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Sound Bender Hardcover – November 1, 2011
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About the Author
Theo Baker has had a lifelong fascination with sound. Wizened in Santa Barbara and toughened by New York, Theo has worked as a record producer, a music journalist, a sound designer, and a court reporter, amongst other odd jobs. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
- Publisher : Scholastic Press; First Printing edition (November 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0545196922
- ISBN-13 : 978-0545196925
- Reading age : 10 - 14 years
- Lexile measure : 730L
- Grade level : 5 - 9
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.59 x 0.98 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,840,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Mystery and family combine in this tale, as Leo comes to learn more of his skills and his family’s past. It’s a cool tale of curious artifacts, nations and peoples, and more, and I’d love to read book 2.
Disclosure: I found it on a deal and couldn’t resist buying it.
This is not the sort of book I normally like, nor one that I normally would predict will be very popular with my students (I bought it this summer; my kids will have to wait until school starts to check it out of my in-class library). But, I loved it and I know a lot my kids will as well.
The basic premise of the novel is that the main character (Leo, 13) and his little brother (Hollis, 11) have just lost their parents in a plane crash. They have gone to live with their very cold and rich step-uncle, Crane. Leo gets a letter his dad wrote for him on his first birthday, but posted that it was not to be delivered until his 13th birthday, which just occurred. With the letter and with help from his brilliant African-American friend, Trevor, Leo discovers he is Sound Bender. Not a Sound Bender; it is his name as well as his talent. He can hear events connected with objects he touches (kind of like Charlie Bone and photographs). And he learns there are people who are in terrible pain and sadness that need his help. It turns out the people are dolphins, and the book records his efforts to help them. Along the way, he picks up some intriguing allies in addition to Trevor and makes an enemy of his step-uncle.
I can't really tell you why I liked the book so much, because I don't know myself, exactly. I usually like a lot of action, a bit of danger for the main characters, and a clear goal for the hero. The book has some action and a little danger, especially if the uncle turns out to be really evil. It has a "kind-of" goal, but even Leo doesn't know what it actually is until the very end, and I was very confused as to how it was met. So why did I like it so very much?
One definite reason is that music is very important to the plot, and music is one of my passions. Maybe it's also because I was actually tingling as I finished the book. Maybe it is that I know what is like to be so suddenly close to your brothers when your dad dies of a heart attack that was as surprising and final as the plane crash; I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose both mom and dad. It might be because Oliver and Baker exactly nail the voice of a smart 13 year old boy; the narration is dead on what I'd expect from one of the boys from my Honors classes, or even my regular classes. It could be the incredible character development of Leo; I really felt like I knew him and I certainly know a lot of boys that are like him because they are in my classes every day. Or maybe it is the touching but awkward strength of the friendship between Leo and Trevor that especially manifests itself when they face adversity together. Finally, I think it is also the fact that the authors get kids; not just voice, but the little things like reactions to adult behavior, clothes, the different types of physical contact, etc.
In the end, it is probably that I feel very sure this book is setting up the series, which will have all the other things I love in books. I recommend this book as much for adults as kids. One caveat: if you lost a parent yourself, be prepared to feel some of that old pain that never seems to completely go away. It's NOT an intentional tear jerker, but you will empathize with Leo and Hollis.
I like the character mix. The protagonist, Leo, is smart, resourceful, perseverant and he sincerely cares for his younger brother. Leo's friend, Trevor, is super smart--good to have with you on an adventure. Leo's mentor, Jeremy, is reliable--a solid father figure and he's into music.
Leo's paranormal phenomena are clever and intriguing. That caught my interest at the outset of the story and maintained it to the end. Also, the pace of the adventure and Leo's sense of urgency keeps the tension on from the start. However, the story lacks a level of excitement and I think that's because Leo doesn't have much at stake. He's never in any real danger.
The descriptions are clear and build good mental images. The authors use interesting and apt figurative language. The edited book is professional and squeaky clean--what else would you expect from Scholastic Press?
Although the plot and actions are kid-like, I thought the narration and internal dialogue sounded too mature for thirteen, more like sixteen or older. Pre-teens might bog down with this diction, although kids do like to read up.