Alex and the Ironic Gentleman
by Adrienne Kress
Recommended Ages: 10+
Well, that was a mouthful. After that, all there is to say is that Alex goes on an adventure involving a train whose passengers disappear one by one, a movie monster who only wants to be taken seriously as an actor, a talking fridge that is the most sensible denizen of a bizarre hotel, a harbor city named after a Roman general who slipped on a banana peel, a conjurer with a weakness for the drink, and a crew of naval heroes willing to risk virtually certain doom to track down the dread pirate Steele, the pirate ship Ironic Gentleman, and its crew of physically and mentally twisted villains. Along the way, Alex learns by chilling experience that, heigh ho, a pirate's life is not for her. She finds herself facing the point of a murderous pirate's sword before we learn what will become of her, and Mr. Underwood, and the Wigpowder treasure.
This is a very enjoyable novel, full of hearty laughs, quirky characters, and goofy narrator's digressions. It has a good deal of violence, some hideously bad adult behavior, and some gruesome touches as well. It's definitely a thriller, with more than a touch of magic - such as a cat who shows every sign of human-like intelligence up to, but not quite including, speech. It has the kid appeal of a cast of adults who are no match for the brilliance of a sixth-grade girl - though Alex is no ordinary sixth-grader. My biggest laugh came from an early scene where the police put her in an interrogation room with the two-way mirror turned the wrong way. But the book is full of dialogue, action, and even scenic descriptions whose rich absurdity brought cleansing, liberating laughs from deep in my belly. This book made my weekend.
Adrienne Kress is a Canadian actress and author whose titles include the children's adventure Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, the girl-power steampunk novel The Friday Society, the angelic abduction/teen romance thriller Outcast, and a spinoff of the Looking Glass Wars trilogy co-written with the series' creator, Frank Beddor. As for this book, there was a rumor about 10 years ago that it was going to be made into a movie, but as far as I am aware, no such film ever materialized. It might happen, though!