What can I say?
The thrills and mysteriousness in The World of All Things Lost will prompt readers young and older to turn its pages. Pirates, thieves, time travel, friendship, love, and more, draw together to make first-time author John Parnham’s novel an adventure that grabs youngsters ready for chapter books and stings their imaginations. Picture a work with the intrigue of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and a quest with the oddity of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s famed traipse through Wonderland. That is what you will find.
Parnham’s background as a children’s playwright is very clear to observant readers. The pace of the story and his word choice create images that tease at young minds and hearts, even in moments that are scary. For example, when the main character Ariana and her BFF Chevelle are caught in the lost things world by a Fagin-type, straight out of Oliver Twist. He threatens to beat them with a walking stick as he has bullied another victim – “half-starved” Liza – for years. The author builds tension as the pair resign themselves to play along for survival. Parham pulls readers into the moment’s tension:
The girls could not believe it was happening – they were being taken back to the settlement to steal for the Teeleys. They were about to become criminals. Chevelle was desperately trying to think of a way to escape but she knew it wouldn’t be easy.
It was not. That was also not the last big twist in a story set in a small English village that might as likely have been small town USA. The girls at the heart of the story, as in many clever mysteries, search for a missing key then find themselves launched into place of things that disappear. The idea of such a place tugs at even adult imaginations. Most people will want to dismiss the premise, but won’t. In fact, it is the rare reader who will be able to see Parnham’s land without a pause, a sigh and a “hmmm?”.
The World of All Things Lost is best summed with a word I rarely use – lovely. There is a tightness to the story that will hold middle grade readers’ attentions, and a fantastic adventure that can appeal to adults. I read the novel in one sitting. That is a great way to spend a quiet afternoon