Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Melvin Jules Bukiet
For ages 10 and up
Harry N. Abrams, 2013   ISBN: 978-1419705892

After Timothy’s mother dies of cancer, he and his father find themselves adrift and lost for a time. Then they start sharing an interest in boats, and after visiting marinas and looking at boats for a month, Timothy’s father buys them a lovely little sailboat. Together they learn how to sail Xtra-Large, which the is the name they give their elegant little craft, and spend many wonderful hours out on the water in her. Timothy is happy to lie on her deck in the sun even when she is tied to the dock.

   Then Timothy’s father starts dating again and one day he invites his girlfriend and her daughter, Jessamyn, to go out in the boat with them. Timothy is incensed that his father would invite anyone to share their precious time together, but soon after they meet he and Jessamyn find that they have a similar view of the world, and the fact that they have both lost a parent gives them a point of connection. Maybe the day spent together won’t be a complete waste of time after all.

   On their way to City Island Timothy’s father decides that they should stop at a luncheonette to get some drinks. Timothy and Jessamyn  are waiting on the boat when, for some reason Jessamyn suggests that they unhitch the boat trailer from the truck that is towing it to City Island. They are stationary, so there doesn’t seem any harm in doing this. What the kids forget to take into consideration is there is a slight incline on the street and not long after Jessamyn unhitches the boat trailer it starts to roll down the road, and then into a huge construction pit. The boat separates from the trailer and ends up in the rain sewers. Under New York City.

   There are hundreds and hundreds of rain sewers under Manhattan and Timothy and Jessamyn have no way of knowing where they are, though they can control their direction a little, even though Xtra-Large has lost part of her mast and her engine. The teens discover that they are not the only ones cruising through the tunnels under the city. They meet a homeless man who says his name is You and he warns them that there are many dangers in Undertown.  He mentions cremblers, crawlers, civvies and DUO. The kids believe that civvies are what You calls the municipal workers, and they figure out that DUO is a street artist who uses the walls of the tunnels as his canvas. What about cremblers and crawlers? What are they?

   Not long after this encounter with the strange old man Timothy and Jessamyn meet DUO. He invites them into his home away from home underground, where they see more of his art. While they getting to know DUO someone steals Xtra-Large. Timothy and Jessamyn chase the thieves, which is how they discover that there is a whole community living in the sewers and they are ruled by a pint-sized queen who uses fear, intimidation, and violence to keep her subjects in line. She is not someone they want to mess with, but they have to find a way to get their boat back.

   In this thrilling and unusual story we meet two teenagers who literally fall into an adventure, and who then want to hold onto for a while. They find an intriguing world underground only to discover that there is a dark side to it, one that could end up killing them.