In a starred review, PW wrote, "Dexterously juggling a seemingly impossible profusion of elements, the author builds to a climactic series of surprises that, exploding like fireworks, will almost certainly dazzle readers." Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Joan Aiken meets Douglas Adams in this well-done, humorous fantasy from the talented author of Burger Wuss (Candlewick, 1999/VOYA December 1999) and Feed (2002/VOYA December 2002). Gregory Buchanan, a headlong sort of boy much given to spouting nonsense, gets an invitation to spend some time in Vermont with his eccentric uncle, Max, and his cousin, Prudence. He asks his decidedly more cautious friend, Brian, to come with him. Uncle Max lives in a Victorian mansion that readers soon discover is shunned by the locals, and he both dresses and requires the boys to dress in Victorian-era costume. Soon Gregory and Brian find themselves hip deep in a mysterious, scary, and ancient game played by supernatural opponents. They spend several days tramping through the wilds of rural Vermont, vanquishingand sometimes befriendingmonsters, discovering secret underground cities, and generally fleeing for their lives. What makes this novel special is Anderson's skill at wordplay. Gregory is given to all sorts of bizarre and off-kilter statements, for example, as when he claims that his uncle "lives in kind of a different world from the rest of us. You know? The kind of world where electricity is a lot of invisible spiders. The kind of world where there's organ music that gets louder when he eats refined sugar." Although somewhat arbitrary and picaresque in its structure, the novel never ceases to entertain, and the ending is genuinely unexpected. The book should strongly appeal to any teen interested in an original fantasy adventure. VOYA Codes 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, definedas grades 7 to 9). 2004, Scholastic, 272p., Ages 11 to 15.
Thirteen-year-old Gregory Buchanan receives a letter from his Uncle Max and tells his friend Brian, Uncle Max "lives in kind of a different world from the rest of us." Gregory and Brian discover just how different that world is when they accept Maximiliam Grendle's invitation to visit. The two boys discover a game board in the nursery and are swept into competition. But who is their competitor? There are no apparent rules to this Game, either. The mysterious and frightening Jack Stimple gives pointers, but refuses to reveal the rules. The Game takes the boys to fantastic places in the woods around Grendle Manor: Clock Corner, the Petroglyph Wall, Fundridge's Folly. They encounter an axe-wielding troll named Kalgrash, an ogre called Snarth, and a tiny man, Wee Sniggleping. As the boys advance in the Game, additional locations on the game board appear and they discover the mythical people for whom they compete. Loaded with suspense and adventure, this fantasy will appeal to both boys and girls. 2004, Scholastic Press, Ages 9 to 13.
Gr 5-9-Thirteen-year-olds Brian Thatz and Gregory Buchanan accept a cryptic invitation to visit Gregory's weird Uncle Max and cousin Prudence in Vermont. Uncle Max, a Victorian-era throwback, greets them in a horse-drawn carriage and dispatches them to his creepy old manor house. Once there, he burns the boys' luggage and everything in it, forcing them into the heavy tweed knickerbockers and starched shirt collars he prefers. Then an all-consuming game begins, though the hapless boys are not informed of it. It subjects them to every fiend Anderson can imagine, from bridge trolls and ogres to nefarious man-monsters in billowing cloaks. The boys are confused, and readers are likely to be as well. Anderson's prose is deliberately disorienting and chaotic, and his characters are quick-witted and engaging. This is an action-packed adventure, but the convoluted story line, abrupt scene changes, and unstable landscape will not be everyone's cup of tea.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
When wise-cracking Gregory and brainy Brian go to Vermont to visit Gregory's "strange . . . [p]robably insane" Uncle Max, they "couldn't know what an adventure it would be." Once at Grendle Manor and properly clad in knickerbockers, the two boys find a mildewed game board-the eponymous Game of Sunken Places-that mirrors the local landscape and takes on a real and potentially lethal life of its own. A sinister stranger, a genial troll, a fussy, very non-human game coordinator, and numerous monsters variously aid and block their progress through the game, which, it seems, is central to a cosmic contest between two spirit races. Sound confusing? It is, and purposely so. Gregory and Brian bumble and puzzle their way along with the reader, gradually discovering the many overlaid constructs and realities that make up the game. As with so many games, the fun of the novel is not in the ending but in the getting there, and readers willing to suspend every ounce of disbelief will be rewarded by this smart, consciously complex offering that never panders to its middle-grade audience. (Fiction. 10-14)