Friday, March 30, 2012

The Lobster Chronicles: Lower the Trap by Jessica Scott Kerrin

Graeme wishes he could escape from his boring small fishing town, Lower Narrow Spit. After all, he's going to be a marine biologist and he knows everything there is to know about the town and marine life there already.

But then Graeme's dad catches a huge lobster and suddenly Graeme realizes he doesn't know so much about his town after all. Why is the school bully, Norris, whose wealthy and nasty dad owns the cannery, so eager for Graeme to solve the mystery of who broke their teacher's beloved cactus? Is the giant lobster the same one three elderly men caught years before? Graeme desperately wants a trip to the Big Fish Aquarium and the lobster seems like his ticket to get there, but is it worth all the trouble he's getting into?

I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, it has a lot of things going for it that really make me want to like it. It's a realistic story about boys - Graeme has that consuming interest in a subject that so many elementary and young middle school boys have. He's so dead set on his dream, visiting the aquarium, that he doesn't stop to think how his actions are affecting the other people in town. There's interesting tidbits about fishing and marine life thrown in as well as a mystery. It's also short, only 125 pages, and I'm so tired of massive 300-400 page middle grade novels that most middle grade readers can't lift, let alone read. It's focused on something other than school and emotional relationships (have you noticed how many middle grade realistic fiction books featuring boys are focused on school and the boys' emotional responses?)

On the other's just not very well-written. The dialogue is clunky and awkward (how many kids even know what "audacious" means?), the characters' behavior isn't explained well, and the plot doesn't hang together well. Graeme's detective ability isn't supported by the story and the characters don't change or grow by the end of the story, staying static and one-dimensional to the end of the book. The giant lobster and fishing themes were interesting, but not well-fleshed out with lots of time given to the convoluted plot of the missing cactus which turns out to be mostly irrelevant, as is the plot thread with Graeme's sister. Because we never really learn anything about the other characters, their mass outrage when they discover what Graeme is doing doesn't ring true.

Verdict: I think this writer - and the series - shows promise but needs some work. If you have the budget, make this an additional purchase. Otherwise keep an eye on the author for and possible purchase later on.

ISBN: 97855453; Published March 2012 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates

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