by William Alexander
Simon & Schuster, 2012. 223 pgs. Fantasy.
Goblin Secrets won this year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature. It is an odd, folksy, complex fantasy about a boy named Rownie who lives with Graba, a Baba Yaga-like "grandmother" who walks about on mechanical chicken legs and whose house moves about the town of Zombay according to her will and pleasure. Rownie and his fellow orphans may or may not be able to find their way home each night. Rownie hopes someday soon to find his big brother Rowan, a gifted performer in a place where any kind of play, or circus act, or prestidigitation was strictly forbidden to any of the unChanged. Goblins could perform in some few places and Rownie runs away and joins a goblin troupe, because he likes being with them and he thinks he will find his brother. But when the river begins to rise and Zombay itself is threatened both Rownie and Rowan will have roles to play to save many lives. Goblin Secrets is an odd and beautiful book, Familiar and Utterly Other at the same time, a book richly rewarding for those young and old who are able to let themselves go with the flow of its sparkling narrative.