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BOOK REVIEWS, Fantasy, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions

ELLIOT AND THE GOBLIN WAR by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Elliott and the Goblin War is the delightful, fantasy-filled tale of eleven-year-old Elliot Penster and how he becomes the King of the Brownies (Underworld inhabitants smaller than elves).  At age eight, although Elliott is frequently bullied by Tubs Lawless, a boy who is two years older than him and lives just up the road, Elliott comes to the defense of a little girl on Halloween night being chased and having her treat sack stolen by three bigger children dressed as Goblins.

Elliott discovers, however, that the victim is not a human girl, but a Brownie named Patches Willimaker who was being chased by three very real Goblins.  Then Goblins do not take kindly to being bested by a human boy.  As a result, their leader, Grissel, declares war on the Brownies (who Goblins love to eat).  The War continues over the next three years.  Patches Willimaker never forgets Elliott’s kindness and keeps watch over him–occasionally helping him out of some of his Tubs Lawless predicaments.

When the Queen of the Brownies is killed (she is scared to death by Grissel the Goblin) she bids her friend, Mr. Willimaker (Patches’ father), to name the next King of the Brownies, for she is unable to do so before she dies.  Mr. Willimaker, having of course heard his daughter speak of Elliot tells the Brownies that Elliot Penster, the human boy, is to be the new King of the Brownies.

One Brownie in particular–Fudd Fartwick, former advisor to the Queen–is enraged.  HE wanted to be the next King, and was sure he would be upon the death of the Queen.  We soon learn that Fudd has made a dangerous and evil alliance with Grissel the Goblin.  Together they are determined to destroy Elliot and put Fudd upon the Brownie throne.

The plot itself is exciting and full of magical twists and turns in the land of the Underworld.  What moves this story to an even higher level is the humor that is interlaced throughout.  Patches is clever and kind, although she can be tempted by carrots.  Goblins and Brownies can think of no worse punishment (other than death) than being forced to eat chocolate cake.  There is slapstick humor and humor of the absurd and the author often pops in to add her own two cents to events.

Elliott’s human family is just as wonderful as the magical creatures in the book.  They willingly take in a Has-Been Hag (although they think she is just a poor, homeless woman) when Elliott brings her home.  They traipse off to sleep in the local jail when the Goblins blow up their house (although they do not know this has been the true cause of their house’s destruction).  Elliott’s kleptomaniacal Uncle Rufus, his twin younger brothers who like to flood things and his older sister who consistently burns whatever she cooks are marvelous secondary characters in what is a very tightly plotted tale.

A WORD OF WARNING:  I feel honor-bound to pass along to you that the author includes a Warning at the beginning of her book:  “As of today, there are only seven children who have ever read this book and lived to tell about it.”  The warning is much more detailed in the actual book.  I leave that to you.  As a Grown-Up, I don’t think you can take for granted that the Warning is not serious–it doesn’t say anything about it being dangerous for Grown-Ups to read the book.  So don’t assume that because I survived reading this book that you will…

Elliott and the Goblin War is an extremely fun read–if you are brave enough to try it!


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