The peaceful civilization of Valorim is under siege…It’s about to fall to the dark Lord Mondus. In a panic, a few heroes bind all their world’s beauty into one precious necklace and send it across the cosmos, hurling past a trillion lighted stars…all the way into the lunch box of sixth-grader Tommy Pepper of Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Tommy puts it on, and soon he starts doodling pictures of the twin suns of Valorim and hearing strange music. But at first, he is too preoccupied to notice; his mother died recently, and his sister isn’t speaking, and his father is fighting a real-estate agency to keep their home. But when strange minions of Lord Mondus begin ransacking Plymouth, Tommy realizes he must protect his family from villains more dangerous than a vengeful realtor and her bus-stop-bully daughter. Gary D. Schmidt masterfully presents the epic story of a family trying to redefine itself in the wake of tragedy.
So…this was an interesting turn for this author, and while at first I was wondering about his choice of fantasy interwoven with real-life, I think I got it by halfway through the book. Part of this book is the perspective of the different Valorim on the far away planet, and another part is in the much easier to understand perspective of Tommy Pepper. At the beginning of the novel there was so much name dropping of alien people that I couldn’t tell left from right and wondered how a seasoned writer could make that mistake, and as I kept reading it kept niggling at me, but then I realized that this book really isn’t about the Valorim…it’s about Tommy and everything that happens with the Valorim, the monsters, the necklace, is a way to tell a story about loss and love and family. After I realized that, I also began to understand how cool it was that Mr. Schmidt tried this. Using the fantastical to approach well-known themes and problems is a great technique, and I enjoyed the book a lot more once I was focusing on what I knew I was supposed to. It’s actually a really symbolic book with a lot of poetic pieces to it. He’s a really talented author, and I’d recommend this to anybody who likes his other books. Nice job.