FIRST SENTENCE: When he got the idea that would change his life, he was lying on his back in the cave near his home.
Eleven-year-old Sebby (Sebastian) has a fertile imagination and a lot of problems. His older brother Jeb ran away after an argument with his Pa about the damage his childhood friend Stan Odum's company has done to their community with his strip-mining; his Pa, who used to be nice, is now jobless and drinks; his teacher, Ms. Byron, is on his case about getting his homework completed and signed, and now his mother's chickens are laying what seem like petrified eggs.
In Kokadjo Gore, Sebby's family, including Grum (his grandmother) and his twin sister Barbara (Barbie), are one of the only families that haven't sold their property to Stan Odum, owner of Odum's Research. Although Pa and Stan were friends in childhood, Pa wasn't able to get a maintenance job at Stan's company, and now he pretty much drinks, cusses, snores, and watches television while Ma goes to work every day at the dress factory in nearby Exton. Even so, Pa remains strictly loyal to Stan, which caused a huge argument with Sebby's older brother Jed after Pa caught Jed protesting against ORC. After the argument, Jed ran away, and their only contact with him is a pre-arranged telephone signal when he lets the phone ring once and then hangs up - just to let them know he's OK.
Sebby has a secret hideout in the middle of ORC property - a cave he calls the Hole in the Wall, where the rocks sometimes flow with strange colors, and where he goes to escape chores and homework. When his mother's chickens first begin laying eggs as hard as rocks, and then disappear, Sebby and Barbie find an opening in the shack behind their house that leads to a tunnel filled with a vein of the flowing colors.
As Sebbie and Barbie investigate the mystery of the colors, a group of people, including their friend Cluster, disappear and overnight, an ORC sign is placed on their property. Seemingly dead, petrified chickens come to life when colors flow from them back to the vein of colors, and anything contaminated with the colors, including Sebby, has a strange magnetism that pulls towards the colors.
Will Sebbie and Barbie be able to find out what ORC is REALLY doing in the Gore and stop them before Pa talks Ma into selling out the property that has been in her family for generations? Or will Stan and his money win in the end?
This is an entertaining middle reader that will keep you turning pages. Written in the genuine voice of a regular kid, the perspective is spot-on, and the reader can actually hear Sebbie's voice and totally identify with him. I love a middle reader where the main character actually feels like the true-blue article, and where all of the characters are actually seen through a real kid's eyes, and not in a fashion that is suitable for an older person.
It's easy for me to see why this author has won so many awards for children's literature, and why this novel won the Milkweed Prize for Children's Literature. If you're looking for the genuine article, a book that neither talks down to or is too complex for your own middle reader, filled with adventures and imagination, this is the title for you.
QUOTES (from an eGalley; may be different in finished copy):
The colors always disappeared as soon as he became aware of them and he was never able to revive the same vision. Each sighting felt like a gift and a loss at once.
Cluster called their house the Love Shack. People in town called their place Zensylvania or just "the commune". Pa called them whacked-out yippie-hippie-doo-da-dopeheads and me and Barbie to stay away from there.
Her back was hunched way more than Grum's. She had the absolute worst case of Not-Enough-Milk-When-I-Was-Your-Age Disease I'd ever seen.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4.125 out of 5 stars