Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fe Fi Fo Spindlers!

There are all kinds of things that go bump in the night. Some things parents know about and others they can't wrap their old minds around. In The Spindlers, by Lauren Oliver, Liza knows the Spindlers are real, even if her parents tell her to stop making up stories... and they have taken her brother. 

Patrick went to bed as Patrick, but he woke up a Spindler. Liza is sure of it. Her brother's soul has been taken even though they always protect themselves from the Spindlers before bed. No one will believe her that the real Patrick has been taken by creepy spiders monsters who can't be killed. Not one to just let her brother's soul be taken and something else *gasp* being done to harm it, Liza waits until everyone is asleep and goes down to the basement. She knows it is the entrance to the Underground world of the Spindlers, but she didn't expect all the other creatures who lived down there too. 

When she first meets a human sized rat named Mirabella, who is wearing a dress, a wig, and an unnecessary amount of make-up, she is taken aback. But Mirabella agrees, albeit reluctantly, to take Liza to the Spindlers. Along the journey to the Spindler nests where they hold the souls to eat, Liza encounters a variety of creatures she never knew existed. Troglogs, and Nocturni, and little glowworm grubs, all become part of Liza's travels to her brother's soul. Some are helpful, some are tricky, but all stand between her and the Real Patrick. And Liza is nothing if not determined. 

This was a cute little middle reader that felt like the kind of book you would get if Roald Dahl wrote Alice in Wonderland meets Coraline. It was unique while still having a familiar feel of the greats, which made it even more enjoyable. I loved the little creatures Liza met along the way, and Mirabella in particular was a really multi-dimensional character as Liza's tour guide through the world underneath.  The characters were complex without being too complex for the age group the book was intended. The story is simple but will delight young elementary students (either read solo by a strong reader or with parents or teachers for a younger student) through middle school students. If you know someone who liked The BFG or James and the Giant Peach, this is a good next step for you. It truly feels like something written by Dahl, a man who transformed my own status as a child reader. I love the cross-over Oliver has created where she has gone from superb young adult novels to truly epic middle readers. That isn't easy to do, and it truly shows her skills as an author!

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