Image via WikipediaThe Cellar Door
By Brett Gadbois
With lots of graphic pictures to support the fantasy, The Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois, takes children into another world where strange creatures live--at least strange to most of us, but in this world, most creatures are half human, with the head of an animal. Or, you will meet animals that will talk with you, just as if that was the normal thing to do. And, if you have somebody to guide you, like a sage of old, you could learn how to change into various animals!
Sam Bixby, a young boy of 9, went through that cellar door, even though he had promised his father that he would stay close to the place they would be staying for their vacation while he went for supplies. He really didn't mean to leave, but he spotted a zebra swallowtail butterfly. Sam had seen it in one of his reference books, but had never seen a real one. The temptation was too great--he immediately started following the butterfly. He followed as long as he could, until it flew up higher and finally disappeared. Wow, was all he could think about--he probably would never seen another one ever.
But now he looked around and didn't recognize where he was--there was an abandoned farmhouse below. A sign said to keep out, but Sam ignored it and climbed the steps to the front door. He knew he needed to get back to his father, so decided to just quickly look around... After checking the inside, he noticed the cellar door which was entered from the outside. Once again, he thought he would just check this out and would then go back to where they were staying.
But it was now too late...
When Sam next opened his eyes, he was no longer anywhere near where his father waited...
Many may see a parallel to The Wizard of Oz, but the characters and the world Sam has entered is strangely different. Still, there are both friendly as well as sinister characters and, of course, the characters drive the story.
Take for instance, the creatures who are part-human and part-crow, as shown on the cover. Certainly, we all know just by looking at them that these are bad guys, right? And, indeed, they appear throughout the story, wanting what was given to Sam by the sage. The ability to change shape...
But the crows are not the scariest...Listen to this description: "...face began to change. His nose lengthened into a stubby cylinder. His ears grew, narrowed, and came to points. His beard filled out and covered his entire face. His mouth stretched to accommodate the thick ivory tusks pushing over the edges...
Can you visualize the wild boar that had appeared in front of Sam? He was too scared to move!
Finally, he met Chester, a talking squirrel who promised to help him find the way to Sam's father. Indeed, Chester's father was also in need of being found, so they joined together. Throughout the book, you will find some of the characters talking in poetic form, an interesting inclusion. Chester, for instance, is anxious to start and concludes his thoughts poetically with,
...The time is now, the road is here
Let's take it 'fore it disappears
My feet are itchin', so's my heart
How 'about it brother, let's just start
And so, Chester and Sam start walking toward a nearby town, to see if Sam's father could be there. Only they find Chester's father instead--and he's in trouble because he has just stolen a loaf of bread! Sam and Chester quickly work to help and so they are now three heading off down the road...
This children's fantasy is full of magic, so parents will need to read through the book with them first, and explain about the creatures found in this magical world...Be sure to explain when Sam turns into a fish, or a bird...and laugh with them, wishing we all could do such things, too! Because it is so much fun to run free and imagine all that you can be!
If your children have active imaginations and playtimes, then you will want to check out The Cellar Door! But remember, it's always important to explain it's just pretend and to stay close to his parents!
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Science Fiction Reader