Cooper and the Enchanted Metal Detector by Adam Osterweil

coopermetaldetector Genre:  Juvenile Fiction

Audience: Ages 10+

Rating (out of 5): 2

The Story (in 5 sentences or less) :  Cooper is a boy that lives with his mom on a farm in New York state where they run an antiquing business out of their barn.   But business is slow and money is tight ever since Cooper’s younger brother passed away and his dad left.  His life changes when he is given an enchanted metal detector that can talk.  Using this magic machine, he begins digging up musket balls in his yard and learns that his house is on the exact location of the Revolutionary War Battle of Newton.  Cooper must use his friendship with Mr. Shepard, the local historical museum director, to fight off government bids for their land.

My Take:  Somewhere within this prolix, sometimes clumsy book is a much better book.  I applaud Osterweil’s premise of a young man delving into antiquing and amateur archaeology.  I appreciated the parts where Cooper was on the hunt, digging up artifacts in his back yard and matching them up to local history.  Less enjoyable for me were the mystical parts of the book in which he communes with his dead brother, the planet earth, spirit wind, etc.   I found that the anthropomorphic objects slowed the pace of the book and were sown awkwardly into the narrative.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to his website, Adam Osterweil   “teaches junior high English at Springs School in Springs, New York. His hobbies include kayaking, historical research, and metal detecting.”

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James and Christopher Collier

During this entire book, I was awaiting for two things: 1) for Sam to die and 2) for the protagonist Tim to pick a side in the Revolutionary War.  But Sam doesn’t eat it until page 208!  And Tim never makes up his mind whether he wants to be a Tory or a Rebel.

The first half of this book is rather slow.  Much of it takes place in the town of Redding, Connecticut during the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.  Tim’s brother Sam has decided to defy his father’s wishes and enlist in the Continental Army.  Tim feels torn over who which side to support and his ambivalence only increases when his father is kidnapped by Rebel outlaws and a group of British soldiers brings havoc to Redding.  The last third of this novel is worth the slow beginning.  Younger readers may be rattled by some of the graphic violence.  Overall, a great historical fiction read for ages 9 to 12.   It truly earns its place as a Newberry Honor Book of 1975.