cover image Lord of the Fries

Lord of the Fries

Tim Wynne-Jones, DK Publishing, Tim Jones-Wynne. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2623-9

The eponymous ""Lord of the Fries,"" a grouchy cook with two teenage detectives on his trail to discover the cause of his surliness, is just the first of the quirky characters spotlighted in seven vibrant stories. There is also Billy Bones, an ancient man, who everyone thinks is ""touched in the head,"" and Jim, the mute, fatherless 11-year-old, who becomes his confidante; there is Luc (short for Lucifer?), whose devilish pranks turn choirboy Rodney's life into a living hell. In a unique conglomeration of slapstick humor, wistful moments and poignant outcomes, Wynne-Jones (The Book of Changes; Stephen Fair) sets up almost bigger-than-life situations and conjures offbeat relationships. Readers are able to explore new territories, like the secret world lying inside the hole at the foot of a 12-year-old's bed and the ""aquarium-like"" classroom for gifted children, where recent inductee Garnet feels like a fish out of water. Fresh dialogue, sympathetic and idiosyncratic protagonists, and surprises around every corner--these have become Wynne-Jones's calling cards, and he just gets better and better. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)