idioms, irony, and stereotyping.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - fantasy, mystery, family, middle grade series
Date(s) Reviewed: September 2011
Other Reviews: See Critics Reviews at barnesandnoble.com; and reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com.