For 8- to 12-year-olds who crave adventure ala Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket, I cannot more highly recommend the debut novel by Adrienne Kress, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman. Ten-and-a-half-year-old Alexandra Morningside, aka Alex, lives with her uncle and attends the prestigious Wigpowder-Steele Academy. That is, until her new 6th grade teacher, Mr. Underwood, heir to the Wigpowder treasure (as in buried) is kidnapped by pirates, and Alex sets off to rescue him and find the treasure. Along the way, she gets aboard a train speeding to nowhere, encounters a gigantic octopus, makes friends with a talking refrigerator, and is relentlessly tracked down by the horrible Daughters of the Founding Fathers’ Preservation Society. Of course, lots more happens, but you’ll want to read it for yourself!
Kress’ second book, Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate, can definitely be enjoyed without reading the first book (in fact, that’s exactly what I did!) Although Alex does appear (fairly late) in this story, the major characters are Timothy Freshwater, a very smart 11-year-old who’s just been expelled from the last school in the city, and a Chinese mailroom clerk, Mr. Shen, who actually is a dragon but was forced to take human shape for 1,000 years. The day is fast approaching when Mr. Shen will be able to resume his natural form – but only if Timothy can get the meek, little man to the Dragon’s Gate in time.
Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress $6.99 (paperback)
Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate by Adrienne Kress $16.95 (hardback)