BACKLIST REVIEW: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Marie Antoinette Serial Killer

Published September 24th 2013 by Scholastic Press


Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.
But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.
Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .
Acclaimed author Katie Alender brings heart-stopping suspense to this story of revenge, betrayal, intrigue — and one killer queen.

My rating: ★

MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER* was extremely disappointing. It had all this potential but fell flat very quickly. I figured out how the book would end by the second chapter.

It had what could have been a great plot but was poorly executed (pun intended). The characters were one-sided, whiny, and clichéd. The author didn’t explain certain plot point very well; such as, when Colette would speak to Veronique she couldn’t understand any french but could speak it fluently and understand it when speaking with Marie Antoinette.

I had a big question: Why did Marie Antoinette come back 200+ years after her death to get her vengeance? Why not right after her death? It didn’t seem to make sense.

Also, I didn’t like the cover art. It was just lazy. A pouty blonde in period garb is the best they could do?

The synopsis is a better read than the book.

*I read an Advanced Readers Copy that I picked up at BookExpo America.

“Bizarre Dinosaurs: Some Very Strange Creatures and Why We Think They Got That Way” by Christopher Sloan

Christopher Sloan’s Bizarre Dinosaurs: Some Very Strange Creatures and Why We Think They Got That Way published by the National Geographic Society in 2008 is a great book for kids.

Sloan is a paleontology expert and senior editor for National Geographic magazine and I noticed some of the information was written from his point of view when he was with the paleontologist who found the dinosaurs that are featured in the book. Drs James Clark and Cathy Forster also wrote a foreword for the book, they are paleontologists who not only discovered some of these dinosaurs but also teach at George Washington University.

This 32-page book comes with Table of Contents, a Foreword, Glossary, a breakdown of where some of the dinosaurs lived millions of years ago and an Index and Credits page.

The pictures are computer graphics created by artists with the help of scientists.

Each of the 11 dinosaurs get a two page spread with a computer generated picture and a picture of the fossils found of them plus information gathered and questions raised about the animals; it also comes an Expert Knowledge portion stating the name, pronunciation, year named, type of dinosaur, normal adult size, stomping ground, when it lived and what it ate. There is also a graphic of how big the dinosaur was in relation to an average sized man.

The illustrations are the main part of the book to me because I can see what the dinosaur probably looked like back then. The writing is simple and chocked full of information for kids to learn and questions the scientists couldn’t answer.

I think my favorite dinosaur is the Dracorex hogwartsia, meaning “dragon king of Hogwarts”. This plant eating dinosaur had “helmetlike bony domes on their head” making it look like a dragon.

A great reference for kids to use on a school project and to learn more about the ever changing landscape of paleontology.

“Celia and the Fairies” by Karen McQuestion

Celia and the Fairies by Karen McQuestion is about a ten-year-old girl named Celia Lovejoy.  When Celia’s grandmother moves in with her family, she tells her granddaughter magical stories of fairies living in the woods behind the Lovejoy home. Celia believes they are just stories until she receives an unexpected visit from Mira, a real, live fairy.

Mira begs for Celia’s help. It seems that Celia’s house and the adjoining woods are in danger of being demolished to make way for a new highway. Vicky McClutchy is a spiteful woman who holds a childhood grudge against Celia’s dad and is the one behind this evil plan. Fairy magic can counteract this evil, but it will only work with Celia’s help. But to do this Celia must go into the woods at night and conquer her greatest fears.

This book is for ages nine to 12 but I enjoyed it and I am much older than that.  There are no illustrations inside this 140-page book but the chapters are short ranging from one to four pages.

Since the main character is only ten the vocabulary is also age appropriate. When her parents or the fairies use an unrecognizable word Celia asks for the meaning and it is explained in terms she understands.

The plot is fast paced with lots of action that will keep kids interested in reading. Kids can relate to the protagonist because of the issues she faces such as Celia’s embarrassment when she is seen talking to a younger boy.

I picked this book up at BookExpo America in May 2011 and it is an Advance Readers Copy but I really liked the cover (see attachment) of a girl in the woods holding a fairy and the fun font; it seems magical.

This book also came with a lesson which I liked because I always try to live this way: to see things from other points of view and realize how your actions affect others. Basically a lesson about the power of ordinary kindness.

“Each Peach Pear Plum” by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Each Peach Pear Plum written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Janet Ahlberg is published by Puffin Books an imprint of the Penguin Group. It was first published by Viking in 1978 and that same year won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

I like this 32-page book because of the detailed illustrations and its interactive text. On the first page the reader is introduced to Tom Thumb by trying to find him in the picture. On the next page it continues with the same character but the reader has to find the next character in the ‘I spy’ game:

Each Peach Pear Plum

I spy Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb in the cupboard

I spy Mother Hubbard

Mother Hubbard down the cellar

I spy Cinderella

Each rectangular page tells the reader who they need to find. All the characters are from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. At the end of the book they come together to eat a plum pie. Combine that with their rhyming text and excellent illustrations it makes for a perfect board book.

The book is made of heavy cardstock perfect for babies to hold and gnaw on but still perfect for one to three-year-olds. The story and illustrations makes it perfect for parents to read to their children.

The text is a large Times font making it easy to read and see for toddlers on the left-side page. On the right side page the illustrations have one character in plain view for everyone to see and the other character hidden in the illustration for the child to find. On the page where Cinderella is dusting the banister, the Three Bears can be found looking through the window. To find them the child has to see past the dog sleeping on the couch; the towel and socks drying at the foot of the stairs; a broom and a mop bucket leaning next to the drying laundry; a flower pot on the windowsill; a fireplace with a kettle sitting over it; and a butter churn.

I obtained the book from the library but it sells for $6.99 which is the going rate for most board books.

Each Peach Pear Plum is a perfect addition to Penguin’s board books. Other books they publish through their imprints are by Eric Carle, Beatrix Potter, Eric Hill’s Spot books, A.A. Milne, etc.

I liked reading this book just to see how the character was hidden in the illustrations. Plus it has the perfect ending for children, all the characters from Tom Thumb to The Three Bears to the Wicked Witch to Robin Hood all gather around a table laughing and eating plum pie.