Thursday, July 16, 2015

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye

Dennis the Menace, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Kevin McCallister have nothing on Tobias Eggers, the main character in Witherwood Reform School written by Obert Skye and with beautiful and slightly scary illustrations by Keith Thompson. Many a nanny has endeavored to reform Tobias but with little success.

His sister Carolina, although younger than he, is more level-headed and kind-hearted. In the novel's opening we see a nanny, the bombastic Ms Childress as she attempts to straighten out the children. Needless to say she learns her lesson and departs the house in a huff. This latest kerfuffle is too much for the children's father Ralph to bear and he takes them to what unbeknownst to him is the Witherwood Reform School, a place built on a mesa and that supposedly possesses magic powers.

This proves to be a fateful night in many ways because Ralph is forever changed after that night and the children, try as they might find that they are now considered students at the school and are subject to a set of rules most of which can be summed up in one word: OBEY.

The novel echoes Stanley Kubrick's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in that the children are mistakenly carried to a place and then have to make sense of the place and why they are there. I also thought I saw echoes of the old British tv series called The Prisoner.

This book is unlike many other books aimed at young readers in that details, even when provided are very nebulous and ambiguous. You get the sense that there is more to be revealed than meets the eye. The book's conclusion leaves enough potential for a sequel or a series. I liked it and I recommend it for readers aged 9+.

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