Striking, beautifully turned surreal fantasy, Blaylock's remarkable hardcover debut. In the alternate-world northern California coastal village of Rio Dell, strange events mark the approach to the eerie, highly magical 12-year Solstice. Hungry young Skeezix and his friend Helen live at the orphanage run by the stern, repellent Miss Flees (she feeds them nothing but cabbage soup) and her horrid sidekick, Peebles. Along with their friend Jack, Skeezix and Helen discover a gigantic shoe washed up on the beach, and haul it to Dr. Jensen, who's already puzzling over a collection of similarly enormous artifacts. The beach is invaded by hermit crabs, small at first; but, as Solstice approaches, the crabs grow larger--the last is the size of a house. A darkly ominous Carnival arrives, travelling magically along train tracks that have decayed into uselessness; the Carnival is run by the hateful Dr. Brown (he can transform himself into a crow), concerning whom Dr. Jensen knows more than he's telling. The ill-tempered, vicious innkeeper, MacWilt, removes the lenses from a gigantic pair of spectacles to make himself a telescope--though whatever he sees turns him blind. In the barn, Jack spots a mouse-sized human--disguised as a mouse! Dr. Brown turns out to be the corrupt physician Algernon Harbin, who supposedly killed and was killed by Lars Portland (Jack's father) in a duel. Finally, at Solstice, Skeezix and Jack unravel the multiple mysteries in a stunning and satisfying conclusion. Weird, complex, wise, original, delightful: pounce!