A boy’s amazing powers stand between Earth and total destruction.
In Limberger’s (Timestopper, 1998) latest YA fantasy novel, 11-year-old Johnny Twigum has always known he was different from ordinary people. Living with his mother in Cleveland (his father is a civilian contractor serving in the Persian Gulf) and leading a seemingly ordinary life, Johnny senses the thoughts of other people and feels a gap between him and other kids. The family receives the news that Johnny’s father has been killed in the Gulf, and Johnny’s world implodes. When Uncle Robert shows up with enigmatic warnings and a key to a safe-deposit box in Canada, the turmoil in Johnny’s life only deepens. Suddenly, forces seem to be aligning around Johnny: An attempt is made to kidnap him, and although he eludes it, he’s soon visited by a strange being named Kumo who, for lack of a better term, describes himself as a gnome (“Garden variety or forest?” Johnny’s mother quips). Kumo can be caustic and short-tempered (we’re told he has a “humongous ego”). He raises many questions, but he also brings answers. Johnny, he reveals, is one of those rare individuals whose chakra arrangement gives him amazing superpowers, including mental telepathy, transformation, invisibility and the capacity to use the 11th chakra to open “connection[s] to other worlds and dimensions.” Limberger presents all of these abilities as both awe-inspiring and as the products of science—quantum mechanics is invoked throughout, as is something called “quantum tunneling.” As Johnny attempts to master his powers, he’s still being relentlessly pursued by Jarvis Spinner and his nefarious associates (the type of eminently hissable villains who say things like ‘‘Faith? Bah! Certainty comes from your own will. Relying on the strength of others is a weakness”), who are intent on using Johnny’s powers for their own selfish purposes. The adventures that ensue, told with straightforward enthusiasm, will keep young readers turning pages.
A headlong adventure about a boy who can reshape reality at will.
In this debut middle-grade novel, a lonely boy finds friendship and learns about the magic of human connection.
Defined by the large mole on his lip, 10-year-old Gregory has grown distant from his family. He is friendless and withdrawn. Then one night a strange little creature emerges from Gregory’s mole. It is riding a (quite lovable) cockroach and can change size. This is the Grimbockle. The Grimbockle—one of many Bockles, who, like Palmer Cox’s Brownies, live at the peripheries of human awareness—tends to the exoodles that bind people together. Exoodles are long, transparent, noodlelike threads and are usually invisible. Once Gregory has his eyeballs painted with Carrot Juicy, though, he can see them. He joins the Grimbockle and the roach, traveling the exoodles as if on a high-speed roller coaster. Exoodles wither and die when people don’t look after their relationships. The Grimbockle is trying to repair a particularly sickly exoodle that links a boy to his mother. Can Gregory help—and can he mend the exoodles in his own life? Schubert follows delightedly in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, opening her unfortunate young protagonist’s eyes to a previously unseen world both weird and wondrous (yet for all its outlandish magic, oddly logical). The scenario is one of riotous imagination, while the Grimbockle himself—brought sweetly to life in black-and-white illustrations by Kraft—is a sprightly and good-natured little person, full of the type of singsong infelicities found in Dahl’s beloved nonhuman characters: “Is you ever seeing glimpses of squiggles in the corners of your twinklers but then they is disappearing in a snippety blink?” “ ‘Exoodles!’ shouted the Grimbockle in triumph. ‘Sometimes, hoo-mans is getting so twisty and wound up in extra exoodles that they is feeling gloomy blue and heavy all day long.’ ” The story is perhaps too much of a parable to fully match Dahl’s template; the adventure is safer and the threats less dark. Nonetheless, readers should fall willingly and with thrilled abandon into the fizzy, fanciful world of Gregory and his Grimbockle friend.
A beautifully realized daydream; a fun yet thoughtful exploration of the complexities and possibilities hidden beneath surface appearances.
A lost bunny searches for his mother in this debut picture book.
The youngster is already lost in the beginning of Lakhiani’s version of the time-honored tale of a lost child reuniting witha parent. On a foggy day, a young rabbit finds that he doesn’t recognize where he is. He calls for his mother, but instead of her voice in response, he hears the hum of a bumblebee. The nameless little rabbit asks if the bee knows where his home is, but the bee doesn’t and sends him on to the wise owl, who “sees everything.” As the little rabbit runs through the “eerie” fog toward the owl’s tree, he meets a kind squirrel. “I’ve lost my mother….I am lost and scared,” explains the little rabbit. The squirrel leads the rabbit to the wise owl’s tree, which the rabbit climbs to ask the owl, “[C]an you see where I live?” The fog is too thick for the owl to spot little rabbit’s home, so he gives the little rabbit a snack and invites him to rest. Falling asleep, the little rabbit dreams of his mother but is awakened by the hooting, buzzing and chattering of his three new friends. Looking around, he sees his mother, who embraces him: “I will never again let you out of my sight,” she tells him. The digitized art by Adams, some of which is credited to Thinkstock, is in a cartoon style that clearly delineates the characters but includes a few anthropomorphic details—a graduation cap for the owl, spectacles for the squirrel and only four legs for the bee—that add little value. Since the story centers on the little rabbit failing to recognize where he is, the choice to make the right-hand page of every spread identical is potentially confusing; regardless, it’s repetitious. The text fails in the opposite direction: It doesn’t create the typical patterns that can help toddlers follow the story, build anticipation and learn to chime in—steps on the path to reading alone. Erratic rhythms, changing stanza lengths and rhyme schemes, and awkward syntax undercut attempts to enliven the tale with poetry.
A story with a tried-and-true plot that needs to freshen up its presentation.