Dylan, a young English boy, has just moved yet again—and now he’s seeing vivid, surreal things that seem to disappear when he looks a little harder.
Despite his determination to escape into books and school to get through the year, a tenacious girl named Audrey insists on befriending him. Before long, he tells Audrey every peculiar thing that’s happened lately: a snake in his bathroom sink, people with animal heads, and the weird Mr. Ebenezer and his bookstore that seems to have appeared out of nowhere and in which he loses time. As Dylan, Audrey, and their new companion from another reality, Rollovkarghjicznilegogh-Vylpophyngh (Rollo for short), continue their adventure, they discover both Mr. Ebenezer’s fiendish plans and the Deadly Dimension—darkness that simply devours. Bardwell uses short, staccato sentences, easing the way for kids just getting into substantial chapter books. The idea of other dimensions, and their systems of law and governance, is interesting, but character development suffers from a rushed narrative. Dylan’s mother is killed off before the story begins, his father is barely present, his only friend seems to exist solely to doubt him then accept him—and to be rescued. Only Rollo feels like a fully developed character, saving the book by providing motivation and a back story. Dylan’s London suburb shows no real evidence of the area’s multiculturalism; the book’s default is white.
This British import offers nifty worldbuilding and creative ideas in a fast-paced adventure but not much depth of character. (Science fiction. 10-13)