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The Carnivorous Carnival Review

ASOUE_9The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket; Illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2002. 978-0064410120

Synopsis: When Violet, Klaus, and Sunny find themselves at the Calgari Carnival and are forced to disguise themselves as freaks to hide from Count Olaf, the orphans feel like they have fallen even further into despair. Then Olaf announces that one of the freaks will be fed to a heard of hungry lions in order to increase ticket sales.

Why I picked it up: I’m invested….

Why I finished it: As promised, the situation for the Baudelaries continues to deteriorate to the point where the roles are now reversed, and the children are now having to use disguises to try and hide themselves from Olaf. And just when the situation seems the direst, it gets even worse. One of the Baudelaire parents may still be alive after the fire, but it is going to take all the children’s courage and daring to be able to escape from Olaf and figure out how to reunite with the survivor of the fire. The revelation that the answers Violet, Klaus, and Sunny desire about the mysterious V.F.D. are right under their noses proves not to be as big of a help to them as they thought especially when they learn that the fortune teller that will give them what they want is just as unscrupulous as Olaf himself. The plot had a good flow to it, and it kept the action moving along better than in some of the previous books. It seems strange to say that Snicket has finally found his stride, but as depressing as the stories seem to be getting, the more enjoyable they are to read. The Baudelaires lives are unlikely to get better any time soon, but maybe they will be able to find out something that will help them survive their continually worsening circumstances.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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The Hostile Hospital Review

ASOUE_8The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2001. 978-0064408660

Synopsis: Framed for a crime they didn’t commit, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire find themselves hiding out in the half-built Heimlich Hospital with the V.F.D. (Volunteers Fighting Disease). They have a stroke of luck when the three children volunteer to work in the Library of Records at the hospital, where they are able to uncover a shocking secret about the fire that killed their parents.

Why I picked it up: As I have said before, I apparently am enjoying these rather morbid adventures.

Why I finished it: Okay, so, things are starting to look truly dire for the Baudelaire orphans. They are on the run, wanted for murder, trying to hide from Count Olaf and Esmé, they are unable to get in touch with Mr. Poe, and they still have no hints about the meaning of V.F.D. The children seem to find a momentary solace in the Library of Records, which is of course ruined with the appearance of Esmé, whom it turns out is after the same mysterious Snicket file that could give the Baudelaries the answers to their many questions. More puzzle pieces click into place for both the characters and the reader, as we discover that Count Olaf is using anagrams in order to hide incriminating evidence and that the “V” in V.F.D. stands for “Volunteer”, per the few notes the orphans are able to decipher from the remains of the Quagmire’s notebooks. We still have yet to find out more about Beatrice, the missing sugar bowl, and the role Beatrice’s theft of the sugar bowl that lead to this series of unfortunate events. The timeline felt somewhat haphazard in this book, but I can’t put my finger on why exactly the timing of events is bothering me. Maybe it’s because there is less of the chase element between Olaf and the orphans, and now it has become a game of hide and seek. What fate holds for our heroes, I cannot say, but I have no doubt that they will be able to somehow survive these truly dire circumstances.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel Review

city_of_ember_graphic_novelThe City of Ember: The Graphic Novel by Jeanne DuPrau, adapted by Dallas Middaugh, art by Niklas Asker

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. 978-0375867934

Synopsis: It is said that the city of Ember is the only light in the dark world. Without Ember’s great lamps, the darkness would last forever. Now, the lights are flickering, and supplies are running low. When Lina and Doon find an mysterious document that might hold the answer, they must decipher its meaning before it’s too late. – from the back cover

Why I picked it up: I loved the non-graphic novel version and I was curious about the adaptation.

Why I finished it: This is one in a long line of post-apocalyptic stories that have come out in the last ten years that has made an impression on myself as well as other readers. It combines elements from the classics The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Oz and others, yet DuPrau manages to give the story its own distinctive mark. Lina and Doon are young people fighting against a system that their community is gradually coming to see as broken, both figuratively and literally. They are not extraordinary children, but they are clever, and it is this cleverness and resourcefulness that endears them to the reader. Middaugh’s adaptation captures the contrasting desperation and hope of the original novel, while Asker’s art brings to life the decaying city and the eventual illumination of Lina and Doon’s discovery of a world beyond the surrounding darkness. Asker uses muted colors that give each page a sort of sepia tone, as though the reader is perusing an old family photo album and truly capturing the journey from darkness into the light. I would recommend this book for fans of the novel and of course, for a reluctant reader. It’s a quick read that is sure to engage from the first page to the last.

