Part allegory, part comedy of manners and part tall tale, this engaging novel traces the mission of a clumsy scientist to rid his hometown of an invisible ``threat''--gravity. When the eponymous hero perceives that gravity is weighing down human spirits as well as physical matter, his attempt to combat the force with a secret formula causes his city to rise 4.2 miles above the ground. Townspeople (now more interested in art and philosophy than physical labor) gradually adjust to a ``lighter'' way of life. But inevitably flaws appear in the floating paradise, and soon many find themselves longing for terra firma. Haseley's ( Shadows ; Ghost Catcher ) brilliant skyscape and vibrant characterizations give this book its spark. Readers' hearts will go out to Dr. Gravity, whose noble efforts always seem to backfire; Gabriella, his sweetheart, who is torn between love and homesickness for Earth; and Gabriella's father, the mayor, who pines over his long dead wife. Besides offering the same type of whimsy found in such titles as Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory , this yarn introduces thought-provoking notions about Earthly burdens and soaring imaginations. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
The ALAN Review
- Hugh Agee
In this unusual bit of low fantasy, a young man known only as Dr. Gravity returns to his hometown of Avebury, Ohio, after years of scientific research in the mountains of Switzerland. His boon to Avebury's residents is a trunk filled with vials of formulas that will free its citizens of the "dangerous" force of gravity. Whetting their curiosity, he gives his gifts freely, and in short order the entire populace, the primary buildings of the community, and even an assortment of animals rise far above the earth. Euphoria sets in, but Gabriella, the mayor's daughter, realizes that this utopia cannot last. In her loving wisdom, she is instrumental in bringing the town down to earth again and helps Dr. Gravity see that happiness is on earth with her rather than in the stars. This is a touching story in many ways, and Haseley offers subtle humor throughout his narrative. This story raises some of the what if? questions of a Tuck Everlasting, but it falls short in its impact. Still, young readers will enjoy the resourceful Gabriella and have compassion for the determined Dr. Gravity.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-- Avebury, Ohio (population 207), seems to be plagued by more than its share of the down-tending, dragging force that pulls objects toward the Earth and has a similar effect on the emotions and spirit. Mediocrity and boredom infect the town and its citizens, most of whom labor in a dreary shoe factory. Enter Dr. Gravity, a native son whose early life was a series of clumsy mishaps until he discovered, in a remote Swiss mountaintop laboratory, a formula for countering gravity's mischievious effects. Indeed, Dr. Gravity's miraculous find defies Earth's perpetual dragging force. Returning to his home town, he manages to gain the confidence of the citizenry and frees them from the Earth's pull, causing people, houses, fences, and flower boxes to drift upward several miles into the air. At first, giddiness and waves of unstopped creativity seize the townspeople. Yet trouble arrives in the form of airy intoxication. Practical things, such as food and clothing, become drastically scarce. Only Gabriella, the mayor's daughter and Dr. Gravity's beloved, can clearly recognize the growing danger. Themes of seeking balance and striking equilibrium between wishes and actuality stand out boldly in Haseley's story. Avebury's citizens all reflect a warm domestic charm reminiscent of rural America in the 1900s, while Dr. Gravity is believable as an inspired and angry genius and Gabriella as the caring, courageous savior of the town. Many conceptual plays on the word ``gravity'' enrich this appealing tale, making it a challenging and subtle science-fiction fantasy for imaginative readers.-- James Jeske, Chicago Public Library, IL