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Ritter, William.

Chapel Hill: Algonquin Young Readers, 2014

(2 booktalks)

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Booktalk #1

One of the best ways to describe this book is this: Imagine if the TV shows of Sherlock and Doctor Who had a baby that was a book. This would be that book. Our story begins with Abigail Rook, who has recently traveled from England via the Ukraine. She is escaping her family, who want her to fit into the exceedingly boring life they have planned for her. But Abigail wants adventure. She wants to dig with archaeologists and visit foreign countries. As she arrives on the shores of New England in 1892, she literally collides with R.F. Jackaby, who deduces not only where she is from, but where she has been, what kind of ship she traveled on and what she’s eaten. But it’s not because he is a “deductionist” as Abigail first believes, but because he has the Sight. He can see the supernatural creatures she has encountered along her way, and the traces they have left behind. Intrigued by his claims of the fantastical, Abigail accepts a position as his investigative assistant.  Being a bit more level headed, and much more observant of the everyday, Abigail proves to be an invaluable help to Jackaby. Jackaby and Abigail are soon on the trail of a series of incredible murders. But lurking behind the seeming calm of the town is a host of forces who don’t want them to look too closely at what exactly is happening.

 This is a fantastic book for anyone who loves a good mystery, doesn’t mind an exploding frog or two, the possibility of a werewolf, and a fantastical journey through an exciting world where reason and magic live side by side.  (Oklahoma Sequoyah Award, 2017)

Booktalk #2

Imagine if Sherlock Holmes could see the paranormal world with the same exacting eye that he brought to his real-world detective skills and you’d have Jackaby. With his swirling, voluminous jacket full of mysterious pockets that always seem to have the components he needs, the slightly mad Jackaby trots around late 1800’s London with his new assistant, Abby, in tow. If Abby can stay for a week, she will have outstayed all the other assistants that have come and gone. Possibly, that’s because Jackaby is weird, really, really weird. He has an indoor pond for his former assistant who is now a duck. The duck shares space with an emotional ghost who sometimes helps Jackaby solve crimes.

And that’s not even the weird stuff… But Abby really needs this job, and though she has come close to death several times in her few days with Jackaby, she is really enjoying this crime-solving stuff. (Michael Fleming, Teacher-Librarian, Pacific Cascade Middle School Library, Issaquah, WA, Evergreen Teen Awards, 2017)


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