The Big Houseby Carolyn Coman, Rob Shepperson
When Ivy and Ray's parents are sent to jail, and left in the custody of their parent's accusers, they decide to look for evidence that will "spring" their parents.
Publishers WeeklyComan (What Jamie Saw) displays her versatility with this sly comedy about Ivy and Ray, two kids sentenced to live with an heiress whose testimony has just sent their parents to jail for embezzlement. The Big House of the title isn't a prison, but rather "La Grande Maison," the mansion owned by the scheming Marietta Noland, who "kidnaps" the siblings in a limo, and then "leave[s them] to their own devices." That is, until Ray has a series of "unfortunate accident[s]," and Marietta banishes him to a room conveniently located close to the laundry. But what Ivy calls "solitary confinement" doesn't improve Ray's bladder control, and a new plan to send away the siblings to separate schools puts the pair in a panic. Coman salts the narrative with mysteries a bank robber grandfather with a felonious past, a shrouded portrait, a scroll hidden in a cake beneath a glass dome that culminate in a comical mock-trial in which Ray acts as prosecutor and Ivy as judge. In this affectionate portrayal of familial relations, Ivy serves not only as Ray's protector, but also as best friend and willing playmate. Though the parents are clearly flawed (they'd both "been sent off to jail before, but never at the same time"), Ivy and Ray love them, warts and all. Readers rooting for a happy ending will not be disappointed. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's LiteratureYoung Ray and Ivy's parents have been sentenced to 25 years for embezzlement and the judge sends the youngsters to live, in the lap of luxury, with their parents' elderly accusers. Definitely her father's protégé, Ivy decides they will spend their time uncovering evidence to free their parents and reveal Marietta and Nolan for what they really are. Since no one at the big house pays any attention to them (except when "the rain in Spain" appears, i.e. when Ray wets his bed), the children are free to explore the mansion and the grounds. Their hideout under a rhododendron is like a security blanket. From there they plot and stage their moveslooking for clues, rigging up a message system when Ray is moved to a bedroom near the laundry, staging mock trials with Marietta's collection of dolls, and more. Amazingly, they do uncover some evidence that changes their lives forever. Writing with great humor, Coman has produced a book very different from her previous ones. She has captured the world and feelings of these two youngsters who must fend for themselves while hanging onto their dreams. Lively dialogue and many exciting moments will keep youngsters reading as they root for this spirited duo. Shepperson's pencil drawings add energy and fun to the story. 2004, Front Street, Ages 9 to 12.
School Library JournalGr 3-6-In a real departure from her previous novels, Coman has created an enjoyable romp of a mystery. The story opens with a guilty verdict against Dan and Carol Fitts, the admittedly crooked parents of resourceful Ivy and her younger brother, Ray. The children are placed in the care of Marietta Noland, the snooty person who accused their parents of embezzling her father's money. The children will be the first beneficiaries of Blackstone Mouton's Last Best Hope Charity. Intrepid Ivy, who comes from a long line of scam artists, decides she and Ray must do surveillance and get the lay of the Nolands' grand but unwelcoming home. All sorts of amusing plans develop between the siblings, including making a clothesline intercom with Marietta's charm bracelet "borrowed" by Ivy. They also find a document that turns out to be the will of Blackstone Mouton II, who, unbeknownst to them, was their great grandfather. A mock trial ensues, complete with judge (Ivy), prosecutor (Ray), defendants (the Nolands), and witness for the prosecution (Veddy the chauffeur). The children get their folks freed from jail and, in the ultimate comeuppance, Marietta is employed as their maid. It's all great fun with lots of matter-of-fact, potboiler detective slang spoken by the children. Shepperson's drawings make the story even more amusing. This farcical, pseudo-Victorian drama of crime and punishment is sure to be a crowd pleaser.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews"No!" Ivy shouts in the courtroom when her parents are sentenced to 25 years in jail for embezzlement. Sure, they'd been to jail before, but never together, and never for so long. When Ivy and her younger brother Ray are sent to live with the very same rich septuagenarian couple who sent their parents "up the river," Ivy (a quick-study of her dad's shady dealings and of various courtroom dramas) decrees that they will spend their days scouring the sumptuous mansion for evidence that will acquit her parents. Left to their own devices, the siblings hide out in a rhododendron bush, sentence a fleet of international dolls to do time ("Ivy gave Miss Canada life"), and generally "case the joint." Ivy is as surprised as anyone when their obsessive hunt actually turns up evidence that forever changes everyone's fate. This funny, thoroughly entertaining change of pace for Coman seamlessly blends fantasy and reality in that wonderful way children can, and Shepperson's splendid, Quentin Blake-style illustrations further enliven an engaging story of espionage, family loyalty, and justice prevailing. (Fiction. 9-12)
- Penguin Group (USA)
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.16(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.63(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
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