I have long hesitated to enter the unique fantasy world of the author of the Wicked series, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and Mirror, Mirror. Because of some disturbing buzz about the author's general approach to fairy-tale fantasy, and my disgust with some other authors' experiments along the same line, I thought it wise to let this popular bandwagon put a bit more distance behind it before deciding whether to jump on. In the meantime, a bargain-basement copy of this children's book featuring a "rogue tooth fairy" found its way onto my bookshelf, and my concerns about Maguire's other titles didn't seem to apply to it. So, at last, I cracked it open and peeked inside.
What I found was a delightful story about a newborn skibberee named What-the-Dickens (don't ask), who first opens his eyes upon the inside of a discarded tuna can, and forms his first ideas while being chased by a nasty cat named McCavity and dangled by a mother bird over the gaping beaks of her nestlings. How What-the-Dickens survives these perils, how he penetrates the clannish and fiercely territorial society of the skibbereen (a.k.a. tooth fairies), and how his nighttime adventure with a pretty, probationary Agent of Change named Pepper changes the lives of everyone in Pepper's colony—plus a terrifying old lady, a captive tiger, and a lonely little boy—are all part of a story a young man named Gage tells to his even younger cousins Zeke, Dinah, and Rebecca Ruth one terrifying night when a hurricane seems to have swept their parents, and the rest of the world, clean away.
The story Gage tells is an intelligent story, full of wonder and humor and touching humanity. When he is done telling it, the story leaves questions that an intelligent reader or listener (like Dinah, for example) may ask, but will have to be satisfied with not knowing the answer. In a similar way, the framing story of what has become, or will become, of Dinah's parents and the region they live in, will leave you with unanswered questions. Thus this story makes an interesting point about stories in general: as satisfying and convincing as they may be—as willing as you may be to believe in them—their relationship with reality is at best a mystery. And though each story may have a satisfying beginning, middle, and end, if you think beyond those boundaries, you must face uncertainties—such as: Is there really such a thing as a happy ending? When real life moves on after the supposed happy ending of a story, does it necessarily stay happy? Or does that depend on the people living that life, and on what they make of it?
Saint Louis USA
Recommended Age: 10+
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