Happy Summer! There's something about reading in the summer that is simply magical. I love reading under the shade of a big tree, or while swinging in a hammock, and especially while sitting on a beach. I've read two books this week that I really enjoyed and they are fittingly set during a summer vacation!
Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle, starts the way I like all of my books to start- with mention of a long ago mystery and its lingering consequences. Jessie and her family move to a run down rental cottage in a seaside town to try to recapture a simpler time without internet and constant distractions. On the first day, Jessie discovers a huge pond close to her new house and even better- a raft capable of taking her exploring. She soon befriends a local girl named Terri Carr and they start their summer spending long lazy days fixing the raft and having adventures on the pond. As they grow closer, Terri explains all of the local lore focusing on a murder where Terri's grandfather was wrongly accused (so she says). The more Jessie learns of the town's history and of Terri's abusive father and troubled brothers, the more she wonders if being friends with Terri is a good idea. The "no good" Carr family reputation follows Terri wherever she goes and she feels Jessie start to slip away. Soon enough, events happen that paint Terri in a bad light and Jessie must decide whether she trusts her new friend or the town gossip.
This is a very engrossing story. Terri and Jessie's friendship is the main story, but there are many subplots- Jessie's parents crumbling marriage, old Henrietta Cutting's knowledge of the long ago murder and Jessie's older sister Julia's quest for independence. There are actually a few too many subplots happening, and I would have liked the focus to have been solely on the girls' friendship. The story is also wrapped up very quickly. I finished reading with many unanswered questions, but perhaps I am supposed to draw my own conclusions. Putting the abrupt ending aside, this book is a page turner for sure! Ultimately, while this is a story about a summer friendship, it's primarily about how a false accusation can ruin lives and the rippling effect it has on everyone involved.
I have never read anything by Kat Zhang before, but I'm glad I tried The Emperor's Riddle. I usually don't love books set in China, but this one is EXCELLENT! Mia Chen is spending the summer with her family visiting her mother and Aunt Lin's village in China. Mia is very close to her Aunt Lin and is excited to spend time with her exploring history and solving puzzles (their favorite hobby). Aunt Lin has shared stories of ancient treasures with Mia for as long as Mia can remember and their trip to China is the perfect setting to go exploring. One night, Aunt Lin suddenly disappears and while Mia's mother chalks it up to her wandering personality, Mia knows something is wrong. She discovers a clue and a secret map that can help her find her Aunt, and she must convince her older brother Jake to assist her. Mia and Jake face the task of solving a mysterious series of riddles and traveling through a foreign country without telling their mother!
This book was terrifically fun to read! It is a mystery, adventure, and a history book rolled into one. Mia is clever and persistent and her brother becomes a faithful assistant. Each riddle brings them to a different part of China and as a reader, I learned an incredible amount of history. What could have become a complicated story remained light and easy for children to read. The puzzles fall into place quickly and that helps keep the momentum going. The young detectives are very likable and while it's perhaps a far fetched idea that they could actually locate an ancient treasure, this story is exciting and fun. I think it's an excellent summer reading book for children who love following clues!