Friday, October 14, 2005

The Nobodies

It's been a crazy week at work, so I was happy to have E.N. Bode (Julianna Baggott)'s The Nobodies to distract me.

The Nobodies is the sequel to Baggott's firt novel for children, The Anybodies. An anybody is a, "person who by nature or training can transform objects into reality" and who can sometimes change their own shape. One of an anybody's most spectacular talents is the ability to shake characters out of books. Our heroine, Fern, gets in trouble at the beginning of The Nobodies for shaking a rhino out of a book.

Fern lives with her grandmother in a house built, literally, of books. The house is "populated with creatures that have been shaken from books—Borrowers in the walls, hobbits in the yard, Indians in the cupboards. It's situated where the sidewalk ends, beside a peach tree with the most enormous, one might say giant peach."

This summer those creatures shaken from books—the nobodies—are calling to Fern. Through notes sent in bottles, they beg Fern to free them from the evil Mole. Fern is not entirely sure who the Mole is, but she finds out soon enough when she goes away to Anybody camp, Camp Happy Sunshine Good Times. (Love that name!) At the camp all sorts of adventures ensue and Fern learns her true powers as an Anybody.

The Nobodies is an exciting adventure tale and a true page turner. But it is also more than that. Baggott's narrator is a slightly paranoid writer who believes her writing instructor is trying to off her. Fern is a spunky heroine who sticks up for the underdog. An important character, who is introduced only at the end of the novel, says to Fern, "And there's much to learn from you. Somehow you make it seem worthwhile sticking up for people, trying to understand them, listening and making your way in the mess of people and all the time hoping to do some good for the people you don't even know."

The Nobodies is an engrossing, hilarious, and uplifting novel. Highly recommended for a smart middle-grade reader.