Sound Bender by Lin Oliver & Theo Baker

I’m always glad to discover a book for boys about boys, although the ‘green’ theme in this novel should make it attractive to girls as well. The setup for the novel finds 13-year-old Leo and his 10-year-old brother, Hollis orphaned when their parents die in a plane crash. Their totally rich uncle Crane takes them to live with him in a kid’s dream palace in a warehouse. When Leo starts hearing sounds that no one else hears, it launches him on an unpredictable adventure with his two best friends.


I like the character mix. The protagonist, Leo, is smart, resourceful, perseverant and he sincerely cares for his younger brother. Leo’s friend, Trevor, is super smart—good to have with you on an adventure. Leo’s mentor, Jeremy, is reliable—a solid father figure and he’s into music.


Leo’s paranormal phenomena are clever and intriguing. That caught my interest at the outset of the story and maintained it to the end. Also, the pace of the adventure and Leo’s sense of urgency keeps the tension on from the start. However, the story lacks a level of excitement and I think that’s because Leo doesn’t have much at stake. He’s never in any real danger.


The descriptions are clear and build good mental images. The authors use interesting and apt figurative language. The edited book is professional and squeaky clean—what else would you expect from Scholastic Press?


Although the plot and actions are kid-like, I thought the narration and internal dialogue sounded too mature for thirteen, more like sixteen or older. Pre-teens might bog down with this diction, although kids do like to read up.

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