By Ekta R. Garg
December 14, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade series
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A plucky young girl who calls herself a survivalist must battle a vengeful secret society and navigate a mystery of her own all while helping her best friend deal with his parents’ sort-of separation. The two get into all kinds of trouble and learn the true meaning of friendship as they handle over-protective guardians, a school principal who lives for the rules, and a narrator whose obsession with chocolate frequently interrupts the story. Author Pseudonymous Bosch presents middle grade readers with the cleverly-written books known as The Secret Series.
The books have been out for a while, I know, and they’ve gained a fair amount of recognition, as they should. Cass, the main character, is endearing. She’s an only child to a single mother and has two grandfathers who dote on her. She spends all of her time preparing for every kind of disaster imaginable, which includes carrying a backpack full of supplies that will help in any emergency.
Cass’s best friend, Max-Ernest, is the kind of kid you want to hug on every other page. He’s a nerd and doesn’t have any friends at the start of the series. Worse, his parents are separated but insist on spending time with Max-Ernest together. Talk about awkward family dinners—the kind where Max-Ernest has two separate conversations while sitting at the table with both his parents.
In a departure from the way I normally experience books—that is, to read them—my daughters and I are working through the series one book at a time with my older one reading them aloud and my younger one and me listening. We’ve done this in the car on the way to various activities and at home while I prepare dinner. Truthfully, I never understood the appeal of audio books until my ten-year-old volunteered to read aloud The Name of This Book Is Secret, the first book.
Pseudonymous Bosch’s writing will make readers laugh and furrow their brow in concern as Cass and Max-Ernest deal with this grand adventure. He takes an incredibly active role as narrator, spending several pages extolling the virtues of dark chocolate and commenting on Cass and Max-Ernest’s exploits. A bevy of footnotes will keep target readers informed about a variety of topics, from ancient art to facts about animals and even the difference between castles and palaces. At times, Bosch will have readers rolling their eyes at his involvement even while those same readers know the whole thing is in good fun.
Part of the charm, I think, is going on this adventure as a family. My older daughter has taken her role as reader seriously, using different voices for various characters and even tapping her feet against the floor at one point to simulate the hoof beats of a horse. Max-Ernest and Cass have, through my daughter, become as much a part of our family as anyone else. We talk about them, joke about them, and use observations about their world in talking about ours.
Of course, most of the credit goes to Bosch for his sparkling writing. He treats his readers as equals, co-conspirators, and he doesn’t hesitate to reprimand, warn, and cajole those readers as he sees fit. He also reminds us repeatedly that we’re going through the books at our own risk. If the secret society named in the book comes after us, he says, we can’t complain that he didn’t warn us.
Some people who reviewed The Name of This Book Is Secret have noted the dangerous situations Cass and Max-Ernest get into during the climax, and there were a few moments I was holding my breath, as much for my kids’ sake as for the sake of the characters. As parents we always want our children to feel safe. But Bosch’s underlying premise does just that. Even in the worst of circumstances, Bosch leaves no doubt that Cass and Max-Ernest will be okay. The trick, then, comes in waiting patiently for the kids to get out of their latest jam.
It’s refreshing to find a book that talks to kids right at their level. I would highly recommend readers Bookmark The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch!