*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Over the Woodward Wall
Author: A. Deborah Baker
Publication Date: October 2020
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt. Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable. They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds. On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures. And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.
Think The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe meets Alice in Wonderland meets His Dark Materials Series and you’ve got Over the Woodward Wall. This book is not only fantasy, it’s metafiction as well, in a few different ways. The book interestingly acknowledges and calls to attention its own fictions nature, pointing out key plot points and drawing attention to the absurd nature of the story. It reminds the reader constantly that it’s a work of fiction, but it adds a surreal element to an overall unusual and tipsy-turvey story. Further, what I didn’t realize until writing this book review is that this middle grade fantasy novel actually is written in part in another one of the author’s books. A. Deborah Baker is the pen name of the true author, Seanan McGuire. The author of this book is actually a character in one of McGuire’s other series and this character writes.
This book is fantastical, but it’s not without an undercurrent of a sinister, almost Willy Wonka-esque feel to it. There is a sense of wonder and awe in this incredibly vast world that the author has built, but nothing behaves according to the rules of our own world (and the protagonists’ world). Danger lurks at every corner and it is only through the characters pure-heartedness, tenacity, and ability to reason that they will find their way through each challenge. Zib and Avery are unlikely companions, and they certainly aren’t friends, but thrown into this unlikely world and they must find common ground if they are going to make it through.
It’s fun and whimsical, and it’s impossible to tell what the author is going to throw at you next. I don’t read middle grade fiction often, but this one holds up. It’s the first in a trilogy, so if you’ve got a young reader in your life, this would be a great addition to their library.