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The Wizard of Dark Street: An Oona Crate Mystery Hardcover – July 26, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Oona Crate Mystery Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Delightful cover art will attract Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman readers, who will enjoy the quirky characters and offbeat humor. Upbeat in tone, this delight is an excellent blend of fantasy and mystery with a variety of suspicious characters and enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing all the way to the end." --BOOKLIST

*Starred Review* "Odyssey's lyrical descriptions ("It was a place as ancient as the wind, where candlestick trees replaced light posts, and street clocks told jokes as well as time") and consummate world-building result in a wonderfully fresh fantasy-detective story."  -- Publishers Weekly

"This mystery has an intriguing cast of characters and classic detective elements. The concept of a magical street filled with quirky denizens will please readers, as will Oona's independent spirit. Boys and girls will appreciate the protagonist's magical Nancy Drew-type capers and her straightforward style." -- School Library Journal

About the Author

When he's not writing novels, Shawn Thomas Odyssey is a professional music composer for film and TV, with works including HBO's Deadwood and the video game release of Kung Fu Panda. He is married to a mysterious dancer whom he met while working at a haunted theater. Shawn lives in Nevada City, California, and you can visit him online at shawnthomasodyssey.com and thewizardofdarkstreet.com
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Series: An Oona Crate Mystery
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: EgmontUSA (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606841432
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606841433
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,836,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pamela VINE VOICE on November 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I really have a thing for fantasies set in worlds that lay alongside ours. The blurring of the edges between what we think of as reality and those magical worlds fascinates me, which is probably why I love the Harry Potter series so much (and why I'm working on a couple of stories with those kinds of worlds myself). The Wizard of Dark Street takes place on Dark Street (oddly enough), a little neighborhood that's linked to New York City, but is actually a bridge between the normal world and the Land of Faerie. It's a highly entertaining blend of Harry Potter-esque magic and Holmesian detective work.

Oona Crate is the Dark Street Wizard's apprentice and niece, but Oona doesn't want to be the Wizard. She doesn't even want to use magic anymore, not after the horrid accident. So she and her magical talking raven, Deacon (who's more of a flying encyclopedia than a regular old bird), snoop around Dark Street, trying to solve mysteries. When a very big mystery involving stolen dresses, missing cobblestones, and her uncle's apparent murder falls into her lap, Oona hopes she's not in over her head. She must use all of her detective's cunning to solve this mystery before she loses her uncle forever, and before the very fabric of Dark Street falls apart.

It's easy to compare magical young adult literature to Harry Potter, but The Wizard of Dark Street mimics the feel of Rowling's series, for lack of a more precise term. Odyssey's way of describing the setting and the characters is very visual and whimsical, and I had no trouble at all picturing the strange world of Dark Street.
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Format: Paperback
I am disappointed that so many reviews compared this book to the Harry Potter series. While I'm sure lots of kids will enjoy this book, it is no where near that level of children's literature. Although it was a fun story, it was a challenge for me to read to my students. They liked it, but as a well read adult who is also versed in children's literature, I felt there were several 'new author' issues that will hopefully be addressed in the author's future books (I have not read his second book.) The most noticeable for me was how overwritten it was. Not every sentence needs three adjectives and three adverbs! In my head I kept thinking, "This is not an introductory creative writing class! Edit! Please, for goodness sake, get out a red pen!" as I was reading aloud. This problem arose frequently enough that it detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

Also noticeable was the challenge in consistently conveying the time period. Every so often as you are reading along, something happens that rips you back to remembering that this story is supposed to take place over 100 years ago. Not that characters are using cell phones or anything, but much of it doesn't have the feel of the time period. It is almost as if the author throws in details about the date, or similar reminders, just so people don't forget when this story is taking place.

The other thing that was really apparent to me was the many times the author (intentionally or not) borrowed from other popular children's literature. I am sure it's very difficult to write a children's book, particularly with the popularity of other books in this genre, but it would be advantageous for the author to find an editor really familiar with children's literature who can read for ideas too closely related to another auhor's work, as well as content.

I am sure many children will enjoy the story of Oona, but I hope the author will improve on these areas in future books.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Getting middle grade books makes me nervous. Every now and then, you come across a Harry Potter...but for the most part, you end up with books that, while delightful for children, don't really hold up to a worldly and discerning adult's suspicious, near-sighted eyeballs. I wasn't reassured when I saw all of the critical (or at least tepid) reviews for this first Oona Crate mystery, either — usually, I'm in the position of being harder on books than other reviewers, so when a lot of people dislike something, I generally take that as a sign and keep walking.

I'm not sure why I didn't this time, to be honest. Maybe it was my mood; don't you, every now and then, just crave something simple and uncomplicated, something that's not going to make you *feel* too much? Maybe a desire along those lines subconsciously pulled me in. Or, I suppose it could've been most excellent cover, too. Or, maybe I was just riding high on my discovery of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series and wanted to keep the winning streak going. Don't know.

And you know, the complaints others have about it? They're not wrong. The story is a bit thin. The bad guy is as stereotypical as Snidely Whiplash. The writing gets a little bit much at times. This book had more than one element that I'd normally find exasperating.

Except...I didn't. Get exasperated, I mean. I don't know whether it really was a mood swing or what, but when I went in NOT expecting fine literature, I freed myself to simply enjoy riding along on Oona's adventures. Sometimes, when you read a book or watch a movie that you liked as a kid, you find the story just doesn't hold up anymore.
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