Thirteen-year-old Falcon Quinn and his neighbors, Max and Megan, board bus number 13 for school on an ordinary day in Cold River, Maine. Only the bus doesn't take its ordinary route, and Falcon and his friends soon find themselves in an extraordinary place on Shadow Island, at the Academy for Monsters. With a student body stranger than the cast of any monster movie Falcon has ever seen, the academy is home to creatures and oddities of all kinds. In the academy's atmosphere, Falcon's friends begin to unleash and enjoy their monster natures, from flying with Pearl, La Chupakabra, to decaying with the "Zombie Snap." Falcon has always felt different, with his one bright blue eye and one shadow-black eye, but is he really a monster? Will he discover the other thing that makes him different when he finds himself in the Black Mirror? And when he learns that the school's mission is to teach students to hide their aberrant natures, Falcon and his friends need to find a way to fight back for their monster selves. Bestselling author Jennifer Finney Boylan introduces Falcon, Max, Megan, and their band of monster friends in this first installment of a hair-raising and sidesplitting adventure of monstrous proportions.
Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror is the story of a boy named Falcon Quinn who boards the school bus one day as usual, only instead of taking him to school, the bus takes him to The Academy of Monsters, where children go to learn how to suppress their monstrous natures so as to better pass themselves off in human society. At first Falcon thinks it’s all some big mistake, but soon enough he learns that it’s no mistake he actually is a monster himself. Upon arrival, he and his classmates are given a test to determine what kind of monsters they are Frankensteins, Sasquatches, elementals, chupacabras...you name it. But unlike all of his classmates at the Academy, no one knows what kind of monster Falcon is.
For readers, it’s that central mystery that drives the plot of Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, but for listeners it’ll be Fred Berman’s enthusiastic and highly entertaining performance. Berman is one of those vocal chameleons who is able to provide distinct and wildly different voices for each of the characters he portrays. Here he showcases a dynamic range, from surfer-dude brogue to growly Franken-speak to the somewhat-hyper Latina chupacabra and all work wonderfully in bringing the narrative to life. The overall effect is something like listening to an animated film or cartoon’s voice over, which makes it all the more amazing that it’s all done by one person. Older listeners may feel that in some of the more bombastic passages Berman goes a bit overboard, but the target middle-grade audience should love the performance from start to finish.
The book itself, while a bit derivative, and at times heavy-handed with its message, is an enjoyable romp, sure to please fans of the Harry Potter series looking for something in the same vein. It’s quite fun, perhaps overly silly at times, but the story is one that most young people should be able to relate to, given its broad theme of social isolation. And in the end it’s just a rollicking good adventure story that listeners of all ages should be able to enjoy. John Joseph Adams
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Great Read with my nine year old daughter.