Monday, July 16, 2012

Surrounded by Sound

You’re comfortably settled in a hammock at the beach enjoying musical alphabeasts (see previous post) with your youngest readers and you wish you had something just as engaging to part the sea of boredom sloshing around your young teen(s). Here’s help in the form of sounds for them, too. And it has nothing to do with ear buds.

SOUND BENDER by Lin Oliver and Theo Baker, Scholastic, 2011.

Leo Lomax is a good kid. Life has turned on him, however. He’s 13, his parents have disappeared in a plane crash in Antarctica, and he and his younger brother Hollis are sent to live with an uncle who makes weird look normal. The setting is New York City, but the Lomax apartment and the creepy Uncle Crane’s Brooklyn warehouse (did I tell you that uncle is creepy?) are worlds apart.

Then Leo discovers his power. He is a sound bender. Objects have memory. That memory is relayed to Leo when he touches the object. For all those tourists who wander around antebellum houses opining, “If only these walls could speak,” Leo would be an ideal travel guide. He could tell them what those walls have to say.

Leo and Hollis do not have to change schools when they relocate, and this keeps them grounded in old friendships. Leo’s side-kick and best friend, Trevor, borders on genius. Leo depends on Trevor’s smarts and his compassion, too, as the plot thickens, and the scene shifts to the Pacific tropics. Not to be overlooked is that special place Leo “goes” when objects “speak” to him. Lots of DayGlo colors there!

The villain is sinister and his henchmen may be evil, but the reader will wonder just how evil they really are. They seem to show up and give Leo a helping hand or a tiny bit of affirmation, just when he needs it the most.

Vivid, action-packed perfectly paced scenes have roots in the movie production background of author Lin Oliver. Pitch and timing are part of her craft. She understands how they work together.

Co-author Theo Baker is Oliver’s son. His fascination with sounds from childhood inspired this novel which will engage and intrigue boy or girl readers. Reluctant reader boys especially will be happy somebody pointed them toward this book.

Lots of threads cross and criss-cross in Sound Bender. Some threads still dangle. Leo’s parents’ bodies were never found. Aha! Could a sequel be simmering on the authors’ back burners? Readers will hope so. This one does.

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