A Completely Different Place.
Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
A Completely Different Place is Perry Nodelman's second novel featuring John Nesbit, an ordinary 12 or 13-year-old boy from Winnipeg, who finds himself in the fantastic country of Strangers where he has to rescue a group of kidnapped children.
The story opens with John's having a nightmare in which a former classmate, Cheryl Zennor, has turned into a giant who is screaming, "JOHNNY! JOHNNEE NESSSBITTTT! COME TO ME! ME, MEEEEE!" The real Cheryl had disappeared some two months earlier, and John finds that:
The nightmare had upset me so much that I couldn't go back to sleep. As I lay there . . . I found myself thinking about another girl who'd disappeared. It seemed that a lot of people were disappearing . . . especially a lot of kids from my own neighbourhood, Riverview. This particular one . . . was only five or six years old. She'd been playing alone in Churchill Park Drive . . . and she'd made the mistake of blowing on a horn she'd found there. The horn belonged to an especially nasty bunch of Strangers, a gang of them called the Sky Yelpers. It seems the favourite snack of these Yelper guys was raw human flesh - especially the flesh of humans who blew on that stupid horn.
So, anyway, I managed to push the little girl out of the way of the Sky Yelpers . . . Now she'd disappeared, too. And her entire house had gone along with her.
Soon, however, John realizes that he was not dreaming. Somehow he has been transported to the country of Strangers. He also learns that Cheryl is not a giant; rather he has shrunk.
The book contains suspense, adventure and humour (derived from John's problems as an insect-sized person in a normal-sized world). Cheryl tries to help John get home while he attempts to make her see that she and the other children, who had all felt unwanted at home, did not come to the land of Strangers of their own free will but rather had been kidnapped.
Though the book has the kind of "yucky" details and humour that should be appealing to the typical 10-year-old, the novel, as a whole, is somewhat unsatisfying. Perhaps part of the problem resides in the fact that readers can go through the entire book before learning that it is a sequel. Instead of front end loading such information, the publishers withhold the brief note about The Same Place But Different until the very last page of A Completely Different Place.
Recommended to avid fantasy fans and other readers in Winnipeg who might enjoy another book partially set in their home city.
Recommended with reservations.
Irene Gordon, a teacher/librarian at Westdale Junior High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is currently co-editor of the MSLA Journal published by the Manitoba School Library Association.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - APRIL 11, 1997.
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