Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Review: The Sorcerer's Letterbox, by Simon Rose

The Sorcerer's Letterbox begins with a mysterious encounter in England, in 1740, between the queen, and a monk known only as Brother William.  The queen fears for the safety of her son, and has a vision that this monk - who has a reputation as a sorcerer - has something for her that will protect him from harm. He does indeed, and hands her what appears to be an ordinary box before she hurries away.

Who is Brother William?  What was the queen's vision?  And how is an ordinary box going to save her son?

The story jumps forward hundreds of years, to a boy named Jack. Jack's father owns an antique shop, and had long ago given him an antique wooden box that had been in his family for generations.  One day, a small drawer in the box popped open, revealing a scroll, containing a letter written in Middle English.  Later, at his father's shop, a mysterious visitor reveals to Jack - who is the spitting image of the boy king, Edward V - that he is the only one who can respond to the scroll.  "Lives are at stake!"

Thus begins a time-traveling thrill ride that pits Jack and Edward against the king's nefarious uncle, who intends to kill Edward and his brother in order to keep the throne for himself.  The two boys are aided in their adventure by a girl named Meg, who knows her way around the hidden passages in the castle where the boy king is imprisoned with his brother.  Together, Jack and Meg work to try and save Edward and his brother from certain doom.

This book is a spine-tingling journey through space and time, filled with danger, evil plots, and seemingly impossible situations, with lots of plot twists, turns and surprises to keep the reader on the edge of their seat!

For Teachers and Librarians:
This book is based on the historical story known as The Princes in the Tower, where King Edward IV of England died, leaving his young son to be crowned King Edward V at 12 years old.  But, Edward IV's brother Richard took the throne for his own by exploiting a technicality, and imprisoned Edward V and his brother in the the Tower of London. They were gradually seen less and less until no one saw them out at all.  The suspicion was that Richard killed his nephews, but it was never proven, and conspiracy theories abound.  This book would be a perfect accompaniment to an English history unit.  Or a unit on the English monarchy.  Or a mystery unit.  The possibilities are endless!  

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
This is a great book to get reluctant readers excited about reading.  Full of action, adventure, mystery, and a hint of rebelliousness, they can't help but get pulled into the story, either by reading it themselves, or having it read to them.  It is a good way to get them interested in history, as well as mystery books.  Once they've read this, it would be so easy to help them go online or to the library and find out the real details of The Princes in the Tower, and perhaps find more mystery books, to keep them reading.

For Kids:
The Sorcerer's Letterbox has it all: mystery, adventure, kids in charge, time travel...  Imagine, four kids are the only ones who can save the true King of England!  They have to battle evil uncles, wiggle through secret tunnels underneath a moat, sneak through hidden passages in castle walls, escape from peasants hoping to turn them in and collect a reward, all while trying to be sure each of them ends up in their right time without losing their lives in the process.  Do the princes survive?  Does Jack ever get back to his own time?  And how does Meg figure into all of this?  Curious?  Then go pick up the book and get started... you won't be disappointed.

For Everyone Else:
This is a great book for the history buff - history from a kid's perspective is quite different from The Establishment's point of view.  No one really knows what happened to The Princes in the Tower, but the author provides an interesting possibility.  Those who love a good adventure or mystery book will find it equally interesting.  Though written for the 9-12 set, there is a lot here to keep the 12+ set coming back for more, too.

Wrapping Up:
The Sorcerer's Letterbox is the perfect combination of history and fantasy.  Hurry to the store or the library, find it, and start reading!

Title: The Sorcerer's Letterbox
Author: Simon Rose
Cover Illustration: George Juhasz
Pages: 114
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Tradewinds, March 2006
Edition: paperback
Language: English
Published in: Canada and the United Kingdom
Price: $7.95
ISBN-10: 1896580521
ISBN-13: 978-1896580524

1 comment:

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