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by Russell Hoban

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-88148-4
Publisher: Knopf

A murky, discordant variation on the theme of an adolescent exploring an alternate reality to get a handle on his own. Nursing a head injury after losing yet another fight to older schoolmate Harry Buncher, Nick meets melancholy street musician Moe Nagic, who displays a painting of a bridge (Moe calls it a "brudge"), warns Nick to be careful in the "little would" (wood) and hopes he'll achieve the "troke" (stroke) that will get him to "Trokeville." Timely advice: Nick falls into the painting and finds himself wandering through the littered, unlovely wood. Hoban (Hedgehog Jim's Supernatural Christmas, 1992, etc.) presents random encounters with familiar figures, plus sudden shifts in scene and pacing, making it all seem to be a dream- -but Nick wakes up in a hospital, three days later, to find that everyone he met dreamed simultaneously of him. Readers willing to sally past the Briticisms ("we didn't have a class reader then because we were spending most of our time swotting for Common Entrance") are likely to bog down in all the unexplained situations, disconnected episodes, and ambiguous, allusive conversations; they may also falter at the "troke," in which Nick faces Harry down and exchanges a friend's older sister, Cynthia, for Harry's more compatible sister, Felicity--no startling epiphany. (Fiction. 12-15)