Having been expelled from Theffects School for Troubled Boys, William Teller ('Tell'), the son of a skiving small-town mayor returns home to find an empty house and a farewell letter from his father. Knowing his father to play an arcane prank every now and then, he thinks nothing of it—until the neighbors and representatives from a local orphanage show up.
When Tell flees to a nearby wheat field and is greeted by a babbling, self-proclaimed ‘tree-expert’ who claims that Tell’s wandering imagination has been rearranging his silverware, it marks the beginning of a series of unbelievable encounters. Only when he comes face to face with a shape-shifting elephant that obeys all—well, some—of the ideas in his head does Tell slowly start to accept that the strange Mr. Theys may be on to something. Unfortunately for Tell and his imagination, others are on to it, too...
Confronted with powerful forces taking over a world that isn’t his, where belief is outlawed and people carry pocket mirrors for protection, it will take a butler with a hidden agenda, a surly wolf and a man with two bodies looking for a run-away king to help Tell uncover his father’s unimaginable secret…
Plot: This excellent, wildly inventive middle grade story follows the path of an abandoned boy as he discovers his unusual capabilities and encounters a bevy of otherworldly beings. Unresolved questions set up the potential for a sequel--one that readers will eagerly await.
Prose: Mayer's prose is sophisticated, immediately engrossing, and highly detailed, if somewhat verbose. Wordplay provides an element of playful absurdity to the text, while the storytelling unfolds in an enjoyably dreamlike fashion.
Originality: Stories of troubled boys left alone to navigate complicated, magical worlds, are familiar. However, Mayer's delightfully strange worldbuilding allows for the story to stand apart from other fantastical works of children's literature.
Character/Execution: Though character development is sometimes overshadowed by Mayer's layered language, the author effectively establishes a colorful cast of characters--human or otherwise. Tell is convincingly emotionally conflicted, with dimensions beyond that of a "chosen" child.
Date Submitted: August 22, 2020
Debut author L.N. Mayer announces the independent publication of her first upper middle-grade novel, TELL, OR THE ADVENTURES IN THEMIDDLE.