The Other Felix

( 1 )

Overview

Felix has nightmares. Every night when he falls asleep he goes to the land of monsters, and when he wakes up he's back in his bed with mud on his feet and torn pajamas. One night Felix meets a boy who knows how to fight the monsters, a boy who looks just like him and is also named Felix. The Other Felix is a fantastical, psychological story of growing up for kids who have graduated from Where the Wild Things Are but are still fascinated by the world of dreams.

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The Other Felix

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Overview

Felix has nightmares. Every night when he falls asleep he goes to the land of monsters, and when he wakes up he's back in his bed with mud on his feet and torn pajamas. One night Felix meets a boy who knows how to fight the monsters, a boy who looks just like him and is also named Felix. The Other Felix is a fantastical, psychological story of growing up for kids who have graduated from Where the Wild Things Are but are still fascinated by the world of dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Graff, adult author and Booklist Online editor, pens a moody story about a boy contending with adversaries in both his waking and dream lives. Fourth-grader Felix is plagued by nightmares that take place in a forest thick with monsters; days aren’t much better, with Felix the target of a bullying new student, Chase. As things worsen during the day, they improve at night after Felix meets a boy in the forest, a boy named Felix who looks just like him. “Other Felix” is everything that Felix is not: capable, confident, and skillful at keeping the monsters at bay. But Felix soon learns that there’s more to Chase and the monsters than he realized, and discovers that Other Felix may not have all the answers. Graff populates his story with familiar characters—angry and overworked fathers, a bully with a troubled home life, and a quiet and insecure hero. But his skill at capturing the small, everyday details and dramas that loom large in children’s minds, as well as his avoidance of a too-neat ending, ought to linger with readers who share Felix’s introspective nature. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“This is a satisfying tale in and of itself, as well as a helpful and sensitive guide for those children who are just learning to confront life’s sticky challenges. The ending is exquisite.”--School Library Journal
 
"...this tale of maturation and friendship is suitable for sharing between parents and their children." --BCCB
 
“[Graff’s] skill at capturing the small, everyday details and dramas that loom large in children’s minds, as well as his avoidance of a too-neat ending, ought to linger with readers who share Felix’s introspective nature.” --Publishers Weekly
 
“This thoughtful, whimsical story promises rewards for those patient readers who stick with Felix till the end.” --Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Cynthia Levinson
Although fourth-grader Felix Schwartzwalder lives atop an apartment building and has never visited anyplace greener than a playground, he has nightmares about running through forests while being chased by a monster. His mother, who works at a children's hospital, and his father, who worries about his "project," are too busy to listen to his fears. Described in generally alternating chapters, his nightmares become more vivid and detailed as the novel progresses, and, when he wakens, his pajamas are torn and muddy (a mystery that is never explained). At school, Felix likes his teacher, Miss Olu, and his classmates; however, a new student, Chase, grabs the best coloring pencils, steals a calculator and blames Felix, and laughs at Felix's drawings of The Dream Land of Monsters. One night, Felix's dreams begin to include an Other Felix, who teaches him survival skills and shows him how to handle his fears. Complications arise when Felix takes retribution on Chase by putting Miss Olu's phone in Chase's desk. Through a strategy concocted by Other Felix, the main character learns that, as in The Sneetches for younger readers, the monsters are frightened of him, and he does not need to hurt them, as he had wished. Nor, he discovers once he learns more about Chase, does he need to hurt bullies. Miss Olu tells the boys that she cannot make them become friends but she develops a way for them to respect each other. Felix even helps his father fight "monsters" at work. This is an intelligent story told not only with suspense to keep readers going but also with wisdom and depth, conveying important but not heavy-handed lessons. The characters are believable and well-rounded; the settings are vivid. Readers will be engaged and will feel better equipped to face their own fears. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
Kirkus Reviews

An allegorical tale about friendship, fear, happiness and hope.

Orange-haired fourth-grader Felix Shwartzwalder lives a pretty ordinary life. He lives in an apartment with two very busy parents and attends the school right across the street. When he goes to sleep at night, however, Felix's life gets strange. He travels to a forest that is home to some super-scary monsters as well as a boy who looks exactly Felix. This boy, the "Other Felix," knows how to keep the monsters away, and Felix is determined to learn the skill. In his daytime life, Felix begins to have trouble with Chase, a new kid in school who frames Felix for stealing a calculator. Felix figures out how to get back at Chase, but he never feels right about that choice. His teacher, noticing the friction between the boys, forces them to spend time after school together, but will this help the two boys to forge a friendship? In the nighttime world, Felix finds himself befriending the very monsters he once wanted to vanquish. Can he do that in real life? The story unfolds deliberately, in plainspoken prose that helps readers accept Felix's surreal dream life as just as real as his school life.

