King, who writes as A.S. King for teens, offers a mystical, fablelike tale for a younger audience.
Obe (pronounced “oh-bee”) has grown up on the only remaining creekside sliver of the century-plus–old Devlin family farm, most of which his great-grandfather lost to his drinking habit 100 years before, a tale that’s sketched in brief chapters that alternate with the white boy’s story. Alone by the creek, he discovers a remarkable creature, beagle-sized, hooved, and winsome. He calls it Marvin Gardens. Marvin’s most remarkable trait is what he eats—only plastic. Since his best friend betrayed him months ago, Obe has mostly been on his own, and he keeps his discovery secret, although the subdivision that’s being developed around the creek imperils Marvin’s safety. It’s only after the animal is spotted by others, then shot with a paintball, that Obe confides in a trusted and kindly teacher. Although the environmental theme is pounded home with a somewhat heavy hand, the gently nuanced fantastical elements gain a neat believability as related in Obe’s genial, observant, and sweetly introspective narrative voice. It’s just right for a sensitive sixth-grader with a growing self- and world awareness trying to navigate the troubled waters of uncertain friendships and demeaning bullying.
A finely wrought, magical coming-of-age tale with a convincing message. (Fantasy. 9-14)