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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son Part I* by Martin Booth- young readers book review
Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son Part I
by Martin Booth
Grades 5-8 192 pages Little, Brown April 2006 Paperback    

When Pip and Tim move into an old English country estate, they meet Sebastian, a young boy with an incredible story. He claims to have lived in their house with his father 600 years earlier. Sebastian tells them a fantastic tale of alchemical potions and devastating magic that threatens Pip, Tim, and the modern world just as much as it threatened Sebastian's world in his time. It's up to Pip and Tim to help Sebastian stop it.

Booth weaves an enchanting tale that's sure to grab the interest of authors like J. K. Rowling and Cornelia Funke. Though it's geared toward younger readers, there's plenty there for adults as well exciting plot, engaging characters, and a writing style that doesn't talk down to the reader.

Though charming, the tale may stretch the credulity of more sophisticated readers. Pip and Tim accept Sebastian's tale perhaps a bit too easily, even for credulous children. Their parents are strangely uncurious about the new friend their children bring home and amazingly unaware of the things happening in their own home. The big stuff is handled well but little things slip through, and more detail-oriented readers may have a bit of trouble suspending disbelief at times.

Booth makes an interesting choice in basing the magic of this series in historical fact. It adds a bit of realism to the fantastical, but it could also be a source of confusion for younger readers who might think that the alchemists accomplished everything they were able to in this book. However, it can also provide an opening for a historical lesson. (How much of this is real and how much is made up? What sort of tools did real alchemists use? How were alchemists treated in the middle ages?) There is plenty of opportunity to learn as well as enjoy.

And enjoy readers will, for Doctor Illuminatus is an exciting ride. Everyday things such as fishing, gardening, and walking the dog are transformed from mundane tasks into dangerous adventures. Pip, Tim, and Sebastian are forced to be brave and smart at every turn and use their wits to avoid and eventually ensnare their enemy in a thrilling conclusion that wraps up the story well but leaves the reader hungry for the next book in the series.

Doctor Illuminatus is the beginning of what promises to be a thrilling series for middle readers. It may avoid the media attention that has lately surrounded young adult books, but readers who do find it will be pleased that they did. This is a series people will want to continue for a long time.

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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