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A Completely Different Place
Perry Nodelman
Simon & Schuster, 192 pages

Completely Different
Perry Nodelman
Canadian author Perry Nodelman's first young adult novel was The Same Place But Different, but his association with children's books has been more in depth. He is a past president of the Children's Literature Association, and the former editor of the Children's Literature Association Quarterly.

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The shortest official author bio around!

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lela Olszewski

Johnny Nesbit is ready for some peace and quiet after the terrifying events of the past winter (chronicled in Nodelman's The Same Place But Different). Having successfully battled a variety of evil creatures, called the Strangers, from the land of Farie in order to rescue his baby sister, life has settled down. The only thing bothering him is that children are disappearing, and no one else seems to realize it. Waking from a dream, he ponders the mystery.

I reached over to the night table, where my clock was. Reached over -- and found myself touching something that wasn't supposed to be there. It felt like a thick piece of cloth, and all ruffled. What the hell was that? It seemed to be hanging in the air. And, as I groped around in the dark in an increasing panic, I realized it was all around me. Great, I thought, I'm being imprisoned by drapery. It's curtains for me.

Johnny realizes that he has shrunk to doll house size and is inside a bottle held by one of the missing children, a girl about his age named Cheryl Zennor. As he and Cheryl try to discover what happened to him, Johnny comes to understand that Cheryl has been enthralled by a wizard, "the Master", and doesn't want to leave. She's happy cleaning house and waiting for him to come home each day. The only way back home is to break the spells that surround them, if they can.

A Completely Different Place successfully walks the line between light and dark fantasy, managing to be both funny and creepy at the same time. Nodelman is able to strike exactly the right tone for Johnny's first person narration, enabling the reader to understand Johnny's concern for the missing children and his reluctance to let Cheryl see that concern. Readers will also identify with Nodelman's portrayal of the awkward time when girls have crushes on boys who aren't ready for them.

Johnny's concern for his baby sister in The Same Place But Different was much more immediate than his concern for the missing children in this book. Similarly, his desire to rescue Cheryl is tempered by his pre-teen antipathy for girls, unlike the more straighforward motivation for rescuing his sister. As a result, this book doesn't have the emotional power of The Same Place But Different. But don't let that stop you from reading it, or sharing it with a middle schooler who likes fantasy. You'll both enjoy it.

Two other notes. First, don't miss the cover of the book. Steve Cieslawski's illustration fits the book perfectly, and will make you want to get the magnifying glass out so you can read the spells on the bottles. And second, Nodelman adds an afterward listing the traditional sources for the story, so readers can follow up if they want to.

Copyright © 1997 by Lela Olszewski

Lela Olszewski is an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance, as well as an eclectic mix of other fiction and non-fiction. She is also a librarian with an interest in readers' advisory, and believes fully in Rosenberg's Law: Never apologize for your reading tastes. She has no cats.

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