Stuey is going on 9 and lives with his widowed mom and grandfather, who’s his best friend. His grandfather has such incredible stories to tell about his father; a bootlegger who bought land to create a golf course and who disappeared without a trace one night. Grandpa Zach dies during an awful storm, and Mom locks away the pages of the book he was writing. There are family secrets that Zach is desperate to know about, but he puts that on hold when he meets Elly Rose, a girl his age who’s new to his town. School’s out, and his friends don’t live nearby, so Elly and her amazing imagination sustain Zach – until something happens between their mothers; something neither of them want to discuss. Zach and Elly meet in secret in the woods, at Elly’s “Castle Rose”, where they share stories. One day, though, the unbelievable happens, and reality splits between the friends. Stuey and Elly Rose separately work to find one another and make things right again.
Candlewick’s authors are bringing it this Fall! I’ve been making my way through their Fall list and have been consumed with each book on it. Otherwood is a fantastic story of friendship, secrets, and loss. We have two narratives that work readers through each main character’s struggle to understand what’s going on and how to fix things while peeling away the layers of secrets that engulf their families. There’s some quantum physics and discussion on alternate reality that will interest science and fantasy fans, and the frustration of fighting against ingrained, linear thinking (i.e., adult thinking) will resonate with readers. Can forgiveness bring two worlds back together? Only one way to find out. Otherwood is a compulsively readable novel with likable characters and an incredible story. A definite must-add to middle grade collections, and a great book to give to your fantasy fans that want something a little more based in reality. Or that uses reality as a jumping-off point. This one’s going on my Mock Newbery list. Booktalk this one with your When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead) fans.