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“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.”
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Summary: This is NOT Cold River Middle School, Maine. When Falcon (13) and his friends Max and Megan get off Bus #13, they discover that they've been transported to the Academy of Monsters. Then it gets weird: their parents forgot to tell them they are monsters! The purpose of the academy is to teach the students how to suppress their monstrous tendencies. Forget to "act human," and you can fall into the hands of the Guardians (a monster hunting group). Max is a Sasquatch, Megan an "Elemental." Falcon is a mystery. No one is sure what he is, and without that knowledge, he remains an untrusted outsider. When danger threatens the Academy, Falcon and his friends must decide what's important: saving themselves, friendship, leadership, or following. This is the first book in a middle grade fantasy series.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 10 and Up
Interest Level: 9 to 12
Reading Level: 4.4
Age of Child: Read with a 10-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: We read this one after Falcon Quinn and the Crimson Vapor. Our daughter liked that book and wanted us to find others. She asked us to stop reading this one about halfway through.
Adult Reader Reaction: The story has life lessons and humor that will resonate with teens and their parents. The cast of characters and their personalities transcend the school they attend. I liked the author's attempt to demonstrate the importance of being true to who you are, but overall the story fell flat for me.
Pros: Every reader will find himself / herself (or their friends!) at the Academy of Monsters. Humor, suspense, and the ever-present "what next" will keep readers turning the page well past lights out.
Cons: This is not Harry Potter. The plot has many of the classic elements that make a great story (good v. evil, variety of characters, hero who is trying to figure out who he is). Comparing Falcon Quinn to Rowling's series is like comparing apples and bananas.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. For kids who like humor and fantasy combined, this can be a fun read aloud.
Educational Themes: There are several layers to the story that can start conversations with teens: relationships (including strained relationships with parents); dealing with cliques and bullies; trust (yourself and others); feelings (loneliness, confusion, et al); and friendship.
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, magic, humor, life lessons, friendship
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.