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The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell
Review by Gayle Surrette
Crown Books for Young Readers Library Binding / eBook  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553498448
Date: 31 January 2017 List Price $19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Ivy Sparrow and her older brother, Seb, live with their grandmother, Sylvie, since their parents have high-pressure jobs that often require long hours as well as occasional business travel. Sylvie, Ivy, and Seb are looking forward to their parents joining them for the holidays. Things take a dark turn when, while cooking, Sylvie falls and is injured enough that the children call an ambulance. During the ride Sylvie tries to reassure them she'll be fine and that their parents will come to stay with them.

Returning home, they find the house has been broken into. Then they hear noises and decide to hide outside and observe but they are caught, bound, and thrown into a wagon. The wagon seems to have another captive, a young boy named Valian. The three of them escape and Valian takes them to the underground city of Lundinor. Valian is confused when Ivy and Seb don't seem to understand how anything works or the difference between common and uncommon objects and how to use them.

Ivy and Seb are separated and she has to rely on Valian to get her to someone who can help her. She needs to rescue her brother and find out what is going on and why everyone seems to want to interrogate them to find out about family members who it seems caused a lot of problems years ago. Seb and Ivy don't know anything about this family, have never met any of them, and are surprised to learn about them. Even so, they realize they must gain information, and fast, in order to figure out what is happening and why.

The reader learns how this underground world works as Ivy does. They learn the same information that she does as she learns it. Thus, readers are in the loop and can try to figure out what is going on, who to trust or not, and hope that Ivy will make the right decisions to save her brother, herself, her parents, and grandmother.

There's a lot of excitement, danger, and mystery, all of which pull the reader in and keep them interested until the final page. This novel appears to be the first of a series of books and it's a good start. Readers can have additional fun trying to figure out how an uncommon object will actually work before it is explained or used in the story. There's much to enjoy in this adventure as Ivy and Seb grow closer as siblings while struggling to cope with trials that adults would find overwhelming. I hope to learn more about these characters in later adventures.

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