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Summary: Summer is here, and Bailey and her friends are looking forward to some fun times. One of their projects is to convert an old chicken coop into a theater and write and perform a play for the neighbors. They also can't wait to explore the secret staircase in the newly restored Keswick Inn. L'il Bonbon, one of the guests at the inn, has some acting experience and inserts herself into their production. Play preparations quickly turn to drudgery when L'il Bonbon starts bossing them around. But they're just kids. What are they supposed to do about it? And exactly what will they find behind that secret staircase? Bailey Fish has lots tod eal with in the fifth title of this middle grade adventure series.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, middle grade reader, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Interest Level: 8 and up
Reading Level: 5.4
Age of Child: Read with and by an 8-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Many a night our daughter asked us to read one more chapter or to stay up 5 more minutes to read some herself. She was very anxious to see what happened to L'il Bonbon, what was "in" the staircase, and whether or not Noah found Clover (his dog). This was the first book we'd read with her, and she has asked to read them all.
Adult Reader Reaction: These are great stories. The author has done a masterful job setting up L'il Bonbon as a bully. For the longest time I was inclined to think of her as a villain, but the author shows you the problem with judging people! Very effective. I like the mix of characters, from the adopted boys to Sparrow, who is wheel-chair bound, and Bailey, who lives with her grandmother.
Pros: Lots of action, characters kids will love (and love to hate) fill this summer-time adventure story.
Cons: None, really. I wish Dr. Robinson (the historian studying the Battle of Fredericksburg) would have had a stronger role.
Educational Themes: There are lots of themes to explore, from the feelings and perspectives of individual characters, to over-bearing adults, to problem solving and the consequences of pranks.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 5.4. The author 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 - adventure, mystery, cross generations, bullies, series book
Date(s) Reviewed: May 2010
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