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Michael Leighton
Cooper B. and the Scavenger Hunt

An eleven-year-old orphan never realized just how special he was until he traveled to a distant world and discovered he possessed an extraordinary ability known as the Guild.

Cooper B. spent his entire childhood moving from one orphanage to another until his peculiar caseworker Ms. Pedigree dropped him off at St. Mary’s Academy for the Exceptional Youth.

     There, he met his two best friends, and together they embarked on grand adventures to help them escape from their reality of being the forgotten ones. Everything had seemed perfectly normal — until they met a quirky, pink haired girl from another world.

     That chance meeting would take them on a new adventure, unlike anything they could have ever imagined, and together they would journey to a faraway land in search of Cooper B’s true identity. But what they learn will change their lives forever, and Cooper B. will find himself in grave danger — because the truth was never to be known.

Leighton’s first Cooper B. middle grade fantasy-mystery brims with adventure and charms with its simplicity. Cooper B., age 11, has been in the foster system his entire life. The only constant has been Ms. Pedigree, his social worker. Upon placement at Saint Mary’s Academy for Exceptional Youth, Cooper quickly befriends two of Ms. Pedigree’s other charges, Miles and Aria. The trio discover their fourth, Serra, who comes from a parallel world called Alyssum. Strangest of all is that Cooper B. is apparently known in Alyssum as a boy with a cryptic history.

Leighton easily sweeps readers into the world of Alyssum, which is familiar enough to be comforting but distinctive in a beguiling way. Though readers may detect echoes of other stories about orphans thrust into magical places full of friends and foes, the wide-eyed wonder Cooper feels in Alyssum is original and beautifully described. The smoothly written prose flows effortlessly, liberally dotted with enticing details and vivid characterizations. The novel allows children to be children, giving them room to grow, develop, and explore freely. There’s plenty of adult supervision, but it’s clear that the quartet have autonomy to discover new opportunities and initiate fresh experiences.

Cooper’s perspective isn’t always consistent; there are several instances where his voice and word choice suggest an adult, or someone with more maturity than one would expect from an 11-year-old. The tale intermittently reads as if Cooper is an adult reminiscing about his past rather than a child experiencing these events for the first time. Young readers who find those passages confusing will still enjoy the rest of the story and de Souza Sinclair’s elegant digital chapter-head illustrations. Conveying a sense of awe and delight, Leighton delivers an absorbing and entertaining story that touches just enough on serious topics.

Takeaway: A sophisticatedly crafted world and vividly imagined characters will draw readers of all ages into this adventure filled with lessons and wonder.

Great for fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B