Reminiscent in tone to his Magic Shop Books, Bruce Coville‘s latest, Always October, is an imaginative chase through a land of nightmares.

Sixth grade friends, Jake Doolittle and “Weird Lily” Carker, take turns telling the story of their discovery of, journey through, and daring escape from, a parallel universe, Always October, that is filled with humanity’s fears, nightmares, horrors, and monsters (literally).  It all starts on the day when a baby is left on Jake’s doorstep with a note imploring him and his mom (his dad’s been missing for years) to take care of “Little Dumpling.”  Both Jake and his mom are quickly won over by L.D.’s cute, happy demeanor and caring for the foundling, at least in the short term, seems to be just what they need.  But when the full moon comes, Jake makes an unbelievable discovery – L.D. transforms into a monster!  Not only that, but there are other monsters coming out of the closets in his house, trying to take L.D. away.

On the run through the neighborhood graveyard, Jake bumps into Lily, and together they stumble through a portal into a strange, nightmarish world.   In Always October Jake and Lily meet a host of monsters, some evil, some seemingly benevolent, all of whom are trying desperately to get Little Dumpling and keep a very sinister plot from unfolding around the baby monster that will bring an end to both Always October and the human world.  Jake also stumbles into a very personal mystery in the shadows and haunts of Always October as its monster inhabitants reveal secrets about his family that cut him to the quick.  In the final moments of both worlds, Jake must decide if he is willing to sacrifice everything to save his friends, his family, Always October, and the hopes and dreams of humanity.

Coville’s fast-paced action, likable characters, and imaginative landscape intrigue the reader and make it easy to go along on this adventure with Jake and Lily.   The deeper message is subtly woven throughout the story : “When fear rules, growth stops. A little fear can be like fuel, but great fear can stop everything… or lead to great destruction. Brave choices and bold acts move all good things forward.” (146) At each crossroads when Jake or Lily are stymied by fear, making a small (or big) brave choice and taking a bold action helps get them through their fear and grow up just a little bit more.  And that’s the best transformation of all.

  • Posted by Cori


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