Hoping to find his lost brother, Rownie escapes the home of the witch Graba and joins a troupe of goblins who perform in Zombay, a city where humans are forbidden to wear masks and act in plays.
*Goblin Secrets* is a terrific fantasy novel, inventive and odd like a novel that Hayao Miyazaki (filmmaker of *Spirited Away* and others) might write.
Rownie is a young boy living in a household of abandoned children raised by a witch-like “grandmother,” Graba. The children are sent out to make deals and steal for her and Rownie is sometimes responsible for winding up her mechanical chicken legs. That’s right – chicken legs. She lost her legs somehow long ago and had them replaced by huge metal chicken legs. And this is only the beginning of the oddness. Rownie lives in Southside, the part of the City of Zombay on the south side of the River (which needs a capital R). He is also looking for his brother Rowan, an actor who disappeared after the Mayor of Zombay banned all acting. The Mayor also has a troop of mechanical Guardsmen, supposedly former humans he has punished.
While Rownie is on an errand from Graba, he sees a touring acting troop of “Goblins” – former humans who have been changed in some way into odd green people. He joins their troop and finds that they and the masks they wear might be the key to all of the strangeness in Zombay. And he himself might be the key to saving the city from the River which is about to flood.
This is a relentlessly fascinating and completely weird book, yet satisfying at the end. The masks are a big emotional key – be careful what mask you wear in life; you might become what you wear. *Goblin Secrets* is the first novel by this author (but a companion novel, *Ghoulish Song*, has just been published). It’s for children 6th grade and up, who like fairy tales and fantasy but who are ready to jump away from the well-trod paths. And for adults who don’t mind remembering that they once were children in search of themselves.
Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Children’s Literature.
Recommended by: Steve Bridge, Irvington Library
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