Saturday, March 1, 2014

Goblin Secrets Review

Goblin Secrets (Zombay, #1)

Book talk:  In the city of Zombay clockwork creatures are powered by real hearts, goblins steal small children, and acting is strictly forbidden.  Rownie's brother has been missing ever since he was caught performing, leaving Rownie to fend for himself. That's why Rownie lives with Graba.  She may be a crazy, vengeful witch but at least working for her ensures that no one else messes with him.  Thanks to Graba, Rownie is surviving, but just barely.  He misses his brother fiercely and knows life will be better when he's found him.  So when an acting troupe puts up posters, Rownie has to see them.  Even if they are goblins, and Rownie has to steal the money from Graba to do so.  Soon Rownie has both the city guards and Graba's gang after him and if the goblins are right the whole city will flood. Unless they can find an actor fit to play a very difficult part.

Rocks my socks:  The setting is incredibly imaginative.  From the unique characters to the landscape and history of the city to the magical elements woven throughout the story.  I enjoyed reading about life in a traveling acting troupe with its puppets, masks, and other illusions.  Graba was a great villain reminiscent of Baba Yaga.  The prose was beautiful and I often found myself admiring the way Alexander phrased a sentence.

Rocks in my socks:  I never got my bearings with this book.  There were so many ideas and most of them were never fully explained.  The automatons are powered by something called coal that is made of hearts.  How this process works is still unclear to me.  It took me quite some time to realize that when they were talking about the magic of theatre they weren't being figurative and that the masks they wear really do have special powers.  For a while I thought that the stories about goblins stealing children and turning them into goblins were just fear-mongering rumors but apparently some human children really are turned into goblins although I'm still unclear on the why.  Several events that could have had a big emotional impact didn't because I barely knew the characters involved and had little context for what was happening.  I loved the ideas, characters, and setting, but I wish they had been more fully developed.

Every book its reader:  While I love immersing myself in a world and wading through rich details, many people will probably enjoy the fast-pace that frustrated me so much.  If you're looking for a fast-paced adventure set in an imaginative fantasy world, then look no farther.  Fans of the theatre will especially enjoy all the references to the trade.  I'd give it to 4th grade and up.


There's a website for the book where you can make your own mask.

William Alexander has a website cleverly separated into graphy (blog), bibliography, biography, and webography

The National Book Foundation has a page for the book with videos from the ceremony from the year Goblin Secrets won the National Book Award for young people's literature.

You can find the author reading an excerpt on YouTube:

Bonus Quotes:

“Our selves are are rough and unrehearsed tales we tell the world.”

“Backstage was chaos distilled into a very small space.”

Source: school library

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander: buy it or check it out today!

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