cover image Love Among the Walnuts

Love Among the Walnuts

Jean Ferris, Ferris. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201590-9

In this modern-day farce featuring a cast of offbeat characters and some punchy dialogue, Ferris (Invincible Summer; Looking for Home) shows how peace inside a man-made utopia is disrupted by outside jealousy and greed; but the plot will have more appeal for adults than children. Horatio Alger Huntington-Ackerman (one of the 10 richest men in the world) escapes the ""rat race"" of the city with wife ""Mousey,"" son Sandy, trusty valet Bentley and Bentley's wife, Flossie, to a blissful existence on a remote country estate. There Horatio's two brothers attempt to murder the whole household with a poisoned birthday cake, in order to inherit his fortune. The cake puts Horatio, Mousey and Flossie in a coma, and Sandy and Bentley (who did not partake in dessert that night) move them to next-door Walnut Manor--not your ordinary convalescent home. Eight other patients (who, coincidentally, also have been mistreated by cruel family members), with the help of Sunny (a nurse whose demeanor is as bright as her name), join forces with Sandy and Bentley to find a cure for their loved ones' malady and punish the responsible parties. The villains do get what they deserve and the good guys end up with love, happiness and increased riches. However, Sandy's accelerated growth from a baby in the nursery to an adult smitten with Sunny (in the space of a chapter) early on in the novel leaves young readers little to identify with. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)