Three Books Sure to Delight Young Readers
Love Among the Walnuts
By Jean Ferris
Harcourt, 2008, $6.95
Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs
Minerva Clark Gets a Clue
By Karen Karbo
Bloomsbury, 2008, $16.95 and $6.95
Ever read a book and think, "What was that?" yet be smiling with amusement nonetheless? That pretty much summarizes "Love Among the Walnuts" by Jean Ferris. It's fairy tale meeting Nickelodeon.
The author obviously has an ongoing, thickly preadolescent sense of humor -- and it's delightful. The main characters are cartoon-worthy, with initials that spell out words like "HA!" and predisposition to kindliness. With childish affection and unending goodwill, multi-millionaire parents escape to a country estate, where they and their faithful butler raise only child Sandy.
Of course there has to be conflict, and it comes not from Walnut Manor, the "loony bin" next door to their country estate, but from greedy relatives eager to do away with the heirs to the family fortune. When the parents and pet chicken are poisoned by the antagonists, it turns out that a lovely but verbose nurse and the "loony" neighbors end up being their salvation. It turns out the Walnut Manor "inmates" aren't loony, just misunderstood. The greedy villains are eventually revealed through their arson, poisoning attempts, and collusion, and Sandy and the nurse end up in love.
The "Minerva Clark" books by Karen Karbo are also delightful stories, though a bit more reality-based. Minerva is a teen who, thanks to an electric shock in a science experiment gone wrong, is free from the insecurities of being a teenager. With the gift of having total lack of self-consciousness, Minerva is able to devote her time to solving crimes.
Pre-teen readers should enjoy the fact that Minerva has a pet ferret she carries with her in her sweatshirt pocket, and should also enjoy her "can do" attitude. In "Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs," Minerva helps society-girl Chelsea de Guzman try to recover a stolen diamond. She unaffectedly pursues the diamond thief through the Guzman mansion and onto a movie set.
Minerva is all teen. She communicates through instant messaging, stays in contact via cell phone, goes wherever her heart leads her, and has the freedom of living with her two older brothers while her father is away (her mother left when she was young). Yet she's refreshingly kind and optimistic. Oh yes, and smart. She always solves the crime.
That said, you know the outcome of "Minerva Clark Gets a Clue." When Minerva's cousin starts buying expensive, flashy clothes and cars, it's up to Minerva to help figure out how she's able to afford the new accessories. When a bookstore clerk that is friends with Minerva's cousin is murdered, Minerva fearlessly tracks down the clues to figure out that drugs are involved.
A common theme in all three books is that goodness and character, though often at war with greed and deceit, ultimately win the day. How refreshing.
Read other reviews by Southern Pines writer Charlene Vermeulen at www.prudereviews.blogspot.com.
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