By Moshe Sipper
CreateSpace, $12.99, 192 pages
Daniel and his sister Dana have had a tough year. It has been one year since their dad was taken by a mysterious smoke figure…right out of his own bedroom. And Daniel continues to have nightmares about the shadowy shape and the room dimly lit with dark and red light. But since the best experts in the country haven’t been able to find a trace of his dad, Daniel, his best friend Jake and little sis Dana continue on with life as best they can – that is, until they find a gateway in the back yard of Edgar Alexander Dark Elementary School. And just like Alice when she falls down the rabbit’s hole, their non-stop journey begins when they decide to enter the secret gateway.
Daniel Max and the King in the Tower by Moshe Sipper follows the adventures of these three tweens and introduces them to an entire cast of fantasy friends that help them along the way. The three kids use math and logic to solve riddles to get out of sticky situations. They must face the Jabber (not the Jabberwock), Mr. Katz (not the Cheshire Cat) and other characters that may seem very familiar. In fact, readers may ask why Sipper decided to use such well known fantasy story lines in the beginning of his tale. But kids and adults find automatic comfort in Alice in Wonderland and Ali Baba so they can tell tell this will be an age appropriate fantasy read.
Sipper does an excellent job of using Daniel’s inner moral compass to introduce the concepts of fear, intelligence and curiosity to his readers. A big polar bear, a small black cat, a wise brown owl and an eagle represent the different sides of Daniel’s personality. The animals often weigh in during Daniel’s inner dialogues. It is a unique way for readers to see the thought process of an 11-year-old boy.
Parents can rest assured knowing their child is not only reading an age appropriate adventure story, but they are also learning vocabulary words at the same time. Sipper loves to throw in a new and challenging word here and there. Sometimes a new friend says it. For example, when Bill O’ Rabbit explains why Penny (aka King Penfield the Twenty-Third, King of All Penguins) is so sad, he tells the children that he had to abdicate the throne. Dana asks what abdicate means and she, and the readers, instantly learn new vocabulary. For those familiar with the Amelia Bedelia series of books where author Peggy Parish used figures of speech and always had Amelia taking things very literally which created some funny results, Sipper has his characters face those challenges too. Readers will be introduced to phrases they may not know which will only help to broaden their knowledge. What is a gravy train and what do you do when you make a racket? You’ll find out with Sipper’s help!
Sipper’s book is a fun and fast read and perfect for kids reading at the chapter book level. He sets up the story for a sequel (Where is Daniel and Dana’s father?) so enjoy this book this summer and keep your eyes peeled (not literally!!) for the next one!
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