March 28, 2022

Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry

Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Format: Audiobook (Kindle Unlimited)
Publisher: Two Lions (eBook) + Brilliance Audio (Audiobook)

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Erin Fry delivered a magical and entertaining middle-grade fantasy read with Secrets of the Book. It’s reminiscent of a kid-friendly version of Night at the Museum, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, or Jumanji, where a group of children must contend with a book that can bring dead historical figures back to life and keep said book out of evil hands. 

Spencer Lemon (it’s pronounced LEH-mon, not like the citrus) has a degenerative eye disease that will take his sight later in life. His mom has him volunteering at a nursing home, where he encounters Ed. Ed later presents him with “Pandora’s Book”, a magical treasure that has the power to bring figures from history to life. Ed disappears before he can teach Spencer how to use the book the next day, and Spencer and his best friend Gregor must struggle to figure out how to put the historical figures back in the book before things go even more wrong. 

I couldn’t stop laughing at Spencer’s narration. He regularly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, and his remarks are hilarious. If you have a chance to listen to the audiobook, I highly recommend it. Narrator Todd Haberkorn did a fantastic job - his performance was very light-hearted and fun, and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face while I was reading. 

Both main characters have disabilities - Spencer’s eye condition will eventually leave him blind, and his best friend Gregor is autistic. Some books may have relegated these characters to the sidelines (or to positions as lovable but very underqualified sidekicks), but Ms. Fry places them front and center and I loved that. I also enjoyed that they helped each other overcome the various challenges that come with their conditions. For example, there are a couple times where Spencer gets frustrated with one of Gregor’s episodes. Despite this frustration, he never sees Gregor as a nuisance or problem like many would. I wish more people took after this example in their interactions with the disabled community. Even without their disabilities, Spencer and Gregor are characters you can’t help but root for. I wanted them to figure things out, and cheered when they did.

Fans of middle-grade fantasy with historical twists should enjoy Secrets of the Book. If you or a young reader in your life enjoyed movies like Night at the Museum, Jumanji, or Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, then you have to check out this novel as soon as you have a chance.

About the Author

Erin Fry's first middle grade novel, LOSING IT, was published in 2012 by Amazon Children's Publishing and has been well-received by librarians and teachers, in addition to being dubbed "an energizing and ultimately uplifting tale of the power to change" by Kirkus. Her second novel, SECRETS OF THE BOOK, hits shelves in 2014 while her first YA serial, THE BENEFACTOR, is set to release in September, 2013.

For over a decade, Fry has taught 6th grade language arts and history at a middle school in southern California. She also coaches cross country each fall, which gets her in shape to run an occasional half marathon or marathon. Since 2003, she has reviewed children's books for Publishers Weekly. This past year, she and a fellow curriculum developer co-founded Common Core Curriculum Specialists, through which they create CCSS-aligned Teachers’ Guides for authors and publishers. She lives in southern California with (and frequently runs alongside) her husband, three children, and their golden Retriever.

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