It is still too early to have many reviews for "Poison Most Vial," which is not due out until April.
But "IUnknows" was reviewed extensively and (mostly) well, in 2009 ad 2010.. Here is a sampling:
"This book was so cool. It was about these two kids, Lady Di and Tom who live in a trailer park next to a chemical plant. When one of their friends disappears, it is up to them to follow the math clues that she left to rescue her. I liked this book because it had a lot of math problems in it and I’m not too good in math. I liked how the kids didn’t get the problems at first and when they did, the book explained how they got the answer. I would recommend this book for anyone else who is having trouble in math."
—submitted by Veronica P. (age 12, grade 8 )
“People knew nothing, zero, about what was going on literally right beneath their feet. The plotting at the nuclear plant. The twisted plans for the island. The heinous black heart of Folsom: We were oblivious back then, like moths circling a fire.” Such is the state of the residents of Folsom Adjacent, an island trailer-park community that exists solely, amid stultifying dullness and baking heat, to support the big nuclear plant there, and that makes Lucky’s Hard Pan (The Higher Power of Lucky, BCCB 1/07) seem like luxury.
Of course, the Adjacent residents who happen on the secret are a pair of kids. Di, who is nicknamed—initially derisively, now affectionately—“Lady Di,”
and her scrawny little pal known as “Tom Jones” (nobody can bother to pronounce or find out his real, long, Arabic name), are tense enough at the prospect of starting middle school off the island, and things get worse when Adjacent residents start disappearing. The latest victim is Di and Tom’s dear and clever friend Mrs. Clarke, who has always helped them with their math; while the authorities shrug the events off, the two kids realize that Mrs. Clarke has left them a mathematical clue. Solving that one leads to another, solving that one leads to another, and so on; as the kids solve the problems, they begin to learn more about the secret world of and under Adjacent, and they find allies in some of their scarier co-residents—but will it be enough to save Mrs. Clarke and defeat the nefarious plans of Folsom Electric?
Carey takes the puzzle-book format, familiar in works from Raskin’s The Westing Game (BCCB 9/78) to Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer (BCCB 7/04), and gives it a rawboned and rich human story with a vivid sense of place. The math-centered clues are accessible but not obvious, involving gradients, right triangles, graph coordinates, and the like; even more cleverly, their solutions visually accrue into a map of the realm underneath Adjacent, so that mathematics is literally explaining the protagonists’ world. Yet readers not absorbed by the math can sit back, let Di, Tom, and their cohorts do the numeric labors, and simply enjoy the adventure. The intricacies of the kids’ travel through the mysterious world underneath Adjacent (entered through a huge trash heap) are suspenseful and fascinating, while there’s a touch of Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society (BCCB 5/07) in notion of the clever youngsters using their talents to infiltrate and defeat a powerful collective enemy. The writing crackles with plainspoken wit, and nifty little details sparkle in odd places (many of the names are joking plays on the famous, with the Epic Poets, led by Owen Wilfred, a frightening gang at school, and Rene D. Quartez and Pascal
Blasé the bullies-in-chief in Adjacent). Though the style is far from sentimental, there are touches of understated poignancy in the fates of some less-fortunate Adjacent residents (a depressing category indeed), and Di and Tom are sketched in bold, quick strokes that make them effectively individual and sympathetic. The narrative voice is never identified, but it sounds like the ramblings of another resident of Adjacent, who’s accustomed to the place’s deficits and peculiarities and reflects its blinkered view, and who tells a whale of a good story.
“Once people start thinking, as Mrs. Clarke would have said, all bets are off.” That’s certainly true in the case of Tom, Di, and the other Adjacent residents,
who begin to find they have capabilities and connections beyond their expectations as well as the ability to solve a mystery that will save their homes. Will that message inspire readers as well? Maybe, but even if it doesn’t, they’ll find plenty of diversion in this atmospheric tale of determined kids using their brains and talents to find their way through a strange and daunting world—above ground as well as below it.
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Who would like this book? This book is great for people who love mysteries and math.
Why? Eleven-year-old Di (short for Diaphantha) lives in a dilapidated trailer park town called Folsom Adjacent, which shares a desolate island with the Folsom Energy Plant. Di and her misfit friend, nicknamed Tom Jones, know how to survive by hiding and fending for themselves. Their favorite neighbor, Malba Clarke, helps them with their math homework while telling them stories of her travels. When Mrs. Clarke becomes the third person to mysteriously disappear from Adjacent, Di and Tom know that they must act, especially when they discsover that she has left them a mathematical clue made from straws and a salt shaker. As they use their knowledge of geometry to decipher her clues, Di and Tom must use all of their wits and muster lots of courage to face underground tunnels, evil adults, a trash mountain, and cliffs above crashing waves. Their ingenuity and pluck work well with the narrative voice, an unidentified resident of Adjacent with the inside scoop. Reading this book is like sitting at Mrs. Clarke’s table, finding out how right triangles, pi, and slopes work while bring distracted by a rip-roaring story. Pull up a chair!
The details: 259 p. 2009 Submitted by Samrarian
Contributed by Nancy
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Lady Di and Tom and quirky, enjoyable characters and are surrounded by a good supporting cast. The math is central to the mystery, and, quite frankly, was challenging (I took these classes a long time ago!). I got a chuckle out of the Rene D and Pascal characters as well. A clever attempt by the author, but I'm not sure how many middle school students will pick this up. (I am a middle school librarian).