A pair of preteen misfits escapes their lackluster town in pursuit of adventure in this debut middle-grade novel.
As far as Walter, the widowed mortician’s son, is concerned, nothing interesting ever happens in the dreary town of Moormouth. Covered in a smog that makes Moormouth as depressing as Dorothy’s Kansas before she escaped to Oz, the inhabitants are as gray and spiritless as the landscape. For Walter, who is a talented inventor, everyone from the schoolteacher who intentionally mis-educates her students to his own mother conspires to thwart his ambition and force him to conform to the sameness all around him. A mysterious invitation from Flasterborn, a magicianlike fabled inventor, changes everything, and before long, Walter is stealing his mother’s hearse and, along with Cordelia, his friend and fellow misfit, heading out of town toward his destiny. Sosna-Spear’s debut novel contains elements of Oz and Harry Potter with a healthy dollop of Willie Wonka thrown into the mix. The author’s love for the material and fondness for her characters are palpable, but occasionally the novel falls into the trap of telling rather than showing. While questions such as how Walter’s father died and the depth of his connection to Flasterborn will titillate readers, the principal characters are not grounded enough at the beginning and occasionally feel two-dimensional. Walter has red hair and dark skin; Cordelia is default white and wears an eye patch.
An earnest novel that celebrates courage and individuality. (Adventure. 8-13)