Happy Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing the totally awesome Hook's Revenge by debut author Heidi Schulz.
This is a fun, inventive look at the Captain Hook story, from the perspective of Hook's feisty, charming daughter Jocelyn.
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Physical ARC via publisher
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.
So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.
The crocodile's clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz's debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?
Because that's exactly what you're going to get with Heidi Schulz's incredibly fun debut novel, Hook's Revenge.
Schulz introduces readers to Jocelyn, the daughter (a.k.a. "female offspring") of fiercely renowned pirate Captain James Hook. She's a feisty girl who doesn't fit into the mold of polite society, and spends more time trying to become a pirate, than she does thinking about her lessons at her unimaginative finishing school.
But on her birthday, Jocelyn receives a letter from her father asking her to avenge his untimely death at the hands of a familiar crocodile. Before she knows it, Jocelyn's swept off to Neverland to train a motley crew of novice pirates and figure out just how she can step into Captain Hook's famous red coat…
Narrated through the voice of a cranky older pirate who really has better things to do than this, Schulz does a wonderful job of showing just how one young girl can remain true to her convictions, despite a community of people trying to convince her otherwise.
Despite well-meaning interference from her family and school, Jocelyn never doubts that she is destined for big, swashbuckling pirate adventures, just like her father. There is a certain quiet strength to Jocelyn's convictions, which readers will undoubtedly admire and want to emulate in their own lives.
This is especially true when Jocelyn reaches Neverland, and realizes that just being a Hook won't always get her what she needs. She has to adapt to a world that doesn't judge her fairly because she's a child and female - something she haughtily denounces when asked to be a Mother - and she skillfully uses her wits and intelligence to learn from her mistakes and adapts.
Readers will especially appreciate Jocelyn's ingenious ways of using all of the dreaded etiquette lessons she endured in school to further her journey, and how our narrator (begrudgingly) admits that this is something that readers could all stand to learn, when working on their own lessons.
Outside of Jocelyn's journey, Schulz also poses some nice, thoughtful questions on friendship and family. Interweaving some ideas from the original J.M. Barrie tale, Schulz asks readers to question just what makes up of a family - whether it's blood relatives or a family of friends - and how it's possibly to preserve that family, even in the face of change.
While Hook's Revenge was the perfect length at 273+ pages, I could have easily another 300 pages of Jocelyn's journey. Fortunately for me, I don't have long to wait - Schulz has a sequel coming out in 2015.
Of special note: Educators and parents will likely appreciate how Schulz handles the concept of losing a parent and/or family member throughout the book. There's a sensitivity and recognition of the fact that sometimes, a young girl like Jocelyn will want her mother, regardless of how brave they may be.
However, it's also good to remember the good times with that family member, and draw strength upon that, as you continue to move forward with your life. I have no doubt that this is a thoughtful idea that will facilitate much discussion between readers of all ages.
And immediately follow up that thought with: "…Wait. When does the next book come out? Because I need it now. Who do I need to bribe? Anyone?"
Heidi Schulz proves that it's absolutely possible to add a new spin to an old tale and give that spin so much zest and charm, you can't fault readers if they walk away thinking that the Hook mythos has all originated from Schulz's delightfully creative mind.
I absolutely believe that readers will fall for Jocelyn's spunk and wit, while also appreciating the thoughtful questions that Schulz poses on personal courage, the importance of friendship and living up to a family legacy. Jocelyn begins the book as James Hook's child, but comes into her own as James's legacy by the end of the novel.
I recommend this book for fans of all MG readers, especially for fans of Lemony Snicket. Schulz writes in an engaging, hilarious voice that is reminiscent of Snicket, and will undoubtedly delight fans of both.
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About the author & Illustrator
Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on Sepetember 16, 2014. A sequel, HOOK'S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in fall of 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in 2016. She lives in Oregon with her husband, their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens.
Heidi is represented by Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency.
John Hendrix loves to draw. In fact, he’s drawing right now in St. Louis, Missouri. He lives there with his wife and two children, and teaches at Washington University. His drawings have been featured in numerous publications, and he is the illustrator of many acclaimed children’s books. Visit John online at johnhendrix.com and follow him on Twitter at @hendrixart.