Review: “Sky Jumpers (Sky Jumpers # 1)” By Peggy Eddleman

Through NetGalley, I received from Random House Children’s Book a copy of this book for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.

This novel takes place in a post-World War III world, where “green bombs”, which are supposedly not as deadly as atomic bombs, have decimated the world. The remaining residue of the bombs have rendered all magnetic devices inoperable, and since most of the world was destroyed, the remaining clusters of people must start over from square one for the most part. Because of this, extreme value is placed on the ability to invent, and this process is crucial in the schooling of all children in the city and is encouraged among the adults too.

Most of this story takes place in White Rock, a city located in a crater created by one of the bombs and named after the limestone mines surrounding the city. As the city is a crater with only one pass in and out, it’s very secure from the outside world. Add to that security a layer of dangerous gases above the city, named Bomb’s Breath, which is fatal to anyone who breaths while in that layer. This keeps attackers from coming over the top of the surrounding mountains, as they would never know the layer was there, and they and any other animals with them, would be killed instantly.

Into this environment is thrown twelve year-old Hope Toriella. Her father died on their trek to White Rock and her mother died shortly after Hope’s birth. Hope is strong-willed, very athletic, determined, free-spirited and a natural leader. Oh and she can’t invent to save her life, making her the scorn of much of the city. This also affects her sense of self-worth. One of her skills, which she can only share with her best friends Aaren and Brock, is the ability to cliff dive through the Bomb’s Breath where timing of breathing is literally a matter of life and death. Naturally, if her adoptive parents found out about this hobby they wouldn’t react too kindly.

Things are plugging along for White Rock until one winter, after the pass has been closed for the winter and many of the city’s young men have been sent to a neighboring city on the plains, one without mountains and a Bomb’s Breath to protect them. Bandits manage to find a way into White Rock and, after shooting in the leg Hope’s father, who had stood up as the town’s leader to protect the real elderly leader, demand all of the city’s antibiotics. Not only that, but the medicine must be created and delivered within two days or the bandits will kill most of the city.

In order to save her father and the rest of the city, Hope, Brock, Aaren and, without their knowledge until it’s too late, Aaren’s five year-old sister Brenna, must make a trek through the Bomb’s Breath, to the top of the mountain, then back down the other side through the Bomb’s Breath again, all in an effort to get to the city where their guard is stationed. Their hope is to bring them back in order to repel the bandits and save the city. Oh yeah, this is in the middle of the worst blizzard in recent memory.

Will they make it there and back in time? Can they manage the trek during the blizzard? How will a five year-old manage the trip when they don’t have enough snowshoes for everyone and the others must take turns carrying her? Can they know exactly where the Bomb’s Breath begin and ends while travelling during a blizzard?

This story has plenty of drama and twists and turns, and I really enjoyed it. The Random House Children’s Books website says this book is for eight to twelve year-olds, and that feels about right. There’s very little outright violence, which is sanitized, and death is talked about as a possibility and in an after-the-fact sort of way. There are even slight hints at romance, but not too much considering the ages of the characters.

Eddleman has solid character development for a first-time novelist, leading you to really care about the protagonists and despise the antagonists. This is the first book in this series, and I’m sure it will be successful, as will the follow-up books.

When I read children’s or young adult books, something I really look for, especially as a parent, is whether or not the books teach as well as entertain. In that regard, Eddleman is very successful. In this post World War III world where electrical or magnetic devices are unusable and steel has been weakened by the green bombs, the residents must be creative in how they adapt and re-create what existed prior to WW III, often times in much different ways. This can be demonstrated in how they tackle refrigeration, clocks, antibiotics, farm tools, transport systems, and even a farm implement being re-purposed as a weapon such as a bola.

I definitely recommend this book for children in the recommended age range. But I also believe it could be of interest to young adults and adults.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Review: “The Book Of Lost Things: Mister Max #1” By Cynthia Voigt

Through NetGalley, I was given a copy of this eGalley by Random House Children’s Books for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. Although it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Max Starling is twelve years old when he accidentally gets separated from his parents, who are famous stage performers, as prepare to they sail to India to perform for a royal host. Fortunately he still has his Grammie to rely on for housing and food. But as time goes on, it becomes apparent the trip his parents took was not what it appeared to be at first. When nothing is heard from his parents besides a couple cryptic postcards, Max decides he must be independent.

Fortunately, Max is well-equipped for the task as he knows what it takes to be a good performer, having watched his parents up-close for years. The ability to play roles, including appropriate costuming, ends up being a skill Max is quite adept at, and it serves him well throughout the book.

Things begin rolling for Max when he receives a reward for finding a lost child who actually found him. Suddenly Max is in demand for finding lost things, which eventually morphs into problem-solving. Not quite a detective and not quite sure what to call himself, Max eventually settles on a new title: Solutioneer.

In addition to his ever-present Grammie, supporting characters include Max’s math tutor and roommate Ari and Max’s clever, pesky and loquacious assistant/partner/cohort Pia.

As Max solutioneers others’ problems, the main question remains: can he solutioneer his own biggest problem — what has happened to his parents?

When I saw this book was written by Newberry medalist Voigt, I had high expectations — and Voigt definitely delivers. While this book is aimed at children 8-12 years old, according to Random House’s website, it should be of interest to readers of all ages. There’s no dumbing down of the subject matter and plot. In fact, I suspect there will be plenty of words young readers will need to look up in order to increase their vocabulary, and that’s a good thing. There are even some math and geography lessons thrown into the plot.

It’s ironic this book is written better than an adult mystery book I recently reviewed, as this one is aimed toward children. The clues are there for you to mine if you’re paying attention, and they aren’t thrust into your face in an obvious manner.

The book is obviously the first in a series, and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, as you would suspect. I will absolutely have to check out the remainder of this series as the author produces them.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)