The Slippery Map
by N. E. Bode
This story, supposedly told to N. E. Bode by the nuns themselves, is about a
boy named Oyster R. Motel (!), raised in the convent where he was left in a
basket as a tiny baby. Though the unpleasant Mrs. Fishback (who "helps" the
silent nuns with any business that requires speaking) has nothing nice to
say about Oyster, he is clearly loved by the nuns - especially Sister Mary
Many Pockets, who found him on the steps. Nevertheless, Oyster is lonely. He
longs to have friends, to have adventures beyond the rules and boundaries of
the convent, and above all to find his parents.
Then weird things start to happen. Rips open in the fabric of the world,
sucking children into them and spitting them out again. One of them
finally comes for Oyster, taking not only the boy but also Mrs. Fishback's
disgusting, fat dachshund named Leatherbelly. It turns out not to be alien
abduction, though. Instead, Oyster has been sucked into an imaginary world
created, a generation ago, by two children his age. The creators have become
trapped in their own world, and now Oyster is the one who must save them.
Why, you ask? Answer: They're his parents!
Oyster's parents are the authors of a truly odd little fantasy world,
populated by various types and sizes of fairies, as well as by some
dangerous creatures that take a good deal of avoiding. But their charming
country has become an environmental and political nightmare, as everything
has been taken over by a brutal ruler named Dark Mouth, whose toad-like
minions force little people called Perths to slave in his sugar factory, eat
sugar, breathe sugar, and so forth. Guided by an unlikely pair of Perths
named Hopps and Ringet, and helped (sometimes reluctantly by various others,
Oyster sets off on a quest that takes him over a breathing river, through an
underground world infested by dirt clams and spider wolves, through a
dangerous forest, and up an unforgiving mountain. He meets a guru, a dragon,
a TV personality (the personification of evil), and finally a monstrous
warlord whose prisons are full of good people - including Oyster's mom and
Here is a very sound story that should appeal to anyone who likes (for
example) The Gammage Cup. It is a warm-hearted, sometimes moving, often
funny tale full of strange images, happy surprises, and plenty of thrills.
It seems there is, after all, a future for "N. E. Bode" (a.k.a. Julianna
Baggott) outside "his" (?) series about Fern, Howard, and The Anybodies.
In fact, this book is a healthy sign that, where young-readers' fiction is
concerned, Baggott is just getting warmed up. I think this is her best work
in this field so far.
Recommended Age: Age: 12+
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