I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for being awesome. Also, I believe that Mr. Neilson was hoping for a review. Now, if you follow my periodic ramblings, you know that I decided not to accept review requests because I haven’t generally enjoyed the experience of “Reading on Demand.” But LOOK AT THIS BOOK!
Obviously I said yes.This is David Neilson’s debut Middle Grade novel. It is about 3 children (these things always happen in threes) who live in a neighborhood where an old abandoned house has served as a playground for the children on the street. An old weird guy, Dr. Fell, moves in and adds a huge play area to the front yard, supposedly to make up for taking up the happenin- play spot. Soon, our three kids notice that everyone besides them has fallen under some sort of spell and seems obsessed with Dr. Fell and his enormous play structure. Plus, no one is worried about all of the increasingly serious injuries that are happening during play time or that Dr. Fell is planning to see every child in the school for physicals on a weekly basis. Some weird shit is happening here, y’all!
Supposedly this book is middle grade, but our main characters are between 8 – 10 years old. I’m sure that’s not the only thing to consider when putting books into age categories, right? I have no idea, but the story also doesn’t quite seem old enough. HOWEVER! The language does. So maybe that’s what makes it middle grade? I’m not a grade-o-mometer.
The book suffers from assumed whiteness (with supporting white- looking illustrations). The illustrations are super cute, by the way. No artistic complaints.
I really liked the characters. Jerry is a 3rd grader who is, by turns, ignored or picked on. He’s nerdy and a thinker. Gail is his 10 year old sister who is generally a rule- following sweetie- pie, but has a little back bone, too. Nancy is Gail’s best friend and classmate. She’s going through some stuff at home that makes her a bit prickly. The trio learns some things about themselves and about friendship as would almost be required in a book like this.
The bad guy is bad enough, but not too scary. There’s nothing gross, but there is a good amount of creepiness and suspense to cause me me to yell at one of the characters at one point.
Any book with illustrations gets a bit of a pass for convenience- winning in my book. And there is a little of that here. But mostly the story is sound. Dr. Fell’s got a sinister plot and the kids have to figure it out as the only people in their town who see through Dr. Fell’s treachery. The ending is good with a bit of an open ending. Perhaps there is a sequel in the works?
All in all, I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a quick read (for a grown- ass woman) that is fun and interesting. I will recommend it to 10- year- olds and up (and the odd jaded 8- year- old) that enjoys a bit of spook with their adventure story.
You don’t have to take my word for it. There was a blog tour in August. Click for DN's page with links.
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