Friday, March 28, 2008

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

"Mr. and Mrs. Watson have a pig named Mercy."

That's a fact, but Mr. and Mrs. Watson treat Mercy like their own child. There's the bed, the goodnight song, the climbing in between them to sleep in the night, and the hot toast with a great deal of butter on it. Mercy likes hot toast with a great deal of butter on it.

One morning the family, Mr. and Mrs. Watson and Mercy between them, awakes to the sound of the floor beneath them cracking. Seems adding Mercy to the bed was too much for the floor to handle, and they have begun to fall through. As the floor BOOMs and CRACKs, Mercy escapes to solve the biggest problem she's faced in some time.

She needs a snack.

Maybe there's hot toast with a great deal of butter on it in the kitchen. Nope. Aha! Her neighbor, Baby Lincoln, often has sugar cookies! So Mercy gallops off to find some cookies, and we meet Baby and her sister Eugenia.

Unfortunately, Eugenia is not nearly as sweet at Baby (or the sugar cookies) and believes pigs should not be neighbors. Pigs should live on farms. Phone calls are made, emergencies are declared, a chase occurs, rescues are made, and everyone (well, almost everybody) lives happily ever after celebrating their little "porcine wonder."

And of course there's hot toast with a great deal of butter on it.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue has pictures on nearly every page that add perfectly to the silliness of the story. New readers will easily be hooked on this early chapter book series. Experienced readers will enjoy it too, not because of the success they feel from reading their first chapter book, but because it's fun. I think that's the best way to describe it. Fun!

Other Mercy Watson books: Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, Mercy Watson Fights Crime, Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise, and Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (July 2008).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader For Kids Only! by the Bathroom Readers' Institute

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader For Kids Only! is a collection of all the information kids never knew they wanted to know. It's got a bit of everything! Randomly ordered articles touch on topics that also seem randomly chosen. You'll soon realize, however, that there is one underlying fact about all the chosen topics. Kids love them. Randomly opening the book right now I found How to Read a Dollar Bill and Today's Forecast: Rain...With a Chance of Frogs and The Birth of the Burger.

According to Uncle John's introduction, the book includes articles about gross stuff (boogers, farts, burps, dandruff, the digestive system, and his personal favorite, bellybutton lint), weird weather facts, stories about amazing kids, Jabberwocky, Sacagawea, jokes, video games, the origins of various toys, dumb crooks, sports superstitions, movie bloopers, and cartoon characters. Like I said...a bit of everything.

(Hey grown-ups, two things. First, I understand this isn't "literature." But remember the goal. Get them reading. We'll worry about appreciating the classics later. And second, don't worry. There's 20 Bathroom Readers in the regular series plus numerous spinoff series for you too.)

The original idea behind the Bathroom Readers was to have something available in the ... I mean when you ... well, uh ... well, sometimes you have to sit for a bit, and sometimes you have to sit a bit longer. Know what I mean? And Bathroom Readers have short, medium, and long sections to cover whatever your needs may be.

This is the beauty of the book. Kids can jump from topic to topic quickly or find longer articles that keep their interest. It's not meant to be read cover to cover, although that's fine. But flipping through the pages just to see what you'll find is half the fun! Kids will feel like they have learned tons of information (because they probably have!) even if they end up randomly reading only half the book.

For more information you can check them out at, and always remember what Uncle John says: "When in doubt ... Go with the Flow!"

Other books in the series include: Electrifying, Top Secret, Strange and Scary, Under the Slimy Sea, Wild and Wooly, and Did You Know...? (All are actually titled Uncle John's ------ Bathroom Reader for Kids Only!) and Uncle John's Book of Fun.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine, a third grader, lives with her artist mother, her father who manages the apartment building where they live, and her three-year-old brother Spinach. Or Radish. Or is it Rutabaga? Pea Pod? Well, whatever his real name is, it's not a food. Clementine got stuck with a fruit name and the only thing worse than a fruit name is a vegetable name, so Clementine's collected lots of vegetable names for her brother.

On Monday she ends up on the principal's office. Something about Margaret's hair. On Wednesday Clementine's plan to make Margaret feel better plops her back in the principal's office. Something about Clementine's hair.

