The Tell-Tale Start

Bk. 1. illus. by Sam Zuppardi. 192p. (The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe Series). Viking. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-670-78491-2; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-1-101-62133-2.
Gr 4–7—As the great-great-great-great-grandnephews of the renowned horror writer, seventh-grade twins Edgar and Allan do their best to live up to his sinister reputation. Whether creating "The Pit and the Pendulum"-inspired Halloween trap or a grotesque rearrangement of the biology class skeleton, the boys use their mental powers to astonish their classmates and dismay their teachers. Their amazing skills have also attracted the attention of evil Professor Perry. After engineering their expulsion from school, he kidnaps their cat, leaving clues that will lure the boys cross-country to his Kansas OZ-itorium Theme Park, which celebrates the L. Frank Baum tale. The Professor idolizes the Wizard of Oz, whom he claims is among the world's great villains. Just as the Wizard used Dorothy and her friends to eliminate his rival and dominate Oz, the Professor intends to use the twins' powerful telepathic link to exchange information between this world and the afterlife, giving him control of both spheres. Unfortunately, this will involve killing one of the boys. The twins' efforts to thwart the evil genius are encouraged by supernatural messages from Edgar Allan Poe himself, somewhere in the Great Beyond. Interdimensional communication is unreliable, and the messages are often misleading. Can Edgar and Allan save the world? While the convoluted plot is often amusing, the twins are not particularly likable. They use their superior intelligence to manipulate others, and their "pranks" are often vicious and destructive. Authority figures like teachers are clueless or corrupt, while the twins' aunt and uncle blithely ignore the nasty practical jokes and cruel comments. An additional choice where series fiction is in high demand.—Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

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