1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2015
This is a deeply cool, subtle and restrained boy's own adventure story set within a fascinating, self-contained and eminently logical alternate world. Ben is a perfectly normal schoolboy. But, he knows how to enter another world and its capital city Mathamagical. In a previous book, (Mathamagical: An Alice in Wonderland Styled Tale set in the Land of Mathematics (The Ben and Adder Adventures), Ben discovered Mathamagical, befriended Pi and Adder and helped stop a war with the Alphas. Now, he returns to rescue Adder and to help stop an evil witch from attacking Alphabet City in the land of the Alphas and to stop her from jumbling all the words and destroying language. When you set it out like that the premise sounds awfully precious and a little pedantic, but in fact the adventure as written is engaging, stirring, and makes perfectly good sense.
Ben is a great hero. He is organized and a clear thinker, with a no nonsense can-do attitude. He is loyal, observant, courageous and clear in his defense of right and opposition to wrong. He is a classic boy-hero, but not a bland goodie-goodie. You take a liking to him immediately and root for him and his friends every step of the way. His manner is a bit dry and totally lacking in sarcasm or irony. While every inch a schoolboy, Ben remains a straight arrow in the old school style, with a polite and almost formal presence, which makes him a very striking and refreshing character for a middle grade read.
The imagination and creative world building that is on display on every page is fascinating. Rather than complex, detailed construction the author favors telling details, throwaway lines, small bits and subtle jokes that ultimately add up to a fully realized environment. Pi lives on 3.141593 Tangent Avenue. At one point Dye Ameter is stopped from pacing around the Round Table more than three times; I presume that this is so he doesn't conflict with Sir Cumference. Because of the actions of the witch "[n]ouns don't know who they are. The verbs have stopped doing anything...). When you walk along the Zero path everything to the right is positive black and everything on the other side is negative red. It just goes on and on, and none of it is jammed down the reader's throat; there are just many, many little details like this. It's clever and it's fun.
Books like this just have so much respect for their middle grade readers. No farts or boogers; no wacka-wacka frantic hijinks. Just thoughtful, creative regard for the reader's imagination and the reader's ability to recognize and follow what's going on and to get at least most of the jokes. This is great stuff.
These books have been described as having been influenced by "Alice in Wonderland" and the works of Roald Dahl, and I suppose that is true. But Ben also has the presence and carriage of the Little Prince of Saint-Exupery, and the alternate world feels a great deal like a cousin of Norton Juster's creation from "The Phantom Tollbooth". That's heady stuff for comparison purposes, but this book is that good.
So, if you have an adventurous reader or one who's ready for a bit of an imagination challenege this could be an excellent choice.
Please note that I found this book while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
on 30 March 2015
A review by my daughter:
"I am 11 years old now. I only started reading this book very recently. I really like this book. I chose this book as I had read the first one (which is about Maths) and loved it, so I wanted to read the second book (which is about English). It was not out until 2014 so there was a little bit of waiting. It was worth every minute. This book, and the first one, have taught me about circumference, pi, radius and many more in a really fun way, introducing me to them slowly by making them into characters with loveable personalities. In my classes we are only just being taught about these so this has been a tremendous help to my learning.
This book was not illustrated but it had small pictures at the beginning of the chapters. This really made the chapter titles pop. My favourite part is when Ben, the main character of the story, and his friends: Exclaim, I, E and C get attacked by the Raid Pestgin, I will say no more... I like it because it is so tense and dramatic. The only problem is that there are quite a few bits where you have to re-read a few times to fully understand what happened as it can get a little confusing. I would recommend this to a 5-12 year-old that might be taking tests or like books that have some facts about Maths or English."
on 10 August 2013
I really enjoyed Mathamagical so when I saw this sequel was out I had to have a look. In my opinion this is a better book. Sticking with the same idea that Ben goes to a land where the characters and lands help teach a subject by reading the story. In this one the young boy has to investigate what is happening in the land of letters and words while looking for his friend, the talking snake Adder. In doing so he has to take on a witch called Manarag, but I don't want to give too much away.
It has clever little lines that refer to rules of English and the pace of the story is really good.
I don't think you have to read Mathamagical to get this book, but as a pair I think this is looking like a great series.