Some time back, when the latest discussion of ARCs and Bloggers and Publishers was going strong, I found myself musing about whether or not my blog was Useful. One of the commenters was Emily Ecton (most recently author of Project Jackalope), who said "your blog was on the list I sent my publisher when they asked where I wanted review copies sent." Now, I never did get copy from the publisher (which is fine; their choice), but I started wondering if authors were told who did get copies in the end, and if this kind blog reading author was sad that I had never reviewed her book. (Do authors get told? I'm curious).
So I got a hold of a copy (having enjoyed her other books), and proceeded to read, and that being said, of course my understandably friendly feelings in no way have swayed what I'm writing. I would never write a positive review of even my own dear children's books if they weren't good books (which they aren't, quite, yet).
So, with no further ado, Project Jackalope (Chronicle Books, March 2012, middle grade).
Here is the blurb from Amazon (which I am using because of Time Constraints): "Jeremy's troubles begin when his eccentric neighbor leaves him an "experiment" for safekeeping—a jackalope! This so-called mythological creature looks like a bunny rabbit, but comes with razor-sharp antlers and is purported to be a ruthless killer. When government agents show up at Jeremy's house seeking the jackalope for their own nefarious purposes, Jeremy must find a way to protect the jackalope, and himself. So he reluctantly joins forces with Agatha, his holier-than-thou genius neighbor. Together, with the jackalope (and his weapons-grade antlers) tucked away in a backpack, they have only one chance to save Jack and still get their science fair projects in on time. With her striking sense of humor, Emily Ecton has created a hilarious and suspenseful adventure, complete with a compelling and unforgettable cast of characters."
Now Project Jackalopeis not my own most favoritist type of book. But I agree strongly with that last sentence of the blurb on Amazon. This is a book that will appeal Very Much Indeed to those young readers who enjoy the kind of madcap and desperate mayhem that ensues when, as is the case here, two kids are running for their lives with a potentially killer jackalope in a Dora the Explorer suitcase, while Sinister Enemies pursue them.
Jeremy and Agatha are both appealing characters, the action is vivid, and the jackalope incredibly intriguing, what with its penchant for hard liquor, melting bunny eyes, and the fact that it could burst out of the suitcase with murderous intent at any minute.
But what I liked best was the science geekiness that underlies the whole book, and surfaces in delightful bursts from time to time. The whole premise is that the creation of hybrid animals is a scientific possibility, and Agatha, friendless, geeky, wearer of a despised squirrel applique sweater, is a middle school kid with the mental where with all to do it (Jeremy's role is compassionate animal loving jackalope saviour). And at the end of the book, when it was revealed that DARPA was a real government agency (!) I was thrilled.
It's funny, but not at all condescending--I got the sense, as one does with, say, the books of Adam Rex, that Emily Ecton was enjoying the writing of it very much indeed. And now, thanks to her blog comment, I shall pass on Project Jackalope to my local library, and finally her book will be in the Rhode Island library system where it should entertain its target audience very nicely indeed.
(Oh. Another library has gotten hold of a copy since I checked last. Oh well, I'm sure there's room for two...that copy is already checked out.)