No passengers beyond this point by Gennifer Choldenko
Bloomsbury, 2011. ISBN 9781408815724.
(Age 10+) A unique and memorable story by Choldenko, author of the Carnegie Medal shortlisted novel Al Capone does my shirts sees India, Finn and Mouse having to pack up their belongings when their house is foreclosed. They have to fly to Colorado to stay with their Uncle Red, while their mother, a teacher, finishes the school year. They do not know their uncle and when a mysterious taxi driver picks them up at the airport, they go along for the ride. They find themselves in strange place where weird things happen, and they have to stick together and find the black box in order to get home.
With the opening sentence Choldenko grabbed my attention. I loved her descriptions of family life with each sibling playing a different role. India, the eldest, is a typical teen, dependent on her best friend and easily led. Ben is a worrier, always afraid the worst will happen and 6 year old Mouse, intelligent and aware, relies on her imaginary friend Bing to help her sort through things. When they arrive in a strange land, they will all need to use their strengths and rely on each other to survive.
The land that Choldenko has described seems very eerie and strange at first. The trio is cheered when they arrive and taken to separate houses where they are given a mother, the type that they may have dreamt of. They are then taken off on fantastic adventures, each being tempted by things in this new land that may make them want to stay. However, they eventually decide that they really want to get back home, even if it is to an uncle they don't know. It is not easy to return, and they must cooperate with each other and trust each other's strengths. Will time run out before they can all get together?
I found it easy to suspend belief, which is essential to enjoying this book, and became involved in the bizarre happenings that occurred around the children. The ending caught me completely by surprise, although there were plenty of clues to what could be happening spread throughout the book.
I won't easily forget this story. I can imagine it being read aloud and engendering much discussion about the importance of family and persevering in the face of danger.