E.L. Konigsburg made a remarkable debut in children's books by winning the prestigious Newbery Medal for her book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler. She is also the author of Silent to the Bone, The View From Saturday and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place. She lives in Florida, USA.
This complex work has all the trappings of vintage Konigsburg: unusually articulate children considering the adult world and trying to stake their claim on it; an art history-related mystery; a headlines-inspired story line; eccentric grown-ups; and, of course, incisive, often brilliant prose. Sad to say, the magic is missing. The action starts off promisingly. Amedeo Kaplan (son of characters met in The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place) has just moved to coastal Florida and made friends with William Wilcox, son of an estate sale manager (introduced in the story collection Throwing Shadows). As the boys help William's mother pack up the palatial home of Amedeo's next-door neighbor, a larger-than-life retired opera singer, Amedeo finds a signed Modigliani drawing. Because Amedeo has just returned from attending an art exhibit curated by another Outcasts alum, Peter Vanderwaal, on the subject of "degenerate" art (modern art criminalized by the Nazis), Amedeo is primed to uncover the history behind the drawing-a dark provenance that links the retired opera singer, the Vanderwaals and the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. While the author's material and style prove as stimulating as ever, her repeated reliance on coincidence weakens the book's impact. Her tried-and-true fans will forgive these contrivances, but newcomers should not start here. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8-E. L. Konigsberg, a master storyteller, has created a clever narrative (GineeSeo Books, 2007) tailor-made for performance. Her gift of intertwining story lines shines in this tale about sixth-grader Amedeo Kaplan, a lonely child new to St. Malo, Florida. Deo meets older classmate William Wilcox who invites the boy to help him and his mother with the liquidation of Mrs. Zender's estate, Deo's eccentric neighbor. Deo is thrilled to lend a hand. Mrs. Zender, a former second-rate opera diva, traveled the world, and Deo is convinced her home will uncover magnificent treasures. Each of these characters comes to life with the skillful performance of veteran actor Edward Herrmann. With distinct and interesting voices, he eases listeners into a complicated plot involving flashbacks to the art world of Nazi Germany, an art exhibit in Wisconsin, and William and Deo's discovery in Florida. Hermann's interpretation of a young Dutch boy facing Nazi prejudice is especially poignant. Fans of Konigsberg's previous mysteries will relish this fine audiobook.-Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.