Author: M.P. Kozlowsky
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Themes: Greed, Family, Friendship, Courage
Age Range: 3rd-5th Grade
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Juniper's parents have not been themselves lately. In fact, they have been cold, disinterested and cruel. And lonely Juniper Berry, and her equally beset friend, Giles, are determined to figure out why.
On a cold and rainy night Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and enter the woods. What she discovers is an underworld filled with contradictions: one that is terrifying and enticing, lorded over by a creature both sinister and seductive, who can sell you all the world's secrets in a simple red balloon. For the first time, Juniper and Giles have a choice to make. And it will be up to them to confront their own fears in order to save the ones who couldn't.
I picked this book up at the Scholastic Book Fair at my school in the fall, but by the time I got around to reading it I'd forgotten almost everything about it! I did remember being drawn to the cover, which I thought seemed rather sinister for a children's book cover.
Well, sinister was definitely the right word for both the cover and the story. Despite the fact that Juniper keeps remembering the good times with her parents, their behavior at the beginning of the book reminded me of a Roald Dahl grown-up, namely mean and cruel. Koslowsky did an excellent job evoking loneliness, explaining why Juniper was so quick to make friends with Giles, and why she was susceptible to the monster living in her yard. It is also what leads Juniper to a terrible choice-accept the creature's help in getting her parents attention, or destroy him in the hopes that her parents will go back to who they once were. This is a novel all about living with the consequences of our choices. I think that there are some decent discussion points in this book-what it means to be lonely, is being a celebrity worth it if you have to cut yourself off from the world, what would you do in Juniper's place-so I think this book could be used for guided reading, or to have in a leveled library for reader's workshop.