Other related materials: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau; The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau; The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne Du Prau; A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, adapted by Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano; The Hobbit graphic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Charles Dixon, illustrations by David Wenzel; The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel by Philip Pullman; Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler; Coraline: The Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell; The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell;  The Wizard of Oz: The Graphic Novel by L. Frank Baum, adapted and illustrated by Michael Cavallaro; Zita the Spacegirl books by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

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The Vile Village Review

ASOUE_7The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2001. 978-0064408653

Synopsis: With Mr. Poe running out of guardians, he decides to entrust the Baudelaire orphans to the V.F.D. (Village of Fowl Devotees) as part of the “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” campaign. However, the village is not as keen to raise Violet, Klaus, and Sunny after they are accused of murdering Count Olaf (who is really Jacques Snicket) by the famous Detective Dupont (who is really Count Olaf in disguise). The children have also been finding mysterious couplets hinting that the Quagmire triplets are nearby, but with few clues to go on and the town coming after them, the orphans will have to work a miracle to find their friends and escape the village.

Why I picked it up: What’s the opposite of Schadenfreude?

Why I finished it: It becomes clear quickly that the V.F.D. has no real inkling of what the aphorism “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” really means, making all the townspeople – with perhaps the exception of the caretaker Hector – seem brutish and impotent. Violet is quick to point out that having the village raise them does not entail that they do all of the townspeople’s chores, but this does little to deter the Council of Elders (a group of older citizens with crows decorating their hats) and make their situation any more tolerable. The villagers are also fans of the children being seen but not heard, which makes it difficult for the Baudelaires to prove they are innocent of murdering Jacques Snicket. The adults in the book are still predictably incompetent, but this again helps Violet, Klaus, and Sunny shine through with their wit and know-how. The Quagmire Triplets, although they do not make an appearance until the close of the book, are equally clever in their means of communicating their whereabouts to the Baudelaires. Snicket also takes a stab at slant journalism, though it doesn’t seem to add much depth to the story and merely serves to highlight the adult agenda. Fans of the series are sure to enjoy the continuation of this marvelously morbid series, though I am beginning to suspect that there is little hope the Baudelaire children will find any sort of respite.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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Happy Independence Day 2018!

Happy-independence-day-america-2014 (1)

Happy Independence Day 2018!

As we remember the 242nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it’s hard not for me to be reminded about how privileged we are to live in a nation where there is so much opportunity for its citizens. It is not always easy to see these advantages, but in light of current world events, Americans should be so lucky we are living in a land of forward-thinking problem solvers that make this nation great – not unlike the men who founded this nation.

I’ve compiled a list of both historical fiction and non-fiction books that tell the stories of the people and events that shaped our country. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it should be enough to get a conversation started.

However you celebrate the holiday, have fun and be safe!

General History

A History of US: The First Americans: Prehistory – 1600 (A History of US, Book 1) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327151

A History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies: 1600-1740 (A History of US, Book 2) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327168

A History of US: From Colonies to Country: 1735-1791 (A History of US, Book 3) by Joy Hakim; 978-0195327175

The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert; 978-1556524561

The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia A. Pingry, illustrations by Meredith Johnson; 978-0824918941

Guts & Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson; 978-0316312097

American Revolution: A Nonfiction Companion to Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca; 978-0375823794

The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Marie Nonnast; 978-0689718762

The People

Squanto: Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Peter Buchard; 978-0590440554

The Loyalists and The Patriots: The Revolutioary War Factions by Baby Professor; 978-1541911093

George Vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer; 978-1426300424

Who Was Abigail Adams? by True Kelley, illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448478906

Who Was Betsy Ross? by James Buckley Jr., illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448482439

Who Was Ben Franklin? by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrations by John O’Brien; 978-0448424958

George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen

A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky, illustrations by Paul Lee; 978-0763660918

