A young boy discovers a kingdom of friendly monsters in this middle-grade novella.
Eleven-year-old Tom Perry prefers sleeping and dreaming to being awake. Consequently, his family has a hard time getting him out of bed each morning. So his father, Hans, who collects timepieces, sets up three alarm clocks near his son’s bed. Annoyed by ringing alarms interrupting his dreams, Tom ultimately destroys the clocks. This infuriates Hans, and after Tom’s teacher sends him home (primarily for incessant tardiness), the boy goes for a walk and befriends a group of carefree caravan dwellers. But Tom’s adventure truly begins when he falls asleep in a nearby “machine graveyard,” where monsters awaken at night. Machines slowly transform: Old, rusty cranes become giraffes, and junked airplanes turn into a colony of bats. The genial monsters accept the “human cub” as an honorary guest and allow him to partake in the game “Find the Dragon.” Whoever discovers the Dragon King in the Temple of Puzzles and Puzzlement first wins. Tom traverses the temple’s maze and comes across assorted creatures, from huge flies to Ear-El, a red cockroach. He also meets a flower maiden who helps him appreciate the dawn, which necessitates waking up in the morning. Tal Baron’s (Paradigm Shift and Other Poems, 2010, etc.) fantasy is brimming with indelible moments. In one scene, for example, objects suddenly appear when Hippo hiccups. And readers aren’t likely to forget “a procession of piglets dressed like clowns.” The author also proves to be a versatile illustrator, with a variety of intriguing artworks: color pictures, black-and-white drawings, and digital imagery. The story is predominantly comprised of Tom’s encounters with monsters, and the boy turns out to be an appealing hero. He fits right in with the others by donning a bat costume and knows instantly when he has inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. All of the diverse monsters play the game by their own distinctive rules, making every contact Tom has an entirely new and fun experience.
Vivid pictures and words adorn this brief but enjoyable fantasy.