Reviews for Wikkeling

Booklist Reviews 2011 May #2
*Starred Review* Though this is very much a dystopian novel at heart, don't mistake it for the sort of gritty, hellish version that dominates the current awful-future trend. Instead, this world is kind of a dull place, especially for a kid like Henrietta, subjected to rigorously standardized education and zealously overprotective safeguards: everything from tools and matches (only ever seen in old-timey movies) to triple-harnessed bus seats to live-feed BedCams. In the massive, gridlocked, advertising-pummeled city of the Addition, Henrietta discovers a hidden attic, from which she peers out of a window onto a pastoral street long lost to time. That's the nice part. The scary part is that she and two new friends are being followed around by a lurching apparition called the Wikkeling that demands to know, "Where do you go?" What Arntson is really doing is looking forward to look back, using a near-future technoland to counterpoint the joys of old books over cell phones, trees over highways, and creatures just at the periphery of understanding over mollycoddled safety. It's all kind of creepy (especially with Terrazzini's silhouette artwork), deadpan funny, and totally engrossing, even though the book doesn't come close to fully explaining everything. But that is ultimately a smart move; asking for a bit of interpretation makes this challenging and at times even confounding read that much more memorable. Although too many books are burdened with unnecessary sequels, this one screams for one, or even many. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
Arntson's novel defies classification--it is a bestiary and a dystopia, a horror novel and a time-slip tale. At its heart, however, it is the story of three unlikely but compelling friends--Henrietta, Gary, and Rose--who circumvent the strictures of their society with the help of old books, a few eccentric adults, and a good dose of gumption. Terrazzini's silhouette art adds layers of interest. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

The low-key dystopia pictured in this inventive tale may not strike a chill into the hearts of young readers, but it's sure to disconcert adults.

The highly connected, technological future in which Henrietta Gad-Fly lives feels appallingly possible. Safety is the primary social force, solitude is unknown, traffic jams clog the roads and horns have been replaced by "Honk Ads," which relentlessly tout upgraded cell phones and promote conspicuous consumption. Awkward and lonely, Henrietta is surprised and pleased to make two friends in the space of a few days. Oddly enough, Gary and Rose both share her propensity for headaches. The discovery of a "wild housecat" in Henrietta's attic leads all three to learn more about the past, connects Henrietta to her family in new ways and eventually sparks a confrontation with the creature (or program?) that is draining their energy and causing them pain. Along the way, Arntson touches on the value of knowledge, the destruction of the environment and the importance of individuality, as well as offering intriguing glimpses of a number of imaginary animals. Most of Terrazzini's black-and-white illustrations resemble cut-paper silhouettes and provide a suitably stark vision of Henrietta's world. A few wispier grey-on-grey drawings are included, ostensibly on pages of the antique Bestiary the children consult, and these are variously whimsical and frightening.  

Provocative and offbeat. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Arntson makes his children's debut with this quirky, sometimes ambling adventure. Henrietta lives in a society so tightly controlled and regimented that parents can monitor their children every moment of the day, and teachers can judge a student's progress instantaneously. Relentlessly barraged by advertising, stifled by safety requirements, and suffocated by overzealous adults, Henrietta yearns for freedom. Her old house may be unfashionable by modern standards, but when Henrietta discovers its secret attic, it becomes a welcome haven. After she finds a near-mythical Wild House Cat and nurses it back to health, it gives her a purpose, as well as an opportunity to make friends with two like-minded schoolmates. Things get weird, however, when an ominous, enigmatic creature known as the Wikkeling starts stalking them. While striking, Terrazzini's illustrations (including entries from an ancient bestiary that Henrietta's step-grandfather gives her) can feel peripheral to the story, which rests uncertainly between a dystopian novel and a fantasy in the vein of the Spiderwick Chronicles; despite its many compelling elements, they fall short of forming a cohesive whole. Ages 8-12. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 May

Gr 4-8--In Henrietta's world, every part of life is monitored and regulated by computers. House cats are considered wild and dangerous animals. Old houses and old books can make children sick. The girl's orderly and safe life is disrupted the day she discovers a secret attic above her bedroom, where a wounded cat has taken refuge, and the windows show scenes from her neighborhood's past and time seems to stand still. Soon after this discovery, she starts seeing the Wikkeling, a menacing yellow creature that gives children headaches with the touch of a finger. She learns that a few others can see it, too, and they work together to solve the mystery of what it is, and what it wants from them. Arntson has created a detailed and fascinating dystopian world that seems eerily similar to our own, and Terrazzini's illustrations strike just the right note. This delightfully creepy tale will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002).--Misti Tidman, formerly at Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY

[Page 105]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 June
In the not-too-distant future, life revolves around safety and predictability. Technology rules, and every activity is carefully overseen. Life is boring and repetitive, and Henrietta does not fit in at all. During school, her mind wanders. She has no friends. She suffers from devastating headaches due, her parents believe, to "house sickness" from their old-fashioned dwelling, one of few not molded from easily sanitized plastic. Then one night, staring at her ceiling, Henrietta notices the faint outline of a trap door. Above is an attic filled with strange objects and, on an old sofa, an enormous cat with a wounded leg--a Wild Housecat, believed to be extinct. Even stranger, outside the attic windows she sees a city from another time. With new friends and fellow headache sufferers Gary and Rose, Henrietta discovers a world of free choice and dangerous, exhilarating possibility. But that world also contains a threatening creature, the Wikkeling, and it is following this headachy trio The Wikkeling is almost an afterthought in this sneakily beguiling fantasy. Punctuated by pages from an old volume called "the Bestiary," the book appears to be for young children. But the language is challenging (like Henrietta, the reader will be "ensnaring herself a superlative vocabulary"), and issues of responsibility and self-determination are targeted to young teens. Readers who enjoy books like The Little Prince will appreciate its timeless whimsy. Though students may be unlikely to pick it up on their own, this is a possibility for book groups and class discussions.--Kathleen Beck 3Q 2P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.