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Bookends: Why it was a dark and stormy day February 17, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Why it was a dark and stormy day

By Dan Davidson

November 23, 2016tricksters-tale

– 733 words –

 

The Unbelievable FIB: The Trickster’s Tale

By Adam Shaughnessy

Algonquin Books

263 pages

$10.82

 

“The envelopes arrived during the uncertain hours of Thursday morning – those dark, early hours between tomorrow and yesterday, between not-quite-yet and nevermore. It’s a time when the day is still young, still taking shape, and still open to possibility.”

The envelopes were a kind of lure, a kind of invitation. Every house got one, or more than one, slipped under bedroom doors, but most people could not see them. Prudence Potts, generally known hereafter as Pru, did more than see her envelope; she opened and read the message: “Be grave in your search, and avoid having stones in your head.” And on the back of the card in the envelope, WHAT IS THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB?

Pru, who is still suffering the grief and anger of losing her detective father, has entered that stage of youngsterhood where she questions everything and accepts almost nothing at face value. She’s not having a good time at school – mostly because it’s boring and too easy, and because she keeps challengin authority. She has few friends, and it’s almost odd when she findds herself liking ABE (short for Aloysius Bartholomew Evans), the new boy, who is just as isolated by his newness as she is by her temperament.

They’re assigned to be project partners by Pru’s least favorite teacher, but that turns out to be something to be grateful for in the end.

For reasons that eventually become clear, the weather arouind Middletown had gone all dark and stormy lately, and it’s that way every day.

The kids’ adventures really begin during a school trip to the local mansion, Old Man Grimnir’s Winterhaven House. The founders of the town were of Viking ancestry and the mansion was full of Norse artifacts. Pru and ABE manage to get themselves into a bit of trouble there. This is also where they meet the man in the gray cloak who calls himself Mr. Fox and have their first encounter with a talking squirrel.

Later, they get chased by someone or something really large, while visiting the graveyard where Pru’s father is buried, and are somehow rescued by Mr. Fox, though they never get a really good look at the thing. At least not in this reality.

As events become more complex, Fox takes them to his secret home, which he calls the Henhouse. This makes sense when we learn that Fox is somehow connected to the Slavic myths about Baba Yoga and much of the strangeness currently infecting Middletown has to do with characters out of Norse myth.

Because they are able to see the supernatural elements that most people cannot, Fox recruits them as agents of his Fantasy Investigation Bureau and asks for their help in figuring out jus what Loki, the Norse mischief maker is up to. It has something to do with the one-eyed Old Man Grimnir, who is actually Odin, just as the bad weather is the by-product of a geas that has been laid upon Thor by his father.

Enough myths are retold in this book to allow the 8-12 reading group it’s intended for to pick up the clues and figure out what Loki is after, how he might be foiled, and why that would be important.

Magic, it turns out, is quite real and the fib that most people have accepted is that it is not. But the practice of magic and travelling to other worlds (dimensions, realms, what have you) is best left to people whose minds are not too firmly settled as to what is real and what is not. To have firm beliefs about much of anything gets in the way, which is why Pru and ABE are particularly good at sensing otherworldly things.

There are touches of a lot of other young adult series in this book, which is the first of two out so far. If you enjoyed the Percy Jackson books, there’s a bit of that here, as well as Anthony Horowitz’s Gatekeepers series. Mr. Fox, of course, is a bit of a mystical Dr. Who, with his enigmatic ways and his “bigger on the inside” travelling abode.

This would be a lot of fun to read to pre-teens, and the older kids can read for themselves.

 

-30-

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