The Book of Nonsense, by David Michael Slater, is not your typical coming of age story. At the heart of the novel is very large book store. Any reader who loves books will be drawn into the description of the Antiquarian Book Center (ABC Books for short). The main character, Daphna Wax is enchanted by the book store and has spent every day of her summer vacation wandering its maze-like aisles. Her father, Milton Wax, is a book scout who returns from a scouting trip with a most unusual book. As a book scout, Milton Wax searches the world for valuable and rare books to sell to stores or collectors.
When Daphna takes her father to ABC Books to see if the owner would be interested in purchasing the book, things begin to seem a little unusual to Daphna. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to Daphna’s twin brother Dexter; their care giver Latonia Pellonia; residents of the local retirement facility, some of whom have an unusual connection to Daphna; Daphna’s deceased mother Shimona Wax; and, of course, the owner of ABC Books, Asterius Rash and his red-eyed assistant, Emmet. Slater seamlessly weaves the different characters into the storyline and each of these characters has an important role in the progression of the story.
The novel centers around the book Daphna’s father has found, a book which is an ancient text, written in a language that is unknown to the modern world. The characters in the story refer to the book as the “Book of Nonsense” because it cannot be understood, but with the book in the possession of Asterius Rash, strange things begin to happen.
Although the story is set in a modern day city (Portland, Oregon), there are hints of magic, but that magic is suggested so subtlety it seems a normal part of everyday life. As an example of the mysterious, Daphna believes that her father has been brainwashed by Asterius Rash, but doesn’t know how it was done. And what to make of the red-eyed assistant Emmet? His eyes are not red as if he hasn’t slept; they are truly red. The magic creates a feeling of anticipation that the world holds things we cannot see.
Ultimately The Book of Nonsense is a story about the importance of family and doing the right thing. There are many twists and turns in the novel; people that you expect Daphna and Dex to be able to trust, turn against them and things are not always as they appear to be. The main characters grapple with admitting when they are wrong; not letting anger and fear blind them from what’s really important; and remembering to love others, even when it is difficult.
Although, the pace of The Book of Nonsense was slow at first, it quickly picked up and grabbed my attention. If it is indicative of the rest of the Sacred Books, I look forward to reading the remainder of the series to see what happens to Daphna and Dex as they grow up. This is an entertaining book that, although written for young teenagers, would be appropriate for older elementary school children as well and also a great read for adults.
Author David Michael Slater is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived in Oregon for many years and has recently moved to Reno, Nevada, where he teaches middle school English. The Book of Nonsense is the first in a series of six novels for teens: the Sacred Books. The first four volumes of the series are already available, and Volume Five is due out in 2014. In addition to the Sacred Books series, Mr. Slater has also written a number of children’s books as well as books for adults. – Leslie Marlowe
Also available by the author: The Ring Bear; Missy Swiss & More; Flour Girl (Missy Swiss & More); Seven Ate Nine (Missy Swiss & More); Comin’ Through (Missy Swiss & More); Cheese Louise; The Book of All Things (Sacred Books IV); The Book of Maps (Sacred Books III); The Book of Knowledge (Sacred Books II);The Bored Book; Jacques & Spock; Selfless; Battle of the Books; The Book of Letters; Ned Breaks His Heart; Ned Loses His Head; Ned’s Nose is Running; The Sharpest Tool in the Shed (Missy Swiss & More); Milo the Monster; On the Level; A Wrench in the Works.