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*Horns and Wrinkles* by Joseph Helgerson, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli- young readers fantasy book review
Also illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli:

An Island in the Sun

The Faerie's Gift
Horns and Wrinkles
by Joseph Helgerson, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Ages 9-12 368 pages Houghton Mifflin September 2006 Hardcover    

What do you get when you mix a bully and the Mississippi River? Horns and Wrinkles, the debut novel from Joseph Helgerson. Imagination flows freely in this story, paddling around plausibility to go directly to a tale that is so tall you’re going to need two hands on this book at all times.

Claire’s cousin, Duke, is a nasty, nasty boy. When he throws her and her beloved pet turtle off a bridge, a rhinoceros horn immediately replaces his nose - the work of rock trolls, and the only way to reverse the change is to perform a genuine act of kindness. Claire knows that isn’t happening soon, but family is family, and she feels obligated to help him. Yet, as the current of this magical world spirals steadily outward (several family members and a dog are turned into stone), Claire knows that she must get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately, that would be the lair of Bodacious Deepthink, the Great Rock Troll. In a spectacular show of common sense and sheer bravado, this whole magical curse business is tidied up with a twist and a turn—all the way up the river.

The first-person narration quickly puts the reader in the thick of things. Elements of magic and mystery churn up the muddy waters, revealing trolls, turtles, and even an orange tennis shoe. Although Duke is under a curse, his ability to return to normal gives him a sense of power that is sadly overwhelmed by his lack of kindness. This, of course, may be the moral of the story, but it is smoothly shown and doesn’t reach out to bite the gentle reader. (Unlike some of the characters, with their terror-sized teeth and smelly appendages.)

The real world and the fantasy one blend beautifully, testifying to the storytelling ability of this author. The illustrations highlight the ghastliness of the trolls, in a giggling sort of way. Each turn of the page rocks the boat a little more on our main characters, until the satisfying ending sets them on solid ground again.

Horns and Wrinkles is the stuff of legends.

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  Joyce Handzo/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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