Logic takes a little too much of a flyer for this series opener to hold together.
Considering that Ed has three identical friends named Quentin and a little brother, Derwin, who attends the Albert Camus Primary School, readers might be forgiven for thinking that his life seems strange enough. After finding a coin in the grass labeled “STRANGE, STRANGER” on both sides, though, suddenly Ed’s plagued by peculiarities. One sister concocts a real locomotive at dinnertime from turkey and “wheels” of cranberry sauce, another leads a swarm of mice around the living room after listening to the “Pied Piper” story, and Derwin exchanges a list of a thousand words for a tall, thin neighbor’s picture (get it?), among other mystifying events. Ed learns from the proprietor of the New Curiosity Shop that unless he can pass the rapidly eroding coin off to a “Stranger,” the world will fall into mediocrity. In an ending that may be appropriately absurd but will leave readers feeling betwixt and between, Ed realizes that he has to bestow the coin on…himself. Part of the publisher's new Branches line of chapter books, this title is ostensibly aimed at 5- to 7-year-olds, but the obscure (to the age group) literary references and general tone skew it to well-read older elementary students.
Despite the comical cartoon illustrations on every page, this setup volume is just possibly too clever to give its target audience any reason to read on. Now there’s an existential dilemma. (Fantasy. 7-10)