The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, I said, "You want a book that hits the sweet spot for the nine-year old mythical creature lover? This is what you are looking for." The second book in the series, Dragon on Trial (HarperCollins, March 2014), has strengthened my conviction.
The menagerie in question is home to all manner of creatures, from unicorns and griffins and dragons to a goose that lays golden eggs. And it is the apparent murder of this goose that is the catalyst for this adventure. All the evidence points to a dragon named Scratch--and if Scratch is found guilty, he'll be exterminated.
Zoe and Logan, two middle school kids who are part of the Menagerie team, are convinced Scratch has been framed. But unless they can find who really committed the dastardly deed of goose murder (if murder it was), disaster won't befall Scratch alone--the whole menagerie might be shut down by those in Authority. Together with a new friend, a were-rooster named Marcus (a great addition to the cast, who provides comic relief that offsets the tension nicely), they set off on a detective hunt to find the answers they desperately need.
What makes this series a stand-out in kid appeal is that it beautifully combines the angsts of middle school life with a truly wonderful ménage of magical creatures. The characters and the set-up are so convincing that the menagerie almost seems possible. It's clear that the authors are truly enjoying themselves--so many fun details about the creatures!--and this enjoyment carries over into the reading experience.
Although the case of the missing goose is successfully resolved, bigger questions remain--someone is trying to sabotage the menagerie, and the disappearance of Logan's mom (whom he found out in the first book was a tracker of mythical creatures) remains a mystery. My young one and I cannot wait till book three comes out!
I didn't see anything in this book that made it clear, but I know from the first book that Logan happens to be African American--I hope it's might slightly more obvious in book 3, because it would be nice for readers to be able to pick up on it!
The above-mentioned young one and I are going up to Boston tomorrow to meet Tui T. Sutherland, at the release party for The Brightest Night, the fifth book in her Wings of Fire series! So exciting. We are taking this one for her to sign too if possible....