October 22, 2012
First sentence: "One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated her and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not."
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Review copy picked up at KidlitCon
Who doesn't love a Good Quest? One where the Heroine sets off on a Noble Errand, overcomes Incredible Odds, and Defeats the Greatest Evil while Learning a Valuable Lesson? (Labyrinth, anyone?)
The Spindlers is everything you want from a Good Quest Novel. Liza doesn't really hate her younger brother Patrick, but he is, well, a boy, which means he's irritating, annoying, and a thorn in her side. But he is her brother, and the morning he wakes up... different... she knows that his soul has been captured by the spindlers.
And it's up to her to get him back. (Since none of the adults in her life believe her, of course.)
She heads down in the basement, armed only with a broomstick; falls through a tunnel; and lands in the world Below. The best way to describe Below is this: it's a cross between Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll. It's not quite as dark as Dahl, though it is dark, and it's not quite as absurd as Carroll, through there are absurd moments. But it's definitely as delightful as both.
I'm not going to fill you in on the details of Liza's quest, because it's best if you experience that for yourself along with her. I will tell you this: even though it's a by-the-numbers quest, Oliver has a knack for writing characters that you grow to love, and building a world that's at turns fascinating, scary and humorous.
I can just see kids wanting to read this one over and over again. (Shoot: I want to!)
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I've been asked to make sure y'all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)