by Matthew Skelton. Delacorte Press, 2006. I just finished reading this, months after so many other kidlit bloggers have already reviewed it. I liked it quite a bit, and kept thinking about the characters days later, wondering what they were up to in Oxford. That's always a good quality in a book, if it makes me think the characters are still having adventures after I've finished reading.
Blake and his little sister Duck are in Oxford with their mother while she does research. Their father is still back in the States, a rift in the family that bothers them both tremendously. They are left to their own devices for hours while their mother pursues her work. They spend most of their time wandering around the libraries of the university under the eye of the friendly librarians. Heh.
One day a book jumps out and bites Blake. It turns out to be a magical book that appears to have blank pages but is actually full of prophesy. The story goes back and forth between modern Oxford and the children we know to fifteenth century Germany where Gutenberg is inventing the printing press and the magical book is first being created.
Of course the book has chosen Blake because he is destined to complete the quest of reuniting the scattered parts of the mysterious and powerful book. There are evil characters trying to steal it from him and helpful wise mentors offering assistance. It's an exciting and fanciful read. I was completely absorbed in it and enjoyed reading it immensely.
The only thing I found disappointing was the ending. The plot builds to Blake's figuring out where the missing parts of the book are hidden and his piecing together the clues. The mystery is resolved when he finds all the scraps and brings them together before a wicked professor is able to snatch it from him. The only thing is, all the book really wants to do is stitch itself back together. It seems alive, wiggling in his backpack and whispering to him, urging him along. It flies through the air and stitches its pages back into place when they are reunited. Then... nothing happens. Prophecy fulfilled. The scene switches to Blake's parents getting back together and his family happiness. This ending leaves me feeling flat. The story closes with Blake reading the healed book. Perhaps the story will continue in a sequel?
Not to miss:
Endymion Spring website with an interview with the author, excerpts from the book and audio files.