In Svingen’s debut middle-grade novel, 10-year-old Freddy Fumple journeys to a fantastical land called The InBetween where he must help vanquish a horde of destructive creatures called mindmonsters.
When Freddy Fumple and his family move to a new town, his imagination goes haywire. While playing soccer with a group of local schoolkids, he sees two leprechaunlike beings lurking at the edge of the woods. Even more unsettling, his new home is fraught with uncanny phenomena. A pale, ghostly boy named Jonathan has taken up residence in Freddy’s bedroom, and his eccentric neighbor, the Widow Crapette, “talks to the dead.” When Freddy sees the leprechaun creatures again, he follows them into Widow Crapette’s house, where he learns about The InBetween. In The InBetween, creatures like wood nymphs, unicorns, and dragons are common. When Freddy consults Widow Crapette about his ghostly roommate, she advises him to take Jonathan to The InBetween; there, Jonathan can cross over to The Other Side and be reunited with his dead family. During his trip to The InBetween, Freddy learns of the hairy, grotesque creatures known mindmonsters. Fueled by thoughts of people who do not believe in magical creatures, the mindmonsters are wreaking havoc on The InBetween and its residents. The chieftain of The InBetween informs Freddy that he may be the only person capable of destroying the mindmonsters and freeing the citizens of The InBetween. Freddy, Jonathan, and a wood nymph girl called Mili set out on a quest to vanquish the mindmonsters and slimy human villains, Gorespot and Ass. Along the way, Freddy must confront his own cowardice and recognize the value in his splendid imagination. Svingen’s writing style is often unwieldy and occasionally inscrutable, and his liberal use of gratuitous swear words seems out of place in a children’s novel. Like Freddy, this novel is driven by a powerful imagination; the characters and places described in The InBetween are especially whimsical and inventive. Young readers will undoubtedly appreciate the fast-paced narrative and high-stakes action scenes that are interspersed with moments of zany humor.
This fanciful children’s book succeeds despite the author’s uneven writing style.