“The Collector” by K. R. Alexander

Title: The Collector

Author: K. R. Alexander

Publication Year: 2018

The Plot: During the summer, Josie and her younger sister Anna move with their mom from Chicago out to the countryside. They move into a large house with their Grandmother Jeannie whose health is failing. Their grandmother soon warns the girls not to go into the woods because a mysterious presence named ‘Beryl’ lives there. Mom explains that grandmother Jeannie is making stories up because her thinking is impaired. At night the girls hear strange sounds coming from the woods and wonder if their grandmother’s stories are true?

My Take: The strength of this story lies in its narrative momentum. Author K. R. Alexander chooses to stick tightly to the plot and not give extra exposition or characterization. Readers looking for world building or fully developed characters will be disappointed, but those wanting a snappy ghost story with some good scares will be pleased. Recommended to any middle grade readers who want a spooky story.

One Interesting Note About The Author: According to his website, K. R. Alexander has traveled the world and even spent time as a performance circus artist with a focus on aerial and trapeze skills. He has recently joined Ecologi, an organization that offsets carbon emissions, and pledged to plant 500 trees for every book that he publishes.

“Last Meeting Of The Gorilla Club” by Sara Nickerson

Image result for last meeting of the gorilla club by sara nickersonThe Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less:  Josh has had his imaginary friend Big Brother since kindergarten.  They stayed close and played together until mom lost patience and forced Josh to perform a burial ceremony for Big Brother in the backyard.  He hasn’t seen Big Brother since then, but now, entering 5th grade at a new school, Josh’s imaginary friend has returned.  At the school a boy named Lucas has noticed Josh and also the strange shadow that follows him, even on cloudy days.  Lucas will play an important role as Josh grapples with his new life in 5th grade and the return of Big Brother.

My Take:  The strength of this book is how is takes the inner lives of young people seriously.  When Josh was younger, Big Brother was mostly a playmate with whom to build LEGO creations.  Now as Josh is entering 5th grade, Big Brother serves as that voice to push him out to football games, to go on bike rides with friends, and into the general social scene.  Clearly this imaginary friend serves partly as a vehicle for Josh’s growing psyche that is waking up to the world at large.  Without revealing any spoilers, Lucas’s imaginary friend serves more as a conduit for the grief and shame from an event many years prior.  Nickerson should be given credit for finding a way to explore the anxieties of young people without making it too overwrought or artificial. I found the author’s presentation of the imaginary friends convincing and I never found myself bothered by this narrative device.   Nickerson’s well crafted book asks the reader to consider and respect the complex inner lives of young people.

One Interesting Note About The Author:  According to her website, Sara works part time in a library (yaaay!) and advises that one of the best steps to becoming a writer is to be a reader first.




My Invisible Sister by Beatrice Colin and Sara Pinto

Image Genre:  Comedy

Series?  No

Audience Age:  8-11

Rating (1-5):  3

 The story in no more than five sentences:

Frank and his family have moved to a new town again because his older sister Elizabeth suffers from Formus Disappearus, meaning that she is invisible.  Because of her condition, she rarely adjusts well to new social environments and consequently makes everyone else in the family miserable until they decide to move.  But this time Frank likes his new school and his new friend Charlie and has decided that he must do whatever it takes to ensure that Elizabeth is happy and that the family stays in place.  He helps the neighbors with babysitting and Christmas displays and makes excuses for Elizabeth’s bad behavior.  In the end, he is put to the test when his mom caters a huge town hall party and everything seems to fall apart.

 The best part about the book in 1 sentence:

The best part of this book is when Elizabeth forces Frank to meet Brucey Bruce, the lead singer of the boy band Boys-R-Us!

The worst part of the book in 1 sentence:

The worst part of this book is that Elizabeth is sometimes a too difficult character to like because she comes across as a jerk with some, but in my view not enough, redemptive values.

1 interesting note about the author: 

Beatrice Colin writes mostly for adults and is refreshingly honest in how writing can be difficult:  “as I make my tenth cup of tea, and it’s only eleven am, check my email again and then download another track from itunes, I feel like a total fraud.” (from www.beatricecollin.co.uk)