The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
There are times I think “young adult” fiction is wasted on the young, especially a book as finely crafted as this one. It’s a wonderful mix of Gaiman and Grimm with a dash of Monty Python mixed in.
True the hero David is only twelve. He’s a slightly OCD boy who believes that certain numbers and actions will save his ill mother. If he bumps his head once he’ll do it a second time to try to keep the universe in line for his mother’s benefit. But early in the book, set in England before the great wars, David’s mother loses her battle leaving David to wonder if he’s somehow missed as step that might have kept her alive.
As the Second World War approaches David finds himself with a new step-mother, a new brother, a new home, and visits to a psychiatrist because he’s been passing out. What no one knows is that David has begun to hear books whispering to him and has been receiving visits at night from a being he calls the Crooked Man.
In his new home, a few generations before, a brother and his sister disappeared and while going through the books in the house David finds a notebook kept by the missing boy. A short time later David himself disappears when a German fighter crashes on the property and David scurries into a small fissure in the garden to protect himself. The next thing David knows he is crawling out of a tree in a darker world.
Here he meets an odd collection of characters, a woodsman who both protects the forest and fights the increasing population of wolf-human hybrids including one who wants to be king of this land, a group of seven dwarves who feed a fat and greedy Snow White (there had been eight but number seven was ejected as a class traitor), and a knight in search of a loved friend. David goes on a search for the aging king of the land who possesses what’s called the Book of Lost Things which may hold the secret of healing this strange world and helping him return while battling the horrible wolves and the Crooked Man.
The book is well-written with amazing characters and humor far above the head of the target reader (Amazon says this is ages 10-14). Because of that it’s the kind of book where parents may get more out of the book than its supposed demographic.
I’m normally prudent with the number of stars I give reviews because, after all, there has to be room at the top for Fitzgerald and Tolstoy. But this book I gave five stars and it’s a book I’m sure I’ll read again soon.