This engaging, slightly spooky fantasy novel can be read on a couple of levels. Upper elementary kids (the target age is 9-12 years old) will likely read it as an adventure story. Henrietta and her friends, Gary and Rose, manage to vanquish the mysterious, menacing “Wikkeling” with the help of a gender-obscure cat named Mister Lady.
Kids will also enjoy the well-developed setting. Henrietta and her friends live in a dystopia in which technology, pavement, new construction, and advertising are taking over their world. Schools are driven by computerized, standardized tests, and everyone has instant access to the latest news about each other through their cell phones and other gadgets. (Sound familiar?) Henrietta and her friends also get a glimpse into what their neighborhood looked like a few generations ago. I was immediately drawn into the characters and setting, and I think kids will be, too.
Adults and older readers might get into the allegorical aspect of the story. The Wikkeling, we learn, was created by a couple of scientists for humanitarian purposes, to “harness the power of nature toward human industry.” The Wikkeling was brought to life by one word: “grow”. Unfortunately, this growth had no limits. The Wikkeling and its power destroyed its creators, and began taking over the world.
While the story ends with a satisfying resolution, there are enough loose ends that I assume this book is the beginning of a series.