Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Beyond the Doors

32961723Neilsen, David. Beyond the Doors
August 1st 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by the author

When a house fire puts their father into the hospital, weepy social worker Miss Guacaladilla's only recourse is to surprise Zack, Sydney, Janice and Alexa's Aunt Gladys with the fact that she will be taking care of the children, since her sister, Charlotte, has long been missing. Gladys is quirky, to say the least. Her house has a drawbridge, piles of doors that the children are NOT allowed to touch, and only Honey Nut Oat Blast Ring-a-Dings in the kitchen. There is also nothing to do in the house, so while the distracted Gladys is off in different parts of it doing mysterious work, the children investigate. Alexa's mother has appeared to her in a dream and asked that she find her grandmother's door. It's impossible not to touch the doors, especially when it has been forbidden, and before too long the children have been sucked back into the American Revolution and have met a dinosaur  hunter who is their grandfather! They find out that they are not actually traveling in time-- they are traveling into the memories that are trapped into the wooden doors. The biggest danger is that, after time, the memories start to sour. The MemorySphere is a complicated place, and Zack and Sydney are trapped in it for a bit, until they are able to contact Alexa and get her to open a memory as well. The children all meet their mother and find out that she has been missing because her own mother was sucked into the MemorySphere and she's been trying to get her out. When Gladys loses her memory, Charlotte is able to help get it back (which is good, since Miss Guacaladilla comes to check on the children when Gladys has amnesia!). However, when Charlotte loses her memory, it is up to the children to travel further and further into the memories of the past and figure out what has happened. When one trip lands them in an evil carnival, and they are then whisked away and threatened by a lake monster, they find out that some of the people they have trusted may be behind the threats. Will they be able to find their grandmother's door, fight the monsters, and reunite their family?

Like this author's Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, Beyond the Doors has a quirky world with a surprising twist behind every door. Of course the children want to open those doors! One of the things that I liked best about the book was that it is a stand alone title, and we actually have a sense of closure at the end.

The MemorySphere is a complicated place, but the it is explained rather well. Fantasy fans love having to think through the logistics of another world, and the way that memory can be manipulated and used by the unscrupulous will fire the imagination of readers who like the idea of time travel and moving between different dimensions.

The children work well together, although they do have their sibling moments. Sydney is prone to fits of RAGE, Alexa is only seven, and Janice can be a bit on the bossy side. The adults are all half a bubble off, which is certainly how most middle grade readers view the adults in their lives! Again, there are a lot of fanciful names, which are no doubt the result of the author's acting and story telling background.

Thankfully, Zack, Sydeny, Janice and Alexa manage to get both of their parents back by the end of the book, but readers who like tales of orphans saving the day will find Beyond the Doors a worthy follow up read to titles such as Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Lawson's Nooks and Crannies, Teele's The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin, most of Barbara Brooks Wallace's books, and Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.
Ms. Yingling

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