The Rundown: After 14 years in the Realm of Flesh, Melanie's mother, Fumiko, is called back to Half World by the monstrous and wonderfully imagined Mr. Glueskin. Melanie, possibly the girl who returns balance to the Three Realms, sets off to rescue her mother with a jade rat and a magic 8 ball.
Subtext: There is some great interplay between mother and daughter in the book, a kind of depth that is sorely lacking in MG, YA and adult fiction. Melanie's doubts about her mother's love are some of the most moving moments in the story.
What I Particularly Liked: Beautiful prose; some extremely wild imagery (women with eel arms, a starfish kid, Mr. Glueskin, the illustrations).
What I Didn't Like: All of the men in the story are evil or scoundrels. Melanie's father is about as good as it gets and he is a raging alcoholic.
Worth the Ketchup?: Yes. I'll be giving this as a gift to my daughter next year for her birthday.
Verdict: Though there are some fine grotesque moments, I don't think it's too much to handle for a 10 or 12-year old. A delight to read and bittersweet at the end. Recommended.
UP NEXT: The Bone People by Keri Hulme