Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sita, Snake-Queen of Speed by Franzeska G. Ewart, illustrated by Helen Bate

Ever since she heard about the most amazing ride ever, Sita, Snake-Queen of Speed, from her best friend Kylie, Yosser is desperate to go. But there are a couple problems. First, is getting her parents' permission to go to an amusement park. Second, is finding the money. On top of that, her parents are thinking of sending her to Our Lady of the Sorrows, a private school, Kylie's dad's best prize-winning ferret has disappeared, and Yosser isn't sure things will ever work out.

This is a very British book. Slang, school terms, and a variety of cultural references pepper the story. Yosser's ethnicity is never spelled out, but just accepted as a matter of course - she's illustrated with a headscarf and there are small, casual references to her family's culture. To the average American child, Kylie's family will be just as foreign, with her punk rock hair, accent, and her dad's ferret hobby.

The other thing that's very British about this story is the length. I've noticed many British publishers put out these short - less than 100 pages - stories for middle grade audiences. While I'm always looking for shorter books for reluctant readers, it's a fact of life that most kids and parents feel that longer = older, so I could see people thinking this was a beginning chapter book and picking it up for their under 8 readers, especially with the animals featured on the cover.

Verdict: The characters are fresh and interesting and I think many kids would like the length, but it's just a little too different for my small town. The hardcover, an older edition published in 2008, might work better, but that cover is rather cartoony and again, I would have problems with younger children picking this up. The characters use several slang words and mild language that my parents would be upset about, including "hell" so this isn't for us. A larger library with a more diverse population would probably enjoy this title.

ISBN: 9781847803306; Paperback edition published July 2012 by Frances Lincoln; Review copy provided by publisher (added to summer reading prize books)

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