The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly
by Ted Sanders (Author), Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator)
HarperCollins (March 3, 2015)
This is a story I picked up after passing on it several times. The book cover and description sound interesting, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to begin another long possibly protracted series for young readers. However, the school year is upon us and I decided to pick it up on the off chance that one of our students might request it.
Horace is a middle schooler in Chicago with an inability to keep track of his house keys. So when he stumbles upon a sign that seems to have his name on it, but in reality has “house of answers” on the sign he can’t resist and has to get a look inside. What he finds is more questions and lots of bins with labels like “unbinnable” or “sorted” and a ledger that writes in colored ink. When Horace discoveres a box that fits in his hand and feels like it belongs there, he is launched into an adventure against two groups: the Keepers and the Makers, of remarkable seemingly magical objects that possess the power to do amazing things. He and another young initiate Chloe must figure out what their artifacts do, and what side they are on quickly, before someone else makes that decision for them.
First the good. It is a fun junior fiction tale that has a secret society, magical/science artifacts, a big bad, and a boy/girl team. The bad, the first book is one ginormous set up. Oh yes, there is some action, and some pretty impressive world building, but I just didn’t think there was any character development or story progression. In the end, our characters ended right back where they started, just with more knowledge and no bad guy defeated. Oh, and I am not a big fan of scientific exposition within what is billed as a fantasy. These long discussions stalled the story and made for uneven reading. Because so little was accomplished I am thinking this series is slated to be a big one. For a young boy or girl who is a fan of action adventure stories with a dash of science, this is a great novel.
Parental Note: I really didn’t like the Chloe’ abusive drunken father or the solution/explanation of he’s ok it’s just the alcohol/artifact/situation…. There were some pretty distressing emotional reasons given for Chloe’ fathers depression that just don’t justify his behavior. Sorry, abuse is abuse. And to imply that it is ok to treat your children this way because their Mother walked out is inexcusable. It is also inexcusable to say living in filth is alright if he is good deep down inside. I really wanted to say don’t rescue him, let the bastard rot, but that is not how it is done in Junior Fiction stories.