The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari

Published by Balzer + Bray 

Summary: Charlie’s had more to handle in the last year than any 12-year-old should have to deal with. Not only has his mother died of cancer, but his best friend Frank has disappeared. His dad is working all the time, leaving Charlie to try to help his younger sister Imogen. When Imogen starts acting strange and talking about visiting Mom, Charlie investigates and finds a trapdoor under Imogen’s bed. When he climbs down, he finds himself back in his own house…only Mom is alive in this house. He spends a wonderful evening with her and Imogen, feasting on Mom’s famous spaghetti. Returning to the house without Mom is almost impossibly difficult, though, and much to his dismay, Charlie discovers he has lost his memory of ever eating spaghetti with his family. On the next trip back, Charlie thinks he catches a glimpse of Frank walking with his deceased grandmother. Charlie is drawn to go back with Imogen, but what price will they pay for their visits? And is it too late for Frank to ever return? 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros: Wow, it can’t be easy to write a book about a deceased parent that includes a courageous cast of kid characters and a hopeful ending, but Jennifer Maschari has nailed it on her first try. There’s also a trace of Coraline-like creepiness that will draw kids in to the story. And a cute, heroic, slightly magical dog is the cherry on top.

Cons: This book tackles a bunch of difficult themes that kids may appreciate more with some adult guidance.

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