Book Review

Book Review: What-the-Dickens

By Gregory Maguire

My Edition:
Paperback, 295 pages
2008, Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780769641474

From the back of the book: From the darkest night, amidst a terrifying storm, Dinah’s parents go missing. With supplies dwindling and worry growing, Dinah and her brother and sister listen to their cousin Gage tell them an unlikely story – about tooth fairies, known as skibbereen, who are living in warring colonies right in the neighborhood. Dinah is skeptical, but as the story unfolds and the storm rages, she begins to believe.

This story was adorable and witty. What-the-Dickens is the name of the main skibbereen, who was born alone and confused, and has to make his way in the vast world. I had a perfect mental image of him in my head and I wish I could draw so I could show you! I actually did some searching on the internet and it doesn’t look like there’s any fan art for this book, which is a bummer, because I’d hoped to find a picture similar to my vision. At any rate, WtD is a funny little guy and I enjoyed his outlook on life – he’s both naive but also very open-minded and positive.

I think the main message behind the story is to be yourself and help others when you can. WtD is always breaking the rules or refusing to conform to the traditions of the skibbereen because he didn’t grow up in any particular clan and sometimes their rules just seem silly to him. He’s easy-going and if magical creatures existed, I picture him as the type to sit on your shoulder and chat with you a while. I also liked Maguire’s take on the world of tooth fairies – very inventive! I can’t say that I remember reading other stories about tooth fairies, but I don’t imagine they’d be anything like this book.

The storyline with Dinah’s missing parents sort of plays a back seat. I was curious to know more about why they left the kids with their cousin. There’s also a crazy storm going on, but it seems like there’s more there as well – maybe a severe decline in the economy or some other social disaster. It’s not the focus of the story though, and that’s okay – it’s basically used to set up a reason for Gage to tell his story about the skibbereen.

The book is recommended for readers ages 9 and up, and I agree – but don’t let that stop you if you’re an adult in the mood for a quick fairy tale, check this out!

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