Authors: Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date Published: 1st May 2003
Ranking: 3 out of 5 stars
Why I read it: I was searching for a novel for one of my ESL classes. A lot of my students like fantasy books, so I thought this might suit. (Also, I’ve read some of Holly Black’s YA novels and liked them.)
Review:What can I say about this book? I liked it, certainly. It’s a sweet little novel, telling the story of two kids (James, the protagonist, and Mallory, his acerbic older sister) who venture into the forest surrounding their house. Goblins have stolen away their brother Simon, but they intend to rescue him back.
As a fantasy nerd, I liked the faeries – there are brownies who speak entirely in rhyme, a water troll afraid of sunlight, and a pack of devious goblins. They’re all brilliantly described and the accompanying illustrations are beautiful. And as a teacher, I appreciated the easy, elegant prose. The authors use a lot of vocabulary that is probably unfamiliar to students reading at this level (forlorn, menagerie, crumbling, skittered, etc.) but it’s always clear from the context what is meant. They also manage to keep their sentence structure simple.
My main quibble with the book was Mallory’s secondary role. She’s the older sister; she should have been leading the group! But I think this is a problem more with middle grade fiction as a whole (unless specifically aimed at girls, the protagonist always seems to be male) than something that is wrong with this book in particular.
For those with kids (or a class full of restless Grade 4s) – this is a lovely read. Definitely recommended.
Cover: What's not to love here? It's simple, whimsical and fay - just like the book, really.