The Land of Neverendings

256p. Delacorte. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553497892.
Gr 4–7—British author Saunders (Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop) weaves a novel replete with everything from whimsical comicality to impending danger. The book begins after Emily's sister, Holly, dies after a longtime illness. While Emily and her family are grappling with their loss, Emily is surprised that she finds herself missing Holly's beloved teddy bear, Bluey, almost as much as Holly herself. Emily's bond with Holly was closely tied to Bluey, as she used him as a conduit to create stories about their imaginary world of Smockeroon. Bewildering to Emily at first, it soon becomes evident that Smockeroon may not be entirely imaginary; stuffed animals are coming to life and appearing in her bedroom. Emily befriends her elderly neighbor, Ruth, who has similarly experienced a loss of a child, and also seems to be witnessing the crossover of stuffed animals, including Hugo the penguin and Smiffy the Bear. The toys from Smockeroon offer up their unique form of hilarity, from refined penguins who open up a bed and breakfast, to Barbie nuns, to "Prizzy" the prison doll who is always in trouble. When a terrible toad threatens to bring sadness to all of Smockeroon, it is up to Ruth, Emily, and Emily's friend, Martha, to figure out what has broken the barrier between the two worlds, why it is occurring, and to fix things before the two worlds collide. A standalone title, in which the topic of loss is dealt with deftly.
VERDICT For readers willing to let their imagination soar, this fantasy may be just what they are looking for, especially if they have experienced grief.

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