Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Cabinet of Earths

In my quest to clean up my bookshelves, I found a couple middle school novels coming out this month. One is The Cabinet of Earths, by Anne Nesbet, for grades five and up.

Maya and her five-year-old brother, James, have been uprooted from their American friends and home to spend a year in Paris because of their dad's job and because it's their mom's dream...their mom who has cancer. James makes friends wherever he goes, but thirteen-year-old Maya misses home, worries about her mom, and is used to being a background fixture. She's unprepared for the mysteries that find her in Paris: an intricately carved door with a salamander handle that moves, though no one else can see it; a beautiful-looking man who lives behind that door and shows far too much interest in Maya and her brother; a distant cousin who's literally hard to see; and an old man, also a relation, who keeps a cabinet of earths with a magnetic pull on Maya. Maya doesn't want to acknowledge that she might be needed to play a critical part in her magical ancestors' secrets, but when it's her family members' lives on the line, she'll do whatever it takes to protect them.

I don't typically read middle school fiction, and this book is a good example of why. They read fast, so that's a plus. But maybe they read so fast because not enough happens in them. I know that they are for younger readers, but I have a hard time believing that at the middle school level, kids can't read more complex books. I read The Robe, by Lloyd C. Douglas, when I was in middle school. The Cabinet of Earths is just too simplistic. It might be fine for an even younger audience, though its length might not then be appropriate, but it's not a spell-binding, edge-of-your-seat read. And for this type of book, a magical mystery of sorts, that's what I wanted. Daniel Handler, in his Lemony Snicket books, knows how to write good middle school fiction. This was dull in comparison. 

The idea was actually intriguing: a cabinet that stores people's mortality in the form of earth so that they can live like immortals. The book is a clean read, which it should be at the middle school level. (Maya is referred to as a witch, but it's in the sense that she has magical powers, not that she's evil.) And it's not even a terrible read, really. One thing I liked about it was that it dealt with some heavy emotional material, primarily Maya's feelings about her mother's cancer. In that, at least, the book had depth. The book was well-written, as well. It was just the story that disappointed me. It could have been so much more. I'll generously give it three stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.