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Horns & Wrinkles


Horns & Wrinkles

written by Joseph Helgerson, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Twelve-year-old Claire's story begins ordinarily enough with Duke, her bully of a cousin, stealing her pet turtle, Lottie. She chases Duke down to the banks of the Mississippi where he throws her precious friend into the muddy waters. Then he tries to toss Claire in as well, but she grabs a hold of his wrist, causing them to get drenched in the shallows. To retaliate, Duke drags Claire up to the top of the bridge and dangles her over the edge, threatening to let her fall. Somewhere in the middle of all this, the story ceases to be average.

As Claire (who can't swim) dangles helplessly above the Mississippi River, an old lady in a tiny boat floats past. The inquisitive woman sprinkles a strange power over Claire, so that when Duke does let go, instead of dropping like a rock, Claire floats softly down to land in the boat. As she thanks the lady, they hear a commotion back on top of the bridge. Duke begins to shout with astonishment as his nose starts to grow! And then some bigger bullies toss him into the river just like he had done with Claire, only he does drop like a rock. When the old lady pulls him out of the water, Claire sees that Duke's nose has grown into the shape of a horn.

After depositing him on the bank, the old lady explains to Claire that rock trolls had put a spell on the river. Any bully who touches the water will then start transforming into a rhinoceros every time he pulls a mean stunt. And the only way to reverse the process is to perform an act of kindness. But Duke, like most bullies, isn't interested in acts of kindness. In fact, soon after, he joins forces with the river trolls who turn his parents, grandfather and a couple of others into stone!

The only way to change Claire's family back to normal is to enlist the help of the river trolls. They finally agree to use their magic feather to reverse the spell, but only after Claire helps them. Their unusual quest involves using screen doors to sift through the sand bars along the river in order to find buried shooting stars. The river trolls need the shooting stars to trade with the head rock troll for some talking crickets that will help them find their missing fathers. Reluctantly, Claire agrees, sweeping her up into an unbelievable adventure along the magical Mississippi River.

HORNS & WRINKLES is overflowing with imagination. Joseph Helgerson tosses all sorts of flavorful ingredients into this magical soup of a story, including trolls (both the rock and river varieties), blue-winged fairies, shooting stars, mysterious spells, long-lost uncles, magical floating powders, and (of course) the brave heroine Claire. Also spicing up the book are wonderfully fun illustrations, accomplished by the talented Nicoletta Ceccoli.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on September 11, 2006

Horns & Wrinkles
written by Joseph Helgerson, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

  • Publication Date: September 11, 2006
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
  • ISBN-10: 0618616799
  • ISBN-13: 9780618616794