Friday, June 2

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley (Review and Blog Tour!)

Welcome to Literary Hoots for this stop in the blog tour of The Explorers: The Door in the Alley! I'm excited to share my thoughts on this most adventurous of adventure stories. And talk about a pig in a teeny hat, of course.

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley
Adrienne Kress

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1101940051
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: April 25, 2017
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Mystery
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: adventure, secret societies, missing person, friendship, exploring, maps

"This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer."

Even the summary has the tongue-and-cheek humor that dominates this book from the unknown, omniscient narrator (who even offers snarky, witty footnotes here and there). But the humor from the narrator is a fantastic balance to the perilous, classically villainous, high-stakes mystery that is the story. It felt a bit like a Lemony Snicket book to me. Kress has written a pretty intriguing story, complete with wondrous imagination and extreme characters. But it was slow to start; there's an Alice-in-wonderland touch where Sebastian (our very uninquisitive boy and star character) first "falls" into the Explorers' building--a place that really doesn't follow any normal laws of physics or dimension. It's easy to feel as lost and confused as Sebastian does for these first few chapters. In combination with the heavy narrator voice at the beginning, the story itself just doesn't really kick off until later (like Chapter 6 or so, when we finally have some action). Once it picks up, though, it doesn't stop and I know kids will have a hard time putting it down. And really, it doesn't stop. Right up until the cliffhanger ending (so cruel!).

The characters themselves, particularly Sebastian and Evie (our two heroes) are not particularly well developed (again, more time is spent with the narrator's jokes and setting). Sebastian is very logical and by the book, but seems to have an unexplainable itch for adventure (and it remains unexplainable, at least in this first book). Evie is a dramatic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type that somehow Sebastian gets along with perfectly (despite him haveing a few panic attacks). I'll give Kress the benefit of the doubt, here, because there will be more books in the series where I hope she'll take the time to give these guys a bit more oomph and believability. For this, the first one, their seemingly opposite personalities are what drive the plot and keep things exciting; kid readers are sure to enjoy the characters' toils. Other side characters each have their own extreme personalities which, again, drive the plot and add to the humor.

Overall, it's a pretty great read, perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket, or the recent rise in puzzle adventures (e.g. The Greenglass House and Book Scavenger). Just beware the groans that will inevitably come after reading the cliffhanger.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Don't forget to check out other stops on this blog tour, such as Wednesday's Cracking the Cover and Monday's From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!

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