In this entertaining, fantastical adventure for middle-grade readers, three siblings discover that running away from problems might create more of them.
Emily Miller is being bullied. Tired of people, she convinces her sister, Chloe, and brother, Jacob, to run away with her to Galumphagos Island. Chloe, who’s bored of being told to paint only pretty things, is easily convinced. Jacob, a karate student, is more hesitant, but he knows he can’t stand against his sisters when they have something planned. According to travel brochures, the island is a wonderful place where children can play with galumphers, delightful fuzzy creatures that are more fun to cuddle than stuffed animals. Children who run away to the island never return (thus proving that it is a paradise)—yet only galumphers live on the island. Astute readers will realize long before the three children that all is not right with Galumphagos Island, but watching the siblings come to their own conclusions and eventually outsmart the galumphers proves to be an enjoyable read. Maze’s black-and-white, cartoonish illustrations complement the book’s tone, too. In the opening pages, debut author Eisner plants some hints to the galumphers’ weaknesses and strengths, as the older sisters explain to Jacob what a “figure of speech” is; the galumphers always act literally, so they cannot understand those figures of speech—which is dangerous to the children (and, after the galumphers are unleashed on the mainland, to the world) but also a way for them to maneuver around the less intelligent creatures. “Jacob pointed at them and laughed out loud. He acted like he was laughing so hard that he had to double over. ‘I’m in stitches,’ he said as loud as he could. The galumphers got madder and madder.” Many children’s stories about discovering a magical place that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be might end with a return home, but Eisner cleverly continues the story, allowing the children to show what they’ve learned and prove that they’ve grown from their experience.
A well-paced, delightful children’s book with a moral that’s clear without being heavy-handed.