Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Black Book of Secrets

The Black Book of Secrets

F.E. Higgins
For ages 9 to 12
Feiwel and Friends, 2007   ISBN: 978-0312368449

Ludlow Fitch has always had a hard life. His parents, Ma and Pa, have never been loving. To the contrary, they have often chosen to use their son to get money, forcing him to steal for them so that they can pay for their gin drinking habit. This time Ma and Pa have gone too far. Their plan is to sell Ludlow’s teeth to “Barton Gumbroot, the notorious tooth surgeon of Old Goat’s Alley.” Not surprisingly, Ludlow is not to keen on having the teeth ripped out of his head, so as soon as the opportunity presents itself, Ludlow makes a run for it.

Desperate to get away from Ma and Pa, Ludlow jumps onto the back of a passing carriage and thus he is carried out of the city and to the village of Pagus Parvus where he meets a man called Joe Zabbidou. Joe sets up a pawnbroker business in an old hat shop, and when he finds out that Ludlow can read and write, he hires the boy to work for him.

Ludlow soon finds out that Joe Zabbidou is a very unique individual. He not only accepts the junk that the village folk give to him to pawn, but he also offers to buy their secrets. In the middle of the night individuals come to Joe’s shop and he invites them to share their darkest secret with him. In doing so, Joe relieves these people of the pain that having these secrets gives them. Ludlow’s job during these proceedings is to write down the secrets in Joe’s black book. Joe pays the people for their secrets, and he promises that their secrets will never be shared with anyone else.

Many of the secrets that the village folk sell to Joe have something to do with Jeremiah Ratchet, a wealthy and villainous man who enjoys bleeding the villagers dry of their money and their self-respect. Many of the villagers who come to Joe ask him to help them get out from under Ratchet’s cruel boot, but Joe always tells them that there is nothing that they can do. They must be patient and wait. In time, Ratchet will get what is coming to him. Unfortunately, the villagers are impatient, and the situation begins to spiral out of control. Ludlow begins to wonder if he is going to survive this new adventure of his.

This extraordinary story will delight readers who like tales that are mysterious and unpredictable. Just when you think you know all the answers, the author turns everything upside-down and you have no idea what is going to happen next.