Wednesday, August 23, 2006


THE PALACE OF LAUGHTER by Jon Berkeley, illustrated by Brandon Dorman (HarperCollins)
The cover of this book is as alluring as the entrance to a carnival fun house, and the similarity does not end there. Miles, an orphaned boy, is told by a tiger that he can "smell the circus in him," and when he follows that calling, he finds himself in a position to rescue a creature known as a song angel being held against her will. So suspenseful that you want to get off the ride and never want it to end at the same time, florid descriptions and a dreamlike plot carry the reader along page after page, with a few frightening bits mixed in. I personally find the idea of scary clowns in a book for children distateful, frankly, given the sad and horrifying grown-up history of crime which I won't get into here; but aside from that, the language is lovely, the writing is original, and if your 10-and up reader can stomach the likes of Neil Gaiman's CORALINE or the tribulations and droll, dark humor in the works of Lemony Snicket, ahhh well, they'll be fine (or as fine as they'll ever be). This first in a series is a thrill ride, and likely to find legions of fans. (10 and up)

On a personal note
This book is part of the "Julie Andrews collection," yes, the lovely and ridiculously multi-talented Mary-Poppins-Eliza-Doolittle-Victor-Victoria Julie Andrews, an imprint of HarperCollins publishing. In the 1970's, Julie Andrews published under her pen/married name, Julie Edwards, penning classics such as the read-aloud fantasy delight THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES ,and my favorite, MANDY, in which a girl builds a secret house with a mosaic room of seashells, good gravy, what little girl wouldn't love it? Julie Andrews at that time also chose admirably not to rely on star power garnered from another field, but to allow her stories to stand on their own merits.

And so, Julie Andrews, multi-talented Mary-Poppins-Eliza-Doolittle-Victor-Victoria Julie Andrews of whom I am very fond and who gave performances that made me shed tears of joy and who has written fine books to boot, may I please gently point out to you that when you are heading an imprint, you should not quote yourself on the back cover, praising the book which you have had a hand in publishing? My editor, too, heaven bless her, has many nice things to say about the books we have published together, and her enthusiasm does make my heart skip a beat. All the same, there is a general understanding that to the unbiased public, such praise is of the caliber of your mother telling you that you are the prettiest girl in the world. Chances are, if you actually are that beautiful, you don't need mother to point it out; the world will recieve you as such. Be brave in your imprint, Ms. Andrews! Keep putting out good stuff like this Berkeley fellow has done, and readers will say the things you'd like to have said.

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