Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: Funny middle-grade fantasy

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Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson Children's fantasy book reviewsAlcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Smedry is a troubled boy. He has no parents and, because he breaks nearly everything he touches, he is regularly being kicked out of his foster homes and transferred to new ones. The only constant adult in his life is his case worker. The bag of sand that Alcatraz receives on his 13th birthday as an inheritance from his dead parents further highlights the fact that nobody ever loved him.

But then a strange man shows up, claims to be his grandfather, and announces that Alcatraz is actually the hero of a land called the Free Kingdoms. He further explains that the land that Alcatraz knows of as America is run by evil librarians who control all knowledge, squelch technological developments, and lie to people about reality. It turns out, also, that Alcatraz’s predilection for breaking things isn’t really a curse, but is a magical ability. Grandpa Smedry introduces Alcatraz to his cousins who also have specific magical abilities that seem like curses.

Oh, and the bag of sand? It’s super important. Too bad it was stolen by one of the Evil Librarians. Now Alcatraz, his grandfather, his cousins, and a spunky girl named Bastille will have to get it back. To do so, they’ll have to sneak into the library and get some help from some very proper talking dinosaurs.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is a cute story that I enjoyed reading with my 13 year old daughter, Tali. We both thought it was funny and even though I thought it was occasionally more silly than funny, at these times it was enough for me to see Tali enjoying it so much. Brandon Sanderson has a great sense of humor and I loved how he used the story to instruct children about writing techniques while amusing them at the same time. He talks about the use of foreshadowing, hooks, cliffhangers, etc., while giving some writing advice and lessons about critique. For example, in the middle of an intense action scene, he pauses to explain that you should never interrupt an action scene to explain things to the reader. My daughter, who loves to notice and point out irony, thought this was hilarious. If I had been reading this book by myself, I probably would have given it 3.5 stars, but it gets bumped up because Tali loved it so much.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is a comedy, but it isn’t shallow. Alcatraz is open about his low self-esteem and his vulnerability and the importance of love and family is emphasized. Alcatraz also learns that, contrary to what the popular maxim says, not everything is possible and you can’t always be what you want to be, no matter how hard you try.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians was first published in 2007 as the first in a four-book series. The books are now being reprinted by Starscape (Tor) in illustrated hardback versions and a fifth book, The Dark Talent, is being released later this year. Hayley Lazo’s attractive black and white drawings are a great addition to the story. Tali and I also tried the audio version, which we enjoyed. It was produced by Recorded Books and is narrated by Ramon De Ocampo. It’s just over 6 hours long.

Originally published in 2007. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is the first action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. These fast-paced and funny novels are now available in deluxe hardcover editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo. On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. I can see how this book would be too silly for me, but I’m glad your daughter loved it!

  2. I dunno… it sounds like fun to me. I think I would buy a copy and donate it to the used bookstore, just so it found its way into some reading kid’s hands!

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