Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe
Eliza Wheeler, Illustrator
Cody Series #2
Cody is sooooo excited. Her best friend Spencer is moving in with his grandmother down the street with his parents while they start a new business. It is nearly impossible to wait and patience is not Cody's best virtue. At last Spencer arrives and they can start the fun. Cody knows the best place to begin: to discover the identity of the mysterious new neighbor on the other side of Grandma's duplex. The new school year begins and Cody pledges to take Spencer under her wing. Much to her surprise, he fits in nicely, getting along great with a feared teacher, joining the orchestra with his violin and making friends with Cody's best pal pearl. The identity of the new neighbor is discovered. He is a big, scary, and gruff man with the fitting last name of "Meens" and works as an exterminator, killing off Cody's favorite things in the world: insects. To make matters worse, his evil daughters live with him during the school week and are determined to make Cody and Spencer's lives a living nightmare. The home-front is also a struggle. Dad is often away driving a truck, Mom works long hours, and older brother is love-sick. What's a girl to do? Cody shows resilience and pluck as she wades through the treacherous waters of growing up and makes peace with the miscellaneous conflicts in her life, including the neighboring bullies. By book's end Cody has not solved all of the mysteries of the universe, but she has certainly found her place within it.
I picked this book up while looking for something light to read on my lunch hour. It wasn't until I was finished with the entire book and reading the author's biography on the back cover that I realized it was the second in a series. This goes to show that this series installment stands on its own and the series itself does not need to be read in order. I enjoyed Cody's story very much. She is a wonderful character, much in the vein of Clementine and Ramona. She wants to be good with all of her heart, yet struggles with impulse control and patience. What Cody lacks, she makes up for with exuberance, enthusiasm, and her loving nature. I appreciate how Cody describes her teenage brother's mood swings as when his love-life is going well he has so much love inside of him that he passes it on, much like passing a baton in a relay race. It also works both ways when you don't have love, you take it out on others, dropping the baton. Cody manages to find a solution with the bullies next door, but not until a crazy chase involving yellow jackets and shoe throwing ensues. She even learns to accept the differences between herself and Spencer and the two friends share a touching moment at the end. The scary neighbor isn't as bad as Cody feared and the story ends with a big neighborhood celebration. This story is perfect for the chapter book crowd and can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. Cody's name is ambiguous and its not obvious whether or not she is a boy or a girl from the cover, so boys should not be put off diving into this story. The illustrations are plentiful and expertly drawn, adding to the enjoyment of the story. A fun and gentle time well spent with an enduring character.