In this children’s fantasy, orphaned Shelby Shodworth
lives with her Uncle Leviticus (also known as the Colonel).
She has only one friend, Casey, who lives next door, and he
occasionally supports her by email throughout the book. Poor
Shelby knows very little about her father from what her dead
mother had told her. By request of her parents’ will, she is
sent to Ms. Peabonnet’s Academy for Girls. Upon arrival, she
is harassed by one of the older girls, Harrietta Hindmore,
whose father has a great influence over the school. She also
meets little Molly, a true brain. Shelby’s classes include
Celestial Science (AKA Astrology) by Professor Uppsy,
Fencing (AKA Gym Class) by Professor Sniptip and
Etiquette/Manners by Professor Primprop. As you can see, the
names are pretty passé.
Even before her first day, she runs into a dark-cloaked man
who appears to be watching the school - a quick fix for a
mystery. Too many coincidences make for poor storytelling.
Shelby no sooner asks a question than it is answered in the
next chapter, sometimes within the very same chapter. Shelby
often falls into answers by accident, and it happens so much
it’s a wonder Shelby makes it through in the end.
There is ever the nagging feeling that you are reading a
poor rendition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s
Stone. There’s a professor that everything points to
as the bad guy. This professor ends up being the good guy
trying to save poor Shelby; this is just one example, but
there are plenty more within the story.
Much of the narrative speaking is so corny that it becomes
ridiculous to read. Shelby is fascinated by the word “wow”.
As should be, she runs into a lot of mindbenders. A
marsupial in an million-year-old egg that, after being
dormant for about ten years, hatches? Wow. A secret switch
that leads to an underground cave where her father’s journal
is sitting right in full view? Wow. All fingers point to one
man being the bad guy when suddenly, out of nowhere, someone
who isn’t even at the school and has possibly only two hints
at ever even being involved comes to light as the true bad
On a good note, it is cute even if not overly clever. The
age range is right, and anyone new to science fiction or
fantasy might be fascinated. Shelby, in her own corny way,
is adorable, and while she does stand up for a fight, she
still falls into things way too much.
In all, the proclamation that Shelby is a new, stronger
heroine is certainly lacking in the ‘stronger’ part. Just
because she doesn’t sit around doesn’t necessarily make for
a stronger hero. There isn’t really a chance for Shelby to
overcome some sort of personal malfunction in order to beat
the bad guys.
The journey isn’t over; this is only part one. Hopefully
Shelby will do some growing up and improve with whatever
comes next. Until then, this book gets a two out of five.
||Calissa Leigh/2005 for curled
up with a good kid's book
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