Otherwood

 
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Otherwood
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 11, 2018
ISBN
978-0763690717
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“Hatred combined with lies and secrets can break the world.” Grandpa Zach used to say that before he died, but Stuey never really knew what he meant. It was kind of like how he used to talk about quantum physics or how he used to say ghosts haunted their overgrown golf course. But then one day, after Stuey and his best friend, Elly Rose, spend countless afternoons in the deadfall in the middle of the woods, something totally unbelievable happens. As Stuey and Elly Rose struggle to come to grips with their lives after that reality-splitting moment, all the things Grandpa Zach used to say start to make a lot more sense. This is a book about memory and loss and the destructive nature of secrets, but also about the way friendship, truth, and perseverance have the ability to knit a torn-apart world back together.

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Ghosts in an overgrown golf course

Stuey, his mother, and his grandfather live in a large, old house that has been in the family for generations and stands at the edge of a woods. After a huge storm, his grandfather passes away. Stuey continues to explore the woods, because he did this frequently with his grandfather. Of especial interest is a deadfall (several trees uprooted by the storm that make a sort of leafy cave), and this becomes a place he and new neighbor Elly enjoy playing. There is some bad blood between the families, since Stuey's great grandfather was bootlegger who later turned to a legitimate business in a country club and golf course. Unfortunately, Elly's great grandfather was a Jewish lawyer who was not allowed to join the country club, and the two disappeared from the woods on the same night. When Stuey and Elly are enjoying some of her mother's pie, Elly disappears right in front of Stuey's eyes. This, of course, is hard to explain to the authorities, who don't believe Stuey. They try to find a man who appears in a photograph Stuey has taken, but as time passes, no clues are found and Elly does not reappear. However, in an alternative reality, STUEY is the one to have disappeared, and we hear how events unfold in both planes of existence. Of course, the families deal differently with the disappearances, but the trajectory of the woods' fate is different as well. Stuey and Elly occasionally see each other and try to put the worlds together. Does the secret to this lie in the grandfather's stories, which are laid out in the notebooks he was writing just before his death?

Good Points
This is a love letter to a time and place gone by. Mr. Hautman lived near a very similar woods and golf course growing up, and at the time, children were allowed to run free! Now, this is something that most children only get to read about. The mystery of the great grandfather's death, and the inclusion of discrimination against Jews will both interest younger readers. Usually, the Holocaust is the only coverage of anti-Semitism that appears in books. There's a very Michael Lawrence A Crack in the Line feel to the alternate realities of Stuey and Elly, a bit similar to Hautman's Klaatu books time bending.

Mr. Hautman is such a talented writer and writes so many different kinds of books, from the mind bending Klaatu Terminus series to Sweetblood, a vampire themed book written BEFORE Twilight! It's always interesting to see what he is writing next, although Slider was so good that I'd love to see more funny MG/YA fiction from him!
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