"Clementine! What have you done?" asks Mrs. Rice.

"Wow! Clementine and Rice! We both have food names!" Clementine responds.

You see, Clementine always pays attention. It's just that adults seem to believe she should be paying attention to something else. Okay, fine.

But Clementine's week gets better, even though Friday's breakfast eggs had clear parts in them. She is promoted to captain and then sergeant in the Great Pigeon War. She doesn't miss her cat, Polka Dottie, quite as much. Margaret and her mother are even coming around. And, believe it or not, her parents aren't getting rid of her, even though she overheard them say, "One's all we need."

Judy Moody. Ramona Quimby. Make room, ladies. There's another young lady on the block.

And she fits right in!

Other Clementine books: The Talented Clementine and Clementine's Letter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Travels of Thelonious (The Fog Mound - Book #1) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller

Thelonious Chipmunk lives in his own place on the river in the Untamed Forest. Even though he's grown he still believes in the old legends of humans. There was a time, the legends say, the time of Human Occupation, when humans lived and animals only spoke in the low language of grunts and growls. Thelonious keeps a human artifact, a large photograph of a tall building created by humans.

But the old legends are just myths.

When a storm comes and washes away Thelonious's tree, he struggles to survive in the raging flood waters until he washed up on the shores of the City of Ruins.

Where he learns there is truth to the old legends!

Nearly tricked by one of the Dragon Lady's lizard spies, Thelonious escapes and luckily finds a friend in the city. Fitzgerald the porcupine lives in a library. He introduces Thelonious to books, canned food, electricity, and clothing. The two go to meet Olive Bear - a flying bear! - and the three plan to get Thelonious and Olive back to their homes.

The three face attacks from the Dragon Lady's ratminks and the mysterious mist of the Fog Mound, Olive's home. The group grows to four and then five with two surprising additions as the travelers try to reach the Olive's peaceful home atop the Fog Mound.

Travels of Thelonious is written in a unique way. Chapters alternate between traditional novel and graphic novel. Oversized and 214 pages long, the book seems daunting at first glance, but young readers find themselves moving quickly, especially through the comic book chapters.

Other books in The Fog Mound series: Faradawn and Simon's Dream (June 2008)

Chasing the Falconers (On the Run - Book #1) by Gordon Korman

Meg and Aiden Falconer live on Sunnydale Farm, a remote juvenile detention facility in Nebraska. Alcatraz Junior, Aiden calls it, with acres of farmland replacing the water. But don’t judge them by where they live. They’ve done nothing wrong. Except their parents have been convicted of aiding terrorists. You think Aunt Mildred (or anyone) wants them under her roof? Children of the biggest enemies of the United States? The Falconer kids? The most despised last name in the country? Yeah, that’ll endear her to the neighbors.

With no one willing to take them, and everyone willing to hate them, Meg and Aiden Falconer become Meg and Aiden Eagleson and are put in Juvie for their own protection. But after a fire at Sunnydale, accidentally started by Aiden, they run.

Knowing their parents are innocent, and knowing that vanished Uncle Frank Lindenauer is their connection to the truth, Meg and Aiden begin a journey to first, avoid the FBI, namely agent Emmanuel Harris who led the investigation against their parents, and second, to find Uncle Frank and prove their parents’ innocence.

Whether by train, SUV, bus, airplane, four-wheeler, bicycle, or their own two feet, Meg and Aiden criss cross the country and manage to stay two steps ahead of Agent Harris, one step ahead of a mysterious assassin they call Hairless Joe, and one step behind Uncle Frank Lindenauer.

Through their ingenuity, clues from their father’s detective novels, a good number of lucky breaks, the Falconer kids get closer and closer to Uncle Frank and the truth that will reunite their family. Pages turn quickly, and each book ends with a cliffhanger. Get the whole won't want to finish one and not have the next.

Other books in the On the Run Series: The Fugitive Factor, Now You See Them Now You Don't, The Stowaway Solution, Public Enemies, and Hunting the Hunter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart has everything for book lovers. Twelve-year-old Meggie is a reader who, when told to pack a few necessary items, first packs books. Her father, Mo, repairs old books, reattaching loose pages and covers and bindings. Their house has books everywhere.

