Written by Brian Falkner
Illustrated by Donovan Bixley
Capstone Young Readers 9/01/2014
Age 9 to 13 256 pages
“Maddy West is a normal nine-year-old girl, except for one thing: she can speak every language in the world. In this hilarious and heartwarming tale of fantasy, friendship, and adventure, Maddy is asked to translate some ancient scrolls. But the scrolls hide secrets, and Maddy is sent on a wild journey with a mischievous monkey, a stowaway ninja, a Bulgarian wrestler, and a fiendish witch. Will Maddy’s talent Maddie be enough to keep her safe from the evil magic she encounters?”
.“When Maddy started speaking Japanese, her mom took her to the doctor.”
Maddie can understand and speak every language in the world, but how, she has no answer. She just can. Once she hears a language, she can speak it, fluently. Maddie’s mom thinks there is something wrong with her daughter but when a doctor calls Maddie’s ability, “very valuable,” Maddie’s mom begins searching for ways to capitalize with a capital dollar sign. One thousand-dollar signs leads Maddie to a talk show where language experts test her. Then a professor of the local university arrives wanting Maddie to translate some extremely old scrolls not read for thousands of years. The professor would like to study these scrolls. The catch? The scrolls are located in a monastery in Bulgaria, on an island in the Black Sea and the professor is not who she said she is. Maddie’s friend Kazuki sneaks on the plane to Bulgaria jeopardizing the trip. Two Goth teens kidnapped Maddie at the Bulgarian airport. The Goth teens take Maddie up a steep mountain to the home of their mother, a witch, who also wants to know what is on the scrolls. The scrolls? They contain dangerous dark magic spells.
Maddy West and the Tongue Taker went off in a direction I never expected. I knew mom was trouble. She is as cold as a morgue slab to Maddy, except when there are others around. Maddy’s ability scares mom, and mom, I think, expected the doctor to “cure” Maddy with a magic pill. Ironic, considering where mom eventually sells loans Maddy her linguistic talents.
There must be an underdog and Kazuki, Maddy’s shy Japanese friend fits that bill. He does not learn English easily and often cannot understand others and others do not understand him. This makes him shy and backwards. The opening scenes painfully show this. Kazuki is in the alley throwing his new baseball—a birthday present—against a wall, playing catch with himself. On the other side of the same wall is a group of kids is playing baseball. Playing solo-catch only a few feet from an actual game must be unbearable for a kid who, just a short time ago, was a star pitcher in Japan.
Kazuki does not speak English, so no one knows of his talent except Maddie, the one person who understand Japanese. A bully brother makes things worse—until Maddy stands up to the kid. Kazuki thinks he can go invisible when wearing his ninja outfit. Kazuki really cannot go invisible, can he? His most endearing quality is his insistence on keeping Maddy, his only true friend, safe wherever she goes. Kazuki quietly slips onto planes, trains, and cars to keep watch over Maddy.
There also needs to be a superhero and no, it is not Maddy. This superhero is a small monkey named Mr. Chester. Mr. Chester is a capuchin monkey and an adorable, though stinky, hero. When you think he is gone, say, killed off by a larger animal, he’s back! Mr. Chester is definitely a superhero in a short money suit. The most dangerous person in Maddy’s life is her mother, who is willing to let her child traipse across the world with a stranger. Dad agrees without even one, “Is this a good idea? We don’t know this woman.”
There is a definite fantasy element to the story, yet I found it more adventurous than mysterious. I enjoyed the story, reading it in two sittings. The terrific black and white illustrations, though sparse, enhance the story. I was disappointed how early and easy it is to detect the villain, (too many clues too soon), but kids might find it more difficult. Regardless, the story will kept kids riveted in several sections and laughing in several more. The most intriguing characters are Maddy and Mr. Chester. Kids will love these two, especially Mr. Chester and his superhero antics. Adventure or mystery, kids will enjoy every word in the well written Maddy West and the Tongue Taker.
MADDY WEST AND THE TONGUE TAKERS. Text copyright © 2014 by Brian Falkner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Donovan Bixley. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN.
Learn more about Maddy West and the Tongue Taker HERE.
an imprint of Capstone
Also releasing in 2014 by Brian Falkner
Also by Donovan Bixley