Le­gend of the Star Run­ner: A Timmi Tobb­son Ad­ven­ture

J. I. Wag­ner Cindy Froehlich (Il­lus­tra­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - KAREN RIGBY

fre­sha­books (MAY) Soft­cover $12.99 (168pp) 978-3-96326777-2

A spir­ited trio of kid sleuths un­der­take a clas­sic trea­sure hunt in J. I. Wag­ner’s Le­gend of the Star Run­ner. Tak­ing its in­spi­ra­tion from video games and cloak-and-dag­ger mys­ter­ies, this story for mid­dle-grade read­ers is a vis­ual feast.

Lilli’s grand­fa­ther is fac­ing evic­tion. With the prospect of a pi­rate’s trea­sure guid­ing them, she and her best friends, Marvin and Timmi, set out to find the loot to res­cue him from his debts. A large-hearted, naïve, and wildly im­prob­a­ble plot de­lights as the fear­less team—led by a trea­sure hunter—lands in a se­ries of un­der­ground worlds.

Sev­eral twists and turns hinge on pure luck, tim­ing, and un­canny per­cep­tions. A re­liance on video-game sta­ples, in­clud­ing hid­den pas­sage­ways, trap­doors, puz­zles, maps, and multiple-choice paths, some­times threatens to turn the book into a high-con­cept maze. Still, what the story misses in the depth of its back­ground, the il­lus­tra­tions make up for; they are smart com­po­si­tions us­ing chro­matic pal­ettes and fea­ture clues. From a clut­tered kitchen to the check-in desk at the Savoy to a wall of keys at an archive, scenes set a dis­tinct mood for the story.

The tone is wisely cal­i­brated; it’s nei­ther overly ter­ri­fy­ing nor overly light­hearted. The per­ils the group en­counter pose enough dan­ger to build sus­pense yet leave room for es­cape. There’s sel­dom doubt that the kids will pre­vail, con­sid­er­ing their Holme­sian knack for ob­ser­va­tion; the book’s plea­sure rests in their city­wide rang­ing that peels back his­tory to re­veal the se­crets of a leg­endary pi­rate em­bed­ded in their midst.

A list of fun facts lists the book’s film in­flu­ences, which in­clude Pi­rates of the Caribbean, and a sec­tion of hints of­fers in­sights writ­ten in re­verse. With the ex­u­ber­ance of a ca­per, de­ter­mined pro­tag­o­nists, and a mes­sage steeped in fam­ily legacy, this first in a planned se­ries is a splen­did homage to ad­ven­ture.

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