What’s missing is Mom.

Early on we learn that Mo has a special, mysterious talent. He and Meggie both love to read, but when Mo reads aloud – something he no longer does, ever – items and characters from the book come to life. Something from this world, however, then disappears into the book. But where his wife, Meggie’s mom, has gone is a mystery.

Years ago, Mo read Dustfinger out of Inkheart. Dustfinger, who calls Meggie’s father Silvertongue on account of his magical skill, wants to get back into his world…back into Inkheart. But Mo refuses, terrified that something or someone else he loves will disappear. When Dustfinger arrives one rainy night and announces that Capricorn wants the book too and will kill Mo to get it, what follows is an adventure full of chases, double crosses, stolen copies of Inkheart, and travels between fiction and reality.

By the way, about Capricorn. You know how authors create really nasty characters? The baddest of the bad? Characters willing to do whatever evil, wicked, or murderous thing necessary to get what they want? That’s Capricorn. And he’s now in this world too.

There’s more characters and settings and mysterious circumstances than I can mention here. The best way to experience them all is to read yourself into this wonderful book.

Books two and three in the Inkworld series: Inkspell and Inkdeath (English translation - October 2008.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Everest, Dive, and Island Trilogies by Gordon Korman

The settings of Gordon Korman's three adventure trilogies - Everest, Dive, and Island - go from the tallest peaks to the deepest seas, but the action and page-turning suspense stay in one place. High.

The prologue of Everest Book One: The Contest, takes place at a funeral. A normal funeral, save one detail. The body is missing. Not missing, exactly. Everyone knows the body has remained on Mount Everest for an eternal frozen rest. But readers don't know who, and as more characters are introduced, a cast of kids each seeking to be the youngest to summit Everest, the tension and suspicion mounts as to whom it may be. Readers are slowly introduced to the supplies, skills, and demands of mountain climbing. Then, as the extremes of Everest are explained, readers see why summiting Everest isn't a kid's game.

Dive Book One: The Discovery begins with a flashback to 1665 and the sinking of the Griffin. Sinking with the ship is "a fortune that would have turned the head of the king himself." Then it's Chapter One and off to the present were we meet Kaz, the first of 4 main characters, on a catamaran bobbing - where else? - in the same Caribbean Sea where the Griffin went down. As the 4 kids, each with differing levels of experience, get accustomed to diving together, they learn that they are involved in more than a memorable summer experience. They are being used in dangerous mission by dangerous people in a quest for - what else? - the Griffin's treasure. So they decide that rather than be used by iniquitous adults, they'd simply beat the grown-ups to it.

The Island Trilogy is a kids' version of Survivor, minus the $1 million. Six kids are sent to Charting a New Course. The reasons are all different except that the reasons are all disciplinary. The discipline, demands, and hard work of being the Phoenix's crew will change any problem child into a model citizen. Or so the theory goes. When these six problems find themselves alone and sinking, what little they've leaned about survival and teamwork is put to the test as they must survive on a deserted island. Throw in a case of amnesia, do-it-yourself surgery, drug smugglers, and some World War II Pacific island history, and the excitement never ceases.

Korman has said that his research wrote the books. The books are accurate, whether it be mountain climbing, scuba diving, or sailing or the dangers involved with each. His research is evident, but readers must pay attention to the details or risk missing a nugget needed to fully understand a world they may only experience through books. All readers will enjoy the action, but those willing to put in the effort to get the little stuff will be extremely satisfied.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola

26 Fairmount Avenue is named for the address of 4-year-old Tomie's new house being built in 1938, and 1938 was full of grand events in Tomie’s life.

A hurricane hit his hometown of Meriden, Connecticut. Tomie witnessed a boy fly in the air under an umbrella just like Mary Poppins!

Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Tomie gets to stay by himself after Mom takes terrified brother Buddy to the lobby, but the movie doesn’t meet Tomie’s expectations. “The story’s not over yet,” Tomie yells in the theater. “Where’s the wedding? Where’re the red-hot iron shoes that they put on the Evil Queen so she dances herself to death? Mr. Walt Disney didn’t read the story right!”

