Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
This book is quite special. Besides being a great story, it is a book about seeing the world differently. It shows how a change in perception can break you out of ruts and rough spots. The power of the main character, Alcatraz Smedry is to break things. He can break just about anything by accident. Door handles fall off in his hands, the stove breaks, the pots break, just about everything breaks in his hands.
When Alcatraz Smedry, who is in foster care, turns thirteen, he receives a special bag of sand from his parents. This prompts the evil librarians to steal it from him. it is very unique sands from the desert of Rashid.
Grandpa Smedry rescues him from being killed by librarians. Thus begins a fantastic adventure. The librarians are secretly controlling everything by providing misinformation about how the world really works. There are really six continents, dinosaurs are alive, and the whole world is a lie.
This book is wonderfully silly. Alcatraz Smedry reminds us that he really is no hero and that it was all a mistake. We learn that stairs are more advanced than elevators because they don't break and provide exercise, swords are more advanced than guns, and magic is as real as physics.
The book is filled with metaphors. One of the magics used in the book is oculation. Different eyeglasses give different powers. There are tracking lenses, fire lenses, and torture lenses. Different ways of seeing give you different powers. The world becomes a very different place for the main character, Alcatraz Smedry. Alcatraz even has a companion, Bastille who is his protrectress. Alcatraz and Bastille of course are the names of prisons.
One of my favorite settings is the giant library hidden inside the regular library. Imagine vaulted ceilings, cantaloupe shaped lamps, and overstuffed shelves with metal plaques at the ends proclaiming their contents.
I even didn't mind the caricatures of librarians. Imagine a lady in a black skirt with a bun and horn rimmed glasses, or a heavily muscled gentleman in a pink dress shirt with pink bow tie and sweater vest. It was done with just the right amount of silliness.
Despite being written for 4th graders, this book has a timeless quality to it. It is also 303 pages long which makes me question the rating of 4th grade reading level. I think it is closer to young adult. It is like the Cricket In Times Sqare, The Phantom Tollbooth, or Alice in Wonderland. In a modern sense, I might say that I liked it as much as Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. The fantastic elements are accessible to almost anyone. The setting is at the borders of our world.
Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. I saw the cover and title and immediately grabbed it. It is a true "gimme" cover which makes you want to just grab it. It deserves to be read. There is even a second book in the series which just came out, Alcatraz Versus The Scrivener's Bones. I put it on hold already.