Henry Cicada’s dream is to be ordinary and unnoticed, but he learns that sometimes being yourself is much better than being invisible.
With his bald head and his bright-green, size–14-1/2 high tops, Henry is far from ordinary. But even with those strikes against him, his dream still has a chance. At least until he decides to stand up to the school bully, to adopt a three-legged puppy, and to travel across 40-odd dimensions in a reality-bending doghouse. There, he enters the imagination of Lulu, a girl in desperate need of a friend. Henry and his father are themselves floundering following the death of Henry’s mother. Henry copes by trying to be ordinary. His father spends every waking moment trying to make something useful from Elktonium, his late wife’s discovery. As Henry defends Lulu and his fellow students, he discovers a foundational truth: helping someone else in pain can make one’s own pain a bit easier to bear. While the underlying messages are solid, the constant barrage of wackiness robs Henry’s story of much of its power. The discussion of death, emotional abuse, and grief amid lame jokes, bizarre characters, and a peculiar setting is more off-putting than humorous.
Whimsy gone wrong. (Fantasy. 8-12)