In the National Book Award–winning Goblin Secrets, a boy joins a theatrical troupe of goblins to find his missing brother.
In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around—much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared.
Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river.
This accessible, atmospheric fantasy takes a gentle look at love, loss, and family while delivering a fast-paced adventure that is sure to satisfy.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
In Alexander s debut novel, set in the magical, steampunk-inflected land of Zombay, a young orphan named Rownie lives in the household of Graba the witch, running errands and scavenging food where he can. His older brother, Rowan, used to live with Rownie and Graba s band of Grubs, but Rowan was arrested for putting on a mask and acting in Zombay, citizens are forbidden to pretend to be other than they are and has disappeared. When a troupe of goblins arrives to put on a play, Rownie sneaks away to see them and angers Graba enough that he s forced to flee. He accepts sanctuary from the goblins, joining their troupe and mounting a search for Rowan, but Graba is hunting Rownie, and there are dire warnings that long-prophesied floods are coming to wipe out Zombay. Alexander has an intriguing central theme, in which masks and theater create actual magic, but the story is slow to develop. The result is a (sometimes gruesome) fantasy stuffed with interesting ideas that don t quite have room to breathe. Ages 8 12.
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Imagination, not Dystopia
Will Alexander shows that there is still a place -- an important place -- for imaginative fiction. I was moved by a book that dared to travel in a direction rarely approached today by children's fiction writers, who have chosen to present exclusively dystopian visions to their impressionable readers. The books that children read play a formative role in their outlook on life, and hence on their future, and by extension, on the future altogether. Alexander's book has no shortage of suspense and darkness, but he has created a world in which Light has at least a fighting chance to triumph. I can't help but feel that a major influence on Alexander's own childhood -- his education in a Waldorf school -- laid the imaginative foundation for HIS future and for this remarkable book. Highly recommended!