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Thirteen-year-old Ernie Banks has lived in a Chicago orphanage ever since he was discovered on its doorstep at age three. His origins are a mystery; all he has of his former life is an old baseball card, a strange spiral mark on his heel and an unusual crystal blue acorn that he wears on a string around his neck. As for his current situation, he seems to have taken it upon himself to personally torment Mrs. McGinty, the matron of the Lakeside Home for Boys. As a result, he’s been in some sort of trouble ever since he arrived. Mrs. McGinty has finally had enough and suggests handing him over to the Youth Authorities, but the director gives Ernie one more chance to prove himself. He boards a bus to spend three weeks at an Illinois farm.

The first person he meets in the small town of Circle, Illinois, is Joey, the zesty, horseback-riding, next-door-neighbor gal. She gives him a lift on her horse to the home of Russ Frazier, his host for the next three weeks. Joey also fills him in on some of the local news, like how Russ had a son who was kidnapped years earlier. The town calls him the Quilt Baby, because all the authorities could find was his quilt laying next to a puddle in the woods. Intrigued, Ernie convinces Joey to help him solve the mystery of the missing child. Unfortunately, Ernie starts getting into trouble all over again and this time drags Joey with him. But all the trouble is worth it; Ernie can hardly believe the amazing creatures he discovers living right below his feet.

Puddlejumpers are tiny, magical creatures that stand about 11 inches tall. They dwell below ground, living in harmony with the earth. Sometimes they come to the surface by way of puddles, but not very often. They have to be careful of their enemies, the nasty, evil Troggs, who hunt down and enslave Puddlejumpers. But times are hard, with very few free Puddlejumpers left, and the land is drying up with so little rain. They turn to their ancient prophecy promising help from the Rainmaker to save their lives.

PUDDLEJUMPERS is a magical story woven together by Mark Jean and Christopher C. Carlson. They have ignited their imaginations full force, creating a fast-paced tale with an intriguing plot, incredible creatures and memorable characters. Their colorful descriptions bring the story to life, spiced up even more with their bizarre sense of humor (“Even from a distance, Chop could see their bloodshot eyes, scaly faces with puss-filled warts, and coarse hair covering their misshapen bodies. They were so ugly that as he stared at them, his eyes started to burn…Troggs had ten-foot-long tails with a big hairy nostril at the tip, enabling them to smell Puddlejumpers from a great distance.”).

Jean and Carlson have worked together before, but this is their first middle grade novel. Their quickly growing fan base will be impatiently demanding more collaborative efforts from this talented pair.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on May 5, 2009

by Mark Jean and Christopher C. Carlson

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2009
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
  • ISBN-10: 1423107608
  • ISBN-13: 9781423107606