It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday again, my sixth week of this great idea started by Shannon Whitney Messenger. This week, I am pleased to talk about a book that I think may become a classic, No Passengers Beyond This Point by Geniifer Choldenko.
When I was quite young, probably second or third grade, I read The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time. Frankly, I was a bit creeped out, but the story was captivating, and I wound up reading it several more times during my childhood. Mind-twisting and scary, humorous but disturbing, the book spoke to me in some odd way.
That's the kind of book No Passengers Beyond This Point is. Crazy and scary and captivating, it is like a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth and Neil Gaiman's Coraline (the book, as I've never seen the movie).
No Passengers Beyond This Point, written by the talented Newbery Honor winner Gennifer Choldenko, is told in three voices, starting with Finn, the 12-year-old boy who worries excessively, and continuing on with India, his teenage sister, and then Mouse, his 6-year-old sister. One of the great strengths of the book is the voices of Finn and Mouse. India feels a bit less authentic, although she adds some comic relief in her obsessions. The three live together in a small house with their mother, having lost their father shortly before Mouse was born, but the story kicks off quickly with the house lost to foreclosure. Their mother is a teacher and can't afford to quit her job midyear, so they are sent to live with their uncle outside of Denver.
The craziness starts when their planes lands someplace that is only clear about where it is not (according to the signs, it is Not New York and Not San Francisco and Not many other places). Still, they are met by a driver, Charles, who is expecting them and has a sign with their name on it. One glimpse of the fantastical feathered taxi, and they know that something is very strange, but they can't find a way back as they are whisked along to a series of adventures, both wonderful and scary.
In classic fashion, the children realize they want nothing more than to go back home, but it takes all of their different strengths and weaknesses to stop the momentum of craziness. Even then, it is unclear whether they will run out of time before they find a way back.
There are friends and villains along the way, and some who may be one or the other, but the three siblings also discover each other. They are brought closer together by the adversities they face, even when they are separated by events.
As you can probably tell, this is not the easiest book to describe, and it may feel confusing at times if you don't let yourself go with the nuttiness, but I think it has a lot to offer middle grade children. Never preachy, it nonetheless strengthens messages of the importance of family as well as perseverance. I know that as a child, this is a book I would have returned to over and over.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger. She, and others frequent MMGM posters are:
Shannon Whitney Messenger at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe
Joanne Fritz at My Brain on Books
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Brooke Favero at somewhere in the middle
Myrna Foster at Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
(Added) Kimberley Griffiths Little at Kimberley’s Wanderings
If you watch those blogs today, as well as Shannon's blog, you are likely to find other great middle grade book recommendations.