Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson

This is the first of what has now become a five book series by Brandon Sanderson, who is as fun to read as he is prolific.

In the book Alcatraz Smedry is just turning 13 and has lived most of his life going from one foster family to another. On this day he receives a box in the mail containing a gift from his missing parents. The gift is a box of sand.

Angry and upset he starts a fire in the kitchen of his current foster parents. This nearly gets him moved to yet another foster home but just before this happens his grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, appears. This starts him on an adventure when he learns that he is from a renowned family of Smedrys (so renowned that prisons are named after them) who battle evil librarians who alter the histories and atlases in their libraries to keep their deeds from an unknowing public. He also lets Alcatraz know that the sand he received is very important but they find that it’s been stolen. The remainder of the book is their quest to recover the missing sand. This is done with the help of some warriors, including a girl his age.

It’s a book filled with fun asides and mind-bending assertions, such as the idea that because the book will be found in the fiction section it just proves that the evil librarians are still distorting reality. Sanderson writes with a light touch but also creates wonderful action scenes that keep the book moving at a fast pace.

Alcatraz is the narrator and speaks directly to the reader throughout the book with lots of bright comments on how writers bend time and promise things that may happen but don’t. That near magical part of reading, in which something ends and picks up at the start of a new chapter with “The next week ….” and time is chopped up to serve the narrative, is something that goes without much notice but can puzzle pre-teen writers and readers. (I know it did for me. The hardest part of writing was knowing what to leave out and how.) I think the book would be treat for anyone 10 and above.