MMGM: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz
ABOUT THE BOOK
Elliot Eisner isn't exactly excited about starting at a brand-new school in a brand-new town; he'd much rather stay at home and read a book. But things take an unexpected turn when he finds out his weird new teacher, Professor Fauna, has planned a field trip for Elliot's very first day. Along with a new friend--brave, outspoken Uchenna Devereaux--Elliot gets caught up in a secret group of adventurers, The Unicorn Rescue Society, whose goal is to protect and defend the world's mythical creatures. Together with Professor Fauna, Elliot and Uchenna must help rescue a Jersey Devil from a duo of conniving, greedy billionaires, the Schmoke Brothers.
I'm always on the lookout for fantasy/speculative books for middle grade readers that aren't really long and difficult. Not all readers are ready or able to take on Harry Potter or The Lightning Thief. So I was really interested when I heard about this series. And it didn't disappoint. With a couple of fun, but quite different characters combined with an unusual mentor and a delightful mythological creature at the heart of things, The Creature of the Pines works well for younger readers. The story is intriguing from the first when Elliot climbs on the school bus for the field trip on his first day of school and meets Uchenna Devereaux. She's the only person who looks remotely friendly, but her tendency to play musical instruments in the air is a little off putting. But their friendship is really cemented when they venture into the Pine Barrens with their class and stumble across a young Jersey Devil, the last thing they expected to find. And they certainly didn't intend to take the creature on the bus with them or accidentally turn in loose in the middle of the city. Professor Fauna seems to be the only one who can help, but he's a bit unusual himself and downright terrifying at times. This book makes for a fun read for reluctant readers who need some humor mixed in with their excitement and love the idea of magical creatures existing all around us.