cover image The Same Place But Different

The Same Place But Different

Perry Nodelman. Simon & Schuster, $15 (181pp) ISBN 978-0-671-89839-7

Though Nodelman's (The Pleasures of Children's Literature) first novel for children shares some themes with Margaret Mahy's The Changeover, it lacks the metaphorical underpinnings that make Mahy's work so engrossing. When the Fairies (also called Strangers) whisk John Nesbit's baby sister off to Fairyland, the boy vows to find her. Conveniently, a classmate proves to be an escapee from Stranger country, and--before being abruptly removed from the plot--fills John in on pertinent Fairy data. In Fairyland, John has a near-sexual encounter with temptress Jenny Greenteeth (a scene which seems tacked on to display Nodelman's familiarity with the folklore) and strikes a bargain with the Strangers' queen; back in his own world, he engages in a spate of shape-shifting and derring-do. Throughout, the overly knowing narrative (``So I had to go the the very place where all these creepy creatures came from, and I had to find the queen of the whole damn bunch of them, who was sure to be the creepiest of all'') distances readers and muffles the powers of the legends invoked. Ages 8-12. (June)