I happened to read about this novel on Twitter, and I was instantly drawn in by the beautiful cover illustration Dan Ungureanu. After reading an Amazon review that said it was an American Harry Potter, but better- I figured I couldn't go wrong. And that was the extent of the research that I did for the book. I logged onto my Kindle and downloaded it. I am always looking for books to read aloud to my daughter that are adventurous and keep her wanting to come back to them night after night, so I figured this would be a sure thing since she LOVED Harry Potter. However, once I started reading it, I quickly decided that this book is meant for a much older audience (probably 11 and older) because of the complexity of the historical references. I actually started to read it to Miss M., but when I read ahead to see what to expect, I realized that the locations and settings in this book would be far to complicated to explain to my little learner. That all said, I loved the book. How can you tell? Because even after I realized that it wasn't quite appropriate to read to my daughter yet, I kept reading.Yes, I am an adult reading children's literature.
In the book, the main character, Mattie, goes searching for something to bring in for show-and-tell for her fifth grade class and stumbles upon a spyglass in the attic of her home. The spyglass grabs the attention of her friends (Eddie and Geeta), who follow her after school to the local department store, where Mattie is waiting for her mom to get off work. When Mattie shows the spyglass to Herman Biddle, an old man that works with her mother, he is instantly alarmed and insists that she destroy the spyglass because it will only bring trouble. But it is too late, the spyglass has already chosen Mattie as her mistress, and the evil and sinister Uri Gneezy has already figured out who has the spyglass and is out to get her. Mattie, Eddie, Geeta, and Mr. Biddle set off on an adventure through time to figure what is the best path to take to avoid the pure evil of Gneezy.
The book quickly transports the characters from the basement of Sears in 1968 to Hilter's Nazi Germany, to Russia during the time of Rasputin, to ancient Mesopotamia, and to so many other locations that your head will spin as you take a virtual world history lesson. The characters must follow the path of the eight precious stones, which represent fear, hate, anger, bitterness, envy, duplicity, greed, and despair, in order to ward off evil. Thus, the backdrop of the story is the classic tale of good versus evil, but the author is able to weave into this story the complexity of multiple world religions across the span of thousands of years. She does not pit one religion against one another, but instead shows how the goodness of humankind can work in concert to fight evil.
The author uses a complex vocabulary that is stimulating and refreshing in children's lit, but I imagine that this book might be a little overwhelming at first for the young reader given the sheer number of characters and settings. I was happy that I had the novel on my Kindle because I am ashamed to admit how much world history I either forgot or never learned. I kept looking up and cross referencing things in the book to decipher what was fact and what was part of the fictional novel. That said, this is a well researched novel. The book packs a whole lot of accurate historical information while maintaining the intriguing, whimsical mystery of the adventure.
I am excited to read the next book in the series to see where Mattie Spyglass will head to next.