Monday, May 19, 2008

The Neddiad

What kid isn't going to like a book in which the main character boards a fancy train headed to Los Angeles; is abandoned among cowboys in Flagstaff, Arizona; meets a famous movie star; and has a gun pulled on him during an airplane ride over the Grand Canyon? Personally, I can't imagine an adult not enjoying this fantastical novel by Daniel Pinkwater (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). If this doesn't sound like enough fun and excitement, then throw in a ride on a circus elephant, outwitting a movie producer who wants to take over the world, being an extra in the evil producer's movie along with your school buddies, and a mammoth who wanders into the circus one day.

Sound something like a crazy ride in an amusement park? You bet. Is it a little wacky? More than just a bit. In fact, the wild mixture of fantasy and fiction increases as the book progresses. But readers need to beware. Although the La Brea Tar Pits and The Brown Derby are real places—fantasy including shamans, ghosts, and sacred turtles are part of the roller coaster ride of the book.
As a Christian who believes in creation, I was uncomfortable with the manner in which Pinkwater intertwined evolution into the story presenting it as irrefutable truth. But the book is well-written and funny and will engage boy and girl readers from 4th-8th grade. In the classroom I would recommend using it to show how fantasy must be internally believable, despite the fact that the premise might be outlandish.
After reading the book, I discovered that Pinkwater published weekly chapters online. The sequel,Yggyssey, can now be read the same way.
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