Today’s recommendation is a great children’s book. The book is not about Autism, but the proceeds are.

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Alexandra Fry is just your average seventh-grader. Or is she? Starting a new school, Alexandra hopes to leave her old life, and old reputation of “Loopy Lexi” behind. But it’s not so easy when Alexandra is the kind of girl who sees ghosts. And not just any ghosts, but history’s most famous. They come to her to solve mysteries, when things from their past life fall into the wrong hands.

Desperate to be normal and make some friends, Alexandra is devastated to be visited by none other than Queen Elizabeth the First during a lesson in school. But Queen Elizabeth doesn’t just have your average, run of the mill problem. The thing that was stolen was a locket– a cursed locket, and if it’s not returned to the museum, the entire world will be in danger. It’s up to Alexandra and her new friends Penelope and Jack, to find out who took the locket and why. Ducking security guards, breaking and entering, and finding out someone isn’t who they said they were is just your average day for this seventh grade girl.

Fifty percent of the proceeds for Alexandra Fry, Private Eye series will be donated to the Tucson Alliance for Autism. The Tucson Alliance for Autism is a wonderful organization helping parents and kids with all levels and types of autism. They provide services, counseling and peer support. My twelve-year-old son is Autistic, and when he was younger, I wasn’t sure what to do. But the Tucson Alliance for Autism provided me with so much material and support that my son is now a flourishing sixth-grader with friends, activities, and he’s even joined the band at his new middle school– something I thought he would never do. I’m thrilled and excited to help give-back to my community and this wonderful organization that has helped so many people here in Arizona.

Thank you in advance for your purchases and support of this amazing cause, and for any information please visit their website at http://www.tucsonallianceforautism.org

http://www.amazon.com/Alexandra-Fry-Private-Eye-ebook/dp/B00DGGNMIW/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1371566703&sr=1-4&keywords=Angella+Graff

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My review:

“Alexandra Fry, Private Eye: The Curse of the Lion’s Heart” by Angella Graff is an excellent fun read with depth and a wonderful message between the lines. As written for children and/or young adults it was a book that I was reluctant to review since it is a move away from Graff’s usual genre and I couldn’t see her doing a book for children/ teenagers as well as her Urban Fantasy series “The Judas Curse”.

To me the young adult genre is inundated with unbelievable super heroes and the title implied to me this would be just that. I was hugely relieved when it turned out that Alex is neither the super human heroine nor the bullied and neglected girl on a soapbox.

Alex is a superbly created middle-of-the-road character who is new in school and who has some issues settling in but her situation is not hopeless.
You feel sorry for her at times but she isn’t perfect herself and learns from her mistakes, which makes her a fantastic real role model for kids and a likeable, interesting and real character.

Well, it is a children’s book and not surprisingly these days of course there is a supernatural twist after all, however this is done humorously rather than action-heroine like. Alex is on a mission to locate said treasure from the title and receives help from the ghost of Queen Elizabeth, the odd British Aristocrat out of time and dimension, which, as a UK resident was very entertaining for me and I hope will translate to readers in the US equally well.
Graff did a great job combining the ghost part with the mystery-solving and the teenage / school drama. Genre blending makes stories so much more interesting and this unusual combination worked really well in my view. The ghost takes her focus of unpleasant parts of her life, which makes her less vulnerable to bullying and more intriguing to the other kids in school. The most central message in the book for me was her independence. Instead of crying over her initial isolation she turns the situation round in her favour by solving the mystery. The friends then come naturally.
I enjoyed the read and was drawn into it easily. The book, although for young adults, was really cute and parents are going to like this, too. There is some romance or chemistry aspect between Alex and one of the boys but it is long before the erotic love stage and I found this to be another aspect that was well handled.
I can’t say I was surprised by the ending or by who the bad guys were in the end but the mystery story is just part of what Alex has on her plate in the book.
I think for me it was important that Alex was no annoying or overly-done stereotype but the average kid with a little bit of self-esteem issues but capable and willing to learn. Self-esteem issues of course are common for the age but Alex’s attitude may not be.
The book cover looks fantastic and is in my view a good impression of the contents.
50% of the proceeds go to the Autism Alliance, but this is not the only reason to buy this wonderful book.

