In this debut children’s book, a 12-year-old boy’s journey into a fantastical world begins when he’s mysteriously guided to find a strange, glowing rock.
Jack Boomershine is a little different. A young inventor, he lives in a room “filled with gizmos and gadgets, half-worked doodads.” His best friend, Chase, is an equally misunderstood seventh-grade outcast who obsessively reads financial magazines. On a field trip to a cave, Jack gets anonymous texts on his phone that direct him away from the class. Is Chase playing a joke on him? Following a glowing light, he comes across its source—what appears to be a simple stone. But when Jack picks it up, he blacks out. Shortly after, he comes to, pockets the stone and rejoins the class, his absence unnoticed. The next day, the two boys happen upon a fortuneteller who speaks only in rhyme, though sometimes the rhyming takes precedence over meaning. Cryptically, she tells them: “Stand at the edge of a large cliff, you do. Looking down, very soon, the time for change will come for you.” True to the prophecy, the magic Jack had stumbled upon pulls him and Chase into an odd world peopled by wizards and hybrid creatures. For Jack, the journey turns out to be not just one of danger and adventure, but one of self-discovery and introspection. The well-drawn, memorable characters have equally memorable names: Oleagina and Caitiff Cankrot, and Vidalia and Pescipalius Dorfnutter. The story’s strength lies in these characters, their observations and their occasional waggish repartee, as well as the vivid descriptions and imagery. The illustrations—realistic yet infused with a dreamlike quality—would be stronger if, like the striking cover, they appeared in color instead of black and white. Also, the story can be a bit convoluted in places, and readers may have to work harder than they’d like to sort it all out. Oddly jarring among all the wizard terminology and descriptions of powers is a reference to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which may be unfamiliar to young readers.
An exciting trip through a wild, dangerous fantasy world that’s well worth it despite some bumps along the way.