This was a gorgeously illustrated and poignant tale of grief and slice of life, with the perfect dash of ghostly asides. I loved it, and would have rated it a full 5 stars if the ending hadn’t been so rushed.
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Sheets was brought to my attention by the lovely Ariel Bissett, who reads such an eclectic mix of books that I've been a YouTube subscriber to her content for years. I feel like giving her a shout out for bringing this lovely book to my attention. Read her Goodreads review here.
Sheets is a very unique middle grade graphic novel, dealing with a young girl in a coastal town who is keeping her family's laundromat afloat—while it continues to sink—after the death of her mother.
Told in BEAUTIFULLY rendered artwork, this was something so, so special.
There's also a ghost—in Halloween-style sheet—named Wendell, who finds his way into the laundromat and ends up in a bit of a pickle. Wendell was a young boy who died and is now trying to reconnect with the world despite the Land of Ghosts rulebook. It's quirky, it's adorable, it's everything.
Now, keeping in mind that this is middle grade, I felt it was really well done. The story has some significant vignettes of grief as it displays in a middle schooler, a parent, and a child. It handles financial struggle in an easy-to-grasp way. It's tastefully funny via Wendell the ghost.
I did think that the ending wrapped up in a fraction of the time it should have, given the pacing of the first 3/4. We should have had more time with that sequence, and I'm puzzled by the hasty ending as the first half was extremely measured in its pacing. What gives? It was mildly irritating, but as the rest of the story was still so strong I went with it.
Definitely check this out if you're a fan of graphic novel artwork or cute middle grade stories. Or if you need something fresh to enjoy over a cup of tea. This was great!
This reads like something I would have devoured as a kid: a great title, a boarding school, some creepy secret societies, found families, and lots of interesting school/research side quests. What can I say, I was always a nerd.
Memorable?: ★★★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane follows the adventures of Emmy, a girl who's father disappeared when she was 3 years old, and who's mother is a child psychology literary star with, ironically, no time at all to raise her daughter by the standards she dictates.
With her mother's career rocketing into the the spotlight, Emmy is shipped away to Wellsworth, a prestigious private boarding school in England. Emmy is not really happy with this turn of events, but a mysterious letter referencing her father compels her to explore Wellsworth...and see if maybe the trail to her father isn't as cold as it appears.
Emmy and her new friends soon discover that Wellsworth is hiding secrets, and those secrets have secrets. Will Emmy discover the truth behind her father's disappearance, or will she find herself at the heart of a larger plot?
I found The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane to be extremely well written, engaging, and worth the time as an adult reader. In a way, it reminded me of old-school Disney movies as the audience is clearly middle grade, but the hints of adult awareness and humor are there. I'd imagine that parents would have a great time reading this aloud to their children.
Excited to see the next installment!
This was so good??? I have not had a middle grade suck me in this intensely since my first time reading Harry Potter—as an actual middle grade-aged reader—so I am shook.
Series potential: ★★★★★
Keeper of the Lost Cities is not your average middle grade read. This is an immersive, well-built, and well-told tale that caters to a middle grade audience mostly due to its 12-year-old protagonist, Sophie Foster. It's not overly simplified. In fact, at times it was more emotionally poignant than some YA fantasies. How has it taken me so long to read this?
Sophie Foster is a 12-year-old girl living in California. She's branded a prodigy as her photographic memory and keen intelligence keep her at the top of every testing bracket, but that's not the main reason she's special--Sophie can hear the thoughts of everyone around her.
One day during a classroom field trip, Sophie meets a boy who also can read minds. He says his name is Fitz, and he's been looking for her for a long time. Sophie is told that her feelings of separation, of "other" amidst her family aren't her fault--Sophie is an elf, and it's time to come home.
Playing on the now popular story line where a Chosen One is discovered in the wrong life and brought back to the fold--just think Harry Potter, I did--Sophie discovers that she is a rare kind of elf, and that the elven society she finds herself in does not know what to do with her. So, they send her to their magical academy to learn more about how to be an elf and how to harness her abilities.
Full disclaimer, I'm a sucker for a well-done Chosen One/magical school trope. Harry Potter reeled me in and I've never really come back. Because of this, I was primed to enjoy Keeper of the Lost Cities. What I didn't expect was to fall head over heels for it.
Things that were amazing: The nuanced discussion of foster case and found families and the issues that spring up as a result of those complex topics, Sophie's sense of fair play, Sophie's dynamics with her schoolmates (painfully real and yet readable), the unique magic system, the GOOD dialogue (middle grade tends to grate on me due to its reading level - it's occasionally dumbed-down beyond what is necessary).
Things that weren't amazing: Absolutely nothing. If I had to pick a negative, I found the beginning a bit slower than the rest as we were stuck in an introduction loop for the elf world and lifestyle. However, that's often the case with this trope so there wasn't really a way around it.
If you enjoyed Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or any novel filled with magical academies and Chosen Ones--or, honestly, even if you're just a fan of fantasy novels--do yourself a favor and pick up Keeper of the Lost Cities. It's a hidden gem and can definitely handle an adult audience.