We don’t often review middle-grade novels here at Lytherus, but when an author we admire throws one our way, we bend the rules a little.
It’s no secret that Alison Croggon wrote one of my all-time favorite series, The Books of Pellinor. So when I got a digital copy of her newest book, Jimmy Wonderspoon, I couldn’t wait to dig in. And though it is geared toward slightly younger readers, it was a thoroughly enjoyable story that I relished reading. Croggon really has a way with words, and her newest literary addition to the world is no exception.
Samantha Gorey is ten, living with her mother, and getting regular visits
from her quirky carrot-topped uncle, Jimmy Wonderspoon. Her father disappeared under highly unusual circumstances – he vanished in a puff of smoke, smack dab in the middle of the grocery store. Though they all miss him, life goes on and they get by as best they can. All is not well, however, and Sam starts wondering about unusual things she observes and overhears regarding her family. It is not until Jimmy takes Sam with him to a flea market, where he deals with some shady characters to get a strange metal part that the truth starts to unravel. Her father is a wizard, and is being held captive on an alien planet populated with large walking talking cats and rats. The unusual metal part is the missing piece in Jimmy’s homemade time-travel machine, with which he plans to rescue Sam’s father. Sam of course starts fooling around where she shouldn’t, and before they know it both she and Jimmy are teleported to this world, named Wat. Jimmy is captured, and it’s with a quick wit and a little help from a note Jimmy left her that Sam sets out on her own to rescue them both.
My favorite part of this story was the all-out adventure the characters went on. Even though the ideas are nothing new, the elements of creativity were so strong that everything felt fresh. At its heart the story is really just about a girl wanting to save her family members from an unwelcome fate.
Mixed in with the creative world were the characters. Sam makes friends with some cats who promise to help her. The leader of this world (who has the amazing title the Ingor of Wat) is oppressing the other creature people, rats, and these new cat friends are part of the uprising that plans to usurp the leader and bring about fair treatment for all inhabitants.
This story was very well-written, and there were only a few small moments where I felt the intended age of the readers. Mainly it was during the climax when I kept expecting the good guys to be bad guys and something to suddenly happen that thwarts their plans of rescue. Cynical, I know. Perhaps it’s just too much reading of angsty YA and heavy adult fantasy (George R. R. Martin anyone?). Regardless, it was nice to have things turn out better than I expected.
Croggon published this book online only, and it is available on Amazon.com for the extremely reasonable price of $5.49. Fans of the author should look into it. Though it’s very different from her previous writing, it’s definitely worth that amount, for sure.
Jimmy Wonderspoon is geared towards 9-12 year olds, so get it for the young or the young at heart!