A charming tale that explores responsibility, forgiveness, and the effects of war and balances it all with a strong dose of...

The Cave of Healing

ADVENTURES IN THE WORLDS OF IN AND OUT

In Haponski’s debut middle-grade fantasy novel, a veteran comes to terms with his war experiences and bonds with his granddaughter during visits to a subterranean world.

Henry is a veteran of an unnamed war who lives alone. He drove away his wife, daughter, and granddaughter after a descent into alcoholism caused by his inability to cope with his combat experiences. While walking his dog in the woods, he meets a boy named Squiggly from the world of In, who has skin that’s “almost translucent, similar to thin, white alabaster.” He’s convinced that Squiggly is a hallucination, but he answers the boy’s questions about our world, which Squiggly calls “Out.” Later, Henry begins to look forward to meeting the boy during his own daily walks with his dog, Mugs. He and Mugs eventually travel with Squiggly to In, where they ride on a blind cavefish, dine on wolf-spider eggs, and meet Squiggly’s family. However, Henry continues to believe that the other world is just a figment of his imagination. It’s not until he meets a therapist from In that he begins to understand how the place has allowed him to deal with the effects of war. Back in his own world, Henry gives up drinking, goes back to his own therapist, and begins to reconcile with his family. His granddaughter, Peggy, however, resists his efforts to reconcile until she makes her own visit to In, which allows her to understand and connect with her grandfather. In the book’s final section, she and Henry return to In for a dog show and have further encounters with cave creatures that are both endearing and terrifying. The book does a good job of presenting veterans’ challenges in an age-appropriate manner, showing the horrors that drive Henry without relying on graphic descriptions of violence. The book also makes it clear that recovery is an ongoing process. The world of In, whose inhabitants occasionally exhibit elements of aboveground culture, provides plenty of comic relief, particularly when Peggy watches a game of “fairball”—a variation of baseball in which the objective is to help the other team win.

A charming tale that explores responsibility, forgiveness, and the effects of war and balances it all with a strong dose of humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5234-7185-0

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Caves and Kids Books

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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