My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book Source: Checked out from my public library
You have to wait for good things to happen – wait and wait and work so hard – but bad things occur out of the blue, like fire alarms triggered in the dead of night, blaring randomly, a shock of sound, a chatter of current from which there is no turning back.
The three Tompkins siblings – dramatic charmer India, level-headed worrier Finn, and peculiarly clever Mouse – are unhappy passengers on a flight bound for Colorado. Back home in California, their mother has just told them that their house is about to be repossessed, and they will be living with their Uncle Red while Mom stays behind to tie up loose ends. India is furious about having to leave her best friend behind. Finn is concerned about how their family will move forward. Mouse is confused by the whole situation, but her invisible friend Bing is always there to reassure her. Even when the plane lands in a place called Falling Bird, where they are welcomed warmly and each given a dream home to live in. It will take all three of them to get back home, but do they all want to go?
This is a weird book, and I mean that in the best possible way. A Phantom Tollbooth kind of way. It starts off like a realistic novel: three (mostly) normal kids are hit with the horrible news that they are about to lose their home. And then it takes a sharp turn into fantasy, while all three kids keep trying to make logical sense of things. The narrative shifts between each siblings’ first-person perspective in alternating chapters, and Choldenko’s creation of three distinct voices is spot-on. (Little Mouse is particularly delightful.) While the time pressure the children face is keenly felt, the quick-paced action is never rushed. There is family drama at the heart of this story, wrapped in a satisfying blend of mystery and fantasy.