Young readers won't need to have read Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels to enjoy this fantasy about a contemporary kid who comes across a village of Lilliputians by accident.
Twelve-year-old Michael Pine suffers from a lack of imagination, and who could blame him? His uncle shows no interest in him except for his stipend for caring for the boy, the local gang presses him to complete an initiation by robbing a store and he doesn't otherwise see much hope for the future. That is, until he stumbles upon a tiny village in the backyard of the town eccentric, Lemuel Gulliver. Michael's struggles to cope with accusations (some false, some true), keep his job at a grocery store and avoid the gang become compounded by his taking the responsibility of protecting the Lilliputians. Swiftian satire isn't completely absent here (the Lilliputian community devolves into a useless war, while the people in Michael's world experience their own power struggles), but the focus is more on character development than political commentary. Michael is the one character everyone else in the story relies on (Mr. Fenn at the store, his uncle who needs the stipend, the Lilliputians and even the gang, whose members lack smarts), and it's satisfying when he comes into his own to save the little people, sticking up for himself in the process.
Fast-paced action, a sympathetic main character and appealing alternate reality combine here for a kid-friendly introduction to a classic. (Magical adventure. 10-14)