August 05, 2011

Strange goings-on in Hazelwood

By Kelly Barnhill
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In Hazelwood, Iowa, corn grows, people disappear, and magic happens. Jack’s parents are getting a divorce, and he is going to live with his aunt and uncle. He has so much to learn about living in this new place that his uncle gives him a book, “The Secret History of Hazelwood.” The book is full of weird stories that are mostly true—and that’s the scary part. But he has even more to learn about his family, and himself.

Jack has never had any friends; people just seemed to overlook him. When Hazelwood’s bully, Clayton Avery, gives him a knockout welcome, Jack meets Wendy—who is gutsy enough to stand up to Clayton when he’s bullying. Wendy, her brother Frankie, and their friend Anders quickly turn into Jack’s friends, and they all set out to unravel the weird tales about the town and why children have been disappearing. Some stories have a way of sucking you into them, and Jack is about to fill the lead role in this drama. Bad magic is happening, thanks to someone making a grave mistake and trying to fool the powers-that-be. The kids need to figure out how to fix, well, just about everything that matters.

With its ever-building suspense, unexplained vanishings and soul-stealing, The Mostly True Story of Jack is a wonderful page turner. Much is left to be divulged in the book’s final chapters as the mystery grows deeper (perhaps a bit too much for readers in the younger half of the suggested 8-12 age range). Will Jack and his friends be able to set things right and balance the forces of good and bad? Hazelwood, Iowa, is in for some strange happenings, and readers who settle in for the ride are rewarded with creepy thrills.

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The Mostly True Story of Jack

The Mostly True Story of Jack

By Kelly Barnhill
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316056700

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