Tomie gets to start kindergarten, but when his teacher says students don’t learn to read until first grade, Tomie matter-of-factly states, “Fine, I’ll be back next year,” and goes home.

Most importantly Tomie’s family is building a new house on Fairmount Avenue, and that is an adventure all its own. The hill on which the house is built grows (really!). The street turns to mud. There’s a fire (but not the house). Finally, after a long wait, the family moves in.

Readers will love learning more and more about Tomie and his extended family. As the series continues, Tomie grows into first and second grade and eventually relates how World War II affects him and his family. Throughout the series dePaola’s voice never wavers, always accurately displaying childhood innocence through humor and joy, but also through sadness and warmth.

Other books in the 26 Fairmount Avenue series: Here We All Are, On My Way, What a Year, Things Will Never Be the Same, I'm Still Scared, and Why?.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Action. Suspense. An evil villain. Narrow escapes. Explosions. A high-security compound. Disguises. An assumed identity. Clever gadgets. An accident? A murder! A plot for revenge that involves killing hundreds of thousands. And a kid who saves an entire country.

Yes! On to chapter 2!

Okay, okay, the pace of Stormbreaker isn't that frenetic. Not quite, anyway. But close.

Alex Rider has been raised by Uncle Ian. After Uncle Ian dies in a car accident, Alex goes to investigate. He discovers Uncle Ian's car in a salvage yard with bullet holes in its side. As Alex looks for further evidence inside, the car is moved to the compactor, with our 14-year-old protagonist inside. What follows is narrow escape #1.

If you look close at this point you will see the hook using the book as bait. Rarely - very rarely - do the first chapters fail to hook 10, 11, and 12-year-old boys. Watch these boys. They'll sniff it. Look at it hesitantly. Glance around to see if others are reading it. Then suddenly, after about two chapters, it's GULP! They're hooked and well on their way to books 2-7, breaking only to eat, sleep, and race to the teacher's desk to say, "Listen to this! Alex had to scuba dive, and then this shark..."

In Stormbreaker Alex is recruited by MI6, sort of the British CIA, to continue his uncle's work. (Turns out Uncle Ian was a spy and yes, he was murdered.) He is sent to the compound of the perfectly named Herod Sayle to investigate a deal too good to be true. Mr. Sayle has invented a new computer, the Stormbreaker, and intends to donate them to all the schools in England. But this ain't your granddaddy's Microsoft. Alex witnesses a submarine deliver a secret shipment in the middle of the night, and when a worker carelessly drops a container, Alex witnesses his ruthless murder. Already having seen workers in contamination suits (in a computer factory?), Alex knows something is amiss.

Of course, his communications have been cut to MI6, so he must escape on his own. Unable to contact Mr. Blunt or Mrs. Jones who in turn would send in reinforcements - like adults with weapons and training - Alex must then save the Prime Minister and the lives of countless others throughout England.

High action. High suspense. And a hero not much older than the reader. What's not to love?

Other books in the Stormbreaker series: Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Eagle Strike, Scorpia, Ark Angel, and Snakehead.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

This is one where I'm going to have to trust the kids. These 6/7/8th graders told me they liked it - some raved over it - but it took me forever to finally pick it up. And had those kids not been so insistent, I would have put it back down.

I liked the beginning. Reynie Muldoon is a gifted orphan who answers an ad that reads "ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?" As he completes written tests and tests of character and meets others who have done the same, I grew more and more interested.

Then they meet narcoleptic Mr. Benedict and his assistants Milligan, Rhonda Kazembe, and Number Two, who repeatedly assure the four chosen children that their services are crucial to ending the Emergency created by Ledroptha Curtain. (Here's where I started to tune out. Mr. Benedict assures them. And reassures them. Then his assistants assure them. Then I think he does again. Something like that.) Eventually they agree to help, despite great personal risk, prepare endlessly (and a bit more), and after 152 pages finally arrive at The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to foil Mr. Curtain's evil plot.

Okay, here we go! Time for some serious evil plot foiling!

Actually, it's a hundred more pages of introduction to characters at the Institute who are neither learning nor enlightened. Just frustrating. I thought the middle could have used some editing. To be fair, however, it does include plenty of sneaking around, secret passages, codes, outsmarting those who are supposedly smarter, and evil plot foiling plan making. (Stuff those aforementioned kids loved.)

