Pauline Fisk, Author . Bloomsbury $16.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-58234-829-2

Published in England in 1990 and now available in the U.S. for the first time, Fisk's (The Secret of Sabrina Fludde ) debut novel should stimulate fantasy readers in search of more than simple escapism. Unusual in both style and content, the book allows the audience a look at a world with its own internal logic; the exact workings of that logic are never explained, but the storytelling has such conviction, and the characters behave with such assurance in the conventions of their world, that the result is likelier to tantalize than to frustrate. Bonnie, growing up with her single mother, lives in constant fear of Grandbag, her mean-spirited and dictatorial grandmother. While exploring the grounds around her new apartment one night, Bonnie stumbles into a mysterious, walled property. There she learns that a man is planning a "practice flight" that evening, and she surreptitiously returns, to discover him inflating a hot-air balloon. In a characteristically dreamlike development, the inflation of the hot-air balloon automatically prompts the appearance of a "shadowboy," who later pulls Bonnie into the basket. Whisked away to another world, Bonnie finds Arabella, a girl who looks just like her. Arabella's family takes Bonnie in as one of their own, but soon an incarnation of Grandbag intrudes on this alternate reality. Fisk leaves it to readers to make many connections for themselves, confidently allowing much of the story to remain just below the surface. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Hardcover - 217 pages - 978-0-7459-1848-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4176-9201-9
Hardcover - 978-0-7451-4452-8
Prebound-Glued - 217 pages - 978-0-7569-5683-7
Paperback - 978-0-7459-1925-6
Paperback - 217 pages - 978-1-58234-998-5
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