With a dash of imagination and a heap of adventure, Slater’s middle grade fantasy debut, starring 12-year-old biracial cousins Rufus and Abigail, is certain to appeal to readers of varying ages. At school, half-Japanese, half-white Rufus Takada Collins is somewhat of an outcast—especially after making several socially “fatal errors” guaranteed to set him apart from his peers. Now, however, it’s summer vacation, and despite his father’s summer camp expectations, Rufus is looking forward to diving into the birds, seeds, and mysteries of Feylawn, his grandpa Jack’s home in Galosh, Calif., especially after strange things begin happening at the estate. The discovery of a beautiful old steam engine in the barn sets Rufus and his high-achieving, half-Mexican, half-white cousin Abigail on a path toward not only self-discovery, but also the knowledge that Rufus can see things others can’t. What follows is a twisting slide into human-versus-other politics, rebellion against authority, and wrestling with consequences. The growth and maturation Abigail and Rufus undergo together is elegantly addressed in an occasionally dark plot. Lingering questions may leave some readers unsatisfied, but readers may find answers in the next installment. Ages 8–12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (July)
Gr 3–6—Slater has created a fun, emotionally driven fairy story. All 12-year-old Rufus wants to do for the summer is run wild around his grandfather's property which is equipped with forest, orchards, and a creek. He does not want to go to an educational camp, work on dad-approved projects, or spend time with his overachiever cousin, Abigail. But when Rufus and Abigail discover a secret world of magical creatures that need their help, they have to set aside their differences to solve a mystery and fight a lurking evil. This story is familiar—two kids discover a secret world hiding right under their noses and have to battle something evil to protect it—but Slater breathes new life into the trope. The fraught relationship between Rufus and his father rings true and lends a realistic anchor to this fantasy story. Rufus and Abigail are under immense pressure from their parents, and the world, to excel and be unique, but only in a socially acceptable way. This mirrors the pressures young people are under today, where kids are already preparing for college applications at the age of 11. In a world with so much responsibility, it is lovely to escape into fairyland. VERDICT An excellent readalike for "The Spiderwick Chronicles" by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black; recommended for any young fantasy fans.—Jeri Murphy, C.F. Simmons M.S., Aurora, IL
When 12-year-old Rufus Takada Collins finds an old train, it puts him in the midst of a magical, life-or-death scavenger hunt.
After a school year characterized by what he thinks of as a series of Fatal Errors, Rufus is looking forward to spending the summer with Grandpa Jack at Feylawn, the family property that encompasses forest, meadow, creek, and orchard. At Feylawn, Rufus finds an old-fashioned locomotive. Unfortunately, Grandpa Jack is hurt falling through rotting floorboards before he can learn about the train, and Rufus’ father bans Rufus from Feylawn. Rufus sneaks back and finds he can now see fairylike creatures called feylings. He discovers the train is the feylings’ only way home, and it’s been missing for years. With the help of his pretentious cousin, Rufus must decipher old clues to find the missing train parts. But this journey leads him to possibly the ultimate Fatal Error. With mischievous feylings, goblins, and magic, this is an exciting, fast-paced middle-grade fantasy. The characters’ experiences are also grounded in the real world: parental unemployment, divorce, friendship, familial bonds, growing up, family secrets, grief, and loss. Big lessons for readers and Rufus both are the importance of looking at the bigger picture and understanding how choices affect more than just ourselves. Both cousins are biracial; Rufus’ mother is of Japanese heritage, and his father is white, and Abigail’s father is Mexican, and her mother is white.
A delightful read for anyone who loves magic. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)
"Amusing scenes balance weightier ones in this appealing chapter book, the first of two volumes planned for the Feylawn Chronicles series." Booklist
"This is an exciting, fast-paced middle-grade fantasy . . . A delightful read for anyone who loves magic." Kirkus Reviews
"Sassy feylings and other rambunctious magical creatures make the tale feel fresh . . . Rufus’s self-confidence grows with every chapter, and realistic tension between his family members works itself out in a satisfactory, but not simplistic, way." The Horn Book
"Slater has created a fun, emotionally driven fairy story. VERDICT An excellent readalike for “The Spiderwick Chronicles." –School Library Journal
"With a dash of imagination and a heap of adventure, Slater’s middle grade fantasy debut, starring 12-year-old biracial cousins Rufus and Abigail, is certain to appeal to readers of varying ages . . . the growth and maturation Abigail and Rufus undergo together is elegantly addressed in an occasionally dark plot." –Publishers Weekly
"A seamless combination of fantasy and mystery wrapped around a classical coming-of-age narrative, Dashka Slater’s The Book of Fatal Errors grabs the readers hand from the first page and tugs them along at a breakneck pace through twist after twist." –Bookpage
"A brilliant story teller, Slater has filled The Book of Fatal Errors with unexpected twists, an engaging mystery and endearing characters, both human and magical. Oh, I do hope for a sequel!" –Kiss the Book Blogspot