By Steven Arntson
(Running Press Kids, Hardcover, 9780762439034, May 2011, 224pp.)
The Short of It:
The world that Arnston creates is both scary and magical but most of all…fun.
The Rest of It:
Many of you following me on Facebook or Twitter have probably heard me say (more than once) that The Wikkeling was “strange.” When I first started to read it, I could not shake the creep factor. The cover is freaky and the book itself is not a traditional size. It’s wider, includes lots of handwrtitten script and has creepy illustrations of people without faces. BUT, once I got past the slightly, unsettling feel of the book itself, I found myself liking the story quite a bit.
The story is set in the future. Henrietta lives in a world where every move is tracked. She sleeps in a room with a BedCam and her mother is able to find her via the GPS locator on her phone. When taking a test in school, the results are immediately tabulated and sent straight to her parents for review. Even her bus ride home is monitored. Her world is a world of gadgets, yet she lives in an “old” house. Her house is one of the few old houses left. Nearly every other one is pre-fab and made of plastic. This old house gives her “house sickness” which causes tremendous headaches. The headaches she has in common with two new friends, Gary and Rose. They too, suffer or have suffered with house sickness so they quickly form a bond.
However, when Henrietta discovers that her attic is a secret passageway into the past and is home to a giant house cat by the name of Mister Lady, she and her friends begin to explore the past by visiting it regularly. With the help of a Bestiary (a compendium of beasts), they discover the true nature of their headaches and set out to find the truth.
The Wikkeling is marketed as a children’s book but adult readers who enjoy magical worlds and creatures will also enjoy this book. The secrecy surrounding the attic is fun and the fascination and preservation of real books held my attention. As ads are screamed at them at every opportunity, their escape to the attic is comforting. It’s warm and inviting and full of books.
My copy of The Wikkeling includes entries for these magical creatures and they are written in script on gray colored pages. The book I received was an ARC, so perhaps the issue was addressed with the final copy, but I had a hard time reading that script on such a dark, gray background. The fact that I wanted to, is a testament to how much I enjoyed this aspect of the book. Including it made me feel as if I were flipping through my very own Bestiary, which I’m sure was the point.
What fascinates me about this book is that the technology discussed within it, is technology that we are currently using today. GPS trackers and cell phones are everywhere and although advertisements are not streamed to us via our automobiles, I’m sure it’s just around the corner. As we become more high tech, we lose something in the process and that’s really what this book is about.
I think older kids, 10-12 will enjoy this book, but anyone younger might not be able to get over the creep factor of those faceless drawings and long-fingered creatures. Overall, a fun read!
Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
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