The Secret Series

by Pseudonymous Bosch

Pseudonymous Bosch's The Secret Series

Book review by Sarah Denslow

Ages 9-12

Can you keep a secret? No? Well, Pseudonymous Bosch, the author/narrator of The Secret Series, can’t either, so you’re in good company.

Consisting in total of five books (the fifth due out in Fall, 2011), these middle grade novels aim both to entertain and to educate. Think of it as a kind of lighter (and shorter) Lemony Snicket series.

In fact, there are a number of similarities between the two series. Both involve children on a series of adventures while being pursued by mysterious villains and searching for an explanation of their past. Both feature a narrator who has a mysterious connection to the children in the book that is hinted at throughout the series. Both teach vocabulary as well as some other educational information. Both use a lot of puns.

However, The Secret Series has a much sillier tone than the Lemony Snicket books. Bosch is an extremely paranoid, but entirely amusing narrator who interrupts his own story at almost every turn and makes extensive use of footnotes (often for both educational and humorous purposes).

Each of the five books in the series is based around a particular sense (smell, sound, taste, sight, touch), and each features a magical object associated with that particular sense. (The first book involves a “symphony of smells”, the third a magical tuning fork used for food rather than music.)

The Secret Series has quite a few very quirky characters. Our heroes are Cass and Max-Ernest, two children about your age who go to a school a lot like yours. Cass is a survivalist and tries to be prepared for any unexpected event. Max-Ernest has some condition: doctors can’t agree on exactly what his condition is, but they all agree he has one (his primary symptom is talking a lot).

Our two heroes, through a series of misadventures, wind up working on behalf of the secret Terces Society, battling the equally secret (but evil) Midnight Sun. The Midnight Sun, for its part, is working to uncover the secret, which supposedly contains a recipe for immortality.

Containing evil twins, long buried secrets, and the occasional sock-monster, these books can mostly be summed up as very silly adventure stories, and it’s easy to write them off as nothing more than that. (You might even use the fact that the author used to write for Nickelodeon as supporting evidence for this theory.)

However, while fun and silly, these books do have a lot of good information hidden in them. Each book has information about the particular sense it highlights, much of which will be interesting even to adults. (For instance, I did know that taste is closely related to smell, but I did not know an easy at home test to determine if one is a super-taster.)

There’s also information about codes, definitions of some choice vocabulary words, a few magic tricks, and whatever other useful information the easily distracted narrator comes up with. Bosch’s The Secret Series may seem like it’s all fun and games, but it may be the only set of books with appendices that kids actually want to read.

The Secret Series consists of:

Read more of Sarah's book reviews.

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