The Role of Women in The American Revolution by Baby Professor; 978-1541911109

One Dead Spy (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Book 1) by Nathan Hale; 978-1419703966

Lafayette! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Book 8) by Nathan Hale; 978-1419731488

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz; 978-0142419861

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown; 978-1596439986

Major Events

What Was The Boston Tea Party? by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Lauren Mortimer; 978-0448462882

You Wouldn’t Want to Be at The Boston Tea Party: Wharf Tea You’d Rather Not Drink by Peter Cook, illustrated David Anstram; 978-0531238561

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters, illustrated by Larry Day; 978-0147511621

Liberty! How The Revolutionary War Began by Lucille Recht Penner, illustrations by David Wenzel; 978-0375822001

What Is The Declaration of Independence? by Michael C. Harris, illustrated by Jerry Hoare; 978-0448486925

What Is The Constitution? By Patricia Brennan Demuth, illustrated by Tim Foley; 978-1524786090

 

 

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The Ersatz Elevator Review

ASOUE_6The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicketl illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2001. 978-0064408646

Synopsis: Being sent to live with Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor (the city’s sixth most important financial advisor) and her husband Jerome (who doesn’t like to argue) is a mixed bag for the Baudelaire orphans. On the one hand, they get to live in the penthouse of a 66-floor apartment building in one of the city’s most fashionable districts. On the other hand, Esmé and Jerome have only taken them in because adopting orphans is a trend and don’t seem to have their best interests at heart.

Why I picked it up: Like I said, I’ve become invested….

Why I finished it: Despite their experiences becoming gloomier and gloomier by the book, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny continue to remain resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity. Their dear friends the Quagmire Triplets have been kidnapped, Esmé is as vapid as Jerome is docile, and Count Olaf is continuing to cook up dastardly schemes to get his hands on their fortune. While I do have to agree with other reviewers that the book feels more like a commentary on the fallacy of fads and the obtuse nature of adults at the expense of the plot (although I would argue that the latter has been present throughout the series (see: Mr. Poe)), readers will still be able to connect with Snicket’s ability to turn clichés on their heads and the macabre humor. The events are simultaneously delighting and unsettling, and while there is perhaps no end in sight for the Baudelaries, they continue to inspire loyalty among fans of the series and capture the hearts of new readers.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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The Austere Academy Review

ASOUE_5The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket; Illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2000. 978-0064408639

Synopsis: Unable to find another guardian, Mr. Poe sends Violet, Klaus, and Sunny to the dreary Prufrock Preparatory School. At the school, they encounter such unpleasantries as a vice principal who cannot play the violin (but insists upon doing so anyway), Carmelita Spats (who is a nasty, dirty, and unpleasant little girl), and a gym teacher with a turban who makes them run laps (who is really Count Olaf in disguise. But for all their misery, the Baudelaires finally have a stroke of luck when they meet the Quagmire Triplets and begin to unravel the mystery behind Count Olaf’s dastardly schemes.

Why I picked it up: I’ve become invested in learning about the fates of the Baudeleaires.

Why I finished it: I am noticing as the series goes on, Snicket is incorporating a rather lot of interesting vocabulary into the stories. It is not to say that I didn’t notice it before – knowing the meanings of long, complicated words is one of Klaus’s interests – but the vocabulary lesson seems to be building upon itself. I also had to have a bit of a laugh at some of the historical references: the Quagmire triplets are named for a famous Spanish actress (Isadora Duncan), the vice principal is named for a former Roman emperor (Nero), and Olaf’s chosen character is Ghengis (as in, Ghengis Khan, conqueror of Asia). Interesting for me as an older reader, and perhaps an astute reader who cares to look up some of the words and names. I am also perhaps disillusioned by the hope of new friends for the Baudelaires, whose friends’ parents and brother met a similar fate as the Baudelaire parents. And maybe I am a little too hopeful that the orphans will be able to uncover the origins of the secret organization of which Count Olaf is a member. And maybe I am a little too hopeful that they will be able to get away from him once and for all, but alas, there would not be more books in the series if that was indeed the case. For all I know, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny will continue to gather more questions than answers, but I also know that the siblings will manage to make it out of things alive and together.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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