It falls upon 14-year-old Wilkin Delgado and his partner in crime, tug of war champion Alice Jane Zelinski, to save the universe again in the latest installment of Ammerman’s (Waiting for the Voo, 2014, etc.) adventures.
Fifteen-year-old Alice Jane knows she’s not cut out for the provincial life in “Dorkville,” aka Warrensberg, Minnesota. She misses Kansas City: “Here in Central Nowhere you can’t get real barbecue or honest-to-god hot sauce, all they play is polka music and they put corn in their gasoline.” Worse, since Alice Jane lives with her mom in Wilkin’s house, she also has to put up with the clueless 14-year-old. She has found a way to hang in there, managing her anger by getting in touch with her inner chi. But relief soon appears in the form of old friend Cardamon Webb, who recruits Wilkin and Alice Jane on yet another adventure to save the universe. Soon, Wilkin and Alice Jane are off on a quest, escaping Dorkville. Their task is almost an impossible mission: the universe is drying up, and Cardamon suspects it’s a problem with fresh water at the Source. To get at the crux of the matter, the team must “travel from the Outside through the Inside to the Other Side” and “pay a visit to the All and Everything.” On the odyssey, they have to make pilgrimage stops at Carthrobrite Cave, the City of the Dead, and the Oracle of the Swamp, not to mention battle evil forces such as Maldavis Chum. The story is a little too glib when it glosses over Maldavis Chum’s “cleansing” activities, which involve killing hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s probably beyond the scope of this wild roller coaster ride. The familiar trope of heroes on a quest gets an enjoyable makeover with endearing Wilkin and spunky Alice Jane, who, along with their sidekicks, make for a lovable pair. As they narrate the adventure in alternating chapters, their distinctive personalities make for memorable storytelling. And how can any middle grader resist a story that begins: “I now have a greater appreciation of toilets.”
Zany fun in an exciting adventure.