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What's the story?
Clive Barker's second book for young adults and the first of a proposed series is Alice in Wonderland for the new millennium. Like Carroll's heroine, Candy Quackenbush finds herself following a strange creature into a stranger world though, this being the 21st century, she is escaping a drunken and abusive father in a town devoted to butchering chickens, rather than just a dull afternoon, and instead of a tea party on land she finds a poker game floating in the sea.
She soon discovers that this land is the Abarat, a chain of 25 islands, each existing in a different unchanging hour of the day (and one mysterious extra island), inhabited by a multiplicity of strange creatures, from John Mischief, who has seven brothers growing out of his horns, to Christopher Carrion, who wears a high translucent collar filled with nightmares swimming in blue fluid.
Is it any good?
The plot is mainly an excuse for an excursion through the fertile, bizarre, and gruesome imagination of author Clive Barker. This first book suggests an author obsessed: In addition to more than 400 pages of text (including a 25-page appendix), Barker has created over 100 vividly colorful illustrations. When the book first came out there was a free poster map of the world, and there is an interactive version on the Web site (www.harperchildren.com/), though why they didn't print the map on the endpapers is a mystery in an otherwise gorgeous and lavishly produced book.
This appeals to children who like to be fascinated, rather than emotionally invested. Though the story lacks the heart tight plotting of the best children's books, children with a taste for the wild and grotesque will by enthralled by this travelogue of the weird.
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