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Wallace Briggs
The Amazing Adventures of Jimmy Crikey
Jimmy McGellan, nicknamed “Crikey” by cruel classmates for his shocking red hair, large feet, and pointed ears, is a strange boy who overcomes a variety of tricky situations in this exciting middle grade adventure novel. When he decides to run away from his kind guardian, Aunt Ethel, Jimmy stumbles into a subterranean world known as Roombelow, where he has wild adventures and becomes fast friends with the inhabitants. During his explorations, he solves problems, including the theft of glowing stones; thwarts attacks; and reunites diminutive well-dweller Gemma with her family. On a trip back to the surface, Aunt Ethel divulges that Jimmy is actually an alien from Attalia. Longing for somewhere he will fit in, Jimmy boards his deceased parents’ spaceship and returns to Attalia, where he must combat a serious threat from hostile aliens.

The episodic arcs have all the charm and whimsy of impromptu bedtime stories. The overlapping imaginative worlds delightfully blend water sprites, superpowers, and sentient computers; this mingling of science fiction and fantasy might not seem coherent at first glance, but it sparks imagination and helps to build independent tales. There is a retro feel to the plotting and writing, harkening back to mid-20th-century juvenile adventure books with daring escapes, clever plans, and quickly forgotten escapades. A handful of pen-and-ink illustrations give a tantalizing glimpse into Jimmy’s world.

There are obvious moral lessons in swift consequences for actions and Jimmy’s growing confidence as he finds acceptance, delivered with a light touch that’s appropriate for young readers. His keen insights predictably outshine the plans of adults, sometimes to a degree that adults will find outrageous but children will delight in. Briggs’s avuncular style lends itself well to reading aloud, and the self-contained stories make for perfectly bite-sized tales. Jimmy’s exploits are a charming, action-packed lark.

Takeaway: This lively collection of capers for younger children will find fans as a read-aloud with a nostalgic, improvisational feel.

Great for fans of Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: B
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-