Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Adrienne Kress, Author . Weinstein Books $16.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-60286-005-6

Kress’s debut is a wonderful blend of whimsy and moral, with winks at the reader on every page. Alex, who lives with her uncle in the flat above their doorknob shop, is dreading the sixth grade and the stern teacher who comes with it, but on the first day she learns that a new teacher has been installed—the young Mr. Underwood (“a marvelous teacher despite being ever so distinctly odd”). He turns out to be a descendant of a famous pirate, and soon three vicious men turn up in town, looking for a map to a fabled family treasure. The map is somewhere in a stately manor house, run by the vicious old ladies of the Daughters of the Founding Fathers’ Preservation Society; Alex finds the map and escapes, but returns home to find that her uncle has been killed and Mr. Underwood has been kidnapped by the pirates of the ship Ironic Gentleman . She sets off to find him and has some odd encounters along the way (at one point, she meets an enormous octopus, distraught over how computer animation has wrecked his movie career). Eventually, Alex ends up on the Ironic Gentleman , face to face with the dreaded Captain Steele the Inevitable, whose identity comes as a big surprise. Kress has a delightfully simple, observational prose style that recalls A.A. Milne, right down to the frequent capitalization of Good Things and Very Interesting Things and so on. This inspired book should hold up to many re-readings. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/16/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Children's
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