Saturday, February 5, 2011


On Thursday at our state reading convention, I heard Jeff Wilhelm talk about the texts kids, especially middle and high school kids choose. Wilhelm talked a lot about video games and how boys use those as kind of heroic journeys. I have been thinking about his talk all weekend, both in terms of my own sons (Son #2 is a video game addict) and also in terms of a book I've just finished.

NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT, by Gennifer Choldenko, is an epic/heroic journey/fantasy tale. At the beginning of the book, sibling trio India, Finn, and Mouse Tompkins find out that their mother has lost their house to foreclosure, so their family will be moving to Colorado, to live with an uncle until the mom can get back on her feet. The mom, however, is a teacher, and has to finish the school year, so the kids will be traveling by themselves, with their mom joining them later.

At this point, the book takes a surprising turn. The plane "lands" but when India, Finn and Mouse disembark, they are not in Denver, where they were planning to land. Instead, they are in a deserted and unfamiliar airport. They are met by Chuck, a strange chauffeur who drives a shocking pink taxi covered with white feathers. Chuck explains that the children are not in Fort Baker, a small city outside of Denver, but have instead landed in a town called Falling Bird. At first, it seems like Falling Bird might be a perfect place to live. Each of the kids starts out in a house designed especially for that person- India's has all kinds of teenager delights, Finn's highlights his love of basketball, and Mouse gets to indulge in her love of science. Soon, however, the children discover that these delights are only temporary, and they set out on a problem-filled heroic journey to get back to their mom and to their new life in Fort Baker.

To me, this book feels a little like the action movies I sometimes see with my sons. There is a lot going on, lots of action, lots of adventure. There are symbols that keep appearing and reappearing- puzzle pieces, a white cat, and magical watches. I kept waiting for something to happen with those symbols, but for the most part they were just important for a few chapters, then faded away. Sometimes that bothered me a little, but I don't think it would bother kids, especially not those who are fast moving and just like a good plot. I'll be interested to see what my fifth and sixth grade readers think of this book.

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