Monday, May 23, 2011

Boomtown: Chang's Famous Fireworks

When Johnny Button's father takes a job pastoring a church in Boomtown, WA, he doesn't realize the town is famous for only two things: its fireworks factory and the neighboring Stickville Slugs football team. In author Nowen N. Particular's Boomtown, children learn to build explosives in grade school, and every Friday, the town gathers to shoot fireworks off in the park. The town also gathers to watch its losing football team, the Slugs. Even though the football team has lost over forty consecutive games due to the slugs and mud on its fields, the town loves the Slugs.

Pastor Button isn't crazy about his new position. He feels even worse about it after he learns all twenty-four of the preceding pastors at his church have met untimely and tragic ends. Pastor Button grows more and more nervous as he escapes death via flying barber chairs, run-away toboggans, and exploding rockets.

Johnny, however, loves Boomtown. He has fun working on dynamic projects at school and he makes some good friends. He and his friends unearth a mystery as they explore around town. Soon, they are sneaking out of their homes to help a mysterious stranger search for hidden treasure. Johnny's decision to keep the stranger a secret from his family proves to be disastrous for Johnny's father. The stranger ends up in a court trial for corrupting youth and harming Pastor Button. Right before the court trial ends, Johnny finds the treasure and vindicates the stranger. In the end, everything works out for the best and Johnny's family and the town are united once more.

What I Like: Boomtown, by Nowen N. Particular, is a charming look at life in a former mining town in 1949. The combination of nostalgic vignettes, random humor, and mysterious adventure will keep kids of all ages interested. The book flows well, but the chapters are self-contained enough for the book to work nicely as a read-aloud. The book is entirely appropriate even for young listeners. Particular's inclusion of funny and unexpected events will make readers laugh aloud.

I like the way Johnny matures throughout the book. He learns he could have counted on his family to help with the stranger, instead of having to keep secrets. He also sees how his dad learns to trust God for his safety in the midst of alarming circumstances.

The book is full of black-and-white photos, newspaper articles and maps. There are even diagrams and schematics of inventions.

What I Dislike: Nothing

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 6 and up

Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-4003-1553-6; Paperback, 320 pages, $9.99

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