Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Magic Marks the Spot

Magic Marks the Spot
by Caroline Carlson
From the publisher:
"Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other."

While I didn't necessarily want to hug this book when I finished, it had some really delightful things about it. I had the opportunity to listen in a couple of nights this weekend to my daughter reading aloud to her children from the book The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom , and it was so fun to hear it read out loud with different voices for the different characters. I'm going to suggest this book to her for her next read-aloud with her kids. It would also make a great classroom read-aloud. I imagine the audio version of this book is pretty fun as well, so get it for your next road trip. 

Things I Liked :
*The beginning of the book was adorable with the letters to and from Hillary (our main character) and the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. You knew from the first line of the book that this was going to be a fun (and swashbuckling!) read. 
*The Gargoyle! I loved everything about him and couldn't wait for his next appearance. 
*The lighthearted tone of the whole book. Even the big fight on board was hysterical. The worst injury was someone being clocked on the head with a can of beets, everyone else just jumped overboard when they decided to give up on the fight. (This is explained later.)
*I really loved so many of the characters. Miss Greyson, the governess was a delight from the very beginning. She kept her composure and finishing school etiquette even while living on a pirate ship. Jasper, the Terror of the Southlands, was entertaining and endearing (for a pirate :) ). Charlie, Claire, Miss Pimm, all of the different pirates - there were so many engaging characters. 

Things I Didn't Like :
*Every chapter ended with either letters, parts of textbooks, forms filled out, newspaper articles... While some of these were hilarious, some just brought the flow of the book to a complete halt. I'm also concerned that some of the fonts for the letters/correspondence are in cursive, and middle school students (regrettably) can't read cursive anymore. Adults will find these chapter endings charming, but I am betting that most middle school students will just skip right over them.
*Hillary comes from a horrible family and her father is quite evil.

Areas of concern:
*The pirates lust for vengeance, treasure, and overall bloodthirstiness is glorified. 
*Some bullying behavior at finishing school.
*Pirates drinking grog around children.
*Rather silly violence.
(As you can tell, there really aren't too many things to be concerned about in this one.)

Suggested Ages:
Booklist - Grades 4-7
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 10-13

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