It's Halloween week here in The Book Room, and first up we have What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy (Candlewick, 295 pages, $15.99) by Gregory Maguire — the man who brought Wicked into the world.
This story within a story begins as a storm is brewing around the canyon where the Ormsby family lives. Siblings Zeke, Dinah and Rebecca Ruth are left in the care of a cousin, Gage, when their parents take off to get some needed supplies...
"Dinah could feel that everything was different, without knowing how or why. She wasn't old enough to add up this column of facts:
* power cuts
* the smell of wet earth: mudslide surgically opening the hills
* winds like Joshua's army battering the walls of Jericho
* massed clouds with poisonous yellow edges
* the evacuation of the downslope neighbors, and the silence.
...The Ormsbys sequestered themselves in a scrappy bungalow perched at the uphill end of the canyon, where the unpaved country road petered out into ridge rubble and scrub pine. ... The Ormsby family made its home a citadel against the alluring nearby world of the Internet, the malls, the cable networks, and other such temptations."
Gage is a young teacher, only 21, and his survival skills are lacking. There is barely any food in the house and they're down to one candle, so he decides to distract the children from the scary storm by telling them a story of a skiberee (fairy) named What-the-Dickens and a cat named McCavity.
The story moves easily back and forth between the real events, with the kids and the storm, and Gage's fairy story, which challenges the older kids' intellect and belief system.
This might not be an adult's idea of pleasure reading but it's a great choice for reading aloud to kids during the Halloween season.