Monday, 25 September 2017

The Lotterys Plus One

The Lotterys Plus One
The Lotterys Plus One

By Emma Donoghue

I loved reading this book!

The Lotterys are a very unusual family that leads a utopian family life.  They have two moms and two dads and seven children, some of whom are biological children, some of whom are adopted.  This very lucky family won the lottery and as such, none of the parents go to work.  All the children are home schooled and every day is an adventure.

Sumac, age nine, is learning about the Mesopotamians and how to speak ancient Sumarian.  Wood, age twelve, is an outdoorsman and teaches the family about survival skills.  Catalpa, a teenager, is raising guide dogs.  And Brian, age four, wears a red fire truck wherever he goes.  

The Lottery parents are tolerant and understanding, challenging their children to learn new things and taking them on all kinds of excursions.

But things are changing.  PopCorn (one of the dads) has discovered that his father is suffering from dementia and has accidentally set his house on fire.  PopCorn’s dad lives in a small town in the Yukon and the parents decide to bring him to live with them in Toronto.  Although the Lottery children are eager to finally meet another grandparent, he turns out to be a rather unhappy fellow that the kids secretly call Grumps.

Once Grumps moves in, life doesn’t seem as pleasant at the Lottery house.  Fearing this terrible change, Sumac goes on a campaign to get Grumps to move out.  Will she succeed?  Or will she adapt to a virtual stranger living in her happy home?

The Lotterys Plus One is just a downright good story.  Although the Lotterys are different, their lifestyle is very appealing.  What kid wouldn’t want to live in the Lottery house?  If you like realistic fiction about family life, you will love The Lotterys Plus One!

Highly recommended!

Monday, 18 September 2017

York: The Shadow Cipher

York: The Shadow Cipher

By Laura Ruby

The first thing that will strike you about this book is its cover.  It’s the city of New York but in an astounding alternate universe where machines transform themselves and seem almost alive; where the subway (called the Underway) goes both above and below ground and zings riders through a glorious cityscape; and where the United Nations has been replaced by the “Embassy of the Five Hundred Nations, flying the colorful flags of First Nations from the Abenaki to the Comanche, Pawnee to the Sioux.” (p. 153)

In this mesmerizing atmosphere, three 13-year-olds, Theo and Tess (twins) and their neighbour Jaime, are being evicted from their apartment building at 354 W.73rd Street.  Actually, everyone in the building is being evicted and it will be torn down. 
The building, and in fact, much of the New York in this novel was designed and built in large part by the Morningstarrs, siblings who lived in the early 1800s.  Their minds led to the animated present-day New York.  

 But the Morningstarrs left something behind besides the city and all its machines; they left the Old York Cipher, a kind of code, that’s been unsolvable for 150 years.  Legend has it that whoever solves the cipher will find a treasure.  But Theo, Tess and Jaime are hoping that it could also save their home.

The three friends set out on an adventure to solve the cipher, taking great risks as they go.  They ride an out-of-control Underway car and explore a long-forgotten tunnel under New York.  They are desperate to save the place they have lived all their lives and will go to great lengths to do it.  But can they? Or will they go too far and lose both their home and their lives?

This is a great story for those who love an adventure.  Like Book Scavenger and The Blackthorn Key, The Shadow Cipher features lots of code-breaking and cipher solving.  It also features many people of different races who are characterized as intelligent, talented, regular people.  I found this to be a refreshing change.  The book is fairly long (475 pages), so be prepared to really dig in!  This is the first in a series