Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Goblin Secrets
Author: William Alexander
Publication: Margaret K. McElderry Books (March 6, 2012)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: When I was looking over the hundreds of books on my YA TBR mountain, Goblin Secrets jumped out at me. It is a 2012 National Book Award Winner in the Young People's Literature category. You can read an interview with William Alexander here. Goblin Secrets is his debut novel. Will also has a Minnesota connection since he is an Adjunct Professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I was also looking for a Middle Grade book to read next. 

Goblin Secrets is an enchanting fantasy is a richly conceived world where magic is possible and acting—especially while wearing masks—is forbidden. Rownie is a young orphan boy aged somewhere between 8 and 10 (he doesn't really know) who lives with Graba who takes in orphaned children to use. She provides shelter and not much else for the orphans. Rownie used to have an older brother named Rowan who was an actor but he has disappeared. Rownie is determined to find him but he is not the only one looking. Graba would like to find him as would a troop of goblin actors. 

Rownie goes to the goblins and becomes interested in their lifestyle. He is fascinated by the masks that let them become someone else and by the stories that they tell. Also, the goblins accept him and treat him with much more kindness than he had been shown by Graba. Together with the goblins he continues the search for his missing brother who might be the only one to stop the river from flooding the city of Zombay.

We gradually learn about the city and the world with Rownie. Because he is so young, he doesn't have a full understanding of the problems that the city is facing which means that our understanding grows slowly too. I liked the adventures that Rownie had as he searched for his brother. I liked how he found his own courage and place in the world. I thought the world was fascinating and I am eager to learn more about it.

I think middle grade readers will enjoy the adventure and the mysteries in this book. 

Favorite Quote:
He always knew exactly how the rest of Graba's household felt, because none of them knew how to hide it. Graba herself never bothered to conceal her moods and wishes—her face was as easily readable as words spelled out in burning oil in the middle of the street. Rownie was used to that. The goblin, however, wrote her smile in a language that Rownie didn't know and couldn't read. 
I purchased this one after it won a National Book Award. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I just reviewed it this week. I didn't love it but I am interested in reading the next book--the "companion" book--because I loved the writing and liked the world.


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