Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Milo Speck, Accidental Agent" is a delightful Dahl-esqe fantasy adventure for younger middle grade readers

I am much much older than the target audience for this book, but it grabbed me from the opening paragraph.  I am quoting  from the ARC, so something might have changed in the final published version of the book, but it gives you a good sense of the flavor of this book:

Milo had read about magic before.  He knew that kids in stories sometimes found magic in secret drawers or hidden away in attics, and he had always hoped that if he were to find magic, it would appear in the form of a mysterious silver coin or a doorway to an enchanted world.  But when magic came to Milo Speck, it came in the form of a sock.  

A sock?!?  Something about that passage captured my attention and pulled me into a story about a very small boy sucked into a world of hilariously doltish (but very large and dangerous) ogres who enjoy snacking on boys.  The story had a very familiar feeling of tongue-in-cheek absurd humor combined with heart but it wasn't until reading the author's note at the end that I realized why -- one of the writers she credits for inspiration is Roald Dahl.  It would be a disservice to compare any writer to the great Roald Dahl, but younger readers who like the kind of humor found in books like "The BFG" should really enjoy this book as well.

Milo Speck, is an unlikely hero.  He is small for his age and his "Grandmother" dresses him in ridiculous clothes that she buys on clearance.  As this book opens, he is wearing a googly-eyed duck sweatshirt that "quanks."  Through an unlikely act of magic,* Milo is transported to Ogregon where he has to avoid becoming an ogre snack, rescue some other kids, figure out what his Dad is doing there, and find a way back home.   There is a lot more to the story, but I don't want to spoil the fun by giving away anything more than what is in the publisher's book blurb.

I really enjoyed the combination of silly fun and adventure in this book and would recommend it for readers on the younger end of the 9-12 age range.  It would also be appropriate for children younger than 9 whose reading level is beyond their years.  Older children might like it as well, especially if they aren't yet ready for the more mature Young Adult books.

It's a great book to recommend for boys who will enjoy going on this adventure with Milo as he  uses his wits and heart to survive the ogres.  Girls will enjoy it as well, but I always like to find books that I think will appeal to boys to encourage them to read more.

*For parents who are uneasy with the idea of magic in books, I hope you will not avoid this book on those grounds.  Milo is not a wizard and has no magic abilities.  He's just a regular boy. The "magic" in the book is mostly confined to the ability to travel between the regular world and Ogregon, though there is brief discussion of some other "magical" creatures in other parallel lands.  The characters themselves don't do magic.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy free through Amazon's Vine program in exchange for a review.