The lame haunted house at the fair leaves Carter seriously bored until Mr. Green, a scary old man with giant gardening shears, invites him into the Curious Maze; finding a way out—if he can—will prove fantastic, terrifying, and anything but dull.
The maze has rules, creepy Mr. Green (leaves grow out of his thumb!) tells him: he can’t go back. “Just keep walking. Every maze is a journey. You just have to choose the right path.” Hunting for his sister, Carter finds others lost in the maze. A little boy in old-fashioned clothes searches for his mother; a wounded, red-coated soldier is hunted by soldiers in blue with bayonets; desperate Creepy Leaf Girl morphs from human to plant. A “Native boy” in moccasins helps Carter escape the maze, but there’s something wrong. Here, the Ferris wheel is made of wood, and a sign reads “Welcome to the Grand Fair, 1903.” Carter’s invisible, except to the little boy from the maze, still lost. When Mr. Green reappears, the boys follow, only to land in the middle of a war between British and American soldiers. By turns scared, angry, and in denial, likable Carter grounds the well-plotted story. The maze is no tired narrative time-machine device; like Mr. Green, it has a spooky agenda of its own. Otherworldly illustrations, drawn with hallucinatory clarity, complement the text, enhancing the mysteries. With the exception of the Native boy, the primary cast appears to be white.
This original take on time-travel historical fantasy is a sure bet for young scary-story enthusiasts. (historical note) (Fantasy. 9-12)