An imaginative example of fantasy done right.



With just the turn of a page, a boy is transported to new worlds in this fantastic middle-grade novel.

David Wilson is your average teenage boy. He’d much rather play sports with his friends than read, and he actively avoids his squabbling parents. When it’s decided he’s going to stay with a family friend, Mr. Linden, for summer break in lieu of going on vacation with his parents, David is, to say the least, unhappy. Resigning himself to three whole months of boredom, he discovers Mr. Linden’s library. As he pokes around, he is suddenly transported, via a red book from the shelf, into the strange kingdom of Ethelrod. There, the angry king, distrustful of outsiders, subjects David to a series of tests. Using his resourceful nature and a bit of humor, David beats the king at his own game, luckily making it back to Mr. Linden’s house unscathed. After Mr. Linden’s daughter, Hannah, shows up for an unexpected visit, she and David journey into his fictional kingdom, but this time, Hannah doesn’t make it back to her father’s library when the adventure is over. David and Mr. Linden are forced to work together to locate Hannah, learning many secrets along the way. As with David, it’s easy to get caught up in this work. Davidson (What A hodgepodge!, 2013, etc.) is an educator and reading specialist, which explains why he is such a gifted writer: Aside from his technical prowess, Davidson’s imagination and page-turning pacing help make this book stand out. David is a relatable character for adventurous young readers who might find it difficult to dive into school and reading, and the work obviously champions books as vehicles (literally and figuratively) into other worlds. With well-rounded characters and plenty of drama, this fun read will even appeal to read-along parents. It’d make an outstanding cornerstone for a new series, too, and readers are sure to look forward to whatever adventure David comes to next.

An imaginative example of fantasy done right.

Pub Date: April 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1938326301

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Ferne Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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