From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4–Living at the end of the world with only his mule for company, an unnamed boy delights in the simple pleasures of treasure hunting and listening to the wind until the day his solitude is disrupted by the arrival of Constantine Shimmer, who brings noise and chaos in his wake. The vigorous old gentleman decides to conduct Galvano-Magical End of the World Tours, which promise Fun All the Time. He builds a hotel and an amusement park, turning the boy's serene retreat into a bustling tourist attraction. Three of the vacationing children befriend the youngster, and he enjoys the novelty and excitement of so much activity for a short time, but soon realizes that he misses the wind. With a quiet sense of purpose, he decides to leave. Bidding farewell to his friends, he flies away in a hot-air balloon to set up a new solitary home at the top of the world. The story, which addresses some thought-provoking, philosophical issues, is complemented by full-page watercolor and acrylics illustrations that resonate with old-fashioned charm, as well as smaller ink sketches on the text pages. Contemplative young readers will be enthusiastically carried along with the boy and his friends as they make their way through Mr. Shimmer's magical tourist destination, but, like the narrator, they will appreciate the quiet of their own homes as they reach the final page. Anderson and Hawkes, who collaborated on Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (Candlewick, 2001), have triumphed again with this imaginative fable.–Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA
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Gr. 4-6. In this surreal picture book from the team behind Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (2001), elements of old-fashioned storybook design (inset paintings resembling color plates, delicate line drawings) play against complex themes most appropriate for readers in the middle grades and beyond. A "Professional Visionary" has converted a boy's home at the End of the World into a pleasure park: "Fun chock-a-block from your eyes to your teeth!" The transformation is viscerally charted in Hawkes'electric watercolor-and-acrylic paintings, in which scenes of mystical tranquility give way to dizzying views of soulless carnival amusements. Though initially drawn in, the narrator eventually tires of the frenetic lifestyle and departs for another secluded refuge. The familiar illustrator and format may draw very young browsers, but the longer, poetic text and allusive images are better cued to more experienced, articulate readers, who, with an adult's help, may discern echoes of Shelley's "Ozymandius" in images of ancient, crumbling monuments, and recognize nods to Toulouse-Lautrec in the luridly colored party scenes. Jennifer Mattson
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