This thoughtful, whimsical story promises rewards for those patient readers who stick with Felix till the end.(Fiction. 9-12)

School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Fourth-grader Felix Schwartzwalder has it rough in his dreams and in his waking life. Each night, he finds himself in the same nightmarish forest filled with scary monsters. When he escapes by waking up, his mother notices a clawed bathrobe and muddy sheets, but neither parent takes him seriously when he says that monsters are to blame. Stressed and distracted, they leave him on his own to deal with his dilemmas. One of his biggest problems is the new kid at school, Chase, who steals a calculator for the sole purpose of getting Felix in trouble and succeeds in turning the teacher as well as classmates against him. Felix is too intimidated to stand up to the bully. Back in his dreams, though, he befriends a boy who looks just like him. The Other Felix is brave and self-sufficient. He teaches Felix how to hunt and survive in the forest, and he isn't frightened of monsters—at least at first. When something goes wrong, and the Other Felix doesn't think he can be strong anymore, Felix decides he needs to learn how to fight monsters. The story has a beautifully crafted innocence reminiscent of The Little Prince. This is a satisfying tale in and of itself, as well as a helpful and sensitive guide for those children who are just learning to confront life's sticky challenges. The ending is exquisite.—Diane McCabe, Loyola Village Elementary School, Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596436558
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of several adult novels. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two sons. Visit him at keirgraff.com .

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Read an Excerpt

The Other Felix

ONE
Felix woke up in the woods, wearing his pajamas. He looked around for his slippers, but his slippers were under his bed, and he wasn't lying in his bed. He was lying on dry, rust-colored pine needles. The bed of needles was soft until he rolled over. Then the needles turned sharp and pricked him.
He stood up. There were tall, thin trees all around him, their bare trunks marching off into gray mist. High above, their green branches touched, forming a ceiling. Nothing moved in the trees, not a bird, not a bug. He listened, but the woods were completely silent except for the sound of his own breathing.
Felix shivered in his thin pajamas.
"Well," he said. "There's nothing here, so I may as well see what's over there."
He started walking. He wondered what time it was. In the dim light it was hard to tell. The ground rose under his feet. He was going uphill. The dirt he walked on was worn into a path. But the trees were growing closer together, and it was getting darker.
Up ahead he saw a flight of stone steps climbing the hill. The stones were old and crumbled and had moss growing in the cracks between them.
He climbed the steps, counting as he went. " ... thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine."
Then he stood at the top. He had expected to find something, maybe a house, because surely steps were made to lead somewhere. But there was nothing, only the woods crowding the daylight from the sky. On the other side of the steps, the path ran downhill.
"Well," he said. "I guess I'll keep going and see what's at the end of the path."
But his feet didn't move. Maybe they weren't listening. The way ahead did look awfully dark.
Then Felix heard something. Somewhere in the forest, a moan rose and fell and then trailed away.
Felix listened, but the woods were silent again. Maybe it had only been wind blowing through thepine boughs. Once again he got ready to follow the path downhill.
Then a branch broke with a crack.
"Hello?" called Felix. "Hello?"
He heard the clatter of hooves on rock. He heard wet, ragged breaths. He glimpsed something, fast as quicksilver--curly horns, scaly hide, spiky tail--and then it was gone again.
It was nothing he'd ever seen in a zoo. But he had seen something like it somewhere. As he remembered, his heart started beating more quickly.
He had seen it in a book about monsters.
Felix spun around. It was behind him. No, it was in front of him. He couldn't tell. He held his breath, listening.
It grew very quiet, as if the monster were listening for Felix, too.
Then Felix heard snuffling sounds. The monster was trying to catch his scent.
There was a shuddering inhalation, a low growl, and then the monster started coming toward him, much faster than before. Rocks slid and scattered as its hooves kicked the earth. Its breath huffed and chuffed, its belly making hungry rumbling sounds.
Felix turned and ran back down the hill. He watched his feet flying down the broken steps as if they belonged to someone else. He made it to thebottom of the steps without falling, but as he stepped onto the path, his ankle twisted and he stumbled and fell.
Sprawled on the ground, he looked back, up the stone staircase, expecting to see the monster galloping down. But he saw nothing. The monster was still hidden in the trees.
Felix stood up and started running again. The sharp pine needles hurt his bare feet. His throat burned as he sucked air into his lungs. He felt as if he were running in slow motion. Surely the monster could run faster than him.
The monster was louder now, crazed with hunger. It sounded like a garbage truck crashing through the woods. Any minute now, it would come into the open.
He ran harder. The monster was still loud, but it wasn't getting any louder. Maybe Felix could get away.
He saw the clearing, the bed of pine needles where he first woke up. He thought for a moment that he was safe. Then he realized that he wasn't safe at all. He was in a huge forest far away from his home. In a moment, the monster would storm into the clearing. Felix would have to keep running, into the dark trees on the other side.
As he crossed the deep bed of pine needles, hisfeet dropped out from under him. He fell, through the forest floor, into darkness--
--and into his own bed.
He was awake. His heart was racing and he was breathing hard. The sweaty sheets were tangled around his feet. He was still scared--he felt as though he were in two places at once and, at any moment, his bedroom might turn into a forest filled with monsters.
But the city's light glimmered around the corners of his window shades. Far below, a car horn honked. Two sirens wailed in a sad duet. And the walls of his dark room stayed white.
Felix looked at the glowing numbers on his clock. It was three in the morning. He pulled up his blankets and reached for his stuffed aardvark. He was too old for stuffed animals, he knew, but a boy who was chased by monsters needed a friend.
Soon his heart had slowed to a normal bump-bump, bump-bump. His breathing became deep and even. And in a little while he fell asleep again.
Text copyright @ 2011 by Keir Graff Illustrations copyright @ 2011 Oriol Vidal Published by Roaring Brook Press Roaring Brook Press is a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2011

    Enchanting

    Thoughtful and imaginative. This story is as beautiful as the illustrations that grace its pages!

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