Great Reads brings you book reviews on teen books that parents will love from such great young adult authors as Garth Nix, Clare Dunkle, DJ Machale, Stephanie Meyer and many more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What the Dickens: Gregory Maguire

It is a dark and terribly stormy night, to say the least. Caught in the middle of a terrible storm producing power outages, mudslides and panic, three siblings hole up in their home with their elder cousin, Gage. Gage is only 21, fresh out of college and not exactly prepared for the situation, but decides to tell the siblings a story about a skibberdee named What-the-Dickens. A skibberdee is a tooth fairy, but What-the-Dickens doesn't know fact he doesn't know what he is until a chance encounter with a cat named McCavity, a 10 year old Gage and a slew of other tooth fairies will he learn the course that his life is to take.

Here's an excerpt:

"BY EVENING, WHEN THE WINDS ROSE yet again, the power began to stutter at half-strength, and the sirens to fail. From those streetlights whose bulbs hadn’t been stoned, a tea-colored dusk settled in uncertain tides. It fell on the dirty militias of pack dogs, all bullying and foaming against one another, and on the palm fronds twitching in the storm gutter, and on the abandoned cars, and everything — everything — was flattened, equalized in the gloom of half-light. Like the subjects in a browning photograph in some antique photo album, only these times weren’t antique. They
were now.

The air seemed both oily and dry. If you rubbed your fingers together, a miser imagining a coin, your fingers stuck slightly.

A fug of smoke lay on the slopes above the deserted freeway. It might have reminded neighbors of campfire hours, but there were few neighbors around to notice. Most of them had gotten out while they still could.

Dinah could feel that everything was different, without knowing how or why. She wasn’t old enough to add up this column of facts:
- power cuts
- the smell of wet earth: mudslide surgically opening the hills
- winds like Joshua’s army battering the walls of Jericho
- massed clouds with poisonous yellow edges
- the evacuation of the downslope neighbors, and the silence
and come up with a grown-up summary, like one or more of the following:
- the collapse of local government and services
- the collapse of public confidence, too
- state of emergency
- end of the world
- business as usual, just a variety of usual not usually seen.
After all, Dinah was only ten."

Because the POV of the book is from Dinah's perspective, it's hard to determine exactly what's going on around them, but it's easy to imagine their surrounding and how creepy it must be. Their parents are missing, and the ending is ambiguous. But it's a story about hope and faith. There are some religious overtones, but I think this is more just the "why" of how these kids and their cousin came to be in this situation. I really enjoyed the story, though would've liked to have known more about what happened after the story was finished, but again, it's about faith, so I'll have to take it at that. I definitely recommend it as a great read.

Author Gregory Maguire also penned "Wicked", "Son of a Witch" and "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister". All also great reads (though "Wicked" and "Son" I would recommend for ages 16 + up as it contains some very mature themes).

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