The Girl from Felony Bay

So, I’ve been struggling to finish the last of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. For whatever reason, it’s taken me longer to finish the twenty nominated books than ever before. (I think the abundance of animal books may be to blame.)

Well, last night, I finished another SCCBA nominee (only one more to go!), and this one was probably one of the best of this year’s list. The book was The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson. Even though the book was nearly 400 pages long, I devoured it in less than twenty-four hours. It was excellent.

Abbey Force has had a rough time of it lately. Her father is in a coma and can’t defend himself against some fairly awful accusations. Her beautiful home, Reward Plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off her dad’s supposed debts. And Abbey had to move in with her horrible Uncle Charlie and his wife, Ruth.

But it’s not all bad…

Abbey soon meets the daughter of Reward Plantation’s new owner. Bee Force (no relation) is Abbey’s age, and their families have a connection that goes back to before the Civil War. It appears that Abbey’s ancestors kept Bee’s ancestors as slaves, and Bee’s family took on Force as their last name after the war was over. Even though their family stories could have driven a wedge between these two girls, instead it brings them closer together, and they soon become as close as sisters…and they’ll need that closeness to weather the storm that’s headed their way.

Abbey is determined to prove to everyone that her father is innocent, and Bee wants to help her new friend. It quickly becomes clear that the two girls are on to something, but what? Why are there “No trespassing” signs and big holes around Felony Bay? Why was this parcel of land sold separately from Reward Plantation? Why is Uncle Charlie so smug all of a sudden, and what does the Deputy Sheriff have to do with his new attitude? What’s the connection with Abbey’s dad and the accusations made against him? Can two twelve-year-old girls really prove that something sinister is going on?

Abbey and Bee are working to solve this mystery, and their investigation takes them all over Charleston and Reward Plantation. Danger abounds, and the girls eventually uncover a plot that dates back over a century. Can they reveal the truth before it’s too late? Or will all of their sleuthing make them the next target of whoever is trying to frame Abbey’s dad?

Join Abbey and Bee Force in their quest for the truth when you read The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson!

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I’m sure the South Carolina connection had a little to do with why I enjoyed this book so much. More than that, though, was the excellent, compelling story. I was eager to turn each page and find out what Abbey and Bee were going to get into next. I can only hope my students feel the same way (especially since this book is also one of our Battle of the Books titles this year). Rest assured, I will talk The Girl from Felony Bay up at every opportunity.

In addition to being a great example of a mystery, The Girl from Felony Bay could also serve as a mentor text for studies on figurative language. J.E. Thompson, like many other Southern writers, doesn’t just tell the reader what something looks or feels like. He paints a picture, and he uses vivid, descriptive language to do it. The similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and other literary tools in this book are great examples that students may want to employ in their own writing.

I wish I had more time to extoll all of the virtues of this book, but I’m late for supper at my mom’s house, so I’ll wrap it up. Read this book. Share this book with your students. I recommend it to all readers in upper elementary and middle grades, but I think it’s a mystery that readers of all ages can and will enjoy.

And that’s not all, folks!

If you want more of Abbey and Bee, there’s another Felony Bay book out there. Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff follows these two girls into another mystery. I’ll be ordering this book for my school library as soon as I return to work tomorrow.

For even more information on The Girl from Felony Bay, Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff, and author J.E. Thompson, I invite you to visit the author’s website. Happy reading!

Fortunately, the Milk

I love Neil Gaiman, and reading Fortunately, the Milk has only increased my adoration. This book, which features illustrations by Skottie Young, is a journey through the ridiculous. Fortunately, the Milk is targeted to a children’s audience, but I’d wager that many older readers will be enchanted by it.  I certainly was.

Who knew that being out of milk would lead to such craziness? Well, that’s exactly what happened one morning in a perfectly normal household. The father went out to get the milk, but he had quite the story for his disbelieving children when he returned.

After getting the milk that his kids needed for cereal–and he wanted for his tea–it seems that Dear Old Dad got a bit sidetracked by a few things. Things like spaceships, green globby aliens, pirates, piranhas, a professorial stegosaurus with a time-traveling Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier (hot air balloon), an ancient volcano god, ponies, wumpires, the space-time continuum, the galactic police, and dancing dwarves.

Is the father’s story true? Could he have possibly gone on a time-traveling adventure with the strange Professor Steg? And how did he ever get the much-needed milk home to his children? Read Fortunately, the Milk to find out!

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Anyone who enjoys convoluted stories–maybe fans of Roald Dahl or Doctor Who–will love Fortunately, the Milk. It is full of crazy, fantastical fun, and those who’ve ever been subjected to insane tales told by dads, uncles, granddads, or other relatives will definitely appreciate the story.

I do recommend reading the entire book in one sitting. (It’s a very short, fast read that will likely take most readers less than an hour to finish.) The action moves so quickly that this will not be a problem. In fact, if you put the book down, you’ll probably find yourself having to reread entire passages to put things in context.

Fortunately, the Milk, in my opinion, would be a great read-aloud for students in upper elementary or middle grades.  (Some of the vocabulary may be a little too difficult for younger readers.) Even high school students may appreciate this book as a read-aloud. It’s that funny and awesome.

If you’re looking for a super-quick read that is totally strange, whimsical, and ridiculous, you should definitely give Fortunately, the Milk by the amazing Neil Gaiman a try. You’ll be enraptured by both the text and the wonderful illustrations (which were kind of a cross between the works of Shel Silverstein and Tim Burton.) You won’t be disappointed!

If you’d like to learn just a little more about this book, check out the book trailer below. It features the King of All Things, Neil Gaiman himself!