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Excerpt from the book:

We went into gym right after that because the warning bell rang, and I couldn’t think of anything at all to say. I mean, yeah, I’d probably be totally embarrassed if my mom ever tried to teach, but my mom was so… weird. And intense, and she could barely handle me and my sister when Amanda was at home. I didn’t even want to think about her losing her temper if there were thirty of us all crammed together.

Still, I could think of way worse things than having your mom as your teacher. Like ghosts, for one. I mean, getting caught arguing with some Victorian ghost girl in the middle of class with everyone watching… oh man…

I started to blush again as we shuffled into the gym with the rest of the kids who, like me, looked like they wanted no part of this experience. No one liked gym. Not even in elementary school, except the kids who were obsessed with basketball or soccer.

We were all directed to a long bench in front of a wooden wall, and I scooted up to Penelope who kept shooting me warning looks. Her cheeks were all pink, and I figured she was completely scared that I was going to blurt it out in the middle of class.

I realized I hadn’t actually said anything after she told me, so before the teacher began to talk, I leaned over and whispered, “I swear I won’t tell anyone.”

She gave a sigh, relaxing almost immediately, and whispered back, “Thanks.”

After that, we were subjected to the gym teacher’s incredibly long lecture about the do’s and don’t’s of gym, what to wear, and how we were going to push our own physical boundaries blah blah blah. The gym teacher looked suspiciously like another teacher I’d seen in the history hall. He was pretty young, taller than anyone I’d ever met with huge, broad shoulders, a thick moustache, and his hairline was so far back the gym lights bounced off his shiny forehead.

“Now I know some of you girls might have er… uh… those um… you know. Once a month,” he sputtered, growing beet red, “so just bring a note, okay. You’ll be excused.” He cleared his throat and clapped his huge hands together. “Moving on. Make sure you bring clothes tomorrow to change into. Now, since none of you are prepared for any real vigorous activity,” he eyed several of the girls’ platform sandals or high heels, stuff my mother would never let me wear, “why don’t you all go back to your bags and get some paper and just write a short paragraph about yourselves and what sort of physical activity you like to do, and your favorite sport. Just… spread out on the floor and get it done.”

Penelope and I slipped to the floor in front of the bench and began to dig into our bags for paper and a pencil. “Man he seems way awkward,” she said with a laugh.

“Yeah I don’t think he likes doing this job,” I replied with a smirk.

“Well he’s the basketball coach, but I guess he also has to teach a social studies class, and gym. I feel bad for the guy,” Penelope said as she scooted onto her stomach, her crooked legs leaning against the bench.

I realized that Penelope had the in on all of the teachers since her mom was one of them, and that could definitely be a good thing. I propped my history book on my lap and began to write.

“What are you putting for your favorite sport?” Penelope asked me just as I had finished writing the paragraph about myself.

I frowned down at the rest of the empty sheet and rubbed my nose with the tip of the eraser. “I don’t know,” I finally said with a sigh. I didn’t like any sports, and the only active type of thing my mom ever did was run on her elliptical or do her yoga DVD’s.

“Me either,” Penelope said with a sigh.

I eventually just wrote down ‘I like to do yoga with my mom’, despite it sounding really lame. Penelope was still scribbling away on her paper, so I figured she came up with something interesting or funny, not like my own boring stuff.

Suddenly, though, the sound of Penelope’s pencil scratches stopped, and when I looked over, I was horrified to see the Victorian girl there, her face scrunched up in an angry scowl. She was standing right in front of Penelope, and she was tapping one foot soundlessly on the gym floor.

“How dare you,” she hissed at me. The air around me got freezing cold and I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to ignore her. “How dare you treat me like this?”

I leaned my head back against the bench and closed my eyes, hoping that she would just go away. I didn’t want to speak to her again. I’d been embarrassed enough already for the day, but I wasn’t sure how to get her to take the hint.