Mr. Curtain's evil plot is truly evil. Using messages hidden in television, radio, and cell phone waves, he implants messages subconsciously into all people's minds. Eventually, properly brainwashed, the world will allow Mr. Curtain to be it's political savior. But in the end, Reynie (the leader), Sticky (the memory), Kate (the bucket carrier), and Constance (the whiner) triumph. Their escape is a particularly hairy one, there are shocking revelations for some characters, and the ending is left sufficiently open for sequels (The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, coming May 1, 2008!)

The Mysterious Benedict Society doesn't receive my highest recommendation, but I said I'd trust the kids. They liked it. I guess when kids take down an evil mastermind intent on world domination there's something there that attracts young readers.

Humph. Kids...victorious...evil domination...Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Usually when thinking of homesteaders we connect prairie states, the 1800s, Ma and Pa and a house full of children, starting from scratch, and, if more conflict is needed other than the demands of day to day life, throw in a character off to the Mexican-American War or Civil War.

Hattie Big Sky is a homesteading novel featuring none of these. Hattie is a sixteen-year-old girl who inherits a homestead from her uncle - 320 acres in Montana in 1917. The added conflict does involve war, but it is anti-German sentiment and childhood friend Charlie off to fight in the Great War.

One thing remains the same however. Regardless of location, century, or family, life as a homesteader in the United States was never easy.

Hattie arrives in January with ten months to prove up her claim. A house and shed have already been built. Forty acres must be cultivated, and while fence supplies have been purchased, the 480 rods (that's 7920 feet or a mile and a half) of fence must still be built.

Most of the expected ingredients are present. Friendly and unfriendly neighbors. Blessings (like the fence supplies) and set-backs (like learning the fence supplies were purchased on credit.) Gossips and those with no patience for them. Prayers answered both positively and negatively. Bad weather and worse weather. And a new baby.

What keeps a person reading isn't really the story itself. Most readers will understand the story of farming, working, worrying, praying, and working some more. Instead, what keeps readers going is the newness of a homesteading novel in a different era (there's tractors, bicycles, automobiles, and a motorcycle!), the tension of war, both with Charlie away fighting and with Karl, a local German immigrant homesteader, and Hattie.

Hattie, whose most important possession is her mother's backbone. Hattie Here-and-There who wants desperately for a place to call home. There's absolutely no reason that Hattie, this young girl, should be considered the head of household and be trying to prove up a homesteader's claim. But try she does, and readers can't wait to see if this young heroine will succeed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

As a distinguished contribution to children's literature, I can't argue. As a supplement to a unit on Medieval life, I don't know of any better. As a recommended title on the Help Readers Love Reading website,

Other books set in medieval times have won Newbery awards - Karen Cushman's books The Midwife's Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy come to mind - but Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is unique in that it is a series of nineteen monologues and two dialogues rather than a story. Rather than focus on one point of view, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives insight into medieval life from twenty-three different perspectives.

Although the forward states that these monologues can be read in any order, the published order is satisfying, with one leading nicely into the next. Isobel, the Lord's daughter, relates her distress at a gown soiled by a clod of dung thrown at her while walking through the village, then Barbary explains why she did it. Piers, the glassblower's apprentice, describes his anxiousness to learn the skill and please his master. Next, Mariot and Maud, the glassblower's daughters, tell how Piers has won their father's approval and that one may have to marry him. (After much internal debate, Mariot says she will. Maud says she'd rather have the plague or leprosy.)

While the numerous narrators accomplish the task the author intended - to give all her students an equal role in a medieval performance - and give it a uniqueness that makes it distinguished to the Newbery committee, it is this characteristic that keeps me from recommending it. Too many kids looking for escapability in a book aren't going to find it here. Teachers should use it when studying Medieval times. Assign it. Perform it. But I just don't see it being a widely recommended free read.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming

The upcoming fourth graders at Aesop Elementary are called precocious, high-energy, and robust by their former teachers. Bertha Bunz, the lunchroom monitor, calls them just plain naughty.

