A young boy confronts a devastating loss.
Halloween has always been the favorite holiday in Charlie’s small town. But this year, the white fifth-grader isn’t up for much celebration. Charlie’s older cousin Billy has been missing, last seen by Charlie jumping into a churning river, and presumed drowned—though Charlie still holds out hope that Billy is alive. On Halloween night Charlie thinks he spots Billy in a pumpkin patch and runs after him, soon finding himself in Monsterland, a secluded valley purposefully left off the map by the U.S. government as a sanctuary for all the things that go bump in the night. Vampires, werewolves, witches, and more all mingle in Monsterland. Charlie navigates this peculiar place with Frankenstein’s monster (here named Franklin Prometheus) as his companion, searching for Billy, who may be alive and well and hopelessly lost. This hefty novel is filled with imagination and incident. The book’s episodic nature satiates the curiosities readers will have about the citizens of Monsterland and how it operates, but those itching for closure about Billy may get a bit restless. Charlie is a pleasant character, but Franklin Prometheus steals the show as a pragmatic beast forging a quiet but strong bond with his young charge. The book’s emotional journey is just as enthralling as its physical one, blending well and evoking the works of Norton Juster and Jeff Smith.
A compelling, imaginative, cathartic journey. (Fantasy. 10-14)