________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 11 . . . . November 16, 2012



Paul Glennon.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2012.
200 pp., trade pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-0-385-66549-0.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Vikki VanSickle.




Norman made his way slowly back to the house. His parents were probably looking for him anyway. He was probably in all sorts of trouble. And at the edge of the garden, he found another reason for them to ground him: the gate was wide open.

“Great,” he told himself. “Now the horse has probably escaped too.”

“The horse doesn’t need a child to open a gate for him.”

Norman turned towards the unfamiliar deep voice. There was no one there but the horse himself. He stood motionless in the shade of the apple tree, eyeing Norman with his giant but calm brown eyes.

“Who said that?” Norman asked. He turned around in a circle. Maybe some trick of echo had made it sound like the voice was coming from the horse’s direction. Nobody showed himself.

He gave the horse a long look.

“I hate to ask, just in case this makes me more crazy,” he said in a low voice, in the event anybody heard him talking to a horse, “but you didn’t just say something, did you?”

The horse took a step out from underneath the apple tree. Up close the animal looked even taller, more majestic. The big black stallion let out a deep sigh from its nostrils. It almost seemed to roll its eyes. It was then that Norman saw it. It was as plain as the nose on his own face. It looked absolutely natural, as if it had always been there. It was the colour of old bone, spiralled and veined with silver. It looked indescribably precise, as only a unicorn’s horn could.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Something fishy is going on at the Shrubberies. Norman’s parents have been missing, apparently in Paris, for an unusually long time. Malcolm, his stoat warrior friend, is also suspiciously absent. Even his little sister Dora— temporarily placated with ice cream for breakfast and her run of the English countryside— is starting to wonder. It isn’t until Norman encounters a black unicorn named Raritan and a colony of talking rabbits that he realizes his Uncle Kit is to blame.

      Like Norman, Kit has the ability to slip into fictional stories or bring book characters with him into the real world. In the previous two novels in this series, Bookweird and Bookweirder, Kit has proven himself unreliable and selfish in his use of ‘the bookweird.’ Kit and Norman’s mother have never really been close, due to an incident involving the bookweird in their youth, and, after days go by, Norman realizes his mother would never trust Kit with her children this long.

      It is revealed that Kit has become something of a writer and has created a fictional world in which Norman and his sister are captive. He does this by borrowing characters and ideas from other stories which end up in his newly created version of reality. Once discovered, Kit hides all the books in the house, preventing Norman from using the bookweird to escape to other worlds. But Norman discovers that he can still use the bookweird and travel into books by recalling their worlds in detail, writing them down, and ingesting the pages as he did with the pages of the published books he was able to ‘bookweird’ himself into. In this way, he is able to reunite with Malcolm, King of the Stoats, and head back to the world of The Secret of the Library (first introduced in Bookweirder) to save Jerome from the evil Black John.

      Bookweirdest has a sleepy start, but once Norman is reunited with Malcolm, the plot picks up considerably. Readers will enjoy reuniting with past characters, such as the brave and witty Malcolm, in addition to meeting charming new characters, such as resourceful Esme, daughter to the Rabbit alderman. Esme’s entire warren has been relocated by Kit’s writing, and she agrees to help Norman find Malcolm and then Jerome.

      This, the third and final book in the series, is very much about the power of writing. It is exciting to see both Kit and Norman become active in creating worlds instead of falling into pre-created stories. There are a few hiccups in logic, but, from the mid-point on, the story moves along quickly enough that I doubt too many readers will notice or mind. Glennon blends some nice emotional drama into battles, escapes, and other aspects more typical of historical fantasy. Norman discovers the origin of his parents’ relationship and the source of the conflict between his mother and Uncle Kit which, in turn, forces him to consider his relationship with his own sister, Dora. He also learns about death firsthand as a trusted friend and advisor does not make it through the final battle. Bookweirdest is the most sophisticated of the three novels, and Glennan ties up all the loose threads in a satisfying manner. Strong fantasy readers or lovers of historical fiction will enjoy the worlds created in these three books.


Vikki VanSickle has an MA in children’s literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the former manager of the Flying Dragon Bookshop and the author of Words That Start With B, Love is a Four-Letter Word, and the upcoming Days That End in Y, a trio of middle grade published by Scholastic Canada.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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