Clearly I’m reading more YA than children’s, since this selection looks pretty skimpy.  I have a few volumes of poetry on my shelf – Honeybee and This is Just to Say – and both reference good ol’ William Carlos Williams in some way.  An unintentional combination on my part, but it might mean I need to revisit WCW himself for a future post.

Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor: This one was recommended by Jules at 7-Imp, and it didn’t disappoint. This was a simple, straightforward story about a great cast of characters meeting at an old, run-down motel. It could have been sappy – but it wasn’t. There was enough of an edge to it, and some sadness, but also characters who were happy despite the tough things in life, and people who were happy with the little things. A good choice for maybe an older elementary school reader who likes plenty of points of view and a bunch of interesting characters, but doesn’t need an action-packed plot. Things move along nicely, though, with fairly short chapters. Good for adults, too, who need a breath of fresh air and a sweet little book.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson: 100 Cupboards is like the Brambly Hedge book The Secret Staircase, only creepier and for older kids. The atmosphere is wonderful – there’s a great sense that the author knows about everything behind each cupboard, even if it doesn’t come into the story (and it looks like the first in a series, so he’d better) – this creates a sense that the world is a bigger, more wonderful and frightening place than you thought.

All of which fits perfectly into the character development of Henry. He’s le…more 100 Cupboards is like the Brambly Hedge book The Secret Staircase, only creepier and for older kids. The atmosphere is wonderful – there’s a great sense that the author knows about everything behind each cupboard, even if it doesn’t come into the story (and it looks like the first in a series, so he’d better) – this creates a sense that the world is a bigger, more wonderful and frightening place than you thought.

All of which fits perfectly into the character development of Henry. He’s led a sheltered life, but he never realized it was sheltered until he starts to experience other things. He tells us about the time he was nine and realized that other nine-year-olds don’t sit in carseats. And when he realized that other children don’t have to wear helmets for PE, and that boys pee standing up. So when Henry’s parents are kidnapped, and he goes to live with his aunt and uncle and cousins in small-town Kansas, and a mysterious wall of cupboards pushes through the plaster in his bedroom, he reacts practically. His mother just never told him about secret cupboards that lead to other worlds, he thinks.

I really liked this approach to the fantastic – Henry’s life has been set up in such a way that, to him, the cupboards are really no more surprising than the other revelations. Henry’s not the only good character – they’re pretty much all fantastic, as is the setting – both the normal world of Henry, Kansas, and the worlds that Henry finds in the cupboards.

The plot starts off a little slow – plenty of build-up of setting and character, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but someone looking for a pull-you-in plot right off the bat might be disappointed. Things definitely heat up, and the second half of the book is something of a whirlwind. A bit too much is left unresolved at the end, while we wait for a sequel, making it feel more like the first installment in a serial novel than a stand-alone story.

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