Last week, I sung the praises of librarians. I went on and on about how they are wonderful, compassionate creatures who take pity on those who are lost, literarily, and try to help out as best they can. This week, librarians are evil. Like, hold our world captive and only give information as they see fit. Evil. Thank goodness that no matter what Alcatraz Smedry says, this book is fantasy.
Alcatraz Smedry is your standard thirteen year old boy. He's sarcastic, skeptical of everything, and has an innate ability to break everything he touches. On his birthday, Alcatraz receives a gift in the mail from his parents which is weird because as far as Alcatraz knows, they are dead. The gift? A bag of sand. When his previously unknown grandfather shows up unexpectedly, Alcatraz learns that the world he is familiar with is being controlled by Evil Librarians, people whose mission is to keep information from the people and bring destruction down upon the Smedry family, who is well known for wanting to stop them. Together with his newly discovered family, Alcatraz, his grandfather, Leavenworth, his cousins, Sing and Quentin, and their knight, Bastille, must rescue the bag of sand from the Evil Librarians, before the librarians can turn it into a weapon that could destroy the entire Smedry family for good.
This book was absolutely hilarious. I mean, laugh out loud and read sections to my husband hilarious. Alcatraz is one of the most sarcastic and weirdly self aware characters I have ever come across. His grandfather curses using authors’ last names, there are monsters made out of book pages, and, of course, talking dinosaurs. And trust me, Alcatraz has a running commentary on all of them. For example, “The reader may wonder why one of the dinosaurs was consistently referred to by his first name, while the others were not. There is a very simple and understandable reason for this. "Have you ever tried to spell Pterodactyl?”
Not only is this a fantasy story, but it is also a running commentary on writers, the craft of writing, and publishing industry itself. For those who are writers, or who happen to have lots of friends who are writers, it will be even more hilarious. Towards the end, Alcatraz says, “It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. It goes back to authors being terrible people who delight in the suffering of others. Plus, we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.” That one had me giggling for quite a while afterwards.
For adults, this is going to be a quick read. It is a middle grade novel, technically, but I think adults, especially those who are writers, or who happen to know an awful lot of them, will thoroughly enjoy it. Trust me, sit down and read this over a weekend. And try not to make any assumptions about the book before you do. After all, Alcatraz directly says, "I would ask you to kindly refrain from drawing conclusions that I don't explicitly tell you to make. That's a very bad habit, and it makes authors grumpy."