A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots about maps, geography, and undersea exploration. Sebastian comes from a family of genius nerds, and also has a photographic memory, so a lot of scientific, historical, and academic information comes up in the story. Also some clever tips for difficult internet searches.
Friendship, bravery, teamwork, learning, discovering your talents and putting them to use, dealing with the unexpected.
Positive Role Models
Sebastian and Evie are quite different -- he's nerdy and brilliant, she's brash and determined -- but in their different ways they both learn a lot about empathy, friendship, problem solving, and courage, and put it to good use.
Violence & Scariness
In the past, an expedition gone wrong causes a deadly catastrophe with far-reaching consequences. Villains destroy a house and may have killed its occupants. Two murderous, very creepy-looking villains, one with half his face melted away and the other with his jaw wired shut and wires sticking out all over. Two parents dead in a car crash, one missing grandpa in danger, a tween abducted, gunfire, assorted mayhem and scary situations.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Door in the Alley is the first book in author Adrienne Kress' series The Explorers, in which 12-year-old Sebastian and 11-year-old Evie -- pursued by creepy, murderous villains -- seek Evie's grandfather, a long-lost adventurer. There's a fair amount of cartoonish violence that some sensitive kids may find upsetting. The ditzy, self-absorbed narrator will delight some and aggravate others, but Sebastian and Evie are appealing protagonists: very different kids who come to appreciate each other, work well together, and have their moments to shine. Lots of vocabulary-enhancing big words here, along with useful information, from the depth of the Mariana Trench to helpful internet search techniques.
Is It Any Good?
Once it gets going, this is a fun, rollicking read, but readers have to be up for a book that chirps, "Don't you hate stories that end in cliff-hangers?" and then gives them a doozy. The Door in the Alley is quite full of itself, with boasting, dithering, big words galore, footnotes that have nothing to do with the story, and other distractions that are going to be part of the fun for some readers and an absolute deal-breaker for others.
Protagonists Sebastian and Evie have a lot of appeal (helped by Matthew C. Rockefeller's lively illustrations), as do some of the quirky adults. Nightmare-prone kids beware: The villains -- a man with a melted face, and another with wires sticking out of his jaw -- may come back to haunt you.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.