Friday, March 11, 2011

No Passengers Beyond This Point, by Gennifer Choldenko (ages 9 - 12)

Does your child love adventure with a twist? A mystery where not everything is as straightforward as it seems? No Passengers Beyond This Point is a great book for kids who are okay with not knowing exactly what's going on. It grabbed me and held my attention -- BUT, it's the sort of book you just can't give away too much of the plot or you'll ruin it for the next person!
No Passengers Beyond This PointNo Passengers Beyond This Point
by Gennifer Choldenko
NY: Dial Books / Penguin, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon or at your local public library
Gennifer Choldenko is best known for her historical fiction and realistic fiction, especially her 2005 Newbery Honor book Al Capone Does My Shirts. But in No Passengers Beyond This Point, Choldenko is trying fantasy, a whirl-wind of a story that is a complete departure from anything she's done before. India, Finn and Mouse have just listened to their mom tell them that they have lost their home to the bank, and they must move to Colorado to live with an uncle they've never met. Of course, these three kids feel like their world is falling apart. Even worse, their mom can't come with them until she finishes her teaching job.

At it's heart, this is a survival story. When India, Finn and Mouse land at the airport, they are in a very strange land. On several occassions, I heard a little voice in my head saying, "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more." Mysterious and puzzling things happen, one after another, as these sisters and brother quickly realize that they're in a they are in a place they’ve never heard of, with no idea of how to get home, and time is running out. I really can't say more without ruining the surprise of this story.

The strength of the book lies in the characters that Choldenko has developed: testy India in all her tween moodiness, anxious Finn who worries that he must keep his family together, and little Mouse who is wiser and stronger than her years suggest. Choldenko shifts the point of view, with each chapter narrated by a different sibling, and so is able to develop a unique voice and perspective of each main character. She builds the tension effectively; Finn and Mouse struggle to get home, while India is torn between this strange new idyllic world and her loyalty to her brother and sister. Readers will relate to the conflict and tension between the siblings, and feel compassion for their intense concern for each other.

This survival story makes the characters - and perhaps readers - look at their life with new appreciation, and yet the ending might be a bit confusing to readers. Two of my students who read this said, "It was fantastic! But I had to start reading it right away again!" Another student remained confused by the ending; while he enjoyed the excitement and suspense, he did not have a clear picture of the final resolution. But I would say it's definitely worth a ride if you enjoy suspenseful fantasies.

For other reviews, see Charlotte's Library and Waking Brain Cells.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

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