On the day before school starts there's still no fourth grade teacher. Those former teachers ask if Mrs. Struggles, the principal, has placed a want ad or called the superintendent or spoken with the school board. Mrs. Bunz, in her infinite lunchroom wisdom, suggests a zookeeper.

As Mrs. Struggles struggles, in walks Mr. Jupiter to inquire about the job. He has teaching experience, including head tetherball coach at Matilda Jane's School for Prim and Proper Girls in Las Vegas as well as swimming instructor at Loch Ness Middle School. He's worked with high-energy students, including a year at the Coochie-Coochie Institute for Misbehaved Monkeys. He gets the job.

On the first day the students throw everything at Mr. Jupiter but the kitchen sink. Humphrey Parrot repeats what Mr. Jupiter says. Lil Ditty recites a potty poem. Jackie Jumpbaugh throws paper balls. Ham Samitch launches a lesson about what dung beetles eat. Ashlee A. and Ashleigh B. cheer, and Ashley Z. teases them.

No response.

So they come up with all sorts of ideas involving tacks on chairs, spitballs, tying shoelaces together, and loosening the screws on his chair. But when it comes to actually doing something, nobody has the guts. MORAL: It is one thing to talk about it, another to do it.

And so it goes. Each chapter has a familiar moral, but all are learned through the exploits of these fabled fourth graders. From the boy who cried, "Lunch Monitor!" to not judging a book by its cover (or judging Paige Turner, the librarian, by her cover). From a fifth grade lion who helps a fourth grade mouse to a poetic tortoise and hare. This new twist on old fables will keep you, me, and Mr. Aesop giggling until the last page.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

I don't know about you, but I'm intrigued when the title on a book's cover reads Judy Moody was in a mood. Not a good mood. A bad mood. Why is she in a bad mood? And why does she have that look on her face? Her scowling eyebrow plus that smirking mouth equals mischief, plain an simple.

I know, I know. Never judge a book by it's cover. But the rest of the book doesn't disappoint.

As Judy wakes up on the first day of school, she is indeed in a bad mood. She doesn't want to give up summer, and worst of all, she has no cool summer shirt to wear displaying a cool summer vacation. The first thing she says in the book is, "ROAR!" (How else do you respond when Mom tells you to get up?) However, reminded that she did in fact do one cool thing during the summer, she gets a plain t-shirt and a fat marker and creates her own shirt: "I ATE A SHARK!" complete with a big-mouthed shark with lots of teeth.

The more the reader learns about Judy, the more there is to like. She belongs to the T.P. Club (The T stands for Toad, the P stands for...well, let's just say the P could stand alone.) with her best friend Rocky and Frank Pearl, the boy who eats paste. She collects dead moths, old scabs, fancy toothpicks, designer band-aids, doll body parts, and baseball shaped erasers. She has a brother named Stink and a cat named Mouse and a pet Venus flytrap.

Readers can move quickly to other books of the series, including books about Stink, an activity book, and a mood journal. As Judy would say, "Rare."

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Flush by Carl Hiaasen

Noah's father, Paine Underwood, is sitting in jail for sinking the Coral Queen, a gambling boat harbored in the Florida Keys near where the family lives. Even though the sheriff has said he may post bail and leave, he refuses, choosing to stay in jail to draw attention to the situation.

The situation? Mr. Underwood believes Dusty Muleman, owner of the Coral Queen, has been dumping his holding tank (yes, that holding tank) into the bay. The pollution floats and drifts and washes up on Thunder Beach, a local park.

While Noah's father negotiates the legal system in his less than graceful way (a jailbreak included), the Coral Queen is back in business - both the gambling and dumping business - in a matter of days. So now Noah and his sister Abbey try to nail Dusty in the act. Noah seeks out the help of Lice Peeking, a former employee on the Coral Queen. But when he mysteriously disappears, Noah and Abbey turn to his tatooed, bartending girlfriend Shelly.

They come up with a simple plan: Flush. And flush often.

The book feels like it has numerous endings. Just as you feel the book is about to finish - and a disappointing finish at that - a few loose ends of the plot are exposed and a few more threads are added, until readers are ultimately left with an ending that's neatly tied, complete with a bonus bow on top.