“You don’t seem to realize the danger we’re all in.” This time, instead of angry, she sounded scared.

I peeked one eye open and saw her face drawn, her hands wrung together in front of her huge dress. Under any other circumstances, I would have heard her out, at least found out what she needed. That was kind of my job, whether I wanted it or not. But right now? Now? I could not keep being that freaky girl who talked to herself.

My hand was shaking when I raised it into the air, and it took almost a full minute for the teacher to look at me. “Can I um… go to the uh…” and I nodded at the locker room. “Can I have the pass?”

“Oh,” the teacher’s face got a little red just below his eyes. Clearly he didn’t like dealing with the girls’ female problems and he coughed before he said, “Yes, just go.”

Penelope was frowning at me as I jumped up and ran to the locker room. The door slammed behind me, and instead of heading for the stalls, I slipped out the side door into the hallway. I ran up the ramp that led into the currently empty art hallway, and looked for a place out of view where I could stop and talk to this ghost.

The wall had a little bit of a curve to it, and a ramp leading down to the doors where the busses came. I slipped into a crevice and closed my eyes. “Okay, what do you want?” I said, willing my voice to the ghost girl.

I felt the air get a little cold again, and when I opened my eyes, there she was. I got a really good look at her now, and saw she had to be about my age, and definitely some sort of old royalty. “Explain yourself,” she commanded.

I huffed, crossing my arms. “Listen, this isn’t a good time, okay. Who are you and what do you want?”

There was a long pause where her expression looked almost offended that I didn’t know. Then, after what felt like forever, she opened her arms and declared, “My name is Elizabeth, Queen of Britain, and I’ve come to you for help!”

My mouth dropped open at the sound of her name and my eyes went wide. Queen Elizabeth. Like the Queen Elizabeth? My dad would totally flip if he knew I was talking to her. Of course, he’d probably flip if he heard me say I could talk to ghosts, but that was beside the point.

I glanced around to make sure no one was listening in and then lowered my voice. “Look, uh, your Majesty, or whatever, I want to help but I’m kind of in school right now. Also, I’m not sure if you know this, but you’re dead.” Sometimes the ghosts knew, and sometimes they were a little confused and thought they were still in their own time.

Her eyebrows went down and her eyes narrowed. “I’m well aware that I’m dead, thank you,” she snapped. “I was, in fact, enjoying my peaceful heaven before it was stolen.”

“What was stolen?” I pressed, desperate to get her to spill the beans so I could get back to class before anyone noticed I was gone.

“A locket. The Lion’s Heart. It was a gift from my mother… before she died,” her face fell for just a moment. “But you see, the locket is cursed. Anyone who takes it will bring forth terrible destruction. Your entire city could be in danger as we speak!”

I frowned, feeling a little skeptic because ghosts were one thing but curses? I wasn’t sure I really believed in all of that. Either way, if I could help her, then she’d go back to her own afterlife, whatever that was, and I could get back to repairing my already damaged reputation. No thanks to her.

“Fine, okay, I’ll help you find it. But you have to let me finish my day, okay? I’ll call you when it’s safe to talk and you can tell me everything you know.”

She glared at me, but finally gave me a curt nod and blinked out of existence. Letting out a sigh, I started back up the ramp, but right before I turned the corner, she appeared again, and a piece of paper fell from the sky. I grabbed it out of the air and unfolded it to read the fancy handwriting across the top.

“What is this?” I asked, staring down at a name.

Ainsworth.

“It’s important,” was all she said, and then she was gone again.

With a sigh, I crumpled up the paper and put it into my pocket. When I turned the corner, ready to dart back into class, I froze. Penelope was standing there starting at me, just a few feet away from where Elizabeth had dropped the paper into my hands. Her eyes were wide and staring.

I gave a light, terrified laugh and realized by her expression she must have seen me talking to the ghost, and probably the paper falling out of the sky, too. “I um…”

“Dude, explain. Now.”

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