Happy Monday, guys!
Ok. I've been a BIT lousy at promoting books recently, because summer is one of the busiest seasons at work. However, if there's one book that will absolutely make your August better, it's Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom.
David Neilsen has written a slyly funny tale about a house, a doctor and a trio of children who are uncovering all of his dastardly deeds...
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Expected publication: August 9th 2016 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Format read: Galley via Publisher
Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor’s secret power without being captivated by his trickery.
(So sorry about that, David! I was genuinely interested!)
With that being said, I knew I had access to the e-galley, so I charged ahead with reading the book. And guys, let me just say: you know how I always appreciate books with sly humor and great characters? This is one of those books.
Things that worked:
While I know the book's promo materials compare Neilsen to a younger version of Lovecraft, I actually think that a more apt comparison would be to Lemony Snicket and Heidi Schulz.
From the start, Neilsen's characters come to life with the sly, sarcastic humor and droll dialogue that can be readily appreciated by readers both young and old. Younger readers will love the tweens who tartly stand up to Dr. Fell for taking away their playhouse, while older readers will most definitely chuckle at the nosy neighbors who wildly speculate on the contents of what Dr. Fell is bringing into his new home.
Neighbor in the book: "He works for a foreign government, and those crates are filled with stolen zoo animals!"
Me: HAH! (They totally sound like MY neighbors!)
Ok. I feel like I've hit a point where I'm just throwing out the names of well-regarded authors at this point, but guys: Neilsen's writing really IS that good.
Not only is his writing darkly humorous like Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket, but it's also wryly humorous by like Douglas Adams. Neilsen has a knack for stringing together visual imagery that will get readers laughing and thinking, e.g. "The playground of Dr. Fell was covered with a thin layer of children at all times",
(Is that not the best sentence?)
The book is filled with imagery like that, which will absolutely get younger readers to seek out the older readers in their lives, to compare their favorite lines.
While I had a pretty good idea where the story was going, Neilsen does an admirable job of keeping up the tension and upping the stakes. There's subtle humor and horror, that actually made me think quite a bit of R.L. Stine. It's a zippy way to pace the story, and had me frantically tapping at the phone to figure out what would happen next.
Though the book ended exactly how I thought it would end, it was absolutely worth the journey.
Is pitch-perfect. Read it. You'll see.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
Instead, it's this: the cover doesn't work. There's a richness to Neilsen's writing that simply isn't conveyed by the cover. In fact, my first impression when seeing the cover was: "Well...I guess?" And then thought to myself that the cover looked a bit MS paint-happy.
So while I know that cover redesigns aren't common for MG, I strongly urge Random House to consider it in this case. You have a winner on your hands with this book, and it deserves a cover that will appeal to readers across the board.
Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
David Neilsen is a classically trained actor/storyteller, a journalist, and a theater/improvisation teacher for children and adults. During the Halloween season, David can be found telling spooky tales to audiences of all ages, or performing one of his one-man shows based on the stories of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. David lives in New York with his family. Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is his first novel. Visit him at neilsenparty.wordpress.com.